Reviews of Region 2 discs from Ultimate DVD #17

Billy ElliotShaft (2000)

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BILLY ELLIOT • Back to top Rated: 15
Express Yourself

The Movie

It can’t be a coincidence that two of the most celebrated films in recent years are the work of established British theatre directors making their cinematic débuts. Like Sam Mendes’s American Beauty before it, Billy Elliot is a major achievement in which Daldry highlights performance, characters and emotions.

The place is a grim northern colliery town in 1984, when Thatcher was out to crush the unions, and the miners were on strike. His mother dead, his father and brother on the picket lines, Billy (Bell) is an unusual kid who’s dreadful at boxing but discovers a penchant for ballet. His teacher, Mrs Wilkinson (Walters), recognizes an aptitude that borders on natural genius, and intends to help the boy audition for the Royal Ballet School – but her proposal is met with derision from his family.

We’ve seen this kind of story many times before, but rarely has it been told so passionately and powerfully. Exploring big ambition against a backdrop of broken hopes, turmoil and violence, Billy Elliot forcefully blows audience preconceptions about dance apart, presenting instead an accolade to the human spirit and the freedom of expression.

Bell, making his professional début, gives an assured, mature performance (how did they find an adolescent so perfect for the rigours of the role?) which repeatedly tests the audience’s tear ducts. Sharing much of the screen time, Walters is – as always – perfect, ironically almost playing aspects of the Michael Caine part in her hit Educating Rita.

An utter pleasure full of heart, soul and spirit, Billy Elliot is certain to appeal to anyone 5 stars - Digital Dynamitewho’s ever had a dream.

The Extras

A great transfer (better quality, in fact, than the theatrical presentation I saw on release), but added value is surprisingly disappointing. No deleted scenes, no director’s commentary… although the 22-minute Breaking Free is an enjoyable, unpretentious (if hard sell) look at the film and its production. From on-set improvisation, to the London première, to Bell’s ironic admission that he wouldn’t tell his mates he was in a film about ballet, this makes very interesting viewing.

The joyous trailer, bios, production notes (just five pages!) and limited DVD-ROM materials round off a collection 3 stars - Digital Dynamitethat deserved more.

David Richardson

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Jamie Bell
Julie Walters
Jamie Draven
Gary Lewis
Stephen Daldry
Year • 2000
Duration • 106 mins
Screen Ratio • 1.85:1
Anamorphic • Yes
Audio • Dolby Digital 5.1
Chapters • 18
Language • English
Subtitles • English
UK Release •
April 2
Distributor •
Columbia Tristar



Chapter 10 – The Chance to Dance
To the beat of The Jam’s 1981 classic A Town Called Malice, Billy dances away his rage...

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This review from Ultimate DVD #17

SHAFT (2000) • Back to top Rated: 18
20 years later, Sam's the man

The Movie

As soon as that theme starts, you know you’re in for a cooler-than-an-Eskimo’s-fridge ride with the movies’ hippest cop, Shaft. Damn right. Well, maybe not entirely, as this is the 2000 updating of the 1970s film series, with Samuel L Jackson taking over the role as New York’s take-no-crap detective.

When a rich kid (Bale) buys his way out of a racially-orientated murder case, Shaft makes it his duty – even if it means leaving the force – to see that justice is done. Well-served by Singleton’s creative direction and a surprisingly witty, clever script this is hugely enjoyable, with Jackson playing the role so well 5 stars - Digital Dynamitehe seems born to it.

The Extras

An absolutely gorgeous transfer provides a 2.35:1 image and 5.1 soundtrack. The 1.85:1 Trailer is a slick, masterful piece of work, though its ‘remember me?’ question is most accurately answered by ‘Well no, but your uncle’s familiar’.

Cast and Crew Interviews comprise 13 minutes of brief comments from director Singleton and some of his actors, though this never feels anything other than the sort of thing Channel 5’s Movie Chart Show would use clips from. Slightly better is Shaft: Still the Man (16 mins) which links this latest version to the preceding films, though every conversation is still presented in nice, advertisable chunks. Still, worth it for Bale’s absent-minded version of the title song...

As necessary to this disc as the hole in the middle is Isaac Hayes’ superb theme, presented as a full-screen Music Video somewhere between a Bond title sequence and a Miss World contest. Adding to the music content (well, technically) is the out-of-focus promo for R Kelly’s 2 stars - Disappointingsoporific Bad Man song.

Ian Atkins

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Samuel L Jackson
Christian Bale
Director • John Singleton
Year • 2000
Duration • 95 mins
Screen Ratio • 2.35:1
Anamorphic • Yes
Audio • Dolby Digital 5.1
Chapters • 12
Languages •
English, German
Subtitles • English, Arabic, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, Turkish, English for hearing impaired
UK Release • April 9
Distributor • Paramount

Chapter 9 – Act of God
Never less than completely on top of the situation, Shaft gives some corrupt colleagues a lesson in ‘playing games’.

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Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction

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