Out on 2 May and 9 May
Brie Larson is trapped but not broken. Tarantino gets cabin fever.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Room, The Hateful Eight, Deep Red, Citizen Kane 75th Anniversary Edition, In the Heart of the Sea, A War, Yakuza Apocalypse, Easy Rider, Ran, and Respectable: The Mary Millington Story.
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On one of several two-minute featurettes exploring various aspects of Room, leading lady Brie Larson recounts meeting her young co-star Jacob Tremblay for the first time. “His mum said, ‘Do you have any questions for Brie?’” she smiles. “He said, ‘I have two, actually: what’s your favourite colour, what’s your favourite animal, and do you like Star Wars?’”
Tremblay’s zestful innocence and the bond he clearly shares with Larson are palpable in the movie, in which a young woman, Ma (Larson), and her five-year-old son, Jack (Tremblay), are held captive by Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) in the titular space measuring 11ftx11ft. Adapted by Emma Donoghue from her bestseller of the same title inspired by the Fritzl case, it replaces Jack’s first-person narrative with intimate hand-held lensing to remain every bit as locked-in to the characters, equally as heartfelt, harrowing and hopeful.
Those poster quotes should have read “the most distressing feelgood movie of the year”, for Room discovers a mother’s ferocious love for her child and indomitable human spirit in the bleakest place imaginable.
Making up for the puff-piece featurettes is an exhaustive commentary by director Lenny Abrahamson, DoP Danny Cohen, editor Nathan Nugent and production designer Ethan Tobman. Strong on technique and psychology, it goes deep into such details as lighting the room for morning, afternoon, evening and night using just the skylight and three or four available sources (an electric strip light above the sink, the glow of a heater, etc.). Abrahamson nails it when he declares that the strength of Larson’s Oscar-winning turn is her unwavering ability to be “instinctive and emotionally present”.
So strong is her performance and that of her pint-sized co-star, you have to wonder why the score is laid on so thick – we’re emotionally involved quite enough already, thank you very much. But this one misstep aside, Room is terrific.
EXTRAS: Commentary > Featurettes
Director: Lenny Abrahamson; Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: May 9, 2016
THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Quentin Tarantino’s supersized return to Reservoir Dogs’ single-location, yakety-yak roots is an exercise in gleeful perversity. For starters, the maths don’t add up. Just as this is QT’s self-proclaimed “eighth film” only if you count Kill Bill (opens in new tab) as one and disregard Four Rooms, so there are more than eight “hateful” characters holed up at Minnie’s Haberdashery on a cold winter’s night.
The surprises don’t end there. Shot on 70mm with an intermission and backed by a spectacular Ennio Morricone score, this has an undeniable lustre. But it’s a grisly exploitation pic dressed up for awards season. Despite the Western trappings, it’s practically a horror movie as guts are spilt, heads are blown apart and Jennifer Jason Leigh gets so caked in blood she might be Carrie. Perhaps it’s no wonder that the Academy shunned it for big prizes even as its impressive technical credentials were nommed (and, in Morricone’s long-overdue case, actually won).
Tarantino is certainly in commanding form as he tightens and loosens the tension at will, helped by an ace cast (stand-out: the brilliant, boggle-eyed Walton Goggins). Amazingly, it’s also about something other than those well-executed shocks, being a bleak satire of America’s ongoing problem with getting along with each other. If Samuel L. Jackson’s ex-soldier is the locus for the hatred, note that he’s far from the only victim.
The entire film plays out as a (very sick) joke: a black man, a woman, a Mexican, an Englishman, an old man and others walk into a bar… this being Tarantino, don’t bet on many walking out again.
EXTRAS: Behind the scenes > Featurette
Director: Quentin Tarantino; Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Jennifer Jason Leigh; DVD, BD release: May 9, 2016
Bizarrely, its constant trumpeting as the greatest film ever made might have done Citizen Kane a disservice, with some viewers staying clear for fear of being greeted by a dusty urtext of cinematic art: good for beard-stroking, goddamn awful as entertainment.
Think again. Or rather feel, for Orson Welles’ electrifying debut (he was just 25 years old, the smug git) delivers enough tech-thrills to make James Cameron Green, its collision of wowser techniques – fake newsreel footage, flashbacks, multiple viewpoints, deep-focus photography, expressionistic angles, ceilinged sets, optical effects – lighting a fuse under the tale of an abandoned child who grows into a newspaper tycoon only to lose it all. Each of the above ‘innovations’ had actually been seen before, but wunderkind Welles smashed them all together with gobsmacking showmanship.
Sure, the themes are heavyweight, Kane swirling with meaning and mystery as it muses upon ambition, truth, identity, political corruption and the souring of the American Dream. But it’s all so much fun (yes, fun), you can’t help but have your head spun. And that’s before you consider Welles’ charismatic, poignant turn as Charles Foster Kane, from age 25 to deathbed.
This 75th anniversary edition is an import of the 70th anniversary Blu released in the US. No new extras, then, but UK debuts for the exemplary commentaries by Peter Bogdanovich and the late Roger Ebert, plus interviews, newsreel footage of the film’s 1941 premiere, and a 48-page book stuffed with photos, storyboards and info. To pilfer the original tagline: it’s terrific!
