Out on August 21 and August 28
Liev Schreiber rolls with the punches. Florence Pugh leads a powerful period piece. Kristen Stewart explores the spooky world of fashion.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of The Bleeder, Lady Macbeth, Their Finest, Batman and Harley Quinn, Unforgettable The Levelling, The Marx Brothers Collection, Personal Shopper, The Age of Shadows, A Quiet Passion, Security, and One-Eyed Jacks,.
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In Rocky (opens in new tab) sequel Creed (opens in new tab), Liev Schreiber made do with a voice role. But, with a pleasing circularity, he dominates the ring in a lower-key boxing movie that tells the frayed-at-the-edges tale of the bum who inspired Rocky. As played by Schreiber, Chuck Wepner is a Noo Joisey fighter who’s too sweet to hurt anyone but loves putting on a show. Usually, said show involves bleeding on opponents – hence his nickname ‘the Bayonne Bleeder’.
Wepner isn’t great at family business either; cover Stallone’s ears, but he cheats on wife Elisabeth Moss (reliably excellent) and neglects his daughter. Yet when he gets to fight Muhammad Ali in 1975, he lasts 15 rounds, becomes a local hero and snags Sly’s attention.
Wepner’s modest post-Rocky celebrity descends into drugs and drink, yet director Philippe Falardeau (Monsieur Lazhar) enriches the clichés. Wepner’s low-key life is smartly contrasted with romanticised movie boxers, especially at his nadir, where he shares the ring with bears for money and arrives coke-blitzed for a school-teacher meeting.
Character-based intimacies take the plot weight, well-served by nimble-footed casting: Ron Perlman and Naomi Watts aside, Morgan Spector is a note-perfect Stallone. But the show belongs to the often unsung Schreiber, who keeps Wepner engagingly human and likeable without diluting his flaws. Hollywood should make a film about the guy…
Director: Philippe Falardeau; Starring: Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Elisabeth Moss, Ron Perlman; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: August 21, 2017
Not a spin-off from the Scottish play, this powerful period piece from debut filmmaker William Oldroyd is a corset drama for anyone who thinks they don’t like corset dramas. Loosely adapted from a 19th Century novella, Lady Macbeth traces the murderous path that Katherine (Florence Pugh) takes to escape her loveless marriage.
Some credit is due to the single country-estate location and chilly lensing, but the MVP here is Florence Pugh, whose superb central performance makes her an instant star.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Making Of, Featurette
Director: William Oldroyd; Starring: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Paul Hilton; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: August 21, 2017
London, 1940. Screenwriter Catrin (Gemma Arterton), tasked with scripting a morale-boosting propaganda movie, conjures two sisters risking all to save soldiers at Dunkirk. Adapted by Gaby Chiappe from Lissa Evans’ novel and directed by Lone Scherfig (One Day (opens in new tab)), Their Finest is propelled by female talent; while nominally about confronting sexism, it also celebrates the Blitz spirit and the power of cinema to liberate.
There are occasional melodramatic lapses, but Arterton and Bill Nighy (as an ageing matinee star) sparkle.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Making Of
Director: Lone Scherfig; Starring: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: August 21, 2017
Batman and Harley Quinn
This latest DC animated movie pairs the Caped Crusader with a semi-reformed Harley Quinn as they try to stop Poison Ivy’s eco-terror plot to turn humankind into plant-people.
With Swamp Thing, Nightwing and the Floronic Man also in the mix, this 74-minute escapade suffers from overcrowding. Worse still, many of the jokes have a tendency to bomb rather than land, with director Sam Liu (The Killing Joke) trading cinematic sweep for Adam West campness, minus any of the charm.
Extras include an incisive featurette that examines Harley’s evolution as a character.
Director: Sam Liu; Starring: Kevin Conroy, Loren Lester, Melissa Rauch; DVD, BD release: August 28, 2017
Doesn’t do what it says on the tin. Not even close. Soapy without being camp, derivative without being smart, this embarrassment to the CVs of all involved is singularly unmemorable. A former victim of domestic violence (uncomfortably used as a salacious plot device), Julia (Rosario Dawson) comes a cropper at the hands of her fiancé’s bunny-boiler ex, Tessa (Katherine Heigl), because all women are psychos or punchbags.
When a man is found murdered in Julia’s kitchen, whodunnit? And whose panties are in his possession? Really, who cares? Insultingly dumb.
Director: Denise Di Novi; Starring: Rosario Dawson, Katherine Heigl, Geoff Stults; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: August 28, 2017
An astonishingly assured first feature – as both writer and director – from Brit talent Hope Dickson Leach. We’re on the Somerset Levels after the catastrophic flooding in 2014. Trainee vet Clover Catto (Game of Thrones’ Ellie Kendrick) returns to the family farm following the death (accident? suicide?) of her younger brother, to confront her estranged father, Aubrey (David Troughton).
