Out on July 24 and July 31
James Gray and Charlie Hunnam’s quest for cinematic gold. Kong entertaining entry into the Monsterverse. Jordan Peele’s social-thriller masterpiece.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of The Lost City of Z, Kong: Skull Island, Get Out, The Boss Baby, Life, Power Rangers, Table 19, Aftermath, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.
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The Lost City of Z
“Percy Fawcett would venture into these blank spots on the map with little more than a machete, a compass and an almost divine sense of purpose,” says David Grann, author of the 2005 New Yorker article and the 2009 book that lend their shared title and true-life tale to James Gray’s mesmerising adventure movie. He’s chatting on a behind-the-scenes featurette, which, at six minutes in length, is hardly the Hearts of Darkness-style Making Of that Gray’s movie, with its shades of Apocalypse Now, deserves. Grann pauses, eyes glinting. “He inspired the character of Indiana Jones…”
That might be so, but if this instant classic sailed past you on its cinema release – despite some rave reviews, it soon vanished over the horizon – don’t go into it now expecting a roguishly charming hero who cracks whips and wise. Sure, Fawcett’s journey up the Amazon River and deep into the uncharted jungle comes with its fair share of cannibals, piranhas and toothsome beasts, but The Lost City of Z is not the stuff of matinee serials.
Nor is it akin to the sweeping, galvanising epics of David Lean, whose eye for a set-piece so shaped Steven Spielberg. Gray, a classical filmmaker, instead channels the rampant-human-ambition-set-against-theindomitable-wilderness epics of Werner Herzog (Aguirre, The Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo) and then forces his own will upon them to fashion something a little more muted yet entirely engrossing.
After a career of crafting ’70s-flavoured movies that are always admirable (Little Odessa, We Own The Night, The Immigrant), sometimes excellent (The Yards, Two Lovers), but never as monumental as the films they inspire to, The Lost City of Z is the masterpiece he’s always threatened to make.
Spanning two decades, the action begins in 1906 when Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), an archaeologist and colonel in the Royal Artillery, is sent by the Royal Geographical Society to settle a land dispute between Bolivia and Brazil. Promised a bump of status upon his successful return – his father was a drunk and a gambler; class thwarts his ascent – Percy leaves his wife (Sienna Miller) and young son (played as the years slip past by Tom Mulheron, Bobby Smalldridge and Tom Holland) and sets off with aide-de-camp Henry Costin (a heavily bearded Robert Pattinson, excellent) and a small party of men.
Upon this initial voyage, Fawcett happens upon pottery, carvings and remnants of sculptures that convince him of the existence of the titular metropolis of maize and gold. He returns to England to share his treasures and to speak of his theory – that these South American ‘primitives’ beat the British Empire to civilisation – and is naturally derided. And so he returns to the jungle again and again to delve ever deeper in his quest for proof.
In the time-honoured tradition, The Lost City of Z tracks an inner and outer journey, painting Fawcett as a decent, sincere man whose ambition as much serves a high-minded desire to elevate mankind as to increase his own rank. Some viewers might yearn for the anguish to be intensified, but Gray by no means ignores the darkness, with each of Fawcett’s returns to his family underlining the years he’s sacrificed. Save for one pained outburst from his son, the hurt is tamped down but terribly affecting.
This “interesting, conflicted, screwed-up guy” was Gray’s main attraction to a project he’s been trying to realise since 2009, while the themes of class, gender and ethnicity still felt sadly relevant: “We haven’t moved past them one bit,” he says in a short but fascinating interview included on the disc, before detailing how he at first resisted the suggestion of Hunnam for Fawcett as he’d only seen him in Sons of Anarchy – he was hugely impressed but thought the Newcastle-born actor was American.
Here, Hunnam is 10 times the performer we saw in Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak or King Arthur, losing 40lb for the role and going full Method. “He was Percy,” says Miller in her on-disc interview. “I don’t know that I met Charlie until recently.” Not that she’s too shabby herself, her small windows of screen time packing real wallop as she “studies the arc of a woman’s life… a feminist, forward-thinking, brave, resilient woman”, whose own sacrifices were as heroic as those made by her husband.
