Blu Tuesday: Arrow, The Jungle Book 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.

“Arrow: The Complete Fourth Season”

WHAT: After defeating Ra’s al Ghul in battle, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) leaves behind his vigilante persona and moves to the suburbs with Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) to live a normal life. But when Star City is threatened by a terrorist organization called H.I.V.E., Oliver returns as the newly dubbed Green Arrow to stop the group’s leader Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) – a man with mysterious magical abilities – from destroying what he’s worked so hard to protect.

WHY: The fourth season of “Arrow” is a real low point in the show’s history; it’s as clunky and poorly conceived as Diggle’s awful new helmet. Though past seasons have certainly had their share of criticisms, it’s never been quite this bad. The flashbacks are more pointless than ever, persisting with a plot device that’s no longer necessary, while the Oliver/Felicity romance is horribly mishandled. Even Damien Darhk’s involvement doesn’t seem very well-thought-out. Not only is he too powerful for Oliver and his team, but he only appears when it’s convenient for the plot, going through the same motions over and over until his lame defeat in the finale. However, the biggest problem with “Arrow” (and to a lesser degree, “The Flash”) is that there isn’t enough story to warrant 23 hours of television, resulting in a lot of unnecessary filler. That’s never been more true than in Season Four, and with any luck, it’ll lead to the show receiving a much-needed reset, or at the very least, a return to its grittier, humbler roots.

EXTRAS: In addition to the 2015 Comic-Con panel, there’s a trio of profiles on Damien Darhk, Vandal Savage and Hawkman and Hawkgirl, deleted scenes and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: The Walking Dead, Narcos 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.

“The Walking Dead: The Complete Sixth Season”

WHAT: When the people of Alexandria are forced to deal with a number of dangerous threats from both the living and the dead, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) gains the trust of his new community by transforming its residents into survivors. But not everyone agrees with Rick’s shoot-first approach to diplomacy, particularly the newly passive Morgan (Lennie James).

WHY: A lot of the attention surrounding the sixth season of “The Walking Dead” focused on the arrival of fan favorite villain Negan, a character who doesn’t even appear until the closing minutes of the finale and caused just as much backlash as excitement. But whether or not you’re happy with the way Season Six ended, there’s so much great stuff in the lead up to the inevitable faceoff with Negan (a fantastic Jeffrey Dean Morgan) that it’s easily one of the best seasons to date. Glen Mazzara continues to prove why he’s the perfect showrunner for this series, because as a fan of Robert Kirkman’s original comic, he’s able to deliver all the classic moments (the zombie invasion of Alexandria, Carl getting shot in the face, Negan’s thrilling introduction) without feeling slavish to the source material. Not every episode is a resounding success, but even those that caused controversy with their frustrating storytelling tactics (namely “Thank You” and “Last Day on Earth”) exude excellence in one way or another, and it’s for that reason why “The Walking Dead” remains among the best shows on TV.

EXTRAS: In addition to cast and crew audio commentaries on seven episodes, there’s an extended cut of the season finale (including an alternate, expletive-filled version of the Negan speech), five behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes and more.

FINAL VERDICT: BUY

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Blu Tuesday: Gotham and Angry Birds

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.

“Gotham: The Complete Second Season”

WHAT: When wealthy aristocrat Theo Galavan (James Frain) returns to Gotham and runs for mayor, Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) becomes obsessed with exposing his true intentions. Meanwhile, as young Bruce Wayne continues his training alongside Alfred (Sean Pertwee) and Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), a new wave of criminals begins to terrorize the city, including Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), Victor Fries (Nathan Darrow) and Arkham Asylum’s chief of psychiatry, Hugo Strange (BD Wong).

WHY: It’s fitting that “Gotham” isn’t associated with the other DC Comics TV shows, because unlike those fan-friendly series, the Fox drama might as well be taking place in an alternate universe – one that doesn’t seem at all interested in staying true to its roots. There’s nothing wrong with a little reinvention, but when the heroes and villains no longer resemble their comic book counterparts, it sort of defeats the purpose of making a show called “Gotham.” For instance, James Gordon’s Season Two arc is not only completely out of character, but it boxes him into a corner that has irreparable repercussions. It’s a frustrating occurrence that happens far too often during the course of the season, damaging the overall quality of the show in the process. The ensemble cast makes the most of the material provided, and there’s a certain joy in seeing Batman’s rogue’s gallery brought to life (even if they’re watered down versions of the characters), but for a series that started off so promising, “Gotham” doesn’t provide many reasons to continue watching.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes the 2015 Comic-Con panel, a trio of featurettes covering the show’s film noir style, the relationship between Alfred and Bruce Wayne, and the origin of Mr. Freeze, as well as additional cast interviews and more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Supergirl and A Hologram for the King

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.

