Movies to watch on Blu-Ray and DVD: Silence, A Monster Calls, and more

Out on May 1 and May 8

Martin Scorsese's passion project. James Franco meets the parents. A poem from Jim Jarmusch. Kelly Fremon Craig’s comedy coming-of-ager.

Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of A Monster Calls, Silence, Why Him?, Passengers, Paterson, The Edge of Seventeen, A Man for All Seasons, Bleed for This, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Finding Forrester, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Excalibur.

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A Monster Calls

Rooted in reality, but bursting with dark fantasy, J.A. Bayona’s arresting coming-of-age drama, about a 12-year-old sideswiped by his single mum’s terminal cancer, is a thoughtful and questioning tearjerker. Adapted from Patrick Ness’ multi-award-winning children’s book, it layers themes of love and loss with a tweaked-for-tweens stream of Pan’s Labyrinth-style supernatural scares.

For Conor is gripped by visits from the monster, a violent, Groot-ish tree-giant with tales of bloody betrayals that weave into the boy’s own fast-changing life. Bayona is fascinating in the extras about the film’s potent mix of fear and fairytale, which was behind the casting of the imposing Sigourney Weaver as an icy, witch-like granny.

Newcomer Lewis MacDougall’s spiky, hurt-filled Conor grounds the movie in real human emotion, as he’s battered by events. But the nimble combination of Liam Neeson’s rumbling gravitas with masterly mo-cap, CGI and animatronic puppetry (all generously dissected in the Making Of) injects terror into his truth-telling giant. Like the enchanting Deathly Hallows-style watercolour animations making the monster’s stories leap to life, it adds a gorgeous gothic flavour to the piece.

Some wrenchingly sad moments make the film suitable only for tweens and up, but it’s got a lot to offer adult viewers. An unabashedly emotional piece, it tackles grief with grit and wild imagination.

EXTRAS: Featurettes, Deleted scenes, Commentary, Making Of

Director: J.A. Bayona; Starring: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: May 8, 2017

Kate Stables

Silence

A long-term passion project for Martin Scorsese, this austere art film about persecuted priests in feudal Japan evokes Bergman, Bresson and Tarkovsky. Haunting and classical, its imagery is rough-hewn, its camera movement sparing, its pace unhurried.

Yes, there’s bloodshed, but it’s mostly a film about inner violence, palpable in Andrew Garfield’s shift from dogmatic crusader into shame and self-doubt. Such thorny theology was too demanding for box offices and awards voters, but it’s an essential coda to Scorsese’s career-long contemplation of faith.

EXTRAS: Featurettes

Director: Martin Scorsese; Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: May 8, 2017

Simon Kinnear

Why Him?

Joining the introducing-your-bloke-to-your-folks sub-genre, Why Him? is a wincingly unfunny effort starring Bryan Cranston as a protective father meeting his daughter’s billionaire boyfriend (James Franco). A weekend of one-upmanship follows, as the family cosy up to the uncouth entrepreneur.

Genuine laughs are few and far between, with director John Hamburg (co-writer of Meet the Parents) piling the gross-out gags on characters who rarely behave like human beings. Even the gag reel’s only OK.

EXTRAS: Featurettes, Deleted scenes, Gag reel, Commentary

Director: John Hamburg; Starring: Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch, James Franco; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: May 1, 2017

Matt Maytum

Passengers

Roused 90 years early from hyper-sleep, intergalactic travellers Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence find themselves alone on a vast spaceship with only Michael Sheen’s robo-barman and a Computer-Says-No mainframe for company.

Before you can say “lust in space”, they’re at it like star bunnies. But despite the leads’ charisma, Morten Tyldum’s (The Imitation Game) glossy sci-fi takes ages to stir, then, once awake, doesn’t have enough narrative juice to get where it’s going.

EXTRAS: Featurettes, Deleted scenes (BD), Outtakes

Director: Morten Tyldum; Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen; DVD, BD, 3D BD, 4K release: May 8, 2017

Matt Glasby

Paterson

The concept sounds punchably smug – a week in the life of Paterson (Adam Driver), an aspiring poet who drives a bus in Paterson, New Jersey – but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Jim Jarmusch’s quietly observant drama has a hypnotic, pacifying rhythm, as Paterson goes about his daily routine, interacting mostly with his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani, charming in a potentially irritating role) and bulldog Marvin (Nellie, an absolute scenestealer). Plot is sparse but it’s no less compelling for that.

EXTRAS: Q&A, Trailers

Director: Jim Jarmusch; Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: March 27, 2017

Matt Maytum

The Edge of Seventeen

Writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig makes a strong play for John Hughes’ teencom crown with this whip-smart, disarmingly charming high-school coming-of-ager. Hailee Steinfeld is pitch-perfect as angsty outsider Nadine, whose life goes from bad to unbearable when her life-long BFF starts dating her obnoxious jock brother.

Strong supporting turns from a never-more-wry Woody Harrelson and adorably awkward newcomer Hayden Szeto bolster a script so honest, insightful and funny you’ll swear it’s torn from your own teenage years.

