DVD reviews: Best of this week's releases

Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson star in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. PA Photo/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson star in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. PA Photo/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

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DVD OF THE WEEK

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Cert 12, 130 mins)

Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L Jackson, Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Jenny Agutter

In his heroic guise as Captain America, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) leads a daring rescue mission at sea, flanked by sexy spy Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson).

Soon after, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) escorts Rogers into the bowels of the agency's headquarters, which houses three state-of-the-art heli-carriers.

These aerial warships, codenamed Project Insight, will extinguish threats to global peace from the skies, killing terrorists before they have a chance to strike. "I thought the punishment usually came after the crime," observes Rogers.

"We can't afford to wait that long," retorts Fury coldly.

Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), a senior member of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the World Security Council, echoes Fury's grave concerns.

"To build a better world, sometimes you've got to tear the old one down," he warns.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is cut from the same cloth as the first instalment of the Marvel Comics hero.

Addressing timely concerns about unrest in the Middle East and the corruptibility of the political establishment, the Russo brothers' sequel is a bombastic extravaganza that's every bit as entertaining as the opening chapter.

Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely deliver a miasma of explosive thrills.

A crunching car chase involving Nick Fury is edge-of-the-seat stuff and a climactic showdown involving the titular hero and diabolical Hydra lets loose the special effects wizards.

Evans and Johansson enjoy verbal jousting in between their fight sequences while Anthony Mackie proves a likable addition to the team as winged warrior Falcon, who looks at Captain America's superhuman efforts and quips, "I do what he does. Just slower".

A two-disc set comprising Captain America: The First Avenger and the sequel is also available.

Rating: ***

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RELEASED The Love Punch (Cert 12, 94 mins)

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Emma Thompson, Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie, Louise Bourgoin, Laurent Lafitte, Tuppence Middleton, Jack Wilkinson.

Richard Jones (Pierce Brosnan) and his ex-wife Kate (Emma Thompson) are crippled by loneliness as they lead separate lives.

He is poised to retire to the golf course with best friend Jerry (Timothy Spall) while she reluctantly agrees to go on blind dates organised by Jerry's well-meaning wife, Penelope (Celia Imrie).

Shortly after the couple's daughter Sophie (Tuppence Middleton) flies the nest for university, Machiavellian French businessman Vincent Kruger (Laurent Lafitte) plunders the pension fund of Richard's company, leaving the Joneses on the brink of financial ruin.

A trip to Paris to confront Kruger ends badly so Kate jokingly suggests they steal the hulking diamond necklace, which Kruger's unsuspecting fiancee (Louise Bourgoin) is set to wear on their wedding day.

"What have we got to lose?" wonders Richard aloud. "Our dignity? Our freedom?" replies his former spouse.

Opening with a barman preparing a martini - shaken not stirred - The Love Punch is a ham-fisted caper that nods affectionately to Brosnan's years of service as James Bond.

Writer-director Joel Hopkins's third feature isn't concerned with the finer points of pilfering a £10million diamond from a heavily guarded mansion on the Cote d'Azur - his script is intentionally divorced from reality.

The outcome is achingly predictable but the on-screen chemistry between Brosnan and Thompson fizzes. They bring a veneer of class to proceedings, which is otherwise lacking in the writing and direction.

Both actors appear to be having a blast in the film's sun-baked Riviera locations, and Spall and Imrie add depth to colourful supporting characters, who view their collusion in the theft as a catalyst to re-invigorate their marriage.

Rating: ***

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The Quiet Ones (Cert 15, 98 mins)

Starring: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne.

In 1970s Oxford, Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) is convinced there is a direct link between paranormal activity and human negative energy.

He ignores university protocols and conducts a secret experiment on a troubled patient, Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), aided by two students, Kristina Dalton (Erin Richards) and Harry Abrams (Rory Fleck-Byrne).

Cameraman Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin) is recruited to provide the evidence that will send shockwaves through the academic establishment.

