Out on October 2 and October 9
A comic-book movie in a league of its own. A fifth outing for the Pirates franchise. A masterpiece from Tarkovsky.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Wonder Woman, Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge, My Beautiful Laundrette, The Evil Within, A Streetcar Named Desire, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Ronin, Voice from the Stone, Stalker, Stormy Monday, Electric Dreams, Terror in a Texas Town, and Kung Fu Yoga.
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You’ve got to feel sorry for Black Widow. For all the storytelling innovations that extended universes have delivered, it’s galling that it’s been such a boys’ club until now, with no solo female superhero movies in the last decade. You have to head back to the less-than-stellar likes of Catwoman (2004) and Elektra (2005) to see a woman headliner, all the crazier when Moana, Rogue One and Beauty and the Beast (to name just three recent Hollywood hits) are putting ladies first.
So Diana Prince bagging her first solo big-screen adventure is no small matter, especially as Wonder Woman taps into a wider debate about studios giving big-budget projects to female directors. There were insinuations of tokenism in the hiring of Patty Jenkins, no matter the quality of her first film (the Oscar-winning Monster), the strength of her TV work, nor her previous form with superheroes (she almost directed Thor: The Dark World). To most, Jenkins is an artistically wise, long-overdue and very exciting choice.
None of the hot takes would matter, though, if Wonder Woman wasn’t one of the sharpest superhero movies in years. What’s interesting is how much it shuns the baggage of extended universes, wearing its connection to its DC stablemates lightly. That grants the space for a satisfying standalone story that avoids the clutter of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice or Suicide Squad (both of which it beat at the US box office).
Admittedly, Wonder Woman shares DNA with many of its peers. The theme of a god making their way in the real world recalls Thor’s fish-out-of-water comedy. The wartime origin story is a straight lift from Captain America: The First Avenger, while the copious experiments with frame rate and CGI betray the influence of producer and de facto DC showrunner Zack Snyder.
Yet Jenkins brings a fresh eye. And yes, being female helps, because the film itself is a meta-commentary on bringing a woman to the fore. Diana’s cameo in Dawn of Justice provided a sardonic antidote to Bats and Supes’ butting of heads. Wonder Woman reinforces that she’s a badass without brute force, right from the first act’s empowering vision of female paradise.
Jenkins’ camera doesn’t leer so much as swoon in the presence of Themyscira’s Amazonians, a feminist utopia that chimes with the mind-and-body positivity of Instagram’s gym-fit stars. It’s all the more remarkable for being played straight, avoiding Marvel-style wisecracks for an old-school swagger. That unironic simplicity lets Themyscira carry plenty of subtextual weight. Is this a refuge from the evil that men do – or, possibly, the metaphorical box in which Hollywood has been hiding the women warriors all this time?
Ironically, it takes a man to really hit home the difference. Allied spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is smart, funny, matinee handsome – yet he’s very much the ‘love interest’ figure, in an unforced reversal of decades of screenwriting lore.
Far more than the Snyder-inflected action sequences, it’s the quieter moments that register. The wry disdain with which Diana reacts to women’s fashions and gentlemen-only meetings is eclipsed only by her passionate morality in response to the pragmatism that permits casualties in war.
With so many superheroes shaping their characterisation over several films, we’ve almost lost that sensation of seeing one arrive fully formed. Not so Wonder Woman. As Diana steps over the trench into No Man’s Land, Jenkins creates a single image that unites form and content, and reminds us why we love superheroes in the first place – because it takes someone special to stand up for what’s right.
It’s here that Gadot becomes a star. While her charisma was clear as Gisele in the Fast & Furious films, and the potential palpable in Dawn of Justice, directors have tended to focus more on Gadot’s looks than her acting talents. Here, given the centre of the film, she delivers a beautifully modulated performance, full of winsome charm and quiet determination.
It’s no mean feat to stand out when Jenkins has seemingly cast Gadot’s gang by watching the great films of the 1990s and hiring their most live-wire performers – Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting), Saïd Taghmaoui (La Haine) and David Thewlis (Naked). Yet even in this company, Gadot nails the laughs, the romance and the heroics. Maybe it’s the period setting, but Gadot has an old-school vibe that would be equally at home playing film noir or screwball comedy.
