Geoff Cox’s guide to new DVD releases (27.10.11)

WITH the likes of Batman and Iron Man out there, it’s not enough just to put superheroes on the screen.

Imaginative direction and a pacey, character-driven script are essential, but they’re not in evidence in disappointing adventure GREEN LANTERN (12: Warner).

At least quick-quipping Ryan Reynolds (the wisecracking Deadpool in X-Men Orgins: Wolverine) is a good choice for the role of cocky test pilot Hal Jordan.

Hal’s close encounter with a dying alien sees him inherit an all-powerful ring and become a member of an intergalactic peacekeeping corps.

Fans of the DC Comics hero will applaud the faithful rendering of the mythology and the action is handled efficiently, but director Martin Campbell is lumbered with a cliche-ridden, uninspiring script.

The problem is that for every good thing about the film – Hal’s training on planet Oa, his motion-captured costume – there’s a pace-wrecking lull, usually involving anodyne love interest Carol Ferris.

On the plus side, there are classy turns from Mark Strong, as fellow peacekeeper Sinestro, and Tim Robbins, as a senator whose son (Peter Sarsgaard) mutates into a big-brained baddie.

> Reporting from the home front as the war on terror continues, THE MESSENGER (15: Universal) is refreshing in that, unlike a lot of Hollywood fare, it’s wary of overdoing the melodrama.

It follows military captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) and his new cohort, Staff Sgt Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), as their work for the US Army’s casualty notification service takes its toll on those who bring the bad news as well as those unfortunate enough to receive it. Their task is to reach loved ones and inform them that their sons and daughters have been killed in action before they hear it from a media source.

This throws up issues of masculinity and courage for the central characters and the film has a documentary feel.

Worth seeing for the tremendous performances from Oscar-nominated Harrelson, who’s at odds with himself because he’d rather be overseas seeing action, and Foster, still wound-up tight after a traumatic tour in Iraq.

Samantha Morton provides a poignant turn as a young widow to round off this fine character study.

> Martin Sheen, directed by his real-life son, Emilio Estevez, is in good form in THE WAY (12: Icon), an uplifting film about journeys both physical and spiritual.

Sheen plays an American doctor who backpacks the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in memory of his son (Estevez), who died while walking it.

Along the way, and with the help of a motley bunch of fellow pilgrims (including James Nesbitt as an Irish writer), he rediscovers his own sense of identity and reconnects with the son he lost.

Like its pilgrims, the film’s progress is rather slow and the characters and situations are ripe with cliche and stereotype.

But despite the plodding pace, the Basque-country locations look great and the gentle, meditative messages put out make it hard to dislike.

> Richard McCann, son of ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ Peter Sutcliffe’s first victim, Wilma McCann, said watching PETER: A PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (15: High Fliers) “was like having the Ripper in my living room”.

Ignoring the obviously false black beard, actor Walt Kissack is certainly a dead ringer for the serial killer who went on a five-year murder spree in and around Bradford in the ‘70s.

After murdering 13 women and trying to kill a further seven, Sutcliffe was arrested in 1981, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and sent to Broadmoor, where he remains.

This full-length feature takes the viewer on a journey into Sutcliffe’s mind, inviting us to decide for ourselves what turned him from a seemingly ordinary bloke into a notorious killer. It combines the story as seen through the film-maker’s eyes with archive footage shot at the time of his rampage. Great care has been taken to ensure factual accuracy and authentic period details.