EXTRAS: Commentaries > Interviews > Book > Programme
Director: Orson Welles; Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore; BD release: May 2, 2016
Dario Argento’s Rome-set giallo – the film he made directly before masterpiece Suspiria – puts an ultraviolent spin on Antonioni’s Blow-Up, with David Hemmings again turning amateur sleuth after witnessing a murder. This being Argento, there are more grisly killings to come, each one preceded by a kinetic, suspenseful set-piece. The reveal, meanwhile, is one of horror cinema’s great scares.
Arrow here resurrect the fact-packed commentary by Argento expert Thomas Rostock that’s on the 2011 Blu, but the real sell is the spectacular 4K restoration. Never have the reds been so deep.
EXTRAS: Commentary > Interviews > Video essay
Director: Dario Argento; Starring: Macha Meril, David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi; BD release: May 2, 2016
IN THE HEART OF THE SEA
Based on the story that inspired Moby-Dick, this epic offers both gripping action and compelling drama. Aside from the assortment of mangled Massachusetts accents, the performances are decent, particularly from a reliably charismatic Chris Hemsworth and Benjamin Walker, who clash as the ship’s experienced first mate and entitled captain.
Under DoP Anthony Dod Mantle, the seascapes resemble warped watercolours, but the more CGI-heavy moments instantly shatter any sense of realism. The breathtaking white whale attack is the best of some thrilling action sequences, but at the end of the voyage this story is just a little forgettable.
EXTRAS: Featurettes (BD) > Deleted/extended scenes (BD)
Director: Ron Howard; Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: May 2, 2016
Tobias Lindholm’s follow-up to A Hijacking (opens in new tab) is a tense and powerful Danish drama about soldier Claus Pedersen (Pilou Asbæk), a commander whose decision to save his men, via an uncorroborated air strike, costs the lives of 11 Afghan civilians.
Intelligent, naturalistic and calm, the court-martial that follows is a riveting dissection of Pedersen’s call. His decision seemed like the only option in the heat of battle, but raises grim, ethically complex questions about accountability, especially when Pedersen is confronted with pictures of the children killed. Damned if he did, damned if he didn’t: A War is a compelling moral minefield.
Director: Tobias Lindholm; Starring: Pilou Asbæk, Søren Malling; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: May 9, 2016
Takashi Miike lobs a grenade into his own head for his latest opus – an unfiltered splurge of stupid ideas and ultra-violence that’s sort-of good fun. A vampire mob boss bites his henchman (Hayato Ichihara) after being beheaded by a man dressed as Guy Fawkes, creating a blood-sucking monster who vows revenge on a syndicate of mutants.
With one chap sporting a bird beak and a girl who grows babies in a greenhouse, Miike’s Grindhouse horror hybrid is the oddest thing he’s ever done. Which is saying something...
Director: Takashi Miike; Starring: Yayan Ruhian, Rirî Furankî, Hayato Ichihara; DVD, BD release: May 2, 2016
Hollywood never knew what hit it. A little biker movie had audiences queuing round the block and kick-started the indie boom of the ’70s. There’d been biker movies before – Brando in The Wild One, Roger Corman’s The Trip and Wild Angels – but none that so explicitly raised a middle finger to conformist America. “They’re scared of what you represent to them,” Jack Nicholson’s lawyer explains to bikers Billy (Dennis Hopper, co-starring and directing) and Wyatt (Peter Fonda), “freedom.”
The plot’s the least of it. Wyatt and Billy buy coke in Mexico, sell it in LA and head for Florida to live high on the proceeds. En route they get stoned in New Orleans, meet Nicholson in jail and incur the hostility of every straight citizen and redneck they meet. What counts is the mood it captures, at once carefree and defiant – the dying embers of the ’60s hippie dream. Criterion has done Easy Rider proud.
This new UK edition offers a flawless 4K transfer and a shedload of extras: two commentaries, one from Hopper solo, one from him plus Fonda and production manager Paul Lewis. There’s also footage of the film’s enthused reception at Cannes, and a booklet essay from Matt Zoller Seitz. Best of all are two retro docs packed with testimony from those involved (except, alas, Nicholson) on the joys of working with the mercurial and frequently doped-up Hopper. Co-star Karen Black doing a wicked Dennis is worth the money alone.
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Documentaries, Newsreel footage
Director: Dennis Hopper; Starring: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Antonio Mendoza; BD release: May 19, 2016
Akira Kurosawa’s final masterpiece sees a 75-year-old warlord (Tatsuya Nakadai) divide his kingdom between his three sons (Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryû), birthing jealousy, betrayal, insanity – and vast, battles under roiling clouds.
Yes, it’s King Lear transposed to 16th-century Japan, and is here given a glorious 4K restoration. Best of the extras is an interview with DoP Shôji Ueda, who tells of how Kurosawa’s storyboards came with detailed written instructions, meaning the master hardly needed to speak on set.
EXTRAS: Interviews, Featurettes
Director: Akira Kurosawa; Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu; DVD, BD release: May 2, 2016
RESPECTABLE: THE MARY MILLINGTON STORY
Narrated by Dexter Fletcher, Simon Sheridan’s doc is a well-researched look at ’70s glamour model Mary Millington, who became one of Britain’s best-known adult stars before her tragic death at 33.
While there is potential for Carry On-style innuendo, Sheridan rightly resists, instead seeking out friends, family and colleagues to paint a complex and moving portrait. Talking heads include David Sullivan, the “Simon Cowell of the sex industry”, ex-model Linzi Drew and even Lovejoy actor Dudley Sutton. Impressive.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Interviews
Directed: Simon Sheridan; Starring: Dexter Fletcher, David Sullivan, Dudley Sutton; DVD release: May 2, 2016