Blu Tuesday is a weekly column where we review the newest Blu-ray and 4K releases, along with a brief rundown of the included bonus material, to determine whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping.
Pick of the Week: “John Wick: Chapters 1-3 – Stash Book Collection”
When the first “John Wick” debuted in 2014, I don’t think anyone expected that it would be the start of a new action franchise, let alone one that continues to get better with each successive installment. Yet here we are, nine years later, with “John Wick: Chapter 4” gearing up for release in theaters and Keanu Reeves showing no signs of slowing down as the titular assassin ready to punch, kick and shoot his way through any obstacle. To mark the occasion, Lionsgate has put out this awesome 4K SteelBook collection that comes packaged in a hardcover replica of John’s “stash book” from the third film. The extras remain the same — there’s a pair of audio commentaries (with directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch on “John Wick,” and Stahelski and Reeves on “John Wick: Chapter 2”) as well as a collection of behind-the-scenes featurettes — but the presentation itself makes this a must-have for diehard fans of the series. FINAL VERDICT: BUY
Also Out This Week:
“Training Day” — “Training Day” may best be known as the film that finally landed Denzel Washington a long-overdue Academy Award for Best Actor, but many people forget that it also helped launch the careers of director Antoine Fuqua and writer David Ayer. With that said, it’s Washington’s electric turn as the Machiavellian narcotics detective that elevates “Training Day” beyond its well-worn story of dirty cops operating above the law. Though the actor gets strong support from co-star Ethan Hawke (who was also nominated for his work in the film), this gritty crime thriller simply wouldn’t be remembered as fondly as it is without Washington’s involvement. It doesn’t even come close to his best work, but it’s the kind of commanding performance — especially the now-legendary King Kong speech — that will live on long after he’s gone. Extras include an audio commentary by Fuqua, a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes and more. FINAL VERDICT: BUY
“Devotion” — Based on the true story of Jesse Brown, the U.S. Navy’s first Black aviator, “Devotion” is the kind of historical drama that plays more like a Wikipedia entry than a rousing tale. Though Jake Crane and Jonathan Stewart’s screenplay (based on the 2015 book by Adam Makos) is a fairly dull affair, littered with only a handful of genuinely exciting or affecting moments, the movie is propped up by some great performances from Jonathan Majors (as Brown), Glen Powell (as his wingman, Tom Hudner) and Thomas Sadoski (as his commanding officer). It’s not quite enough to polish this low-key biopic into a winner, but it at least makes “Devotion” a little more enjoyable than it otherwise would be. Extras include a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes. FINAL VERDICT: RENT
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” — The first “Puss in Boots” movie was released all the way back in 2011, so it comes as somewhat of a surprise that DreamWorks would be interested in making a sequel, especially when the “Shrek” franchise (which includes the “Puss in Boots” films) has been dormant for the past decade. But while moviegoers were hardly clamoring for a sequel to the swashbuckling feline’s first solo adventure, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a better-than-expected animated film that succeeds on the back of a solid voice cast, some really cool action beats and a dynamic art style that blends 3D animation with 2D textures. Granted, “The Last Wish” isn’t without its drawbacks, but it’s a marked improvement over the original that should please audiences both young and old. Extras include a cast featurette, deleted scenes, an all-new short film and more. FINAL VERDICT: RENT
“Kubo and the Two Strings” — The folks at LAIKA have crafted some of the finest animated films in recent memory, but 2016’s “Kubo and the Two Strings” is far and away the studio’s best work. It’s a wildly inventive action-adventure movie that’s filled with technically impressive sequences and eye-popping visuals — something that Shout! Factory’s new 4K release does well to enhance. Though “Kubo and the Two Strings” isn’t as kid-friendly as most animated movies due to LAIKA’s typical gothic leanings, director Travis Knight does a good job of balancing the darker elements with lighter moments of humor. And that’s important because despite being a fairly serious film about love, loss and family, “Kubo and the Two Strings” goes about telling its story with such child-like optimism that it resonates even stronger as a result. Extras include an audio commentary by Knight, a behind-the-scenes look at making the film, feature-length storyboards and more. FINAL VERDICT: BUY
Disclosure: Bullz-Eye was provided a copy of the above titles for review purposes.