Movies to watch on Blu-Ray and DVD: Carol, Steve Jobs, Tangerine, more...
Out on 22 March and 29 March
Cate and Rooney are wronged women. A Steve Jobs biopic that's all hard drive, nothing floppy. A Pixar adventure that's good, but not perfect.
Yes, here's the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Carol, Steve Jobs, The Good Dinosaur, Tangerine, Black Mass, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, Eureka, and Smokey and the Bandit.
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At the announcement of this year's academy awards nominees, a howl of protest greeted the absence, for the second year, of a single actor of colour in the 20 positions available.
But while the Oscars' diversity problem was rightly given the podium and #OscarsSoWhite filled timelines on twitter, another injustice – a great deal lesser, certainly, but still worth noting – slipped by namely that Carol, the exquisite, heartrending LGBT drama by Todd Haynes, whose earlier Far From Heaven (2002) explored race relations within the formal framework of a Douglas Sirk melodrama, failed to register a Best Picture or Director nomination. It's not, of course, the first time that such a wrong has been committed by the Academy.
Quite the opposite: this 6,000-strong body comprising primarily white males with a median age of 63 is so prolific in its misjudgements that it's hard to know where to begin (though in keeping with the #OscarsSoWhite theme, how about Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing being overlooked for a Best Picture or Director nom at the 1990 awards?). But given the deserved critical adulation that has buoyed Carol since its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in May – and given the rule-change implemented in 2009 that saw the Academy double down on its options by allowing up to 10 nominations in the Best Picture category – Carol's shut-out is all the more inexplicable.
Based on Patricia Highsmith's novel The Price Of Salt (first published in 1952 under the pseudonym Claire Morgan), Haynes' adap casts a never-better Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird, a married New York socialite who falls for shop assistant Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara). This being 1952, their love is illicit, further complicated by chasms in age and class. Carol's transgressive desire even threatens to lose her custody of her infant daughter to cuckolded husband Harge (Kyle Chandler).
But Haynes' movie, despite its title, is as much Therese's story as Carol's. A would-be photographer, this initially watchful and submissive young woman comes into focus before our eyes, starting the film blank and then developing colour and complexity.
Her journey finds physical representation in a road trip west, with the America of Edward Hopper and Vladimir Nabokov visible through steamed windows as Carol and Therese's repressed desire is finally granted expression within the cocoons of cars and motels. Having previously been shot behind panes of glass or in reflection or on opposite sides of the frame with their figures held stiffly in place by Sandy Powell's immaculate costumes, the women at last melt and meld: a love scene is tellingly choreographed in such a way that it is hard to establish which limbs belongs to which woman.
Oftentimes when a film is this sumptuously crafted in all departments, from Ed Lachman's soft photography and Judy Becker's elegant production design to Carter Burwell's lush, melancholy score (the soloing clarinet and oboe interweave as the lives of Carol and Therese entwine), the style can hijack the picture. Here it just adds to the ache, with every object, surface and item of clothing charged with eroticism. As with Wong Kar-wai's swooning tale of extra-marital passion In The Mood For Love, form and content are one, and the cumulative power of all this thrilling detail hits hard in the final scenes.
Unless, it seems, you belong to the Academy. Perhaps members took Carol's nomination for granted and voted elsewhere, such has been the universal acclaim, or perhaps the twin nods for the terrific leading ladies (Mara, bizarrely, in the Supporting category) was considered generous enough. More likely, sadly, is that the aforementioned male dominance (76 per cent!) in the academy's make-up came into play – it can't be a coincidence that Haynes, an exponent of female-driven stories (Safe, Far From Heaven, Mildred Pierce), has never received a Director or Picture nomination.
The on-disc extras grant some love but not enough. Thirty-five minutes of behind-the- scenes footage is arranged into chapters focusing on first Blanchett, then Mara, Haynes, writer Phyllis Nagy (who knew Highsmith for the last 10 years of her life and thus felt a "burden of responsibility to just not screw it up"), Lachman, Becker, Powell and Burwell
There's overlap but plenty of insight too, with Haynes pointing to the universality of the love story (hear that, Academy?), producer Christine Vachon identifying Carol's "hyper-reality mixed with hyper-cinematic fantasy and beauty", and both Powell and Becker pointing out that 1952 belongs to the "post-war '50s" and not the "Eisenhower '50s". Meaning? Carol is drop-dead gorgeous to look at but its beauty is earthy and besmirched, with the action shot in Super 16mm and painted in neutral colours and greens and dirty pinks to keep things grounded.
The only other extra is a dip into five Q&As conducted in US cities when Haynes and co. toured the movie. Much passion and eloquence is on display, with Mara pinpointing that it's not only teenagers who undergo rites-of-passage: "Carol is a beautiful coming-of-age story for both women at very different points in their lives," she says. Maybe it's not too late for the academy to learn lessons and do some growing, too.
EXTRAS: Featurette > Q&A highlights
Director: Todd Haynes Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler DVD, BD, Digital HD release: March 21, 2016
Did the world really need another film about the titular Apple guru so soon after the Ashton Kutcher-starring biopic? Does cinema require Aaron Sorkin to pen a second look at the information age? Well, here’s the thing. Did anybody really need another computer?
Steve Jobs thought so, and worked tirelessly to refine his ideas into increasingly elegant, compact shapes. Steve Jobs the film does much the same (ahem) job, as Sorkin updates his tech-Shakespeare software, Danny Boyle provides the fast-paced processing power and an ace cast adds enhanced features. Over three milestones in Jobs' career, the story of the kingpin-turned-scapegoat-turned-prodigal son reveals a classical anti-hero, a walking (and talking) Shakespearian flaw.
Here, the irony is that where Jobs is brittle, arrogant and detached – "poorly made," as he puts it – he's seeking to create something flawless. Inevitably, echoes of The Social Network resound. Like Mark Zuckerberg, Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is driven beyond typical ethical standards, trampling over the talents of others to fulfil his self-belief in being the conductor who plays the orchestra.
The reputational rise and fall is mirrored in the hero's relationship with a woman: in this case Lisa, the daughter Jobs grudgingly comes to accept as his own. Much of the dialogue feels like a self-parody of Sorkin's style. (Discussing why Lennon stood out in the Beatles, Jobs proclaims, "He was John because he was John.") Yet Sorkin isn't dealing with anything too zeitgeisty; the story here ends in 1998, prior to the creation of the iPod and five years before Facebook.
Accordingly, the film lacks original potential director David Fincher's modernity – but Boyle, once a veteran of the writer-led British TV industry, is an apt replacement. This is a deliberately theatrical throwback in three acts that swirls with ideas of form and function (not least Boyle's clever decision to shoot the sequences in, respectively, 16mm, 35mm and digital). Inevitably, though, Sorkin and Boyle can't sit still.
The stage isn't big enough for these guys, so Jobs prowls its margins; an agitated perfectionist flitting between dressing rooms, backstage areas and the corridors in between. Vivid editing sees Jobs assailed by put-upon employees, frustrated bosses and Lisa's mother. When doubts do flicker in, the film cross-cuts flashbacks with venomous power: the stand-out moment is a parallel argument between Jobs and (ex-)boss John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), past and present colliding like gunfire.
The acting must be agile in action and thought to deliver this, and a cast attracted by a director/screenwriter dream team is happy to oblige. Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg and Seth Rogen are a Greek chorus of critics, while Kate Winslet tries to bring schoolmarmish order to proceedings. But it's Fassbender who excels, his prowling intensity an interesting companion to his recent Macbeth. Here, too, is a man who would be king, except this time he's also providing the prophecy.
The 45-min Making of devotes a good chunk to the actors' process (and prowess); as for the separate Boyle/Sorkin commentaries, wouldn't it have been more fun to get them riffing in the same room?
EXTRAS: Commentaries (BD) > Making Of
Director: Danny Boyle Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels DVD, BD release: March, 21 2016
THE GOOD DINOSAUR
Blame the much-publicised production difficulties, which resulted in its release being postponed by 18 months. Or blame Star Wars hype drowning out everything else at the time. Either way, The Good Dinosaur is the first Pixar film that might reasonably be deemed a box-office flop.
And yet, while it might be the studio's weakest-performing movie, it's far from its worst. It's set in a hypothetical reality in which the extinction-level meteor that originally wiped out the dinos instead misses earth, allowing T-rex and co to evolve over millions of years.
We meet Arlo, the runt of a dino-litter in a family of dino-farmers. When tragedy strikes, our four-legged hero finds himself scared and miles from home with only Spot, a human boy evolved to the point of being a loyal, loveable dog-like pet, for some company. The Good Dinosaur compares unfavourably to its predecessor Inside Out, released earlier in 2015, opting for broad strokes and simplicity where that film explored an incredibly sophisticated concept.
