This month offers a huge amount of awards DVDs (including half of the Oscar’s Best Picture nominees). The variety stretches from drama to war to biopic to musical so chances are there’s something for everyone.
La La Land
The universally adored, all awards (well, almost all) sweeping comeback of the original movie musical lives up to all of the hype you’ve heard. Telling the story of an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) falling in love in Los Angeles, it is a story as much about love as it is about following your dreams. Anchored by the ever-believable central pairing of Stone and Gosling, the film is all-absorbing. From its stunning visuals to breath-taking and heart-breaking songs and beautifully crafted story, Damien Chazelle’s masterpiece will capture your heart and set it flying, it is timeless and bound to be a classic of the future. Even if you are a musical skeptic, the indie blood that is coursing through the film’s veins means it is a little more grounded, intimate and somewhat realistic (as far as musicals go). Without the music it would be a more indie drama than Hollywood, but the wonderful musical moments elevate the film to something truly magical, and are so perfectly placed, they never feel forced.
Every element comes together here to create something truly special and timeless, a sure-fire classic of the future.
Is it worth a Blu-ray? The stunning cinematography and gorgeous colours that the film is bursting with certainly merit a Blu-ray, it’s what the medium was made for. This is an event film.
Read the full review: ‘La La Land’ Review
Manchester By The Sea
Oscar-winner for Original Screenplay and Leading Actor, Kenneth Lonergan’s grief-oriented drama is a heart breaking and emotionally exhausting tale told so incredibly well. Following the death of his brother (Kyle Chandler), Casey Affleck’s Lee must navigate the circles of grief and guilt whilst deciding whether or not to care for his brother’s son (Lucas Hedges), whom he has been unexpectedly named guardian of. Told through a narrative littered with flashbacks, the film is not merely a sad drama about death, but is layered to become much more than that, featuring complex characters who do more than simply mope for the running time. Mysteries are also uncovered through the flashbacks, including one particularly heart-wrenching reveal relating to Lee’s past with ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams). Many films of this kind seem to plateau and become very one-note, but fear not, Manchester by the Sea expertly counters its dark tone with moments of comic relief which serve to also emphasise the humanity and depth of its characters. It never slips into melodrama and is one of the most engaging and authentic dramas of recent times that comes to a head with devastating effect.
Is it worth a Blu-ray? The power in this film comes from it’s emotional punch, so a Blu-ray isn’t really needed.
Read the full review: ‘Manchester by the Sea’ Review
Based on the incredible true story of Desmond Doss, Mel Gibson’s WWII film is a portrait of the courage and nobility of a conscientious objector in amongst the horrors of war. Andrew Garfield carries the film brilliantly as Doss, capturing the character beautifully, as well as emanating his determination and strength of values. While the film may feel a little ‘Hollywood’ at the start as it details Doss’ romance with nurse Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), it picks up pace once Doss enlists. The training scenes introduce you to the conflict Doss faces beyond that of the war; that of the opposition to his position as a conscientious objector. The friction and abuse he takes from his comrades further goes to show the strength of his resolve, and the character progression of his troop leads to some interesting relationships that differ from those typically seen in war films.
Once they reach the battlefield, you are thrown fully into the horrors of war; being kept at close quarters with the characters keeps the graphic events uncomfortably intimate. It is a transporting, exhausting experience that makes for a great war film.
Is it worth a Blu-ray? The action and terrific war scenes would certainly benefit from the higher definition, in order to appreciate them more.
Read the full review: ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ Review
Using the insightful device of an interview the titular First Lady, director Pablo Larraín crafts an intimate and unusual depiction of Jackie Kennedy’s experience in dealing with the aftermath of her husband’s assassination that details not only the events, but her character in close detail. Through the interview device, many of the events are seen through flashbacks which ensure to keep the focus on Jackie and not her presidential husband (a trap many biopics fall into). It is presented as almost a collage, with each flashback piecing together to create a greater overall picture. The film shows the practical struggles faced by the First Lady that may have been less considered in the public eye than the emotional ones, as the film lets you in behind closed doors, allowing it to paint a fresher picture than has perhaps been seen over the past 50 years.
Natalie Portman is phenomenal, anchoring the film with her transformative performance, from her change in speech patterns to her emotionally evocative scenes (which are still held under a layer of composure, as what would be expected of a First Lady) she embodies the character of Jackie totally. She is the constant that (along with the distinct and powerful score) keeps the occasionally meandering series of flashbacks together in a cohesive fashion. It humanizes the famous figure, and reveals the remarkable lady behind the iconicism.
Is it worth a Blu-ray? Whilst the visuals are great, the film’s focus point is the emotion and Portman’s performance, so a blu-ray wouldn’t do too much.
Read the full review: ‘Jackie’ Review
Another film based on true events, Lion details a decidedly modern affair that gives this tale of classic themes, a contemporary twist. The film details the story of Saroo, who, as a young Indian boy, becomes separated from his family and, after a struggling search for his home, comes to be adopted by a couple in Australia. Then, as a young adult, certain events spur him to try and find his biological family, using Google Maps. The film essentially tells the tale of the two searches that come to define Saroo’s life; the first half details his perilous search across India as a young boy, desperately seeking his family and home, the second his search, again, to find his family, but from his home and computer in Australia, instead of the dangerous streets of India. We witness the events from Saroo’s perspective which allows the two halves to compliment eachother; it is as a result of the first half that we can become so invested in the second.
The film combines strong direction and great action to craft a feeling of authenticity, giving the emotions more power. Its universally human themes will connect with all who watch, and despite many audience members knowing the search’s resolution (as it is a true story), it retains a compelling quality that results in a swell of emotion to batter the sense at its ending.
Is it worth a Blu-ray? Once again, the cinematography is great, but due to half the film taking place in regular housing, and the film mostly focusing on emotions, it doesn’t really warrant the high definition.
Read the full review: ‘Lion’ Review
Martin Scorcese’s passion project has finally made it to the screen after decades in the making, and the result is a powerful yet quiet epic that centres on faith but isn’t just for those who are faithful or religious. Following two priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver), the film depicts the horrors of Christian-persecuting-Japan as they travel across it in search of their mentor, protected and hidden by small pockets of secret Christian’s they discover who plead for them to lead their searches. However, they are chased by the persecutors and become separated as they are forced to flee them. There is no shying away from the graphic torture methods used against those who refuse to renounce their faith, making it a film that is hard to watch. These serve to emphasise what is at stake during the scenes where faiths are tested, making them incredibly tense and involving. The cinematography and unbroken long shots cause the feelings of endurance and horror to spill over from the screen into the audience. It is an immersive experience that carries you on the both physical and emotional journey of the characters leaving you both exhausted and enlightened about this period in history, as well as in the sense that the characters are.
Is it worth a Blu-ray? There is beautiful cinematography displayed here, but in a more subdued colour palette.
Read the full review: ‘Silence’ Review