Out on August 7 and August 14
ScarJo embodies an anime icon. Brie Larson enters a chaotic gun deal. Josh Helmantakes on Lenny ‘The Guv’nor’ McLean.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Ghost in the Shell, Free Fire, The Handmaiden, My Name is Lenny, John Wick: Chapter 2, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Denial, The Fisher King, The Founder, Mandy, and The Mummy Trilogy.
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Ghost in the Shell
Manga goes to Hollywood in an eye-popping sci-fi that aims to re-tool Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 anime as a sleek action vehicle for Scarlett Johansson. Directed by Rupert Sanders with none of Snow White and the Huntsman’s kitsch, it’s a sombre, purposeful and visually stunning affair with a driven central performance supported by an impressively pan-global cast.
For all that, Ghost never escapes the charge of cultural appropriation, mostly due to a grotesquely misconceived third-act reveal that comes across as both racially insensitive and crass.
In a futuristic megalopolis known as New Port City, Major Mira Killian (Johansson) is a new breed of cop – a cyber-enhanced humanoid uniquely qualified to thwart a mysterious terrorist hacker (Michael Pitt) with the ability to mind-control his targets.
The closer Major gets to her quarry, however, the more she suspects the omnipotent Hanka corporation for which she toils is a far more serious threat – though it takes an awful lot of face-punching, window-smashing and leaping from impossibly tall buildings for her to latch onto what anyone who’s seen The Matrix would have realised inside five minutes.
Sanders serves up some stylish mayhem, while ScarJo once again shows her aptitude for ballsy kickass heroine-ism. None of this, alas, makes GITS more than a hollow copy of a far superior original.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Interview
Director: Rupert Sanders; Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano; DVD, BD, 4K release: August 7, 2017
“Fuck the small talk. Let’s buy some guns, eh?” Well, quite. Ben Wheatley’s sixth feature strips away the arthouse veneer of High-Rise and Kill List for something lean and mean that pops right off the screen.
It’s arguably his most entertaining yet: the single warehouse location echoes with artillery fire and cherry-bomb dialogue, while the ’70s-togs-donning cast (Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson) practically whoop with glee as they’re mashed through the meat grinder. Tarantino-lite it may be, but when has anybody else got this close?
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurette, Interviews
Director: Ben Wheatley; Starring: Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy; DVD, BD release: August 7, 2017
Park Chan-wook’s exquisite, erotic thriller binds its writhing bodies with intricate plotting, as pickpocket Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) poses as a servant to tease Hideko (Kim Min-hee), the niece of a wealthy book dealer, into eloping with a fake count (Ha Jung-woo).
Based on Sarah Waters’ Victorian-set novel Fingersmith, it moves the head-spinning action to Japanese-ruled Korea in the ’30s, equating porn and sexual dominance with colonial subjugation. It’s slippery, sensual and electrifying.
EXTRAS: Making Of, Interviews, Extended cu, Featurette (BD Special Edition)
Director: Park Chan-wook; Starring: Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-woong Jo; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: August 7, 2017
My Name is Lenny
Boxer, singer, actor, criminal, author, bouncer, weightlifter, bodyguard and all-round Cockney legend, Lenny ‘The Guv’nor’ McLean led many different lives until his death in 1998, all of them ripe for a biopic. Thankfully, director Ron Scalpello ignores most of them and plumps for a tightly focused origin story instead, charting Lenny’s scrappy rise from untrained street fighter to sort-of-trained unlicensed boxing champ in the mid-’70s.
There’s no Kray twins, no tabloid stories, and none of the geezer-glamour that made his salacious autobiography a bestseller here – just two blokes knocking each other’s teeth out in a pub basement. That, and a very distracting central performance.
Played with gusto by Josh Helman (’s Colonel William Stryker), ‘Britain’s hardest man’ is all mad eyes and exaggerated grins – upending the film with a caricature that desperately wants to be Tom Hardy’s Bronson, but pays off more like Jared Leto’s Joker auditioning for EastEnders.
It’s a shame really, because the film takes plenty of time between breaking faces to give Lenny a psychology worth exploring, not to mention drawing decent performances out of co-stars including Chanel Cresswell (), Rita Tushingham and John Hurt in his last on-screen role. There’s a good, grubby boxing film in here somewhere, but you won’t find it behind all the gurning.
EXTRAS: Making Of
Director: Ron Scalpello; Starring: Josh Helman, Michael Bisping, Chanel Cresswell; DVD, BD, VOD release: June 12, 2017
John Wick: Chapter 2
Keanu Reeves reprises his role as the eponymous assassin in director Chad Stahelski’s follow-up to his 2014 retro-action hit. This time around, Wick is sucked back into the criminal underworld to repay a debt, only to find himself the mark of a worldwide contract.
