Out on January 22 and January 29
Jennifer Lawrence’s house party goes awry. Jeremy Renner uncovers a body in the snow. Billy Wilder’s most underrated film.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Mother!, Wind River, God’s Own Country, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Victoria & Abdul, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Howards End, The Big Sleep, and The Complete Monterey Pop Festival.
For the best movie reviews, subscribe to Total Film.
Any way you slice it, writer-director Darren Aronofsky’s (Black Swan) controversy-magnet is a staggering bait-and-switch. It lures you in with two Oscar-winning stars (Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem) and the framework of a home-invasion thriller, and then bludgeons you with… well, what exactly?
Acres of press have tried to untangle mother!’s subtextual implications. There has also been no shortage of debate over whether or not it’s any good. What’s striking is how Aronofsky combines the existential dread of an arthouse maestro with the thrill-ride flourishes of a Hollywood showman.
As Lawrence’s young bride deals with husband Bardem’s attitude to guests, there’s the brief worry that mother! might merely be a darkly comic chamber drama. Fear not. Aronofsky’s style is set to maximum intensity: the camera is close, the sound design is abrasive, the outstanding production design transforms a home into a war zone. Eventually, the calm gives way to turbulent storm, with nightmarish cutaways fraught with menacing detail.
So what’s it about? Aronofsky insists it dramatises mankind’s wanton destruction of Earth, but it’s (un)pleasantly open-ended. It might also be an allegory about narcissism, a fable of abuse, or a catty satire of social media in which oversharing leads to apocalypse. As Bardem’s poet says of his work, “It affects everyone in different ways.”
EXTRAS: Making Of, Featurette
Director: Darren Aronofsky; Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer; Digital HD release: January 8, 2018; DVD, BD, 4K release: January 22, 2018
On the titular Native American reservation, a tracker (Jeremy Renner, on his best form since The Town) finds a dead girl in the snow and – along with a lone FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen, underserved) – uncovers a brutal truth amid the unforgiving landscape that is symptomatic of a wider, shocking statistic.
Like writer/director Taylor Sheridan’s Sicario and Hell or High Water, Wind River is beautifully crafted, compelling and shines a light on modern American issues. But it also suffers by comparison to its predecessors.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes, Featurette
Director: Taylor Sheridan; Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen; Digital HD release: January 8, 2018; DVD, BD release: January 22, 2018
God’s Own Country
Francis Lee’s delicate yet gruff northern romance was dubbed ‘the Yorkshire Brokeback’ due to the heated coupling of dour sheep farmer Johnny (Josh O’Connor) with Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), the gentle Romanian shepherd he hires.
While there’s plenty of windswept desire and a smart script loaded with the unspoken, GOC forges its own path thanks to unsentimental performances, authentic locations and a beguiling sense of hope. Shame not to gain more insight into all of this via a chat-track or Making Of.
EXTRAS: Deleted/Extended scenes
Director: Francis Lee; Starring: Josh O'Connor, Alec Secareanu; DVD, BD release: January 22, 2018
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
Billy Wilder’s most underrated film is also one of his most sumptuous, as evinced by Eureka’s beautiful, extras-laden Blu-ray print of this 1970 classic; all clattering cobbles, billowing steam trains and lush Scottish countryside.
Robert Stephens plays the titular sleuth, archly uttering aphorisms (“Some of us are cursed with memories like flypaper”) while Colin Blakely’s hapless Watson struggles to keep up, in a slyly funny and gently melancholy yarn involving circus dwarves, mysterious femme fatales and the Loch Ness Monster.
EXTRAS: Interviews, Deleted scenes, Booklet
Director: Billy Wilder; Starring: Robert Stephens, Christopher Lee, Colin Blakely; BD release: January 22, 2018
Victoria & Abdul
It’s not as if the world was crying out for a sequel to 1997’s Mrs. Brown, but the regal return of Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, now in her twilight years, makes for another charming, chaste affair. This time, it’s her friendship with Indian servant Abdul (Ali Fazal) that provokes consternation in the royal household.
Cue a touching, timely fable of cultural exchange, much genial (if repetitive) farce and some choice British character acting, all guided by Stephen Frears’ typically assured hand.
Director: Stephen Frears; Starring: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Tim Pigott-Smith; Digital HD release: January 8, 2018; DVD, BD release: January 22, 2018
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Kingsman’s success emboldened Matthew Vaughn to go bigger for the sequel. But therein lies the problem. Taron Egerton’s agent Eggsy’s drugs-ring investigations lead Stateside this time, diluting the original’s Brit-chap slant. Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry, meanwhile, are underused, while Elton John is over-indulged.
The cast are fun, the set-pieces flashy, but some cheap gags misfire. As for Julianne Moore’s sketchy villain role: did it meet with the mincer she feeds henchmen to?
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Concept art, Stills
Director: Matthew Vaughn; Starring: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong; Digital HD release: January 13, 2018; DVD, BD release: January 29, 2018
Merchant Ivory’s immaculately crafted adap of E.M. Forster’s class-clash novel gets a gorgeous 4K restoration. Buffed up a treat, its handsomely detailed Edwardian setting and Richard Robbins’ swooning score never overwhelm James Ivory’s elegant, unfussy direction.
Emma Thompson’s principled heroine won her an Oscar, but Anthony Hopkins and Vanessa Redgrave are also first-rate. A chatty, celebratory package of commentary and interview extras reveal how, despite the starry cast, it was all done on a shoestring budget.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes (BD)
Director: James Ivory; Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Vanessa Redgrave; DVD, BD release: November 27, 2017
The Big Sleep/The Maltese Falcon
Two of the greatest film noirs, John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon and Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep both star Humphrey Bogart as a cynical-but-moral PI working corkscrew cases overspilling with alluring lowlifes, machine-gun patter and deadly dames.
Both look great on Blu, while The Big Sleep includes the 1945 pre-release version – more linear, and with less Bogie/Bacall sizzle before reshoots lit the fire.
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Make-up tests, Featurettes, Alternate version of The Big Sleep
Director: Howard Hawks (The Big Sleep), John Huston (The Maltese Falcon); Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall (The Big Sleep), Mary Astor (The Maltese Falcon); Dual Format release: November 11, 2017
The Complete Monterey Pop Festival
D.A. Pennebaker’s classic document of 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival is an emotional experience. This is the one where Jimi Hendrix sets fire to his guitar; where Otis Redding, bathed in celestial backlight, wins adoring devotees (“This is the love crowd, am I right!”), and where Janis Joplin’s devastating honey-and-barbed wire delivery renders the audience speechless. And within three years, they’d all be dead.
Criterion’s definitive Blu-ray package includes complete sets from Redding and Hendrix.
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Interviews, Deleted scenes, Alternate soundtracks, Photo essay, Booklet
Director: D.A. Pennebaker; DVD, BD release: December 18, 2017