Deepwater Horizon (Summit, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 107 min.). I have high hopes for "Patriots Day," the film based on the Boston Marathon bombings, after seeing the tremendous job director Peter Berg and producer/star Mark Wahlberg have done on this earlier collaboration, a dramatization of the April 20, 2010 disaster in which Deepwater Horizon, the offshore drilling rig, exploded, creating the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Of the 126 people aboard the rig that day, 11 died. After watching this film, you will be amazed that so many survived the catastrophe.
Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, the chief electronics technician on the drilling rig. The film opens with the audio of the real Williams testifying at a hearing into the disaster, but without any video. We then are introduced to Williams, his wife, Felicia (a good Kate Hudson in a limited role), and their young daughter, who just happens to be preparing a school presentation on what her father does for work. It is simple, light-hearted approach to explaining what the men and women aboard the Deepwater Horizon do. In the broad sense, that also is one of the movie's strengths, as it introduces the audience to an unfamiliar world. The filmmakers paid a lot of attention to getting the work details right, with the real Williams serving as one of the advisors.
Williams, along with offshore installation manager Jimmy "Mr. Jimmy" Harrell (Kurt Russell, who happens to be Hudson's father in real life) and much younger dynamic positioning officer Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), then take a helicopter ride out to the Deepwater Horizon, where Mr. Jimmy discovers the BP representatives, including Don Vidrine (John Malkovich), have sent home the crew that was supposed to check the strength of the cement work below. Williams' response to Vidrine is: "Hope ain't a tactic." BP was concerned, and stepping in, because the drilling was 43 days and $50 million behind schedule. Mr. Jimmy has a negative pressure test run, which finds pressure but none of the usual mud, leading Vidrine to say it is just a bad sensor, after a second negative pressure test on a different bore comes up without push-back pressure.
Within a couple of hours, the disaster occurs and it is extraordinarily recreated in the film. You will lean forward, wondering who will and will not survive the multiple explosions, fires large and small, and the rig falling apart. Fans of TV's "Teen Wolf" and the "Maze Runner" film series will be especially interested in drill crew floorhand Caleb Holloway, as he is played by Dylan O'Brien. Photos of the 11 who died are shown near the film's end. The fire burned for 87 days and 210 million gallons of oil were spilled.
The Blu-ray comes with a superior set of bonus features, including an exclusive five-part "Beyond the Horizon" feature (51:21) that has solid, interesting interviews with the cast and some behind-the-scenes footage. Each segment is based around an actor: Wahlberg, Hudson, Russell, Rodriguez and O'Brien. Also included are interviews with the real Williams and Holloway. Another Blu-ray exclusive is on director Berg (18:15), and again it is better than usual, being more in-depth. Included is a discussion of Steve Jablonsky's music for the film. DVD and Blu-ray both include a making-of featurette, "Fury of the Rig" (27:20), which discusses the drilling (the deepest mankind had gone into the Earth -- Berg calls it the story of Icarus in reverse) and how the film's gigantic sets were created with 2 million pounds of steel (a real helicopter could land on the helicopter pad) and ILM's digital work, especially with fire. Some of the fire actually was on giant video screens behind the set. Another feature, "Deepwater Surveillance" (17:40), shows certain explosions and fire scenes being filmed. Finally, there is a tribute to American blue-collar workers (16:03) that includes Holloway. While unseen, there also is a virtual reality mode that can be downloaded by app so that one can access 360-degree VR commentary on three movie scenes. Grade: film and extras 3.75 stars
Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it
The Accountant (Warner, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 128 min.). Sometimes during "The Accountant," I had trouble buying Ben Affleck as a math savant with Asperger's Syndrome. (A real quick definition would be someone who cannot effectively socialize and communicate, and has an all-absorbing interest in a subject or two.) However, in addition to being the mild-mannered owner-operator of ZZZ Accounting in a Plainfield, Illinois strip mall, the savant -- Christian Wolff is his current nom de guerre -- secretly is a freelance accountant for several dangerous criminal organizations around the world.
After a mysterious start involving dead bodies, the film goes back to the first of many flashbacks that fill in Christian's youth. While his mother eventually could not cope with her son's condition -- especially since his father (Robert C. Treveiler) refused to institutionalize him -- his father forced young Christian (Seth Lee) and his brother (Jake Presley) into rigorous Army-like training, including the Indonesian martial art called Pencak Silat. We also see the adult Christian in prison with Francis Silverberg (Jeffrey Tambor), who trains him and eventually connects Christian with his underworld clients. Meanwhile, Ray King (J.K. Simmons), head of the U.S. Treasury Department's Crime Enforcement Division, assigns agent Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to work for him directly while trying to uncover who the Accountant, as he is known, really is. (Much later on, a further connection between King and Christian is revealed.) In yet another parallel story, which will intersect later, there is a killer (Jon Bernthal), who seems to be cleaning up after the Accountant, particularly when it comes to his latest client, Living Robotics, a firm owned by Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow).
