Geoff Cox DVDs: Argo, Gambit, Love Bite

Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in Argo
Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in Argo
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Fresh from its Best Picture success at the Oscars, gripping fact-based drama ARGO (15: Warner) arrives on DVD.

Directed by and starring Ben Affleck, a story involving the CIA, Hollywood and the anti-American regime of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini shouldn’t be as seamless as this.

Beautifully performed and often very funny as well as exciting, it’s set in 1979 and the US embassy in Tehran has been stormed, with many of its workers taken hostage.

But six have escaped and are being secretly sheltered by the Canadian ambassador, although time is running out.

The CIA has exhausted every option, including a feeble plan to whisk them out on bicycles, so when an “exfiltration” expert (Affleck) suggests disguising them as a film crew scouting locations for a Star Wars rip-off, it seems as good an idea as any.

Alan Arkin and John Goodman are terrific as the jaded Tinseltown connections in a tale that deftly offsets tension with comedy.

> Patchy caper GAMBIT (12: Momentum) sees a put-upon art curator managing the collection of an obnoxious billionaire hatching a plan to get even with his bullying boss.

Based on the 1966 Michael Caine/Shirley MacLaine movie, Colin Firth dons the specs, but makes the part of Harry Deane his own, quietly suffering humiliation at the hands of Lionel Shabandar (Alan Rickman) and providing some subtle humour.

Cameron Diaz plays his brassy sidekick PJ, a Texan cowgirl who can claim a direct link to a Monet painting.

But after Harry brings PJ to London as part of a plan to sell Shabandar a fake, the action descends into farce. Harry ends up trouserless on a window ledge, PJ gets cosy with the enemy and Rickman suffers the indignity of going completely naked for laughs.

Even with a script by the Coen brothers, there’s no novelty value - just a dusted-off collection of old jokes. Firth is nicely self-effacing and there are a few laughs, but they are really cheap.

> Bringing Jack Kerouac’s iconic novel ON THE ROAD (15: Lionsgate) to the screen was always going to be difficult and it rarely hits the necessary freewheeling atmosphere to make it an absolute must-see.

A writer recovering from his father’s death has his life changed by an encounter with a free-spirited young couple, joining them on a journey of self-discovery across the US.

Garrett Hedlund smoulders as selfish Dean Moriarty, Kristen Stewart hits every right note as uncomplicated Marylou and the no-responsibility attitude of Moriarty and Sam Riley’s Sal Paradise is reflected in the picking up and dropping off of various passengers, including Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen, along the way.

But it’s a strangely flat road trip for fans of the book.

> Short on scares and long on schoolboy smut, British horror comedy LOVE BITE (15: Entertainment In Video) is aimed fairly and squarely at the more gormless elements of the Inbetweeners audience.

There’s a werewolf on the loose in a seaside town and it’s feasting on virgins. With a full moon looming, teenager Jamie has just 24 hours to have sex and avoid a grisly end, but the object of his affections may be the beast itself. Ghastly, for all the wrong reasons.