Blu Tuesday: Game of Thrones and More

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.

“Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season”

WHAT: In the wake of Jon Snow’s murder, Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) tightens his grip on the North just as Cersei (Lena Headey) struggles to retain her power in King’s Landing. Meanwhile, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) plans her escape from Dothraki captivity, Arya (Maisie Williams) begins her apprenticeship at the House of White and Black, and Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) continues his training under the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow)… all while the threat of the White Walkers looms on the other side of the Wall.

WHY: The sixth season of “Game of Thrones” was undeniably the Year of the Woman, with characters like Cersei, Daenerys, Arya, Sansa, Yara and Brienne all emerging as genuine power players across the Seven Kingdoms. It’s also a season that, despite the dense and complex nature of its storytelling, really put the pedal to the floor as the show barrels towards its inevitable conclusion, inspiring the hashtag #EfficiencyisComing in the process. And this year was nothing if not efficient, even if it spent two whole episodes pretending that Jon Snow was permanently dead when everybody knew that wasn’t the case. Minor quibbles aside, Season Six is one of the best in the show’s history, boasting strong performances from Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (among many others) and top-notch episodes like “The Door” (RIP Hodor) and the Miguel Sapochnik-directed twofer “Battle of the Bastards” and “The Winds of Winter.” For a season that could have easily felt like the banal but necessary prelude to the much-anticipated climax, it doesn’t disappoint, delivering all the drama, political intrigue, action and comedy that “Game of Thrones” fans have come to expect.

EXTRAS: There’s a massive amount of bonus material, including cast and crew audio commentaries on every episode (and two each in the case of episodes 5, 9 and 10), a behind-the-scenes look at filming the Battle of the Bastards and creating Vaes Dothrak, featurettes on the mythology of Westeros and Ethos, deleted scenes and more.

FINAL VERDICT: BUY

“Finding Dory”

WHAT: One year after helping Marlin (Albert Brooks) rescue his son Nemo from captivity, the friendly but forgetful blue tang fish Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) remembers an important detail about her parents that reignites her desire to find them. Joined by Marlin and Nemo (Hayden Rolence), Dory embarks on a cross-ocean adventure that leads her to the Marine Life Institute in California, a public aquarium where she lived with her parents before being separated from them as a child.

WHY: Despite its commercial success, “Finding Nemo” wasn’t exactly screaming for a sequel, and yet with “Finding Dory,” Pixar has produced one of their best sequels yet. The movie feels less like a cash grab than a thoughtful continuation of Dory’s personal journey, staying true to what makes the character unique (her short-term memory loss) without being hampered by its limitations, all while finding creative ways to progress the story and further develop Dory as a character. The movie also boasts a better voice cast than the original, including standouts like Ed O’Neill (as a cantankerous octopus named Hank), Ty Burrell (as an insecure beluga whale) and “The Wire” stars Idris Elba and Dominic West (as a pair of lazy sea lions), resulting in several memorable new characters. Hank, in particular, is a visually impressive piece of animation that highlights just how far Pixar has come in the 13 years since the original. Although the film runs a little too long, “Finding Dory” succeeds as a mostly enjoyable sequel that avoids being a complete rehash while still giving fans what they want.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Andrew Stanton, co-director Angus MacLane and producer Lindsey Collins, there’s a series of featurettes on topics like crafting the story and animating Hank the octopus, some deleted scenes, the short film “Piper” and more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Punch-Drunk Love”

WHAT: Sweet but socially inept novelty salesman Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) is given a new lease on life when he falls for the similarly shy Lena (Emily Watson). However, their budding relationship is threatened when Barry becomes the victim of an extortion scheme run by a phone sex operator and her sleazy boss (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

WHY: You’d be hard-pressed to find many people who list “Punch-Drunk Love” as their favorite Paul Thomas Anderson movie, and that’s largely because there’s not as much to bite into as his headier and more provocative films. It’s a solid little movie that operates without almost any plot, loosely constructed from the idiosyncratic side adventures of its main character. But while the various subplots (the pudding, the blackmailers, the unconventional romance) provide some great moments, they lack the substance to add up to much more. Adam Sandler delivers one of his best performances as the passive-aggressive introvert, and Emily Watson matches him step for step as the only person who truly accepts Barry for who he is, but it’s Anderson regular Philip Seymour Hoffman who steals the show with only a few minutes of screen time. Though the movie isn’t as great as some of the director’s other work, “Punch-Drunk Love” is required viewing for any cinephile, provided you’ve already worked your way through Anderson’s early filmography.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2002 short film “Blossoms & Blood,” a new interview with composer Jon Brion, behind-the-scenes footage from one of Brion’s recording sessions, deleted scenes, an essay by filmmaker Miranda July and more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

  

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