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New Blu-Ray/DVD Releases (12/17/19) – ‘Western Stars’ Shine Bright While ‘Ad Astra’ Blasts Off

This week, Bruce Springsteen invites audiences to his most intimate concert yet with “Western Stars,” leading the charge of new Blu-ray releases. Joining Springsteen today is “Ad Astra,” a poignant science fiction epic. Read on for more.

PICK OF THE WEEK

“Western Stars”

Bruce Springsteen ruminates on life while playing the songs from his latest album. On the surface, that description could sound like a glorified special feature. However, the passion of Springsteen, as well as his own creative decisions from the director’s chair, elevate this concert film/documentary. It’s truly an emotional experience, and not just for fans of The Boss. IndieWire loved it:

Both an intimate exploration of Springsteen’s latest album of the same name and a deeper dive into his most pervasive compulsions.

“Western Stars” is the best documentary of the year, especially if you love Springsteen. Even if you don’t, it’s still fascinating and impeccably well made. Give it a shot!

Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $1,581,681
Major Awards: Won Best Narration (for Springsteen) at the Critics Choice Documentary Awards

RECOMMENDED MOVIE(S)

“Ad Astra”

This science fiction character study from James Gray is far lower key than most assumed. Brad Pitt and Gray were never going to make a traditional space tale, though, so if anything, this is the preferred avenue to take. Beautiful to look at and haunting to think about, it’s truly a full cinematic meal. From our coverage of the movie here on the site:

Gray and Pitt are at the top of their respective games here. Gray is working on a scale larger than ever before, though completely at home and able to tell a deeply personal story. Pitt has rarely been better, mixing his matinee looks with a facade that slowly cracks, showcasing humanity. Together, they tell a story of fathers and sons that’s only nominally an epic space adventure. Think closer to Carl Sagan or Bruce Springsteenthan George Lucas.

“Ad Astra” is captivating. Don’t go in expecting a traditional sci-fi tale and you’ll like what you find.

Special Features: Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes, and more
Total Box Office: $50,188,370 (and counting)
Major Awards: None yet

VINTAGE VIEWING

In honor of this week’s release of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the pick today is going to be an obvious one. Yes, since J.J. Abrams is back directing a “Star Wars” film, we’re going to cite “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The return of the franchise, Abrams helped merge the old and the new. From our rave review here on the site:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is a smart, keen, and dynamic installation of a brand new saga in the franchise.

Prep for the Saga to end by revisiting Abrams’ “Star Wars” debut.

OTHER FILMS BEING RELEASED

Here’s a look at what else is hitting shelves today, besides the pair of recommended titles in “Ad Astra” and “Western Stars.”

“Abominable”

This animated tale is in the thick of the race for a Best Animated Feature nomination. Reviews were pretty strong for this one, which isn’t always the case for animation like this. Entertainment Weekly dug it:

Abominable’s themes and arc are familiar kids’ movie fare, with only one real plot twist. But its reverent attitude toward nature and wonder is a welcome addition to the cartoon canon.
Families would do well to give this one a look.

Box Office: $60,352,095

“Downton Abbey”

The television series gets the big screen treatment here, and a solid box office haul followed. Most critics found it charming, and our own Karen Peterson was among them. She had a lot of positive things to say here, including this bit:

If ever there was a film made in service to its fans, it is “Downton Abbey.”

Fans of the show will love it, undoubtedly.

Box Office: $96,822,815

“Rambo: Last Blood”

Sylvester Stallone sought to give John Rambo a potential sendoff here in this action sequel, but instead settles for a generic bloodbath. Mediocre across the board and full of problematic politics, the character deserved a more meditative take. Here is a sample from our pan of a review:

“Rambo: Last Blood” almost functions as more of a “Taken” knockoff than as a potential conclusion to the “Rambo” franchise.

Unless you love Stallone, you can do better than this.

Box Office: $44,819,352

“Where’s My Roy Cohn?”

Another documentary option this week. This one centers on the political operative Roy Cohn, whose dark influence is still being felt to this day. From Joseph McCarthy to Donald Trump, his tentacles are all over American conservative politics. The Hollywood Reporter contributed this take:

A diabolical public figure mesmerizes from the grave.
A doc to consider today!

Box Office: $702,250

TV RELEASES

“Bonanza: The Official Tenth Season, Volume 1”
“Fuller House: The Complete Fourth Season”
“Killjoys: Complete Series”
“The Returned: Season Two”

THOUGHTS ON WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK ON BLU-RAY OR DVD? SHARE THEM IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!

What do you think?

Film Lover

Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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