The only other extra is a superficial featurette on Fawcett himself. Better to lose yourself in the grandeur of the movie, to embrace its beauty, terror and mystery as it glides steadily upstream towards a denouement that takes an always transporting story into the realms of the transcendental. If you missed it writ large, be comforted to know that the Blu transfer is gorgeous, doing full justice to the glorious filmmaking. Watching it fill your screen is rather like stumbling upon El Dorado with just the click of a button.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Interviews
Director: James Gray; Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: July 24, 2017
Kong: Skull Island
For one of cinema’s defining icons, King Kong hasn’t actually appeared on screen all that much. There’s the original 1933 movie, plus occasional sequels, two remakes and a handful of guest appearances with Godzilla. Really, though, it’s odd that Hollywood hasn’t made more of its super-sized simian – until now. Kong: Skull Island is a very modern feat of blockbuster engineering, peeking over the Empire State Building to see what Marvel, DC and Universal are doing with their characters.
Avoiding yet another version of the Ann Darrow story, it instead shakes paws with the Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla reboot to build a new franchise, the MonsterVerse, based around the notion that the Earth is home to a menagerie of ancient, giant monsters. This isn’t quite at the level of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but references to Monarch – the scientific programme at the heart of the earlier film – are no coincidence.
So how do you reinvent King Kong without all the usual props and plot points? In this case, it’s a shameless grab-bag from the classic movies of director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ (The Kings of Summer) formative years. Have a gang trapped on an island, under threat from prehistoric predators? That’s Jurassic Park. What about a sequel that ups the stakes by taking on the iconography of a war movie? Try Aliens. And why not set the story – in which military types head up river looking for a god-like monster – during the ’70s, during the politicised aftermath of the Vietnam War? That way, Apocalypse Now gets a look-in, too.
The cinephilia is shameless but well-judged, because it’s the fluidity of these references that makes Skull Island such fun to visit. On one level, it creates the fuel for potent big-screen imagery, notably the initial “unconventional encounter” between Kong and the team’s helicopters, a thrilling mash-up of genres. On the other, it makes this a potent allegory for non-intervention.
The subplot in which Samuel L. Jackson’s gung-ho Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard wants to kill Kong, despite the great ape actually being the last line of defence against something considerably worse, is an astute metaphor for American foreign policy. It’s noticeable that the heroes are Tom Hiddleston’s eco-savvy tracker and Brie Larson’s socially conscious photojournalist.
The casting is a throwback to Jerry Bruckheimer’s old policy of headhunting from recent indie hits, with the stars of Straight Outta Compton (Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell) and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Thomas Mann) in support, alongside the godfather of indie, John Goodman. But then look at the headliners: that’s Nick Fury, Loki and the future Captain Marvel together on screen. Maybe they are tilting at the Marvel Cinematic Universe, after all.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes, Galleries, Deleted scenes
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts; Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson; DVD, BD, 4K, 3D, Digital HD release: July 31, 2017
A deserved critical and commercial hit, Get Out is mainstream Hollywood at its best – a smart horror-comedy that uses its genre(s) to raise pertinent questions and, hopefully, cause a few arguments on the way home.
The story sees Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a black man meeting his white in-laws for the first time, begin to suspect something isn’t quite right. It’s a potent update of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, sharply spliced with the social-horror tales of Ira Levin (Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives). Writer/director Jordan Peele couldn’t have timed his riposte to notions of a post-racial society better, given Obama’s replacement by Trump.
The film skewers white prejudices, especially those of so-called liberals who think they’re above racism, yet while Peele exposes some raw nerves, the discomfort is also hugely entertaining. What might have been dryly academic gets real craft from Peele’s pedigree in sketch comedy.
His genius is to exaggerate these latent insecurities into something that is memorably outlandish and surreal. The film is remarkedly assured in its iconography. Kaluuya, in a star-making performance, is at once a defiant, Romero-esque hero and a knowing riff on the damsel-in-distress. And, when he wants to, Peele knocks out eyecatching visuals, from a watery grave of post-hypnotic suggestion to some tautly handled violence.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Making Of, Featurettes
Director: Jordan Peele; Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: July 24, 2017
The Boss Baby
A besuited newborn (voiced by Alec Baldwin) battles his older brother Tim (Miles Bakshi) for the love and attention of their parents (Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy Kimmel). Forget the titular tyrant’s Trump echoes: Tom (Megamind) McGrath’s ani-romp hews closest to Toy Story’s Buzz/Woody dynamic, only with nappies on, until it stifles Pixar’s clarity for arc-matter involving corporate conspiracies.
The plot gets messier than loose meconium, but it’s mildly redeemed by flutters of bouncing set-piece joy, including a deliciously daft Elvis skit. In the baby-pic league table, think better than Storks but hardly Prevenge for kids.
EXTRAS: Shorts, Featurettes
Director: Tom McGrath; Starring: Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel; DVD, BD, 3D, 4K release: July 31, 2017
There may be life on Mars but don’t expect there to be much of it in this sub-Alien knock-off from Daniel Espinosa (Safe House). The International Space Station setting lends authenticity, but when a newly found single-cell organism nicknamed Calvin starts getting nasty, Espinosa’s film swiftly reverts to formula.
Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson head this rag-tag team, though Ariyon Bakare gets the best scene – a real golden handshake. The B-movie finale almost redeems, but it’s not enough.
Director: Daniel Espinosa; Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds; DVD, BD, 4K release: July 31, 2017
Strong Breakfast Club vibes morph into a giant-sized fantasy adventure filled with training montages in this big-screen update of the silliest TV action property around. When five high-school misfit detentionees discover an ancient alien ship, they are imbued with multicoloured superpowers to defend the Earth from an evil sorceress.
What could have easily been all-gloss, forgettable fare is made much more fun thanks to the likes of Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader and a wonderfully over-the-top Elizabeth Banks embracing the nonsense.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurette, Deleted scenes, Outtakes
Director: Dean Israelite; Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler; DVD, BD, 4K release: July 31, 2017
A Duplass brothers script isn’t enough to elevate this nuptials comedy from the doldrums. Anna Kendrick is Eloise, freshly dumped and relegated to the table of oddballs at her ex’s sister’s wedding. These single-serve friends – including Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow and Stephen Merchant – soon become her lifeline as she soldiers on through the indignity of it all.
Director Jeffrey Blitz (Rocket Science) spoons plenty of ’80s nostalgia (yes, there’s a covers band playing) but, Kendrick aside, this is hardly wedded bliss.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes, Featurettes
Director: Jeffrey Blitz; Starring: Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson; DVD, Digital HD release: July 31, 2017
“This is Sully on steroids!” shrieks the press release. No, it isn’t. It’s Sully on downers, as an (off-screen) air crash claims 271 lives, among them the wife and pregnant daughter of everyday chap Roman (Arnold Schwarzenegger, striving valiantly to be as ‘everyday’ as possible).
While he’s laid low by grief, air-traffic controller Jake (Scoot McNairy) wrestles with guilt. Eventually the pair’s paths cross – which is the point where this sombre, sensitive, slightly plodding dual-character study starts to rush and unravel. Having said that, it’s better than Arnie’s maudlin Maggie.
Director: Elliott Lester; Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scoot McNairy, Maggie Grace; DVD, BD, VOD release: June 19, 2017
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Alice’s ultimate bloodbath in zombietown takes the wasteland warrior back to where it all began with a last-ditch assault on The Hive. For fans of the series it offers familiar thrills – including a teeth-clenching laser-corridor reprise – bringing Alice’s (Milla Jovovich) story full circle with a blatantly telegraphed twist.
But clunky dialogue, gloomy cinematography and frenetic editing render its story near-incomprehensible throughout. A fittingly braindead finale for a fun but inconsistent series.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Retaliation mode
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson; Starring: Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter; DVD, BD, 3D, 4K UHD, Digital HD release: June 12, 2017
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Ang Lee’s dip into the military mindset of a post-Iraq America flopped in the States, with critics turned off by the film’s experimental higher frame rate – shot at 120fps, four times the usual speed, for a more immersive experience.
And yet, Lee’s film is still a revealing study of the war-torn psyche, as Brit newbie Joe Alwyn’s young soldier becomes embroiled in a surreal homecoming celebration. It’s certainly not flawless, but neither is it the failure that many would have you believe.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes, Featurettes
Director: Ang Lee; Starring: Joe Alwyn, Garrett Hedlund, Arturo Castro; DVD, BD, 3D, 4K UHD release: June 12, 2017