Out on 19 September and 26 September
Pedro Almodóvar brings nuns, burning beds and Banderas. Punk rockers face off against neo-Nazis.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of The Nice Guys, The Almodovar Collection, Midnight Special, Everybody Wants Some!!, Dead-End Drive-In, Sing Street, The Commitments: 25th Anniversary Edition, Green Room, Bad Neighbours 2, Embrace of the Serpent, Grace of My Heart, and Tale of Tales.
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The Nice Guys
Released at the start of June, Shane Black’s third film as writer/director ushered in the summer season. A sleazy-sweet, flippantly violent and smart-mouthed mystery-thriller featuring two dishevelled gumshoes trying to track down a missing porn star, it’s not, by today’s tastes, what we consider a typical blockbuster.
These ‘nice’ guys have no special powers bar an unerring ability to fire off killer quips along with their automatics. Instead, it’s a glorious return to the kind of ’80s tentpole cinema that Black’s pyrotechnic screenplay for Lethal Weapon helped to define – shootouts, explosions and buddy banter.
Perhaps there’s a lesson in the fact The Nice Guys proved markedly superior to all of the summer fare that followed, making the likes of Independence Day: Resurgence, Suicide Squad and even Jason Bourne appear feeble by comparison. Or perhaps not: Black’s movie isn’t overly concerned with offering counsel or making points; it’s too busy snapping bones, ricocheting bon mots and showing us Ryan Gosling trying to simultaneously clutch his gun, close the stall door with his foot and cover his genitals while sitting on the toilet.
Set in 1977, which allows for garish costumes, winningly eyesore production design and a killer-if-familiar soundtrack (‘Boogie Wonderland’, ‘Get Down On It’, ‘Escape (The Piña Colada Song)’), The Nice Guys casts Gosling as Holland March, a single dad who scrapes a living as a rubbish PI, and Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy, a thug-for-hire who nominally works on the right side of the law.
March is hired by an old lady to track down her adult-actress niece – odd, given she’s known to have perished in a car crash – and Healy is subsequently hired to put an end to March’s snooping by a woman still involved in porno. He does so by turning up at March’s house and breaking his wrist. Then, naturally, the slovenly detectives decide to work the case together, and it soon becomes clear they’re clutching the tail of a snaking conspiracy: the now-also-missing porn connection is the daughter of a Department of Justice bigwig (played by Kim Basinger)…
Black, of course, has done this kind of thing before: directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and numerous screenplay gigs (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight) all see mismatched buddies solving mysteries in honourably trashy, savvy movies that are all pop and pep. Immersed in the tropes and traditions of noir – LA noir, especially – Black can always be counted on to give the formula a postmodern twist, adding knowing laughs to the cynicism-camouflaging-sentiment core that has grounded the genre since Chandler and Hammett were scribbling in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.
Film literate, The Nice Guys tips its fedora to Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, Polanski’s Chinatown and Curtis Hanson’s ace adaptation of James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential (which also, lest we forget, stars Crowe and Basinger). But whereas those movies, like most hardboiled tales, are soaked in paranoia, melancholy and loss, The Nice Guys takes its cue from the Coens’ The Big Lebowski in making thigh-slapping entertainment the main aim.
Here, both guys having lost their wives works principally as an excuse to free them up for developing their bromance, while March’s 13-year-old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice), like every kid in a Shane Black movie (Iron Man 3 included), is a sassy delight.
Sharp as the script is, as it hotfoots from crime scenes to shootouts to debauched parties, The Nice Guys wouldn’t work nearly as well without Gosling and Crowe’s chemistry. Both utilise their star baggage, with Gosling undercutting his signature swagger with ineptitude and a medley of emasculating yelps (dogs everywhere will bolt upright at the noise he emits when Healy snaps March’s wrist), and Crowe, a matinee idol in Gladiator, gladly lets that heroic purpose and those muscles hang loose – shop-worn, gone to seed, there’s a hint of Touch of Evil’s Hank Quinlan to his bloat and gloat. (The casual physical scuffles that Healy gets embroiled in also, perhaps, play on Crowe’s real-life run-ins over the years.)
Unlike so many of today’s effects-driven summer movies, The Nice Guys puts script and characters front and centre, and it’s a delight to see a localised plot whereby the future of all humanity doesn’t hang in the balance. Now, too often, everything is supersized and maxed-out, with global smackdowns leaving little time for the kind of zoomed-in details that, say, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Back to the Future and Die Hard were built on.
Sadly, however, such care and focus don’t extend to the bonus material, which only consists of a couple of half-hearted featurettes and a cast interviews reel. Whoever was put on the case clearly fell asleep just minutes into their stakeout.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Interviews
Director: Shane Black; Starring: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: September 26, 2016
The Almodóvar Collection
Pedro Almodóvar remains one of the few foreign-language directors whose every film is an event. With his latest, Julieta, in cinemas, these six films (from 1983 to 1995) provide the ideal refresher by charting the Spanish filmmaker’s journey from enfant terrible to arthouse heavyweight.
Dark Habits (1983) is typical of Almodóvar’s early, funny work. A fugitive takes refuge in a convent, only to discover the nuns take drugs to better understand the sinners they look after. What still impresses is how quickly Almodóvar established his flair for music, décor and assembling an enviable ensemble of brilliant actresses.
What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984) shakes neo-realist clichés of working class life into a tasty, if uneven, cocktail of murder, telekinesis and a plot to forge Hitler’s memoirs.
In Law of Desire (1987,), the Spaniard branches out with a homoerotic thriller about a film director’s affair with a fan (breakout star Antonio Banderas). Plotted with coiled precision, it’s an unabashedly gay subversion of Hitchcock. All Almodóvar films teem with subplots and Law of Desire features a sublime turn from the director’s muse, Carmen Maura, as a transgender woman.
The next year, Maura played ringleader of the Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) – Almodóvar’s crossover hit and still his definitive work. A farce that makes an art form out of coincidence, its escalating twists are fuelled by caffeinated camerawork and hyperreal design. Through it all, the bed-burning, soup-spiking Maura (aided by a hilarious Banderas) suggests being crazy is the only sane response to life.
The catch: what happens when an agent provocateur goes legit? Kika (1993) sees Almodóvar in a creative impasse, trying to recreate his early shock value to diminishing returns. The film is notorious for a glib, extended comic rape sequence, but worse is how clumsily it’s integrated into the film’s second-hand murder melodrama and tabloid TV satire.
Almodóvar recognised the problem. The Flower of My Secret (1995) is a tender portrait of growing up and moving on. Just as Marisa Paredes’ writer no longer wants to pen romantic potboilers, Almodovar gets serious, downplaying his style to reveal the sincere emotion that had been hidden beneath the excess. It marked a new start in his career (literally: the film foreshadows plot elements of future classics All About My Mother and Volver) and he’s not looked back since.
All films are accompanied by fresh cast/ crew interviews and intros by critic José Arroyo.
EXTRAS: Interviews, Introductions
Director: Pedro Almodóvar; Starring: Various; DVD, BD release: September 19, 2016
Grass withers. Walls crack. Doors lock. Lightbulbs explode. Satellites even fall from the sky. When eight-year-old Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) is around, weird things happen – and keep on happening – in this splendid sci-fi from Jeff Nichols. Kitted out in blue swimming goggles and orange earmuffs and – oh yes – able to emit powerful beams of light from his eyes, Alton is no everyday kid.
Moody, mysterious and steeped in wonder, Nichols’ fourth film could exist in the same ‘unexplained’ universe as his second, the sublime Take Shelter. That both films star Michael Shannon can’t be a coincidence; the actor is Nichols’ lucky totem, though in Midnight Special, he’s a blue-collar witness to the extraordinary, rather than perpetrator of all things strange.
Shannon plays Roy, biological dad to Alton. Aided by Roy’s old pal Lucas (Joel Edgerton), father and son are on the run, in flight from a Texas church headed by Alton’s adoptive parent Pastor Calvin (Sam Shepard). It swiftly becomes apparent that everyone wants a piece of this boy – including the FBI and NSA agent Sevier (Adam Driver).
Roy and Lucas don’t exactly know what they’re doing; simply that they must protect Alton as they head for his mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst). Nichols keeps information to a bare minimum – that Sarah, for example, has been excommunicated from Shepard’s church isn’t made clear (Dunst only mentions it in the equally minimalist, interview-led extras).
You suspect that Nichols and his editor Julie Monroe made several passes to weed out extraneous background, leaving more questions posed than answered. Yet it suits the atmosphere of this quasi-religious tale – a film about faith that nods to everything from John Carpenter’s Starman to classic Superman comics.
Clicking along to David Wingo’s nervy score, Midnight Special emerges as another tale of the unassailable bond between parents and children – as seen in Nichols’ debut Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter and, to a lesser extent, Mud. For all its visual trickery – particularly in the final scene – it’s the emotional connection between Sarah, Roy and their ‘special’ son that really gets you. Awash with beautiful nightscape shots, it’s one of the most intriguing sci-fi flicks to come out of Hollywood in many a moon.
EXTRAS: Interviews (BD)
Director: Jeff Nichols; Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: August 8, 2016
The Commitments: 25th Anniversary Edition
Breaking down into roughly two types of scene – a) characters singing and b) characters arguing - Alan Parker’s take on the first novel in Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown trilogy ranks as one of the best movies ever made about being in a band. There’s no ‘battle of the bands’ cliché here, just a disparate group of working-class Dubliners, brought together by Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) to form the eponymous soul outfit.
Set around the Irish capital’s council estates, with their burnt-out cars and tethered horses, the film’s pleasure lies in these reprobates pinging salty dialogue as the 10-strong band come together, rehearse and gig. Flush with great one-liners (“I’m blind without my glasses,” says Michael Aherne’s pianist. “So was Ray Charles,” comes the reply), its naturalistic performances slide down easy alongside the band’s increasing musical prowess.
Some will baulk at the sexist banter – though the women (notably Bronagh Gallagher as Bernie) more than match their male counterparts. In the end, it’s all about the music, with a soundtrack of soul numbers staggeringly belted out by the then 17-year-old Andrew Strong (as Deco). By the time we get to ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ – its most triumphant version this side of Otis Redding – your fingers will be sore from all the snapping
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes, Stills
Director: Alan Parker; Starring: Robert Arkins, Michael Aherne, Angeline Ball; DVD, BD, release: September 19, 2016
This should really come slapped with an earworm warning. Once watched, its catchy tunes will be pogoing around your head for days. But the memorable ditties aren’t the only thing that’ll linger; John Carney’s affectionate but not idealised portrait of ’80s Dublin provides the backdrop for a couple of teenage dreamers you’ll really root for.
Following Once and Begin Again, Carney perfects the bittersweet musical format that’s become his trademark. Financial woes force Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) from a private school to a far harsher institute, and when aspiring model Raphina (Lucy Boynton) catches his eye, he seeks her attention by forming a band. Jack Reynor is terrific as Conor’s older brother not wanting his sibling to replicate his mistakes.
There’s no filler in the toe-tapping repertoire, influenced by Conor’s ever-evolving tastes, the highlight being centrepiece ‘Drive It Like You Stole It’ and the Back to the Future-inspired ’50s Americana dream sequence that accompanies it. It’s a shame the scant extras don’t explore the casting or song-writing process.
The band might progress from living-room rehearsers to potential chart-toppers too swiftly for some, and the age difference between Boynton and Walsh-Peelo can sit awkwardly, but when the end result is this infectiously poppy, who’s going to gripe? Sing Street is a heart-soaring anthem to first love, brotherhood and the unifying power of music
EXTRAS: Featurette, Music video, Music performance
Director: John Carney; Starring: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: August 8, 2016
Everybody Wants Some!!
Pitched as the “spiritual successor” to ’93 high-school classic Dazed and Confused, this footloose coming-of-ager sees writer/director Richard Linklater mine his college baseball days for comic material. Set in 1980 across a single hedonistic weekend, its largely untested ensemble shines as competitive jocks whose womanising is endearingly undercut by Linklater’s trademark philosophising.
Backed by a great soundtrack (flipping between disco, hip-hop, punk and country), the team lurches between parties, sublime ’taches in tow, with hilarious but heartfelt results.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Interviews, Deleted scenes
Director: Richard Linklater; Starring: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Ryan Guzman; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: September 20, 2016
Saulnier’s follow-up to noir-ish revenge thriller Blue Ruin amps up the intensity with this savage tale of a punk band cornered in a remote Pacific Northwest bar, fighting for their lives against a group of murderous neo-Nazis.
The late Anton Yelchin is superb as The Ain’t Rights’ bassist, though Patrick Stewart steals it as Darcy, the ruthless bar owner with an empire to lose. Full of gory jump-out-your-seat moments, the result is a hardcore thriller that never compromises. The Making Of lasts all of 10 minutes, but Saulnier provides a full feature commentary.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Making Of
Director: Jeremy Saulnier; Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Patrick Stewart; DVD, BD release: September 19, 2016
One of the last major WTF?-fests of the Ozploitation era, Brian Trenchard Smith’s part smash-’em-up, part satire isn’t quite the classic that Tarantino would have us believe. Set in a dystopian future of tinny synth music and fetid Fanta-coloured skies, it strands two young lovers in a detention camp/drive-in watching Smith’s (better) Turkey Shoot.
It’s a battle royale between enthralling set design, insane stuntwork and appalling acting. Eccentric extras include Smith’s gonzo TV doc The Stuntmen.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Documentary, Short, Behind-the-scenes gallery
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith; Starring: Ned Manning, Natalie McCurry, Peter Whitford; BD release: September 19, 2016
Bad Neighbours 2
The Radners (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne) endure new depths of disturbance (including used tampons flung at their windows) when Chloë Grace Moretz’s sorority moves in next door, but retaliate with the help of former noisy neighbour, Teddy (Zac Efron).
There’s a whiff of rehashed gags, but the feminist twist – fratboy antics are repeatedly called out – brings zest. Worth seeing, especially for Moretz finally finding form after some ‘meh’ performances
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted scenes, Gag reel
Director: Nicholas Stoller; Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: September 12, 2016
Embrace of the Serpent
Set in 1909 and 1940, this rhapsodic adventure, shot in black and white, cuts between two Amazon expeditions searching for a rare healing flower. Indigenous shaman Karamakate (Nilbio Torres) acts as guide on both occasions, first to a German scientist (Jan Bijvoet) and then to an American botanist (Brionne Davis).
An Oscar-nominated Colombian arthouse movie that grips like a thriller, it draws on The Mission, Apocalypse Now and Herzog’s crazed explorations to savagely critique colonialism. Riveting.
EXTRAS: Making Of, Interviews
Director: Ciro Guerra; Starring: Nilbio Torres, Jan Bijvoet, Antonio Bolivar; DVD, BD, VOD release: September 12, 2016
Grace of My Heart
Well received on release, but oddly neglected since, Allison Anders’ tearjerker could be the most underrated music movie ever made. Exec-produced by Martin Scorsese, it’s a look at the life of a Carole King-style singersongwriter (Illeana Douglas in one of her finest roles).
Smart, funny and good-looking, it features pitch-perfect song pastiches from the estimable likes of Joni Mitchell, Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello. The centrepiece, a quietly furious rendition of the latter’s ‘God Give Me Strength’, will raise the hairs clean off your neck.
Director: Allison Anders; Starring: Illeana Douglas, John Turturro, Sissy Boyd; DVD release: August 15, 2016
Tale of Tales
Any film in which Salma Hayek eats the heart of a sea monster, Toby Jones falls in love with an engorged flea and Shirley Henderson plays a crone who willingly gets flayed alive, is clearly ploughing its own idiosyncratic furrow.
What truly impresses in this English-language debut from Italy’s Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah, Reality), though, is how seamlessly these baroque tales – taken from Giambattista Basile’s Pentamerone – connect the nightmarishly fantastical with characters united by their desire to attain the unattainable.
EXTRAS: Making Of (BD), Interviews
Director: Matteo Garrone; Starring: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: August 8, 2016