This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: Black Mass, The Good Dinosaur, Trumbo

This Week: Back to the mob for Johnny Depp, Pixar makes a rare stumble, and a pair of 2015 Best Actor nominees.

► As Boston mobster Whitey Bulger in BLACK MASS, Johnny Depp is as good as we’ve seen him in a long time. So good the movie can’t keep up. Spanning several years and loaded with shady characters, it looks at the uneasy deal made between Bulger and his childhood friend John Connelly (Joel Edgerton), now an FBI agent. Their mutually beneficial relationship takes down Bulger’s rivals while giving Connelly intel, but things turn predictably south. Bouncing between Bulger’s and Connelly’s stories stretches both too thin, as we don’t really inhabit their worlds like the best mob movies do. A more interesting movie might have explored the relationship between Bulger and his brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch), who was the Massachusetts State Senate President at the time – this was the inspiration for the great, underrated Showtime series ‘Brotherhood.’ Blu-ray includes featurettes ‘The Manhunt for Whitey Bulger.’

► After the summer triumph of ‘Inside Out,’ THE GOOD DINOSAUR felt like Pixar-light. It marked the first time the studio had released two movies in the same year, but audiences weren’t biting – this wasn’t just the lowest-grossing Pixar movie ever (just $120 million domestic), it was the company’s first real financial flop even with the worldwide box office ($305 million). The reason was obvious: This never really feels or looks like a Pixar movie. Its story of a young dinosaur who befriends a pesky kid – told during an alternate timeline in which dinosaurs weren’t wiped out by an asteroid – is pleasant enough, but this feels like the lightweight fare other studios make trying to compete with Pixar. An odd misfire for the company, which ‘Finding Dory’ will make everyone forget in four months.

► If not for the Leo Express, we’d likely be looking at Bryan Cranston taking home the Oscar for Best Actor next week. TRUMBO is everything the Academy loves to reward – an important story about a dark time in Hollywood history. Cranston plays screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, whose political beliefs get him blacklisted and thrown in jail during the communist witch hunt of the late ‘40s. Upon release, he has to give scripts away (including Oscar-winner ‘Roman Holiday’) and write anonymously. John Goodman, Diane Lane, Louie C.K. and Helen Mirren co-star.

► Unafraid to reveal the asshole beneath the genius, Danny Boyle’s STEVE JOBS gets a towering performance out of Michael Fassbender and an equally great one from Kate Winslet as Apple’s marketing executive. End result – it barely made more than the Ashton Kutcher version from two years prior. Director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin don’t shy away from Jobs’ ugly side, but a movie structured around various Apple product launches was a tough sell. Boyle and Sorkin provide blu-ray commentary.

► Whole lotta true stories this week. THE 33 is based on the 2010 Chilean disaster in which 33 miners were trapped 200 stories underground for 69 days. With no radio, little food and an empty medical kit, they send videos to the surface begging to be rescued – something the mining company is reluctant to attempt. Antonio Banderas plays Mario Sepulveda, who kept the group together and divided food rations. Features include filming the mine collapse, and a look back at how the world followed this real-life drama.

► The returns keep diminishing with GIRLS, with the outright great episodes coming less frequently in Season 4. Hanna is miserable at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Marnie’s musical career hits a roadblock in the form of her douchebag boyfriend, Shoshanna attempts to find a job with dismal results, and Jessa makes an uneasy alliance with sobriety. Gillian Jacobs and Zachary Quinto arrive to elevate things, but this was the least engaging season by far. With an end date now confirmed (two more seasons), Lena Dunham’s once beloved show will hopefully gets its Season 1 groove back before bowing out.

► Grindhouse Releasing’s stacked new blu-ray for the ’83 slasher classic PIECES includes both the unrated U.S. version and the even more gruesome Spanish director’s cut. There’s also a feature-length documentary, commentary from star Jack Taylor and a remastered CD of the soundtrack. A favorite of Eli Roth, this one was brazen even for early ‘80s gore – dismemberings, disembowelings and at least one castration. Utterly awful movie but its cult charm is undeniable. One of the last movies for star Christopher George, who died shortly after its release.

► Directed by Jackie Earle Haley, the blandly titled CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES is like a skeleton of far better crime capers missing all the good stuff. Michael Pitt leads a foursome who borrows from a mob boss (John Travolta) to invest in a surefire stock, which of course goes south. Unable to pay the money back, they agree to kidnap a family member from a rival mobster.

Also out this week:





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