"Your job will be to document every step of the experiment," explains Coupland. "I hope you don't scare easily," he adds, ominously.

The professor takes Brian to a house where Jane is willingly being held in a locked room.

The girl believes she is in the thrall of a dark spirit called Evie and the professor is determined to heal his ward, but as the experiments gather momentum, the team witnesses alarming visions that defy explanation.

Inspired by a real-life incident, The Quiet Ones resorts to staples of the genre such as creaking doors that open of their own accord.

Harris teeters on the brink of hysteria throughout, leaving younger co-stars - some making their film debuts - to curry our sympathy.

The relationship between Claflin and Cooke provides us with an emotional anchor but the script skimps on character development until the closing 10 minutes and a hellish final flourish.

All blood-lusting viewers will care about is the number of jump-out-of-your seats shocks that director John Pogue and his two co-writers, Craig Rosenberg and Oren Moverman, have crammed into 98 minutes.

Disappointingly, you can count them on two fingers.

Rating: ***

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A New York Winter's Tale (Cert 12, 118 mins)

Starring: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, William Hurt, Russell Crowe, Will Smith, Graham Greene, Mckayla Twiggs, Jennifer Connolly, Ripley Sobo.

In 1916 Manhattan, petty thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) breaks into a house and is instantly bewitched by a flame-haired stargazer called Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), who has consumption.

"I'm pulled to her, like air when I'm under the water," Peter swoons to a pal (Graham Greene).

Peter spends every waking minute with Beverly, charms her younger sister Willa (Mckayla Twiggs) and father Isaac (William Hurt).

Alas, his time with Beverley could be short because sadistic Irish gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) wants Peter dead and happens to be an earthbound demon on a mission to restore Lucifer (Will Smith) to power.

Meanwhile, in 2014 Manhattan, Peter (Farrell again) is alive but has no memory of the past.

He is haunted by visions of a girl with red hair and the quest to repair his fractured memory leads him to a newspaper food writer (Jennifer Connolly).

A New York Winter's Tale has too many elements competing for our attention, and none of them gel.

The titanic battle between angels and demons sits awkwardly with the rose-tinted central romance and the tear-filled histrionics of the final act.

Farrell is unremarkable in an undernourished lead role but he does catalyse a handsome screen pairing with Brown Findlay.

Crowe's accent is a treat, without warning becoming as thick as mud in pivotal scenes.

No one is likely to confuse the impeccable verse in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale with Akiva Goldsman's shambolic script, which includes such charming gems as "Nothing seems to break [the human] capacity for hope - they pass it back and forth like flu at a school fair".

Rating: **

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NEW TO BUY ON DVD/BLU-RAY

Boardwalk Empire - The Complete Fourth Season (Cert 18, 670 mins)

Luck could be running out for Enoch 'Nucky' Thompson (Steve Buscemi) in 12 electrifying episodes of the award-winning drama set in 1920s corruption-riddled Atlantic City.

This series, Harlem kingpin Dr Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) makes his presence felt in the upper echelons of power, Chalky (Michael K Williams) is forced into hiding after a relationship goes sour, and Nucky has an awkward reunion with Margaret (Kelly Macdonald).

A 16-disc set comprising all four series is also available.

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NCIS - The Tenth Season (Cert 15, 1440 mins)

Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and his team at the Naval Criminal Investigation Service feel the shockwaves of the Navy Yard bombing in 24 nail-biting episodes of the Emmy-nominated drama.

Also this series, Ziva (Cote de Pablo) is briefly reunited with her father Eli (Michael Nouri), who has come to Washington to broker peace in the Middle East.

His subsequent death at the hands of Mossad Deputy Director Ilan Bodnar (Oded Fehr) sets Ziva on a dangerous course, which exposes the team to scrutiny by Richard Parsons (Colin Hanks) and the interfering Department of Defense.

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NCIS: Los Angeles - The Fifth Season (Cert 15, 924 mins)

Six-disc set of 24 episodes of the popular spin-off drama starring Chris O'Donnell as Special Agent Callen, who guides a small team at the Los Angeles branch of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

This series, Sam Hanna (LL Cool J) and Marty Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) are haunted by their torture at the hands of Isaak Sidorov (Timothy V Murphy), operations manager Hetty Lange (Linda Hunt) encounters a face from the past who could end her career, and Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruah) returns to active service and is forced to confront her feelings for Deeks.

A 30-disc box set comprising all five series is also available.

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Californication - The Final Season (Cert 18)

Two-disc set of the concluding 12 episodes of the raunchy Golden Globe award-winning comedy starring David Duchovny as sex-crazed bachelor Hank Moody.

In this final series, Hank continues to struggle to balance demands on his time, putting a strain on his relationships with his daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin) and ex-girlfriend Karen (Natascha McElhone).

He also encounters old flame Julia (Heather Graham), who claims that he is the father of her son Levon (Oliver Cooper).

A hefty 17-disc box set comprising all seven series is also available.

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Tracks (Cert 12, 113 mins)

In 1977, Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska) abandons the security of city life and heads to Alice Springs, her intended starting point for an epic solo trek across 1,700 miles of treacherous and unforgiving Australian outback.

The route will take her from civilisation, into the wilderness and eventually to the crystal blue waters of the Indian Ocean.

Locals are amused by this outlandish dream but they begin to take Robyn seriously when she camps out under the stars and works at a camel farm to earn the four animals she will need to carry her supplies in the scorching conditions.

Eventually, she acquires the camels and prepares to embark on her quest flanked by her beloved labrador Diggity.

National Geographic photographer Rick Smoland (Adam Driver) happens to cross paths with Robyn and he is intrigued by her expedition.

He persuades his editor to finance the trip and Robyn accepts the money on the proviso that Rick is allowed to photograph parts of her journey for the magazine.

No woman is an island and as Robyn disappears over the horizon and into the unknown, she discovers that completing her physically gruelling odyssey will rely on the kindness of Rick and total strangers.

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Utopia 2 (Cert 18, 288 mins)

The second series of Channel 4's thriller continues the adventures of four characters - post-grad student Becky (Alexandra Roach), troubled 11-year-old boy Grant (Oliver Woollford), IT consultant Ian (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) and conspiracy theorist geek Wilson (Adeel Akhtar) - who are all connected to a cult graphic novel called The Utopia Experiments, which is rumoured to predict the most catastrophic events of the 20th century.

In these six episodes, Network double agent Milner (Geraldine James) tortures Jessica Hyde (Fiona O'Shaughnessy) for information, Becky discovers the true identity of doddering old man Anton (Ian McDiarmid), and a hacker unlocks some of the secrets of the Janus virus.

A two-disc set comprising both series is also available.

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The Last Days On Mars (Cert 15, 98 mins)

The Last Days On Mars is a sci-fi thriller about a team of astronauts and scientists, who face a life and death battle on the red planet.

Nineteen hours before the eight-strong crew of Tantalus Base completes a six-month mission, Marko Petrovic (Goran Kostic) analyses a soil sample with a biological agent that suggests there is life on Mars after all.

Marko heads out to gather more evidence in the company of crewmate Richard Harrington (Tom Cullen). Tragedy strikes and Marko plummets into a pit.

Captain Charles Brunel (Elias Koteas) and colleagues Vincent Campbell (Liev Schreiber) and Lauren Dalby (Yusra Warsama) make plans to retrieve the body from its subterranean tomb but as they venture into the heart of the planet, the explorers stumble upon a thriving ecosystem that doesn't react kindly to intruders.

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Tom At The Farm (Cert 15, 103 mins)

Precocious Quebecois talent Xavier Dolan writes, directs and stars in his third feature, a psychological thriller based on the stage play by Michel Marc Bouchard.

