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Calamity Jane | DVD | (26/05/2003)
from £4.68 | Saving you £9.24 (66.00%) | RRP
This 1953 musical is very much a vehicle for Doris Day, in the title role, as a wild cowgal who can out-shoot and out-sing any boy on the range. When an actress arrives in Deadwood and uses her feminine charms on Jane's secret love, Wild Bill Hickock (Howard Keel), Jane tries to mend her tomboy ways. Not exactly up to the feminist code of honour, this is still energetic and Day is very perky. Of course, one could almost detect a homosexual undercurrent with the cross-dressing Jane, but this was Hollywood in the 1950s, so we best not. Calamity Jane won an Oscar for Best Song--"Secret Love", by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster. --Rochelle O'Gorman
The Santa Clause 2 | DVD | (17/11/2003)
from £3.88 | Saving you £14.00 (77.80%) | RRP
Considering how lame this sequel could have been, The Santa Clause 2 makes for a pleasant seasonal diversion. It's got the familiar smell of Disney marketeering, and more than a few parents will object to this further embellishment of the St Nick legend, but Tim Allen's amiable presence provides ample compensation. As a divorced dad who inherited the jolly man's job in The Santa Clause, Allen now faces another Yuletide challenge. According to the "Missus Clause" in his North Pole contract, he can't continue to be the real Santa until he gets married. As luck and five credited screenwriters would have it, Allen falls for the Scroogey principal (Elizabeth Mitchell) of his son's school, while a phoney, power-hungry duplicate Santa wreaks havoc on the North Pole's overworked elves. It's all as sweet as spiced eggnog, with that warmed-over feel of a mandated sequel, but the Christmas spirit does prevail with the sound of sleigh bells and Allen's rosy-cheeked "Ho, ho, ho!". --Jeff Shannon
Chicken Run | DVD | (04/12/2000)
from £5.59 | Saving you £7.40 (57.00%) | RRP
As warming as a nice cup of tea on a cloudy day, Chicken Run is that charming singularity, a commercially successful British family movie that has near-universal appeal without compromising its inherent British pluckiness (that will be the first and last poultry-pun in this review). It invites us into the Plasticine-world of Tweedy's farm, a far-from-free-range egg factory ruled with an axe of iron by greedy Mrs.Tweedy. One intrepid chicken, Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawalha) sets her sights on breaking out the whole flock, a cast of beautifully individuated chicken characters including ditsy Babs (voiced by Jane Horrocks), matronly Bunty (Imelda Staunton) and practical-minded Mac (Lynn Ferguson). Each effort is thwarted, and Ginger repeatedly reaps a spell in the coal bunker for her troubles, prompting the first of many allusions to The Great Escape, one of several World War II films name-checked throughout. (Grown-ups will have a ball playing Spot-the-Allusion Game here.) When an American rooster named Rocky (Mel Gibson) literally drops in from the air, the hens are set all a-flutter with excitement thinking he'll help teach them to fly away at last. But Rocky is not all he seems. Although the action sags just a fraction around the 40-minute mark, it's the set pieces that really lift this into the realm of cartoon genius: the montage of inept flying attempts, Rocky and Ginger's narrow escape from Mrs Tweedy's new pie machine (an horrific contraption of chomping steel and industrial menace) and the magnificent, soaring climax. Despite the fact British animators (such as the directors, Nick Park and Peter Lord, themselves) regularly scoop Oscars for their short films, our record in full-feature length cartoons has been scrappy at best. There have been a few highlights--Animal Farm (1955), The Yellow Submarine (1968), Watership Down (1978)--and, er, that's about it really, unless you count The Magic Roundabout: Dougal and the Blue Cat. ChickenRun, made by the Aardman production house who produced the delightful Wallace and Gromit shorts among many other treats, has proved that Britain can compete with the most calculated, merchandised and screen-tested Disney production and win. --Leslie Felperin
An American In Paris | DVD | (02/06/2003)
from £5.49 | Saving you £8.50 (60.80%) | RRP
