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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Patriot's Day

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” “Silence” and “Why Him?” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg have discovered a winning formula: Take a harrowing, tragic, real life event, get as many details as possible about it, and create a riveting docudrama. Easier said than done, but after the superior feats of filmmaking that are 2013’s “Lone Survivor” and 2016’s “Deepwater Horizon” comes another movie in the same vein as the previous two, also released theatrically in 2016: “Patriot’s Day.”

“Patriot’s Day” tells the story of the one hundred plus hour manhunt for the two terrorists who planted bombs at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. It starts the night before the event as Boston cop Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) messes up his knee while kicking a door down during an arrest, and ends, as it should, with David “Big Papi” Ortiz dropping the f-bomb during a pre-game speech at Fenway. He’s a legend for a reason, folks.



Berg directs “Patriots Day” with the same kind of documentary style urgency that he used with his previous two Wahlberg collaborations. Interspersed throughout is archival surveillance footage and photos of some of the real life moments. This reinforces the authenticity of what we’re seeing and shows the rapt attention that was paid to every detail.

Key players, such as Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), Superintendent Billy Evans (James Colby), Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach), Watertown, MA Police Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons), and Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon), are all established for the crucial roles they played in the investigation. Victims, such as Officer Sean Collier (Jake Picking), Patrick Downes (Christopher O'Shea), and Jennifer Kensky (Rachel Brosnahan), are also given the proper amount of screen time so that their stories are told. It’s a tricky balancing act, since too much time would slow down the narrative, and too little would be disrespectful. I think Berg got it just right.

Time is also, of course, given to the terrorists: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff), Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze), and Katherine Russell (Melissa Benoist). The early scenes with them planning, prepping, and watching a video on homemade bomb making reminded me a bit of an episode of “24.” This is a compliment, since that show is awesome, but I do wish there was something else that could be done with the back story of jihadi terrorists making bombs..



Then, of course, there is the young man who broke the case wide open. A young Chinese student named Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang) got carjacked by the Tsarnaevs while sitting in his parked black Mercedes SUV. He is the one who escaped while his two terrorist kidnappers were distracted at a gas station, and through dramatic recreation coupled with archival footage we can see his plea to a gas station attendant to call the police. In “Patriots Day,” he is interviewed by Saunders (a fictional character created for the movie) and excitedly tells him to get those “motherf----rs.” It’s a surprising thing to hear coming from the sweet and softspoken Meng, and gives the movie a much needed stand up and cheer type moment.

This moment is especially crucial, since shortly before the carjacking comes the shooting of Officer Collier. I don’t consider myself as someone who is easily shocked or horrified, but every once in a while a scene in a movie will come along that blind sides me and hits me hard. The shooting of Officer Collier in “Patriots Day” is one of those moments. It is easily one of the most frightening, savage, and brutal slayings I’ve ever seen put on screen. You don’t just watch it—you feel it too. Officer Collier is a hero—the Tsarnaevs wanted his gun but he held on to it so they couldn’t get it—but what happened to him is utterly despicable and very difficult to watch, even in a fictionalized account. If I ever re-watch “Patriots Day,” it’s the one scene that I will have a hard time seeing again, especially since I know how impactful it is. That said, Collier is the very definition of Boston Strong, as is this movie. Buy it on Amazon: Patriots' Day [Blu-ray].

Also New This Week

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

It’s nice to get out of Hogwarts. Sure, we had our fun there, with Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest of gang, but there is a whole wide world of wizarding outside of those castle walls. Also, as very well established in the “Harry Potter” series, wizards have a rich and storied history.

One of the key wizards in that history is Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a book-ish wizard from England who travels to the U.S. to continue research on his latest tome, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” from which the movie derives its name. He is also there to return the thunderbird he is researching to its natural habitat in Arizona. However, before he can continue on his journey, he is held up by mysterious happenings in his port of entry: New York City.

