March provided a lot of variety for families watching movies at home. There are plenty of movies families can all watch together, like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. For some grown-up fare after the kids are asleep, how about the new Scorses and Almadovar films?
You can watch Rogue One digitally already and next week you can put it on your shelf. I might recommend the digital version to physical media here. The Rogue One Blu-ray actually doesn’t look great. The picture is spotty, like literally white spots flaring up, and overall it looks pale.
This is nit picking for sure, but we can afford to nit pick when it comes to the biggest franchise in studio history. When the bonus features intercut between Rogue One and the originals, you can see how much deeper the picture is, even in the prequels.
The digital copy of Rogue One, on the other hand, may not be quite as sharp as a Blu-ray but it’s not as pale and certainly doesn’t have spots.
Rogue One’s bonus features are on a separate disc and they run just over an hour. It’s mostly the usual, but while visual effects are now de rigueur, I found myself captivated watching Felicity Jones get her fingernails dirtied up. We don’t usually get to see that!
I think we see some Donnie Yen martial arts moves behind the scene that didn’t make it into the final cut but don’t quote me on that.
Since Fantastic Beasts takes place before the present day Harry Potter saga, period London looks great even before any magic happens. The visual effects look stellar too. This is top notch rendering in full HD so you can see the rich textures of all the creatures.
The movie is nonstop visual effects scenes, but as a demo reel, Fantastic Beasts works better than many of the convoluted narratives of summer blockbusters. It’s faster paced than many of the Potter mythology movies too. Did anyone write about both Fantastic Beasts and Doctor Strange ending with magic rebuilding a city?
In deleted scenes, we get to see more Kowalski (Dan Fogler) in the real world and some fun magic business including some unfinished creature effects. Each character and creature gets a little bonus feature, and some cast interviews happen in a more casual roundtable than most DVD extras. Other interesting tidbits: Instead of green screen they used white screen. Never seen that before. And the clapboard title was Boswell, whatever that means.
Talk about a woman in charge, Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is a Washington, D.C. lobbyist who always gets what she wants from her clients. Perhaps the subject matter was too real during its November theatrical release, but it is a very smart and gripping drama that should be supported now that you can watch it at home.
Since the spectacle of Miss Sloane is its words, the visual style is a tad more subtle. I must say Toronto doubles for the D.C. where I grew up nicely. The picture is perfect and it’s Chastain’s perfectly coifed presentation that cuts through every scene. Her flawless porcelain skin and high fashion eat the mundane offices and political halls alive. You’ll also notice the subtle lighting differences whether she’s in a hotel room on personal business or out of her element in open blue tinted space. The bonus feature is only 10 minutes long but hits the bullet points about real lobbyists, the film’s characters and research.
Scorsese’s harrowing tale of religious persecution looks exquisite on Blu-ray. The mountains of Taiwan are in sharp focus and the fog coats them like a heavy burden. It’s a metaphor. For two hours and 40 minutes, the themes will captivate you and so will the locations.
24 minutes doesn’t seem enough to unpack Silence, but the bonus feature does include a priest for religious historical context. It does a fine job briefing viewers on the history portrayed in Silence and highlighting some of the standout cast members.
Julieta – On Blu-ray Now
Indie directors who release through Sony Pictures Classics get the benefit of releasing their Blu-rays on Sony Home Entertainment, the same company that releases Spider-Man and Ghostbusters movies. Almodovar’s latest drama has a perfect picture to see Spain with intimate closeups to show off the actors’ nuanced performances.
In the behind the scenes extra, nine minutes isn’t much to explore the themes and making of the film. It spends a lot of time watching scenes being filmed, which is just viewing the movie scene plus the crew. Another feature on MOMA’s Almodovar retrospective is basically a film festival intro. So for deeper insight we’ll have to wait for the Criterion Collection, but Julieta looks great and speaks for itself.
Befitting its theme of using storytelling to deal with tragedy, A Monster Calls has a stark real look for the dramatic scenes. This is what cancer looks like. Then, the monster scenes become shiny polished visual effects like Lord of the Rings. The fully animated segments stand out with sharp lines and bright colors.
Bonus features spend 20 minutes behind the scenes, a lot of it in Spanish with English subtitles. J.A. Bayona speaks his native language (and gives a full Spanish language commentary with the film), and much of his below the line crew spoke Spanish too. Five deleted scenes feature more dramatic moments. All the monster scenes made it into the film.
Illumination is not my favorite animation studio but their movies look great in HD. The flamboyant costumes stand out, and the variety of animals boast lots of detail whether it’s scales or fur. Fans of Sing will enjoy three new short films featuring fan favorite characters. It’s more of the same slapstick and singing covers, but they are as eye catching as the feature.