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DVD Reviews

Once (15)

Published 24/02/2008

Romantic drama starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. Director: John Carney.

What's the story?...

Strumming his guitar on the streets of Dublin, a busker (Glen Hansard from Irish band The Frames) enjoys a chance encounter with a Czech cleaner (Marketa Irglova), who loves to play the piano and their fragile friendship blossoms into something far deeper.

What's the verdict?...

John Carney's intimate, modern day romance is a modern gem - small yet perfectly formed, with heartbreaking performances and arguably the best soundtrack of the year.

Shot on a small budget on the streets of Dublin, it's grabbed the attention of Hollywood, with Stephen Spielberg singing its praises.

Strong performances from the leads compel us to fall in love with these two people as well, but the predicted happy ending is not quite clear cut.

Stardust (PG)

Fantasy drama starring Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mark Strong, Nathaniel Parker, Kate Magowan and Sienna Miller. Director: Matthew Vaughn.

What's the story?...

Shy and innocent Tristan Thorne (Cox) lives in the sleepy English village of Wall. He is madly in love with fair maiden Victoria (Miller) but she only has eyes for bounder Humphrey (Cavill).

In order to prove his love, Tristan agrees to bring Victoria a fallen star as a birthday gift.

What's the verdict?...

Based on the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess, Stardust is an utterly charming adventure for the entire family with a generous sprinkling of romance and black comedy.

Matthew Vaughn's magical fairy-tale glitters with colourful performances, from Pfeiffer's witch whose beauty fades every time she uses her magic to Robert De Niro as an airship captain with a secret passion for couture.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (12)

Drama starring Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Abbie Cornish and Geoffrey Rush. Director: Shekhar Kapur.

What's the story?...

In the sequel to Kapur's sweeping historical epic, Elizabeth I (Blanchett) has been on the throne for almost three decades but the winds of religious discord are blowing uneasily throughout the land.

What's the verdict?...

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a ravishing period piece, painstakingly recreating the opulence of the 16th century court. As history lessons go, this is as sumptuous and dazzling as they come; the historic accuracy, however, is sometimes questionable.

Eastern Promises (18)

Thriller starring Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Sinead Cusack. Director: David Cronenberg.

What's the story?...

Caring midwife Anna Khitrova (Watts) inadvertently strays into the middle of a brutal gang war when she probes the personal history of a teenager who dies in her care.

What's the verdict?....

Easter Promises pulls no punches in its depiction of the brutality in London's underworld.

Cronenberg's thriller is a tour de force of robust, assured direction and powerful performances. Violence is used sparingly, but to devastating effect.

Watts taps into the vulnerability and loneliness of her caregiver, whose attachment to an orphaned baby stems from a doomed interracial relationship in the past.

Death At A Funeral (15)

Drama starring Matthew Macfadyen, Rupert Graves and Jane Asher. Director: Frank Oz.

What's the story?...

Daniel (Macfadyen) and his novelist brother Robert (Graves) put their differences to one side to support their mother Sandra (Asher) at their father's funeral.

What's the verdict?....

Death At A Funeral harks back to the glorious farces of the Forties and Fifties, with a distinctly modern sensibility: narcotic-fuelled hallucinations, gratuitous nudity and illicit sexual dalliances.

Scriptwriter Dean Craig generously shares around the one-liners, but some of the cast invariably embellish with scene-stealing abandon.

The ending, like the copious cups of soothing hot tea served to the mourners, is excessively sweet.

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