Out on 27 June and 4 July
Ralph and Tilda go for a dip. A reminder of Rita Hayworth’s classic femme fatale. An Oscar-winning journey into a living hell.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of A Bigger Splash, The Mermaid, Gilda, Son of Saul, Triple 9, Pride + Prejudice + Zombies, How to Be Single, The Wicked Lady, and Melvin and Howard.
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A BIGGER SPLASH
Luca Guadagnino’s sun-baked, sex-tinged melodrama is a veritable flesh-fest, as a wealthy quartet of holidaymakers finds erotic tensions sparking around their Italian swimming pool. The director’s prowling, restless camera licks around voiceless rock-singer recluse Marianne (Tilda Swinton) and roams over toyboy Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts).
It admires the manic, naked antics of her old flame Harry (Ralph Fiennes) and rubs up against the latter’s daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson). As the quartet bond, bonk and betray one another, the film unrolls their entanglements in sun-bleached fragments, flashbacking with brio to singer Marianne’s Bowie-cum-Björk years with record producer Harry.
Like Guadagnino’s breakout hit I Am Love, also obsessed with Italian food and forbidden love, it’s a stylish, sultry film whose rocky landscapes set off the foursome’s pagan pleasures nicely in this handsome transfer. Though less indulgent than the similar By the Sea, it’s a languid, purposely uneasy piece, its soundtrack darting from opera to the Rolling Stones. Crackling with subtext, it’s atmospheric, though the plot is somewhat self-involved.
What keeps it motoring is Fiennes’ garrulous Harry, whose relentless troublemaking is a delight, a new twist on the comic chops flaunted in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Switching late on to thriller mode, though, the film’s gears grind a bit as it struggles to reconcile murder and melodrama.
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Featurettes
Director: Luca Guadagnino; Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: June 27, 2016
Exuberant to the point of insanity, Stephen Chow’s wet-n’-wild eco fairytale, comedy, action and environmental warnings. The result is an enjoyable mutant of a movie, rather like its finned heroes: a pack of mermaids determined to feed billionaire Liu Xuan (Chao Deng) to the fishes for buying their secret cove to turn into luxury real estate.
Their bait is ravishing mermaid Shan (Yun Lin), who embarks on a Splash-meets-Lust, Caution mission to lure playboy Liu to his death. Crashing through slapstick murder attempts and into a reluctant romance, Yun’s sweetness gives the story real charm.
A sharp Blu-ray transfer makes the garish sets pop, and the ass-kicking action sequences have Chow’s trademark blend of lightning farce and acrobatic skill (check out his minutely choreographed direction in the short but worthwhile extras). Subtle it ain’t, but all this glorious absurdity brings relentless belly laughs, as when mer-leader Octopus’s tentacles get a grilling in a Japanese eatery. Around it, Chow weaves tougher themes, satirising China’s new wealthy class and staging a startlingly gory assault on the mermaid hideaway that recalls the slaughters of dolphin doc The Cove.
Far darker and more ambitious than the martial arts hilarity of Kung Fu Hustle, it’s a big, brash movie that prefers pratfalls and whirling weaponry to art-house allegory. Which is probably why it’s China’s highest-grossing movie ever. Just dive in.
EXTRAS: Making Of, Featurette, Spoof music video
Director: Stephen Chow; Starring: Chao Deng, Show Luo, Yuqi Zhang; DVD, BD release: July 7, 2016
“There never was a woman like Gilda!” drooled the release posters – and no, there probably wasn’t. Rita Hayworth’s Buenos Aires nightclub queen is at once seductive and innocent, a mix of virgin and whore – the stuff male fantasies are made of. No wonder club manager Glenn Ford is obsessed with her, as is club owner George Macready, and her arrival disrupts their implicitly gay relationship. Hothouse passions were rarely steamier than in Charles Vidor’s 1946 thriller.
Gilda reunited Hayworth with Vidor and Rudolph Maté, respectively her director and DOP on Cover Girl, and with their help lastingly established her image as the supreme post-war Hollywood love goddess. But there’s a lot more going on in the movie than maybe appeared at the time. Richard Schickel, in his commentary, credits it with introducing “a new form of sexual tension”.
Criterion’s extras are generous and enlightening. There are enthusiastic intros from Martin Scorsese and Baz Luhrmann, and an intriguing visual essay from film historian Eddie Muller digging into the film’s not-so-hidden gay element. Schickel also explores “the homoerotic subtext” of the movie’s “inner anxieties”, and traces Hayworth’s glittering and ultimately tragic screen career. And in her booklet essay Sheila O’Malley contrasts the film’s relatively lukewarm reception on its US release with the fervent acclaim that greeted it in France.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Interview, Featurettes, Essay
Director: Charles Vidor; Starring: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, George Macready, Joseph Calleia; BD release: June 27, 2016
SON OF SAUL
The setting is hell, aka Auschwitz-Birkenau, early 1945. Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig) is a Sonderkommando – a Jewish prisoner, granted minimal privileges in return for helping herd his fellow Jews into the gas chambers. Then he finds a dying boy he insists is his son. True? It hardly matters – giving the corpse proper Jewish burial becomes his monomaniacal purpose.
Director László Nemes holds close in on Saul’s grim features, letting the soundtrack of screams, shouts and raucous noises convey the horrors around him. A more than deserved Oscar winner.
EXTRAS: Short film, Featurettes
Director: László Nemes; Starring: Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnár, Urs Rechn; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: July 4, 2016
It there anything left to say in the cops vs criminals genre? John Hillcoat makes a semi-decent stab at shaking up the Heat template with his unusually structured tale about a straight cop (Casey Affleck) who becomes a pawn in heist-meister Chiwetel Ejiofor’s plans.
The resulting roundelay of stories gives a remarkable cast plenty to chew on – not least Kate Winslet as a brassy villain – but is undone by its ambition. Once the subplots cancel each other out, what’s left is disappointingly timid. Bar a compulsive SWAT showdown, it’s a little short of firepower.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Deleted scenes
Director: John Hillcoat; Starring: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet; DVD, Digital HD, BD release: June 27, 2016
PRIDE + PREJUDICE + ZOMBIES
Half a decade of false starts has left its mark on this long-stewing adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s genre mash-up, a film that asks us to chortle afresh at a one-joke premise.
Still, you have to salute the gusto with which Lily James, Sam Riley et al hurl themselves into Burr Steers’ gory reimagining of Jane Austen’s romance, even if its budget isn’t big enough to do its period pastiche justice. Matt Smith fares best as a pompous preacher whose comedic beats, tellingly, are all Austen’s own.
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Line-o-rama, Deleted Scenes, Gag reel
Director: Burr Steers; Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Matt Smith; DVD, Digital HD, BD release: June 27, 2016
HOW TO BE SINGLE
Don’t let the patronising title or the shared DNA with He’s Just Not That Into You (the source books share an author) put you off; How to Be Single is more likeable than your standard romcom. Dakota Johnson’s Alice moves to NYC after breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, buddying up and cutting loose with Rebel Wilson’s party animal.
Johnson’s affable everygirl and Wilson’s whirlwind make a great duo, but their sparky womance is intertwined with some less compelling subplots. Occasionally sappy but frequently funny, this is a big step up from director Christian Ditter’s Love, Rosie.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes
Director: Christian Ditter; Starring: Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: June 27, 2016
THE WICKED LADY
Michael Winner’s gloriously lurid bodice-ripper (produced by Golan-Globus) returns to DVD with its censor-baiting whipping scene restored intact – something that might make this a sought-after item for Star Trek: The Next Generation fans who spent seven years captivated by Deanna Troi’s cleavage.
Marina Sirtis’, though, are not the only boobs on display in this tale of a bored aristo (Faye Dunaway) who moonlights as a thief, a pastime that soon puts her in the crosshairs of Alan Bates’ randy highwayman. Sex, violence and nudity hilariously ensue, making this the very definition of a guilty pleasure.
Director: Leslie Arliss; Starring: Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Patricia Roc; DVD release: July 4, 2016
MELVIN AND HOWARD
When Melvin Dummar (Paul Le Mat) picks up an old man in the desert who claims to be Howard Hughes (Jason Robards), he thinks nothing of it... until the billionaire’s death leaves an unexpected legacy.
Jonathan Demme’s comedy-drama fills in the blanks behind a real-life ’70s cause célèbre to create a charming portrait of Melvin’s life. While Mary Steenburgen’s lively work as Melvin’s wife won an Oscar, the real star is Demme, whose astute sense of screwball realism continues to influence indie cinema.
Director: Jonathan Demme; Starring: Paul Le Mat, Jason Robards, Elizabeth Cheshire, Mary Steenburgen; DVD release: July 4, 2016