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Blu-ray reviews: ‘Green Book,’ ‘The Front Runner’ and ‘The Sisters Brothers’

March 4, 2019

Here’s a look at a trio of films featuring strong male lead performances and now available on the Blu-ray format.

Green Book (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 130 minutes, 2.00:1 aspect ratio, $34.98) The 2019 Academy Award winner for Best Picture arrives on the high-definition format to examine race relations in the southern states during the early 1960s.

Based on the real-life adventure between highly educated African-American concert pianist Donald Shirley (Mahershala Ali in an Oscar-winning effort) and his Italian driver, tough guy New Yorker Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), the story has the odd couple taking a concert tour road trip.

The pair eventually ends up below the Mason Dixon line and encounters plenty of hostile hotspots as the pianist and associate make stops in towns along eight weeks of performances.

The title of the movie refers to Shirley using the infamous “The Negro Motorist Green Book” that offered a segregation-era guide spotlighting areas that were considered “safe” to visit and vacation. Hard to believe, isnt it?

Despite an overload of controversy including not getting Shirley’s family involved in the project, the film, whether exactly historically accurate or not, still manages to tell a great, entertaining story of a budding friendship of two men from opposite sides of an often hateful world.

By the way, even with all of the sour grapes leveled against “Green Book,” it definitely deserved of the Oscar when compared to the competition.

The Blu-ray presentation nearly fills screens and highlights some saturated color choices and crisp cinematography by Sean Porter and director Peter Farrelly.

Eye-popping moments included ogling a vintage 1962 teal Cadillac (what the pair drove around in), fall leaves around New York or Shirley’s ornate living space above Carnegie Hall.

Best extras: Viewers only get three short promotional featurettes on the making of the film, and they average 4.5 minutes each.

Best of the bunch looks at the origins of “The Negro Motorist Green Book” and what it contained. The segment could have offered a much longer documentary focused on the ridiculous things idiotic Americans did to maintain segregation between blacks and whites in the 1960s.

The Front Runner (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, rated R, 114 minutes, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, $34.99) Hugh Jackman stars as the veteran presidential candidate Gary Hart who made a fatal career mistake in his bid to win the White House in 1988.

Director and co-writer Jason Reitman’s adaptation of the Matt Bai’s book “All the Truth is Out” covers a three-week period and touches on a candidate’s right to privacy and his extramarital affairs (focused on Donna Rice) in an age where tabloid journalism exploded.

An impressive cast backs up Mr. Jackman and includes J.K. Simmons as campaign manager Bill Dixon, Alfred Molina as The Washington Post’s Ben Bradlee, Kevin Pollak as fictional Miami Herald publisher Bob Martindale and Vera Farmiga as Mr. Hart’s wife, Oletha.

Overall, the movie offers a surface overview of a flawed man and spends more time admonishing the press for its shark-frenzied approach to the news rather than looking at Mr. Hart and his motivated philandering.

Let’s call it a cautionary tale to the future Democratic presidential candidates as they now dive into an even worse world where the press is in a perpetual frenzied state of smelling blood in the political waters.

Best extras: A crew loaded optional commentary track offers Mr. Reitman, producer Helen Estabrook, cinematographer Eric Steelberg, production designer Steve Saklad and costume designer Danny Glicker.

The group does a better job of explaining the narrative nuances of the story and Mr. Hart’s political life than the actual movie.

Obviously, the director dominates the nonstop conversation that is also filled with technical details about the production down to experimenting with sound mixing (miking everyone and increasing volumes of individuals on the fly like playing piano keys).

The Sisters Brothers (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated R, 121 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $22.99) Director Jacques Audiard’s irreverent Western with a few comedic dark twists moves to the Blu-ray format after bombing at the box office despite critical acclaim.

The tale of redemption, based on the book by Patrick deWitt, takes place during California’s Gold Rush days and covers the hard lives of assassins Eli and Charlie Sisters (John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix) on the trail of a creative prospector (Riz Ahmed) who wronged their rich boss named the Commodore (Rutger Hauer).

The stellar cast also includes Jake Gyllenhaal as an introspective scout for the Commodore and Carol Kane as the Sisters’ mother.

Some beautiful panoramic scenes of the southwest highlight this quirky, sometimes plodding and talkative period piece that never quite attains classic Western status.

However it won’t disappoint fans looking for some gun slinging and a realistic reminder that living in the Old West was a pretty crappy experience.

Best extras: Start with the slightly hard-to-hear, 13-minute, question-and-answer session with the French director (translated throughout), Mr. Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Thomas Bidegain that offers just a pinch about Mr. Audiard’s filmmaking process and the actor’s examination of his character and the story.

Next, viewers can watch a 15-minute, behind-the-scenes overview of the production that features interviews with the director, Mr. Reilly, Mr. Ahmed, Mr. Gyllenhaal, Mr. deWitt, producer Allison Dickey, cinematographer Benoit Debie and costume designer Milean Canonero.