The movie takes place in 1926, and the period is faithfully re-created. What makes “Fantastic Beasts” more fun, as in the “Harry Potter” series, are the magical flourishes. The best is Newt’s suitcase, which can be switched to “Muggle” mode if a customs inspection needs to be made. When switched back to magic mode, inside the suitcase is an endless zoo, filled with strange, beautiful, and wondrous creatures that are the work of pure imagination.

This is where “Fantastic Beasts” finds its strength. It’s in the surprises to be uncovered as the story progresses and we learn more about the wizarding world. If you thought you knew all there was to know after watching the “Harry Potter” movies, think again. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Rent it.

Silence

“Silence” is a perfect name for this movie, as I’m speechless that an invigorating director like Martin Scorsese could make a movie so drab and dull. Part of the problem is that the two leads, seventeenth century Jesuit priests Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver), are such victims. Everything happens to them, and they do very little to fight back or change their situation. Their mission is to go to Japan to find their mentor, Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who is claimed to have committed apostasy, and to spread the Catholic faith.

What these two priests wind up doing is hiding out and cowering in fear of being caught. This is fine for the first act of a movie, but there has to come a point where main characters rise up, take action, and at least try to control the circumstances that are thrust upon them. Even passion plays, which center around victim hood, have their main characters display an internal strength and fight against the oppressors who are trying to crush their spirit.

We get none of that in “Silence.” It’s essentially a two hour and forty minute death march, and what’s worse, it’s paced much too slow. Sure, there are some highly dramatic moments, most of which show the cruelty of the Japanese toward the Catholics, but those moments do not make this movie worth watching. Skip it.

Why Him?

As a fan of the 2000–2006 television show “Malcom in the Middle,” in which Bryan Cranston played the father, Hal, it’s great to see him get back into comedy again. Too bad though that it’s in “Why Him?,” an embarrassingly unfunny “comedy” that riffs on the overprotective father trope.

Cranston plays Ned Fleming, a Michigan print press owner who has fallen on hard times in today’s digital age. The yang to his yin is Laird Mayhew (James Franco), a super rich, foul-mouthed, California-based game app developer who is interested in marrying Ned’s college age daughter, and the apple of his eye, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch).

The premise is nothing special and we’ve seen it in countless other movies. Where “Why Him?” could have separated itself from the pack is in the comedy. Instead, we get overly extended and painfully unfunny situations like Ned trying to figure out how the toilet works in Laird’s high tech bathroom, or Ned being stuck under a desk while Laird and Stephanie have make up sex. Need I even get into what happens with the display of a moose preserved in its own urine?

I never thought I’d say this, since most movies benefit from not pulling their punches, but it was a mistake to load this movie with foul language and gross out humor and go for an R rating. I actually think this movie would have been better served as lighter, more PG-13 fare. As it stands right now, Ned and Laird act like they belong in two different movies. Ned’s is more sitcom-y and Laird’s is more crass. Rather than pushing Ned into a disgusting R movie, they should have modified Laird to be more appropriate for a silly “Vacation”-type movie. This would have softened the vulgar edges of Laird a lot more and made the inevitable conclusion more believable.

Speaking of embarrassing, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of KISS make an awkward appearance in “Why Him?” They look really confused and out of place, especially while singing a Christmas song that had me laughing only because it reminded me of the Tonto, Tarzan, and Frankenstein skit from “Saturday Night Live” in the early ‘90s. Skip “Why Him?,” save yourself an hour and fifty minutes of your precious time (yes, this terrible supposed “comedy” has the nerve to be that long), and instead enjoy this thirty seconds of holiday hilarity, courtesy of youtube:



More New Releases:  “A Monster Calls,” about a boy who seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom's terminal illness, starring Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver, and Felicity Jones; and “20th Century Women,” Academy Award nominee for Best Original Screenplay about three women in 1979 who try to teach the teenage son of one of them how to be a man, starring Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup.

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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