While the deliberately cartoonish caricatures and unfussy storytelling are just as appealing as Pixar's more mature offerings, it does leave the film a tad self-conflicted, with unhinged predators, a somewhat psychologically dubious Styracosaurus and one out-of-place trippy drug sequence confusing the otherwise family-friendly tone. Where The Good Dinosaur shines brightest is the friendship between Arlo and Spot, set against a backdrop of stunning vistas and glowing with trademark Pixar poignancy.
Extras explore the film's use of artistic license ("dinosaurs never spoke") and tight production schedule. There's also a research trip to a cattle ranch, 11 mins of deleted scenes (animated storyboards, essentially) and Oscar-nominated short Sanjay's Super Team.
EXTRAS: Commentary > Short > Deleted scenes (BD) > Featurettes (BD)
Director: Peter Sohn Starring: Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Maleah Nipay-Padilla, Ryan Teeple DVD, BD, 3D, Digital HD release: March 21, 2016
Despite all the coverage and cracking reviews, Sean Baker's film was only in British cinemas for a grand total of about 30 seconds, so don't miss the chance to catch up with it on disc. Taking place on Christmas Eve, it follows two transgender prostitutes' quest through the scuzzier side of Los Angeles to find a cheating boyfriend (and pimp) but this is no mumblecore mope 'n' moan.
The lead pair (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor) are whirlwinds of punky attitude and energy; if anything, the film plays like an updated screwball comedy. Subtly political and frequently hilarious, it's a treat.
Director: Sean Baker Starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O'Hagan DVD release: 28 March 2016
Johnny Depp swaggers out of his career slump as Whitey Bulger, the real-life Boston mobster turned informant. Bulger's collusion with playground pal turned FBI up-and-comer John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) hints at Scorsese-style ideas of moral greyness and complex characterisation that aren’t followed through.
Yes, Depp is better than he has been in a long time, but the film offers the misconception that a bloke being violent – however good he is at is – is somehow enough to make him interesting. Bolstered by its supporting cast (Cumberbatch, Bacon, Jesse Plemons) this is a stylish but slightly empty ride.
Director: Scott Cooper Starring: Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Joel Edgerton DVD, BD, Digital HD release: March 21, 2016
Jimmy Reardon, based on director William Richert’s own coming-of-age misadventures, was ripped to shreds by the studio, who ditched his narration, the Elmer Bernstein score and all risqué bits that didn’t make rising star river Phoenix look like a heart-throb.
Richert fought back for 20 years, eventually releasing his own director’s cut under a different title. Sadly, this isn’t that but the original: a sweetly pretentious, censored, sexless sex comedy. Phoenix’s charisma still burns through the cuts, but you’d do better to seek out the real deal.
Director: William Richert; Starring: River Phoenix, Ann Magnuson, Meredith Salenger; DVD release: March 21, 2016
Nic Roeg has always been an uneven director, and never more so than with this box-office flop, which swerves deliriously between great and terrible. Gene Hackman plays Jack McCann, a gold prospector who strikes it big in the Yukon.
Two decades later he’s living luxuriously on a Caribbean island, but his life feels empty: his wife’s a lush and his incestuously adored daughter (Theresa Russell) has fallen for a mercenary wastrel (Rutger Hauer). Some powerful performances (especially Hackman’s) and visual virtuosities collide head-on with heavy-handed symbolism and a final courtroom episode that’s way overlong and torpedoed by pretentious dialogue.
Director: Nic Roeg; Starring: Gene Hackman, Theresa Russell, Rutger Hauser; Dual format release: March 23, 2016
SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT
Nearly 40 years since good ol’ Burt Reynolds first showed us his total lack of respect for the law, this bootleggin’, bumper-smashin’ road-eo movie has still stayed pretty fresh. The credit is obviously due to Reynolds’ macho screen magnetism, his quickfire chemistry with co-star Sally Field, and a script that allows no room for stalling, for cars or gags.
Even secondary star Jerry reed’s banjo-twanging soundtrack feels more fun than it has any right to. This vanilla-disc re-release is a disappointing purchase, though, with someone apparently making off with the slim haul of special features that have been available elsewhere.
Director: Hal Needham; Starring: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason; DVD release: March 28, 2016