Out on 31 October and 7 November
A superhero flick halfway between X-cellent and X-meh. A horror classic purrs on Criterion. Greta Gerwig has a scheme in mind.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of X-Men: The Apocalypse, Cat People, Maggie’s Plan, The Legend of Tarzan, The Martian: Extended Cut, Warcraft: The Beginning, The Hills Have Eyes, and Early Murnau: Five Films 1921-25.
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In a year when Batman and Superman duked it out and Marvel fought a civil war, Bryan Singer’s First Class trilogy-capper can’t help but feel low-key for the X-Men, especially after the gang played their dual-cast trump card two years ago in epic time-hopper Days of Future Past.
For Singer, though, this is closure after bailing on The Last Stand (cheekily referenced in a threequels gibe) and a chance to square the circle he started in 2000. With parts for every major mutant – First Class returnees as well as some smartly (re)cast old faces – this is, as screenwriter Simon Kinberg observes on his commentary with Singer, “The origin story for the X-Men.”
With so much to get through, the results vary. A tragic new chapter in Magneto’s life gives Michael Fassbender scope to add emotional depth, while newcomers Tye Sheridan and Kodi Smit-McPhee make an impact as Cyclops and Nightcrawler. Yet Alexandra Shipp’s Storm is reduced to an onlooker, and Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is sadly a generic threat.
For the second X-Men in a row, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver brings the biggest thrills in a rescue mission set to the Eurythmics, a rare moment to inspire nostalgia for the 1980s setting, though the disc’s deleted scenes include a John Hughes-esque mall trip with a dancing Nightcrawler.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes, Commentary, Featurettes
Director: Bryan Singer; Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence; Digital HD release: October 24, 2016; DVD, BD, 3D BD release: November 7, 2016
There aren’t many producers who can qualify as auteurs – but Val Lewton does. Between 1942 and 1946, working for RKO’s cut-price second-feature unit, he produced a series of subtle, stylish horror movies that, no matter who was directing, unmistakably carry his personal stamp.
“The films he produced belonged to him,” comments Martin Scorsese in this disc’s accompanying doc. Turning his shoestring budgets into a strength, Lewton worked on the principle that what you can’t see is way scarier than what you can. “If you make the screen dark enough,” he remarked, “the mind’s eye will read into it anything you want.”
Cat People, the first of his films for RKO, made back its cost a dozen times over and hauled the studio out of its latest financial crisis. Sensual, kitten-faced French actress Simone Simon (La Bête Humaine) is perfectly cast as Irena, the girl who turns into a panther when her passions are aroused.
A Serbian immigrant in New York, she marries a stolid American guy called Oliver Reed (no, really) played by Kent Smith, but won’t consummate. When he starts to fall for a colleague, Irena’s jealousy is aroused – at one point, she stalks her rival to a nocturnal indoor swimming pool.
This scene, all ripples and shadows, is riveting, and showcases the skills of DP Nick Musuraca, one of the great noir cinematographers. Criterion’s 2K transfer brings up all the lighting, sharp and luminous.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Interviews, Documentary, Booklet
Director: Jacques Tourneur; Starring: Simone Simon, Tom Conway, Kent Smith; DVD, BD release: September 26, 2016
On paper, Rebecca Miller’s Woody Allen-esque comedy looks like kooky try-hard hipster mumblecore. Maggie (Greta Gerwig) has an affair with a married ‘ficto-critical anthropologist’ (Ethan Hawke, deliciously self-obsessed), stealing him from wife (Julianne Moore), but she contrives to reunite the former spouses once the honeymoon period wears off.
The plot unfolds with characters wearing odd knitwear while discussing art in shabby-chic apartments. Should be infuriating, but thanks to organic performances and a smart script, it’s engaging and funny.
