Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs
12 YEARS A SLAVE (Entertainment One) is based on Solomon Northup’s memoir and Steve McQueen’s film, to nobody’s surprise, won an Oscar for Best Film. A free black man in the North is kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery in the South. This is a distressing movie and not many people will want to see it; but at the same time many people will feel they ought to see it. The horrific brutality will be as traumatic for audiences as it was no doubt for the actors and especially those scenes Chiwetel Eijofors as Northup and Lupita Nyango as slave share with Michael Fassbender and Sarah Poulson as the plantation owners
REV SERIES 3 (BBC). Tom Hollander’s modern vicar in this deservedly popular series has done the Church of England an enormous amount of good, precisely because he is a modern vicar living in the 21st century with a small congregation and his church is facing closure. He makes friends with the local Imam and blesses a gay marriage. He has to deal with two down-and-outs, permanently on the scrounge, and a slimy archdeacon .His own marriage is on the rocks. The third series gets religious when he has a sort of mini-martyrdom: dragging a cross through the city, he is reviled by friends and strangers alike and ends up meeting Jesus.
THE TRIP (BBC). Steve Coogan and Rod Brydon, two popular entertainers, two good blokes, very chummy, 40+, travel up North by car. It’s a leisurely chatty road movie with friendly inns, lovely misty scenery, lot and lots of exquisite food (you see it being prepared in the kitchens). The guys, always very competitive, spout poetry (Wordsworth and Coleridge) sing, ad-lib and do lots of imitations. Who do you think does the best Michael Caine, the best Woody Allen?
THE TRIP TO ITALY (BBC). Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, four years older and looking it, and knowing it, do another road movie. It’s the same self-indulgent format, the same ad-libbing banter by two best mates, plus smashing scenery and sophisticated menus (there’s lots of eating on camera) plus quotes from poets (Byron and Shelley). It’s not as good as The Trip (which is the film to see) and the impersonations, too many of them, become tiresome.
AN INSPECTOR CALLS (StudioCanal). The Birling family is celebrating their daughter’s engagement in 1912 when a detective arrives to tell them that a girl has died. J.B.Priestley’s play (a socialist tract on capitalist greed) is arguably the best murder mystery since Sophocles’ Oedipus. The tension comes from the total predictability of the plot and its multiple dramatic ironies. In the play we never see the girl. The fault with the film’s flashbacks is that in each episode it is always the same girl; and this means that an important point is lost, namely that girl, each member of the family knew, is not necessarily the same person. Alistair Sim is cast as the inspector, but who is the inspector really?