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: After uncovering new evidence that suggests his missing sister Heather may still be alive, James (James Allen McCune) and his friends venture into the Black Hills Forest – the site of her mysterious disappearance – and come face to face with the legendary Blair Witch.
WHY: When it was revealed that Adam Wingard’s latest movie, originally titled “The Woods,” was actually a direct sequel to the 1999 hit indie film, “The Blair Witch Project,” horror fans were excited to see if Wingard and frequent collaborator Simon Barrett (“The Guest,” “You’re Next”) could revive the would-be franchise. Unfortunately, it turns out that the best thing about “Blair Witch” was the secrecy of its production. The movie itself is pretty unspectacular, filled with many of the same beats as the original, albeit with a much larger budget. Though there are a handful of good moments scattered throughout (including a gruesome death scene involving the iconic stick figures), and it addresses a couple longstanding problems with the found footage genre, “Blair Witch” is unable to recapture the magic of its predecessor. Wingard and Barrett are clearly big fans of the first movie, but despite their attempts at expanding the mythology, the final product is almost as disappointing as the ill-conceived 2000 meta-sequel “Book of Shadows.”
EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, there’s a six-part making-of featurette and a tour of the set.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP
WHAT: When Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is sued for libel by renowned Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall), she must defend herself and the historical truth of the Holocaust in British court.
WHY: As far as films about the Holocaust go, “Denial” isn’t exactly essential viewing. In fact, it’s a fairly by-the-numbers courtroom drama that could easily be mistaken for a made-for-TV movie. With that said, director Mick Jackson’s film feels incredibly relevant in today’s political landscape, which has become so rampant with fake news that the type of racist and ignorant lies that David Irving perpetuated are gradually becoming more commonplace. It’s just a shame that the movie plays things so safe, because although it’s propped up by a trio of solid performances from Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall, “Denial” lacks the emotional impact that its subject matter demands. This would have made for a more interesting TV miniseries à la “The People v. O.J. Simpson” than a feature-length film, as it would have allowed for a deeper dive into the trial and the people involved. Though “Denial” works just fine as a modest reenactment of the real-life events, it had the potential to be better.
EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a making-of featurette.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: The further exploits of Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) and her group of twenty-something friends – Marnie (Allison Williams), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) – as they face new challenges in life and love.
WHY: The fifth season of “Girls” got off to a surprisingly strong start, buoyed by a pair of excellent storylines featuring the show’s most underused characters: Jessa and Shoshanna. The guilt-ridden romance between Jessa and Adam is so interesting to watch develop that it’s a wonder why it wasn’t explored sooner, while Shoshanna’s time in Japan is exactly the kind of fun detour that the series has been crying out for. Even Andrew Rannells’ Elijah is finally given something interesting to do beyond playing the snarky, gay best friend – a stereotype that, quite frankly, this show should be above. Unfortunately, the turnaround only lasts for so long (episode five, by my count) before it begins to fall back into bad habits, from Hannah’s annoyingly self-destructive tendencies to the Marnie-centric episode that attempts to hit the reset button on her awful character arc from the last few years. Although there are some good moments in the back half of the season as well, it’s evident that “Girls” still has a lot of growing up to do.
EXTRAS: There are some deleted and extended scenes, as well as the usual Inside the Episode featurettes.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT