Download And DVD Reviews – February 6
Roger Crow and Damon Smith review the latest download, streaming, premium video on-demand and DVD/Blu-ray releases including Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody and The Infernal Machine.
NEW FILMS TO STREAM, RENT ON-DEMAND OR BUY ON DVD/BLU-RAY
FILM OF THE WEEK
Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Cert 12, 144 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, available from February 9 via Premium Video On Demand rental, available to rent from March 6 on Amazon/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from March 13 on DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99, Drama/Musical/Romance)
Starring: Naomi Ackie, Nafessa Williams, Stanley Tucci, Ashton Sanders, Tamara Tunie, Clarke Peters.
In 1980s New Jersey, Whitney Houston (Naomi Ackie) performs in the choir directed by her mother Cissy (Tamara Tunie).
A carefully orchestrated first encounter with influential record producer Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci) sets Whitney on the path to stardom.
“I think I may have just heard the greatest voice of her generation,” he gushes, signing the 19-year-old to Arista Records.
Whitney subsequently hires best friend and lover Robyn Crawford (Nafessa Williams) as her creative director, appoints her father John (Clarke Peters) as head of her management company Nippy, Inc and conducts a very public romance with Bobby Brown (Ashton Sanders).
Fame takes a deadly toll.
Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody is a rousing and reverential biopic, which charts the singer's fortunes from the pews of New Hope Baptist Church to her accidental drowning in a bath at the Beverly Hilton hotel.
Made with the blessing of the singer's estate and her mentor Davis, director Kasi Lemmons' picture sings to the rafters, punctuated by impeccably lip-synced performances of greatest hits and her soaring rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner at the 1991 Super Bowl in Florida.
Whitney's romance with Crawford is depicted explicitly for the first time and John Houston's money-related disputes with his daughter light the fuse on fiery on-screen exchanges.
“You work for me,” she curtly reminds him.
A largely chronological script penned by Anthony McCarten, screenwriter of Bohemian Rhapsody, is peppered with melodic dialogue (“I'm exhausted. All black women are exhausted”) as Ackie confidently surfs crashing emotional waves.
To quote the title song, we feel the heat of Houston's rise to glory. (DS)
The Infernal Machine (Cert 15, 111 mins, Paramount Home Entertainment, available from February 15 on Amazon/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, Thriller/Action)
Starring: Guy Pearce, Alex Pettyfer, Alice Eve.
Author Bruce Cogburn (Guy Pearce) lives in booze-soaked seclusion on the outskirts of Almas Perdidas in California.
It has been 25 years since the publication of his controversial debut The Infernal Machine, which won numerous awards and was infamously pulled from shelves following a shooting at Knoxville university which left 13 dead and 26 critically injured.
The 17-year-old culprit, Dwight Tufford (Alex Pettyfer), claimed the book compelled him to pull the trigger.
Bruce communicates with his agent Jerry by pay phone and she forwards mail to a PO box, including a barrage of handwritten letters from die-hard fan William DuKent in Aspen, Colorado.
Bruce grows increasingly paranoid that this fervent admirer could be stalking him.
Local police officer Laura Higgins (Alice Eve) kindly listens to Bruce's concerns but she is unconvinced.
Based on The Hilly Earth Society podcast penned by Louis Kornfeld, The Infernal Machine is an efficient psychological thriller that stumbles at the final hurdle.
Anyone who has seen the Oscar-winning 1990 adaptation of Misery starring Kathy Bates and James Caan knows how badly a relationship between a creative and their fervent admirer can end.
Pearce puts his character through the wringer while co-stars effectively play against type to sustain tension.
Writer-director Andrew Hunt has fun placing his beleaguered protagonist in jeopardy and slowly tightening thumbscrews with one disorienting twist after another.
The house of cards collapses in a messy second half that echoes one of the lead character's tirades about story structure: nobody cares about an inspired second act if the denouement falls flat.
