Out on 18 April and 25 April
Mia Goth is among the final humans alive. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell face off in a fatherly battle.
Yes, here's the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Survivalist, Daddy's Home, Sisters, Krampus, Cape Fear, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Night Before, Hitchcock/Truffaut, Pink String and Sealing Wax, 1900, Leatherheads, The Ninth Configuration, Symptoms, The Zero Boys, and Beat Girl.
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STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
As the Millennium Falcon malfunctions noisily during a daredevil getaway, the core success of J.J. Abrams’ Episode VII swoops into focus with all the clarity of a freshly ignited lightsaber. We don’t mean $2bn worth of success, though you suspect the Mouse House partied like ewoks about that figure. While Han Solo frowns about the hyperdrive and Rey cheerily fixes things by bypassing the compressor, team Abrams navigate an exchange of old/new elements with breezy assurance: a loop-the-loop move so smooth, even the Falcon would approve.
If Terminator Genisys proved that mining nostalgia for fresh pleasures ain’t like dusting crops, Abrams shows how to do it right. Yes, he plays some old riffs, from cute-bots carrying secrets to space stations raining down death. Yet his experience in transcending nostalgia – in Star Trek and beyond – serves him well. Just as Super-8 wasn’t merely a detached Amblin homage but an Amblin film to the core, so Awakens is no mere sticker-book of rear-view easter eggs: it’s a Star Wars film in spirit and soul, the saga’s world fully inhabited and brought up to speed with love.
Whether you call it new-stalgia, retro-futurism or whatever, one thing is sure: the saga needed it. After George Lucas’ prequels, the first words spoken in Awakens seem to acknowledge a need to fix something broken. “This will begin to make things right,” intones Max von Sydow, with all the reassuring gravitas of an Ingmar Bergman vet.
From here, backwards nods are well-served and interwoven with forward-thinking twists. Mark Hamill’s absence (mostly) turns the farmboy who whined all the way to Tosche Station into near-myth. As for Daisy Ridley’s scavenger Rey, she might be Luke Skywalker’s sand-blasted equal in Force sensitivity and mysterious upbringing but she’s no whiner. Rey needs no aunt to cook her food, nor Jedi masters to save her from dustups with scallywags in remote outposts.
In a good year for female heroes, Ridley matches Charlize Theron and friends toe-to-toe, imbuing a smart, capable, non-fetishised lead with bright likeability. Just as he found the right kids to bring “production values” to Super-8 and recast the enterprise crew seamlessly, so Abrams casts his Force friends beautifully. Oscar Isaac’s classic-Hollywood dash enlivens Poe Dameron, a role faintly underwritten – presumably, there’s room for only one Han Solo this time. John Boyega brings a cocky, comic charge to redeemed Stormtrooper Finn, and Adam Driver imbues Kylo Ren’s terrible-twos-grade tantrums with stature, ferocity and inner tension.
Ingeniously, Kylo resolves at a stroke the problem of creating a villain to equal Darth Vader. Solution: make that problem the story. By painting Kylo as a stroppy Vader fanboy made lethally unpredictable by his fear that he might not match up to old helmet-head’s rasping example, Abrams and co. play meta while strengthening blood-ties to the original trilogy with fresh Freudian kinks.
That blend of connective franchise tissue with fresh-minted ideas extends to old friends whose reintroductions please fans (cue spontaneous whoops in cinemas) without ever outweighing plot needs. The misty-eyed joy of seeing Han (Harrison Ford, craggy charm intact) reunited with Leia (Carrie Fisher, wry and regal) is huge, but Awakens goes further, daring to be ruthless when the narrative demands it. And not only when Chewie doesn’t get a hug from Rey.
Even if this world seems dangerously over-populated, the script by Abrams and his co-writers (Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt) slices through it with the brisk precision of lightsabers through snow. It’s kept in shape by the symmetry of the characterisation – a defector from the dark side and a jihadi-esque defector from the light side; a woman of uncertain origins and a man in mysterious exile. Maybe Awakens could have used more of Snoke, Poe, Lupita Nyong’o’s barfly-Yoda Maz Kanata and Gwendoline Christie’s polished captain Phasma; but Abrams never succumbs to bloat, much less muddies the focus.
