DVD/Blu-rays out in the UK this week
On the Road (Lionsgate, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation urtext about real gone cats discovering sex, drugs and fun in 1940s USA looks never less than sensational in director Walter Salles’s translation to the screen. Riffing experimentally like the jazz on the soundtrack, it’s Grapes of Wrath-y in tone, nostalgic, perfectly capturing its protagonists’ assessment of themselves (like, way cool). In doing so it holds a mirror up to our own miserable times, mourning the loss of the energy that such self-centred optimism unleashes. Kristen Stewart, though a long way from the lead character, makes more of an impression than either Sam Riley (Kerouac) or Garrett Hedlund (as Neil Moriarty) in a film of surprising nuance and depth.
Rust and Bone (StudioCanal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
A whale trainer takes up with a shady bouncer after a life-changing accident at the aquarium. The bare plot description for this French drama really doesn’t do it justice. Watch the first 20 minutes and marvel at how much ground director/co-writer Jacques Audiard covers in a potentially super-melodramatic tearjerker/life-affirmer that never goes for easy emotion. Instead we get depth, subtlety and even a bit of class politics in the shape of the “it’s always the little guy that gets hurt” story arc. The performances, by Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard are similarly economical and as spot-on as the writing and direction.
Premium Rush (Sony, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is chased all over New York by snarling super bad guy Michael Shannon. Why? It doesn’t matter. All that does matter is the JG-L is playing a cycle courier riding a fixie, whereas Shannon is a cop in a car, and that there’s enough stuntorama, cool slo-mo camera trickery and chronological back-and-forth to make this something like a latterday Run Lola Run on a Bike. Enjoyable and exciting if not quite the groundbreaker it possibly thinks it is.
Killing Them Softly (EV, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD)
Like his good lady wife, Brad Pitt has developed a terrible habit of just standing around in films while the director of the week polishes his ego. Here he’s a supercool Mr Fixit, a relation of Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction maybe, sent in to sort out the mess a couple of bozos have made while turning over a local gambling operation run by Ray Liotta. Waving a hand vaguely towards the current financial crisis – the gaming tables are like the financial markets and need to stay in motion, we’re told a couple of times – the screenplay makes the comparison only to immediately drop it. It’s symptomatic of a film that’s all pose and little punch, though fans of Pitt will adore the way he’s endlessly fetishised, leaving the decent acting to others – Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Richard Jenkins and a standout small role for James Gandolfini, effortlessly great as a sweaty lush.
Frankenweenie (Disney, cert PG, Blu-ray/DVD)
Tim Burton’s best film since Edward Scissorhands is a beautifully animated gothic (surprise surprise) remake of a short he made in 1984 and is about a boy bringing his dead pet dog back to life. It’s in black and white and is full of cinematic homage to 1930s monster movies – angry mobs, windmills, lightning storms – though it works well even if you have no idea who Peter Lorre or Boris Karloff are. It’s for kids, really – perhaps all Burton’s films are and he has yet to realise it – fast-paced, fun and yet thoughtful enough to gently introduce the notion of death to the young mind. I did say it was gothic.
McCullin (Artificial Eye, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
This is a great documentary about the London lad who became the best war photographer, a term he hates, of his era. McCullin’s hard-hitting, beautifully shot, high-contrast stills are used as punctuation to archive news footage from the 1960s and 1970s – much of it too shocking to be shown back then. Then there’s Don McCullin himself, eloquent, self-aware, analytical, self-critical and to some extent tortured both by what he’s seen and by how it changed him into “a war junkie”.
Babette’s Feast (Artificial Eye, cert U, Blu-ray/DVD)
The Blu-ray debut of the 1987 drama – hands down the best film about food ever made – an almost erotic slow-tease about a Frenchwoman in puritanical Denmark who wins a small 19th century lottery and sets about converting the locals to her way of thinking via an extravagantly sumptuous banquet.
© Steve Morrissey 2013