The plot of An American in Paris is mostly an excuse for director Vincente Minnelli to pool his own extraordinary talent with those of choreographer-dancer-actor Gene Kelly and the artists behind the screenplay, art direction, cinematography, and score, creating a rapturous musical not quite like anything else in cinema. An American GI (Kelly) stays in Paris after the war to become an artist, and has to choose between the patronage of a rich American woman (Nina Foch) and a French gamine (Leslie Caron) engaged to an older man. The final section of the film comprises a 17-minute dance sequence that took a month to film and is breathtaking. Gershwin songs specially arranged for the film include "'S Wonderful", "I Got Rhythm", and "Love is Here to Stay". --Tom Keogh
White Christmas | DVD | (03/12/2001)
from £3.59 | Saving you £11.20 (70.00%) | RRP
This semi-remake of Holiday Inn (the first movie in which Irving Berlin's perennial, Oscar-winning holiday anthem was featured) doesn't have much of a story, but what it does have is choice: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, an all-Irving Berlin song score, classy direction by Hollywood vet Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood), VistaVision (the very first feature ever shot in that widescreen format), and ultrafestive Technicolor! Crosby and Kaye are song-and-dance men who hook up, romantically and professionally, with a "sister" act (Clooney and Vera-Ellen) to put on a Big Show to benefit the struggling ski-resort lodge run by the beloved old retired general (Dean Jagger) of their WWII Army outfit. Crosby is cool, Clooney is warm, Kaye is goofy, and Vera-Ellen is leggy. Songs include: "Sisters" (Crosby and Kaye do their own drag version, too), "Snow", "We'll Follow the Old Man", "Mandy", "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep" and more. Christmas would be unthinkable without White Christmas. --Jim Emerson
Easter Parade | DVD | (16/05/2005)
from £3.88 | Saving you £10.00 (71.50%) | RRP
If you can't join 'em beat 'em! When his long-time dance partner abandons him for the Ziegfeld Follies Don Hewes decides to show who's who what's what by choosing any girl out of a chorus line and transforming her into a star. So he makes his choice and takes his chances. Of course since Fred Astaire portrays Don and Judy Garland plays the chorine we know we're in for an entertainment sure thing.
Nativity Combi Pack | Blu Ray | (22/11/2010)
from £5.39 | Saving you £2.05 (27.60%) | RRP
Starring Martin Freeman Ashley Jenson Alan Carr and Mark Wootton comes the ultimate British feel-good Christmas film for the whole family. This Christmas primary school teacher Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman) is being charged with the biggest challenge of his life - mounting the school's musical version of the Nativity. Competing against the posh local school for the honour of best reviewed show in town the stakes are raised when Paul idly boasts that his ex-girlfriend Jennifer (Ashley Jenson) a Hollywood Producer is coming to see his show with a view to turning it into a film. The only trouble is - they haven't spoken in years. With eccentric assistant Mr. Poppy (Mark Wootton) fuelling his 'little white lie' Maddens suddenly finds himself a local celebrity and at the centre of quarrelling parents and over-excited children desperate in their bid for fame and fortune. Now Maddens' only hope is to get back in touch with Jennifer and lure Hollywood to town so that everybody's Christmas wishes come true.
High School Musical | DVD | (04/12/2006)
from £4.75 | Saving you £9.24 (66.00%) | RRP
Troy (Zac Efron) the popular captain of the basketball team and Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) the brainy and beautiful member of the academic club break all the rules of East High society when they secretly audition for the leads in the school's musical. As they reach for the stars and follow their dreams everyone learns about acceptance teamwork and being yourself. And it's all set to fun tunes and very cool dance moves.
Bugsy Malone | Blu Ray | (23/06/2008)
from £6.29 | Saving you £13.70 (68.50%) | RRP
Written and directed by Alan Parker Bugsy Malone is a gangster musical set in New York a world of would-be hoodlums showgirls and dreamers. A world where you never see an adult - kids play the entire film including Scott Biao as Bugsy and Jodie Foster as Tallulah. Bugsy Malone. is totally unique: quite simply there has never ever been a movie like it!
You Again | DVD | (28/03/2011)
from £4.33 | Saving you £5.51 (55.20%) | RRP
When a young woman realizes her brother is about to marry the girl who bullied her in high school she sets out to expose the fiance's true colors.
