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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Doctor Sleep

“The Good Liar” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Even if I went in to “Doctor Sleep” with no knowledge that it is a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” it would be apparent right from the start. The booming music, the swooping camera—it takes us right back into the opening of its famous predecessor. The year is 1980; instead of a drive through the snow covered mountains of Colorado, we move through a camp site in Florida and meet Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), leader of a group of Shiners called the True Knot. They seek out other Shiners and either recruit them or kill them, depending on their needs.

The True Knot are more than just a group of killers, though. They seek out other Shiners to get their Steam, which as far as I can tell is the essence inside of Shiners that gives them the ability to shine. They feed off of it like vampires need blood. The Steam is more potent if the victim is young and in a state of shock and fright, which brings to mind rumors regarding the extraction of a drug called adrenochrome. The similarities are certainly uncanny.

We also reacquaint ourselves with young Danny Torrance (Roger Dale Floyd) and mother Wendy (Alex Essoe), who after the events of “The Shining” decided to move to Florida to get as far away from the snow as possible. Danny is still haunted by the ghosts he encountered at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. Luckily, he sees the friendly ghost of Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly), who teaches him how to lock the bad spirits away in boxes in his mind. The scene early on where young Danny confidently walks into the bathroom to confront the lady in the bathtub is one of the most satisfying moments for fans of “The Shining.”

Thirty-one years later, Danny is all grown up, played by Ewan McGregor, and just goes by Dan. He is also, however, a drifter, and like his dad, he’s an alcoholic. It’s interesting to note that he was on an even worse path than his father with the alcoholism until he met a man named Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis), who helped him get his act together along with getting him a job and a place to stay.

There’s a blackboard in Dan’s room that he uses to communicate with another Shiner named Abra Stone. Abra and Dan remain Shiner pen pals for an eight year interlude, and she is played at age five by Dakota Hickman and at age thirteen by Kyliegh Curran. She’s a very powerful Shiner, and the True Knot desperately need her to replenish their diminishing supply of Steam. While Abra is the intended victim of evil people, and we root for Dan to keep her safe, it is interesting to note that Abra has a bit if a vindictive streak in her. If anyone comes after Abra, she enjoys turning the tables on them and making them suffer. She relishes in the agony of her enemies—a lesson Rose the Hat learns painfully well. This is not normally the kind of personality trait seen in protagonists—let alone 13-year-old girl protagonists—and it intrigued me. It’s very plain to see that if Abra ever went bad, she would be a very dangerous and very powerful force with whom to be reckoned.

The story of “Doctor Sleep” wraps exactly where it should, with a final showdown that is satisfying and brings together elements from this movie and “The Shining” very nicely. The sets look and feel exactly as they should, but the movie moves quickly through the nostalgia to the point of why we’re there. It’s also interesting to reflect on the what, how, and why things happen the way they do, since it puts the first movie in a different perspective than the usual interpretation of it being about a father who hates his son. There was an evil that overtook Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson in “The Shining,” because it wanted Danny. Thirty-nine years later, that same evil still wants Danny—except he’s in control now. Buy it.

Also New This Week

The Good Liar

The downside of seeing too many movies is that I’ve seen so many of the same plots and plot twists that I can see them coming. In “The Good Liar,” about an elderly swindler (Ian McKellan) and the woman (Helen Mirren) he meets online and tries to swindle, there are three major surprises that cause the plot to change course and head in a different direction. I have to admit it: I only guessed two of them. Though in fairness to me, the third one is a late reveal and really does come out of nowhere. The good news is that I can still be surprised and entertained by a well-crafted, twisty suspense movie—and “The Good Liar” certainly is one. Rent it and see how well you do at guessing all the twists.

More New Releases: “Last Christmas,” British Christmas-themed rom-com written by and co-starring Emma Thompson and directed by Paul Feig, starring Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, and Michelle Yeoh; and “Playing with Fire,” about a crew of rugged fighters who meet their match when attempting to rescue three rambunctious kids, starring John Cena, Brianna Hildebrand, Judy Greer, Keegan-Michael Key, and John Leguizamo.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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