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 villainous Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) takes over the small mining town of Rose Creek, vengeful widow Emma Cullen (Hayley Bennet) hires a group of mercenaries – including bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), drunken gambler Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt) and Confederate sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) – to put an end to Bogue’s tyranny.
WHY: Remakes are rarely as good as the original, but Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven” succeeds where so many have failed by retaining the spirit of its predecessors while also distinguishing itself just enough to stand on its own, beginning with its refreshingly diverse ensemble. Their camaraderie, and the chemistry among the actors themselves, is what keeps you engaged even during the few lulls in the story. Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt are perfectly cast as the film’s leading men, but it’s the supporting players who steal the show, especially Ethan Hawke and Byung-hun Lee’s delightful double act. Although the first half of the movie is surprisingly light on action save for a well-staged standoff between the mercenaries and Bogue’s men, Fuqua makes up for it with the climactic finale, which delivers everything you could possibly want from a large-scale Wild West shootout. Its unmistakable “Fast and Furious”-like flavor won’t go down well with fans of the original Western, but much like the long-running franchise, “The Magnificent Seven” is good pulpy fun that’s far better than anyone expected.
EXTRAS: In addition to an interactive feature called Vengeance Mode that intercuts the film with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew, there are six featurettes and some deleted scenes.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: On January 15, 2009, commercial airline pilot Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the middle of the Hudson River when the plane struck a flock of geese shortly after takeoff. While Sully and his crew were hailed as heroes by the media, the National Transportation Safety Board quietly launched an investigation into the incident to determine whether it was reckless, casting a shadow of self-doubt on the experienced pilot.
WHY: Clint Eastwood’s latest biopic may not have enough narrative meat to warrant a feature-length film, but it’s such a fascinating story that it survives on the sheer awe factor and a solid performance by Tom Hanks. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting choice to play the modest and mild-mannered pilot, and although he doesn’t get a lot to work with from a character standpoint (Sully is extraordinary only in his ordinariness), the actor makes the most of even the smallest moments. For as great as Hanks is in the role, however, the real highlight is the movie’s gripping reenactment of the Miracle on the Hudson, which is hands-down one of the best sequences of the year. Eastwood doesn’t give up the goods right away, holding back the set piece until nearly an hour into the film’s lean 96-minute runtime, but he revisits the harrowing event multiple times, revealing new details and perspectives. Though “Sully” borders on syrupy sentimentalism at times and could have easily been undone by its own simplicity, the movie ultimately succeeds as an effective and enjoyable tribute to everyday heroism.
EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a profile on Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, a retrospective on the Flight 1549 incident with Sullenberger, copilot Jeff Skiles and air traffic controller Patrick Harten, and a behind-the-scenes look at creating the movie’s pivotal set piece.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT