This month's DVD releases feature Cold War thrills across the Berlin Wall, a satire of contemporary London, a quirky dystopian sci-fi and a curiously cast hike across the Appalachians.

Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan stars in this beautifully shot coming-of-age tale about a young girl who swaps the quiet life in 1950s County Wexford for a new start in the burgeoning Irish neighbourhoods of New York.

When she is called home by tragedy, she has to face big decisions about, work, love and family ties. Adapted by Nick Hornby from the Colm Tóibín novel, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters also star.

Winner of Best British Film at the 2016 BAFTAs, and nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture.

Read our full review
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The Lady in the Van

The LAdy in the Van
Image via DJ Films

Dame Maggie Smith reprises one of her best-loved roles in Alan Bennett’s big-screen adaptation of his bestselling memoir, stage and radio play.

Alex Jennings plays Bennett, whose mild nature is manipulated by the magnificently cantankerous ‘Miss Sheperd’, a homeless and eccentric woman who is furtive about her past. When Bennett allows her to park her mobile home in his driveway, she ends up staying for 15 years, and inevitably her story begins to permeate his writing.

A brilliant study of very British attitudes to guilt, neighbourliness, curiosity and compassion.

Read our interview with Alex Jennings
Buy The Lady in the Van

 

 

The Martian

This high-concept interstellar blockbuster stars Matt Damon as astronaut Mark Watney on a near-future mission to Mars, who is left for dead on the red planet when a raging dust storm hits.

Can he reopen communications with ground control and somehow find a way to make a month’s rations last the four years before the next NASA mission is due?

His solo survival efforts are intercut with big moral dilemmas at NASA HQ and onboard the returning spacecraft when news filters through that Watney is still alive. Ridley Scott directs Drew Goddard’s adaptation of the bestselling novel.

Read our review of The Martian
The Martian's out of this world filming locations
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War and Peace (2016)

War and Peace
Image via NPR

Andrew Davies’ majestic BBC television adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy epic is set against the backdrop of Russia’s bloody war with Napoleon.

Paul Dano leads an all-star cast as the bumbling Pierre Bezukhov, heir to a vast fortune and diligent seeker of life’s greater meaning.

Lily James is spirited love-interest Natasha Rostova, while Gillian Anderson, Jim Broadbent, Ade Edmondson, Rebecca Front, Tuppence Middleton, James Norton, Greta Scacchi, Ken Stott and other familiar faces join the intrigue and mayhem from ballroom to battlefield.

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War and Peace (1972)

War and Peace
Image via BBC

While the latest version managed to compress Tolstoy’s masterwork into a mere 370 minutes, this earlier BBC series weighs in at a whopping 15 hours.

Anthony Hopkins won the Best Actor BAFTA for his portrayal of Bezukhov and Morag Hood played Natasha in a career-defining role.

The production also won the Best Design BAFTA, and the series is renowned for its spectacular battle scenes. If the 2016 edition left you wanting more, this fills the gap nicely.

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Deutschland 83

Deutschland 83
Image via Channel 4

This satisfying and gently comic German spy thriller tells the story of a young East German officer who is recruited to uncover military secrets in the West at the height of the Cold War.

Initially reluctant to leave behind his devoted girlfriend and ailing mum, after intensive training he’s soon filching top secret files and sleeping with the enemy like a natural, while immersing himself in the luxuries and freedoms of life on the other side.

Period detail is brilliantly captured, including a soundtrack of contemporary hits—‘99 Red Balloons’, ‘Mad World’—that reinforce the background paranoia and protest.

Buy Deutschland 83

 

Capital

Peter Bowker’s nimble adaptation of John Lanchester’s acclaimed novel is an acutely observed study of greed, family and neighbourliness in the ever-changing social landscape of contemporary London.

A memorable array of characters include an investment banker and his spendthrift wife, Polish builders and au pairs, Indian corner shop owners and an illegal immigrant traffic warden.

Capital is The Way We Live Now for the 21st century. Toby Jones, Lesley Sharp, Wunmi Mosaku and Adeel Akhtar star, with a memorable cameo from Bollywood legend Shabana Azmi.

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Read our full review 

 

Freeheld

Freeheld film
Image via Summit Entertainment

Julianne Moore and Ellen Page play the leads in this true-life tale of New Jersey cop Laurel Hester and her civil partner Stacie Andree. The couple battled for equal pension rights for LGBT couples in the wake of Hester’s terminal cancer.

The ever-reliable Moore and Page give their all, though the script holds few surprises and barely does justice to the inspirational story on which it’s based. Steve Carrell adds a comic twist with his "big loud gay jew" attorney Steven Goldstein.

Buy Freeheld

 

 

The Lobster

This surreal sci-fi comedy-drama imagines a dystopian future in which it is illegal to live without a life partner.

The repercussions of this are played out when recent widower David (Colin Farrell) is given 45 days at a dating boot camp where he must either hook up or be reincarnated as the animal of his choice.

Meanwhile beyond the grounds, militant anti-romance loners fight to break the system. Ashley Jensen, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly, Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz also star.

Buy The Lobster

 

A Walk in the Woods

a walk in the woods
Image via Sky

Fans of the original Bill Bryson travelogue about his experiences on the Appalachian Trail may be thrown by the improbability of Robert Redford playing the author, and several tweaks were necessary to make this revised Bryson believable.

Nolte steals almost every scene as his walking companion Stephen Katz, a prickly recovering alcoholic, while Emma Thompson’s Mrs B looks on with cool but devoted attachment.

An amiable amble through some stunning landscapes, and a gentle meditation on mid-life and beyond.

Bill Bryson talks to us about the adaptation
Buy A Walk in the Woods

 

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