Blu Tuesday: Doctor Strange 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.

“Doctor Strange”

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

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Movie Review: “Allied”

Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Lizzy Caplan, Matthew Goode, Jared Harris
Robert Zemeckis

Robert Zemeckis typically makes big pieces of popcorn entertainment. Admittedly, the “Back to the Future” and “Forrest Gump” director’s most recent films have been more distancing than enthralling, but his latest, the World War II romance “Allied,” is one of his more human and tangible movies yet. It’s also his most purely enjoyable film since “Cast Away.”

Zemeckis and screenwriter Steven Knight open the story with Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) parachuting down into the French Moroccan desert. It’s quite an image – one that relies on obvious visual effects – but it grabs the viewer’s attention with silence and curiosity, dropping them into the story along with Max. The agent is then picked up by an unnamed man and told that he must meet his wife, fellow special operative and French Resistance spy Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard), for dinner. Max and Marianne’s mission is simple: play house convincingly enough for the Germans in Casablanca, make some important contacts, and get into the right room to kill a high-ranking German ambassador. Their mission goes according to plan, but what they didn’t expect is that they would fall in love in the process.

Once the mission is complete, Max asks Marianne to return to London with him. The two have a daughter they deeply love, but their lives begin to crumble when Max is informed by a mysterious (and higher ranking) S.O.E. official (Simon McBurney) that his wife is a spy for the Nazis. If the source is correct, Max will have to shoot his wife or else he’ll be executed. A plan is put into motion – leak information to Marianne and see if it gets to the enemy – but with each passing minute, Max can’t handle the thought that the woman he loves is a double agent.

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