Out on February 5 and February 12
A sci-fi sequel worth the 35-year wait. Vincent van Gogh gets an animated tribute. Five medical students tinker with life after death. Wes Anderson’s crime-comedy feature debut. A Stanley Tucci-directed portrait of Alberto Giacometti.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Blade Runner 2049, The Lego Ninjago Movie, Loving Vincent, Flatiners, Bottle Rocket, The Apartment, Rough Night, Carrie, Final Portait, Pulp, The Limehouse Golem, The Maltese Falcon, The Sword of Doom, and House.
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Blade Runner 2049
For a film in which the premise rests entirely on a shaky foundation of ambiguity, there’s sadly little room for interpretation when it comes to Blade Runner 2049’s box-office performance. A worldwide gross of $259m (of which less than $100m was taken in the States) will rank as an underperformance against its $150m production budget. There’s a grimly satisfying symmetry, though, in this failing; it’s one of myriad ways in which 2049 lives up to its epochal predecessor.
Now seen as an all-time great, Ridley Scott’s 1982 film was critically and commercially undervalued on arrival, its stature growing with each tinkered version released. A decades-later sequel for any beloved property is potentially perilous (just ask Indiana Jones), but Blade Runner 2049 fulfils its duties pretty much perfectly; staying remarkably true to the spirit of the original, it pays homage without ever feeling restricted by its legacy.
This sequel adheres to the original’s formula while treading new ground. Embedded in the noirish detective story is the weighty question of what it means to be human. That blend is perhaps what makes director Denis Villeneuve the ideal fit, given his previous form with grizzled ’tecs (Prisoners) and bittersweet sci-fi (Arrival).
At the core of 2049 is Ryan Gosling’s K. Extreme release secrecy hid the fact that – minor spoiler alert – K is a ‘skin-job’ himself, a detail that’s revealed in the film’s opening moments. A replicant without a cause, he ‘retires’ his own kind seemingly without qualm. One such job leads him to a discovery that has huge repercussions for all replicant-kind, as a mystery gradually begins to unfurl at the pace of an artificial snail.
As in the original, the artificial lifeforms are more sympathetic than their real counterparts. The most captivating relationship in the film is between a replicant and a hologram, and 2049 arguably exceeds the original for emotional investment in these themes. Gosling’s tough, terse and ultimately tender turn anchors the film, elucidating K’s plight through an abundance of hemmed-in feeling.
Harrison Ford’s Deckard returns to the fold, and his human/replicant ambiguity is mined further, but he’s very much a supporting character here, even though his presence will add resonance for long-time fans. In minimal screentime, Ford turns in one of the most affecting performances of his career. If anything disappoints, it’s the antagonists. Jared Leto overdoes it as Tyrell replacement Niander Wallace, and his right-hand-woman Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) is charismatically ruthless, but inevitably lacks the depth of Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty.
The better you know the first film, the more you’ll get out of the sequel, despite its standalone qualities and Deckard’s minimal impact on the plot. Coming in cold, you could still appreciate the jaw-dropping visuals conjured up by Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins.
In one featurette, Villeneuve describes the film’s look as “the same kind of colour palette but made by another painter”. It won’t prove to be as influential as the original’s game-changing cityscape, but it’s an incredibly realised fictional world, even more gloomily oppressive than it was 30 years earlier. From the smog-shrouded metropolis of LA, to a junkyard San Diego and a desolate, amber-hued Las Vegas, it’s an expansive, hostile world.
As Villeneuve and his cast explain, this is a future as extrapolated from the first film’s vision of 2019. Hence the analogue equipment, alternate-reality ads (Pan Am and Atari are projected in neon at various points) and a lack of touchscreen tech. As Gosling puts it, this is a world in which Steve Jobs never existed. The commitment to practical effects adds to the connection with the original – it very much feels like the same world.
And feeling at one with BR 2019 means that 2049 is like nothing else out there; it’s remarkable that so few concessions have been made to appease multiplex crowds. Big bangs, towering set-pieces and merchandising opportunities are nowhere to be seen. And the slow pace and substantial run time seem designed to put off anyone not capable of the investment required. It practically builds a wall around its own cult status.
Even on repeat viewings, the slowburn unfolding is anything but a problem. Not only can you luxuriate in the visual detail, but the film yields new treasure with each rewatch, with references, callbacks and cameos to chew over (only the unsubtle use of “more human than human” clunks). While its short-term audience has clearly been restricted, Blade Runner 2049 will age better than any production-line multiplex fodder.