Yet her casting speaks to 2017, too, with Gadot’s Israeli heritage reinforcing the sense of a film looking beyond America’s horizons. And all without a mask. C’mon guys, what are you hiding from? Extras-wise, the lack of a Jenkins/Gadot chat-track disappoints, but there’s a good flock of featurettes, plus a neat tease for Justice League in the form of ‘Etta’s Epilogue’, a short sequence that catches up with Lucy Davis’ scene-stealer and drops an Easter egg or two.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Deleted/Extended scenes, Blooper reel
Director: Patty Jenkins; Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright; Digital HD release: September 25, 2017; DVD, BD, 3D BD, 4K release: October 9, 2017
Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge
Not an (eye)patch on the original but leagues ahead of the sequels, Cap’n Jack’s fifth high-seas brouhaha opens with a barnstorming heist and doesn’t let up for the next spectacle-crammed two hours. Poseidon’s trident is the MacGuffin here, but it’s Javier Bardem’s grotesque undead pirate who keeps entertainment levels at ‘timber-shivering’.
New kids Kaya Scodelario and Brenton Thwaites are non-events, but Johnny Depp’s on top form. Familiar waters, aye, but they haven’t been this fun for a while.
EXTRAS: Making Of, Deleted scenes, Photo diary, Bloopers
Director: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg; Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem; DVD, BD release: October 2, 2017
My Beautiful Laundrette
Have things really changed that much since 1985? The overwhelming sense of familiarity that accompanies My Beautiful Laundrette more than 30 years after its release suggests not. A country split by racial tension, a granite-jawed Tory PM, even the underplayed gay love story… If it weren’t for the odd dodgy dip dye, this could be Brexit Britain.
Set in a recognisably scuzzy south London, My Beautiful Laundrette’s everyman hero is British Pakistani Omar (Gordon Warnecke) who, with the help of his bitta-ruff lover (Daniel Day-Lewis), transforms his uncle’s rundown laundrette into a neon palace worthy of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
That’s just one segment of Stephen Frears’ patchwork film, though, which ricochets between high camp and occasional dodgy acting as it tackles immigration, poverty and intolerance. “This damn country has done us in,” gripes Omar’s papa (Roshan Seth) in just one of his prescient tirades.
The politics are engaging, the street-level visions of ’80s London fascinating, but in an age when gay cinema is happily thriving, Laundrette does creak. Still, Hanif Kureishi’s Oscar-nommed dialogue is a treat, and Day-Lewis is on top form in a cult classic awash with insight.
EXTRAS: Documentary, Short film, Interviews, Booklet
Director: Stephen Frears; Starring: Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth, Daniel Day-Lewis; Dual format release: August 21, 2017
The Evil Within
A young man with learning difficulties (Death Race’s Frederick Koehler) becomes possessed by a dream demon that he sees in the mirror. For a $6 million vanity project made, piecemeal, over 15 long years by American oil heir Andrew Getty (who died in 2015), this twitchy, glitchy horror was always going to be a bit of a mess.
The surprise is that it actually contains some genuinely freaky moments, most of which come courtesy of Wes Craven’s ageless bogeyman, the genre veteran Michael Berryman (Pluto in 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes). Still, a little goes a long way.
Director: Andrew Getty; Starring: Frederick Koehler, Sean Patrick Flanery, Brianna Brown; DVD, BD release: September 4, 2017
A Streetcar Named Desire
Streetcar picked up acting Oscars for Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter – but none, amazingly, for Marlon Brando. Yet his Stanley Kowalski – feral, sweaty, rampantly sexual – is the Brando performance. Director Elia Kazan’s on top form too, having already directed Tennessee Williams’ play on stage.
Three minutes cut to pacify the Legion of Decency are restored in this release. Lavish extras include Malden chat-track, Kazan doc and Brando screen test.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes, Screen test, Outtakes, Booklet
Director: Elia Kazan; Starring: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter; Dual format release: July 17, 2017
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
“You’ve won every abomination award.” “I swear if you existed, I’d divorce you.” Before Abigail’s Party there was Edward Albee’s excoriating, blackly funny play about the drinks’ party from hell, brought shatteringly to life by Mike Nichols in his directorial debut.
A Medusa-like Elizabeth Taylor and a withering Richard Burton trade verbal volleys as the self-loathing couple whose toxic games (‘Hump the Hostess’ and ‘Get the Guests’) serve to work through and conceal a deeper heartbreak.
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Art cards, Lobby cards
Director: Mike Nichols; Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal; Dual format release: July 17, 2017
John Frankenheimer’s top-gear crime thriller gets a 4K restoration a whole year before its 20th anniversary. Blending tense realism with high-stakes action, Ronin sees a group of ex-special operatives (Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Sean Bean) hired to pilfer a well-guarded briefcase.
