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Blu-ray reviews: ‘The Favourite’ and ‘Widows’

March 7, 2019

Here’s a look at a pair of recently released movies on Blu-ray featuring strong female lead performances.

The Favourite (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated R, 119 minutes, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, $34.99) Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ lavish period piece that took viewers back to 18th century England and the latter days of an ill Queen Anne’s reign makes its debut on the Blu-ray format.

Flirting with historical accuracy while reveling in the sardonic, the story focuses on a smitten Queen Anne (Olivia Colman in an Academy Award-winning performance) empowering her primary adviser Sarah Churchill, duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), to help run the country.

When Sarah’s cousin, Abigail Masham (Emma Stone), appears, a former aristocrat looking to reclaim her place in society, a twisted love triangle plays out as a treacherous rivalry develops between Sarah and Abigail for the queen’s affections.

The film is an entertaining, bawdy kind of fun throughout and akin to Richard Lester’s “The Three Musketeers.”

Suffice it to report, the screen-filling, high-definition presentation delivers a colorful look at the opulent court of Anne, exposing the vulgarity of wealth through extravagant costuming and ornate decorations, hair and make-up designs.

The visual clarity is equally keen on showcasing cinematographer Robbie Ryan’s stylistic excess. Specifically, he had a propensity to shoot often through wide-angle and fish-eye lens that add to the weirdness of the period.

Equally prevalent to the visual style were choices to toss in ashen white humans lumbering down dark corridors, screams from an insane queen into the night, organ music, and various humans dealing with bouts of burned flesh and seeping gout.

It will sometimes make viewers think they are watching a horror film. That is, until the duck race begins.

Best extras: Viewers get a 22-minute overview of the production with most cast and crew commenting on the unusual film’s creation, including words from Mr. Lanthimos and Mr. Ryan while the actors mostly gush about their unpredictable experiences with the director and his shooting style.

Widows (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated R, 130 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $19.99) A heist goes explosively wrong in Chicago, and the widows of the thieves pick up their mantle in an action drama directed by Steve McQueen and now available in the high-definition format.

The story is not quite that simple as the deceased stole from a crime boss and that puts the women married to the men in peril after he comes looking for the money.

Subplots abound as a crooked politician and his father add to the complexities of the tale as well as abusive husbands, police violence, dead children and a double-crossing at its most sinister levels.

A stellar cast includes the lead widows played by Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki as well as Colin Farrell as the ward politician and Daniel Kaluuya as a mob enforcer.

In fact, the talent is even so deep that co-stars such as Liam Neeson, Robert Duvall and Jon Bernthal get minimum screen time.

Fans of the genre will not be disappointed and will find “Widows” practically as rich as “Citizen Kane” when compared to the recently released, female-casted heist film “Ocean’s 8.”

Best extras: An overindulging 52-minute featurette “Widows Unmasked” is broken up into three parts and covers most of the production focused on the story, its origins tied to a 1983 British TV show; the casting of strong female leads; the director’s vision; stunt work; special effects; and a look at some of the 80 locations used in the Windy City.

Interviews with most of the cast and crew, including the director, screenwriter Gillian Flynn and Miss Davis, reach a level of seriousness that is never that justified as they expound on the brilliance of the movie and its relevance to today’s social climate. Yes, it’s a great action thriller but certainly not a life-changing drama.