Blu Tuesday: Fantastic Beasts and More

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.

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

As a fan of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” novels and the movies they inspired, it’s hard not to feel disappointed by her highly anticipated return to the Wizarding World. Though “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” serves as an interesting deviation from the typical Potter tale, it lacks the magic that made the previous films so great. None of the new characters are very memorable (save for Alison Sudol’s delightful Queenie), while the dueling narratives cause some minor identity problems, especially because Rowling seems more interested in the “B” story than her main protagonist’s journey. “Fantastic Beasts” isn’t exactly a bad movie – it retains a lot of the series’ charm and shows great promise for future installments – but it’s a rare misfire from a franchise that seemed incapable of doing wrong.

Extras include a making-of featurette, a behind-the-scenes look at the film’s characters, creatures and locations, some deleted scenes and more. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Patriots Day”

Much like “Lone Survivor” and “Deepwater Horizon,” director Peter Berg’s third collaboration with Mark Wahlberg – which retells the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing – doesn’t really have anything important to say politically, but it’s yet another gripping drama about real-life heroism. Wahlberg and the rest of the cast deliver good work in their respective roles, but where “Patriots Day” succeeds best is in the detailed reenactment of the investigation and city-wide manhunt. Although the measured buildup to the bombings is packed with tension, it pales in comparison to the way in which Berg captures the chaotic aftermath. “Patriots Day” could probably do with a bit more subtlety at times, but it’s a well-made memorial to the victims and their families that perfectly embodies the Boston Strong spirit.

Extras include a series of featurettes on making the film and the true stories that inspired it, as well as a pair of conversations between actors John Goodman and Jimmy O. Yang and their characters’ real-life counterparts. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Silence”

Martin Scorsese’s latest film may have been a longtime passion project for the director, but while it’s beautifully shot and contains some solid performances by Andrew Garfield and the largely Japanese cast (particularly Tadanobu Asano), it’s one of his weaker movies to date. Based on the novel by Shûsaku Endô about a pair of 17th century Jesuit priests who travel to Japan to locate their missing mentor, “Silence” attempts to tackle big ideas like faith and sacrifice but never really makes it beyond its opening argument, like a broken record playing different variations of the same scene over and over again. Although there’s some great stuff littered throughout, a lot of it’s lost amid the tedium and overindulgence of the film’s nearly three-hour runtime, which won’t test your faith so much as your patience.

Extras include a behind-the-scenes look at director Martin Scorsese’s decades-long journey to make the film. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“A Monster Calls”

Adapted from the YA novel of the same name, “A Monster Calls” is a movie without an audience. Though it’s clearly intended for a younger demographic (think of it as “Pan’s Labyrinth” lite), the film deals with such heavy subject matter, like how to process grief and accepting the death of a loved one, that it’s hard to imagine many teenagers flocking to see it. The allegorical stories that comprise the movie’s fantasy world are also laid on a bit thick, and it doesn’t do enough with its characters to maximize the emotional payoff. While the film keeps you engaged thanks to its inventive premise, stunning visuals and some excellent performances by Felicity Jones and newcomer Lewis MacDougall, “A Monster Calls” falls short where it counts most.

Extras include two audio commentaries (one by director J.A. Bayona and the other by writer Patrick Ness), a making-of featurette, a look at creating the animated sequences and some deleted scenes. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“20th Century Women”

After drawing on his relationship with his father for 2010’s “Beginners,” writer/director Mike Mills returns to that formula once again for “20th Century Women,” this time using his mother (played as a fictional version by Annette Bening) as inspiration. But while the film’s patchwork narrative contains some good moments, that’s all it really is – moments strung together like some kind of time-capsule scrapbook. The audience learns intimate details about the various characters who populate teenage Mills’ life without ever really getting to know them, and it makes the whole thing feel a tad superficial and self-indulgent as a result. Though the talented cast makes it a little easier to sit through, unless you truly identify with any of the characters, you probably won’t get much out of it.

Extras include an audio commentary by writer/director Mike Mills and a pair of featurettes on production and casting. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

  

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