Geoff Cox’s guide to new DVD releases

It was 33 years ago that a John Le Carre novel was adapted for a BBC TV series and drew many admirers.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 25th January 2012, 6:49 am

So was it wise to make a feature film of Cold War thriller TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (15: Studio Canal), let alone give it to the Swedish director of cult horror flick Let The Right One In?

On the page and the small screen, the intrigue had time to smoulder, but over the course of two hours the plot points whizz past at a bewildering rate.

More than compensating for that, however, is a terrific, career-defining performance by Gary Oldman as retired spy George Smiley.

As the deputy to the head of British intelligence, Smiley was forced into retirement after an operation ended in disaster. But he’s later recruited by the government to investigate the possibility of a Soviet mole in a high-ranking position in MI6.

A former colleague (John Hurt), now deceased, claimed to have evidence of a deep-cover Russian agent. But who is it?

The cast and period detail are all first class, superbly capturing an important period in recent British history, although there’s a sketchiness to the main suspects (Ciaran Hinds, Colin Firth, Toby Jones and David Dencik) whose characters I would have liked to have seen developed further.

> Just when you thought it was safe to watch another Jaws rip-off, along comes SHARK NIGHT 3D (15: Entertainment In Video), a dumb B-movie that lacks bite in every department.

Spielberg’s classic is aped from the start – apart from the scary, thrilling and funny bits.

And it’s hard to believe it was directed by David R. Ellis, who was at the helm for Snakes On A Plane, a cheesy exploitation movie that I loved.

Shark Night sees rednecks stock a picturesque Louisiana lake with sharks fitted with belly cameras to stream live-attack carnage to the internet.

They have a steady flow of idiotic vacationing youths – or shark bait – who are happy to swim, jet ski and strip at meal time.

The clunky CGI sharks and their devourings register little realism, while the 3D effects are lost outside the cinema experience, making this tawdry tale of terror worthless.

> Bibles and bullets collide in RED STATE (18: Entertainment One), an uneasy mix of horror movie, action thriller and social commentary.

Three teenage boys answer an online sex advert and find themselves in the clutches of an extreme fundamentalist religious group.

As the Five Points Church prepares to burn the victims, its urban terrorism agenda is fully revealed, prompting a government agent (John Goodman) to take action to eliminate the cult by whatever means necessary.

Michael Parks, a Quentin Tarantino regular, makes an incredibly strong impression as the frightening pastor on a murderous mission.

But the film is undermined by misplaced humour, director Kevin Smith’s manic determination to hammer home his political point and a finale that’s an anticlimatic mess.

> Neatly balancing genuine thrills and spills with moments of great humour, THE TROLL HUNTER (15: Momentum) is a fantastic ‘found footage’ film that adds Norwegian folklore to a Blair Witch vibe.

It chronicles, via reconstituted and “authenticated” videos, the experiences of a student film crew who set out on the trail of a bear poacher.

They quickly discover that his actual prey are things far more dangerous and mythic. Trolls, we are told, are not the stuff of fairy tales but real, sun-hating, Christian-hunting monsters.

But the Norwegian people don’t know it because of a government cover-up.

These trolls are terrific, looking like they’ve just stepped from the pages of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Only they’re bigger and scarier.

> Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman gleefully break all the boundaries of taste when they give the body-swap comedy a mighty shake-up in THE CHANGE-UP (15: Universal).

Bed-hopping ladies man Mitch (Reynolds) makes pal Dave (Bateman) question his own life choices – changing nappies and doing “dialogue night” with the missus.

But Mitch secretly envies Dave’s life as a husband and father, while Dave in turn longs for Mitch’s lack of responsibility.

During a drunken night out, they confess their desire to switch places, but when the wish is magically granted, they each find the other’s routine is not as simple as it looks.

With a script from the writers of The Hangover, the gags often go below the belt.

Fortunately, director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) has a knack for such silliness, though he can’t resist a final tug on the heartstrings.