Grief, anger and guilt clog their fraught confrontations; secrets physical and emotional lie buried, waiting to be unearthed. Kendrick and Troughton are on searing form, while Leach’s script cuts deep.
Director: Hope Dickson Leach; Starring: Ellie Kendrick, David Troughton, Jack Holden; DVD, BD, Digital HD July 17, 2017
The Marx Brothers Collection
Mercilessly lampooning everything from love to dictatorship, the Marx Brothers’ first movies obey the motto of film’s funniest family: “High pressure, first, last and always.” Starting with their stagily hilarious early-sound-cinema hit The Cocoanuts, this covetable limited edition of the fab four’s Paramount offerings (The 4 Marx Brothers At Paramount: 1929-1933) shows their frantic comedy developing from fast-paced Broadway shtick to classic satire full of filmic flourishes.
Zany ’30s high-society satire Animal Crackers gets two minutes of risqué gags restored, until it pops with sly pre-Hays Code innuendo. The bulging extras, with commentaries from experts such as Harpo’s son Bill Marx, show how stowaway comedy Monkey Business got its skittish, even surreal feel. Comic innovation surfaces in the lesser-known college comedy Horse Feathers, in which Groucho’s intolerance skewers vamp Thelma Todd, feeling like the granddaddy of short-fuse comedies such as Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Hard to believe their now-iconic, anarchic take on war and diplomacy, 1933’s Duck Soup, opened to mediocre box office, as this package’s classy feature-length doco reveals. All five rib-ticklers have been buffed up splendidly in 4K restorations on Blu-ray.
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Documentary, Interviews, Video essays, Essays
Director: Various; Starring: The Marx Brothers; BD release: June 26, 2017
An iPhone. A train. And a scared Kristen Stewart. Those are the key ingredients in one of the year’s most nail-biting set-pieces, delivered with verve by director Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria (opens in new tab)) in this atmospheric genre-blender.
Personal Shopper’s ‘creepy text’ sequence is a highlight, but it’s just as effective elsewhere, as Stewart’s bored PA hunts ghosts in Paris. There are stretches with zero dialogue, and masterful scares, which combine to create something ethereal and unforgettably unique.
Director: Olivier Assayas; Starring: Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: July 17, 2017
The Age of Shadows
Like any good spy thriller, this handsomely directed Korean thriller, set during the Japanese occupation of the ’20s, features duplicitous trickery and surreptitious shenanigans aplenty, as Korean turncoat Lee Jung-chool (Song Kang-ho) aides the resistance.
The 140-minute running time is a little long, but each scene flows into the next at a brisk-enough tempo to keep the stakes high throughout. A tense, Hitchcockian centrepiece set on a train is a highlight.
Director: Kim Jee-woon; Starring: Byung-hun Lee, Kang-ho Song, Yoo Gong; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: July 10, 2017
A Quiet Passion
Director Terence Davies (Sunset Song (opens in new tab), The Deep Blue Sea (opens in new tab)) takes a deep dive into the life of 19th Century American poet Emily Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon) and her struggles with the dual tyrannies of puritanism and patriarchy.
Davies draws out timeless themes of oppression and identity, and shots are composed with a classical formalism, but it’s wordy, didactic and ultimately restrained to the point of suffocation. Perhaps that’s the point, given Dickinson’s own life, but it makes for frustrating viewing.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Deleted scene, Featurette
Director: Terence Davies; Starring: Emma Bell, Sara Vertongen, Rose Williams; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: July 17, 2017
Antonio Banderas becomes the latest ageing action star to play a super-skilled badass who happens to be in the wrong place at the right time. He plays Eddie Deacon, an ex-special services captain now working as a night-shift mall cop who is forced to save a young girl from Ben Kingsley and a mini-army of trained killers.
There’s a promising preamble before the action situation kicks in, however it’s eventually betrayed by a series of repetitive shootouts and a lack of interesting character moments. Less Die Hard (opens in new tab), more Try Hard.
Director: Alain Desrochers; Starring: Antonio Banderas, Liam McIntyre, Ben Kingsley; DVD, Digital HD release: July 3, 2017
Marlon Brando’s only film as director came with a formidable pedigree – both Sam Peckinpah and Stanley Kubrick helped develop it. Brando does a fine job, creating a revenge western as raw and wild as his own tortured performance as bank robber ‘Kid’ Rio, locked in an Oedipal duel with Dad Longworth (Karl Malden), the outlaw-turned-lawman who left him for dead.
The brutal, brooding atmosphere is backed by distinctive coastal settings and lurid colours that pop in a Scorsese-supervised restoration.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes
Director: Marlon Brando; Starring: Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Pina Pellicer; BD release: June 12, 2017