Out on September 4 and September 11
James Gunn compiles another superhero mixtape. Julian Barratt brings a fictional TV detective to life.
Yes, here’s the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Mindhorn, Blow, The Murderer Lives at 21, Jeremiah Johnson, Madhouse, The Dirty Dozen, Daughter of the Nile, Neruda, The Amityville Horror, and Lola.
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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The first time you make a mixtape, you pour out your heart and soul to choose the perfect songs to wow the listener. Then, the second time, you have to somehow repeat the magic – but now everybody knows what to expect. Sound familiar? This is exactly the same problem that sequels have, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a classic example of that difficult second mixtape.
The first Guardians of the Galaxy was an unlikely hit – a joyously anarchic space opera involving a talking raccoon and a walking tree. It was proof that Marvel was on to a winner picking leftfield talents (here, Troma veteran James Gunn) and letting them remould the superhero movie to fit their tastes.
Gunn’s back for Vol. 2, but continuity has had mixed fortunes in the MCU. Jon Favreau and Joss Whedon’s sequels couldn’t top what they’d already achieved and some of the best follow-ups (Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) worked because fresh eyes took characters in new directions.
In a year when rival superhero studios have found their mojo with Logan and Wonder Woman, Marvel suddenly looks off-guard. It’s the same problem Pixar has faced – when you’re known for innovation, ‘more of the same’ looks like a backwards step. Vol. 2 is an enjoyable, undeniable crowdpleaser, and even Gunn-ier than its predecessor. Yet if this was a CD, you’d skip straight to the highlights.
Let’s stick to the songs for a moment. Where the first film found pleasure in juxtaposing one-hit wonders and novelty records, here Gunn heads for obvious reference points – ELO, Fleetwood Mac, George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’. Don’t forget that even Vol. 1’s Bowie cut was an album track and Gunn’s choices feel lazy.
The film suffers a similar predictability. Rather than the original’s scampering caper from prison planet to intergalactic market to space-age metropolis, this is set mostly on a single (and unpopulated) planet, via detours to a generic sci-fi movie forest and a generic sci-fi movie spaceship.
Gunn arguably set himself up for a fall by foreshadowing the mystery of Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father first time around, which means parental issues dominate here from the start. Instead of causing chaos, the Guardians are forced to contemplate their lives as misfits, sharing their feelings with the help of an empath, kooky new arrival Mantis (Pom Klementieff).
So, on the one hand, this is sentimental, standard-issue stuff about the value of friendship. On the other, Gunn has been granted greater creative control, and he pushes the boundaries of the family-friendly Marvel movie with copious swearing, severed toes and mass slaughter, usually set to a jaunty ’70s pop tune. It feels less of a radical subversion of the template, more a DJ engineering some tonal extremes to keep his mixtape interesting.
It’s a shame, because Gunn nails the mood sporadically. The magnificent first act is a reminder of the gang’s former glories, as they piss off a court of gold-skinned snobs led by Elizabeth Debicki. There’s a flash of the earlier film’s delight in costume and production design in a visit to a nightclub in a snowy outpost. And a prison break set-piece brings slick, sick laughs.
Yet the closing stretch of the hypothetical tape’s Side 2 is the equivalent of an extended prog-rock wig-out accompanied by a Jean-Michel Jarre light show. The superhero genre is rightly getting stick for its CGI-heavy endings and Vol. 2’s is especially disappointing because, in the opening battle with a ferocious space beast, Gunn proves the virtues of approaching the action from a tangent.
The cast does the heavy lifting. A more confident Dave Bautista has fun playing the well-meaning but insensitive Drax. Bradley Cooper’s Rocket gets to essay the wounded beast behind the snarl. There are times when the film is a love letter to Gunn regular Michael Rooker, who gets the film’s most surprising, moving character arc as Yondu. If anything, top-billed Pratt, the star of Vol. 1, is saddled with the film’s dullest material in daddy issues with Ego (Kurt Russell, himself coasting after recent triumphs in The Hateful Eight and Bone Tomahawk).
Really, though, it is Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) who steals the show, bopping blissfully around in the heat of battle or failing spectacularly to follow simple instructions. He’s the film’s consistent reminder of the Guardians’ qualities – witty, heartfelt and revelling in the ridiculous. It’s enough to make you wish that this was a solo album.
Extras include two deleted scenes, two extended ones, a lot of off-camera dancing and Sly Stallone struggling to pronounce ‘Ravagers’. Gunn delivers a typically committed commentary but the most fun extra is the most seemingly throwaway – music vid ‘Inferno’, featuring David Hasselhoff and some VIPs…
EXTRAS: Commentary, Deleted scenes, Making Of, Intro, Gag reek, Music video
Director: James Gunn; Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista; DVD, BD, 3D, 4K, UHD, Digital HD release: September 4, 2017
Mindhorn didn’t make a big impact at the cinema, but its premise feels better suited to the living room: The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt plays a washed-up actor who gets to relive his TV detective heyday to help solve a real crime on the Isle of Man.
It’s patchy in places, but when it’s funny, it’s hilarious, and well-cast support players add to a comedy that’s impossible to dislike. A commentary from Barratt and his co-writer/co-star Simon Farnaby and in-world extras add to the fun.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes, Music video
Director: Sean Foley; Starring: Julian Barratt, Russell Tovey, Essie Davis; Digital HD release: August 28, 2017; DVD, BD release: September 4, 2017
On release, Ted Demme’s biopic of ’70s drug-runner George Jung (Johnny Depp) resembled Goodfellas cut with talcum powder. Post-Breaking Bad, it plays like pure talc. The main USP is a reminder of Depp’s pre-Pirates form; despite a predictable arc (and some silly wigs), Depp invests fully.
Yet the casting of Ray Liotta rams home how much Demme’s stolid direction lacks Goodfellas’ amoral rush: instead, a climactic party for Jung falls to ‘Just say no’ cliché. Old extras.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Deleted scenes, Outtakes, Production diary, Interviews, Documentary, Trivia, Music video
Director: Ted Demme; Starring: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Franka Potente; Dual format release: May 29, 2017
The Murderer Lives at 21
The directorial debut from until-then-screenwriter Henri-Georges Clouzot (The Wages of Fear, Les Diaboliques) is a noir-tinged murder mystery with straight-faced touches of farce. Discovering that the serial killer terrorising Paris lives in a rooming-house at 21 rue Junot, Inspector Wenceslas Wens (Pierre Fresnay) moves into the pension disguised as a priest.
His girlfriend Mila (Suzy Delair) moves in too, and between them they investigate their eccentric fellow guests, with the tone lacing Clouzot’s penchant for black humour with hints of the paranoid mood of Nazi-occupied Paris.
EXTRAS: Interview, Featurette
Director: H.G. Clouzt; Starring: Pierre Fresnay, Suzy Delair, Jean Tissier; Dual format release: June 12, 2017
Stunningly shot in the wild mountains of Utah, the second of Sydney Pollack’s seven movies with Robert Redford tells the tale of a real-life 1850s mountain man whose mysterious fate made him something of a legend.
Redford morphs convincingly from tenderfoot to rugged survivor, taking on all odds, with Will Geer as the grizzled old-timer who teaches him the lore of the wilderness. Warner Bros pushed for a back-lot shoot, but Pollack stubbornly held out for the real thing.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurette, Postcards
Director: Sydney Pollak; Starring: Robert Redford, Will Geer, Delle Bolton; Dual format release: June 12, 2017
One of the easier-to-follow international knock-offs directed by Egyptian-Italian opportunist Ovidio Assonitis (Tentacles, The Visitor), this soft-focus 1981 slasher – one of the ‘video nasty’ films banned in the ’80s – combines the plots of Sisters and Happy Birthday To Me to eccentric effect.
Trish Everly is Julia Sullivan, the innocent school teacher for deaf children who’s menaced by evil twin Mary (Allison Biggers) and her hungry hound. Despite some full-throttle SFX scenes, it’s for completists rather than casual fans. Ample extras.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Interviews, Alternative opening, Booklet
Director: Oliver Hellman; Starring: Trish Everly, Michael MacRae, Dennis Robertson; DVD, BD release: June 12, 2017
The Dirty Dozen
Lee Marvin leads 12 “deadheads” – an unruly gaggle of lifers and Death Row inmates – on a suicide mission into Nazi-occupied France, in a bid to win their freedom. But first, they must succeed…
Robert Aldrich’s hugely influential action-classic set the template for a new breed of war movie, where the ‘heroes’ are just as brutal as the villains (or, in Telly Savalas’ Maggott’s case, a serial killer with a government- issued gun). As purely thrilling as it is downright nasty.
EXTRAS: Commentary, Sequel, Introduction, Making Of, Documentary, Featurette
Director: Robert Aldrich; Starring: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson; Dual format release: June 5, 2017
Daughter of the Nile
Hou Hsiao-hsien’s calm, contemplative study of ’80s Taiwanese youth recasts the crime movie as a soulful domestic melodrama. Night school student and KFC waitress Xiaoyang (Lin Yang), who’s been left to look after her younger siblings, is the worried observer to a gang involving her brother (Jack Kao), who she imagines sharing the fate of the doomed Pharaoh in her favourite manga.
Hou contrasts the steadfast, stoic Xiaoyang with the men’s uncertain temptation by romance, crime and gambling, creating resonant patterns of conformity and rebellion through his plaintive, painterly images.
EXTRAS: Featurette, Booklet
Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou; Starring: Lin Yang, Jack Kao, Shu-Fang Chen; Dual format release: May 29, 2017
Glossy, candy-coloured and richly cynical in its view of post-war German society, Fassbinder’s reworking of The Blue Angel stars Barbara Sukowa as Lola, glamorous blonde nightclub singer and call-girl, mistress to cheerfully corrupt building contractor Schukert (Mario Adorf).
When the city appoints a new, reputedly straight-arrow building inspector (Armin Mueller-Stahl), Schukert sees a use for Lola’s charms – and the poor naïve guy all too readily succumbs. Fassbinder’s take on the German ‘economic miracle’ dazzlingly blends satire and melodrama.
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder; Starring: Barbara Sukowa, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Mario Adorf; BD release: July 3, 2017
The Amityville Horror
In 1979, Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke) directed this adaptation of Jay Anson’s book The Amityville Horror, charting the alleged real-life haunting of the Lutz family in Long Island, with James Brolin and Margot Kidder playing the parental roles.
The film was a financial success but died critically, and with good reason. It’s overlong, ropey and – most damning of all – boring, playing like a cheap Exorcist wannabe with neither depth nor substance. Extras focus on the film (cast retrospectives) and its inspirations (chat-track by paranormal researcher; feature-length doc)
EXTRAS: Commentary, Interviews, Documentary, Intro
Director: Stuart Rosenberg; Starring: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger; BD release: June 26, 2017
You don’t go to Pablo Larraín for a conventional biopic. Small wonder then that his year-in-the-life of on-the-lam Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is something else entirely: a surreal combo of road movie, western and existential puzzler that has the titular character (Luis Gnecco) play an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse with the incompetent copper pursuing him (Gael García Bernal).
“The movie is like going to Neruda’s house and playing with his toys,” explains the Jackie director helpfully in an accompanying interview.
EXTRAS: Interview, Trailer
Director: Pablo Larraín; Starring: Gael García Bernal, Luis Gnecco, Mercedes Morán; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: July 10, 2017