Out on 7 March and 15 March
Maggie Smith hangs out in a van – and she might be a while. Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn go for a gamble – and they also might be a while.
Yes, here's the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases coming out in the next two weeks. Click on for our reviews of The City of Lost Children, James White, The Lady in the Van, Mississippi Grind, Suffragette, Valentino, Comfort and Joy, Sleepers, Rocco and His Brothers, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, Autumn Almanac, Being John Malkovich, Peter de Rome, The Wolfman, Michael Collins, and Waking Life.
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THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN
A doe-eyed child watches as Santa Claus comes down the chimney. But then follows another St. Nick, and another – and three through the door – as a beautiful dream turns into a disquieting nightmare. So begins Delicatessen directors Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's second – and to date last – collaboration, The City Of Lost Children, a film as strange and stunning as a Salvador Salí exhibition.
Co-written with Gilles Adrien, it's a kinetic comic-book carnival, set in a French port and driven by Ron Perlman's strongman one, who's desperate to retrieve his little brother from Krank (Daniel Emilfork), an oil-rig dwelling inventor who is stealing children's dreams. Accompanying him is orphaned girl Miette (Judith Vittet, meant to look like a cross between Olive Oyl and Minnie Mouse, explains costume designer Jean Paul Gaultier in the extras).
This only scratches the surface of a fairytale universe populated by clones, fleas, fanatics, dwarfs and even a talking brain. Partly shot by cinematographer Darrius Khondji, the very same year he DP'd on David Fincher's Se7en, it's one of the handsomest movies in French-film history. Inspired by Terry Gilliam, its watery world is painted in murky greens and sunflower yellows, beautifully rendered in this new Blu-ray transfer.
If the emotions are sometimes buried beneath the narrative, Jeunet and Caro's oddball humour pulls you through. True, in a world populated by more freaks than a Tod Browning reunion the effect is almost overwhelming. But it's hard to begrudge any film teeming with such invention.
Extras include behind-the-scenes footage (screen tests, kids' workshop) and a 26-minute Making Of. There's also a brief interview with Gaultier, and footage from his studio as the actresses playing Siamese twins try on three-legged trousers. "It's a little over the top," says one. Well, yes – but in a (very) good way.
EXTRAS: Commentary > Making Of > Interview
Directors: Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet Starring: Ron Perlman, Daniel Emilfork, Judith Vittet, Jean-Claude Dreyfus DVD, BD, Digital HD release: March 14, 2016
We kick off with a blast of discordant noise as James White (Girls' Christopher Abbott) stumbles drunkenly through a disco-blaring nightclub and out into a New York morning. The camera tracks back with him, holding in tight close-up on his sweaty, bleary face, telling us that this is a guy wholly wrapped up in his own immature, irresponsible self.
Yet before the film's hit the end credits we'll see him tenderly cradling his terminally cancer-stricken mother in his arms, soothing her with a tale of the blissful future as a beloved grandma that she'll never live to know: "See me happy. See me as a father… See me smile to see you so happy."
Just how James gets from here to there is the core of Josh Mond's debut directorial feature. Mond (producer of Simon Killer, Afterschool and Martha Marcy May Marlene) brings true-life emotional investment to the story: he lost his own mother to cancer not so long ago. Which may be why, for all James's short-fused douche behaviour, for all his abuse of his best friend Nick (Scott Mescudi) and of his patient girlfriend Jayne (Makenzie Leigh), he never totally forfeits our sympathy.
Abbot's riveting performance as James, at once aggressive and helpless – "What am I supposed to do?" he howls pathetically – is the prime focus of Mond's fluid camera, but he's matched by Cynthia Nixon, who's heartbreakingly vulnerable as his dying mother Gail. Honest, moving and often unexpectedly funny, James White leaves us with Gail's words to her son: "It's OK to be sad."
Director: Josh Mond; Starring: Christopher Abbott, Cynthia Nixon, Scott Mescudi, Ron Livingston; DVD release: 29 February 2016
THE LADY IN THE VAN
After stage and radio versions, Alan Bennett now adapts his memoir for the screen, with Alex Jennings playing Bennett and Maggie Smith, veteran of the two previous formats, again essaying Miss Shepherd, who parked her clapped-out van in the writer’s Camden driveway and stayed put for 15 years.
Smith makes us care for a woman who’s beyond cantankerous and just short of pernicious, and Jennings unfussily portrays the two sides of Bennett (writer, man) who physically share the frame, usually squabbling. But the flashes of backstory are clunky and the meta-dimensions come with a whiff of self-satisfaction.
EXTRAS: Commentary > Making Of > Featurettes > Deleted scenes
Director: Nicholas Hytner; Starring: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Jim Broadbent, Clare Hammond; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: 7 March 2016
Filmmaking duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson, It's Kind Of A Funny Story) take a gamble on Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds in a road movie that wallows deeply in the doldrums of addiction. As our leads take a do-or-die pilgrimage down the titular river and even further into the red, it's like watching the proverbial car crash in slow motion.
At times the drama threatens to stall altogether, but it's redeemed by a seductive delta-blues soundtrack and the charisma of its stars, who are by turns infuriating, electric, deplorable and captivating.
Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck; Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn; DVD, Digital HD release: 7 March 2016
Unbelievably, it took until 1928 for women to be able to vote in the UK, and the campaign was a hard-fought one, as Sarah Gavron's film makes searingly clear. Carey Mulligan shines as a laundry worker who gradually reaches a political awakening, while a host of other cracking British actresses flesh out the movement, including Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Romola Garai and the always-welcome Natalie Press.
The film's not quite as polite as some early reviews reckoned – scenes of force-feeding are suitably horrific – though it's a surprise that the very relevant World War I barely gets a mention.
EXTRAS: Commentary > Featurettes
Director: Sarah Gavron; Starring: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Whishaw, Meryl Streep; DVD, BD, Digital HD release: 29 February 2016
"What idiot made this?" was Ken Russell's own verdict on his sex-soaked biopic of silent cinema's first megastar, Rudolph Valentino. But for lovers of the director's extravagant style, age has improved both the stunning recreation of decadent '20s Hollywood and the story of Valentino's rise from tango gigolo to tortured screen idol.
Revel in its high-camp homage to the visual excess of silent cinema, from Rudolf Nureyev's wildly theatrical lead turn to the sandy shenanigans of 1921's The Sheikh. It's at its best when Nureyev steps up in style to flaunt Valentino's brooding talents on the dance floor.
EXTRAS: Commentary > Interview > Audio lectures
Director: Ken Russell; Starring: Rudolf Nureyev, Leslie Caron, Michelle Phillips, Carol Kane; Dual format release: 29 February 2016
COMFORT AND JOY
Unjustly critiqued on its initial release for not being the equal of Gregory’s Girl and Local Hero and for seeming to make light of Glasgow's deadly ice-cream turf wars, Bill Forsyth's comedy has matured with age.
Viewed now, it’s both a touching portrait of a mid-life crisis and a love letter to a city that has seldom looked more noirishly romantic than it does when lensed through Chris Menges' camera. Bill Paterson has rarely been finer either as the dumped DJ who, when not taking requests or recording inane jingles, arbitrates to quell a spat between rival Scots-Italian families.
Director: Bill Forsyth;
Starring: Bill Paterson, Eleanor David, Clare Grogan;
DVD, BD, Digital HD release: 29 February 2016
Compared with Spotlight, Barry Levinson's exposé of institutionalised sexual abuse wallows deeper in the grim details but comes off feeling shallow – a tidy, glossy slice of period confessional that sets its uncomfortable paedophilia tale to a John Williams score.
What gives the film its weight is an exceptionally strong cast – with the heavyweight quintet of Kevin Bacon, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Brad Pitt and Minnie Driver filling out an ensemble that spans two generations in the awful lives of New York kids suffering prison, abuse and decades of injustice after a stupid prank goes wrong.
Director: Barry Levinson Starring: Robert De Niro, Kevin Bacon, Brad Pitt DVD release: March 14, 2016
ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS
Following the operatic clashes of the Pandori brothers as they quit the rural South for sinful Milan, Luchino Visconti's gloriously overwrought epic is the three-hour embodiment of 'Go big or go home'. Neo-realism and violent melodrama combine masterfully for a fierce emotional intensity.
Alain Delon's do-right Rocco made him a star, yet it's Renato Salvatori's hothead boxer and Annie Girardot's tragic hooker who leap out of the screen. Meticulously restored, this package reinstates footage censored on release, and crams in well-picked newsreel and doco extras.
EXTRAS: Documentaries > Interviews > Newsreels > Booklet
Director: Luchino Visconti Starring: Alain Delon, Renato Salvatori, Annie Girardot BD release: March 14, 2016
THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER
"Money's my business, eating's my pleasure," leers Michael Gambon's restaurant-going gangster Albert Spica in Peter Greenaway's modern Jacobean revenge tragedy. But when he discovers trophy wife Helen Mirren's infidelity, will he make good on his threat to kill and eat her bookish lover?
Simultaneously very '80s and a disgusted comment on that savage, avaricious decade, this is Greenaway truly having his cake and eating it. With its stunning tracking shots, luscious colour-coding and full-on sex and violence, every scene's perfectly designed to shock or awe.
Director: Peter Greenaway Starring: Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Alan Howard, Tim Roth DVD release: March 14, 2016
PETER DE ROME
"I've been labelled the godfather of gay porn, but I rather prefer the term 'grandfather'," chuckles Peter de Rome, a sweet little old man who dodders around Ramsgate, reminiscing about his career creating hardcore dick-flicks.
The first porn director to see his work preserved by the BFI, de Rome's controversial productions revolutionised the genre at time when the acts his films showed could've landed him in prison. Often as inscrutable as the films themselves, Ethan Reid's documentary coasts gently along on de Rome's memories, but is nonetheless completely unafraid to fill the screen with a lot of penis.
EXTRAS: Featurettes > Audio interviews
Director: Ethan Reid Starring: Robert Alvarez, Kristen Bjorn, Carlos Caballero DVD release: March 14, 2016
While this early film from Béla Tarr is considerably shorter than his arthouse epic Satantango (1994), it's no less challenging or arresting. Set entirely in one decrepit house, it follows the five occupants as they fight, fall in and out of love and give long, despairing monologues on their lives.
Bleak? For sure, but Tarr's exacting style conjures a trance-like mood through his slowly prowling camerawork and vivid, unrealistic use of colour. Whether viewed as an allegory for communist life or a fable of existential dread, the powerful effect is akin to being trapped in a dramatic labyrinth.
Director: Béla Tarr Starring: Hédi Temessy, Erika Bodnár, Miklós B. Székely DVD release: March 14, 2016
BEING JOHN MALKOVICH
This was the first movie that plunged us into the bizarre, surreal world of screenwriter – later director – Charlie Kaufman.
Directed by Spike Jonze, it has John Cusack as a down-on-his-luck street puppeteer forced to take an office job, Cameron Diaz having a bad hair day as his wife and Catherine Keener as Cusack's co-worker when he finds a hidden portal that leads straight into the head of John Malkovich. Soon he and Keener are renting out 15-minute trips inside the actor's head. And then Malkovich himself wants to try it…. Subversive, deranged and sheer delight from start to finish.
EXTRAS: Featurettes > Stills gallery > Bios
Director: Spike Jonze Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich DVD release: March 14, 2016
Sometimes, pre-production scars won't fade. Despite director Mark Romanek's departure, Universal's monster reboot had a sturdy stand-in (Joe Johnston) and cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins. Yet as Benicio's thesp returns to his family's wolf-worried estate, the tonal leash slips.
The wolf attacks roar, dinner scenes bore; Blunt is BBC proper, hammy Hopkins flagrantly improper. A disengaged del Toro, meanwhile, nods off (in this extended cut) nattering to Max von Sydow on a train: clearly, playing a hairy growler didn't stretch him. The fire-licked final fight is nicely OTT, but this beast’s wounds run too deep for repair.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes Director: Joe Johnston Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt DVD release: March 14, 2016
Neil Jordan brings a grand historic sweep to his account of the lost hero of Irish independence (played by Liam Neeson at his most passionate), who started out fighting the British only to be brought down at age 31 by his own compatriots.
Neeson gives a rousing performance, wholly credible as the inspired guerrilla leader who forced the Brits to the negotiating table. And if Julia Roberts seems a bit adrift as the love of Collins' life, there's a chillingly devious showing from the much-missed Alan Rickman as Eamon de Valera, his sometime ally and eventual nemesis.
EXTRAS: Commentary > Intro > Documentary > Deleted scenes
Director: Neil Jordan Starring: Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Stephen Rea, Alan Rickman DVD, BD, Digital HD release: March 7, 2016
A decade after Slacker, Richard Linklater revisited its philosophical walk-and-talk, with a twist. Here, as Wiley Wiggins’ narrator realises he’s in a dream, reality warps into lysergic animation. Shot live, then redrawn by rotoscoping, the result is – like Boyhood – a radical break with convention that makes the ordinary extraordinary.
With its episodic editing further destabilised by the seasick, asynchronous visuals, it’s as freeform as cinema gets. The non-stop intellectual debate, riffing on notions of free will, identity and progress, might exhaust some, but for those prepared to dig deep it’s a joyous trip into Linklater’s optimistic headspace.
EXTRAS: Commentaries > Deleted scenes > Featurettes > Shorts
Director: Richard Linklater; Starring: Wiley Wiggins, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy; Dual format release: March 14, 2016