New On Blu-Ray: 'Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker', '1917', 'Come To Daddy', 'The Grudge', 'A Hidden Life'

Welcome to another week in quarantine! As we continue to find ourselves sequestered in our domiciles, there's never been a better time to block out the horrors of the real world and kick back with some movies. And while streaming is great – and convenient – you just can't beat the quality of physical media, folks. So, without further adieu, these are the new Blu-ray releases you should check out this week.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a huge step down from The Last Jedi, and an unsatisfying conclusion to what was on its way to being a strong trilogy. Still, it's not a complete wash. The actors are all giving it their best – Daisy Ridley remains a wonderful actress who can convey so much emotion just with her eyes, and Adam Driver keeps Kylo Ren compelling, even as the script does not. And there are plenty of great action beats. But every time The Rise of Skywalker starts to seem like it's finding its footing, it ends up stumbling again. The story is nonsensical, the return of the Emperor makes absolutely no sense, and despite clocking in at 2 hours and 22 minutes, the proceedings seem rushed. Still, it brings the saga to a close, and that counts for something.

Why It's Worth Owning on Blu-ray:

Look, I'm a completist. I own the first two films in this trilogy, so of course, I'm going to own the third, even though I don't like it. That said, there are things to enjoy about this release. Specifically the feature-length documentary The Skywalker Legacy. This making-of feature is quite wonderful, and doesn't totally shy away from the behind-the-scenes issues that plagued the film. In the end, this is a better conclusion to the saga than the movie itself.

Special Features Include: 

  • The Skywalker Legacy – The story lives forever in this feature-length documentary that charts the making of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
  • Pasaana Pursuit: Creating the Speeder Chase – Dive into the making of the movie's epic landspeeder chase and discover how this spectacular sequence was brought to the screen.
  • Aliens in the Desert – See what it took to create the Pasaana desert scenes, from the sheer scale and complexity of the shoot to its colorful details.
  • D-O: Key to the Past – Explore the ship that connects Rey to the mystery of her missing parents and get to know the galaxy's newest, irresistible droid.
  • Warwick & Son – Warwick Davis, who played Wicket in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, dons the Ewok costume once more; this time joined by his son Harrison.
  • Cast of Creatures – The team behind the film's memorable creatures reveal the puppetry, makeup, prosthetics and digital magic that bring them to life!
  • 1917

    1917 got a lot of press for being a "one-take" movie – which, in turn, lead many to assume the World War I film had nothing to offer beyond a gimmick. But there's so much more to Sam Mendes' saga than it's one-shot format. Yes, things have been designed to resemble one long, continuous take. But that scenario effectively pulls you into this world, and keeps you moving along with it – 1917 never lets up. The story is simple – two soldiers have to stop an attack they know is doomed. Yet Mendes packs a ton of emotional punch into this story, focusing on the horrors of war, and the way it chews young men up and spits them out bloody and broken – or worse. All of it is captured by Roger Deakins' stunning cinematography.

    Why It's Worth Owning on Blu-ray:1917 is a great addition to any Blu-ray library, especially if you're a fan of war movies in general – or just some damn fine cinematography. The disc comes loaded with multiple featurettes about the making of the movie, with a heavy emphasis on how Mendes and Deakins pulled off the one-shot trick. Mendes and Deakins also both get their own commentary tracks, both of which provide plenty of keen insight into the production.

    Special Features Include: 

  • The Weight of the World: Sam Mendes – Academy Award® winner Sam Mendes discusses his personal connection to World War 1.
  • Allied Forces: Making 1917 - Learn how the one shot, 360-degree format was executed and the pivotal role Academy Award® winner Roger Deakins served in bringing Sam Mendes' vision to life.
  • The Music of 1917 - Composer Thomas Newman and filmmakers discuss the important role of the Academy Award®-nominated score.
  • In The Trenches - Go behind the scenes with the cast of 1917.
  • Recreating History - Filmmakers offer a detailed look at the production design challenges of recreating the First World War.
  • Feature Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Sam Mendes.
  • Feature Commentary with Director of Photography Roger Deakins.
  • Come to Daddy

    What a god damn rush this movie is. Ant Timpson's Come to Daddy caught me completely by surprise – I went into the pic knowing as little as possible, and was rewarded immensely. Here's what you need to know: Elijah Wood is Norval Greenwood, a timid guy who hasn't seen his father since he was a very small child. So it's a big surprise when dear old dad summons him out to his secluded house. Norval heads out for the visit, and finds his father (Stephen McHattie) to be not at all what he expected.