Alas here it does. (DS)
NEW TO DOWNLOAD, STREAM OR BUY ON DVD/BLU-RAY
Alice, Darling (Cert 15, 89 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, available from February 10 on Amazon/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, Drama/Romance)
Friends of a young woman become deeply concerned by the controlling influence of a boyfriend in a timely drama directed by Mary Nighy.
Alice (Anna Kendrick) is repeatedly subjected to abusive behaviour from her artist beau, Simon (Charlie Carrick), who gaslights and belittles her, slowly chipping away at her self-confidence.
She is conditioned to believe that she is selfish and insensitive to meet his needs and must try harder to make the relationship work.
Alice's closest confidants, Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku) and Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn), are horrified and stage an intervention under the guise of a birthday celebration in a remote cottage.
Reluctantly, Alice lies to Simon and tells him she needs to go away for work.
Once the women are alone, Sophie and Tess confront Anna with the sobering and shocking facts.
They hope to break Simon's vice-like grip on their friend and empower Alice to draw courage and strength from their sisterly bond.
Clarkson's Farm – Season 2 (8 episodes, streaming from February 10 exclusively on Prime Video, Documentary)
The antics of former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson as an inexperienced yet fiercely opinionated farmer in the Cotswolds were a hit with Prime Video viewers when Clarkson's Farm premiered in June 2021.
The petrolhead returns to Diddly Squat Farm in the company of right-hand man Kaleb Cooper, dry stone wall expert Gerald Cooper, land agent Charlie Ireland and girlfriend Lisa Hogan, who runs the farm shop.
This series, Clarkson hopes to diversify operations and increase profitability, and introduce new animals and crops while keeping the local council on side.
There are plentiful mistakes during the agricultural adventure, expanding Clarkson's knowledge of the business, while Kaleb steps in to save the day.
Your Place Or Mine (Cert 12, 109 mins, streaming from February 10 exclusively on Netflix, Comedy/Romance)
Aline Brosh McKenna, Bafta-nominated screenwriter of The Devil Wears Prada, 27 Dresses and Morning Glory, makes her feature film directorial debut with a self-penned long distance romantic comedy.
Single mother Debbie Dunn (Reese Witherspoon) has been best friends with fun-loving bachelor Peter (Ashton Kutcher) for 20 years.
She prefers routine with her young son Jack (Wesley Kimmel) in Los Angeles while he thrives on spontaneity and change in New York on the east coast.
To help Debbie rediscover her mojo, Jack offers to swap homes for a week and babysit Jack while his mother dips her toes back into the dating pool a la Sex In The City.
The experience forces Peter to confront his buried feelings about Debbie just as she attracts the attention of a dashing suitor (Jesse Williams).
At Midnight (Cert 15, 90 mins, streaming from February 10 exclusively on Paramount+, Comedy/Romance)
Love unexpectedly blossoms in modern-day Mexico in a romantic comedy of chance encounters directed by Jonah Feingold.
Hollywood actress Sophie Wilder (Monica Barbaro) and her off-screen boyfriend and co-star Adam Clark (Anders Holm) prepare to film Super Society 3, the concluding chapter of a superhero trilogy that has made them big stars.
She enters his trailer one morning, when he is supposedly “practising his silent meditation”, and catches Adam in the act of kissing another woman.
The relationship falls apart as Sophie and Adam seek refuge at a hotel where ambitious manager Alejandro (Diego Boneta) has been assigned to take care of the VIPs and cater to their whims.
Alejandro shows immense kindness to Sophie in her hour of need, kindling an unexpected attraction between two people from very different backgrounds.
The Upshaws – Season 2 Part 2 (8 episodes, streaming from February 16 exclusively on Netflix, Comedy/Drama/Romance)
Part one of the sitcom created by Regina Y Hicks and Wanda Sykes about the eponymous working-class family debuted on Netflix in June last year.
The concluding eight episodes of mirth and misadventure arrive this week, testing emotional bonds between mechanic Bennie (Mike Epps), his wife Regina (Kim Fields), their daughters Aaliyah (Khali Daniya-Renee Spraggins) and Maya (Journey Christine) and son Bernard Jr (Jermelle Simon).
Bennie's quick-witted sister-in-law Lucretia (Sykes) and his teenage son Kelvin (Diamond Lyons) from another relationship add spice to the mix as the clan overcome health struggles, change jobs and chase bigger dreams.
Perfect Match (12 episodes, streaming from February 14 exclusively on Netflix, Reality TV/Competition/Romance)
The search for true love, fidelity and commitment continues to be fertile ground for reality TV series, following willing participants who wear their hearts on their sleeves to snag a soulmate.
Host Nick Lachey turns up the heat in a new game of strategy and seduction, which invites singletons from Netflix's various unscripted series to play matchmaker for each other to create a perfect match or intentionally wreak havoc.
Famous faces from shows including Love Is Blind, The Mole, Too Hot To Handle and The Ultimatum compete to form relationships in a tropical paradise and earn the power to break up other couples and send them on dates with new arrivals.
Full Swing (8 episodes, streaming from February 15 exclusively on Netflix, Documentary)
The creators of hit documentary series Formula 1: Drive To Survive head for the first tee of the PGA tour, following some of the world's best professional golfers on and off the greens during an eventful 2022 season.
Cameras follow athletes to major events including The Players Championship, Masters Tournament, PGA Championship, US Open, The Open Championship and FedExCup Playoffs.
Competing at the highest level, week in and week out, takes a toll and even the most experienced golfers are prone to tiny mistakes that can mean the difference between making the cut or exiting a competition early.
Featured players across eight episodes are Joel Dahmen, Tony Finau, Matt Fitzpatrick, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, Joaquin Niemann, Mito Pereira, Ian Poulter, Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Sahith Theegala and Justin Thomas.
Gucci: Sex, Money & Power (Cert 12, 90 mins, streaming from February 15 exclusively on Paramount+, Documentary)
Ridley Scott's Oscar-nominated drama House Of Gucci starring Lady Gaga charted a turbulent period in the mid-1990s when relatively unknown Texan designer Tom Ford revitalised Gucci with his figure-hugging outfits.
This feature-length documentary considers the same period – the most tumultuous decade in the Italian fashion house's 100-year history – told by people who were there.
In particular, Gucci: Sex, Money & Power considers how Maurizio Gucci brought American fashion retailer Dawn Mello into the business, who revitalised the company by shifting focus from its luxury status and heritage to selling sensuality and sex.
Andrea Bocelli: The Journey (3 episodes, streaming from February 13 exclusively on Now, Documentary/Musical)
Celebrated tenor Andrea Bocelli embarks on a momentous 200-mile journey across the Italian countryside in a life-affirming travelogue, which broadcasts on Sky Arts and streams exclusively on Now.
As he journeys from St Peter's Basilica in Rome to his home town of Lajatico in Tuscany, the performer sparks intimate conversations about peace, love and family.
Bocelli proudly presents musical performances with special guests Tori Kelly, Michael W Smith and Katherine Jenkins, culminating in a concert in front of family and friends at the Teatro del Silenzio amphitheatre.
Happy Valley – Series 3 (Cert 15, 360 mins, Spirit Entertainment, available now on Amazon/BBC iPlayer/iTunes and other download and streaming services, available from February 13 on DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £17.99/The Complete Series 1-3 DVD £42.99/Blu-ray £59.99, Drama/Thriller/Romance)
Thanks to a stunning performance from Sarah Lancashire and a terrific script by Sally Wainwright, BBC drama Happy Valley has been one of the most talked about programmes of recent years.
The Bafta-winning saga about seasoned Yorkshire police officer Catherine Cawood (Lancashire) grieving the loss of her daughter while raising the late woman's son, reached a thrilling conclusion this month.
Relive the emotionally wrought final series or experience it for the first time when Happy Valley seeks justice on home formats this week.
Siobhan Finneran, Charlie Murphy and James Norton co-star, while rising star Rhys Connah could be a shoo-in for a Bafta nomination for his portrayal of Ryan, the troubled youngster at the heart of all three seasons.