Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.
WHAT: When the people of Alexandria are forced to deal with a number of dangerous threats from both the living and the dead, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) gains the trust of his new community by transforming its residents into survivors. But not everyone agrees with Rick’s shoot-first approach to diplomacy, particularly the newly passive Morgan (Lennie James).
WHY: A lot of the attention surrounding the sixth season of “The Walking Dead” focused on the arrival of fan favorite villain Negan, a character who doesn’t even appear until the closing minutes of the finale and caused just as much backlash as excitement. But whether or not you’re happy with the way Season Six ended, there’s so much great stuff in the lead up to the inevitable faceoff with Negan (a fantastic Jeffrey Dean Morgan) that it’s easily one of the best seasons to date. Glen Mazzara continues to prove why he’s the perfect showrunner for this series, because as a fan of Robert Kirkman’s original comic, he’s able to deliver all the classic moments (the zombie invasion of Alexandria, Carl getting shot in the face, Negan’s thrilling introduction) without feeling slavish to the source material. Not every episode is a resounding success, but even those that caused controversy with their frustrating storytelling tactics (namely “Thank You” and “Last Day on Earth”) exude excellence in one way or another, and it’s for that reason why “The Walking Dead” remains among the best shows on TV.
EXTRAS: In addition to cast and crew audio commentaries on seven episodes, there’s an extended cut of the season finale (including an alternate, expletive-filled version of the Negan speech), five behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes and more.
FINAL VERDICT: BUY
WHAT: The true-life story of Columbian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) and the DEA agents, Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) and Javier Peña (Pedro Pascal), tasked with bringing down his multibillion dollar empire.
WHY: With the amount of new content that Netflix debuts every month, you’d be forgiven if a show like “Narcos” flew completely under your radar. Although not as buzzworthy as some of the streaming service’s flagship programs, “Narcos” is a fascinating and well-acted drama about the history of the Medellin cocaine cartel (and in particular, its leader Pablo Escobar) that’s every bit deserving of its high praise. Brazilian actor Wagner Moura is excellent as the notorious drug kingpin, right down to the constant fidgeting with his pants, striking the perfect balance between charming and ruthless. Unfortunately, while co-star Boyd Holbrook handles the exposition-heavy narration really well, his onscreen persona pales in comparison to the charismatic Moura, as well as supporting players like Pedro Pascal and Juan Pablo Raba (as Escobar’s right-hand man, Gustavo). Whenever Holbrook isn’t involved, however, “Narcos” rarely disappoints. Though the show starts to lose steam in the final episodes due to the decision to stretch Escobar’s story across two seasons, he makes for such a compelling subject that it’s hard to complain.
EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes cast and crew audio commentaries on three episodes, behind-the-scenes featurettes and deleted scenes.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: While investigating the death of a famous adult film star, private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) discovers that a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) may be involved. The only problem is that she’s recruited enforcer-for-hire Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to stop Holland from following her around. But when Amelia’s life is threatened by a pair of thugs and she goes on the run, Jackson and Holland must team up to track her down before the bad guys do.
WHY: Shane Black is to buddy cop films what Raymond Chandler is to hard-boiled crime novels, and his latest movie, the retro detective noir “The Nice Guys,” is arguably his best entry in the genre since redefining the buddy cop formula three decades earlier with “Lethal Weapon.” Although it hits all of the usual beats of a Shane Black feature, “The Nice Guys” does so with such remarkable efficiency – brimming with humorous banter, exciting action and even a little heart – that it feels totally fresh. Black and co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi’s dialogue crackles with wit and humor, while the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe is simply outstanding. The two actors form one of the best double acts in recent memory, and although Crowe is quite good as the sardonic straight man, Gosling is the real standout, delivering a side-splittingly funny physical performance that makes great use of his comedic abilities. “The Nice Guys” doesn’t reinvent the wheel in any way, but it’s a consistently enjoyable flick that reconfirms why Black is the best at what he does.
EXTRAS: There are two featurettes on making the film and working with Shane Black.
FINAL VERDICT: BUY
WHAT: After witnessing Earth’s apocalyptic future, time traveler Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) assembles a group of heroes and villains from present day – including Atom (Brandon Routh), White Canary (Caity Lotz), Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell), the two halves of Firestorm, Dr. Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh), and the newly resurrected Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee) – to travel through time and stop the man responsible: immortal tyrant Vandal Savage (Casper Crump).
WHY: Following the success of “Arrow” and “The Flash,” it seemed like a no-brainer to keep the DC TV party rolling with a spinoff series that focused on some of the fringe characters from those other shows. But while “Legends of Tomorrow” sounds like a great idea on paper, it doesn’t live up to its potential on the screen. Though Wentworth Miller (campier than ever as Captain Cold) and Caity Lotz are both good in their respective roles, the fact remains that the Legends crew is basically a bunch of C-list characters posing as A-listers. The meandering plot and generic villain don’t help matters, accomplishing in 16 episodes what it could have done in eight. “Legends of Tomorrow” is at its best when it fully exploits its time travel device, allowing for fun detours through the DC universe in episodes like “Star City 2046” and “The Magnificent Eight,” although sadly, these are the exceptions rather than the rule. Here’s hoping that co-creator Greg Berlanti can right the ship for Season Two, because as it stands, this is the most expendable DC show currently on the air.
EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes the 2015 Comic-Con panel, a making-of featurette, a behind-the-scenes look at creating the Waverider and filming the Jonah Hex episode “The Magnificent Eight,” and a gag reel.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is living a peaceful life within Snow White’s kingdom following the demise of the villainous Ravenna (Charlize Theron). But when her Magic Mirror is stolen by goblins, Eric teams up with a pair of boisterous dwarfs (Nick Frost and Rob Brydon) to track it down before it falls into the hands of Ravenna’s vengeful younger sister, the ice queen Freya (Emily Blunt), who Eric blames for the death of his wife (Jessica Chastain).
WHY: You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who was actually craving a sequel to “Snow White and the Huntsman,” especially without leading lady Kristen Stewart, but that didn’t stop Universal from making one anyway. Unfortunately, while “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” boasts some fantastic A-list talent, they’re unable to save the movie from its dull and pointless existence, least of which Emily Blunt, whose conflicted villain is such a blatant rip-off of Elsa from “Frozen” that Disney should be collecting royalties. The actress looks absolutely bored in the role, given so little to do that she disappears for large chunks of the film, and although Ravenna’s poorly executed resurrection isn’t much better, at least Charlize Theron seems to be having a little fun. First-time director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan provides some nice visuals and plenty of action, but the story just isn’t very engaging. In fact, “Winter’s War” is such a generic and joyless experience that your time would be better spent watching a supercut of all the films and TV shows that it imitates instead.
EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, there’s a trio of featurettes on production, costume design and visual effects, some character profiles, deleted scenes and a gag reel.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP
WHAT: When the evil Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti) comes into possession of a powerful weapon capable of destroying every planet in the galaxy, brave mechanic Ratchet (James Arnold Kaye) and his newfound robot friend Clank (David Kaye) join forces with a team of heroes called the Galactic Rangers to stop Drek’s nefarious plan.
WHY: The curse of the video game adaptation continues with “Ratchet & Clank,” a film so unaware of its own awfulness that it’s like watching a dog repeatedly run into a glass door. Though the studio was smart to produce the movie as an animated feature, most of the animation looks cheap and dated. Furthermore, the characters aren’t really developed beyond their initial introductions, while the plot itself is just a lazy rehash of much better sci-fi films. It’s actually quite amazing that the filmmakers were able to convince actors like Paul Giamatti and John Goodman to lend their voices to the project, because apart from some half-assed attempts at self-awareness, the writing is no better than your average kid’s cartoon. Fans of the video game series will no doubt enjoy seeing the world of “Ratchet & Clank” brought to life, and it may even entertain young viewers as well, but make no mistake about it: this is dull and derivative stuff. You’d have more fun playing the game on which it’s based.
EXTRAS: There’s an EPK-style featurette and a brief look at adapting the popular video game franchise for the big screen.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP
WHAT: After years of being single, Maggie (Greta Gerwig) has decided to start a family of her own through artificial insemination. But when she falls in love with married anthropology professor John Harding (Ethan Hawke) and he agrees to leave his wife Georgette (Julianne Moore) to be with her, the pair gets married and has a child. Three years later, Maggie realizes that she’s made a mistake and devises a plan to reunite John with Georgette.
WHY: “Maggie’s Plan” isn’t a bad film by any means; it’s just not a very good one. Though the basic premise is filled with potential, offering a unique spin on the traditional rom-com formula that takes a big risk with its time-hopping narrative, the characters aren’t very compelling (or likable, for that matter) apart from Travis Fimmel’s socially awkward sperm donor, who disappears around the 30-minute mark never to be heard from again. Additionally, the chemistry between Ethan Hawke and his female co-stars is non-existent, while the decision to have Julianne Moore speak with a German accent is puzzling, despite the fact that the actress almost single-handedly saves the movie with her amusing performance. At the end of the day, however, “Maggie’s Plan” is just another Greta Gerwig vehicle about relationships and #whitepeopleproblems, and if you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all. This is certainly one of the better additions to Gerwig’s growing oeuvre of playing whiny, self-entitled New Yorkers, but that’s not really saying much.
EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by writer/director Rebecca Miller, a making-of featurette, a cast and crew Q&A from Sundance and some outtakes.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT