Out on 17 October and 24 October
A Bob Dylan classic. A Japanese exploitation box-set. Alex Cox’s punk saga.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Don’t Look Back, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case, Viral, Remainder, The Angry Birds Movie, Female Prisoner Scorpion: The Complete Collection, Sid & Nancy, What Happened Miss Simone?, The Gingerbread Man, Hangmen Also Die!, and Identicals.
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Don't Look Back
Don’t Look Back: that’s the film in which a serial-killing dwarf goes on the rampage, isn’t it? Well, no, that’s Don’t Look Now. But there are similarities… In 1965 Bob Dylan went on a solo tour of England. Poised between his folkie image and a new electric incarnation, it would be the last time he’d play a fully acoustic set. Armed with a mobile 16mm camera, filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker tagged along to capture the media circus.
There’s no getting around this: Dont Look Back is often a very hateful watch. Through 96 restless minutes we’re treated to the ‘authentic’ (albeit artfully contrived) spectacle of this fêted and paranoid young gunslinger swatting away or mowing down all-comers: befuddled reporters, students and, in one particularly upsetting sequence, up-and-coming singer Donovan. It’s like watching a newborn lamb being ripped to bits by a leering werewolf.
And yet… Dont Look Back truly matters. Simultaneously fixing and deconstructing an icon, its approach carved a template for pretty much every subsequent rockumentary, while “anticipating the explosion of interest in celebrity lives” as Keith Beattie’s insightful new BFI Classics book argues.
Criterion’s 4K release has extras galore, including new documentaries and stacks of Pennebaker interviews. The only truly disposable extra is a chat with Dylan himself that gives little away. Well, as he cautions in the film’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, “don’t follow leaders”…
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Documentaries, Audio tracks, Outtakes
Director: D.A. Pennebaker; Starring: Bob Dylan, Albert Grossman, Bob Neuwirth; BD release: October 17, 2016
The Man Who Fell to Earth
David Bowie plays the ultimate fish out of water in Nicolas Roeg’s dazzling space oddity, given a spruced-up 4K restoration for its 40th anniversary. The late icon utterly convinces in his first leading role as the lonely starman who comes to Earth looking for water to ferry back to his drought-ridden planet, but is distracted by love and thwarted by corruption, booze and big business.
Extras include interviews with director and writer, and the story behind its near-mythical ‘Lost Soundtrack’.
EXTRAS: Interviews, Featurettes
Director: Nicolas Roeg; Starring: David Bowie; DVD, BD, Digial HD release: October 24, 2016
Having suffered an accident, an amnesiac (Tom Sturridge) uses his compensation to reconstruct fleeting memories, an endeavour that grows increasingly elaborate…
The most obvious comparison is Synecdoche, New York, but Remainder (adapted from Tom McCarthy’s 2005 novel, which pre-dates Charlie Kaufman’s movie) has a strange, alienating tone – one which builds as the young man becomes more estranged from reality, growing into a cold, heartless obsessive. More intriguing than engrossing.
EXTRAS: Making Of
Director: Omer Fest; Starring: Tom Sturridge, Cush Jumbo, Ed Speleers; DVD, BD release: October 24, 2016
The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case
This second reimagining of cases by real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) lacks its predecessor’s hard-earned naturalism. This time, the duo visit England, where Enfield schoolgirl Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe) is going full Exorcist.
If the retro production design still expertly evokes the chilling sight of 1970s chintz, director James Wan is less sure-footed this time. A pretty simple scare-story ends up caught between half-hearted thematic ambition (is the possession hoax or horror?) and franchise bloat.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Deleted scenes
Director: James Wan; Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: October 17, 2016
After disposable tech thriller Nerve, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) embrace more visceral material in their solid second film of 2016. Squidgy parasites and sisterly love mix in a Cronenberg-does-Frozen set-up, in which Sofia Black-D’Elia sticks by parasite-infected sister Analeigh Tipton in a tense contagion-control set-up.
The plot’s rushed but Joost/Schulman invest conviction in direct-to-VOD horror fare. The gross effects make the most of a tapeworm-thin budget, while Tipton and Black-D’Elia’s chemistry ensures the feelings at stake worm their way under your skin
Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman; Starring: Sofia Black-D'Elia, Analeigh Tipton, Travis Tope; DVD, BD, VOD release: October 17, 2016
The Angry Birds Movie
Any doubts about a throw-and-smash app being strung out into a movie are founded in this uneven story with otherwise fun characters. Jason Sudeikis voices Red, the original angry bird sent to anger management classes where he meets Josh Gad’s Chuck (yellow, fast) and Danny McBride’s Bomb (black, explodey).
