Many of the holiday season’s biggest movies are now coming home to Blu-ray, and even earlier if you’re interested in the digital/VOD editions. This week’s column includes the extensive special editions of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, as well as standard issue Blu-rays for The Hateful Eight, Concussion and the remake of Point Break.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Out April 5
How great does the new Star Wars look on Blu-ray? Everything from the shiny First Order Storm Trooper helmets to the black tiles of the Starkiller Base seem to reflect the galaxy far, far away back into your living room. All the locations look stunning, with the wavy sand dunes, green forest and snow banks. Interior sets are beautifully worn down, like the halls of the decrepit Millennium Falcon. This is the original aesthetic of Star Wars: the future is old and used.
Creature detail is exquisite, whether it’s the crevices of practical puppets or the wrinkled textures of CGI creations. The rubble of the destruction caused by the First Order is pretty stark in this much detail. Light saber battles provide a nice burst of color with the red versus blue wands.
The bonus features are fairly extensive. Daisy Ridley is adorable behind the scenes, showing her enthusiasm for landing the part, and showing us a glimpse of her fight training.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 – Out Now
This came out in between columns so I only got the physical Blu-ray after the last entry published. The conclusion of this saga is a lot more stark than the early entries. Gone are the lavish colorful costumes and cities. Now it’s underground, in bunkers and war zones. The picture remains clear and crisp so you can see all the detail, and really emphasizes the coldness of the post-apocalypse.
The behind the scenes documentary is as long as the movie itself. It seemed to cover everything as far as I could tell, but maybe there still wasn’t enough minutiae for the super fans.
The Hateful Eight – Out Today
Fans may be disappointed that the Blu-ray does not include the roadshow version screened theatrically, but having that version on Blu-ray would kind of defeat the purpose. The 70mm cut was intended to play in theaters. It’s missing the overture and intermission, but you could always hit pause in the middle, and play the soundtrack before you start.
The 70mm film does give you extra thick bars in the letterboxed version, and it’s majestic. The picture looks tremendous with a sharp and detailed picture, but you can still see the grain of the 70mm film. Epic blizzard scenes seem to tint the snow blue, but when the clouds clear it is a stunning blue sky. Even when they get to the Haberdashery, the snowflakes pouring through cracks in the wood are a wonderful detail. Jennifer Jason Leigh gets two sets of fresh red blood sprays poured on her face, only to cake up with gritty detail throughout the film.
Even the Menu looks great, and it’s just horses in snow. This footage is cropped to fill the screen but it still looks good. The bonus features are only comprised of short junket soundbites. It’s kind of pointless to include an explanation of the roadshow on a Blu-ray that does not include the roadshow version, but at least you get to hear Samuel L. Jackson shouting technical stuff.
Concussion – Out Today
The movie whose Oscar snub caused Jada Pinkett Smith to boycott the Oscars is now on Blu-ray. The story of the doctor who discovered the disease CTE, caused by repeated head trauma, in NFL players is not necessarily a visual movie. However, Sony Blu-rays always look great because they invented the format.
The film features a lot of doctors offices and closeups of doctors faces, but they are crisp and clear so you can notice every subtle nuance of the expression. Establishing shots of Pittsburgh look great, and when Dr. Omalu (Will Smith) keeps his apartment lights off, the lighting is pitch black with beautiful silhouettes.
Deleted scenes show a little bit more of David Morse as Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, as well as a scene where Omalu keeps a brain in a bucket at home. Two behind the scenes features on the film and the actual science are respectable at 10 and 12 minutes each. Director Peter Landesman’s commentary has some stretches of silence, but that’s better than filling it with inane observations.
Point Break – Out Today
I actually liked the remake of Point Break. It told an exciting story with the existing characters and new sports. The action delivered, and watching it again on Blu-ray the footage is still impressive. It would be hard not to be given all the exotic locations they went to, but it really transports you to Angel Falls, mountaintops and deep ocean surf.
The deleted scenes include a skateboarding scene that may seem tame compared to the more extravagant stunts in the film, but it’s a cool sequence. The behind the scenes pieces are superficial. They’re only two minutes each, and the first minute is a clip package. I get it, the movie didn’t do well, so the Blu-ray is the bare minimum. At least it shows the athletes performing the real stunts.