- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2017

A trio of recent home theater releases spotlights the real-life sagas of Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, Edward Snowden and Deborah Lipstadt.

Sully (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 96 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $24.99) — Tom Hanks teams up with director Clint Eastwood to deliver one of the best performances of last year as Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, a veteran pilot who near single-handedly landed a crippled commercial airliner in the Hudson River to save the lives of 155 passengers and crew back in 2009.

Now on Blu-ray, the film not only explores the harrowing time on Flight 1549 but the even more harrowing grilling by the members of the National Transportation Safety Board that tried to prove that he had a safer option than plopping the aircraft into the January, icy waters.

What Capt. Sully must do to clear his name offers a stark reminder of the critical differences between humans in the middle of a life-and-death situation being graded against computer simulations by overzealous bureaucrats.

Notable support for Mr. Hank’s fine effort comes from Laura Linney as Capt. Sulley’s supportive wife Lorraine and Aaron Eckhart as First Officer Jeff Skiles who worked next to the pilot during the landing

The digital transfer shines during all of the incredible air take-off and landing sequences with even Sulley’s sobering nightmare of the plane crashing into a building coming to life, a bit too real, on screen.

Those moments get handsomely supplements by an enveloping Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Hearing the Airbus A320’s mighty engines fire up and then sputter along with the aircraft’s dying maneuvers is like being privy to an actual aircraft landing into one’s home entertainment room.

Best extras: A pair of featurettes offers an overview of Mr. Sullenberg’s life and impressive landing. First, viewers get a 19-minute biography that includes interviews from Capt. Sulley, his wife and children. Next, we get a 14-minute overview of the actual events of Flight 1549 as told through first-person sources including Capt. Sullenberger, a First Officer Skiles and air traffic controller Patrick Harten.

Snowden (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Rated R, 134 minutes, 2.40:1 aspect ratio, $19.96) — Director Oliver Stone does his best to humanize a man often vilified and deified in one of the more underappreciated movies from last year.

Its home theater debut allows viewers to often focus on Joseph Gordon-Levitt ‘s dynamic portrayal of Edward Snowden and events leading up to his stealing, and making public, documents that proved the U.S. government collected massive amounts of surveillance data on not only American citizens but other people around the globe.

The story covers roughly a 10-year span of his life and includes the complexities of Mr. Snowden’s various job assignments for the CIA and NSA as well as his relationship with Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley) before he hid in a Hong Kong hotel room with journalists Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson) and eventually took residence in Russia.

Although the film will entertain, Mr. Snowden’s fans will find it the perfect companion piece to the Academy Award-winning documentary “Citizenfour” that often delivered more nail-biting tension and expose on the theft’s consequences than Mr. Stone’s efforts.

Best extras: Owners of the disc will enjoy a 41-minute, previously simulcast, discussion in New York with Mr. Stone, Mr. Gordon-Levitt, Miss Woodley and, via satellite from Russia, Mr. Snowden. Rogerebert.com’s Matt Zoller Seitz moderated the discussion.

The moviemakers have little to offer, but the master whistleblower easily carries the informational load and is often the center of attention with his giant head shown on a video screen behind the group.

His focused, slightly jovial replies often stress the importance of privacy in a modern age of high-tech surveillance, and he even offers tips on protecting one’s digital footprint.

Love him or hate him, Mr. Snowden will elicit a reaction and debate with a home-entertainment audience after watching and hearing about his escapades.

Owners also get an optional commentary track by Mr. Stone, but there is a caveat. It only exists on the streaming version of the film (an unlock code is included) that is most easily accessible via watching “Snowden” on Apple’s iTunes format.

The director offers a subdued, workmanlike narrative on the production, occasional getting up on his political soapbox and even offering more insight into Mr. Snowden’s world.

However, this streaming-only extra is bad form on the part of Universal and an unwelcome industry trend.

If a viewer commits to buying the movie on Blu-ray, it should have all of the bonus content available to him immediately and easily accessible and not require fiddling with third-party sources that may not be compatible with a current home-entertainment setup.

Denial (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 111 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $29.98) — Director Mick Jackson’s 2016 historical courtroom drama delivered a potent reminder about deep-seated anti-Semitism and the dangers of daring to rewrite history.

This true cautionary tale of American historian and book author Deborah Lipstadt being sued by famed Holocaust denier and fellow historian David Irving will horrify the average viewer as his ridiculous claims of what happened at Nazi’s concentration camps must be re-proven to be wrong in an English court.

This movie won’t win any awards for its digital transfer to Blu-ray, but it delivers a fantastic set of acting performances throughout.

They are led by Rachel Weisz as Miss Lipstadt, Timothy Spall as Mr. Irving and Tom Wilkinson (lawyer Richard Rampton) and Andrew Scott (lawyer Anthony Julius), both key members of Miss Lipstadt’s legal defense team.

Best extras: It’s as unbelievable as the stupidity denying the Holocaust, but Universal only offers a 4-minute, behind-the-scenes featurette to this important film.

How about a director’s commentary with help from some of the real people depicted in the movie, such as Miss Lipstadt?

Or better yet, how about a historically accurate documentary of the Holocaust to remind idiots on the planet that this grisly attempt at mass genocide actually happened during World War II?

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