Damon Smith reviews the new DVD releases
THE DA VINCI CODE ***
(PG), 99 mins (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany, Jean Reno, Etienne Chicot, Alfred Molina, Jurgen Prochnow, Jean-Pierre Marielle.
Ron Howard's disappointing and overlong adaptation of Dan Brown's international bestseller follows the plot of the book closely, opening in the Louvre where elderly curator Jacques Sauniere (Marielle) is gunned down by an albino assassin called Silas (Bettany).
Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Hanks) is summoned to Paris to solve Sauniere's final act: a baffling riddle written in invisible ink: "13 3 2 21 1 1 8 5/O, Draconian devil!/Oh, lame saint!".
Working alongside the curator's granddaughter, plucky cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Tautou), Robert begins to solve the devilish conundrum and realises that the secret lies in the magnificent works of Leonardo Da Vinci.
Escaping from the Louvre with Sophie, Langdon tracks down a specially coded device called a cryptex, and he enlists the help of ageing historian and aristocrat Sir Leigh Teabing (McKellen) to help break the code.
Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman remains largely faithful to the source novel but it's evident from the outset that the page is a far more forgiving medium to Brown's clumsy dialogue and gargantuan leaps of logic than the screen.
Howard relies on director ofphotography Salvatore Totino to conjure a mood of grim foreboding with expert use of shadows and light, especially in the spooky opening sequence set to Hans Zimmer's driving orchestral score.
Hanks and Tautou gel nicely but fail to make much impact - their characters are slaves to the mechanics of the plot, relating historical facts and reacting to each clue in the treasure hunt - so the film relies heavily on the supporting cast.
McKellen strikes the right note between camp and eccentric and Bettany is impressive too, although his accent lends a ring of unintentional comedy to the dialogue.
DVD Extras: "The Codes Of The Da Vinci Code" documentary, "First Day On Set With Ron Howard" featurette, "A Discussion With Dan Brown" featurette, "A Portrait Of Langdon" featurette, "Who Is Sophie Neveu?" featurette, "Unusual Suspects" featurette, "Magical Places" featurette, "Close Up On The Mona Lisa" featurette, "The Film Makers Journey Parts 1 & 2" featurettes, "The Music Of The Da Vinci Code" featurette, preview of the Angels And Demons movie.
(12), 145 mins (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Starring: Emma Roberts, Joanna 'JoJo' Levesque, Sara Paxton, Jake McDorman, Arielle Kebbel, Claudia Karvan, Bruce Spence, Tammin Sursok.
Best friends Claire (Roberts) and Hailey (Levesque) are poised to go their separate ways. At the end of summer, Hailey's marine biologist mother, Ginny (Karvan), is moving to Australia for her work and her daughter must accompany her.
So the girls make the most of their final days in the sun, spying adoringly on hunky lifeguard Raymond Caldi (McDorman), who works at the Florida beach club run by Claire's grandparents.
In the aftermath of a violent storm, Claire and Hailey discover an 18-year-old mermaid called Aquamarine (Paxton) washed up in the club's swimming pool. Aqua, as she becomes known, desperately needs the help of the two girls.
Under the sea, the beautiful mermaid is denied the prospect of true love. Her father has arranged a marriage "to a merman who's about as deep as a tidal pool", which must go ahead as decreed unless Aqua can show - in just three days - that such a thing as true love exists.
Aqua sets her sights on Raymond and Claire and Hailey agree to help their new friend win the tanned object of her desire.
Aquamarine is a charming coming of age tale about the enduring power of friendship, which melds the fish-out-of-water comedy of Splash! with the sassy sensibilities of Mean Girls.
Screenwriters John Quaintance and Jessica Bendinger never talk down to their target audience - teenage girls - and they develop two strong, believable lead characters, whose journey of self-discovery is tinged with disappointment and tragedy.
Director Elizabeth Allen has great fun confounding our expectations, adhering to the conventions of the genre only to sidestep the usual happy ending for something a little more realistic and credible.