This release adds a new interview with cinematographer Robert Fraisse to the exhaustive mix of previously released special features, with a detailed and insightful chat-track from Frankenheimer being the most interesting.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes, Alternate ending
Director: John Frankenheimer; Starring: Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone; BD release: August 14, 2017
Voice from the Stone
Literal of title and stately of pace, debut director (and former stuntman) Eric D. Howell’s soft-focus ghost story is set in tourist board-friendly 1950s Tuscany. Emilia Clarke stars as a nurse sent to a mist-shrouded palazzo to help grieving widower Klaus (Marton Csokas) and his mute son Jakob (Edward George Dring), who hears – you guessed it – voices from the stone (wall).
It’s undeniably handsome, but the film’s complete lack of jeopardy risks boring the bum off most horror fans.
EXTRAS: Interviews, Music video
Director: Eric D. Howell; Starring: Emilia Clarke, Marton Csokas, Caterina Murino; DVD, VOD release: August 28, 2017
Andrei Tarkovsky’s (Offret, Nostalghia, 1972’s Solaris) allegorical sci-fi masterpiece about three men entering the Zone, a restricted area from a long-ago disaster, gets the Criterion UK treatment with this Blu-ray release.
The crisp 2K digital restoration does full justice to the haunting imagery as this trio – led by Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy’s ‘Stalker’ – head across an industrial wasteland towards their innermost desires.
Extras include a new interview and analysis by writer and critic Geoff Dyer – a succinct introduction to a film that will leave you spellbound.
EXTRAS: Interviews, Essay
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky, Starring: Alisa Freyndlikh, Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy, Anatoliy Solonitsyn; BD release: July 24, 2017
Newcastle – smoky, neon-lit, rain-washed – provides the atmospheric setting for Mike Figgis’ debut, a noirish romantic thriller that mocks Thatcher-era Britain’s kowtowing to America. A kitschy America Festival is underway; Tommy Lee Jones’ Texan property developer looks to snap up chunks of the Quayside, with jazz-club owner Sting holding out against him.
But the film belongs to Melanie Griffith as Jones’ disillusioned ex-gf, and a young Sean Bean as the local lad who falls for her.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurette, Stills
Director: Mike Figgis, Starring: Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones, Sting; Dual format release: July 10, 2017
Terror in a Texas Town
The last of B-maestro Joseph H. Lewis’ big-screen movies, TIATT must be the only western to end in a main-street showdown between a gunman and a guy with a harpoon. (No spoiler – there’s a flash-forward in the opening minutes.)
Sterling Hayden’s the harpooning Swedish seafarer, and Nedrick Young brings an appealing touch of melancholy to his black-clad killer. Lewis’ stylish professionalism and Dalton Trumbo’s (pseudonymous due to the blacklist) script elevate the material to cult status.
EXTRAS: Intro, Featurette, Trailer
Director: Joseph H. Lewis, Starring: Sterling Hayden, Sebastian Cabot, Carol Kelly; BD release: July 10, 2017
Forget Apple’s Siri and the Amazon Echo: director Steve Barron was ahead of the curve with this adorably goofy “fairytale for computers”, in which a Clark Kentalike (Lenny von Dohlen) romances his neighbour (Virginia Madsen) after buying a PC that develops artificial intelligence.
Told in part through the point of view of CCTV cameras, it’s in love with technology and the pop beats of P.P. Arnold and UB40 (Barron previously directed music videos), and its wide-eyed wonder at this bold new world remains infectious.
Director: Steve Barron, Starring: Lenny von Dohlen, Virginia Madsen, Maxwell Caulfield; BD release: August 7, 2017
Kung Fu Yoga
Somehow still incredibly spry at 63, Jackie Chan stars in this Chinese-Indian comedy adventure that deliberately riffs on Indiana Jones, but more closely resembles Nicolas Cage’s National Treasure. Chan plays China’s leading modern-day archaeologist trying to find a legendary Indian fortune alongside his treasure-hunting nephew and the young professor who hired him.
Silliness is rampant throughout but creative choreography and stunts, as well as one brilliantly inventive car chase sequence, still make it highly watchable.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Gag reel
Director: Stanley Tong, Starring: Jackie Chan, Disha Patani, Amyra Dastur; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: August 7, 2017