    And that's all I'm going to tell you. From there, Come to Daddy journeys down dark and twisty roads, dropping one shocking moment from the next. It's nearly impossible to predict where this story is headed, and that makes it all the more enjoyable. Timpson is able to wring bleak humor from the proceedings, creating a strange, unique film that will leave you reeling.

    Why It's Worth Owning on Blu-ray:

    Disappointingly, there are no special features included. But that doesn't make Come to Daddy any less special. I urge you to pick this up and support weird, unique indie cinema.

    The Grudge

    Nicolas Pesce's The Eyes of My Mother is one of the best horror movies of the 21st century, so handing him a new The Grudge isn't the worst idea in the world. Alas, Pesce's take on the J-horror phenomenon leaves a lot to be desired. To be fair, it's pretty clear that studio interference played a part here – I've heard from reliable sources about several scenes that didn't make it into the film, and aren't included in the deleted scenes on the disc. Still, you can get a sense of what Pesce was going for here, and his filmmaking skills help elevate the entire affair. The Grudge certainly looks good, full of dark, ominous scenes in beautiful widescreen. And the set-up – about a cop (Andrea Riseborough) looking into the Grudge curse – is sound. It's just a pity the producers didn't trust Pesce's vision enough in the end.

    Why It's Worth Owning on Blu-ray:

    There are several extended and deleted scenes included on the disc that hint at something better – and more disturbing – here, and those are worth checking this out on their own. That might not be enough for you to want to purchase the disc outright, but you should definitely give The Grudge at least a one-time watch to see how it plays for you.

    Special Features Include: 

  • "The Cast of the Cursed" featurette: Take an inside look at the evil that lurks behind the doors at 44 Reyburn Dr., as key creatives and cast members explore The Grudge characters and discuss their experience working with Writer/Director Nicolas Pesce.
  • "Designing Death" featurette: From a slightly paler version of themselves to being completely mangled and rotted, to the incredible death scenes; like Faith Matheson's (Lin Shaye) epic leap off of the staircase, explore the character make-up design process and the film's visual look involved in creating the myriad of ghosts caught in the grips of the Grudge!
  • "Easter Egg Haunt" featurette: Join Writer/Director Nicolas Pesce as he brings to light the plethora of hidden Easter Eggs throughout the film which are homages to the previous works in the Ju-On franchise.
  • Extended Scenes & Alternative Ending Experience the scenes too disturbing for theaters, like Peter Spencer's terrifying encounter in the attic of 44 Reyburn Dr., or the uncovering of the gruesome truth behind the Landers' family deaths.
  • A Hidden Life 

    A Hidden Life is the best movie Terrence Malick has made in years for one simple reason: it's has a plot. After Tree of Life, Malick more or less abandoned plotting altogether, and instead created dreamy sagas where characters drift aimlessly from one moment to the next. To be clear: none of these movies are bad. They're just not up to snuff with his earlier work. But A Hidden Life is.

    Based on the true story Franz Jägerstätter, this eerily timely tale follows an Austrian farmer who refuses to fight for the Germans and pledge allegiance to Adolf Hitler during World War II – a decision that could lead to his death. Malick blends his beautiful landscapes with Jägerstätter, and the results are transcendent. This is one of Malick's most spiritual films, one that transports you wholly to its world.

    Why It's Worth Owning on Blu-ray:

    There are zero special features on this release, which is a bummer. But A Hidden Life is such a magnificent film that it's still worth picking up. A 4K release would've been ideal, but the visuals look gorgeous here none the less. This is a powerful, important film, and more people should give it their full attention. We need more films like this, especially from Malick.