Out on 20 February and 27 February
A South Korean flesh-eating horror to treasure. Polanski’s claustrophobic psycho-thriller.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Train to Busan, Inferno, Cul-De-Sac, Captain Fantastic, Sausage Party, Black Orpheus, The Childhood of a Leader, Varieté, War on Everyone, The Girl with All the Gifts, and Deepwater Horizon.
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Train to Busan
One of the best horrors of 2016 pulls into Small Screen Station – excellent news, given it pretty much fell through the tracks on its cinema release. Those who did take a punt on this South Korean smash were richly rewarded.
With the emphasis on characterisation, heart and depth, this is more Stephen King than Romero; and while there’s clearly nothing new about its raggle-taggle survivors vs flesh-eating hordes set-up, those emotional currents allied to some literally shattering set-pieces make a potent combo.
Director: Sang Ho-yeun; Starring: Yoo Gong, Soo-an Kim, Yu-mi Jung; Digital HD release: February 20, 2017; DVD, BD release: February 27, 2017
Tom Hanks is back for a third screen outing as Dan Brown’s literary cash cow Robert Langdon (think a less sexy Indy), this time afflicted by Bourne-sized amnesia as he charges around Italy solving cryptic puzzles to prevent Ben Foster’s biotech billionaire from killing half the world.
Directed, like previous instalments The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, by Ron Howard, it fails to ignite. Jittery camerawork, jump cuts, Felicity Jones on sidekick duties… nothing, it seems, can inject urgency into this flagging franchise.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Deleted scenes
Director: Ron Howard; Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Irrfan Khan; DVD, BD, 4K BD release: February 20, 2017
Roman Polanski’s at his most maliciously playful in this absurdist comedy that sends up home invasion thrillers. Set on Lindisfarne, off the Northumbrian coast, the solitude of bald transvestite Donald Pleasence and his much younger French wife (Françoise Dorléac) is intruded upon by two gangsters, one Irish and dying (Jack MacGowran), the other American and aggressive (Lionel Stander).
The games that follow take in humiliation, sado-masochism and betrayal, all observed with coolly detached amusement.
EXTRAS: Making of, Interview, Booklet
Director: Roman Polanski; Starring: Donald Pleasence, Françoise Dorléac, Lionel Stander; BD release: February 27, 2017
He's royally ace as Peter Jackson’s Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and he has twice dug deep into the guts of violent, highly complex men for David Cronenberg (in 2005’s A History of Violence and 2007’s Eastern Promises, for which he was Oscar nominated). But it is as Ben, a libertarian outdoorsman who’s raising his six children in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, that Viggo Mortensen delivers the performance of his career to date.
It is, as the saying goes, the role he was born to play. An excellent athlete at college, a natural leader and a sensitive soul who dabbles in music, poetry and painting, Mortensen grew up on ranches in Venezuela, in the foothills of Argentinian mountains and in the wilds of northern Idaho. Who else would fit free-spirited Ben quite so snugly, whether hunting livestock, inviting feedback on Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita or leading the family in vertiginous rock-climbing?
“The first time I read the script, I laughed as much as I cried,” Mortensen smiles on the disc’s only extra, a four-minute (!) Making Of, and it’s a fair bet that his emotions were stirred so vigorously due to a strong sense of recognition. Writer/director Matt Ross chips in to reinforce such a view, saying, “Viggo is deeply knowledgeable about living in harmony with the natural environment.”
Silicon Valley actor Ross, it should be noted, himself grew up in a commune, and penned Captain Fantastic to make sense of a seismic shift in his life: “The genesis was me being a father, grappling with my own questions of what kind of parent you are going to be in the contemporary United States.
Toggling between laughs and anguish and littered with the kind of idiosyncrasies that are so beloved by American indies, Captain Fantastic nonetheless plays straighter and truer than many of the dramedies that come out of Sundance Film Festival, where it debuted last year.
In place of character quirks and stylistic twerks is a core of intellectual enquiry and emotional sincerity, as Ben loads the kids onto a battered bus and heads back to so-called civilisation for the funeral of his wife, their mother. She is to be buried, against her wishes, in a Christian service to be held in New Mexico under the stern gaze of her wealthy father Jack (Frank Langella), who threatens Ben with arrest should he show his gaunt, shaggy face at the ceremony.
Essentially a road trip into consumerist America, Captain Fantastic has the spellbound kids encounter shopping malls and food courts and supermarkets playing panpipe covers of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’, while Ben points their bows and arrows in the direction of a field of sheep when a diner offers little more than hamburgers, fries and cola (“poison water”).
A pit stop at the home of Ben’s sister and her hubby (Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn), meanwhile, allows Ross the opportunity to verbalise some of his themes. Parenting arguments rage; honesty and open debate clash with social niceties and protective subterfuge; and our bright-eyed, engaged gaggle are sharply contrasted with their bored, petulant cousins who’ve been raised on Xbox.
But this is no blind celebration of a neo-hippie doctrine, or else a thudding satire on dumb, selfish, capitalist America. Langella’s grandfather, far from being an oaf or ogre, has the children’s interests at heart, and it transpires that Ben and his late wife may not have been singing entirely from the same hymn sheet. There’s also the suggestion that had her illness been monitored rather than tucked away in the forest, she might still be alive.
After a relatively light, larky first half, tensions begin to bubble, discontent escalates and sympathies start to shift. Ben’s parenting philosophy suddenly seems not so much eccentric and anti-establishment as questionable and downright irresponsible – not least when he gifts his kids Ka-Bar fighting knives for Noam Chomsky Day (his substitute for Christmas). Is he a counterculture hero or an oppressive cult leader?