While the Living Robotics job was intended to be a "straight" job, as the authorities were becoming too interested in the Accountant, it proves to be more deadly than his usual illicit work, and Christian acts to protect the company's accountant (Anna Kendrick as Dana Cummings) from being killed. It is fun watching Christian switch into action-hero mode, but, truth be told, the story is a bit of a cobbled-together mess, with too many unbelievable happenstances. Be warned that if you watch the film with subtitles, it names characters before they are named in the film, which gives away what I guess was supposed to be a big surprise near the film's end. Since I watched with subtitles, I was not surprised at all; it just made the plot seem even more artificial.
Bonus features include a look at the characters and the script (10:38), at Asperger's (8:04) and the action training for Affleck (7:14). Note that the closing title song, "To Leave Something Behind," is by Sean Rowe and very nice. Grade: film 2.5 stars; extras 2 stars
Max Steel (Universal, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 93 min.). Since the film is based on the Mattel property and the animated series, one might come to this origin film with a lot of background. For those unfamiliar with the character, the movie seems to be made up of stereotypical elements.
Mac McGrath (a winning performance by relative newcomer Ben Winchell, who is the only really good thing about the movie) is 16 and has just been moved by his mother (Maria Bello as Molly) for the eighth time -- back to their original hometown, where his scientist father was killed in a mysterious accident. Max almost immediately meets the girl (Ana Villafane as Sofia), whom he falls for -- literally and figuratively. He then starts developing mysterious liquid energy from his hands, which is poorly explained. As he learns to control his new powers, he interacts with Steel (Ak-stel), a parasitic silicon-based life form which feeds on that energy, which Steel explains is tachyon energy that can become turbo energy if they work together as one. That includes creating a suit of armor. About the only other character in the film is Miles Edwards (Andy Garcia), Max's father's partner in his company, N-Tek. So naturally, Edwards turns out to be the bad guy and even gets his own suit of armor. Oh yes, the big threat is invading Ultralinks, which take the form of huge tornadoes.
There is some fun to be had here, but that comes more in action that plot. Extras including finding the actor to play Max (4:24); acting opposite a character that is not really there (3:37); Legacy Effects (Stan Winston's company) building the suits (3:05); and a look at the wire work and action training with 87Eleven (3 min.). Grade: film and extras 2 stars
Lost & Found (Sony DVD, PG, 91 min.). This is a coming-of-age film with much more heart than "Max Steel." Narrator Andy Walton (Justin Kelly) is a champion high school swimmer, until he loses his last race and what he believes is his chance at a college scholarship. He then turns to a life of minor crime, stealing beer for fellow students who are not even his friends. This gets him shipped off to his Uncle Trent (Jason Patric), who runs a bait shop on nearby Walton Island. Andy's younger brother (Benjamin Stockham as Mark) tags along, initially just for the weekend.
It turns out Walton Island was owned and developed by Andy's grandfather, a World War II war hero who went missing in 1985. Since Grandfather Richard apparently did not trust banks, he kept his fortune hidden, presumably in the one-third of the island that is known as West Forest, where nine people have disappeared and are considered dead. With Richard's two sons barely getting by, the island has been sold to developer John Bronan (Cary Elwes), who turns out to be the father of Claire (Celeste Desjardin in her debut), the mainland girl Andy is sweet on and who spends summers on the island.
About halfway through the movie, the film takes on the vibe of a Hardy Boys adventure (director-co-writer Joseph Itaya notes in the extras his fondness for the Hardy Boys books and the film "Goonies") as Andy and Mark learn their grandfather used to create treasure hunts for his sons. The boys believe the last hunt, never solved, might lead to his hidden treasure and start following the clues. The acting could be a bit more dynamic, but the core message that family should be appreciated is solid. Extras include a making-of featurette (16:37) and eight deleted scenes (8:57), including a fun skunk scene and three scenes that deal with Bronan's use of a marked deck of cards). Grade: film 2.75 stars; extras 2 stars
Sleepy Hollow: The Complete Third Season (20th Century Fox, 5 DVDs, TV-14, 13 hours 48 min.). This supernatural show, which has a Rip Van Winkle-style Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) paired with policewoman/now FBI agent Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) to fend off the perils and supernatural creatures of the End of Days, probably should have ended with this season, as the final episode contains the controversial permanent parting of the two partners. Frankly, the reason why the show was so charming to begin with was the chemistry between actors Beharie and Mison.
In this season, after Abbie is rescued from what can best be called Purgatory, the two Biblical Witnesses face a demon that kills anyone with a dark secret, an undead army and a beast with ties to Jenny Mills (Lyndie Greenwood), Abbie's sister. A new arrival, the mysterious Pandora (Shannyn Sossamon) -- yes, she is that Pandora -- uses Abbie and Crane to resurrect "The Hidden One" (Peter Mensah), a seemingly invincible ancient god. One fun element of the season is the relationship between Pandora and The Hidden One, as he takes most of her energy so he can function and she constantly tires to get it back. The bonus features are a gag reel and deleted scenes. The show just began season four, with a new location and new cast regulars, Friday night. Grade: season 2.5 stars
Swamp People: Season 7 (Lionsgate, 5 DVDs, TV-PG, 558 min.). Also out is the seventh season of this History Channel reality show. During the season, Troy Landry and the other swampers start the 30-day Louisiana alligator hunt with high waters, high pressure and high risk. Fan favorite Bruce Mitchell returns, along with newcomers Frenchy Crochet and Gee Singleton. Bonus features include six Webisodes.