It takes 30 minutes for their piggy adversaries to arrive and even longer for things to catapult toward the predictable climax. Non-app fans will want to rage-quit at the midpoint.
EXTRAS: Shorts, Deleted scenes, Featurettes
Directors: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly; Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: October 17, 2016
Female Prisoner Scorpion: The Complete Collection
While America and Europe were trying to corner the markets in sexploitation, slasher and rape/revenge flicks in the early ’70s, Japan’s Toei Company was quietly dominating them all with its Female Prisoner Scorpion series. Four films, two directors, one star (Meiko Kaji) and every shade between arthouse melodrama and psychedelic horror.
The result is a grindhouse genre to which Kill Bill owes a great deal. It comes restored with new interviews, featurettes and a “filmed appreciation” from Gareth Evans.
EXTRAS: Interviews, Featurettes, Poster, Booklet
Director: Various; Starring: Various; Dual format release: August 8, 2016
Sid & Nancy
Alex Cox’s blistering take on the relationship between Sex Pistol Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman) and Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb) deserves its place in the hypothetical rock-movie hall of fame – but it’s no museum piece. Made within a decade of the actual events, Cox delivers an unsanitised vision of Sid’s adrenalised highs and nihilistic lows that’s lost none of its counter-cultural bravado.
Funny, romantic and bleakly tragic, its myth-making is underscored by two rising stars: the phenomenal, chameleonic Oldman and ace cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose camerawork defines the film’s tumbling momentum
Director: Alex Cox; Starring: Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, David Hayman; DVD, BD release: August 29, 2016
What Happened, Miss Simone?
This docu-survey of singer Nina Simone’s life and career is comprehensive, classy and compelling. Gifted with reams of interviews, diaries and archive footage, director Liz Garbus paints a layered portrait of a woman whose fiery spirit was bowed, but not cowed, by the mental illness and spousal abuse she endured.
It’s at its best when charting her civil rights activism, illustrated most potently by an electric performance of 1964’s ‘Mississippi Goddam’. With so much to cram in, you wonder why they didn’t go down the docu-series route.
Director: Liz Garbus; Starring: James Baldwin, Stokely Carmichael, Walter Cronkite; DVD, BD, VOD release: September 2, 2016
The Gingerbread Man
The offbeat quirkiness of maverick Robert Altman might seem an odd match for the tight plotting of thriller maestro John Grisham. But the two mesh together here tolerably well, at least until a contrived denouement. Kenneth Branagh, Deep South accent in place, is a slick lawyer embroiled with a waitress (Embeth Davidtz) who’s being tormented by her nutcase dad (Robert Duvall, playing deranged evil with relish).
A hurricane, the Georgia swamplands, noirish photography… if you don’t demand narrative lucidity, there’s plenty to chew on.
Director: Robert Altman; Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Embeth Davidtz, Robert Downey Jr.; DVD release: August 15, 2016
Hangmen Also Die!
The assassination in Prague, in May 1942, of Nazi bigwig Reinhard Heydrich by Czech resistance fighters has attracted many filmmakers down the years (see 2016’s Anthropoid). But Fritz Lang got there first, with this passionate – if slightly softened – slice of anti-Nazi propaganda.
Bertolt Brecht lent a hand with the script and James Wong Howe contributed moody noir lighting to enhance the sense of an oppressive city. Brian Donlevy and Walter Brennan don’t quite cut it as Czechs, but Alexander Granach makes a richly sordid Gestapo cop.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Interview
Director: Fritz Lang; Starring: Brian Donlevy, Walter Brennan, Anna Lee; Dual format release: August 29, 2016
Fed up with yourself? The Brand New U corporation will give you an upgrade by finding you a richer and happier doppelgänger, then doing a bit of Total Recall memory swapping. That’s the concept of Simon Pummell’s heady British sci-fi – a film with lots of good ideas buried in lots of confusing ones.
Lachlan Nieboer (Downton Abbey) is the man trying to figure it all out when his girlfriend gets abducted, ending up stuck in a visually snazzy labyrinth of plot twists that turns a smart social satire into a slightly dreary murder mystery.
EXTRAS: Featurette, Interview
Director: Simon Pummell; Starring: Nora-Jane Noone, Nick Blood, Tony Way; DVD, VOD release: August 22, 2016