Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Here’s a look at a pair of movies new to the Blu-ray format about families put in terrifying situations.

Greenland (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Rated: PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 120 minutes, $34.98) — A father attempts to protect his estranged family against a mass-extinction event threatening to destroy Earth in director Ric Roman Waugh’s first foray into the disaster movie genre.

Specifically, a comet nicknamed Clarke decides to collide with the planet, and John Garrity (Gerard Butler) must find a way against impossible odds to help his wife Alison (Morena Baccarin) and diabetic son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) get to safety as fragments from the space entity crashes around them.

Complexities arise when a potential escape to a shelter at a military base goes wrong due to Nathan’s ineligibility because of a chronic medical condition that splits the family up and finds John and Alison (with Nathan) forced to fend for themselves and try to reunite.

Considering our current pandemic predicament, it’s easy to embrace the concept of the film, especially when early on experts emphasized that there was nothing to worry about, as well as thoroughly empathize with the family’s plight.

And in a breath of fresh air, unlike many disaster films showing famous landmarks pummeled, the story focuses on the characters, their panic, anguish and horror as a nail-biting collapse of society occurs due to man’s inhumanity (humans truly are sickening these days).

The high definition transfer of the digitally shot film offers a clean and consistent image and stays true even in many of the darker, nighttime, dimly lit scenes.

Best extras: Viewers get a visual take on an optional commentary track from the director and producer Basil Iwanyk that presents Mr. Roman Waugh’s talking head in a box in the lower right-hand corner of the screen and Mr. Iwanyk’s head in the left.

The Zoom-style, socially distanced choice keeps them on for the entire film and now, as an added benefit, forces them to talk and interact throughout rather than a more traditional track that can suffer from gaps of silence.

Mr. Roman Waugh starts by mentioning that the film was done and tested before COVID-19 hit, and it was a surreal experience to watch the pandemic rage and compare it to his film’s themes of disaster versus a breakdown in society.

They discuss the story; the themes of love; the casting (treating Mr. Butler as a modern-day William Holden); the twists and paranoia as the mass extinction event begins to play out; favorite scenes; visual and practical combat effects; technology; and overall production.

I wish more creators choose this type of more personalized presentation for commentary tracks.

Viewers also get five minutes of deleted scenes including the original ending with optional introductions by the director.

Let Him Go (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Rated: PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 120 minutes, $34.98) — Elderly parents still coping with the death of their son look for a way to save their grandchild and former daughter-in-law from her new abusive husband and his hardened family in director Thomas Bezucha’s adaptation of Larry Watson’s Western-themed period thriller.

Diane Lane and Kevin Costner reunite (previously seen as Ma and Pa Kent in “Man of Steel”) as retired Sheriff George Blackledge and his wife Margaret for this tale of loss and reconciliation that finds the pair on a journey from Montana to North Dakota that spirals into violence.

The film’s unnerving slow pacing, complete with an initially playful musical score, will sucker punch viewers as they watch Margaret’s determination (to a fault) for a reunification, no matter the ramifications. Her mission plays out with a husband’s deep love and willingness to help at any cost.

They finally track down and meet the obnoxious, insulting and dangerous Weboy clan led by matriarch Blanche (Lesley Manville). They have no interest in sharing custody with the grandchild, and an unbelievable confrontation ensues.

Tension and emotions tug at viewers that have no idea how the ending can possibly play out to such tragic consequences in a film devoid of warm fuzzies and guaranteed tough to swallow.

Panoramic scenes of the Western states featuring majestic mountain ranges, open fields and waterways often dominate the high definition transfer. Viewers can also appreciate the detail on an awesome collection of vintage cars from the 1960s.

Best extras: A trio of promotional featurettes covering the production and stars offers viewers a much-too-shallow overview of the filmmaking and a disservice to this complex Greek tragedy. No need to buy “Let Him Go” for the Blu-ray home entertainment library but definitely worth a one-time digital rental.

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