EXTRAS: Deleted scenes, Gag reel

Director: Kelly Fremon Craig; Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Haley Lu Richardson; DVD, Digital release: March 27, 2017

Jordan Farley

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Deflecting the curses of prequels and extended franchises with charm, J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world re-entry is a brisk winner. A Potter play and five promised Beasts films might seem like more magic than even hardcore Potter-heads can handle, yet Rowling, director David Yates and their cast make deft work of this saga-starter.

Eddie Redmayne portrays a diffident Newt Scamander, the Brit magizoologist meeting no-maj/magic conflicts in jazz-age Manhattan, while Rowling threads in timely themes of prejudice and division: Samantha Morton’s Mary Lou hates witches, Colin Farrell’s shifty Graves wants powerful creatures recruited, Scamander wants them rescued. But the jury’s still out on the star cameo unveiling of a villain.

As Yates’ camera fluently navigates character POVs, he’s well-matched by nimble co-leads. As wizard catcher Tina, Katherine Waterston layers professionalism and endearing anxiety. Dan Fogler’s Kowalski, meanwhile, offers affecting comic counter-balance to Newt’s spectacular critters.

Nestled among well-stuffed disc extras, Fogler’s deleted scenes merit attention, as does Mary Lou’s history, detailed by Rowling in illuminating character breakdowns. Beasts has more ideas than plot finesse, but it leaves us wanting more from that magical suitcase.

EXTRAS: Featurettes, Interviews, Deleted scenes

Director: David Yates; Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol; DVD, BD, 3D, Digital HD release: March 27, 2017

Kevin Harley

A Man for All Seasons

Post-Wolf Hall, we may see Thomas More as a touch less saintly – but Paul Scofield’s witty, humane performance is enough to reconvert the sceptics. As the statesman whose religious conscience led him to the executioner’s block, Scofield dominates – but there’s fine support from Robert Shaw’s Henry VIII, Leo McKern’s Cromwell, Orson Welles’ Wolsey, John Hurt and a host more.

Robert Bolt skilfully adapts his own eloquent play, while Fred Zinnemann contributes classic direction.

EXTRAS: Interview, Commentary, Video essay, Booklet

Director: Fred Zinnemann; Starring: Paul Scofield, Wendy Hiller, Leo McKern, Orson Welles; Dual format release: March 27, 2017

Philip Kemp

Bleed for This

This boxing biopic earns its shot at the title thanks to the real-life twist of ’80s middleweight champ Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller) overcoming a broken neck to mount an unlikely comeback. It’s a solid, staunchly old-school affair that detours into stranger-than-fiction territory as ‘Paz’ hits the gym while locked into a cumbersome head brace.

Borrowing from The Fighter in his mix of irony and inspiration, director Ben Younger (Boiler Room) is content to spar nimbly with genre clichés rather than go for the KO.

EXTRAS: Featurettes, Deleted scenes

Director: Ben Younger; Starring: Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: March 27, 2017

Simon Kinnear

Finding Forrester

Dismissed on release as a Good Will Hunting wannabe, Gus Van Sant’s tale of a basketball-playing prodigy (Rob Brown) taken under the wing of a reclusive, Salinger-ish novelist (Sean Connery) takes on a new light with the knowledge that both the director and his star intended the character to be gay.

Though Connery is still great value in the curmudgeonly mentor role, one can’t help feeling robbed of a more intriguing, and daring, take on the central, Educating Rita-mirroring relationship

EXTRAS: Featurettes, Deleted scenes

Director: Gus Van Sant; Starring: Sean Connery, Rob Brown, F. Murray Abraham; Dual format release: March 27, 2017

Neil Smith

The Adventures of Robin Hood

What do you think of when you hear the name Robin Hood? If the answer is Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe or a cartoon fox, you’re wrong. Considered an upstart at the time for daring to step into Douglas Fairbanks’ fabled tights, Errol Flynn became the definitive Hood when he took the lead in Warner Bros’ extravagant Technicolor blockbuster.

Still brimming with buckled swash and looking even greener in Blu, it’s old-fashioned, candle-chopping, chandelier-swinging adventure at its very best.

EXTRAS: Commentary, Newsreel, Shorts, Cartoons, Documentaries, Outtakes

Directors: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley; Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains; Dual format, Digital release: February 27, 2017

Paul Bradshaw

Excalibur

Infused with the same Jungian myth-making that powers films from Apocalypse Now to The Empire Strikes Back, John Boorman’s epic take on the Arthurian legend is something of a curate’s egg (or curate’s Grail), by turns shimmering, confused and downright silly. And the tin-ear dialogue clanks like the real metal armour the cast heroically don.

The visuals are the main draw, though Nicol Williamson – playing Merlin as a mercurial and wily puppet-master – all but runs away with the picture.

EXTRAS: Commentary

Director: John Boorman; Starring: Nigel Terry,Helen Mirren, Nicholas Clay; Dual format, DVD release: March 13, 2017

Ali Catterall