The home-ent release is clearly geared to collectors, with various editions including a steelbook and a 4K UHD version with whisky glasses. The bonus content is solid, rather than exceptional. Featurettes offer the chance to gawp at some of the finer details a bit more closely, the best of the bunch being the 20-minute Designing The World Of Blade Runner, and the short ‘prologues’ fill in some backstory gaps, though they’re more intriguing than essential (and hardcore fans will have watched them already).
Perhaps the extras were always going to feel scant on a film that demands and rewards close analysis and rewatching. It will get plenty of that over the next 30 years.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Prologues, Making Of (BD)
Director: Denis Villeneuve; Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto; Digital HD release: January 28, 2018; DVD, BD, 3D BD, Two-disc limited editing BD, Steelbook, 4K UHD release: February 5, 2018
The Lego Ninjago Movie
Despite struggling to build on previous Lego movies’ box office, this brick-flick’s worth a spin(jitzu). Like Kung Fu Panda, it’s a mix of soulful and silly, ancient wisdom and modish wisecracks.
Not unlike Kung Fu Panda, it lets Jackie Chan (as mentor to Dave Franco’s high-school ninja) be in an action-com without endangering his life. Also, there’s a beast with deadly moves whose tummy you’re itching to tickle…
EXTRAS: Commentary (BD), Featurettes (BD), Mini-movies (BD), Deleted scenes, Music videos (BD)
Directors: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan; Starring: Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Fred Armisen, Abbi Jacobson; Digital HD release: January 30, 2018; DVD, BD, 3D, 4K release: February 12, 2018
Vincent van Gogh’s life and art have been splashed on screen before, but this is a unique entwining of the two: a film whose 65,000 frames were individually oil-painted by 125 artists, lovingly imitating the Dutch dauber’s style. It’s also a sly Citizen Kane homage, posthumously exploring van Gogh’s final days via a postman’s son’s (Douglas Booth) quest to deliver his last letter.
True, this fastidious tribute lacks dramatic depth, but when the surface is so extraordinary to behold – a living, swirling gallery – it’s hard to complain.
EXTRAS: Making Of, Featurettes
Directors: Dorota Kobie, Hugh Welchman; Starring: Robert Gulaczyk, Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan; Digital HD release: February 5, 2018; DVD, BD release: February 12, 2018
A so-so remake of a so-so ’90s thriller. Clearly, there just wasn’t enough life in the idea to begin with. Following the formula of the Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts-starring original, it sees five medical students experimenting with the afterlife, only to face the paranormal consequences.
Director Niels Arden Oplev (2009’s original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) takes a clinical approach to horror, but the result is as monotonous as the title suggests, with a lack of heart-stopping moments aside from the literal ones.
Director: Niels Arden Oplev; Starring: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev; Digital HD release: January 22, 2018; DVD, BD release: February 5, 2018
Wes Anderson’s feature debut gives fair notice of what was to come. The casting, for a start: the lead’s played by Owen Wilson, who also co-scripted with Anderson. The pair were fellow students at the University of Texas in Austin, and Wilson would go on to feature in several more of his pal’s movies, including The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited.
Here, he’s Dignan, leader of a trio of inept would-be criminals – the others being Anthony (Owen’s brother Luke) and Bob (Robert Musgrave). Their farcically bumbling attempts at heists are intended to impress local crime boss Mr. Henry (James Caan).
Also indicative of Anderson-to-come is the quirky, overlapping dialogue, often bordering on the deranged; the freewheeling plot spiralling into mounting absurdity; the idiosyncratic shooting style (DP Robert Yeoman would go on to shoot almost all Anderson’s subsequent features); and the off-the-wall humour. Plus, like several Anderson movies since, Bottle Rocket garnered a mixed response: in this case the critics mostly loved it, audiences mostly didn’t.
Compared with the sophistication of, say, Tenenbaums, Bottle Rocket meanders, losing traction when Anthony falls for a sweet Hispanic motel housekeeper (Lumi Cavazos). But if you’ve a taste for Anderson’s understated, dry humour and insidious charm, then strap in.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Making Of, Featurette, Deleted scenes, Short, Stills
Director: Wes Anderson; Starring: Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Ned Dowd; BD release: December 4, 2017
Based on real events in 1964, Stanley Tucci’s fifth directorial effort, for which he also takes the writing credit, sees celebrated Swiss artist and sculptor Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) invite American art critic James Lord (Armie Hammer) to sit for him.
The portrait, Giacometti’s last before his death, is supposed to take an afternoon, but two-and-a-half weeks pass in glowering silence, artistic despair and wittily cantankerous discussions about life and art. Compellingly acted and handsomely shot in blacks, ochres and greys to match Giacometti’s sepulchral creations.
