News DVDS & Blu-Rays from Sony, Eureka, BFI, Arrow

BLADE RUNNER 2049, Denis Villeneuve, director/Sony 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™, DVD and Limited Edition 2-Disc Blu-ray  Given the reputation — much burnished over the years – of Ridley Scott’s original Philip K. Dick adaptation, the bar was set high for any sequel, however belated. And although there were a few dissenting voices, the response to Denis Villeneuve’s modern riff on concepts taken from the original film has been remarkably positive, with the many admirers of the film pointing out its intelligence – and the best science-fiction customarily display that very quality. The film stars Ryan Gosling as K and Harrison Ford reprising the role of Rick Deckard. Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years. The package is loaded with extras, but the disc’s principal appeal lines in the film’s astonishing futuristic visuals.

THE HOUSEMAID, Derek Nguyen, director/ Eureka Blu-ray  While the accoutrements of this Gothic chiller are occasionally familiar, the imagination of the director Derek Nguyen frequently takes his narrative into territory notably underexplored by this genre — and to considerable effect. First-time director Nguyen makes a striking debut with The Housemaid [Cô Haû Gaí], a haunting gothic romance which blends bold eroticism with a pervasive sense of dread. Linh is a docile and hardworking poor orphaned girl who comes to Sa Cat seeking a housemaid job. Sebastien Laurent is a French captain and owner of the Sa Cat rubber plantation. For years, the massive mansion is rumoured to have ghosts, particularly those of Camille – Sebastien’s late wife—and the mistreated plantation workers. Once Linh comes to Sa Cat, she begins to hear strange sounds, have frightening dreams, and witness bizarre occurrences.

SCORE, Matt Schrader, director/Dogwoof  Anyone who knows the score (pun intended) will be aware that one of the reasons that movies can have such a mesmeric effect on audiences is the power of a film’s musical soundtrack – orchestral or otherwise.Music  plays an immensely persasive role in the total experience offered by the cinema. This fascinating documentary features virtually every important composer who has worked in the cinema, from the early days of Max Steiner’s King Kong through the more modern era of the matchless Jerry Goldsmith (Planet of the Apes and Chinatown) and up to the present with Hans Zimmer, who scored such films as The Dark Knight and Gladiator. Needless to say, the musician who is probably the best known of all film composers, John Williams, is given his full due – and we are even able to compare his score for Superman with Hans Zimmer’s later Man of Steel.

DOCTOR FAUSTUS, Richard Burton, Nevil Coghill, directors/Fabulous Films  While Richard Burton was the first to admit that he had somewhat squandered his talent in films unworthy of him, there are several filmic records of just what a remarkable actor he was — such as this 1967 adaptation of the performance by Oxford University Dramatic Society, with Burton in a powerful assumption of the title role (and a cameo by a wordless Elizabeth Taylor). It’s demanding fare, and not the easiest of viewing experiences, but Burton is always remarkable.

ORCHESTRA REHEARSAL, Federico Fellini, director/Arrow Academy  Mention Fellini’s name to most cineastes and they will be more likely to conjure visions of his earlier classics such as La Dolce Vita and 81/2. But hardcore admirers at the late Italian director have long made a point of tracking down everything he worked on, and this curiosity is well worth their efforts; it’s a quirky and enjoyable satire from Fellini, in collaboration once more with Oscar-winning composer Nino Rota. An Italian television crew visits a dilapidated auditorium (a converted 13th-century church) to meet an orchestra assembling to rehearse under the instruction of a tyrannical conductor. The TV crew interviews the various musicians who each speak lovingly about their chosen instruments. However, as petty squabbles break out amid the different factions of the ensemble, and the conductor berates his musicians, the meeting descends into anarchy and vandalism. Made in 1978 for Italian television, Orchestra Rehearsal, an allegorical pseudo-documentary, is possibly Fellini’s most satirical and overtly political film, This special edition features a new 2K restoration of the film, rare poster and press materials, and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film.

WOODFALL: A REVOLUTION IN BRITISH CINEMA, Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz, Richard Lester, Desmond Davis/BFI (8-disc Blu-ray box set)  It’s difficult in the 21st-century to remember the impact that the 1960s British New Wave of filmmaking had in its day with one film company producing many of the most durable classics at a time when cinema was shaking off the over-comfortable (and rather stilted) trappings of middle-class drama which had held sway for so long. This new 8-disc set celebrates the 60th anniversary of Woodfall Films and includes eight iconic films (many newly restored and available on Blu-ray for the first time) that revolutionised British cinema and launched the careers of the likes of Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Rita Tushingham. These are: Look Back in Anger (Tony Richardson, 1959), The Entertainer (Tony Richardson, 1960), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz, 1960), A Taste of Honey (Tony Richardson, 1961), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Tony Richardson, 1962), Tom Jones (Tony Richardson, 1963) (New 4K digital restorations of the original theatrical version of the film and the 1989 director’s cut), Girl with Green Eyes (Desmond Davis, 1964), The Knack… and how to get it (Richard Lester, 1965). With copious special features, this an unmissable set.

GOMORRAH – THE SERIES, various directors/Arrow TV DVD & Blu-ray  Slowly but surely, this Italian series – which boasts nary a sympathetic character — has built a reputation as one of the most powerful and unusual crime series, with its excoriating picture of the Latin criminal underworld. The series is based on the best-selling non-fiction investigative book by Roberto Saviano. Saviano infiltrated and investigated a Naples based Italian crime organisation called Camorra. Since the book has been published Saviano has to live in exile as he has been threatened by the Camorra. The series does full justice to Saviano’s dark vision.

THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, director/ Eureka Entertainment Blu-ray  If you are an admirer of the director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s wittily written and intelligent films (Mankiewicz was equally accomplished as writer and director), you owe it to yourself to track down this now little-seen drama which followed up his classic All About Eve, and features a scene- stealing performance by Humphrey Bogart. While looking every single one of his years, it’s hard to think of a contemporary actor who has anything like Bogart’s appeal, not to mention a luminous appearance by Ava Gardner in the title role. A high point in the already success-laden career of Mankiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve), and one of the most glamorous and extravagant films from Hollywood’s Golden Age, The Barefoot Contessa is a tragic drama about the tumultuous rise and fall of fictional Hollywood actress Maria Vargas (Ava Gardner). plays down on his luck writer and director Harry Dawes, reduced to working for an egotistical and abusive producer, Kirk Edwards (Warren Stevens)

THE WITCHES, various directors/Arrow Academy  For many years, this beguiling portmanteau film was hard to see, but sounded intriguing with its variety of directors and stars, including Clint Eastwood (and with the legendary and seductive Silvana Mangano at the centre of each episode), so this opportunity to finally catch it is not to be missed – even though one episode (the bizarre, would-be comic tale directed by Pasolini) tests the patience.

PROFESSOR MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMEN, Angela Robinson, director/Sony  This highly unusual piece deals with the curious sexual ménage involving the creator of Wonder Woman and his two female lovers. It is based on the extraordinary true story of the man behind of one of the most iconic super heroes ever conceived, and the seductive secret life he kept from his fans. Harvard psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans, Beauty and the Beast) was roundly criticized for the creation of his feminist superhero, but it was his personal life, with his polyamorous relationship with his wife, Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall, The Gift) and their lover, Olive (Bella Heathcote), that was more provocative than any adventure he had ever written.
TANGO ONE, Sacha Bennett, director/Universal  Based on the novel by UK thriller author Stephen Leather (Murder in Mind, London’s Burning) and directed by Sacha Bennett (Get Lucky, We Still Kill the Old Way), Tango One is a fast-paced crime thriller about how far one man will go to rescue his daughter, and save his criminal empire from collapse. When three undercover recruits are assigned an impossible mission to take down one of the world’s most wanted men, notorious drug dealer, Den Donovan (Vincent Regan), they have no idea who they are dealing with. As the undercover recruits inch closer to their target, they are each drawn in by the charismatic criminal leader – too close, perhaps, to remember the rules.