The plot is shoot- by-numbers and performances are wafer thin, but with the mythology of this universe expanded and gun-fu-tastic battles abounding, there is much to enjoy.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes, Short, Deleted scenes
Director: Chad Stahelski; Starring: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane; DVD, BD, 4K UHD, Digital HD release: June 12, 2017
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
In 1970, Dario Argento made his directorial debut with this classic giallo film, centring on an American author (Tony Musante) who becomes obsessed with tracking down a serial killer in Rome.
An uncredited adaptation of Fredric Brown’s novel The Screaming Mimi, it bears all the trademarks that would establish Argento as a major voice in horror: neo-gothic aesthetic, lurid colours and a pre-occupation with sexual violence. Extras include new interviews, a visual essay and in-depth analysis by genre experts.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Essays, Interviews, Lobby cards, Poster, Booklet
Director: Dario Argento; Starring: Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno; Dual format release: June 19, 2017
Rachel Weisz is full of banked fire as Deborah Lipstadt, the beleaguered academic forced to prove in a London courtroom in 2000 that the Holocaust did occur. Despite its TV-movie feel, and lack of dramatic highpoints, this thoughtful true-life legal drama’s passionate arguments about historical truth are engrossing.
Director Mick Jackson lays out a fine performance-fest as Tom Wilkinson’s brilliant QC battles Timothy Spall’s cocksure author David Irving, over which version of wartime history should prevail.
Director: Mick Jackson; Starring: Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: June 5, 2017
The Fisher King
Terry Gilliam’s high-octane imagination often threatens to melt down right off the screen, and it more than once comes close to that in The Fisher King – a gloriously baroque mash-up of Arthurian myth, New York squalor, alcoholism, romantic obsession and Robin Williams cavorting around Central Park stark bollock-naked. Not to mention a flashback to a mass shooting that even now carries a charge of chilling anguish.
Williams plays a deranged former history prof whose wife died in said bloodbath. He’s now a motormouth bum on the streets of Manhattan. Jeff Bridges is a guilt-ridden former shock-jock whose taunting of a phoner-in sparked the killing. Williams, tormented by a vision of a monstrous Red Knight whose helmet spouts flame, latches on to Bridges, telling him he must retrieve the Holy Grail (shades of Python) immured in a billionaire’s castle-like mansion on Fifth Avenue.
The plot sprawls in multiple directions, and scenes (and monologues) go on way too long. But it’s redeemed by some inspired design (not least that nightmare-apparition Red Knight), by Mercedes Ruehl’s Oscar-winning performance as Bridges’ long-suffering girlfriend, and by the fevered exhilaration of Gilliam’s vision. Plus, a sweet moment of sheer lyrical magic when all the bustling commuters in Grand Central Station suddenly break off to waltz together.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes, Interview, Deleted scenes, Costume tests
Director: Terry Gilliam; Starring: Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Adam Bryant; BD release: June 19, 2017
Michael Keaton oozes sleaze as Ray Kroc, a real-life travelling salesman who discovers a little-known burger joint named McDonald’s and ruthlessly expands it, trampling all-comers in the process.
What should’ve been a cautionary tale of capitalist conquest at great moral cost is tonally uneven, with director John Lee Hancock () never entirely sure if Kroc is an all-American hero or an egocentric villain. The result lacks bite and leaves an iffy taste in the mouth. Extras are low-cal filler.
Director: John Lee Hancock; Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: June 12, 2017
The only non-comedy directed by Alexander Mackendrick in his time at Ealing Studios gets a restoration for its 65th anniversary. Mackendrick’s affecting family melodrama follows the efforts of its title character (impressive newcomer Mandy Miller), a congenitally deaf young girl in post-WW2 Britain, to learn to speak.
Her parents (Phyllis Calvert, Terence Morgan), meanwhile, disagree on how she should be educated. Avoiding sentimentality, Mandy skilfully combines realism and expressionism, and is surprisingly critical of the attitudes displayed by many of its adult characters. Unexceptional extras.
EXTRAS: Interview, Featurette, Gallery
Director: Alexander Mackendrick; Starring: Phyllis Calvert, Jack Hawkins, Terence Morgan; DVD, BD release: June 12, 2017
The Mummy Trilogy
It’s a textbook example in the economy of diminishing returns. This trio of Indiana Jones wannabes starts with a bright spring in its step, develops a worrying limp around episode two, before coming to a stumbling, leaden-footed climax in round three.
You may want to stop at the first then, before the Mummy (Arnold Vosloo) gets sidelined in favour of the genre specific star power of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Jet Li. With Maria Bello taking over from Rachel Weisz in the third, Brendan Fraser is the sole constant as tireless adventurer Rick O’Connell.
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Deleted scenes, Featurettes, Making Ofs, Outtakes, Interviews
Directors: Stephen Sommers (1,2), Rob Cohen (3); Starring: Brendan Fraser (1,2,3), Rachel Weisz (1,2), John Hannah (1,2,3), Jet Li (3); BD, 4K UHD release: June 12, 2017