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.
“Hidden Figures” is a crowd-pleaser in the purest sense – it’s a charming, heartwarming and inspirational tale that skillfully combines light-hearted comedy with racially-charged drama to shine a light on the African-American women who helped put John Glenn and others into space during a time when neither African-Americans nor women were given those kinds of opportunities. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe are excellent as the real-life mathematicians on which the film is based, while Kevin Costner provides good support as the NASA boss in charge of the space program. Although the movie hits a number of familiar beats along the way (after all, it’s basically an underdog sports drama for the STEM crowd), there’s nothing ordinary about the incredible true story at the heart of it.
Extras include an audio commentary by director/co-writer Theodore Melfi and actress Taraji P. Henson, a five-part making-of featurette and more. FINAL VERDICT: RENT
There’s always been some truth to “Veep’s” exaggerated depiction of D.C. politics, but in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency, the HBO comedy series feels downright prescient in the way that it satirizes incompetence within the U.S. government. Revisiting the show’s fifth season after the 2016 election is almost a completely different experience, although one that still works really well on a comedic level. The change in showrunner hasn’t affected the quality one bit; Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her co-stars remain the funniest cast on TV, and the writing is as sharp as ever, including another ballsy finale that pushes the series into uncharted territory once again. There’s a reason why “Veep” wins so many awards, and it’s because no other comedy has even come close to topping it.
Extras include cast and crew audio commentaries on six episodes, as well as some deleted scenes. FINAL VERDICT: BUY
It’s hard to imagine a better one-two punch on TV at the moment than HBO’s Sunday night comedy hour of “Veep” and “Silicon Valley.” Though it doesn’t rake in as many awards as the former, Mike Judge’s absurdist comedy series is a clever blend of lowbrow and highbrow humor that doesn’t hold back in its skewering of the tech world. Just like the first two seasons, the show’s junior year is filled with plenty of ups and downs, but the cast has such great chemistry that it’s easy to look past the flaws when you’re too busy laughing. Although the writers still don’t seem to know what to do with Josh Brener’s Big Head, the actor is so amusing in the role that it’s nice to see the show hasn’t given up on finding ways to keep him around.
Extras include a collection of deleted scenes. FINAL VERDICT: RENT
Based on the incredible true story of Saroo Brierly, an Indian orphan who used Google Earth to locate his biological family after getting separated from them 25 years earlier, “Lion” is a good old-fashioned tearjerker that boasts some powerful performances from its two leads. Dev Patel is great as the adult Saroo, showcasing an emotional depth and range that we haven’t seen from him before, while newcomer Sunny Pawar steals the show as his young counterpart. It probably helps that the first half of the movie, which covers Saroo’s childhood in India and eventual adoption by a kindly Australian couple, is the more interesting of the two, but Pawar is also just a really cute kid. Although “Lion” gets bogged down in some soapy melodrama in the latter half, there’s enough to like to forgive its faults.
Extras include deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes photo gallery and Sia’s “Never Give Up” music video. FINAL VERDICT: RENT
A pitch-black satire of the buddy cop genre that’s rooted in some real-world criticisms of U.S. law enforcement, writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s “War on Everyone” tries a little too hard to be edgy and subversive. Though Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña make a great team as the smart-aleck cops who get their kicks from blackmailing and beating up criminals, the film itself is a bit of a mess. The subplot involving Tessa Thompson’s good-natured stripper distracts from the main storyline, while Caleb Landry Jones’ eccentric henchman (a David Bowie reject with an unnerving presence) seems to be in a different movie altogether. “War on Everyone” certainly has its share of laughs, but unlike McDonagh’s previous films, it fails to be anything more than a mild diversion.
Extras include a character featurette with cast interviews. FINAL VERDICT: RENT
Proving why it’s probably not a good idea to gamble $125 million on a film that was conceived by a studio executive’s four-year-old son, “Monster Trucks” is every bit as stupid and juvenile as you’d expect, like a B-movie version of an Amblin creature flick minus the charm. Though it’s clearly been made with a particular audience in mind (boys aged 6-12), “Monster Trucks” doesn’t really have much going for it apart from its solid ensemble cast. The visual effects are surprisingly shoddy for a film with such a big budget and the writing is laughably bad, defying logic at every turn. The biggest disappointment, however, is that it’s neither good enough nor campy enough to enjoy on any level. It just sort of exists, and what’s the fun in that?
Extras include a trio of behind-the-scenes featurettes, production diaries, a gag reel and some deleted scenes. FINAL VERDICT: SKIP