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.
An incredibly intimate and authentic story about a broken man forced to confront his demons, “Manchester by the Sea” is the most devastating, heart-wrenching drama of 2016. Casey Affleck is phenomenal in the lead role, delivering a subtle but powerful performance that showcases an actor at the top of his game, while Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler and Lucas Hedges round out the excellent cast. Though the movie is surprisingly funny at times, it’s primarily a portrait of grief and how it affects everyone differently. There’s no guidebook or one-size-fits-all remedy to mending a broken heart, and writer/director Kenneth Lonergan conveys that point beautifully amid the wintry backdrop of his New England setting. “Manchester by the Sea” is heavy stuff, but for a film that deals in misery, it never feels exploitative, and that goes a long way in earning your attention and respect.
Extras include Extras include an audio commentary by writer/director Kenneth Lonergan, a making-of featurette and deleted scenes. FINAL VERDICT: BUY
Seven years after bursting onto the scene with the ultra-stylish “A Single Man,” fashion designer Tom Ford proves that his directorial debut was no fluke with this dark and disturbing adult thriller that gets under your skin. Though the movie boasts some great performances and looks as beautiful as you’d expect with Ford behind the camera, “Nocturnal Animals” also signifies a giant leap forward for him as a storyteller; he won’t get the credit he deserves for adapting such a complex novel, but Ford handles the interweaving narratives effortlessly. That doesn’t make the film any easier to watch (it’s violent, intense and even infuriating at times), but like the crime novel at the center of the story, “Nocturnal Animals” demonstrates the power that a great piece of fiction can have on you, even one as polarizing and challenging as this.
Extras include a trio of featurettes on the story, the cinematography and costumes, and director Tom Ford’s approach to the film. FINAL VERDICT: BUY
The story of Desmond Doss, the U.S. Army medic who became the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor during WWII, is the kind of material that Mel Gibson typically gravitates towards as a filmmaker, which is why it’s so fitting that “Hacksaw Ridge” marks his long-awaited return behind the camera. While not as great as some of Gibson’s past work, it’s a well-made drama that’s bolstered by a superb central performance from Andrew Garfield and the best battle sequences since “Saving Private Ryan”; they’re harrowing, unrelenting and masterfully shot by Gibson, who makes the action easy to follow amid all the chaos. “Hacksaw Ridge” isn’t without its problems, especially during the somewhat corny first act, but it’s a mostly successful war movie that has its heart in the right place.
Extras include an in-depth making-of documentary titled “The Soul of War” and some deleted scenes. FINAL VERDICT: RENT
Arriving 13 years (and about a decade too late) after the release of the first film, “Bad Santa 2” joins the growing pile of totally unnecessary sequels. Although it wouldn’t surprise me if there were people out there who actually wanted another “Bad Santa” movie, everything about this lame-duck sequel feels forced, from the crude language to the return of characters like Marcus and Thurman Merman. The addition of Kathy Bates as Willie’s career-criminal mother is a nice touch, and there are a number of funny one-liners littered throughout the film, but the jokes that do work are vastly outnumbered by the ones that don’t. “Bad Santa 2” isn’t quite as terrible as expected, but it spoils what made the original a cult classic.
Extras include a short featurette on the return of Thurman Merman, the animated series “That’s My Willie,” deleted scenes, a gag reel and more. FINAL VERDICT: SKIP