Category Archives: Film

DVDs for Autumn 2016

Our film critic Anthony Lowery looks at some of the most exciting DVDs released this autumn. You’ve seen them at the cinema; now sit back and enjoy them at home!

Captain America: Civil War

Coming out on DVD 13th September
A still from the film Captain America: Civil War (2016)
There’s much to be overzealous about here as not only does Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man clash with Chris Evans’ Captain America, but it’s also home to Tom Holland’s debut as Spider-Man.

As a way to heighten superhero accountability when catastrophes occur, the government introduces the Superhuman Registration Act, which consequently divides the featured characters.

The film is helmed by Joe and Anthony Russo (Winter Soldier), who will also tackle the next two Avengers installments. With its extravagant scope and exciting supporting cast (including Martin Freeman and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man), this already feels like an Avengers movie.

Warcraft

Coming out on DVD 27th September
A still from the film Warcraft (2016)
Warcraft was one of few videogame adaptations to hit our screens in 2016. Perhaps the antidote to Middle-earth withdrawals, this fantasy epic sees humans spar with orcs in the realm of Azeroth.

The adventure naturally appeals to Tolkien’s fanbase, but with talent like Ben Foster and Dominic Cooper starring, and with towering visual effects, it has the potential to attract an even larger audience and spawn yet another franchise.

X-Men: Apocalypse

Coming out on DVD 4th October
A still from the film X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Here’s the culmination of the trilogy that began with X-Men: First Class.

Bryan Singer remains in seat after his initial return to the franchise in Days Of Future Past and now, the X-Men face off against En Sabah Nur or Apocalypse, the very first mutant and quite possibly the most powerful. This doesn’t mean that Magneto will be taking a sabbatical from villainy though, as he’s recruited as one of the four Horsemen ordered to protect Apocalypse.

Overnight sensation Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) plays the title role and Channing Tatum’s Gambit makes his debut.

Ghostbusters

Coming out on DVD 11th October
A still from the film Ghostbusters (2016)

Director Paul Fieg reunites with Bridesmaids’ cast Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig as he follows the trend of digging up treasured franchises.

The semi-controversial reboot features comedy-centric female leads, mixing things up in a way that’s consistent with Hollywood’s current addiction to diversity.

Co-starring Chris Hemsworth and with cameos from the original company, this humorous sci-fi will likely spark a trilogy.

Independence Day: Resurgence

Coming out on DVD 18th October
A still from the film Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
2016’s flagship blockbuster positions the original cast alongside newcomers Liam Hemsworth and William Fichtner. Due to budgetary constraints, Will Smith’s Col. Hiller does not appear and instead has been killed off, survived by his son, Dylan.

Twenty years after the events of Independence Day, an unprecedented alien force advances on planet Earth and it’s up to a select few (with their adapted alien technology) to claw the world back from the edge of extinction.

Watch this movie for its Star Wars-esque space battles, groundbreaking visual effects and the wit of its predecessor.

Suicide Squad

Here’s where superhero movies grow up and our morbid fancies take flight. A secret agency recruits a task-force of the most dangerous people on the planet to carry out a highly volatile black ops mission in exchange for clemency.

Suicide Squad is part of the DC Extended Universe franchise, and is essentially similar to Guardians of the Galaxy, looking to a band of untrusted misfits to save the world. Batman (Ben Affleck) appears, but this time he’s seen from the point-of-view of some of his most infamous adversaries. It’s the supervillains who star in this film.

Some have pegged this exposé as the dark horse of 2016, but it’s so much more than that. Given the muscular and abrasive backdrop of writer/director David Ayer (Fury), chances are this will be the macabre ride that fans are wishing for.

Among the principal cast is Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as the cute-meets-psychotic Harley Quinn. Academy Award winner Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) has the entire world waiting on his performance of The Joker as he daringly takes on a role immortalised by the late Heath Ledger. Thankfully, it’s a fresh Joker, rather than an attempt to replicate Ledger’s Oscar-winning rendition.

Here’s the rub: the success of Suicide Squad hinges almost entirely on Leto’s clown, who for the record looks deliciously insane. Expect nightmares.

Anthony Lowery

Suicide Squad is in cinemas 5th August

4 Film releases to look out for in July

Now You See Me 2

The Four Horsemen resurface and are recruited against their will by a tech genius. Now they must pull off their most impossible heist yet.

NowYouSeeMe-2

Release Date: 4th July

The BFG

A remake of the classic children’s movie about a girl named Sophie who meets the Big Friendly Giant. The BFG may look intimidating, but he turns out to be a kind soul who is outcast by the other giants because he refuses to eat children.

The BFG

Release Date: 22nd July

Star Trek Beyond

The USS Enterprise crew encounters a mysterious new enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test. Who knew exploring uncharted space would be so perilous?

StarTrekBeyond

Release Date: 22nd July

Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne unexpectedly returns when the world is faced with unprecedented instability. Set several years after his disappearance at the conclusion of The Bourne Ultimatum, this sequel shows him dealing with a new program created to hunt him down, while he searches for answers to his past and family.

Jason-Bourne-Gallery-01

Release Date: 29th July USA (6th September UK)

Michael Knowles

The Revenant

The Revenant is a hauntingly atmospheric and ruthless revenge film that goes a long way to capturing the true horror and beauty of the wild frontiers of 19th century America.

