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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Blu Tuesday: Passengers 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.

“Passengers”

Developed from one of the hottest scripts in Hollywood and starring two of its most bankable stars, “Passengers” should have been a slam dunk. But while the movie fails to reach its lofty ambitions, it’s still a thought-provoking piece of genre-hopping sci-fi that’s biggest misstep is the way in which it handles the story’s ethical dilemma. The world that director Morten Tyldum and writer Jon Spaihts have created is so captivating that it’s easy to see how their focus may have been derailed, but despite a few cool sequences in the latter half, the setup is much better than the payoff. Although it’s ultimately held together by some fantastic chemistry between Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, your mileage will vary depending on how you respond to the film’s polarizing plot twist.

Extras include a trio of featurettes on casting, production design and visual effects, as well as some outtakes, deleted scenes and more. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Moana 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.

“Moana”

Disney has been on an incredible run of form lately, comfortably outperforming sister studio Pixar over the past five years with films like “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Frozen” and “Zootopia,” and that trend continues with “Moana.” Although it’s structured as a rather traditional hero’s journey, the movie sets itself apart thanks to more progressive characters that break from the typical Disney stereotypes. Both leads are great – Dwayne Johnson is super charming as the demigod Maui, while newcomer Auli’i Cravalho more than holds her own in the title role – and the soundtrack (co-written by “Hamilton” star Lin-Manuel Miranda) is packed with infectious tunes that give “Frozen” a run for its money. Also boasting some of Disney’s most detailed and vibrant animation yet, “Moana” is an instant classic that only gets better with each viewing.

Extras include an audio commentary by directors Ron Clements and John Musker, a series of featurettes on the movie’s technical achievements, interviews with the cast and crew, deleted scenes, two short films and much more. FINAL VERDICT: BUY

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Blu Tuesday: Doctor Strange 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.

“Doctor Strange”

Arguably one of the weirder properties under the Marvel banner, “Doctor Strange” marries its inventive visuals – from the colorful, kaleidoscopic imagery to the physics-bending action sequences – with the usual superhero story beats to deliver the best solo origin movie since “Iron Man.” Benedict Cumberbatch is pitch-perfect as the cocky yet charming title character, while the rest of the cast (particularly Tilda Swinton) turn in great work. Though the film never strays too far from the tried-and-true Marvel formula, it’s not afraid to get a little weird either, embracing the absurdity of the material with a knowing wink, as if to say, “Are you having fun yet?” And “Doctor Strange” is nothing if not fun, balancing the headier stuff with a strong dramatic core and a dash of humor to create an excellent addition to the genre.

Extras include an audio commentary by director Scott Derrikson, five production featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, the short film “Team Thor: Part 2” and a sneak peek at Marvel’s Phase Three. FINAL VERDICT: BUY

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