Christmas comes this time each year, and, purely by coincidence, a lot of DVDs and Blu-rays just so happen to be released at the same sort of time. They fit rather well in stockings, don’t they? How convenient!
If, like me, you’ve a tendency to give and/or receive a few discs each yuletide, read on for our run-through of all the new goodies coming to home release formats this winter…
Batman: Return Of The Caped Crusaders
One of the surprise treats of this year, Batman: Return Of The Caped Crusaders saw Adam West and Burt Ward reprising their beloved roles from the campy 1960s Batman TV series and film. We held a Den Of Geek reader screening and it went down an utter treat, packing plenty of laughs and a warm nostalgic air that’s sure to warm any Bat-fan’s cockles this Christmas. Its cinematic release was very short, so this Bat-flick quickly grappled its way onto home release formats.
Batman: The Killing Joke
Speaking of animated Batman films that didn’t spend long in the cinema and rushed onto disc, Batman: The Killing Joke is also available now! Boasting the Kevin Conroy Vs Mark Hamill voice combo that Bat-fans have been adoring for years, and one of the most beloved comic book runs of all time as its source material, this is one that Bat-completists won’t want to miss. The film courted a fair bit of controversy at the time of its release, but it’s still well worth a watch.
Dheepan, the latest film from A Prophet and Rust And Bone’s writer-director Jacques Audiard, was one of 2016’s least-talked-about brilliant movies, at least in geeky circles. Tackling issues of asylum and poverty head on, it’s a film that seems to get more relevant all the time. Jesuthasan Antonythasan does incredible work in the title role, playing the Sri Lankan national who flees to France with a sombre, tragic air and bringing the transition from warzone to family life on the breadline to emotional, eye-opening life.
Everybody Wants Some!!
Since it took significantly less than 12 years to make, Richard Linklater’s 2016 release earned less column inches than his previous cinematic offering. But the differences in scope between Boyhood and Everybody Wants Some!! are hardly to the latter’s detriment. This film follows a group of college baseball players (including Supergirl guest stars Blake Jenner and Tyler Hoechlin) in the days immediately before their first semester, offering a snapshot of youth, potential and camaraderie full of humour, drama and warmth.
Game Of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season
TV box-sets are tricky one: if someone’s a fan of Game Of Thrones, chances are they were watching season 6 as it came out, soaking up all the battles, banter and barely-warranted nudity as it happened. But there are enough extras here – and a snazzy steelbook case – to warrant a purchase. On the Blu-ray box-set you’ll find featurettes about Bran’s journey, the Dothraki, the prosthetics work, how The Battle Of The Bastards was pulled together and much more, as well as lessons in Westeros history and lore narrated by the cast themselves.
2016 has been a big year for Daniel Radcliffe, but Imperium spent significantly less time in cinemas than his other major movie, Swiss Army Man, in favour of a pretty-much-straight-to-home-video release. Don’t let that put you off, though: heading straight to viewers’ homes no longer automatically ensures that a film is naff. In fact, this FBI-agent-infiltrates-a-neo-Nazi-group flick earned mostly positive reviews and showcased the rarely seen darker side of Radcliffe’s range. Well worth a watch for fans of the former Harry Potter and/or thrilling cinema.
Independence Day: Resurgence
Roland Emmerich returned to the world of Independence Day at long last this year, brining Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman and Bret Spiner back together to see off another alien invasion. Some of the original film’s magic was lost in the transition to modern CGI and sequel-teasing, and franchise newcomers Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe and Jessie Usher lacked the charisma of the original cast. But still – there’s a lot to enjoy here for fans of the first film and lovers of disaster movies. Plenty of stuff blows up, and the alien lore of original is expanded in interesting ways.
The Neon Demon
Nicolas Winding Refn wowed cinemagoers this year with The Neon Demon, his latest cinematic odyssey dripping with dark themes, stunning visuals and mind-bending unconventional storytelling. Elle Fanning gives a career best (so far) performance as aspiring model Jessie, who gets drawn into a morally murky (and often quite murder-y) modelling milieu. Jena Malone and Keanu Reeves sizzle in supporting roles, and the twists and turns of The Neon Demon’s narrative make it one of those DVDs you’ll probably keep plucking off the shelf time and time again.
The Nice Guys is an action comedy with an acclaimed director and an all-star cast which earned rave notices from critics and cinemagoers alike – but somehow it didn’t become the smash hit it deserved to be at the box office. Home release is where this film will really find its audience, and whomever receives it this Christmas is in for a real treat. Shane Black packs in gags, action and visual flair while Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe develop an excellent comedic rapport as an equally-awful pair of investigators.
Pokémon: 3 Movie Collection
In a move that in no way seems like a ploy to cash in one the sudden global re-embracing of the franchise, the first three Pokémon movies are getting a re-release in a snazzy steelbook set just in time for Christmas. This is your chance to relive the questionable logic (Pokémon tears do what exactly? Will this ever be mentioned again?) and audaciously confident title of Pokémon: The First Movie, the film that introduced Mewtwo into the animated realm. You’ll also get Pokémon The Movie 2000 (all about the first generation’s legendary bird Pokémon) and Pokémon 3: The Movie (“A crystal catastrophe is unleashed”, the synopsis tells me).
The Secret Life Of Pets
Despite the fact it’s still showing in a shed load of cinemas, Illumination’s animal-stuffed hit The Secret Life Of Pets is coming to disc in time for the Christmas holidays. With an impressive cast including Louis C.K., Kevin Hart and Steve Coogan, and lots of fun ideas – a lot of them stockpiled near the start of the movie – The Secret Life Of Pets is better than many expected. You could do a lot less than wheeling this one out to keep any nearby youngsters entertained this Christmas time.
My film of the year, this: Sing Street, a school-set Irish comedy featuring incredibly catchy original songs, a cast of loveable characters and an exploration of angst-filled teen romance so accurate it’ll make you flinch, giggle and emotionally connect. Credit for the script, direction and tunes goes to Once and Begin Again’s John Carney, but praise must also go to the film’s impressive young lead, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, who plays the song-writing central character Conor with a really relatable air. You’ll laugh, you’ll dance in your chair, and if you’re wired in the same way as me, you’ll cry.
If you’re a fan of Oasis and their Britpop musical stylings, this one’s for you. It didn’t spend long in cinemas, but Supersonic is an utter treat for fans of the band, stuffed with newly-unearthed footage, live performances and fresh interviews. Although Liam and Noel Gallagher don’t play together anymore, they both appear in the film to tell the story of the band’s rise to dominance with a string of hilarious anecdotes, building up to their legendary gigs at Knebworth.
Released November 21st
The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years
This clunky-titled Beatles documentary, The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years, wasn’t in cinemas for all that long. In truth, I didn’t manage to catch it. But everything I heard was positive: there’s loads of new footage, entertaining/insightful live performances and new interviews with the still-living players, all compiled by the mighty Ron Howard. By most accounts, this is the better of his 2016 offerings, even if Inferno is the one still bothering multiplexes.
Steven Spielberg re-teamed with his E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison (who’s sadly no longer with us) for The BFG, a big screen retelling of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book. The special effects and the script are solid, but it’s the performances you’ll be thinking about as the credits role: Mark Rylance and his twinkly eyes utterly dazzle in the big friendly title role, while young newcomer Ruby Barnhill establishes herself as a multifaceted talent. The unexpected highlights: a flatulency-themed scene near the end.
If you don’t have Sky Atlantic on your TV bundle, you may well have missed billions, one of the surprise TV treats of the last year. Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis bringing movie star cred to the table, starring respectively as a U.S. Attorney and a hedge fund manager/insider trader. It’s a well-put-together show about big money, dodgy deals and trying not to get caught, essentially a tense game of Mousetrap but with huge wads of cash. Season 2 is expected next year.
Doctor Who: The Power Of The Daleks
Thought there was no new Doctor Who between the season 9 finale and Christmas day? Well you were wrong! Sort of. Doctor Who: The Power Of The Daleks is already available online and is due for a disc release in the very near future. It’s an animated adventure starring Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor. In fact, The Power Of The Daleks is a lovingly made recreation of his first full serial in the role, which was lost by the BBC many moons ago. Some photos and audio recordings remained, which BBC America used to piece the story back together. A must for hardcore Whovians.
Although it wasn’t exactly the toast of the internet at the time of its release, you only had to look at Paul Feig’s Twitter feed on Halloween – or attend any Comic-Con event in the last few months – to see how much the 2016 Ghostbusters meant to a lot of people. Cosplays of the film have been very popular, particularly Holtzmann ones. I’m expecting the disc release of the movie to be a Christmas smash-hit, then, regardless of the movie’s divisive nature. For the record – I quite liked it.
Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational Live
Although the trend doesn’t seem to be quite as massive as it ways a few years ago, you’ll still find plenty of new stand-up comedy DVDs on shop shelves this festive season. One comic shilling a disc this year that I’d like to mention is Romesh Ranganathan. I’ve seen him live, I’ve watched him on panel shows (his series of Taskmaster was particularly great) and I’ve watched him present Asian Provocateur, his highly thoughtful BBC series about Sri Lanka. He’s always funny and he’s always smart, so his new DVD is certainly on my Christmas list.
Sarah Millican: Outsider
Sarah Millican is another comic who we have a lot of time for here at Geek Towers. She’s consistently funny in her TV work and her BBC Radio 4 series Sarah Millican’s Support Group was one of the nicest, most caring things we’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. It’s not on anymore, but Millican continues to be the most caring person in comedy on Twitter and in her writing. Her new show, Outsider, is all about Millican embracing the outdoors. I’ll certainly be watching it, instead of going outdoors.
Star Trek Beyond
Since J.J. Abrams was a bit busy on a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Justin Lin of the Fast & Furious franchise stepped in to helm Star Trek Beyond. The result was film that blended a classic Star Trek feel (stranded on a planet, meeting the locals and the villains abusing them) and the whiz pop bang of the modern, recast movies (people hanging off things, shoehorned motorbikes). It’s exactly the sort of film I’d get on DVD and bust out regularly on rainy days: full of fun with a bit of a brain.
Released November 28th
Disney Pixar’s Finding Nemo is a well-worn DVD in many a family home, and I suspect that its sequel, Finding Dory, will end up getting a similar treatment in the years ahead. Ellen DeGeneres again plays the amnesiac regal blue tang wonderfully, full of wit, charm and likeability. The standout newcomers Dory meets on her quest to find her long-lost parents are Ed O’Neill’s grumpy septopus Hank and Kaitlin Olson’s loveable wale shark Destiny. Listen out for Sigourney Weaver and Idris Elba, too.
Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass came back to the Bourne franchise, with the big surprise twist being that the resultant film – Jason Bourne – arguably didn’t reach the heady heights of the pair’s previous collaborations in the series. But still, seeing Bourne punching, running and car-chasing his way into/out of trouble never gets old. It may not be the best Bourne, but Jason Bourne is better than no Bourne at all or the prospect of more Bourne without Bourne.
Released December 5th
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
The Absolutely Fabulous movie was huge talking point in the UK a few months back, and unsurprisingly the powers that be have decided to get it onto disc quickly in time for the Christmas rush. Although you’d probably never catch Edina and Patsy in a HMV, I’d expect their film to be a huge seller this December. It promises laughs, nostalgia and cameos a plenty, as well as a rare chance – these days – to see Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley in a big budget movie.
Agent Carter season 2
What a naff year it’s been for Cap’s best girl, Agent Peggy Carter: not only did she suffer an ungracious off-screen death in Captain America: Civil War (which, by the way, is already out on DVD), but her TV show was cancelled as well. Show your respect for the S.H.I.E.L.D. founder and total bad-ass by picking up her DVD this Christmas. Maybe a surge in sales will convince Marvel to give her another shot?
Famously, Peggy once said, “I know my worth.” If you were wondering, her season 2 DVD is worth £15.99.
Disney’s Pete’s Dragon remake was a modest hit at the box office, taking $140.7 million from a budget of $65 million at the global box office, but it wasn’t the behemoth that the Mouse House was probably hoping for. Indeed, there’s been no talk of a sequel and there wasn’t all that much word-of-mouth hype around the time of its release. But still, this is a film well worth watching: the dragon is a sight to behold and a lovely warm-hearted character, while the performances across the board are wonderful (from Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Wes Bentley, Karn Urban and the young lead Oakes Fegley in particular).
Planet Earth II
BBC TV shows are an even harder sell than Game Of Thrones on DVD. You know that thing you watched for free? How would you feel about shelling out on a disc version? Richard Attenborough’s Planet Earth II is one of the few BBC series that arguably warrants this kind of investment: its HD visuals look wonderful, and Attenborough remains the finest documentarian in the nature game. I’d happily have it on my shelf just so I can access it forever.
Shark movies have been done. Heck, shark/tornado hybrid movies have been done. But somehow, The Shallows still manages to feel fresh. The fact that it focuses on one person stranded on rock makes it intense viewing, and Jaume Collet-Serra’s shooting style is frenetically exciting (especially when a head-mounted GoPro camera comes into play). Blake Lively anchors it with a strong performance, by turns fierce and utterly terrified. Post-Christmas-dinner viewing, perhaps?
Suicide Squad Extended Cut
Suicide Squad received a very mixed response when it hit cinemas, just like Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice before it. And just as they did before, Warner Bros has decided to put an extended cut out on Blu-ray. There will be 13 extra minutes spliced into the film, including – we’re lead to believe – a significant slice of new Joker footage starring Jared Leto. Batman V Superman’s extended cut did clear a few things up, so I’m intrigued to see this one.
Released December 12th
For that friend in your life who loves the weirdest-sounding films: Nine Lives, in which Kevin Spacey plays a business tycoon who’s mind gets trapped inside a cat. Men In Black’s Barry Sonnenfeld directs and the supporting cast includes Jennifer Garner, Christopher Walken and Robbie Amell. The film wasn’t warmly received by critics, but it could find a second life as a DVD cult favourite. I for one am curious to check it out, regardless of the old adage about curiosity and cats.
Swallows And Amazons
Rafe Spall, Andrew Scott and Kelly MacDonald star in Swallows And Amazons, a critically praised feature film adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s novel of the same name. On a summer holiday in the Lake District, the children of the Walker family sail out to a local island. There they meet another group of kids who call themselves the Amazons. A rivalry and a playful battle for the island ensues, while some sinister subplots bubble in the background. It’s a fun summer film with a holidaymaking spirit – exactly what you might fancy on a cold winter’s night.