The Importance Of Being Earnest | DVD | (21/07/2003)
from £9.99 | Saving you £-1.15 (-7.20%) | RRP
Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest revolves around the clever scheming of two friends Algernon Moncrieff (Rupert Everett) and Jack Worthing (Colin Firth) both of whom lead double lives in order to increase their opportunities for pleasure. Jack who lives in the country comes to London as often as he can to look after his wicked invented brother Earnest while Algernon creates an invalid friend called Bunbury whose constant illnesses allow him to escape family pressures
My Favourite Wife | DVD | (04/04/2005)
from £6.87 | Saving you £9.12 (57.00%) | RRP
The funniest fastest honeymoon ever screened! Ellen Arden (Irene Dunne) has been shipwrecked for seven years but returns to discover her husband Nick (Cary Grant) has had her declared dead and remarried. She wants her man back and makes him jealous over Stephen (Randolph Scott) a man with whom she was shipwrecked. After all these years can true love still find its way? Leo McCarey's My Favourite Wife puts the wide-ranging comedic talents of Grant and Dunne to hilarious use.
Bugsy Malone | DVD | (17/02/2003)
from £11.45 | Saving you £-7.22 (-80.30%) | RRP
Writer-director Alan Parker's feature debut Bugsy Malone is a pastiche of American movies, a musical gangster comedy set in 1929, featuring prohibition, showgirls and gang warfare, with references to everything from Some Like It Hot to The Godfather. Uniquely, though, all the parts are played by children, including an excellent if underused Jodie Foster as platinum-blonde singer Tallulah, Scott Baio in the title role and a nine-year-old Dexter Fletcher wielding a baseball bat. Cream-firing "spluge guns" side-step any real violence and the movie climaxes cheerfully with the biggest custard pie fight this side of Casino Royale (1967). Unfortunately for a musical, Paul Williams' score--part honky-tonk jazz homage, part 1970s Elton John-style pop--lets the side down with a lack of memorable tunes. Nevertheless, Parker's direction is spot on and the look of the film is superb, a fantasy movie-movie existing in the same parallel reality as The Cotton Club and Chicago. A rare British love letter to classic American cinema, Bugsy Malone remains a true original; in Parker's words "the work of a madman" and one of the strangest yet most stylish children's films ever made. On the DVD: Bugsy Malone's picture is presented non-anamorphically at 1.66:1, with rich colours and plenty of detail. The print is excellent. The audio is stereo only and while full and clear seems to leave a hole in the middle of the soundstage. Extras include an informative commentary by Parker, eight pages of trivia notes by Parker and a very informative 12-page booklet, also by the director. There are three trailers, nine character profiles, two scored galleries, and more imaginatively, a multi-angle option to compare Parker's sketches, their comic-strip realisation by Graham Thomson and the finished opening sequence. Quality over quantity make this a strong collection of extras, though recollections from the stars would have added so much more. --Gary S. Dalkin
Annie Get Your Gun | DVD | (22/04/2002)
from £4.99 | Saving you £9.00 (64.30%) | RRP
Irving Berlin's classic stage musical Annie Get Your Gun finally reached the big screen in 1950, four years after it had taken Broadway by storm. The irresistible combination of the story of ground-breaking sharpshooter Annie Oakley, fantastic songs like the rousing anthem "There's No Business Like Show Business" and the setting of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, made most people feel it was worth the wait. More than half a century on, the book creaks audibly and the treatment of the "Indians" who make up the bulk of the troupe is inevitably embarrassing. But in glorious Technicolor, this in-your-face spectacular defies you not to get sucked in. Quite simply, the show is a winner. Ethel Merman's performance on Broadway became an immediate show business legend, but she was largely ignored by Hollywood. Here, Betty Hutton's whirlwind Annie is, on its own terms, an explosive and hugely entertaining turn, matched by Howard Keel in his first starring part as Frank Butler. But Judy Garland was the first choice for the role and had already filmed several numbers before MGM fired her for her erratic behaviour. It seems almost cruel to include a couple of her songs as extras; even a 40-watt Garland makes the otherwise incandescent Hutton look merely adequate. They certainly add a frisson to this celebration of all-American entertainment at its boldest and brassiest. On the DVD: Annie Get Your Gun is presented in standard 4:3 format (the original aspect ratio was a similar 1.37:1) and the picture quality is so sharp it blows you out of your seat. Likewise the stereo soundtrack, brilliant for songs which include "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly", "Anything You Can Do" and the sublime "They Say it's Wonderful". Apart from the Garland numbers, the extras include a Hutton outtake and an introduction to the show from a recent Broadway Annie, Susan Lucci. Overall, though, the show's the thing. --Piers Ford
