Nothing To Lose By Lee Child

Published by Random House

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is a bit like Dr David Banner from the Incredible Hulk (without the turning into a big green monster bit of course), travelling down a never ending road in search of some kind of inner peace but always seeming to be pulled into other people’s problems.

Ex-military policeman Jack Reacher is a big hard man who you wouldn’t want to meet down a dark alley and you certainly wouldn’t want to make him angry so when he decides to cross the line from Hope into Despair (quite literally as it is the name of two small towns in Colorado) he finds that a search for a cup of coffee sees him drawn into a conspiracy that stands to uncover a scandal of epic proportions.

Whilst in the town of Hope, on his journey across the States, Reacher decides to deviate from his planned route by 12 miles simply because the next town along is called Despair; Hope is all sweetness and light whilst Despair is exactly the opposite and when four men try to run Reacher out of town , before he has even had his coffee too, it does not take him too long to realise that there is something rotten in this state of Despair. Teaming up with a local female Hope cop Reacher determines to get to the bottom of things. No matter what it takes.

Another exciting story from Child who is a bit like an unstoppable runaway juggernaut, he doesn’t deviate at all in the telling of his story which manages to fit enough twists and turns to easily keep you hooked. Reacher is a classic maverick loner hero, cut from the same cloth as James Bond but with a cheesecloth shirt instead of a dinner jacket. Men want to be like him and women want to be with him, Reacher though, Littlest Hobo style, forms no long term attachments and just keeps movin’ on.

Pacy, action packed and a top read.

No Reservations

Warner Roadshow / 97 minutes / Rated PG

Catherine Zeta Jones, Aaron Eckhart

Based on the European original Mostly Martha, No Reservations features the sexy Catherine Zeta Jones and Aaron Eckhart turning up the heat in a veritable fondue of romantic drama.

Zeta Jones plays super dedicated, perfectionist in fact, cook Kate whose job at a top New York restaurant leaves her zero time for a relationship, her world changes for ever though when her sister dies and she has to take in her orphaned niece (played by Abigail Breslin), forced to take some time out she is more than put out to discover a new Sous Chef Nick Palmer (played by Aaron Eckhart) who is not only a great cook but brings a whole new dynamic into the kitchen.

As Kate struggles with becoming in effect a mum and starts to fall for Nick she actually wakes up to the fact that there is more to life than the kitchen. Definitely a nicely feel good movie that gives you that warm fuzzy glow that restores your faith in the fact that the world may just not be so bad after all. You know exactly what you are getting with No Reservations but you know sometimes thats exactly what you want.

Zeta-Jones and Eckhart spark off each other very nicely and young Abigail Breslin has bags of cuteness going for her. Warm of heart and delicious to boot No Reservations is well worth pulling up a chair for.

Extras feature an episode of the Food Network show Unwrapped with host Marc Summers visiting the set.

Next

Paramount Home Entertainment

The fast paced action thriller with a scifi twist Next has just been released by Paramount.

There is an all star cast that includes the gorgeous Jessica Biel, Julianne Moore and headling is Nicolas Cage as Las Vegas showroom magician Cris Johnson (Cage) has a secret which torments him: the ability to see a few minutes into the future. Sick of the examinations he underwent as a child and the interest of the government and medical establishment in his power, he lies low under an assumed name in Vegas, performing cheap tricks and living off small-time gambling “winnings.” But when a terrorist group threatens to detonate a nuclear device in Los Angeles, government agent Callie Ferris (Moore) must use all her wiles to capture Cris and convince him to help her stop the catastrophe.

Special features include making the Best Next Thing, Visualizing the Next Move, The Next “Grand Idea” and Two Minutes in the Future with Jessica Biel.

New Tricks Series Four

ABC DVD / Region 4 / 2 disc set

Featuring Amanda Redman, James Bolam, Alun Armstrong, Dennis Waterman

Unlike most TV detective shows New Tricks (season four of which is released this month) never takes itself too seriously, one of the reasons no doubt (along with its fabulous cast) why it has become so popular in a short space of time. Amanda Redman plays Detective Superintendant Sandra Pullman, who finds herself in charge of a special cold case squad whose staff is made up of ageing former cops who have been persuaded to re-enter the fold.

The trio who make up the team are played by three of the UK’s best talents, James Bolam is Jack Halford, who has never gotten over the death of his wife, Alun Armstrong is the obsessive compulsive Brian Lane and Dennis Waterman is the now ageing lothario Gerry Standing who has a multitude of ex-wives on his back and growing debts – it’s a great chance to see these three sparking off each other that’s for sure.

