DVD reviews: Les Miserables | Side By Side

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BOMBASTIC, over-blown, over-long, needlessly convoluted, and full of simplistic characters, terrible performances and a constant, cochlea-cracking racket on the soundtrack, Les Misérables arrives on DVD and Blu-ray in all its baffling glory – like the musical equivalent of a Transformers movie.

Les Miserables (Universal, £21.99)

Its millions of fans have already embraced it with a reverence bordering on the evangelical, proving once again that event entertainment – especially films based on monolithic successes in other formats, can succeed simply by delivering relentless spectacle without being tethered to a compellingly told story.

Les Misérables’ tuneless orchestration, patchy live singing and the pervasive hand-held close-ups certainly prove gruelling, with only Anne Hathaway’s show-stopping performance of I Dreamed a Dream coming close to tapping into the lost art of the movie musical. Indeed, the inability of the majority of the cast to use their voices – as opposed to their faces – to deliver dramatic performances makes director Tom Hooper’s attempts to inject grit and verisimilitude into the film feel like artistic folly.

Side By Side (Axiom, £16.99)

Film fans interested in the history and future of cinema as an art form shouldn’t miss Side by Side, a fantastic documentary inquiry into the ongoing transition from celluloid to digital filmmaking fronted by – woah! – Keanu Reeves.

Yes, Neo himself proves a surprisingly engaging host, getting into some animated discussions with the cream of the Hollywood crop and helping make in-depth tech-talk about the relative merits of photochemical processing, digital manipulation and light-weight camera rigs sound a lot more enthralling on screen than it does on paper. Highlights include James Cameron taking Keanu to task for romanticising the “realness” of a movie set (“When was it ever real?” he asks, not unreasonably).

At the heart of the film is the question: are we witnessing the end of film? For celluloid aficionados like Christopher Nolan, the prognosis doesn’t look good, but the enthusiasm of forward-thinking converts such as Steven Soderbergh, David Fincher, David Lynch and Danny Boyle (as well as talented new voices like Lena Dunham) suggest that filmmaking will be okay.

• To order these DVDs, call The Scotsman on 01634 832789