Out on 26 December and 2 January
A real strum-dinger from Laika. The Lonely Island go long.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Kubo and the Two Strings, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, War Dogs, Bad Moms, The Man Between, Mechanic: Resurrection, Desierto, Twilight’s Last Gleaming, Kes, Jamaica Inn, Independence Day: Resurgence, and Roxanne.
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Kubo and the Two Strings
There is an audacity and exoticism to the latest animation from Coraline creator Laika that could normally only be dreamt of by stop-motion champion Aardman. The story of a Japanese tyke on a quest to reclaim his late father’s armour, it’s finely crafted, if at times heavier-going than it ought to be.
Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey bring star power as a maternal monkey and giant beetle respectively, while the visuals are eye-popping throughout.
EXTRAS: Commentary (BD), Featurettes
Director: Travis Knight; Starring: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey; Digital HD release: January 2, 2017; DVD, BD, BD 3D release: January 16, 2016
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Comedy trio The Lonely Island adapt their musical absurdity to film with this merciless mock-rock-doc that riffs on Justins Bieber and Timberlake (the latter among a long line of in-on-the-joke cameos). Andy Samberg is Conner, a boybander turned spoilt megastar touring his poorly received second album.
It takes well-aimed, if crass, pop shots at social-media socialites, but the real joy comes from the songs (‘I’m So Humble’, ‘Things In My Jeep’), each one a bona-fide hit in the hilarity stakes
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted scenes, Music videos, Gag reel
Directors: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone; Starring: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: December 26, 2016
Despite its charisma-loaded leads and promising non-fiction basis, Todd Phillips’ (The Hangover) bros-in-arms dramedy could use more fresh satirical ammo. Striking up a crisp chemistry as arms-dealing dudes, Jonah Hill is amoral sleaze incarnate and Miles Teller is a sturdy audience surrogate – the straight man. (Bradley Cooper enjoys a beady-eyed cameo, too.)
But as the duo stumble from Miami to Fallujah, their dozy antics don’t pack the ethical or comic clout required. This mutt’s got more banter than bite. Basic extras.
Director: Todd Phillips; Starring: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller; DVD, BD, 4K, Digital HD release: December 26, 2016
The Hangover writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore offer up wish-fulfilment for mothers everywhere, starring Mila Kunis as burnt-out mum-of-two Amy, who teams up with the equally stressed Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell for some liberating irresponsibility, much to the chagrin of PTA queen Christina Applegate.
Hahn gets most of the best moments as an over-the-top man-eater, but the laughs are mostly lowbrow. Inevitably, though, the crudity gives way to the kind of sugary ending that gives mum movies a bad name.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes, Gag reel
Directors: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore; Starring: Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: December 26, 2016
The Man Between
A virtual re-run of The Third Man from Carol Reed, with Berlin substituting for Vienna and James Mason standing in for Orson Welles, though Graham Greene’s scripting and Anton Karas’ zither are much missed. Still, Reed vividly captures the sour mood of Cold War Berlin, split in two and scarred from the war.
Mason – dodgy German accent apart – is good as the fixer playing off both sides; Claire Bloom is touching as the visiting ingénue who falls for him; and a crack supporting cast add to the sense of guilt-ridden duplicity.
EXTRAS: Featurette, Interviews
Director: Carol Reed; Starring: James Mason, Claire Bloom, Hildegard Knef; DVD, BD release: January 2, 2017
Five years on from Simon West’s The Mechanic, Jason Statham’s MacGyver-like assassin Arthur Bishop is back for this globe-trotting Dennis Gansel-directed sequel. When an old frenemy (Sam Hazeldine) kidnaps Bishop’s new love (Jessica Alba), he’s forced to pull off three near-impossible hits to save her.
Tommy Lee Jones crops up, complete with Dr. Evil-like lair, but this is largely a functional action-fest, enlivened by one or two outlandish set-pieces. Enjoyable, but no more please.
