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 Facebook and Twitter with your friends.
WHAT: In 1850, author Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) convinces the last surviving member of the Essex whaling ship to recount the story of its rumored capsizing by a giant sperm whale 30 years earlier while under the command of Captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) and first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth).
WHY: Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” might be one of the most boring literary classics ever published, yet that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from going back to the source material time and time again. Though Ron Howard’s “In the Heart of the Sea” technically isn’t an adaptation of “Moby Dick,” but rather the real-life events that inspired Melville’s seafaring adventure, it doesn’t make the film any less dull. A well-intentioned cross between the nautical drama of “Master and Commander” and the against-all-odds survival elements of “Unbroken,” “In the Heart of the Sea” is an instantly forgettable movie that squanders the talents of Howard and his cast, including Chris Hemsworth, who still hasn’t found a starring vehicle outside the Marvel universe to showcase his leading man potential. However, that’s not nearly as troubling as its surprising lack of thrills, because while “In the Heart of the Sea” was never going to be the action-packed adventure film that it was falsely marketed as, a story this epic deserved better.
EXTRAS: In addition to a 10-part production diary called “Captain’s Log,” there are five featurettes and a hefty collection of deleted scenes.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP
WHAT: After receiving a prophecy from a trio of witches that he will one day become King of Scotland, loyal soldier Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) is goaded by his wife (Marion Cotillard) into murdering the beloved King Duncan (David Thewlis) and taking the throne for himself.
WHY: William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” has led a pretty charmed life on the big screen, with heavy hitters like Orson Welles, Roman Polanski and Akira Kurosawa all producing their own versions of the play, but it’s been awhile since a really good adaptation came along. Enter director Justin Kurzel, whose dark and gritty take on the classic tragedy is one of the best Shakespearean movies in recent years. The film is impressive on a technical level alone, especially the cinematography by Adam Arkapaw, which gives the visuals a painterly quality that enhances Macbeth’s nightmarish descent into madness. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are also excellent in the lead roles, delivering a pair of complex, layered performances that shows just how great Shakespeare can be when entrusted to actors of their ability. Granted, “Macbeth” isn’t without its flaws – the pacing is a bit slow and it’s difficult to understand at times – but Kurzel’s mostly faithful adaptation breathes new life into a story that’s gotten rather stale in its old age.
EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette and a Q&A with actor Michael Fassbender.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT