Blu Tuesday: Don’t Breathe, Pete’s Dragon and The BFG

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.

“Don’t Breathe”

WHAT: Three young thieves break into the house of a blind Iraq war veteran (Stephen Lang) who’s reportedly sitting on a large stash of money. But the man isn’t as innocent as he seems, and before long, the intruders (including Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette) are unexpectedly thrust into a fight for their lives.

WHY: Following his 2013 remake of “The Evil Dead,” it’s nice to see director Fede Alvarez return to more original genre fare like “Don’t Breathe,” which features one of the best horror premises in recent years. The film gets off to a cracking start as well, ramping up in intensity at every turn as the burglars slowly make their way into the blind man’s house, only to discover that they’re messing with the wrong guy. Unfortunately, while the first half is a really strong home invasion thriller that smartly uses its confined space and sound design to build suspense, “Don’t Breathe” is ruined by some lazy writing. Not only does it contain a really dumb twist that comes completely out of left field, but the characters are so idiotic that their poor decision-making skills will have you pulling your hair out. It’s been a while since the horror genre has had protagonists this patently stupid, and when combined with the sheer implausibility of certain events, it turns what could have been a new cult classic into just another mediocre B-movie.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director/co-writer Fede Alvarez, co-writer Rodo Sayagues and actor Stephen Lang, there’s a collection of featurettes on the cast, production design and score, and eight deleted scenes with optional commentary.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Pete’s Dragon”

WHAT: For years, orphaned boy Pete (Oakes Fegley) and his magical dragon Elliot have enjoyed a quiet, isolated life together in the woods. But when a logging company encroaches on their land and Pete’s secret is exposed, the local townspeople set out to capture Elliot for personal gain. With the help of a kindhearted forest ranger named Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), Pete risks everything in order to save his friend.

WHY: Disney has been reaching back into its archives lately to find movies it can update for modern audiences, and though “Pete’s Dragon” is a film that didn’t really need to be remade, it’s one that has plenty of room for improvement. While David Lowery’s soulful, more character-driven adaptation is a refreshing change of pace from the typical blockbuster, however, it never really goes anywhere. One of the things that Lowery does get right is his titular creature. Though Elliot looks less like a dragon than the pink-haired cartoon version from the 1977 original, he feels like a real living thing, providing much of the movie’s heart through his loving/playful relationship with Pete. Unfortunately, there’s very little at stake in the story, and it lacks the sense of fun or adventure that you’d expect from a film about a boy and his dragon. While it functions as a perfectly fine slice of wholesome family entertainment, “Pete’s Dragon” doesn’t grab your attention (and to a certain degree, your imagination) in quite the way that it should.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by director/co-writer David Lowery, co-writer Toby Halbrooks and actors Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence, as well as a video production diary, a behind-the-scenes look at the visual effects, a montage of deleted scenes and a blooper reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“The BFG”

WHAT: An orphan named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is kidnapped by a mysterious giant (Mark Rylance) in the middle of the night and taken back to his cave in Giant Country. Unlike the others of his kind, however, Sophie’s abductor is a big friendly giant who refuses to eat children. As the two become friends, Sophie and the BFG form a plan to get rid of all the bad giants – led by the dim-witted Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement) – who terrorize the land.

WHY: Steven Spielberg is one of the most consistent filmmakers working today, which is why it’s a surprise that his latest movie is so poor. Although based on the children’s novel by Roald Dahl, whose work has served as the basis for some great adaptations (“Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), “The BFG” is an incredibly dull family film that isn’t remotely as charming or clever as it thinks. The two protagonists are so underdeveloped that their sudden friendship feels forced, while Jemaine Clement’s Fleshlumpeater is the only other character who’s afforded any sizeable screen time, and even then he comes off as pretty one-dimensional. The visual effects are also lacking for a movie that appears to have been shot almost entirely on green screen; the giants look too cartoonish and never really blend in with the live-action characters in a believable manner. Perhaps “The BFG” works better on the page than the big screen, because while it displays glimpses of a fun adventure film, it’s so clumsily executed that there’s nothing enjoyable about it.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a making-of feature, the short film “The Big Friendly Giant and Me,” a tribute to screenwriter Melissa Mathison and more.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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