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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Movie Review: “Hacksaw Ridge”

Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Sam Worthington, Vince Vaughn, Luke Bracey, Rachel Griffiths
Mel Gibson

The story of Desmond Doss is so remarkable that it’s surprising it took this long for someone to make a film based on his life. Although Hollywood has produced plenty of movies about real-life war heroes, Doss is a fairly unique case: a U.S. Army medic and devout Seventh-day Adventist who single-handedly saved 75 men during the Battle of Okinawa without ever firing a shot. It’s the kind of material that Mel Gibson typically gravitates towards as a filmmaker, which is why it’s so fitting that “Hacksaw Ridge” marks the director’s long-awaited return behind the camera. “Hacksaw Ridge” isn’t as great as some of Gibson’s past work, but it’s a well-made drama that’s bolstered by a superb central performance and the best battle sequences since “Saving Private Ryan.”

Before plunging the audience into the horrors of WWII, however, Gibson flashes back to a year earlier to show how Desmond’s (Andrew Garfield) fractured home life and his romance with local nurse Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer) led him to enlist in the Army. Though Desmond doesn’t believe in violence, his sense of patriotism and duty compels him to follow in his brother’s footsteps, much to the disapproval of his alcoholic father (Hugo Weaving), who witnessed all of his friends killed in action during the first World War.

Desmond wants to serve as a combat medic so that he can save lives rather than take them, but upon arriving at Fort Jackson for basic training, he’s met with resistance by his commanding officers, Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington), who try to convince Desmond to quit and then court-martial him for his refusal to carry a weapon. But since we already know how the story ends (in fact, Gibson opens the movie with a shot of Desmond being carried across the battlefield), it’s safe to say that he wins the case and is shipped out with the rest of his unit to Japan, where he would go on to earn the respect of his fellow soldiers in a miraculous act of heroism and bravery.

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