Initially Pullman is none too pleased to be heading up the team for what she considers a retrograde step in her career but by this fourth season (6 episodes spread across two discs) she realises her team is something special, until that is the whole dynamic of the relationship is threatened when she learns the boys have been holding out on her with a secret from her own past.

Guest stars in this run include two former co-stars of Waterman in the shape of the legendary George Cole (Arthur Daley to Waterman’s Terry McCann in Minder) and the still very lovely Jan Francis (who co-starred in the under rated Stay Lucky with Waterman – a great candidate for a release itself surely) as well as the likes of Waterman’s real life daughter Hannah, Lynda Bellingham, Sheila Hancock, Eric Sykes (still going strong), John Sessions, Roy Hudd and June Whitfield. Class acts all!

New Tricks (as in you can’t teach an old dog new tricks) is a gem of a series and if you haven’t caught up with it yet then what are you waiting for.

Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

Roadshow Home entertainment / 90 minutes / Region 4

Featuring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman, Zach Mills

Even before the gorgeous opening title sequence is over its clear we are in for a very special treat with Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. We’ve all dreamed of running wild in the perfect toy store, well Mr Magorium (a rather lovely Dustin Hoffman) though actually owns it and has done for well over a hundred years. A more amazing shop you’d be lucky to find, every toy in the TARDIS like store, where a flick of a switch spins you round to a different department, seems to have a life of its own.

Mahoney (the always cute Natalie Portman) is his somewhat reluctant manager, she feels she is stuck in a rut and hasn’t developed her potential (or her ambitions) to be a concert pianist. All is going swimmingly until the day Mr Magorium (who is nearly 240 years old) announces that he is “leaving the world” and gives the store to Mahoney – the store and the toys are upset and turn in on themselves and the very magic of the toys begins to dissolve.

Mahoney has to face up to her new and not altogether welcome responsibilities but to make things right it seems she may just have to team up with unbelieving accountant Henry aka The Mutant (Jason Bateman) and the stores number one fan, young Eric Applebaum.

A truly wonderful and magical experience that really does appeal to all ages. There are lots of beautiful touches, such as the piano on the soundtrack every time Mahoney is working out a song in her head, the words of wisdom from 9 year Eric, the brilliance that is Dustin Hoffman, the neat little touches of the toys having minds of their own – such as the nervous slinky! And there is even a cameo from Kermit the Frog.

This is surely what the magic of the movies is all about. A truly wonderful experience which without getting too deep and meaningful actually restores your faith in human kind a little.

Lots of extras come in the shape of four featurettes going behind the scenes of the movie, a look at the relationship between Mahoney and Mr Magorium; A glimpse into the world of young Eric Applebaum (Zach Mills who played Eric was excellent and is definitely a major talent). We Also get a glimpse at the wondrousness of the toy store and how much fun was had on set. The theatrical trailer is also included.

My American Uncle

Umbrella Ent / Region 4

Featuring Gerard Depardieu, Nicole Garcia, Roger Pierre

Famed French director Alain Resnais is often badged as a difficult auteur, his films pulled no punches, particularly his early ones which were almost wholly concerned with the Holocaust, whether that be the harrowing documentary of Night and Fog (made in 1955) or the drama Hiroshima Mon Amour (his 1959 classic) and even in this new Umbrella release, one of his most accessible films, there are moments of Holocaust imagery.

Resnais has always been fond of abstract narrative and in My American Uncle (put together after Resnais had been observing the work of human behaviourial theorist Henry Laborit and indeed early ideas for the film had been to make it a documentary) he takes a conventional story of a group of disparate people whose lives slowly come together. Gerard Depardieu is Rene, a manager at a textale factory who faces problems when he is demoted and his new post takes him away from both his wife and child. Janine(Nicole Garcia) is a moderately successful actress having an affair with radio boss Jean (played by Roger Pierre).

Plotwise its all relatively straightforward then but Resnais (and his sciptwriter Jean Gruault) plays fast and loose with conventional ideas of narrative. The opening plays out like a lecture (featuring Laborit as himself) and Resnais also includes clips of classic French movie stars, to represent each of the different characters in the movies and most blatantly of all includes a surreal scene where the leads are white rats in a lab, it is here of course that his experiment is made plain.

Mon Oncle d’Amérique works on several different levels and is a supreme thought provoking look at how background, our generally inhibited nature and the social mores of our time ultimate influence the choices we make.

The movie also includes an excellent indepth 50 minute discussion with noted film expert Peter Hourigan examing the films of Resnais. The disc also includes the theatrical trailer.

Monarchy Series Three

ABC DVD / Region 4

History can be a dry subject but always one of the most exciting aspects of it is the machinations of the Royal Courts though, in particular those of the British Monarchy – the Kings and Queens of this tiny island having a huge influence on the world stage during the last 2000 years.

