Here’s a look at a pair of films now available in the Blu-ray format offering radically different perspectives on news organizations serving its audiences.
Dark Waters (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 127 minutes, $34.98) — A cinematic adaptation of a real-life tale of corporate greed at its most despicable levels gave activist actor Mark Ruffalo a chance to explore a company’s intentional poisoning of humans and our ecosystem.
Director Todd Haynes effort adapts New York Times Magazine’s expose about Cincinnati corporate defense lawyer Robert Bilott (Mr. Ruffalo) switching sides in his fight against DuPont in the early 2000s after finding out the company was repeatedly dumping toxic waste in streams in Parkersburg, West Virginia.
This David-versus-Goliath struggle takes viewers on an odyssey of head-shaking discovery and conspiracy tied to multiple companies hiding the truth about the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) used to manufacture Teflon.
The legal thriller makes it easy to cheer the good guy thanks to Mr. Ruffalo’s focused performance and help from Tim Robbins as Tom Terp, the head of his law firm and a sympathetic boss; Anne Hathaway as his wife Sarah; and Bill Camp as Wilbur Tennant, the farmer brave enough to first reach out to Mr. Bilott.
“Dark Waters” delivers a cautionary reminder that better living through chemistry can backfire quickly and catastrophically when tied to the pursuit of the almighty dollar.
The high definition format spotlights cinematographer Edward Lachmann’s use of sickly yellow and hazy blue, subdued color choices in many scenes that reinforce the sobering story.
Best extras: Viewers get a trio of promotional featurettes (13 minutes in total) that stands out due to interviews from the real people involved in the case including Mr. and Mrs. Bilott, Bucky Bailey (a victim of Teflon poisoning) and class-action plaintiffs Darlene and Joseph Kiger.
I could have used either an optional commentary track from Mr. Ruffalo or aa full-length documentary on the subject such as “The Devil We Know,” currently available on Netflix.
Richard Jewell (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 131 minutes, $45.99) — In an age where the mainstream media mob can crush the innocent in the pursuit of website pageviews, it’s worth remembering the saga of a mild-mannered security guard doing his job, now a movie available in the high definition format.
Although one cannot call the late Richard Jewell a humanitarian, he never deserved the unwarranted railroading by the vaulted news media and FBI buffoons desperate to find a suspect of Atlanta’s Centennial Park bombing during the 1996 Summer Olympics. The explosion killed a mother and injured more than 100 individuals.
Director Clint Eastwood methodically lays out the case for the innocence of the man who actually discovered a backpack full of pipe bombs, as viewers watch him turned from hero to terrorist.
The effort is led by Paul Walter Hauser in the starring role with riveting performances from Sam Rockwell as Jewell’s overwhelmed but feisty attorney Watson Bryant, Kathy Bates as Jewell’s shell-shocked mother Bobi and Jon Hamm as an amalgam of clueless FBI agents.
However, some, such critics as the Atlanta Journal Constitution, say the filmmaking legend and screenwriter Billy Ray went overboard by miscategorizing the paper’s reporter Kathy Scruggs looking for fame and even willing to trade sex for FBI information.
That disputed characterization tarnished an overall, excellent, reality-based legal drama for some critics, even though there is no dispute that Scruggs and reporter Ron Martz opened the floodgates to Jewell’s public persecution.
The tempered irony here is that Mr. Eastwood stands accused of character assassination by a news organization that ultimately did the same to a poor guy just trying to help.
Best extras: A production overview gets crammed into a 7-minute featurette covering actors, cinematography, production design and costuming.
Mr. Eastwood comments often, calling the Jewell incident “the great America screw-over,” while his crew talks about creating the most realistic portrayal of the locations and events as possible.
Next, viewers get 6-minutes’ worth of interviews with some of the primary sources of the film including Mrs. Jewell, Mr. Bryant and his secretary and wife Nadya.