February physical media picks: Roaring Twenties Blu-ray, lockdown book and Franz Ferdinand

The National staff pick their favourite titles released over the month to add to your collection

James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart star in the classic film The Roaring Twenties. A remastered 4K version was released this month. Photo: Criterion
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To preserve modern culture, it is increasingly clear physical media is becoming more vital.

This month's excellent releases include a classic gangster film, a collaborative novel about Covid-19 lockdowns and a rock album celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Here are some of The National staff's favourites.

The Roaring Twenties (released February 27)

James Cagney became the face of gangster cinema in the 1930s with films such as The Public Enemy and Angels with Dirty Faces. The actor's talents also extended to dancing in large musical numbers as well as scowling at his enemies with a gun in hand.

In The Roaring Twenties, Cagney appears alongside film noir star Humphrey Bogart. It centres on the prohibition era’s criminal underbelly. Cagney portrays a soldier who starts a bootlegging business after returning home from the First World War.

The crime drama, directed by Raoul Walsh, has been remastered in 4K by boutique distribution company The Criterion Collection and features audio commentary by film historian Lincoln Hurst.

The black and white film looks refreshed and beautiful with performances by Cagney and Bogart that remain timeless and compelling.

Faisal Salah, Gaming & Social writer

Fourteen Days: A Collaborative Novel (released February 6)

It could be called an anthology of creative writing, interconnected short stories, a novel written by a collection of writers or even a group project with 36 of the most important contemporary literary voices from America and Canada – no matter what it is, Fourteen Days is a book worth getting your hands on.

The premise is simple and all too familiar for many of us. Set in a building in the Lower East Side of New York in the early days of the Covid-19 lockdowns, each character in their apartment is having a unique experience of this unusual, universal situation.

The twist? Each character is written by a different and major literary voice.

The writers include Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, and one of the co-editors of the collection, Little Fires. The line-up also includes Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere; Emma Donoghue, author of Room; John Grisham, author of some of the world’s bestselling legal thrillers; and children’s thriller and horror writer R L Stine.

With a brilliantly illustrated, emotive cover, the compendium of authors is diverse, creating an intriguing story and surprising narrative.

Maan Jalal, Arts & Culture writer

The Last Castle (released February 20)

Prison dramas have always been a source of intrigue and fascination for most. Every decade over the past 50 years has had TV shows and films inside a prison that quickly become favourites.

Robert Redford and the late James Gandolfini star in 2001’s The Last Castle from director Rod Lurie. The film, set in a military prison, follows the seasoned Redford as he navigates the hostile prison environment, going up against Gandolfini in the warden role.

The film is often overlooked in a sea of prison-set classics such as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile but deserves a revisit. A 4K remastered version of The Last Castle has been released by Kino Lorber, which should find a place in any film collection.

Faisal Salah, Gaming & Social writer

Franz Ferdinand by Franz Ferdinand (released February 9)

A memorable moment in Franz Ferdinand’s debut album arrives in the single Take Me Out.

The strident rhythm slows down to a steady stomp before exploding into a flurry of jagged guitar riffs and a call-and-response chorus.

The dynamic arrangement is an example of the exuberance and creativity characterising the indie-rock scene at the turn of the century, which at the time was at its commercial peak.

The single and album also established the Glaswegian band as stylish new leaders of the pack with a carefree sound inspired by everyone from British post-punk pioneers XTC to funk legends Chic.

This delightfully comes together in Darts of Pleasure, which has sharp angular riffs underscored by an irresistible bassline, while the exuberant The Dark of the Matinee is a display of singer Alex Kapranos's lyrics, both stark in imagery and subtle wit.

Written from various perspectives, these mostly character-driven songs speak of the love, agony and life lessons stemming from a nocturnal life devoted to clubbing.

In Michael, that means not trusting everyone at face value, while the wistful Jacqueline is a hazy recollection of a previous fizzled romance.

Fun, funky and affecting, the 20th-anniversary vinyl edition of Franz Ferdinand still sounds as vital as it did 20 years ago.

Saeed Saeed, Arts & Culture writer

Paprika (released February 20)

Japanese animator Satoshi Kon died of pancreatic cancer in 2010 aged 46. During his short but important career, Kon directed four feature films and one TV show, all of which are now considered classics of anime.

His last film, Paprika, is set in a dream world and has lush animation combined with fever-dream imagery to create an unforgettable experience. The film was a huge inspiration for filmmakers Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan, who both borrowed from the film for projects.

Paprika is the type of anime film that rewards viewers on second and third viewings, making it ideal for ownership. And with a brand new 4K release, everyone from dedicated Kon fans to newcomers can enjoy the film in the highest quality possible.

Faisal Salah, Gaming & Social writer

Updated: February 29, 2024, 2:15 PM