“Supergirl: The Complete First Season”

WHAT: After escaping the doomed planet Krypton as a child, Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) is raised by a foster family on Earth, where she learns to conceal her superpowers and her true identity as Superman’s cousin. Years later, Kara continues to live a normal life working as the assistant for media mogul Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) in National City. But when she gets the sudden urge to use her powers for good, Kara must learn to balance her personal life and her new role as Supergirl with the help of adopted sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) and co-workers James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) and Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan).

WHY: Marvel may be winning the battle of the comic book heroes on the big screen, but DC has carved out a nice little niche on the small screen with shows like “Arrow,” “The Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow.” The latest addition to producer Greg Berlanti’s capes-and-tights TV lineup is a mildly amusing but flawed superhero drama that is arguably the weakest of all the DC series. Though the cast grows on you over time, Melissa Benoist flies circles around her co-stars for much of the season, especially Calista Flockhart, whose over-the-top performance as Kara’s boss feels like it’s from a completely different show. In fact, none of the supporting characters are very interesting, and that’s in direct contrast to the aforementioned series, which succeed largely because of them. The biggest problem, however, is that Supergirl isn’t that compelling herself (despite Benoist’s great performance), and it shows in her rogue’s gallery of villains, which are just as uninspired and cheap-looking as the action sequences. Perhaps it will perform better alongside its fellow superhero shows on The CW, because in its original iteration on CBS, “Supergirl” isn’t really super at all.

EXTRAS: In addition to the 2015 Comic-Con panel, there’s a pair of featurettes on Krypton and Martian Manhunter, some deleted scenes and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“A Hologram for the King”

WHAT: Struggling American businessman Alan Clay (Tom Hanks) is sent by his company to Saudi Arabia to pitch a state-of-the-art holographic teleconferencing system to the king. While Alan and his team patiently await the king’s arrival, he spends his days navigating the country’s unique customs alongside his friendly driver Yousef (Alexander Black) and a beautiful doctor named Zahara (Sarita Choudhury).

WHY: Director Tom Tykwer’s latest film was unceremoniously released in theaters earlier this year with little fanfare, and while it may have seemed like a strange decision at the time, it makes sense after seeing it. Based on David Eggers’ award-winning novel of the same name, “A Hologram for the King” isn’t a bad movie – in fact, it’s perfectly mediocre in every way – but it’s not a very memorable one, either. Though it boasts a strong performance from the always reliable Tom Hanks and good supporting turns by Alexander Black and Sarita Choudhury, the movie is a somewhat bland and uneven character study about a middle-aged white guy getting his groove back in the Middle East. Most of the film plays like your typical fish-out-of-water story before switching focus to the romantic subplot between Alan and Zahara in the final act, but while it’s an interesting development that explores the difficulties of such a relationship in Saudi Arabia, it feels so rushed that Tykwer is unable to give it the attention it deserves.

EXTRAS: There are two featurettes on production and adapting David Eggers’ novel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

  

Blu Tuesday: The Knick, Keanu 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.

“The Knick: The Complete Second Season”

WHAT: After he’s rescued from the primitive rehab center that used heroine to treat his cocaine habit, Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) returns to the Knick with a new obsession: finding a cure for addiction. Meanwhile, Dr. Edwards (Andre Holland) and Dr. Gallinger (Eric Johnson) continue to butt heads; Bertie (Michael Angarano) goes to work at a competing hospital; and Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) investigates a mysterious death connected to her family’s shipping company.

WHY: The first season of “The Knick” was a slow-moving but nonetheless compelling period drama highlighted by some fantastic performances and gorgeous visuals, which makes it all the more disappointing to see the show suffer through such a terrible sophomore slump. Several key players, particularly Andre Holland’s Dr. Edwards and Eve Henson’s Lucy, have been saddled with half-baked storylines that barely form anything resembling an arc, while Clive Owen’s Thackery is gradually built up over the course of the season just so he can be torn down again. It’s all handled very sloppily, but that’s Season Two in a nutshell. Though the surgery sequences are still fascinating to watch, and the scene-stealing Chris Sullivan is rewarded with a bigger role, just when “The Knick” seems to be finding its groove, it pivots to less worthy characters like Dr. Gallinger and the sleazy Herman Barrow, both of whom are given far too much screen time this season. The change in direction is mind-boggling to say the least, because what started as a fairly promising prestige drama has deteriorated into a series that’s hardly worth continuing at all.

EXTRAS: In addition to three audio commentaries with various cast and crew, there’s a series of behind-the-scenes featurettes on the season’s main themes, an in-depth look at some of the medical procedures, a walking tour of the set, and much more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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