This week’s releases include: a family drama with realistic problems; the renowned tale of a king; a surprisingly comedic story about jihadists; an award-winning documentary; a powerful crime series; and a dramatic zombie serial.

Every Day on DVDEvery Day (DVD)
Ned (Liev Schreiber) is a loving husband and devoted father dealing with life’s curveballs. He has a stressed-out wife (Helen Hunt), an independent teenage son (Ezra Miller), another son that worries (Skyler Fortgang) and an embittered father-in-law (Brian Dennehy) who’s turning his home upside down. Ned’s job writing a scandalous TV series for a demanding boss (Eddie Izzard) is unfulfilling and late night rewrites with a sexy co-worker (Carla Gugino) might just push him over the deep end.

Within the family, everyone’s issues are credible – the wife is struggling with caring for a needy father with whom she never felt a bond; their adolescent son is dealing with discovering his sexual identity, while their other son is too anxious for his age; and grandpa is angry at the loss of his independence. Meanwhile, Ned remains on the outskirts of most of these problems, attempting to gloss over or avoid them. They are each believable in their roles, though they never really connect with each other. Izzard is just about the only one that could play his character, as he is also one of the few people that could claim “animal sex is normal” and sound genuine.

Special features include: deleted scenes; cast interviews; and a theatrical trailer. (Alliance Films)

Excalibur on Blu-rayExcalibur (Blu-ray)
All the elements of Sir Thomas Malory’s classic Le Morte D’Arthur are here: Arthur (Nigel Terry) removing the sword Excalibur from the stone; his friendship with Sir Lancelot (Nicholas Clay); the Round Table’s noble birth and tragic decline; the heroic attempts to recover the Holy Grail; and the shifting balance of power between wily wizard Merlin (Nicol Williamson) and evil sorceress Morgana (Helen Mirren).

The acting in the first act is pretty terrible; however, whether it grows on you or actually improves, the performances become less of a concern as the narrative progresses. The film outlines Arthur’s story from conception to death, though spanning so many years it feels as if we are only glossing over his incredible journey. Nonetheless, it is a legendary tale and this film is a respectable account of the king’s life.

Special features include: commentary by director John Boorman and a theatrical trailer. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Four Lions on DVDFour Lions (DVD)
The film tells the story of a group of jihadists who push their abstract dreams of glory to the breaking point. Omar is disillusioned about the treatment of Muslims around the world and is determined to become a soldier. This is the most exciting idea Waj has ever heard. Better still, it’s a no brainer because Omar does Waj’s thinking for him. Opposed to Omar and everyone else on earth is the white Islamic convert Barry. Faisal is the odd man out. He can make a bomb, but can’t blow himself up just now because his father is sick. Instead, he’s training crows to fly bombs through windows. And Hassan is just happy to be invited to the party.

It’s difficult to imagine a film about terrorist bombers being humorous, but this film is proof it’s possible. While the closing act takes a bit more of a sombre tone, the movie is funny from beginning to end. Much of the amusement is derived from the extremism of their beliefs and the misinformation on which they are acting, in addition to their outright errors. The actors are excellent in their portrayals and the narrative is incredibly smart and entertaining.

Special features include: interviews conducted at the Bradford International Film Festival; a behind-the-scenes featurette; deleted scenes; storyboards; and background material. (Entertainment One)

Inside Job on DVDInside Job (DVD)
The 2011 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Feature is the first film to expose the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The global financial meltdown, at a cost of over $20 trillion, resulted in millions of people losing their homes and jobs. Through extensive research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists, Inside Job traces the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia. Inside Job was made on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore and China.

It’s not surprising a film that effectively explained a crisis that was felt globally went home with the Oscar. However, the level of understanding it achieves is somewhat unexpected. It breaks down exactly why the recession happened and identifies all the key players, even if most of them refused to be interviewed. Matt Damon’s narration is very informative and his voice never sounds inappropriate to the subject or intruding on the exposition. This, along with numerous interviews, graphs, fact screens and a fitting soundtrack combine for an exceptional exploration of a very complicated matter. It’s not about pulling at your emotions (like a Michael Moore picture), but revealing the truth and deceptions that led to the economic disaster.

Special features include: commentary by director Charles Ferguson and producer Audrey Marrs; deleted scenes; and a making-of featurette. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Luther on DVDLuther (DVD)
A self-destructive near-genius, John Luther (Idris Elba) might just be as dangerous as the depraved criminals he hunts. Luther follows his own moral code as much as the rules of criminal law. But he quickly becomes locked in a lethal battle of wits with Alice (Ruth Wilson), a beautiful, highly intelligent murderer, and his decision-making process becomes increasingly murky. The strain begins to show as he’s drawn deeper and deeper into a series of horrific murders and the shadow of a former case threatens to bring him down. Forced to face his own capacity for violence, he struggles with why his wife left him and what draws him to Alice. As the stakes get higher and more personal, Luther’s lonely path pulls him towards the very edge of temptation.

Luther is a new, cutting-edge series from BBC, which isn’t exactly known for risqué crime dramas. Nonetheless, they got it right. Even though there are only six, one-hour episodes on this two-disc set, they are all captivating. The writers definitely don’t hold back as any character’s destiny is entirely unpredictable and the final two episodes impossibly raise the intensity. It would be incredibly interesting to see where these characters’ paths lead them.

Special features include: “Luther: The World of a True Maverick”. (Warner Home Entertainment)

The Walking Dead - Season 1 on Blu-rayThe Walking Dead – Season 1 (Blu-ray)
After waking from a coma in an abandoned hospital, police officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) finds the world he knew gone – ravaged by a zombie epidemic of apocalyptic proportions. Nearby, on the outskirts of Atlanta, a small encampment struggles to survive as ‘the dead’ stalk them at every turn. Eventually, Rick joins the group and together they travel from one disaster area to the next, searching for a safe and secure home. The world has changed and they need to figure out how to survive it – and each other.

This television series is based on a popular graphic novel of the same name by Robert Kirkman. However, the illustrated series is popular not because it features lots of zombie-related gore, but because it centres on great character development. That’s what makes it an excellent source for the television show. The first season consisted of only six episodes, but they are each outstanding. The dynamics within the group are portrayed incredibly well and the production value is first-rate. AMC is becoming known for presenting quality television and is definitely competing with HBO in this arena. Though they may be showcasing fewer titles, AMC is proving to be a heavyweight and this programme is going to further establish their presence.

Special features include: a making-of featurette; “Inside The Walking Dead: Episode 1-6”; a sneak peek with writer/producer Robert Kirkman; “Behind the Scenes Zombie Make-up Tips”; a convention panel with producers; extra footage: “Zombie School”, “Bicycle Girl”, “On set with Robert Kirkman”, “Hanging with Steven Yeun”, “Inside Dale’s RV” and “On set with Andrew Lincoln”; and a trailer. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)


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