Blu-ray Tuesday: Feel the force at home with ‘STAR WARS’ and ‘TUMBLEDOWN’


Preston Barta // Editor

It may be a little early to call THE FORCE AWAKENS the DVD/Blu-ray movie of the year, but it unquestionably deserves a spot in your home collection.

Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis and Mark Hamill

I’m not saying the artistic quality of the movie will top other titles releasing on disc in 2016. I’m talking about the wow factor — a movie that will rock your house, whether you’re watching it on a high-end home theater system or on your laptop screen.

Vividly directed by J.J. Abrams, this seventh installment in the STAR WARS franchise goes darker and emotionally deeper than its predecessors, as the story picks up 30 years after the events portrayed in RETURN OF THE JEDI.

The Empire has returned in the form of the First Order, and it’s up to the Resistance and its allies to restore balance to the galaxy.

Abrams has piloted many sci-fi vessels, directing both the revival of STAR TREK and the Spielbergian SUPER 8. With THE FORCE AWAKENS, he strikes a careful balance, tipping his hat to Star Wars creator George Lucas while also never overstepping his bounds.

It’s a movie you watch multiple times and still smile as much as the first viewing, all while yelling “Whoa!” as you white-knuckle your couch. It’s a nonstop thrill ride with a beating heart that will have original fans salivating and newcomers on their toes. It’s what we’ve been waiting for, and now, we must play a new waiting game for EPISODE VIII in December of next year.

Extras: The extras included with the film all depends on where you purchase it.

Target, Best Buy and the Disney store each have their exclusivities, but all feature the incredibly vivid feature-length documentary on the cinematic journey of bringing STAR WARS back to the big screen, a reflection on the first time the cast and crew came together to read the movie’s script, a featurette on the creation of its characters, deleted scenes (you will especially love this) and insights with celebrated composer John Williams. The package deal here doesn’t get much better than this.

TUMBLEDOWN | 105 min | R
Director: Sean Mewshaw
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Jason Sudeikis, Dianna Agron, Griffin Dunne and Blythe Danner

It’s likely you’ve never heard of this movie, which is a shame because it deserved more attention than it received in its limited theatrical run.

On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like discovering a film you’ve never heard of but wholeheartedly appreciate right off the bat.

TUMBLEDOWN tells the story of Hannah (Rebecca Hall), a widow struggling to move on after the death of her acclaimed folk-singing husband.

But when a pushy writer from New York, Andrew McDonnell (Jason Sudeikis), arrives to her neck of the woods, Hannah is forced to confront her loss and the equivocal nature of her husband’s death.

This film may seem overly dramatic on paper, but trust me when I say there’s a certain warmth, wit and mystery to TUMBLEDOWN that makes it far superior than it appears to be. What makes it rise above average quality is the chemistry among its talent, most notably Hall and Sudeikis at the center. What so easily could have been a forgettable unlikely-romance story winds up being a bittersweet film to get lost in.

MOJAVE | 93 min | R
Director: William Monahan
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund, Walton Goggins and Mark Wahlberg

Marking his sophomore directing effort, Academy Award-winner William Monahan (THE DEPARTED) brings together the likes of Garrett Hedlund (TRON: LEGACY) and Oscar Isaac (THE FORCE AWAKENS) for a movie that’s so glaringly self-indulgent you can’t wait to eject the disc and toss it in the trash.

The film follows the story of a suicidal artist (Hedlund) who goes off in the desert to clear his conscience, Jim Morrison-style, but runs into a drifter (Isaac) who makes his life a living hell. While the plot may sound somewhat enticing, the ponderous script and weak characterization will have you furious from beginning to end.

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About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.