- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2016

Legends of Hollywood star in movies loosely based on real life events in a trio of Blu-ray releases this week.

Our Brand is Crisis (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, rated R, $29.98, 108 minutes) — Director David Gordon Green’s 2015 political satire based on the real events of the 2002 Bolivian presidential election never excited critics nor movie audiences despite an energetic performance by Sandra Bullock.

Now in a screen-filling presentation on Blu-ray, the story takes an occasionally amusing and equally dramatic look at American political strategist Jane Bodine (Miss Bullock) and her outrageous efforts to turn politician Pedro Castillo (a fictionalized Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada) into a president.

She’ll need to outsmart her longtime rival Pat Candy (played devilishly by Billy Bob Thornton) who backs another candidate who has a commanding lead in the polls.

The sometimes-biting tale of political war never delivers the kind of impact one would find in better examples of the genre, such as “Wag the Dog,” “Primary Colors,” “Bob Roberts” and “Bulworth.”

An underwhelming selection of extras, confined to only an 11-minute promotional featurette focused on Miss Bullock, makes “Our Brand is Crisis” almost strictly for fans of the lead actress’ work.


SEE ALSO: Blu-ray review: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Signature Collection


Suffragette (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, $34.98, 107 minutes) — Director Sarah Gavron historical drama arrives on Blu-ray to shed light on English women’s fight for equality and the right to vote in the early 20th century.

Specifically, viewers are taken back to 1912 and the evolving suffragette movement featuring characters inspired by the followers and leaders of the crusade.

The story about the working-class mother Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), enlightened by the ideals of the suffragettes, explores the sacrifices and civil disobedience required by women to establish some level of political and cultural parity.

More importantly it exposes, justifiably, the male of the species as controlling, power-grubbing, overbearing jerks.

Strong performances lead by Miss Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter as Edith Ellyn (inspired by Edith Garrud) lead the way with able support by the brief appearance of Meryl Streep as the real British political activist Emmeline Pankhurst.

The digital transfer (presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio) highlights cinematographer Edu Grau’s choices to recreate a hazy, color-muted industrialized England that sets the suffocating tone throughout. It’s worth noting “Suffragette” is the first film ever granted access to shoot in England’s House of Parliament.

Extras are enlightening and led by an optional commentary track from Miss Gavron and screenwriter Abi Morgan. The pair’s fluid discussion moves between production details and the actual historical events surrounding the characters.

The best of a trio of featurettes includes a way-too-brief — only 7 minutes long — look at the suffragette movement. Words from historians, the director and the actresses present background on the film’s multi-levels of inspiration and the struggle today.

Rock the Kasbah (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated R, $39.98, 107 minutes) — Eccentric humorist Bill Murray returned to silver screens in an odd comedy, very loosely adapted from the documentary “Afghan Star,” about a young girl’s appearance on the Middle East version of “American Idol.”

A dud at the box office, the Barry Levinson-directed effort moves to Blu-ray in hopes that audiences will appreciate Mr. Murray’s sleek-of-tongue performance.

He plays washed-up rock manager Richie Lanz hoping to find some redemption in the hostile lands of Afghanistan by hooking up with a USO tour, managing talent and avoiding getting killed by tribal chiefs.

The meandering story plods along while daring the star to carry the action with his trademark, witty personality. Also, it’s too much work even with support from Kate Hudson as a cynical American prostitute, Zooey Deschanel as one of Mr. Lanz’ clients and Bruce Willis as his gruff security guard.

Extras won’t impress with only a pair of deleted scenes and roughly 5 minutes of gushing about the great comedic force that is Mr. Murray.

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