Singin' In The Rain | DVD | (24/01/2000)
from £7.29 | Saving you £7.01 (36.90%) | RRP
Decades before the Hollywood film industry became famous for megabudget disaster and science fiction spectaculars, the studios of Southern California (and particularly Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) were renowned for a uniquely American (and nearly extinct) kind of picture known as The Musical. Indeed, when Sight & Sound conducts its international critics poll in the second year of every decade, this 1952 MGM picture is the American musical that consistently ranks among the 10 best movies ever made. It's not only a great song-and-dance piece starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and a sprightly Debbie Reynolds; it's also an affectionately funny insider spoof about the film industry's uneasy transition from silent pictures to "talkies". Kelly plays debonair star Don Lockwood, whose leading lady Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) has a screechy voice hilariously ill-suited to the new technology (and her glamorous screen image). Among the musical highlights: O'Connor's knockout "Make 'Em Laugh"; the big "Broadway Melody" production number; and, best of all, that charming little title ditty in which Kelly makes movie magic on a drenched set with nothing but a few puddles, a lamppost, and an umbrella. --Jim Emerson
The Lizzie McGuire Movie | DVD | (02/02/2004)
from £4.99 | Saving you £13.00 (72.30%) | RRP
The Lizzie McGuire Movie spins around the axis of Disney Channel starlet Hilary Duff, whose glossy good looks and rather mature figure are balanced by a sweetly bashful persona and an endearing klutziness. On a school trip to Rome, Lizzie is discovered to be the virtual twin of an Italian pop star named Isabella--and her dreamy former partner wants Lizzie to take Isabella's place at an award show to avoid a lawsuit. Only Lizzie's loyal best friend Gordo (Adam Lamberg) suspects that Paolo may not be all that he seems. The Lizzie McGuire Movie is competent fluff, with the most fun to be had coming from Lizzie's pesky little brother (Jake Thomas) and his Machiavellian friend Melina (Carly Schroeder), who plot to humiliate Lizzie for fun and personal gain. It also features Alex Borstein as Lizzie's tyrannical principal and chaperone. --Bret Fetzer
The Wizard Of Oz | DVD | (19/06/2006)
from £6.99 | Saving you £0.00 (0.00%) | RRP
Like the Tin Man's heart, the true test of a real classic is how much it is loved by others. The enduring charms of The Wizard of Oz have easily weathered the vicissitudes of changing fashions making the film one of the world's best-loved, most-quoted and frequently imitated movies. It's now as ubiquitous an American pop-cultural icon as McDonald's, making judging the movie purely on its own merits an almost impossible task. Judy Garland's tragic later life, for example, makes her naïve and utterly beguiling Dorothy seem all the more poignant in retrospect. But this at least is clear: much of this movie's success depends on the winning appeal of Garland's "Everygirl" figure, who creates the vital identification and empathy necessary to carry the audience with her into the land of Oz. We always care deeply about Dorothy, her quest for home and the strength of her friendship with her companions. Garland's assured dancing and singing routines with her ideally cast Broadway comedy co-stars Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr and Jack Haley are still endlessly delightful, of course, and the songs and score (by Arlen, Harburg and Stothart) are as good as anything in the Hollywood musical canon. It is Garland's deeply felt rendition of "Over the Rainbow" that is both the film's emotional core and the reason why adults as much as children the world over still respond so strongly to this movie. So long as people long for home and the love of their friends and family, the nostalgic appeal of Oz will never fade. On the DVD: another splendid digital restoration from the MGM vaults keeps this wonderful classic as vivid and alive as it was back in 1939, if not more so. The 1.33:1 picture is clear and defined, bursting with the vibrant colours of Oz (you can even see the wires holding up the Lion's tail). Even more remarkably, because the original microphone tapes have been preserved the soundtrack has been remastered in 5.1 stereo, thereby accentuating the lush tones of the MGM orchestra and Garland's famous singing. The disc is also chock full of extras, including outtakes, audio sequences, composer Harold Arlen's backstage movies, extracts from earlier silent Oz films, clips from the Academy Awards and interviews with the stars among many other fascinating nuggets. The new 50-minute documentary hosted by Angela Lansbury, and irritatingly narrated in the present tense, is oddly the weakest part, with too little hard information and too much padding about how everyone loves the movie. The only gripe is Warners' trademark cardboard slipcase, which is awkward and easily damaged. But this is still an essential disc for the young at heart everywhere. --Mark Walker
College Road Trip | DVD | (26/01/2009)
from £4.15 | Saving you £9.84 (70.30%) | RRP
Choosing a college and striking out on one's own is an exciting time that requires a big adjustment by both child and parent, but few parents will have as much difficulty relinquishing control over their daughter's life as Chicago police chief James Porter (Martin Lawrence). The ultimate in loving but overprotective fathers, James wants his daughter Melanie (Raven-Symoné) to attend nearby Northwestern College, so when she's waitlisted and called for an interview at Georgetown in Washington, D.C., James gets more than a little nervous. Squashing her plans for a road trip to D.C. with her girlfriends, James insists on a father-daughter expedition which he envisions being full of reminiscing, heart-to-heart conversations, and a healthy dose of persuasive promotion of Northwestern. The car trip definitely doesn't turn out as planned--instead it’s a trip rife with strained silences and festering conflict in which the police vehicle rolls down a wooded embankment, Melanie's little brother (Eshaya Draper) and pet pig stow away in the back of the truck, and the Porters inexplicably keep running into a syrupy sweet father (Donny Osmond) and college-bound-daughter (Molly Ephraim) whose close relationship, clean-cut enthusiasm, and willingness to befriend and help the Porters is downright unsettling. Absurdly funny scenes include the family pig crashing and demolishing a fancy outdoor wedding; James' party-loving mother (Arnetia Walker) scrambling to live up to her son's uptight image of her as a fragile, elderly woman; James breaking into a local sorority house and hiding under a bed in hopes of protecting Melanie's innocence, and James' and Melanie's unexpected skydive into Washington, D.C., in order to keep Melanie's interview appointment at Georgetown. In the end, James and Melanie both mature as a result of their road trip and are finally able to forge an emotionally healthy relationship with one another. (Ages 8 and older) --Tami Horiuchi
Penelope | DVD | (23/06/2008)
from £3.89 | Saving you £14.10 (78.40%) | RRP
Penelope is afflicted by a secret family curse that can only be broken when she is loved by one of her own kind. Hidden away in the family's majestic home she is subjected to meeting a string of blue-bloods through her parent's futile attempt to marry her off and break the curse. Each suitor is instantly enamored with Penelope (and her sizable dowry)... until the curse is revealed. When a willing mate cannot be found mischievous tabloid reporter Lemon (Peter Dinklage) hires Max (James McAvoy) to pose as a prospective suitor in hopes of snapping a photo of the mysterious 'Penelope.' Max who is really a down-on-his-luck gambler finds himself drawn to Penelope and not wanting to expose or disappoint her disappears and leaves Lemon in the lurch. Fed up by this latest betrayal and determined to live life on her own terms Penelope breaks free from her family and goes out into the world in search of adventure - curse be damned.
Singin' In The Rain - Special Edition | DVD | (25/11/2002)
from £6.15 | Saving you £7.00 (50.00%) | RRP
Singin' in the Rain is probably the most treasured musical in the history of cinema. It is essentially a satire on the dawning age of talking pictures, but that description doesn't begin to describe its importance in the hearts of film lovers, even those who can't otherwise stand musicals. Given its origins--producer Arthur Freed wanted a framework on which to hang a selection of the hits he'd written in the early part of his career with Nacio Herb Brown, many of which had themselves featured in early talkies--it should have been a mongrel of a picture. But somehow, with its combination of endearing performances, the razor-sharp script of Adolph Green and Betty Comden, instinctive direction from Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen and those delightful songs, it is triumphantly greater than the sum of its parts. Kelly's dance sequence, conceived for the title song, is an undiluted joy and remains an iconic cinema moment. But there is so much more to savour: Donald O'Connor's knockout vaudeville, Jean Hagen's hilarious Bronx-voiced leading lady and the honest charm of underrated Debbie Reynolds, crowned by Kelly's choreography for the Broadway Melody suite. No collection is complete without this. On the DVD: Singin' in the Rain--Special Edition, vibrant in 1.33:1 fullscreen format with a crystalline mono soundtrack, is the crown jewel in the embarrassment of riches on this 50th anniversary two-disc DVD. The extras just keep coming: "Musicals, Great Musicals" (a documentary about Arthur Freed's legendary production unit at MGM), a shorter documentary about the film itself (much of which is duplicated by the audio commentary, led by Debbie Reynolds), outtakes and audio scoring sessions and extracts from films in which many of the songs originated. There's also a hidden feature in which Baz Lurhmann offers his own testimony to the film's enduring appeal, but it's a tad redundant given the primary sources on offer. --Piers Ford