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.
Arguably one of the weirder properties under the Marvel banner, “Doctor Strange” marries its inventive visuals – from the colorful, kaleidoscopic imagery to the physics-bending action sequences – with the usual superhero story beats to deliver the best solo origin movie since “Iron Man.” Benedict Cumberbatch is pitch-perfect as the cocky yet charming title character, while the rest of the cast (particularly Tilda Swinton) turn in great work. Though the film never strays too far from the tried-and-true Marvel formula, it’s not afraid to get a little weird either, embracing the absurdity of the material with a knowing wink, as if to say, “Are you having fun yet?” And “Doctor Strange” is nothing if not fun, balancing the headier stuff with a strong dramatic core and a dash of humor to create an excellent addition to the genre.
Extras include an audio commentary by director Scott Derrikson, five production featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, the short film “Team Thor: Part 2” and a sneak peek at Marvel’s Phase Three. FINAL VERDICT: BUY
Although it boasts a veteran filmmaker in Robert Zemeckis and two of Hollywood’s biggest stars in Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, “Allied” is a disappointingly mediocre WWII spy drama that doesn’t quite fulfill its potential. Pitt and Cotillard are both fine as the undercover agents who fall in love during a covert mission, but they’re not given enough to do to really challenge them as actors, while the characters themselves aren’t particularly well-developed, causing some of the more emotional moments to fall flat. In fact, the main romance happens so suddenly that it’s a little hard to believe. Though the movie certainly looks great and features some nice tension in the final act, “Allied” comes across as nothing more than a poor imitation of the Golden Age films that inspired it.
Extras include a series of featurettes covering almost every aspect of making the film, including costumes, production design, visual effects and more. FINAL VERDICT: RENT
Writer/director Barry Jenkins’ sophomore effort is a powerful but flawed rumination on identity that chronicles the life of a young, gay black man across three time periods as he struggles to find his place in society. For as narratively ambitious as “Moonlight” may be, however, it never amounts to more than a collection of lyrical, almost dreamlike moments (some of which are brilliantly executed) rather than a fully developed story. It’s a lot like Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” in that respect, and it suffers from many of the same problems too, particularly the lack of an engaging protagonist. Nevertheless, “Moonlight” rises above these issues – thanks in part to some excellent performances from its cast – to deliver an important and soulful piece of LBGT cinema that comes at a time when the world need more stories like it.
Extras include an audio commentary by writer/director Barry Jenkins and a trio of featurettes on production, the music and filming in Miami. FINAL VERDICT: RENT
Marking Warren Beatty’s first directorial effort in nearly 20 years, this long-gestating passion project about reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes is a movie without a clear identity; it wants to be both a farcical romantic comedy and a serious drama. The film teeters back and forth between the two wildly different tones without ever fully committing to one of them, skipping around with the attention span of a toddler. Though the erratic pacing and abrupt editing certainly doesn’t help, the biggest problem is Beatty himself, who transforms what is initially a sweet love story between two youngsters into the Howard Hughes show. Hughes may have been a misunderstood genius who didn’t play by the rules, but in trying to employ that same ideology to his movie, Beatty only ends up making it as incoherent as the man himself.
Extras include a short making-of featurette, a music video featuring Lily Collins and a photo gallery. FINAL VERDICT: SKIP