Akind of emotional and physical tangibility helps anchor that focus. Thirty years after Endor’s rave-up, life’s hangover has happened, inscribed in every crevice on Ford’s wonderfully expressive face. Faces are worth a thousand CGI shots here: Kylo becomes more interesting unmasked, too. Equally, Abrams revels in immersive textures, from the crackle of lightsabers to the water swooshed up by the heart-rush of X-wings.
John Williams’ symphonic score offers an equivalent heart-rush, splicing emotive vintage cues with a heartfelt, hopeful and light-footed investment in the new that fits Abrams’ own infectious optimism more snugly than a wookiee’s bandolier. Contrasted with Zack Snyder’s lead-footed failure to uphold his leads’ heroism in Batman V Superman’s effects-pumped pessimism, Abrams’ spotlight on Rey’s refusal to kill during the fireworks of the starkiller Base attack is exemplary: a textbook case of spectacle, character and tone balanced.
Framed within a pendulum swing of old/new, these strategies pay off nicely at the close, where two expressive faces, a rugged landscape and a lush score are all we need for the full heart-in-mouth effect. The nostalgia kick is potent, the tingling promise of a bright future even more so. Between the two, incoming series director Rian Johnson has been given one hell of a launch-pad to make this sucker fly.
EXTRAS: Making Of > Table read > Featurettes > Deleted scenes
Director J.J. Abrams; Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher; DVD, BD, VOD release: April 26, 2016
Proof that post-apocalyptic thrillers can do without scale, special effects or indeed zombies, Stephen Fingleton's BAFTA-nominated debut gets a great deal out of three characters, a shack and a patch of wilderness in Northern Ireland.
Opening titles hint that unsustainable population growth has wreaked havoc, but all we really need to know is that the solitude of a raw-boned survivalist (Martin McCann) is disturbed when two women (Olwen Fouere, Mia Goth) arrive on his turf, needing food. A power play unfolds, terse, tense and without a shred of sentiment. Think The Hunger Games stripped to the bone.
Director: Stephen Fingleton Starring: Mia Goth, Martin McCann, Andrew Simpson DVD, BD, Digital HD release: April 18, 2016
Sean Anders' forgettable family comedy pits a sensitive stepfather (Will Ferrell) against a 'wild' biological father (Mark Wahlberg) in a half-hearted battle that fails to live up to either of their best efforts.
Playing it straight doesn’t suit Ferrell's strengths, and although Wahlberg has proven comic chops, here he phones it in: that his defining moment in the film is a one-handed pull-up says it all. The script actually has interesting things to say about its specific family set-up, but is sadly neither coherent or entertaining enough to leave much of an impression.
EXTRAS: Making Of > Deleted/extended scenes > Gag reel (BD) > Daddy-Off featurette > Additional featurettes (BD)
Director: Sean Anders Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini Dual format release: April 18, 2016
The '80s house party subgenre gets a midlife makeover in Sisters, which reunites Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as fortysomething siblings who decide to have one last celebratory blowout before their childhood home is sold. The duo's rapport is key, and it's refreshing to see Fey play against type as the wild child.
There are a handful of brilliant laugh-out-loud moments and consistent reasons to smirk, but it's an ultimately patchy affair that's only really uproarious during the party itself. It feels a lot like Fey and Poehler are elevating material not quite worthy of their talents.
EXTRAS: Extended cut (BD) > Gag reel > Commentaries > Deleted/extended scenes (BD) > Improvorama > Featurettes (BD)
Director: Jason Moore Starring: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph DVD, BD, Digital HD release: April 25, 2016
Christmas comes early in this festive creature feature from Trick 'R Treat's Michael Dougherty. When the untarnished spirit of young Max is left in tatters after a disastrous family dinner, the titular goat-horned nega-Santa and his minions descend to teach Max the meaning of Christmas.
There's more than a hint of Gremlins in the film's home-invasion setup as sentient gingerbread men and grotesque presents slash their way through the game cast. A derivative but welcomely twisted addition to the oft-soppy selection of Christmas-movie offerings.
EXTRAS: Alternate ending (BD) > Commentary (BD) > Featurettes (BD) > Galleries (BD) > Gag reel
Director: Michael Dougherty Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman DVD, BD, Digital HD release: April 25, 2016
Not many films can be remade by both Martin Scorsese and The Simpsons and still come out on top. Yet J. Lee Thompson's thriller remains definitive; De Niro and Sideshow Bob are no match for Robert Mitchum's vengeful ex-con Max Cady, one of Hollywood's most chilling villains.
Cady's campaign of psychological terror against straight-arrow Gregory Peck mutates into a savage, ironic upturning of law and order that plays like the greatest Hitchcock film Hitchcock never made. From the post-Psycho shock factor to Bernard Herrmann's menacing score, Thompson steals wholesale from the master of suspense's playbook and pretty much matches him.
EXTRAS: Making Of > Production notes
Director: Martin Scorsese; Starring: Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange; DVD, Digital HD release: March 28, 2016
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
"I found a way to get you a happy ending," said director Lewis Milestone when his bosses at Universal balked at the downbeat tone of his proposed adap of Erich Maria Remarque's anti-WW1 novel. "The Germans win!"
It was the film of course that ended up the victor, its hard-nosed account of a callow Soldat (Lew Ayres) brutalised and traumatised by senseless trench combat earning Best Picture and director Oscars. Modern audiences might find the pacing slow, its message self-evident and the American accents jarring. Not for nothing, though, has pretty much every war movie since mirrored its structure.
EXTRAS: None Director: Lewis Milestone; Starring: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray ;DVD release: March 28, 2016
THE NIGHT BEFORE
It's a case of bros before ho ho hos in The Night Before, as three best buds (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie and Seth Rogen) decide to bring their annual tradition of Christmas Eve revelry to a close by seeking out an almost-mythical secret shindig.
The three leads have authentic chemistry, so hanging out with them is never a chore, and there's a steady supply of chuckles (and fun cameos) over the course of their incident-packed evening in New York City. Shame, then, that director Jonathan Levine doesn't quite attain the same fun/ feels ratio as his 50/50. A stingy gag reel lets down the extras.
EXTRAS: Gag reel >Making Of > Featurettes > Deleted/extended scenes (BD)
Director: Jonathan Levine; Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Jillian Bell; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: March 28, 2016
TEN THOUSAND SAINTS
It's an Ender's Game reunion for Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld in Ten Thousand Saints, a drab, '80s-set coming-of-ager. Ethan Hawke's likeable deadbeat dad hits the only authentic note.
Directors: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini; Starring: Ethan Hawke, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld; DVD release: April 18, 2016
First published in 1966 when most cineastes viewed Alfred Hitchcock as just a Hollywood hack, François Truffaut’s frame-by-frame conversations with the auteur transformed film criticism.
Digging out the original tape recordings behind the book, Kent Jones offers something new to the crowded hitch-sphere, with the talking heads (Scorsese, Anderson, Fincher…) out-baritoned by the big man himself – a rare chance to hear chat-tracks for some of the most important films ever made. Self-deprecating, funny, occasionally frosty... essential for anyone with more than a passing interest in the master of suspense.
EXTRAS: Q&A > Interviews > Appreciation
Director: Kent Jones; DVD, Digital HD release: April 25, 2016
PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX
Famous for classic black comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets, maverick director Robert Hamer’s talent for dark material shows in his debut, a Victorian-set Ealing Studios melodrama in which adultery, death and blackmail are served up with relish in a Brighton pub.
Brazen landlady Googie withers deftly ignites a murder plot, entrapping young chemist Gordon Jackson with tuppenny whisky and womanly wiles. Mervyn Johns’ self-righteous patriarch and his deceiving kids aren’t quite as grabby. But Hamer has fun rubbing the God-fearing household up against the brassy bar-life. A covetable restoration, whose inky blacks and pearly interiors clean up nicely.
EXTRAS: Interviews > Gallery
Director: Robert Hamer; Starring: Mervyn Johns, Googie Withers, Gordon Jackson; DVD, BD release: April 25, 2016
Bernardo Bertoluccu’s 5¼-hoUr Marxist epic sweeps through Italian history from the day of Verdi’s death in 1901 to the end of WW2. Alfredo (Robert De Niro), son of a landowner, and Olmo (Gérard Depardieu), son of a peasant, grow up together but are sundered by the advent of fascism, which Alfredo passively tolerates while Olmo becomes a communist leader
Donald Sutherland hams it as ultra-fascist chief baddie, and Burt Lancaster reprises The Leopard as Alfredo’s granddad. It’s huge, sprawling, ambitious, visually handsome and dramatically inert.
EXTRAS: Documentary > Featurettes
Director: Bernardo Bertoluccu; Starring: Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda; BD release: April 18, 2016
Three was definitely not the charm for George Clooney’s third directorial effort, a homage to the Hawksian screwballs of yore that didn’t so much score a touchdown at the US box office as fumble the ball 30 yards from the end zone.
Set in ’20s America, this gridiron yarn casts Clooney as an ageing player who enlists John Krasinski’s young buck to save his ailing side, only to see him have his past probed by Renée Zellweger’s reporter. Meant as a throwback to a less cynical age, the result feels as much of a relic as the classics it emulates.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes
Director: George Clooney; Starring: George Clooney, John Krasinski, Renée Zellweger; DVD release: April 18, 2016
THE NINTH CONFIGURATION
Talk about a Pepsi challenge: the drinks giant stumped up half the budget, but William Peter Blatty’s thriller-cum-farce didn’t set the box office fizzing on first release.
Since then, this outlandish drama – set in a military asylum, with Stacy Keach as its in-house shrink – has picked up a cult following – in part due to its jaw- dropping visuals and smart dialogue. If Blatty’s Exorcist was about the reality of evil, this is its flipside, exploring the possibility of pure altruism.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Interviews, Intro, Deleted scenes/outtakes
Director: William Peter Blatty; Starring: Stacy Keach, Scott Wilson, Jason Miller, Ed Flanders; DVD, BD, VOD release: April 25, 2016
Hard to credit, but this long-lost chiller by Spanish eroticist José Ramón Larraz (Vampyres) was Britain’s entry for the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. Like a homegrown version of Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (1971), it’s the slowburn tale of the psychologically fragile Angela Pleasance (daughter of Donald) losing the plot amid the melancholia of a deserted country pile.
Despite a beautiful BFI restoration, striking performances (including Straw Dogs’ Peter Vaughan as an odd-job man), and plentiful extras, it’s a bit of a trudge, and more curio than classic
EXTRAS: Documentary, Interviews, Booklet
Director: Joseph Larraz; Starring: Angela Pleasence, Peter Vaughan, Lorna Heilbron; Dual format release: April 25, 2016
THE ZERO BOYS
“I’m 5ft 6, I love tennis and I fuck on the first date...” Greek B-movie maverick Nico Mastorakis’ (Island of Death) none-more-’80s action flick doesn’t contain many lines as great as this, but it’s still worth a watch for anyone who might be missing the era’s eyebrow-raising sexism and terrible sportswear.
Ace paintballers the Zero Boys cruise out to the country only to find themselves caught in a survival flick that segues into slasher territory. Still, lucky they brought those Uzis... The film’s shot-in-17-days aesthetic is matched by charming – if ramshackle – extras.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurette, Interviews, Bookle
Director: Nico Mastorakis; Starring: Daniel Hirsch, Kelli Maroney, Nicole Rio; Dual format release: April 25, 2016
A seething tale of teen rebellion set in the dive bars of 1950s Soho, the newly restored Beat Girl has been scrubbed up nicely to reveal, if not a forgotten pearl of British cinema, then a beguiling B-movie with a brilliant score by John Barry.
An underage Gillian Hills stars alongside Adam Faith, a slimline Oliver Reed and a young Christopher Lee as suave villain Kenny King, owner of the Les Girls strip joint. Extras include multiple versions of the film, complete with saucy and supernatural short films.
EXTRAS: Alternative/extended versions, Interview, Short films, Booklet
Director: Mairtín de Barra; Starring: Louise Dylan, Craig Daniel Adams, Michael Higgs; Dual format: April 25, 2016