Director: Dennis Gansel; Starring: Jason Statham, Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: December 26, 2016
If you think Negan is bad, wait until you see the racist redneck Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays in Gravity scripter Jonás Cuarón’s taut thriller: a flag-waving, gun-toting SOB whose determination to single-handedly police the porous southern border makes him a virtual poster boy for Donald Trump’s America.
Gael García Bernal is one of the Rio Grande-crossing illegals he has in his literal sights, cueing up a brutal game of cat and mouse that unapologetically puts the viewer in the shoes of the latter. A none-more-timely drama.
Director: Jonás Cuarón; Starring: Gael García Bernal, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Alondra Hidalgo; Digital HD release: November 7, 2016
Twilight’s Last Gleaming
When Burt Lancaster’s rogue general seizes a nuclear base, he holds Charles Durning’s US president to ransom: reveal dark secrets about Vietnam, or face Armageddon.
Robert Aldrich’s thriller mixes old-school machismo with post-Watergate paranoia to fascinating effect, the tension maintained with superbly edited split-screen techniques, while the arguments fall just the right side of farce. With themes that include the pressures facing an untested president, it’s still pertinent
EXTRAS: Documentary, Essay
Director: Robert Aldrich; Starring: Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Roscoe Lee Browne; Dual format release: October 31, 2016
Nearly 50 years on, Ken Loach’s gritty adap of the late Barry Hines’ A Kestrel for a Knave remains the veteran director’s best-known and most accessible film, its portrait of a Yorkshire lad finding solace and self-worth in the training of a falcon striking deep emotional chords.
There’s no missing the political subtext either, Loach taking clear aim at Britain’s class system and its habit of crushing those who look beyond their station. Yet this quiet tragedy is not without humour, most of it emanating from Brian Glover’s PE teacher.
EXTRAS: Interviews, Trailer, Booklet
Director: Ken Loach; Starring: David Bradley, Brian Glover, Freddie Fletcher; BD release: November 7, 2016
Killing time before departing for Hollywood, Hitchcock took on this rip-roaring melodrama set in 1820s Cornwall. An innocent young orphan (19-year-old Maureen O’Hara) arrives at her uncle’s inn to find it a den of smugglers keen on gross overacting. They’re all out-hammed, though, by Charles Laughton at his most self-indulgent.
Since Laughton was also the co-producer, Hitch couldn’t do much to rein him in. “You can’t direct a Laughton picture,” remarked Hitchcock resignedly. “The best you can hope for is to referee.” Still, it trundles along divertingly enough.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Intro
Director: Alfred Hitchcock; Starring: Maureen O'Hara, Robert Newton, Charles Laughton; Dual format release: November 7, 2016
Independence Day: Resurgence
Whatever some millennials would have you believe, Independence Day is not a ’90s masterpiece. But it is a fine example of simple, witty storytelling. Again directed by Roland Emmerich, this belated sequel doubles the spectacle but halves the fun.
There are bigger alien ships and more disaster porn than ever, but barely a joke that lands, or a plot point that makes sense. Even Jeff Goldblum, a man crackling with charisma, can’t elevate the script above flat, and that’s before you get to Liam Hemsworth.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Making Of, Featurettes, Deleted scenes, Gag reel
Director: Roland Emmerich; Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman; DVD, BD, 3D BD, 4K, Digital HD release: November 14, 20176
Steve Martin’s reworking of the Cyrano de Bergerac story (he’s scripter and star) sees him play a fire chief smitten with astronomer Roxanne (Daryl Hannah). Only one problem: yep, that nose. Martin’s on top form, bringing off the verbal and physical comedy with dexterity.
Two scenes stand out: one where he vanquishes two skiers with a squash racket, and one where he reels off 20 put-downs more creative than “big nose”. The scene’s fluently adapted from Edmond Rostand’s play, with Martin’s writing doing his source material full justice. Unusually for a Eureka release, no extras bar trailer.
Director: Fred Schepisi; Starring: Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, Rick Rossovich; Dual format release: November 21, 2017