The truth, naturally, is somewhere in between, with Captain Fantastic acknowledging the importance of tolerance while leaning towards the need for America to change. It’s a worldview that chimes with Mortensen’s own politics (“I think most Americans will look back on this period since 1980 as morally bleak, intellectually fraudulent…” he said in a 2005 interview), and it makes for heartening viewing as Trump settles into the Oval Office.
It’s not for nothing that the camera lingers on a billboard reading ‘Is it immigration or invasion?’ when the family’s bus first motors out of the pine trees and onto a freeway. Captain Fantastic encourages debate, and with it the road to a better future.
EXTRAS: Making Of
Director: Matt Ross; Starring: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: January 23, 2017
In a grocery store, a group of foodstuffs led by a Seth Rogen-voiced hot dog discover the awful truth: that humans eat them. This irreverent adult animation packs in an ace cast (Edward Norton, Salma Hayek, Jonah Hill, James Franco), some deliciously twisted set-pieces (not least the X-rated ‘orgy’) and some hilarious Disney-spoofing songs.
But the novelty value runs out well before the meta-ending; if only plot and character didn’t feel so secondary to sick gags. Ideal for post-pub viewing, this is fun but not filling.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Line-O-Rama (BD)
Directors: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon; Starring: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: December 26, 2017
Marcel Camus’ Oscar and Palme D’Or-winner, with its ravishing visuals and toe-tapping soundtrack, updates the myth of Orpheus to 1950s Rio de Janeiro. The French director’s unique fusion of dance musical, romantic tragedy and surreal odyssey through a modern underworld casts a beguiling charm.
Yes, it’s easy to criticise the romanticised take on favela life, but the film’s heart is pure. Camus was intoxicated by the exuberance of Carnival, samba and bossa nova, and it’s still impossible not to swoon.
EXTRAS: Documentary, Interviews, Video essays
Director: Marcel Camus; Starring: Breno Mello, Marpessa Dawn, Lourdes de Oliveira; BD release: January 9, 2017
The Childhood of a Leader
As an actor, Brady Corbet has sat conspicuously apart from his peers, preferring gigs for the great European auteurs – Haneke, von Trier – to getting the call from Hollywood. So it’s little surprise that Corbet’s directorial debut shows that his maverick streak and impeccable taste extend behind the camera.
On paper, this is a straightforward chamber piece about – as Corbet describes it – “a wayward boy”. Yet the setting, near Paris ahead of 1919’s Treaty of Versailles, gives the tantrums of Prescott (excellent newcomer Tom Sweet, a period-drama Damien Thorn) an allegorical edge. What kind of leader will this budding tyrant become when he’s already making life hell for parents Bérénice Bejo and Liam Cunningham?
Right from the arresting opening – archive footage cut to a nerve shredding overture – Corbet creates an ominous sense of dread. Arguably the director tips his head too freely in Haneke’s direction, but he has precocious command for a filmmaker still in his twenties. The film is bold, ambitious and resonant.
The disc includes Corbet’s cryptic, uncomfortable 2008 short Protect You + Me, made when he was still a teenager. It’s proof his own childhood was spent cultivating the skills that are now in bloom.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Short film, Isolated score (BD)
Director: Brady Corbet; Starring: Robert Pattinson, Stacy Martin, Bérénice Bejo; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: January 30, 2017
A landmark in the careers of director E.A. Dupont, vampish icon Lya De Putti and Weimar superstar Emil Jannings, Varieté is a touchstone of silent German cinema. At the time, its USP was the dazzling camerawork capturing a seedy love triangle on, under and above a vaudeville trapeze act.
To modern eyes, what impresses is the subtleties, with De Putti and Jannings giving performances way ahead of their time. A Masters of Cinema release sporting a pristine Blu transfer, it looks and sounds like it was made yesterday.
EXTRAS: American version, Three scores, Booklet
Director: Ewald André Dupont; Starring: Emil Jannings, Maly Delschaft, Lya De Putti; Dual format release: January 23, 2017
War on Everyone
Making his first movie across the pond, John Michael McDonagh returns to the terrain of his 2011 debut, The Guard, with this disappointing buddy comedy about two corrupt detectives (Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Peña) out to score big.
The lowlifes they mix with are vivid – Caleb Landry Jones as an effete club owner, Theo James as a violent English aristocrat – but the humour is often too self-aware and snarky to really hit home. As its title suggests, McDonagh’s movie doesn’t make friends easily. But its biggest crime? The cop-out finale.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Interviews
Director: John Michael McDonagh; Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Theo James, Tessa Thompson; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: January 30, 2017
The Girl with All the Gifts
How to keep the zombie apocalypse genre evolving and, well, fresh? Perhaps by focusing on that most taboo of creatures, the child-zombie – glimpsed everywhere from Night of the Living Dead to [REC], but here given centre stage in this contemporary riff on the Pandora’s Box fable.
Newcomer Sennia Nanua is terrific as the horribly conflicted pre-teen ‘hungry’ Melanie, caught between Glenn Close’s gimlet-eyed scientist, for whom Melanie could mean a cure, and Gemma Arterton’s kindly schoolteacher. Inventive, grim, affecting.
EXTRAS: Making Of, Interviews, B-roll footage
Director: Colm McCarthy; Starring: Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close, Sennia Nanua; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: January 23, 2017
Peter Berg’s real-life epic mounts a meticulous recreation of what went wrong on the offshore Deepwater Horizon rig in April 2010, resulting in multiple deaths and the worst oil spill in US history.
The jargon-heavy first half is baffling, as Kurt Russell’s crew chief and John Malkovich’s BP exec argue over “kill lines”, while Mark Wahlberg’s everyman technician keeps being ignored. But the Deepwater implosion is spectacularly handled. The emotional fallout is gracefully, intensely played too.
Director: Peter Berg; Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Douglas M. Griffin; DVD, BD, 4K BD, Digital HD release: January 30, 2017