Blu Tuesday: Hidden Figures 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.

“Hidden Figures”

“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

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Great Mini-Games from Video Gaming History

Throughout the history of video games, developers have been fascinated with the idea of giving players a little bit more. Back in 1979, gaming saw its first Easter egg in the form of a hidden credits room in Atari 2600 title “Adventure.” In the proceeding decades, studios have continued to take pride in adding bonus material to their titles, with mini-games and side content becoming more conspicuous and outlandish as time has gone on. The Spider Tank in “Watch Dogs,” a hallucinogenic “digital trip,” serves to illustrate just how fond software developers are of mini-games.

Today, we’re taking a look at two of the most celebrated mini-games in video games history.

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Leave It at Work: Effective Ways to Reduce Stress After Work

Work takes up a substantial part of your life, so if you are continually bringing work stress home with you, you need to find healthful ways to de-stress and unwind. Chronic stress has been medically proven to lead to health problems, so it’s important to discover how to reduce work stress to safeguard your health and enhance your well-being. With the following tried-and-true tips, you can ward off work stress and enjoy your life once you’re off the clock.

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Drink of the Week: The Rose

The Rose.Perhaps the rarest of all experiences in my cocktailian explorations is discovering a new base spirit to build mixed drinks around. After all, most of us who drink to any extent have made at least a passing acquaintance with vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila, gin and brandy, and usually in about that order. With cocktails, you basically start out with at least some knowledge of most of the basic building blocks, so it’s definitely a kick to find a strong liquor that isn’t one of these.

This week’s drink is built around kirschwasser, also called kirsch. I first learned of its existence at a pretty advanced age the first time I saw Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger’s masterpiece of English cinema, “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.” If you’ve seen it — and you probably haven’t, so go use your Amazon Prime membership to correct that error now! — you’ll remember that career soldiers Clive “Sugar” Candy (Roger Livesey) of Great Britain and Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff (Anton Walbrook) of Germany bond over kirshwasser during a series of increasingly cordial social meetings in the company of their respective ladyfriends.

Given the genteel setting, I always assumed that kirsch was a sweet but complex cherry brandy that was more like a cherry liqueur. In fact, it’s a species of what’s called eau de vie, unaged fruit brandies. It’s no sweeter than whiskey or cognac and pretty strong stuff — one of the brands I used for this was 90 proof — but the cherry notes are definitely there. The Rose is a classic cocktail featuring kirsch that’s appeared in a number of early cocktail texts, including “The Savoy Cocktail Book” and the revivalist booze bible, “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.” Having now tried it many times, I honestly can’t tell you why this drink is less popular than a martini or a Manhattan except for the fact that most of us have never even heard of its most important ingredient.

Let’s start changing that now.

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Movie Review: “Going in Style”

Starring
Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret, Joey King, Matt Dillon, John Ortiz, Christopher Lloyd
Director
Zach Braff

Zach Braff must be desperate for work; it’s the only logical reason why he would agree to direct a remake of 1979’s “Going in Style,” a movie so unmemorable that most people have never even heard of it. It’s completely out of character for a filmmaker like Braff, whose first two features (“Garden State” and “Wish I Was Here”) were such deeply personal pieces of work that it’s very surprising to see him slumming it as a director-for-hire. Then again, he probably couldn’t resist the opportunity to work alongside three Hollywood legends, and it’s hard to blame him, because the casting of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin is pretty much the only thing that this movie has going for it.

The actors play a trio of lifelong friends and former co-workers who have just been informed that their pension fund at the local steel factory is being dissolved, leaving the already financially-strapped retirees in a tough spot. Without a pension to pay his mortgage, Joe (Caine) is at risk of losing the home that he shares with his daughter and grandchild to bank foreclosure, and Willie (Freeman) is in desperate need of a kidney transplant that his insurance won’t cover. The curmudgeonly Albert (Arkin), meanwhile, has practically given up on life already, despite the romantic advances of peppy supermarket clerk Annie (Ann-Margaret). But when Joe witnesses a bank robbery in progress and gets the idea to pull a heist of his own, he convinces Willie and Albert to help him rob the bank that’s responsible for screwing them over.

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