EXTRAS: Featurette (BD), Commentary (BD), Deleted scenes (BD)
Director: Rebecca Miller; Starring: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: October 31, 2016
The Legend of Tarzan
Alexander Skarsgård does the jungle boogie in a well-appointed but uncalled-for reboot that turns Edgar Rice Burroughs’ vine-swinging ape man into an apologetic poster-boy for white guilt.
Drawn back to the Congo, his genteel Lord Greystoke soon unleashes the beast within when Christoph Waltz’s nasty Belgian makes off with Margot Robbie’s far from plain Jane. David Yates’ rethink, alas, remains buttoned-down throughout, being too proud to embrace the clichés of the Weissmuller era.
Director: David Yates; Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Rory J. Saper, Christian Stevens; DVD, BD, 3D, Digital HD release: October 31, 2016
The Martian: Extended Cut
Ridley Scott’s best film since Gladiator gets a two-disc Blu-ray makeover with 10 minutes of scenes woven back in (to an already hefty 144-minute running time) as Matt Damon’s stranded astronaut figures out how to survive life on Mars.
Scott is renowned for knowing exactly what he wants on set, so the additional moments here are hardly crucial (Kristen Wiig’s media director on a rant; Damon finishing his mission etc.) but do add some nice character details. New extras include a Scott/Goddard/Andy Weir commentary.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes, Gag reel
Director: Ridley Scott; Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig; DVD, BD, 4K Ultra HD release: October 3, 2016
Love & Friendship
Whit Stillman’s whip-smart adaptation of a Jane Austen novella about a gold-digging widow crackles with fun. The comedy of manners he honed in Damsels in Distress hitches up a gear as Kate Beckinsale’s engagingly wicked Lady Susan wreaks havoc among the aristos in her rapacious search for a rich husband.
Chloë Sevigny’s gossipy Yankee accomplice adds to the general gaiety. But Tom Bennett’s blitheringly idiotic young lord, as dim as he is obscenely wealthy, is the film’s finest comic creation.
Director: Whit Stillman; Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Tom Bennett, Stephen Fry; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: September 26, 2016
Warcraft: The Beginning
Duncan Jones goes full-fantasy for this Warcraft adap as masses of orcs led by Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) leave their dying world for Azeroth, where humans ruled by King Llane (Dominic Cooper) are none too pleased to see them.
The ambition is plain to see but CGI overload and rushed, crushed plotting compromise any chance of Lord of the Rings-style poetry, mythology or majesty. Still, kudos to a green, be-tusked Paula Patton, who half-convinces as half-human, half-orc warrior Garona.
EXTRAS: Featurettes (BD), Deleted scenes
Director: Duncan Jones; Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: October 10, 2016
The Hills Have Eyes
“You come out here and stick your life in my face?!” growls a mutant cannibal, just before he tucks into some braised ex-cop corpse in Wes Craven’s original, impossibly influential genre masterwork (his second after Last House on the Left).
Hills sees a family of rather hateful WASPs falling foul of their mountain-dwelling counterparts, amid desert boulders resembling giant skulls, before turning the tables. Arrow’s excellent new 4K restoration also includes an alternative ending, essays and interviews.
EXTRAS: Booklet, Commentary, Alternate ending, Interviews
Director: Wes Craven; Starring: Suze Lanier-Bramlett, Robert Houston, John Steadman; DVD, BD release: October 31, 2016
Early Murnau: Five Films 1921-25
Along with Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau was the presiding genius of the great age of German silent cinema. Eureka has lavished HD restoration and Blu-ray on this batch of his films, which includes Murnau’s masterly social satire The Last Laugh (5 stars), his comedy The Grand Duke’s Finances (4 stars) and his Molière adaptation Tartuffe (4 stars).
Two lesser-known movies make up the package: mystery Schloss Vogelöd (3 stars) and melodrama Phantom (3 stars).
EXTRAS: Commentary, Video essays, Featurettes, Booklet
Director: Friedrich Wilheim Murnau; Starring: Various; BD release: September 26, 2016