Director: Stanley Tucci; Starring: Armie Hammer, Clémence Poésy, Geoffrey Rush; DVD, Digital HD release: January 8, 2018
Corporate cruelty, office pimping, Yuletide yearning – Billy Wilder’s romcom bites like few comedies, but there’s also beauty beside the bile. As love-wounded babes in the big-city woods, Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine were never more touching. Wilder/Iz Diamond’s script serves them with sharp wit, while the jazzy score glows with feeling.
Deliciously tart and big-hearted, the disparate tones merge with miraculous tragi-comic balance: arguably, even Wilder never bettered it. Generous, scholarly extras.
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Video essay, Interviews, Featurettes, Book
Director: Billy Wilder; Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray; BD release: December 18, 2017
Pinballing wildly between bad bachelorette comedy and misjudged cover-up caper, this Weekend at Bernie’s update feels like a killer comedown after a night of hard partying. Scarlett Johansson (the bride), Jillian Bell (manic bestie), Kate McKinnon (inexplicably Australian) plus buds Zoë Kravitz and Ilana Glazer live it up in Miami, but all struggle to squeeze laughs from a tonally confused script (a surprise, given it’s from Broad City director Lucia Aniello).
A tepid Blu-ray gag reel reveals that things weren’t much funnier behind the scenes. Rough indeed.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Sing-Along, Deleted scenes (BD), Gag reel (BD)
Director: Lucia Aniello; Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Zoë Kravitz; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: December 26, 2017
“They’re all going to laugh at you!” wails Piper Laurie, the religio-psycho mother of Sissy Spacek’s shy but telekinetic titular teen in this still-effective shocker. First-time viewers might do some tittering of their own at the soft focus and big hair of Brian De Palma’s potent Stephen King adap, but terror still reigns when Carrie unleashes hell on prom night.
The superb collection of featurettes explores the film’s lasting legacy and offers a visual comparison with the bloodless Chloë Grace Moretz-starring 2013 remake.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes, Gallery
Director: Brian De Palma; Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving; BD release: December 11, 2017
A year after the mighty Get Carter, director Mike Hodges and star Michael Caine re-teamed to slightly lesser effect for this quirky Med-set thriller. Caine plays a sleazy-but-stylish dime novelist who’s ghostwriting the autobiography of a garrulous actor (Mickey Rooney) with a murky past.
Narrated in Chandler-esque fashion by Caine, it’s a laconic blend of casual violence and in-jokes that never quite hits the spot. Still, this Euro trip does conjure a modestly sexy vibe. Caine’s sadly awol from the disc’s new interviews.
EXTRAS: Interviews, Booklet
Director: Mike Hodges; Starring: Michael Caine, Mickey Rooney, Lionel Stander; DVD, BD release: December 18, 2017
The Limehouse Golem
Cheaper than a ticket to a shocker,” mutters one character as Bill Nighy’s Victorian copper examines the latest crime scene of the titular serial killer. He’s referring to the gruesome plays of the London music halls but it’s a typically meta line, winking at the audience while inviting us to enjoy this gory Grand Guignol.
Entertaining enough, but Juan Carlos Medina’s Jane Goldman-penned film is hampered by stilted plotting and a final twist as obvious as arterial claret. Extras are bare bones.
EXTRAS: Making Of
Director: Juan Carlos Medina; Starring: Douglas Booth, Olivia Cooke, Sam Reid; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: December 26, 2017
The Sword of Doom
Japan, the 1860s. The feudal samurai system is in meltdown, especially for Ryanosuke (Yojimbo’s Tatsuya Nakadai), a psychotic ronin who kills sometimes for money but mostly for pleasure. Shooting in lustrous widescreen black and white, Kihachi Okamoto stages multiple combat scenes with intense precision.
The plot often turns obscure, but Nakadai’s wild-eyed turn compels our attention. Old sparring partner Toshirô Mifune shows up to represent the classic samurai tradition.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Essay
Director: Kihachi Okamoto; Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiyo Aratama, Yûzô Kayama; DVD, BD release: December 4, 2017
Despite being a weird mix of goofy comedy and psychological horror, this ’80s B-movie from director-producer team Steve Miner and Sean S. Cunningham (1980’s Friday the 13th) is more entertaining than it really has any right to be.
Already beset by divorce, his son’s disappearance and Vietnam flashbacks, a writer (William Katt) moves into a haunted house… where he faces farcical frights, a fat rubber demon and the dry wit of Cheers regular George Wendt as his helpful neighbour. A fun, chaotic shambles.
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Featurettes, Stills gallery
Director: Steve Miner; Starring: William Katt, Kay Lenz, George Wendt; DVD, BD release: December 11, 2017