Out on February 19 and February 26
A Groundhog Day slasher movie. Armando Iannucci takes on the Kremlin.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Happy Death Day, The Death of Stalin, Goodbye Christopher Robin, The Battle of Algiers, Black Sabbath, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Cat o’ Nine Tails, Daphne, When the Wind Blows, and The Witches.
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Happy Death Day
Slasher movie meets Groundhog Day: that’s the signposted pitch for Christopher B. Landon’s horror spoof, as self-centred student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe, first-rate) wakes up multiple times on her birthday morning, only to get gorily offed that night. She soon realises it’ll only stop when she works out who her killer is.
Meanwhile she learns to be a nicer person, and starts falling for the likeable student (Israel Broussard) in whose bed she keeps waking up. Scary? Not really. Fun? Sure.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Deleted scenes, Alternate ending
Director: Christopher Landon; Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine; Digital HD release: February 18, 2018; DVD, BD release: February 19, 2018
The Death of Stalin
The Kremlin’s bumbling bureaucrats find themselves in The Thick of It, as Stalin’s demise leaves everyone scrambling to keep their jobs, and their heads. Armando Iannucci’s satire places fear amid the farce to bring unnerving edge to his career-long interest in vainglorious politicians.
A cracking script lets a great cast ricochet between profanity, pithy observation and surreal non-sequiturs. Hilariously, everybody hollers in absurdly pronounced western accents instead of faux Soviet. Special mention goes to Jason Isaacs’ bluff, Russian-via-Yorkshire general.
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Interviews
Director: John; Starring: Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Andrea Riseborough, Jason Isaacs, Olga Kurylenko; Digital HD release: February 19, 2018; DVD, BD release: February 26, 2018
Goodbye Christopher Robin
Using Ann Thwaite’s unauthorised biography as source material (and skirting use of Disney-owned Winnie-The-Pooh words and illustrations), this elegant origin story tracks the post-WW1 father-son relationship between A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson, stoic) and Christopher Robin (Will Tilston, dimpled) – and the bonding/estrangement that came from the honey-scoffer’s success.
With Margot Robbie and Kelly Macdonald giving good mummy and nanny, GCR oozes class and is unapologetically button-pushing.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Commentary, Stills gallery
Director: Simon Curtis; Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald; Digital HD release: February 12, 2018 DVD, BD release: February 26, 2018
When the Wind Blows
Easily the saddest, bleakest film ever made from a Raymond Briggs picture book, When The Wind Blows sees elderly couple Jim and Hilda (partly based on Briggs’ own parents) living quietly in the Sussex countryside when imminent nuclear war is declared. They’re both fairly clueless about what this means, but Jim’s picked up the official government leaflets and proceeds to follow them to the letter.
“We must build a shelter and refuge,” he tells Hilda – which involves taking the doors off their hinges and propping them against the sitting-room wall at a 60-degree angle.
Inspired by Briggs’ contempt for inept official advice and animated by director Jimmy Murakami (The Snowman), WTWB boasts the starry two-person voice cast of John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft, plus a score by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and a title song by David Bowie, no less.
The comedy derived from the couple’s helpless naïvety – Jim professing faith in ‘the powers that be’, Hilda dismissing the dangers of fall-out (“If you can’t feel it, it can’t be doing you any harm”) gradually darkens as the aftermath of the attack takes its toll. The ending is nothing short of heartbreaking.
Lavish extras include an actual 1975 animated propaganda film, just to prove Briggs wasn’t exaggerating.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Documentaries, Making Of, Booklet
Director: Jimmy T. Murakami; Starring: Peggy Ashcroft, John Mills, Robin Houston; Dual Format release: January 22, 2018
The Battle of Algiers
As immediate and relevant as the day it was released, Gillo Pontecorvo’s dramatisation of Algeria’s struggle to rid itself of French colonial rule is clear-eyed and unflinching as it chronicles tactics, terror bombings and retaliatory torture.
No newsreel footage was used, but the use of Casbah locations, non-professional actors and grainy, diffusely lit black-and-white footage brings urgency and authenticity. “We wanted to tell this story as if it had been filmed while happening,” says Pontecorvo during an exhaustive interview.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Interviews
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo; Starring: Brahim Hadjadj, Jean Martin, Yacef Saadi; Dual Format, Digital HD release: January 29, 2018
Malicious stalkers, malevolent spirits and 19th Century Russian vampires lurk within Italian maestro Mario Bava’s triumvirate of terror tales, with each stylish, spine-icing episode introduced by Boris Karloff.
This Arrow release handsomely presents both cuts of Bava’s classic – superior European version I Tre Volti Della Paura (‘The Three Faces of Fear’) and American International Pictures’ US release – while featurette Twice The Fear offers a detailed comparison of the two. Comes with a great commentary from Bava expert Tim Lucas.
EXTRAS: Commentary, US version, Featurette
Director: Mario Bava; Starring: Michèle Mercier, Lidia Alfonsi, Boris Karloff; DVD, BD release: December 18, 2017
The Bridge on the River Kwai
One of cinema’s greatest, grandest war movies, David Lean’s multiple Oscar-winner arrives in a vibrant 4K/ Blu-ray two-disc package. Alec Guinness is outstanding as the British colonel who refuses to buckle in the Japanese PoW camp, but he’s just one highpoint among many in this epic-length tale of honour, dignity, heroism and cowardice.
Extras are largely from the earlier double-disc DVD, but there are some nice new additions, including Guinness and co-star William Holden interviewed on set.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Gallery, Interview, Trailers
Director: David Lean; Starring: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins; Dual Format (4K/BD) release: December 4, 2017
The Cat o’ Nine Tails
One of Dario Argento’s least favourite of his own films – “too American” – this giallo is still stylishly subversive, with an Ennio Morricone score and shiny 4K restoration. Karl Malden plays a blind man investigating a blackmail plot with journalist James Franciscus at Turin’s mysterious Terzi Institute.
Talky, twisty and full of ambitious POV shots, it’s more a fascinating footnote than a lost masterpiece. Exemplary extras include a droll chat with Argento.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Interviews, Script pages, Booklet, Lobby cards
Director: Dario Argento; Starring: James Franciscus, Karl Malden, Catherine Spaak; Dual Format release: January 29, 2018
Imagine Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) from Girls if she didn’t have any friends, money or talent and you’ve got Daphne (Emily Beecham) – a thirtysomething east Londoner so numbed by life that nothing really matters to her anymore.
Peter Mackie Burns’ attention-grabbing debut moves beautifully through the muddy waters of depression, addiction and millennial ennui, but it’s Beecham’s masterful performance that gives the film its tragic, drunken, selfish heart. Some of it rings familiar, but this is still the kind of indie that makes careers.
Director: Peter Mackie Burns; Starring: Emily Beecham, Geraldine James, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor; DVD, Digital HD release: January 22, 2018
If the premise of a young Clint Eastwood starring in an anthology directed by five noted Italians, including Visconti and Pasolini, sounds intriguing, then the result is sadly less than the sum of its parts.
A vanity vehicle for producer Dino De Laurentiis’ then-wife Silvana Mangano, this riff on the concept of ‘witches’ (translating, depending on director, as women being bitchy, scheming, mysterious or just a bit ‘flighty’) is mostly, save for the final gleeful segment, an inessential curio; ponderous, pretentious and unfunny.
EXTRAS: Interviews, Commentary, English-language segment
Directors: Mauro Bolognini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti, Franco Rossi; Starring: Clint Eastwood, Silvana Mangano, Massimo Girotti; DVD, BD release: January 8, 2018