It is driven forwards by one of the most committed and accomplished performances to grace the silver screen in recent years from Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Departed), who is surrounded by a superb cast featuring Tom Hardy (Legend, Mad Max: Fury Road), Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ex Machina) and Forrest Goodluck, who is making his feature debut here.

The latest film from Oscar-winning, acclaimed director Alejandro G Iñárritu (Birdman, 21 Grams), The Revenant spent a good deal of it’s seemingly never-ending production making headlines for the all the wrong reasons. Spiralling budget? Check. Producer barred from the set? Check. Nine-month shoot in sub-zero conditions? Check. Relocating filming from Canada to Argentina due to a lack of snow? Check.

When some involved with the production described the shoot as ‘a living hell’, Iñárritu decided to speak out himself and set the record straight. Acknowledging the high turnover of crewmembers, he pointed out to The Hollywood Reporter that, “as a director, if I identify a violin that is out of tune, I have to take that from the orchestra.”

He also defended the decision to film in sequence and only in natural light, choices that left a small window each day to capture the required scenes, saying; “If we ended up in greenscreen with coffee and everybody having a good time, everybody will be happy, but most likely the film would be a piece of s***.” It’s safe to say that this was avoided by some distance.

The Revenant is based on the true story of frontiersman and explorer Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), who is working as a scout for an expedition of fur-trappers. When their party is attacked by a Native American tribe on their own mission, they are forced to abandon their boat and take the long way home across the land.

The journey doesn’t go to plan for Glass, who attracts the unwanted attentions of an angry mother bear and becomes the victim of an incredibly visceral mauling that is sure to have a significate percentage of cinema-goers curling into balls and watching through their fingers. Although he somehow survives the bear encounter, Glass has to endure a non-stop barrage of harrowing events as he literally drags himself from the grave to extract his revenge on those who left him for dead.

This violent and tragic study into the nature of survival and the strength of the human spirit is one of those ‘perfect storm’ pieces of work where everyone involved is at the absolute top of their game and the end result truly reflects that.

Already the winner of a number of awards, including Golden Globes for DiCaprio and Iñárritu, and leading the field with 12 Oscar nominations, it’s easy to see that The Revenant has won over the critics. However, the levels of artistry and creative genius that are on show here ensure that this isn’t just an exercise in how awards are won, this is how myths are made.

Terry Ruffhead

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

After what seems like an eternity of waiting, Star Wars is back on the big screen. The Force Awakens has won over the critics (currently sitting pretty with a 95% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), a success that is reflected in its early box office takings.

Officially claiming the biggest opening weekend of any film in the US and UK, Jurassic World’s world record was only missed by around £5 million, despite The Force Awakens not even opening in China until January (Jurassic World pulled off the difficult trick of opening in all major territories at the same time).

So was the hype valid? Is it really as good as the reviews and box office takings suggest?

The simple answer is yes… for the most part. Director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8) walks the tightrope between reverence and revitalisation, updating the Star Wars universe in a manner that will seem very familiar to those who grew up watching the original trilogy.

The Force Awakens echoes the older films extensively in places. Aside from the return of Han Solo (Harrison Ford), General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the film contains a number of similarities to the saga’s opening chapter, A New Hope. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective.

For all of its faults (and oh, there were a lot of faults) the prequel trilogy never suffered from the feeling that we were going over old ground – for every annoying Jar Jar Binks or Annie in The Phantom Menace, creator George Lucas brought us something fresh and exciting like podracing or Darth Maul. Even so, most of the nods and parallels work well in The Force Awakens… apart from the Starkiller Base, which kind of just feels like an idea Abrams was forced to drop from his Star Trek reboot due to its obvious similarities to the Death Star.

This is the only criticism that can be levelled at The Force Awakens with any real conviction.

Generally speaking, the film is a massive triumph. The world we enter feels like a proper continuation of the original trilogy, where the events of Episodes IV-VI have become almost legendary among the younger inhabitants of the galaxy, like the Clone Wars was to the previous generation.

The new faces don’t just fit in; they stand out in all the right ways. For most of the film we are either following protagonists Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) or the shadowy Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who all live up to their promise and will surely be Hollywood mainstays long after Episode XI wraps up.

The script feels bouncy and fresh and is peppered with humour – any screen-time shared by Finn and hotshot Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is guaranteed to generate laughs.

After lauded turns in Inside Llewyn Davis and Ex Machina, Oscar Isaac is fast becoming one of the most welcome additions to any film. It’s great to see him enter the blockbuster arena and continue to bring his trademark swagger and cool – a feat that will hold him in good stead as he joins the rebooted X-Men as the titular villain of 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse.

In summary, what we were given here was a chance to re-establish Star Wars as a cinematic force, and the new film has achieved this with aplomb.

Just as exciting as what made it into The Force Awakens is what has been left out, and most people probably left the cinema with more questions than they had when they went in with (although after Lost, does anyone expect any less from a J.J. Abrams creation?)

The mysteries and unfurling plots should develop into a cracking Episode VIII/IX. If the next director to step up to the plate, Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick), can build on the world created here (and somehow find a little sprinkling of the Lucas magic that was maybe missing), then there’s no reason to doubt that the best is yet to come.

Before Episode VIII, however, we’ll get to finally witness the Rebel raid that stole the Death Star plans and set in motion the events of A New Hope in the first of the Star Wars Anthology series, Rogue One, coming in December 2016.

It’s been a while, but the Force is indeed strong with the Star Wars saga again.

Terry Ruffhead