Out on March 5 and March 12
Kenneth Branagh directs and stars in a Poirot reboot. A gruelling (in a good way) debut from Ben Young.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Murder on the Orient Express, Hounds of Love, I Am Heath Ledger, Ivan’s Childhood, LA Vengeance, The Mysteries of Picasso, New World, and Phenomena.
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Murder on the Orient Express
The Branagh-ssance continues with this lavish Agatha Christie adaptation, directed by and starring the Ken-ergiser himself. Bristly Belgian detective Hercule Poirot must establish who, from a galaxy of Hollywood stars (Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Penélope Cruz), could possibly wish obvious wrong ’un [SPOILER REDACTED] harm?
Branagh essays his role with the usual vim but is let down by a shaky accent. “Forgive me,” he offers, “I am Belgian.” If you insist. Still, your nan will love it.
Director: Kenneth Branagh; Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp; Digital HD release: February 26, 2018 DVD, BD release: March 5, 2018
I Am Heath Ledger
Released on the 10th anniversary of Heath Ledger’s death, this affectionate doc offers fans a welcome chance to revisit the life and career of an extraordinary talent gone far too soon. But it feels inescapably like a snapshot. Kicking off with his childhood and early work, and offering a brisk précis of his biggest movie hits and other creative endeavours, the film fuses Ledger’s own handheld camera footage with talking heads mainly comprising the Australian actor’s family and close friends.
Ledger's selfie tapes are the most intimate and revealing aspect here, but they’re all from the earlier part of his career, so as the film progresses, the publicity-shy star himself becomes more remote (the deleted scenes include one nice additional snippet).
The interviews, meanwhile, provide a warm sense of what it was like to be caught in his gravitational pull, and there are some lovely heartfelt anecdotes, admittedly buried within a few too many adulatory accounts.
Ang Lee and Naomi Watts provide engaging contributions, but some key collaborators are notably missing (Brokeback co-star Jake Gyllenhaal, The Dark Knight’s Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan), and understandable as her absence is, the lack of Michelle Williams’ voice is keenly felt.
Despite its flaws, I Am Heath Ledger is essential viewing for committed Ledger fans, offering a reminder of his talent and presence, but it lacks the broader appeal to cross over.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes
Directors: Adrian Buitenhuis, Derik Murray; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: January 22, 2018
Hounds of Love
Few do bleak and brutal like the Aussies, and Ben Young’s writing and directing debut is a gruelling watch. Loosely based on real-life serial-killer couple David and Catherine Birnie, who carried out a spree of horrific murders in suburban Perth in the ’80s, Hounds’ attackers are John and Evelyn, played brilliantly by Stephen Curry and Emma Booth.
It’s not, however, gratuitous, eschewing cheap scares and gore for an unblinking study of male violence – towards teenage abductee Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) and within a toxic marriage. The inclusion of two of Young’s short films showcases an enfant terrible in the making.
EXTRAS: Interviews, Short films, Music video
Director: Ben Young; Starring: Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, Stephen Curry; BD release: January 29, 2018
With this debut feature, Andrei Tarkovsky leapt straight into prominence, picking up a Golden Lion at Venice. In WW2 Ukraine, 12-year-old Ivan (Nikolai Burlyayev), orphaned when his family are killed by the Nazis, dodges back and forth across the front line spying for the Soviets.
Dark and jagged scenes of war are spliced with Ivan’s idyllic sunlit memories from before the conflict. More straightforward than Tarkovsky’s later philosophical brain-twisters, it has all his feel for lyrical texture and sense of angst.
EXTRAS: Interviews, Booklet
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky; Starring: Nikolai Burlyaev, Valentin Zubkov, Evgeny Zharikov; BD release: January 29, 2018
Don’t be shocked, but this straight-to-DVD Bruce Willis caper isn’t quite the return to form you’ve been looking for. At least the Die Hard star looks a little more animated than in many of his recent duds. As private eye Steve Ford, he embraces the ridiculousness of this sunny, multi-stranded noir from Mark and Robb Cullen, the brothers who wrote Kevin Smith’s Cop Out.
Sadly, throughout his many cases, neither Willis, nor his noteworthy co-stars – including John Goodman, Jason Momoa, and Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch – uncover many actual laughs.
EXTRAS: Making Of
Director: Mark Cullen; Starring: Bruce Willis, John Goodman, Jason Momoa; DVD release: January 22, 2018
The Mysteries of Picasso
Determined to capture artist Pablo Picasso’s process for posterity, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s simple but stunning filmuses transparent canvases to record the Spaniard’s roving pen as he creates 20 original works from scratch.
Like a (very) high-class version of Take Hart, it’s gripping, captivating stuff, animated by Georges Auric’s thrumming score, racing from jazz to flamenco across the pictures. Gorgeously fluid marker squiggles build into arcing bull fights or sensuous nudes, and even a botched beachscene collage can’t ruffle Picasso’s swift style and shrug- it-off creative confidence.
EXTRAS: Documentary, Home movie
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot; DVD, BD release: January 22, 2018
I Saw the Devil scribe Park Hoon-jung’s sinuous, slow-burn drama pivots around a power struggle for Korea’s biggest crime syndicate. Choi Min-sik’s weary police chief seeks to weaken its grip, using twitchy inside man (Lee Jung-jae) to influence the vote for a new chairman. But after eight years undercover, can he still be trusted?
Hwang Jung-min steals the show as a charismatic potential heir, while a brutal elevator knife fight is the standout set-piece. The transfer is as sharp as the tailoring, but a trailer’s the only bonus.
Director: Hoon-jung Park; Starring: Jung-jae Lee, Min-sik Choi, Jung-min Hwang; Dual Format release: January 15, 2018
One of Dario Argento’s most divisive horrors, and one of his last that could feasibly be labelled essential viewing, this giallo is absolutely bonkers. A pre-Labyrinth Jennifer Connelly is a sleepwalking boarding school girl who can communicate with insects, Donald Pleasence a crippled entomologist; together they investigate a series of grisly murders in the Swiss Alps.
The results are extraordinary, in all senses. Extras include giallo-expert chat-track and a feature-length doc.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Documentary, Music video, Vintage pressbook
Director: Dario Argento; Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasence, Daria Nicolodi; DVD, BD release: January 15, 2018