Young advertising copywriter Tom (Dolan) ventures from Montreal to the countryside to attend the funeral of his lover Guillaume.

He quickly learns that his boyfriend's family knew nothing about their relationship and they believe Guillaume had a girlfriend called Sara, who is unable to attend the service.

Guillaume's brother Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) uses intimidation to ensure Tom doesn't tell the truth to Guillaume's mother Agathe (Lise Roy) and insists that Tom remains at the farm to play peacekeeper between the various factions.

As the advertising copywriter becomes mired in the lives of his dysfunctional hosts, he sparks a dangerous, homoerotic attraction to Francis that threatens to destroy everything.

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Killing Season (Cert 15, 91 mins)

Robert De Niro and John Travolta star in this action-packed game of cat and mouse directed by Mark Steven Johnson. Former Scorpions soldier Emil Kovac (John Travolta) is based in Serbia and possesses the skills to hunt down people who have fallen off the grid.

He is hired to track down former NATO operative Colonel Benjamin Ford (Robert De Niro), who lives like a hermit in the Appalachian mountains.

Posing as a friendly European tourist, Kovac tracks Ford to his secret hideaway but the closer he gets to his prey, the greater the risk to Kovac as he gathers the evidence to expose the colonel's heinous crimes.

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Lizzie Borden Took An Axe (Cert 15, 84 mins)

Christina Ricci plays the woman infamously accused of murdering her parents with an axe in this made-for-TV drama directed by Nick Gomez.

When Andrew Borden (Stephen McHattie) and his wife Abby (Sara Botsford) are slain in the summer of 1892 in Fall River, his daughter Lizzie (Ricci), a mild-mannered Sunday school teacher, is identified as the prime suspect.

The weight of evidence points to her as the killer but many people doubt that Lizzie is physically capable of wielding an axe with sufficient force.

Public interest turns the trial into a media circus and Lizzie and her sister Emma (Clea DuVall) face intense scrutiny, which nudges the two women to the verge of an emotional breakdown.

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Goltzius And The Pelican Company (Cert 18, 128 mins)

Recently awarded one of BAFTA's highest honours - Outstanding Contribution To British Cinema - director Peter Greenaway returns with a typically inventive, audacious and visually arresting portrait of the 16th century Dutch painter and engraver, Hendrik Goltzius.

It is the winter of 1590 and Goltzius (Ramsey Nasr) begs an audience with his patron, the Margrave of Alsace (F Murray Abraham), in the hope of securing the money for a printing press with which to produce an illustrated edition of the Old Testament that highlights the salacious stories of The Bible.

In order to secure the Margrave's fortune, Goltzius stages six dramatisations of these saucy biblical tales for the court, each of which demonstrates a different sexual taboo.

With writer Thomas Boethius (Giulio Berruti) lurking in the wings, actors Adaela (Kate Moran), Susannah (Anne Louise Hassing) and Eduard (Flavio Parenti) shed their clothes and inhibitions to bring each story to erotically-charged life.

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TOP 10 DVD RETAIL

1. Frozen

2. Divergent

3. The Lego Movie

4. The Raid 2

5. Rio 2

6. Noah

7. Jillian Michaels: 30 Day Shred

8. Iron Man 1-3 Complete Collection

9. How To Train Your Dragon

10 . Calvary

Chart supplied by Amazon.co.uk/DVD)

TOP 10 DVD RENTAL

1. Frozen

2. Noah

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

4. Divergent

5. Rio 2

6. Guardians Of The Galaxy

7. The Grand Budapest Hotel

8. The Wolf Of Wall Street

9.  Despicable Me 2

10. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Chart supplied by Amazon.co.uk/DVD

 TOP 10 FILM STREAMING

1. Red 2  

2. Ted 

3. Now You See Me

4. Horrible Bosses

5. The Lucky One

6. Total Recall

7. Escape

8. The Bourne Legacy

9. Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

10. Final Destination 5

Chart supplied by Amazon.co.uk

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