Out on 23 January and 30 January
Long overdue, Ms Jones still delivers. Fantastic Denzel and Ethan team up once again.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Bridget Jones’s Baby, The Magnificent Seven, Blair Witch, The Transformers: The Movie, The Man from Laramie, Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, The Blue Lamp, and The Guyver.
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Bridget Jones’s Baby
The big pants are gone. So are the ciggies and the diary. But more than a decade after Bridget Jones last blundered through public embarrassments and posh love triangles, everybody’s favourite cringe-magnet is as adorably befuddled as ever in Bridget Jones’s Baby. Here’s a threequel that seeks to remind us why, in an age of superheroes and McFranchises, sometimes all you need for a good time is a pissed fortysomething and a, um, yurt.
British audiences concurred – on release, Bridge’s third go-around became the highest-grossing romcom ever at the UK box office. Across the pond it was a different story – its US gross was a measly $24m, against the original’s $72m.
Older (though not necessarily wiser), writing on an iPad instead of in a diary and still prone to calamitous eff-ups, she is, as Renée Zellweger notes on the disc’s 18-minute Making Of, still “our Bridget”. Just, y’know, 43, but as single as ever and hitting the music festivals hard with hip newsroom colleague Miranda (Sarah Solemani). Middle-aged she may be, but she remains the quintessential Brit hero – as much a part of the London landscape as any of the skyscrapers crowding her Borough Market flat.
Of course, certain things have fallen by the wayside. Daniel Cleaver’s ditched in the first five minutes (he’s also roundly ignored in this disc’s extras), but his no-show allows Bridget to evolve beyond the sort of lazy storytelling that hampered 2004’s Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (a trilogy boxset is also out on 30 January). Unlike that sequel – notably not directed by Sharon Maguire, who returns here – this has genuine surprises in store.
Because, yes, Bridge is preggers. And with Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy spared the same fate as his literary counterpart (see Helen Fielding’s third Jones novel), BJB stages a romantic tug of war between our heroine’s past (cosy, uptight Darcy) and possible shiny new future (Patrick Dempsey’s online dating guru Jack). Naturally, after two separate nights of passion, she has no idea who her baby daddy is, and the ensuing hijinks – hospital scans, joint pre-natal classes – bubble with awkward comedy.
“There’s life in the old dog yet,” is Bridget’s confident dismissal of those who might ask why, 12 years after TEOR, she’s back on screen – but that extended hiatus proves all to the good.
By catching up with Bridget in a new decade, with newfound confidence, new problems and, yes, a new weight, screenwriters Emma Thompson, Dan Mazer and Fielding make the perennial singleton relevant again, conjuring the zeitgeist-iness of 2001’s Diary.
That film remains as spunky and quotable as ever (“Come the fuck on, Bridget!”), and this threequel does for forty-somethings what BJD did for thirty-somethings. As Bridget contends with FaceTime, hashtags, ‘Gangnam Style’ and hipster beards, we discover that time may have moved on, but our heroine’s definitely not been left behind (there’s even a compelling argument for authenticity in our romance-slaying social-media age).
“It’s rather like coming back to an old friend,” comments Firth on the film’s Making Of. Or, you might say, slipping into your favourite pair of “absolutely enormous panties”. It’s not difficult to see why he admits to marvelling at Zellweger – clearly, none of this would work without her.
The Texas native enjoyed a lengthy break of her own before making BJB, and her comeback proves she’s lost none of her sparkle. Together with Firth, she finds new wrinkles (easy) in old friendships, and there’s genuine warmth between both the characters and the actors playing them – something evident in the disc’s brisk gag reel, which includes Firth apologising profusely off-camera to Zellweger when he trips and drops her on a rainy street.
Forget Bridge’s baby-brained muddle; there’s a comforting marriage of the old and new here. The snow-dusted villages and return of Mum (Gemma Jones still has all the best lines) are classic Bridge. Talk of Spilfs (yeah, “spinsters”) perhaps less so, but Jack’s a fine action-man suitor, making the central conflict more compelling than it might have been if Cleaver were still around. Thompson’s no-nonsense midwife Dr. Rawlings, meanwhile, is a brilliant creation.
US audiences may have favoured a homegrown hero in the form of Clint Eastwood’s Sully, but Bridget’s return should be celebrated – here’s a movie about a woman in her forties that, too-neat finale aside, refuses to bow to convention.
And while a sly coda hints this may not be the last we’ve seen of Bridge (or a certain floppy-haired grotbag), the prospect of a further entry in Bridget’s diary another decade down the line is a surprisingly rosy prospect. Bridget Jones’s Menopause, anyone?
EXTRAS: Making Of, Deleted/Extended scenes, Gag reel
Director: Sharon Maguire; Starring: Renée Zellweger, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent; DVD, BD release: January 30, 2017
The Magnificent Seven
Antoine Fuqua’s remix of John Sturges’ epic western makes the classic quiz question – can you name them all? – even harder. Boldly looking beyond the A-list, his casting makes up for the feeling this old-time affair needed more risk. Fuqua shows flair in aping genre icons – even the squib-busters of Leone and Peckinpah – but he’s too quick on the draw.
Much of the previous Sevens’ magnificence comes from getting to know them first, but at least Fuqua’s impatience makes the most of Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt’s charisma.
Director: Antoine Fuqua; Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: January 23, 2017
If you go down to The Woods today, you’re in for a big surprise. Arriving with a bang after its last-minute name change/reveal, this belated sequel sees James (James Allen McCune), l’il bro of the original’s Heather, descend on Burkittsville to unearth what became of his snot-nosed sister.
Helmed by Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest), it’s a brasher remix of the 1999 classic, with added tech (the drone-cam is wasted), gimmicks (an endless night descends), and glimpses of the source of all the screaming. Effective. Extras include a 103-min(!) Making Of.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Making Of, Featurette
Director: Adam Wingard; Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid; DVD, BD release: January 23, 2017
The Transformers: The Movie
Forget the wanton carnage of Bay’s blockbusters. The best Transformers film is this ’80s animated effort. Set in futuristic 2005 (!), it sees the Autobots already driven from their home by archenemies the Decepticons when a devastating attack on Earth causes them to retreat to the stars as intergalactic refugees. Things get bleaker still when planet-eating super-bot Unicron threatens to destroy them all.
You might expect an adap of a kids’ toy line to be disposable froth, but Nelson Shin’s film is shockingly dark. Tackling themes such as genocide, it also includes the surprise death of a major character. Upon release this proved too much for some young viewers, leading producer Joe Bacal to rue (wrongly) that “we went too far”.
In fact, there’s plenty of light to offset the shade. The story rips along, powered by air-punching anthems and Rocky IV composer Vince DiCola’s score, while the third act delivers crowd-pleasing catharsis. Factor in the ace ensemble – including Leonard Nimoy and Orson Welles – and, much like the eponymous robots, this is a film in disguise: a solid feat of storytelling masquerading as Saturday morning fizz.
This 30th anniversary 4K Blu-ray packs a clutch of new extras, but fails to port all of the riches from 2007’s Ultimate Edition.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes, Storyboards
Director: Nelson Shin; Starring: Orson Welles, Robert Stack, Leonard Nimoy; BD Steelbook release: December 12, 2016
The Man from Laramie
The last of five westerns James Stewart made with Anthony Mann is also the most ambitious: a Shakespearean thriller of violent revenge, in which Stewart’s drifter comes between a cattle baron, his sociopathic son and the hired help.
It’s a potent allegory of empire-building, set in a bleak landscape of salt lagoons where Mann’s choreography of action achieves a heightened symbolism. With Stewart’s coiled intensity, it’s a key step in the western’s journey towards Leone and Peckinpah.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Interview, Booklet
Director: Anthony Mann; Starring: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp; Dual format release: December 5, 2016
Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams
Peaking with Ran in 1985, an ageing Akira Kurosawa fell out of favour in Japan and couldn’t get funding for his next film. Turning instead to the young Americans who idolised him, he released Dreams in 1990 with assistance from Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola and Scorsese (who plays Vincent van Gogh).
Comprising a series of eight magic-realist fairytales, it’s intermittently brilliant; some vignettes work better than others but all linger in the subconscious. The UK Criterion edition is predictably impeccable, including a restored transfer and two whopping docs.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Making Of, Documentary, Interviews, Booklet
Director: Akira Kurosawa; Starring: Akira Terao, Mitsuko Baishô, Toshie Negishi; BD release: November 11, 2016
The Blue Lamp
Ealing’s warm tribute to the London bobby, The Blue Lamp also offered Dirk Bogarde the chance to escape the bland matinee idol roles he’d been trapped in at Rank. As the young street thug who guns down avuncular PC Dixon (Jack Warner), Bogarde gave notice of far wider potential.
The studio’s prime scriptwriter, T.E.B. Clarke (himself an ex-copper), paints an affectionate picture of the police, with Warner slotting so snugly into his role that, resurrected, he played Sgt. Dixon in Dixon of Dock Green on TV until well into the ’70s.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes, Galleries
Director: Basil Deardon; Starring: Jack Warner, Dirk Bogarde, Jimmy Hanley; DVD, BD release: December 12, 2016
An endless title crawl spells out a complicated prologue that returns to the start of time; but long story short, Mark Hamill is a CIA agent who goes after a magic box that turns people into super-powered-alien-gremlin-soldiers.
Laying on enough ham and cheese for the pizza nights it seems made for, The Guyver is early ’90s videoshop sci-fi at its best and worst. Directed by Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang, the guys behind Predator’s creature effects, its monsters look amazing. The rest depends on your sense of humour.
EXTRAS: Interview, Image gallery, Booklet
Directors: Screaming Mad George, Steve Wang; Starring: Greg Joung Paik, Jimmie Walker, Peter Spellos; Dual format release: December 19, 2016