Blu Tuesday: Manchester by the Sea 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.

“Manchester by the Sea”

An incredibly intimate and authentic story about a broken man forced to confront his demons, “Manchester by the Sea” is the most devastating, heart-wrenching drama of 2016. Casey Affleck is phenomenal in the lead role, delivering a subtle but powerful performance that showcases an actor at the top of his game, while Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler and Lucas Hedges round out the excellent cast. Though the movie is surprisingly funny at times, it’s primarily a portrait of grief and how it affects everyone differently. There’s no guidebook or one-size-fits-all remedy to mending a broken heart, and writer/director Kenneth Lonergan conveys that point beautifully amid the wintry backdrop of his New England setting. “Manchester by the Sea” is heavy stuff, but for a film that deals in misery, it never feels exploitative, and that goes a long way in earning your attention and respect.

Extras include Extras include an audio commentary by writer/director Kenneth Lonergan, a making-of featurette and deleted scenes. FINAL VERDICT: BUY

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Blu Tuesday: Arrival 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.

“Arrival”

Denis Villeneuve has quietly assembled an impressive body of work over the past few years, and although “Sicario” remains his finest movie to date, “Arrival” isn’t far behind. A deeply cerebral and emotional sci-fi film about the way we communicate with each other, “Arrival” takes a simple, well-worn premise and creates a captivating moviegoing experience led by a terrific Amy Adams. Focusing more on the science of language (and how it can be used to bring people together) rather than the aliens themselves, Villeneuve has produced an incredibly timely movie with real-world significance. Though its slow-boil pacing may test your patience, “Arrival” is a really good film that becomes a great one in the final minutes, leading to some pretty heavy, soul-searching questions that will stick with you long after it’s over.

Extras include Extras include a behind-the-scenes look at making the movie, as well as four additional featurettes on sound design, the score, editing and the film’s scientific concepts. FINAL VERDICT: BUY

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Blu Tuesday: Vice Principals 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.

“Vice Principals: The Complete First Season”

The newest show from Danny McBride and Jody Hill, the team behind the HBO cult comedy series “Eastbound & Down,” probably won’t win over too many new fans, but it’s a decidedly more mature piece of storytelling that only gets better over the course of its first season. While McBride plays another boorish man-child in the same vein as Kenny Powers, the character isn’t nearly as annoying or unsympathetic; in fact, he really starts to grow on you. Walton Goggins’ nasty rival turned collaborator doesn’t fare quite as well, but the two actors strike up a good partnership that results in many of the show’s best moments. Though “Vice Principals” suffers from the same unevenness that plagued McBride and Hill’s last project, it does just enough to keep you invested.

Extras include Extras include cast and crew audio commentaries on all nine episodes, deleted scenes and a blooper reel. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Jack Reacher 2 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.

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”

The first Jack Reacher movie may have underperformed at the box office, but it would’ve been a shame if that had marked the end of the character’s cinematic adventures. Granted, “Never Go Back” isn’t as much fun as its 2012 predecessor, but the film still succeeds thanks to Tom Cruise’s charismatic turn as the badass ex-military man. Though the family dynamic between Reacher, Cobie Smulders’ framed army major and Danika Yarosh’s feisty teenager allows Cruise to explore the character’s emotional side, this particular story would have been better saved for a future installment. After all, Jack Reacher is at his best when he’s working alone, and while “Never Go Back” features some great Reacher moments, it fails to make a strong enough case for continuing the series.

Extras include six featurettes that cover topics like shooting on location in Louisiana, filming the rooftop battle, on-set photography and more. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Inferno and The Light Between Oceans

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.

“Inferno”

WHAT: When he wakes up in a hospital in Florence, Italy with no memory of the last 48 hours, famed symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) must team up with Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) to stop the release of a deadly virus created by an American billionaire (Ben Foster) who believes that the only way to solve the world’s overpopulation problem is through mass genocide.

WHY: Just when you thought that the Robert Langdon franchise was dead, Ron Howard and Tom Hanks have teamed up again for another installment based on the fourth (and latest) book in Dan Brown’s ongoing series. Why the studio chose to adapt “Inferno” over 2009’s “The Lost Symbol,” we may never know, but this is easily the worst installment to date. The opening 30 minutes is an overdirected mess of bright lights, quick cuts and hazy visions that’s meant to simulate the effects of Langdon’s amnesia but only proves to be incredibly annoying. Though it’s refreshing to see Langdon out of his element for once (even if the idea that he can remember obscure facts and not the word for “coffee” is as ridiculous as some of the film’s major plot turns), it also defeats the purpose of going to see a Robert Langdon adventure. Hanks and Felicity Jones are both fine in their roles, but between the lack of a compelling villain and the absurdity of the story itself, “Inferno” is a dull reminder why this franchise never really took off.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes six featurettes on the film’s main characters, director Ron Howard and location shooting, as well as some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“The Light Between Oceans”

WHAT: While living on a remote island off the coast of Australia, lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and his wife Isabel (Alicia Vikander) rescue a baby from a drifting rowboat and decide to raise it as their own. Wracked with guilt over his failure to report the incident, Tom upends their perfect life when he anonymously contacts the baby’s real mother (Rachel Weisz).

WHY: Derek Cianfrance was hailed as one of the most promising young directors in Hollywood after 2010’s “Blue Valentine,” and while he continued to build on that potential with “The Place Beyond the Pines,” his latest movie represents a major step back. Although it boasts strong performances from Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz, “The Light Between Oceans” is a melodramatic slog that’s neither as emotional nor engaging as it intends to be. Based on M.L. Stedman’s debut novel of the same name, “The Light Between Oceans” deals with some pretty heavy themes like guilt, forgiveness and the things we do for love, but it doesn’t dig deep enough into its characters’ psyches to leave much of a lasting impression. The first hour is sluggish, detailing Tom and Isabel’s courtship and ensuing miscarriages, while the latter half basically asks the audience to sympathize with a pair of kidnappers. Obviously, there’s more to the story than that, but Cianfrance doesn’t do enough with it to make you care.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by writer/director Derek Cianfrance, there’s a pair of featurettes on making the film and the Cape Campbell Lighthouse.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP