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  • Billy Elliot [2000] Billy Elliot | DVD | (18/04/2006) from £4.29  |  Saving you £11.70 (73.20%)  |  RRP £15.99

    Foursquare in the gritty-but-hearwarming tradition of Brassed Off and The Full Monty comes Billy Elliot, the first film of noted British theatrical director Stephen Daldry. The setting is County Durham in 1984, and things 'oop North are even grimmer than usual: the miners' strike is in full rancorous swing and 11-year-old Billy's dad and older brother, miners both, are staunch on the picket lines. Billy's got problems of his own. His dad's scraped together the fees to send him to boxing lessons, but Billy's discovered a different aptitude: a genius for ballet dancing. Since admitting to such an activity is tantamount, in this fiercely macho culture, to holding up a sign reading "I AM A RAVING POOF", Billy keeps it quiet. But his teacher, Mrs Wilkinson (Julie Walters, wearily undaunted) thinks he should audition for ballet school in London. Family ructions are inevitable. Daldry's film sidesteps some of the politics, both sexual and otherwise, but scores with its laconic dialogue (credit to screenwriter Lee Hall) and a cracking performance from newcomer Jamie Bell as Billy. His powerhouse dance routines, more Gene Kelly than Nureyev, carry an irresistible sense of exhilaration and self-discovery. Among a flawless supporting cast Stuart Wells stands out as Billy's sweet gay friend Michael. And if the miners' strike serves largely as background colour, there's one brief episode, as visored and truncheoned cops rampage through neat little terraced houses, that captures one of the most spiteful episodes in recent British history. --Philip Kemp

  • American Hustle [DVD] [2013] American Hustle | DVD | (28/04/2014) from £2.43  |  Saving you £17.56 (87.80%)  |  RRP £19.99

    A fictional film set in the seductive world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock the United States American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) who along with his equally cunning British partner and lover Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild unhinged FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that's as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito the passionate volatile New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving's unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down. Like David O. Russell's previous films American Hustle defies genre hinging on raw emotion and life and death stakes.

  • American Hustle [Blu-ray] [2013] American Hustle | Blu Ray | (28/04/2014) from £3.09  |  Saving you £21.90 (87.60%)  |  RRP £24.99

    A fictional film set in the seductive world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock the United States American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) who along with his equally cunning British partner and lover Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild unhinged FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that's as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito the passionate volatile New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving's unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down. Like David O. Russell's previous films American Hustle defies genre hinging on raw emotion and life and death stakes.

  • The Muppets [DVD] The Muppets | DVD | (11/06/2012) from £4.29  |  Saving you £13.70 (76.20%)  |  RRP £17.99

    Movies attempting to retrieve cherished nuggets of pop culture often stumble, either by appealing solely to the die-hard minutia enthusiasts or clunking up the batter with unnecessary additions to the base material. (Enough with the human love triangles, get to the giant robots fighting.) Thankfully, this revival of Jim Henson's beloved characters gets the formula delightfully right, providing a googly-eyed nostalgia trip for adults while also retaining the original's sense of bright (and mildly subversive) wonder. All that's missing is a cameo from Shields and Yarnell, really. Kicking off with a boffo musical number, the story follows Walter (voice of Peter Linz), a small-town boy with a uniquely personal affection for the long-retired Muppets. (OK, he's made of felt.) Teaming up with his brother (Jason Segel, who also co-scripted) and the local schoolteacher (Amy Adams), they attempt to get Kermit, Fozzie, and the gang back together in order to save their studio from an evil oil baron (Chris Cooper, going all in). Director James Bobin (Flight of the Conchords) does a marvelous job of updating and honoring his material, weaving sly references to days gone by (the contents of Kermit's rolodex are a particular delight) into the mix of songs, celebrity cameos, and barn-broad puns that gave the original show its bubbly kick. (Fans of Animal and the Chickens will not go home disappointed.) Even the moments that don't quite work land with a cornball brio that feels wholly of a piece with Henson's universe. The result is a true family movie that still brings on the blissful, uncomplicated grins days after viewing. No matter what Statler and/or Waldorf might say, the show goes on. --Andrew Wright

  • Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake [1996] Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake | DVD | (20/07/1998) from £9.80  |  Saving you £8.19 (45.50%)  |  RRP £17.99

    This Swan Lake was the unexpected popular hit of 1996, when radical choreographer Matthew Bourne took Tchaikovsky's traditional ballet by the scruff of the neck and reworked it with a myriad of modern influences and themes to astonishing effect. Seldom have the dark psychological riptides at the heart of so many classical ballets been so brilliantly exposed. The Prince (Scott Ambler) is a wretched and dissolute young man dominated by his mother, the Joan Collins-like Queen (Fiona Ambler). Shades of Tennessee Williams, indeed. Von Rothbart becomes a press secretary, more sinister éminence grise than hissable villain. Most startling of all, The Swan (Adam Cooper) is a muscular, emphatically masculine male. Bourne has stressed the universality of his interpretation, which proved such a success for his Adventures in Motion Pictures dance company. And indeed this is never an overtly "gay" Swan Lake, although the electricity of the pas de deux at the height of Act 2 delivers a palpably homoerotic charge. Its universal threads--as Bourne suggests, the need to be held and understood is common to us all--are synthesised in the utterly moving conclusion as the Swan cradles the lifeless Prince and raises him to a better place. Swan Lake becomes a human, rather than simply romantic, tragedy. On the DVD: Swan Lake is presented in full screen 4:3 video format and this version would certainly have benefited from widescreen to show off the dazzling court and night club scenes as well as the lake and the impact of the all-male swan corps de ballet. But the lush Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound serves the rich interpretation of Tchaikovsky's score from The New London Orchestra to handkerchief-wringing effect. Extras include menu-driven resumes and a synopsis. --Piers Ford

  • The Muppets [Blu-ray][Region Free] The Muppets | Blu Ray | (11/06/2012) from £3.43  |  Saving you £19.56 (85.10%)  |  RRP £22.99

    Movies attempting to retrieve cherished nuggets of pop culture often stumble, either by appealing solely to the die-hard minutia enthusiasts or clunking up the batter with unnecessary additions to the base material. (Enough with the human love triangles, get to the giant robots fighting.) Thankfully, this revival of Jim Henson's beloved characters gets the formula delightfully right, providing a googly-eyed nostalgia trip for adults while also retaining the original's sense of bright (and mildly subversive) wonder. All that's missing is a cameo from Shields and Yarnell, really. Kicking off with a boffo musical number, the story follows Walter (voice of Peter Linz), a small-town boy with a uniquely personal affection for the long-retired Muppets. (OK, he's made of felt.) Teaming up with his brother (Jason Segel, who also co-scripted) and the local schoolteacher (Amy Adams), they attempt to get Kermit, Fozzie, and the gang back together in order to save their studio from an evil oil baron (Chris Cooper, going all in). Director James Bobin (Flight of the Conchords) does a marvelous job of updating and honoring his material, weaving sly references to days gone by (the contents of Kermit's rolodex are a particular delight) into the mix of songs, celebrity cameos, and barn-broad puns that gave the original show its bubbly kick. (Fans of Animal and the Chickens will not go home disappointed.) Even the moments that don't quite work land with a cornball brio that feels wholly of a piece with Henson's universe. The result is a true family movie that still brings on the blissful, uncomplicated grins days after viewing. No matter what Statler and/or Waldorf might say, the show goes on. --Andrew Wright

  • Angela's Ashes / Stepmom / Billy Elliott [1998] Angela's Ashes / Stepmom / Billy Elliott | DVD | (03/10/2005) from £N/A  |  Saving you £N/A (N/A%)  |  RRP £19.99

    Angela's Ashes (Dir. Alan Parker 1999): Angela's Ashes the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir comes to life in this stirring film from acclaimed director Alan Parker (Evita) starring Academy Award-nominee Emily Watson (Breaking The Waves) and Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty). Life in impoverished Depression-era Ireland holds little promise for young Frank McCourt the oldest son in a tightly knit family. Living by his wits cheered by his irrepressible spirit and sustained by his mother's fierce love Frank embarks on an inspiring journey to overcome the poverty of his childhood and reach the land of his dreams: America. Stepmom (Dir. Chris Columbus 1998): Jackie (Susan Sarandon) is a divorced mother of two. Isabel (Julia Roberts) is the career minded girlfriend of Jackie's ex-husband Luke (Ed Harris) forced into the role of unwelcome stepmother to their children. It is the universal dilemma of the 'non-traditional family' they all love the children but the complex interplay between parents step-parents step-children ex-spouses and significant others is decidedly tricky. But when Jackie discovers she is ill both women realise they must put aside their differences to find a common ground and celebrate life to the fullest while they have the chance. Billy Elliot (Dir. Stephen Daldry 1998): Starring Julie Walters and newcomer Jamie Bell the film (based on a real-life story) follows the progress of little Billy Elliot a motherless 11 year-old from a poor Durham pit village. When young Billy chooses ballet classes over boxing lessons his life is changed forever. He decides to keep the lessons secret from his father a coal miner but when his ballet instructor persuades him to try out for the Royal Ballet School in London Billy must make the choice between family responsibilities and his dreams...

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