The erudite and always illuminating Dr David Starkey has, over the last few years, been presenting his history of the British Monarchy and in this third series, seen recently on the ABC, he brings us up to date from the year 1660 to the early days of the 20th Century.

The period Starkey covers in this two disc set takes in some if the most constitutional change the Britishhad ever seen, with various pemutations of the Royal Families having to, with each successive generation, come to terms with a lessening of their role and place in the fabric of society.

Opening with the Return from exile of King Charles II and moving on through the reigns of William and Mary, followed by Queen Anne, taking in The French Revolution and finally examing the changing role of the Royals with Victoria and Albert. Starkey is one of those compelling presenters who brings his subject alive and Monarchy is must see for any history buff.

Michael Clayton

Warner / Rated R / 120 minutes / Region 1

Featuring George Clooney, Sydney Pollack, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson

More than just a genre thriller Michael Clayton is a superb piece of intelligent entertainment, rightly rewarded with a whole slew of Oscar nominations, including one for Clooney as best actor (in the end it was a double score with not just nominations but also a statuette for -co-star Tilda Swinton as best supporting actress!)

Clooney is Michael Clayton, the fixer for a top New York law firm, but he finds he may be out of his depth when the firms top litigator (Tom Wilkinson), currently embroiled in a long running $3 billion dollar lawsuit, lose the plot, has a breakdown and decides to cross the floor to the other side. The more Clayton tries to fix things the deeper in he gets and the more trouble he realises he is in.

Written and directed by Tom Gilroy, whose previous pedigree includes writing the Bourne trilogy of thrillers, Michael Clayton is a hugely prescient tale of corporate skullduggery gone mad. Told in flashback over the course of four days, the movie is a Graham Greene-esque style entertainment with Clayton coming to realise that the corporation he has worked for for fifteen years puts the dollar before human life.

Wilkinson is superb as the pushed beyond his limits whistleblower and actor/director Sydney Pollack turns in one of his usual laidback and enjoyable performances as head of the law firm. Tilda Swinton isn’t actually that big a presence in the film but she sparks off Clooney very well in their few scenes together.

The slightly too pat ending negates the possibility of a sequel, which is a shame as could easily enjoy seeing more of Clayton.

Definitely a movie not to be missed.

Extras take the form of additional scenes and commentary from director Tony Gilroy and his editor John Gilroy.

Maggie Smith – BBC Oscar Winners Collection

BBC Warner / 3 Disc set

Maggie Smith came to stardom quite late in her career but has become one of the best loved actresses of our era and this rather lovely and covetable collection contains a quartet of four vintage Maggie Smith performances from the BBC archives starting with two performances from 1972 with a version of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and a co-starring role with the always fun to watch Tom Baker in The Millionairess. From 1988 comes an incredibly moving edition of Alan Bennett’s superb Talking Heads monologue series and finally a large scale production from 1993 of Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer.

Some very nice and watchable extras come in the shape of a highly rare interview from 1967 made as part of a BBC series on acting and called Acting in the 60’s; There is also an interview with old Parky from 1973, a complete radio play version of The Country Wife and finally a special for this box set celebrating her career with contributions from the likes of Simon Callow and Alan Bennett. The set also includes a booklet of viewing notes.

Lillie

Acorn Media USA / Region 1 / 4 disc set

Featuring Francesca Annis, Denis Lill, Anthony Head, Patrick Holt, Peter Egan

The series that put Francesca Annis well and truly on the map, Lillie, based on the life of the legendary Lillie Langtry, comes to DVD in a 4 disc set. A hugely popular and critical success in its day (it was first broadcast in 1978) Lillie really had its roots in the earlier and equally popular 1975 production of Edward the Seventh which also saw Annie briefly playing Langtry.

The life of Lillie, told over the course of 13 episodes, was one of real rags to riches variations, having been born the daughter of a humble Channel Islander clergyman she rose to become the glamour figure of her day, Elizabeth Taylor or Paris Hilton could only imagine what it would be like to be her, courted by royalty and the most influential and intellectual figures of her day on both sides of the atlantic.

Anton Rodgers plays Lillie’s weak husband Edward who has to stand by and watch as Lillie becomes the plaything of Edward (or Bertie to his friends), the Prince of Wales (a role for the always excellent Denis Lill). Francesca Annis, always beautiful and deserving of her BAFTA for best actress, does a wonderful job as Lillie aging from a sparkling ingenue of 16 to a seen it all 70. Along the way embracing the likes of Oscar Wilde (Peter Egan) and James Whistler (Don Fellows) and the rest of well to do society.

A passionate and sometimes scandalous story from the golden age of British TV and one well worth seeking out.