Out on 6 March and 13 March
MCU's trippiest entry yet. Osamu Tezuka takes on Metropolis. Fede Álvarez delivers a claustrophobic thriller.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Doctor Strange, Metropolis, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Don’t Breathe, Black Society Trilogy, His Girl Friday, The Inflitrator, Southside with You, La Bamba, Dirty Dancing, and Life, Animated.
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“Doctor Strange has been in the back of our minds since the first Iron Man,” says executive producer Stephen Broussard on the extras of the 14th entry in the MCU. You can understand why it’s taken a while for the Sorcerer Supreme to materialise at the movies. A Marvel Comics staple since the ’60s, who enjoyed a spell as a countercultural icon, Stephen Strange is one cool cat – but not as lunchbox-friendly as his stablemates.
Lacking jet boots or Hulk hands, he’s a mind-over-matter kind of guy, a mystery wrapped in an enigma swathed in a Cloak of Levitation. Factor in the Doc’s other trappings – outré visuals; multi-dimensional, multi-syllable mumbo-jumbo – and it seems a shrewd move to have waited until Phase 3 to get Strange.
And the end result? A bit like the first Iron Man. On acid. A goatee-ed fancy-pants suffers physical trauma, becomes a superhero and learns humility (while remaining a bit cocky). If Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance isn’t as show-stopping as Robert Downey Jr.’s, he still gets us rooting for the rich guy. The humour helps.
Unusually for a Marvel comic, the earliest Strange tales mostly restricted chuckles to the credit box. (“Written by the mystical, magical Stan Lee… lettered by the loveable, laughable Artie Simek.”) Here the Doctor gets a healthy injection of Tony Stark-ian snark, raising giggles whether it’s our hero being pompous (in the early, pre-accident scenes) or having his pomposity punctured (in the later, pre-enlightenment scenes).
If his arc seems more accelerated than ol’ Shellhead’s – one minute Stephen’s failing at basic teleportation, the next he’s bending time – at least it gets us to the special effects quicker. The bonus features seem keen to stress the in-camera action (lots of flying ‘glass’), but clearly the lion’s share of spectacle was conjured on a hard drive.
The heavy reliance on CGI – from Catherine wheel portals to the Inception 2.0 kaleidoscape – tickles rather than pickles the eyeballs thanks to sheer invention (director Scott Derrickson takes his cue from Strange creator Steve Ditko’s psychedelic panels) and weapons-grade rendering. Few of the pixel-powered set-pieces feel weightless – except, of course, for one dazzling punch-up that takes place simultaneously on the astral plane and in an ER.
Derrickson’s film dodges some MCU pitfalls – no falling, exploding helicarriers – while succumbing to others. A raccoon-eyed, kung fu-fighting Mads Mikkelsen initially seems a safe bet as the baddie, but ends up joining the likes of Ultron, Malekith and Whiplash in the Brotherhood of All Mouth, No Trousers. Happily, the finale leaves a potentially more layered villain waiting in the wings.
As well as setting up a Strange sequel, there’s some obligatory shared-universe housekeeping, wittily handled. The impression left is that Derrickson has performed not black magic but a neat balancing act, between the familiar and the far-out; between opening the doors of perception and sitting cosily within the borders of the MCU.
On his director’s commentary, Derrickson relates how he went through eight meetings to get the gig (directing, not commentating), how magic in cinema needs a pick-me-up (job done) and how he made sure the surgery scenes were accurate, lest he cop the flak from his nurse wife. Making-of material is chopped into five featurettes.
Things we learned: the catalysing car crash involved eight Lamborghinis and two continents; Cumberbatch tripped over his cape; and Tilda Swinton gives excellent soundbite. “She’s a complete mofo at fighting, but super-serene about doing it,” she says of her twinkly-not-wrinkly Ancient One. There’s no deep-dive into the controversy surrounding her casting, though Swinton does say that, “Gender is in the eye of the beholder.”
Things get meta at the close of the featurettes with an end-credits sting about… the movie’s end-credits sting (teasing developments, Broussard says, “It’ll be interesting to see [Strange] advise the Avengers…”). Deleted scenes offer Mikkelsen meanness, death by mystic icicle, plus a bit where Cumberbatch shakes hands with a poorly dog (sure to become GIF gold).
A Phase 3 look-ahead, meanwhile, whisks through some Black Panther concept art, plus peeps at Guardians Vol. 2 and Thor: Ragnarok. As for Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel honcho Kevin Feige makes the hopefully not hollow promise that Thanos “will show us why he’s the best villain we’ve ever had”.
And the jewel in the Blu-ray crown? The return of ultimate odd couple Thor and Darryl in ‘Team Thor: Part 2’. Following up last year’s Comic-Con short, it’s more of the same, which is to say, another side-splitter, from rent issues to Thor’s see-it-before-someone-spoils-it synopsis of Civil War.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Features, Deleted scenes, Short
Director: Scott Derrickson; Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams; DVD, BD, 3D BD release: March 6, 2017
Back in 1927, Fritz Lang directed Metropolis, one of the classic dystopian movies. Twenty-two years later the great manga artist Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy) produced his own highly idiosyncratic take on the story. Fast-forward to 2001, and screenwriter Katsuhiro Ôtomo (Akira) and director Rintaro (Galaxy Express 999) bring Tezuka’s vision to the screen. With spectacular results.
And now it’s on Blu-ray; prepare to be bowled over by the sheer visual impact of the urban landscapes. As in the original, we’re in a towering futuristic city: Lang’s downtrodden workers have become robots.
An unscrupulous politician, Duke Red, has commissioned an eccentric scientist, Dr. Laughton (a nod to actor Charles), to create a super-robot in the image of his dead daughter. But this robogirl, Tima, who looks like a naïve child, is in fact a super-weapon that’ll give Duke Red invincible powers…
But the plot is the least of it. What’s breathtaking is the scale and ingenuity of the animation, a deftly integrated blend of cel (the characters) and CGI (the settings). Startling camera angles and vertiginous perspectives compel the eye, every frame overflowing with colour and detail.
And rather than the expected electronic or lush symphonic score, Rintaro gives us classic swing jazz numbers and – at an emotional crux in the action – Ray Charles’ heartfelt rendition of ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’. It chimes perfectly.
EXTRAS: Making of, Interviews
Director: Rintaro; Starring: Toshio Furukawa, Scott Weinger, Yuka Imoto; Special dual format release: March 13, 2017
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
Though some would nominate 1977’s James Coburn-led WW2 drama Cross of Iron, most agree that this bleak, savage and defiant picture is Sam Peckinpah’s last hoorah. The booze and brutal run-ins with studios had started to take their toll, but the director stood tall for one final, bloody battle before his career began winding down.
Bring Me the Head… begins with a young pregnant woman in repose by a lake. But that’s your lot as far as tranquillity goes. The woman’s marched before her fat-cat industrialist father (Emilio Fernández) and brutalised until she gives up the name of the unborn child’s father: Alfredo Garcia.
A price of a million dollars is put on Garcia’s head and a pair of bounty hunters (Gig Young, Robert Webber) set off in pursuit, but the focus soon shifts to world-weary bartender Bennie (Warren Oates), who’s informed of the premium and roars off across Mexico in a Ford convertible with his prostitute girlfriend Elita (Isela Vega) riding shotgun. Thing is, Garcia’s already dead, so it’s a case of exhuming the body, lopping off the head and returning it in a burlap sack…
This is a film rife with desert scrub countryside, dilapidated towns, sweat, grime and blood-splattered shootouts – all of it viewed through a cloud of flies and the bottom of the tequila bottles that fuel both Bennie behind the wheel and Peckinpah behind the camera. There’s greed, squalor and squandered love – plus the occasional grace note.
On the first of two excellent commentaries, Stephen Prince, author of Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies, talks of the film’s “drunken quality”, which is heightened by Peckinpah breaking editing rules as gleefully as those kids in The Wild Bunch feed scorpions to ants.
A second yak-track by scholars Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle notes that this “hallucinatory” vibe is amped up by sepulchral day-for-night photography, and that even the humour has a reeling, sick-making quality: Bennie bonds with the head, calling it “Al”, to form an unconventional buddy movie.
Both commentaries discuss the film’s themes of patriarchy, religion and the past occupying the present across the director’s body of work, while the audio file of a Peckinpah Q&A plus Paul Joyce’s ace 1993 doc Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron also dig deep into the man and his movies. Unlike Al’s head in the sack, there are no flies on this package.
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Documentary, Lecture, Songs, Booklet
Director: Sam Peckinpah; Starring: Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Robert Webber; BD release: January 23, 2017
Last year was a great one for horror – perhaps because what was happening in the real world was so horrendous. Often, as in Under the Shadow, Green Room, 10 Cloverfield Lane and Baskin, the films showed people trapped by evil forces beyond their control – clearly a situation to which many could relate.
Directed by Fede Álvarez, who made 2013’s fiendish Evil Dead remake, this home-invasion thriller is as perfectly timed as it is calibrated. It’s a deliciously simple set-up: three house-breakers (including one whose dad runs a burglar-alarm firm) plan to rob Stephen Lang’s blind army vet when they hear he’s hiding a fortune – but that’s not all he’s hiding…
Set in the same decayed Detroit as It Follows and Only Lovers Left Alive, the film plays out like a 90-minute version of that shot in Panic Room, with Pedro Luque’s wonderfully floaty camera following our (anti)heroes over, around and through Lang’s house/trap.
Needless to say, breathing is in short supply. Cleverly conceived by Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues, the film holds surprises aplenty, not least a scene of breathtakingly invasive cruelty.
But it’s also aware of the bigger picture, with its chilling vision of America’s dispossessed having little choice but to turn on each other – and what’s more horrible than that? There’s a mixed bag of extras – decent commentary, five skimpy featurettes, some deleted scenes.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Deleted/Extended scenes
Director: Fede Alvarez; Starring: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: January 16, 2017
Black Society Trilogy
Trust Takashi Miike to release a ‘trilogy’ without any recurring characters, narrative crossovers or remotely similar themes. On the other hand, they’re all ultra-violent, ultra-watchable triad dramas forming a boxset that would chill the warmest of hearts.
Of the three, the strongest is Rainy Dog (1997): less of a gut-puncher than bad-cop shockfest Shinjuku Triad Society (1995), nor as socially acute as Ley Lines (1999), but bleaker, bolder and more refined than anything Miike has done since. Extras include chattracks by Miike biographer Tom Mes and a new interview with the auteur himself.
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Interviews
Director: Takashi Miike; Starring: Tomorowo Taguchi; DVD, BD release: January 16, 2017
His Girl Friday
Howard Hawks’ classic newspaper comedy-romance buffs up gorgeously here, all pearly silvers and inky blacks. Based on ’20s play The Front Page, it sees Cary Grant’s amoral editor trying to grab back reporter and ex-wife Rosalind Russell with a hot Chicago crime story.
Wisecracks zing like pistol shots in the 240-word-per-minute dialogue, creating comedy as cynical and unsentimental as Hawks’ hardboiled journos. High-class extras include detailed analysis and an interview with Hawks; best of all is a niftily restored 1931 film version of The Front Page.
EXTRAS: The Front Page film, Documentary, Featurettes, Radio version
Director: Howard Hawks; Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy; BD release: January 16, 2017
Depictions of real-life undercover cops taking on the criminal elite already crowd the big screen, and Brad Furman’s (The Lincoln Lawyer) film does little to challenge the genre’s best. Bryan Cranston shines, however, as ’80s customs agent Bob Mazur, who took on the Medellín Cartel by chasing the cash rather than the coke.
The tale is entertaining enough, with a fake fiancée (Diane Kruger) adding intrigue, but there’s little new here, and some contrived plotting is infuriating. Mazur himself makes an arresting extras appearance.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted scenes
Director: Brad Furman; Starring: Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger; DVD, BD release: January 23, 2017
Southside with You
It’s rare to see a date movie as smart as writer/director Richard Tanne’s likeable, Linklater-esque romantic drama. Then again, it’s rare to have a couple as smart as president-to-be Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) and his future first lady, Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter).
What might’ve easily been a cheesy Hallmark movie becomes a densely woven ‘walk and talk’ about race, gender and politics. Judged as the Obamas’ origin story, it’s a timely reminder of the effort it takes to become a great leader – but even if we didn’t know the couple’s outcome, the film makes us want to.
Director: Richard Tanne; Starring: Tika Sumpter, Parker Sawyers, Vanessa Bell Calloway; DVD, Digital HD release: January 23, 2017
The heart-thumping, pelvis-thrusting romance between good girl Baby (Jennifer Grey) and bad boy Johnny (Patrick Swayze) still makes all the right moves at 30. This anniversary edition imports tons of extras for another spin, then adds unseen excerpts from the last extensive Dirty Dancing interview Swayze did in 2006, and a bland birthday doc that takes in the stage show and as-yet-unaired TV-movie remake.
“Connection” is the keyword, be it Baby and Johnny finding themselves, each other or a worldwide audience that identifies with their every move.
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Featurettes, Interviews, Outtakes
Director: Emile Ardolino; Starring: Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach; BD release: January 30, 2017
On 3 February, 1959, a light plane took off from Mason City, Iowa, and crashed, killing all three rock-star passengers: Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and 17-year-old Ritchie Valens.
Luis Valdez’s film gives us a warmly sentimental account of Ritchie’s story: his tough Hispanic background in California, his dedication to music, his love for a Wasp girl whose father disapproves, and his rise to brief fame with just three hits, one of them the title number. As Valens, Lou Diamond Phillips likeably acts up a storm.
Director: Luis Valdez; Starring: Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, Rosanna DeSoto; Dual format release: January 9, 2017
Simba, Jafar and Peter Pan are all pressed into service in this powerful heart-warmer, as young Owen Suskind’s family reveal how his all-consuming Disney obsession let them find a gateway into his autistic world.
The accoladed doc links home movies, intimate fly-on-the-wall footage and swooping original animation to tell a coming-of-age story with artistry and real heart. Moving, but not sentimental, it’s a tender film that lets the endearing Owen draw his own thoughtful portrait.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Deleted scenes, Short film, Educational resource
Director: Roger Ross Williams; DVD, Digital HD release: January 30, 2017