Blu Tuesday: Split 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.

“Split”

Contrary to what some people have suggested, M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film isn’t much of a comeback at all. Instead, it’s yet another case of the premise being better than the final product. A psychological thriller that’s largely devoid of actual thrills, “Split” owes much of its success to James McAvoy, who gets a chance to flex his acting muscles as a man with 23 distinct personalities. Though we only see a handful of them in action, each one is so unique (from their voices to their mannerisms) that it’s amazing to watch as McAvoy jumps back and forth between them, sometimes in the same scene. Unfortunately, Shyamalan’s inability to get out of his own way prevents “Split” from fulfilling its full potential, despite a killer last-minute twist that will excite fans of his early work.

Extras include a making-of featurette, profiles on actor James McAvoy and writer/director M. Night Shyamalan, an alternate ending and deleted scenes. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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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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Blu Tuesday: Rogue One 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.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Despite rumors of reshoots and rewrites aimed at making it more commercially appealing, “Rogue One” feels every bit like the film that director Gareth Edwards promised, a slightly darker and grittier Star Wars movie that explores new territory for the franchise. Though it’s not without its flaws, “Rogue One” effortlessly fits into the Star Wars universe with an enjoyable one-off story that works both as a standalone film and a complement to the original trilogy. The action sequences are among the best in the series, while the ensemble is packed with instantly classic characters like Donnie Yen’s blind warrior monk and Alan Tudyk’s reprogrammed Imperial droid. Perhaps most impressive, however, is that despite already knowing how the story ends, “Rogue One” still manages to be suspenseful and surprising.

Extras include a trio of featurettes on the film’s origins, its visual style and the CG technology used to recreate Princess Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin, as well as some character profiles, a look at the various Easter eggs and more. FINAL VERDICT: BUY

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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

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Blu Tuesday: Live by Night 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.

“Live by Night”

Ben Affleck’s directorial career suffers its first major setback with “Live by Night,” a gorgeously crafted gangster film that doesn’t really add anything new to the genre. It’s basically a hodgepodge of much better movies, and while it features some great action and performances, the execution itself is pretty clunky. Working once again from a novel by Dennis Lehane, Affleck is unable to condense the sprawling crime drama into a cohesive two-hour film; he simply tries to do too much, tackling serious themes like race and religion while also juggling a number of subplots that could have easily been excised. Though fans of Affleck’s previous movies will still find plenty to enjoy here, “Live by Night” is easily his weakest directorial effort to date.

Extras include an audio commentary by director/writer/star Ben Affleck, a series of featurettes on the characters, author Dennis Lehane and the car chase sequence, and deleted scenes with optional commentary. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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