Last Tuesday’s Blu-ray selection wasn’t quite as poor as it has been these last few weeks – with such notable titles as “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” and “Shame” on the schedule – but I didn’t receive any review copies in time for my column. Thankfully, things are finally starting to pick up again, which is great news for Blu-ray collectors. Although there really isn’t a standout title among this week’s releases, there’s still a good variety to choose from, including this trio of very diverse movies.
Mark Wahlberg’s latest action thriller isn’t a terrible movie by any means, but it is an incredibly unmemorable one that, although it likely earned the actor a nice paycheck and the opportunity to work with guys like Ben Foster, J.K. Simmons and Giovanni Ribisi, isn’t up to par with what his fans have come to expect. A big part of the problem is that director Baltasar Kormakur vastly overcomplicates the film’s simplistic setup by making the actual heist so unnecessarily complex that not even Danny Ocean and his crew could pull it off. Worse yet, the story is so predictable that you can see every twist and turn before it happens. There’s hardly a single original idea to be found, which is ironic considering it’s about counterfeiting, and though Kormakur was presumably given the directing gig because he was familiar with the source material (having played Wahlberg’s role in the Icelandic film that it’s based on), he fails to demonstrate what made that movie so special that it deserved a remake.
Blu-ray Highlight: I’m a sucker for a good making-of featurette, and the one included here is better than most, covering a range of topics including the differences between the Icelandic original and the remake, casting and filming on location in New Orleans.
I saw Ti West’s “The Innkeepers” two years ago at South by Southwest, and whether it was because “Insidious” had just given me a mini panic attack the night before, or because I was simply expecting more from the film, I didn’t find it to be particularly scary. Though West’s slow-burn approach is pretty effective in the opening half, there’s very little payoff, to the point that when the horror elements finally do kick in, they’re not as terrifying as you’d expect. Instead, the movie spends most of the time camped out at the front desk where its two leads banter back and forth and play tricks on one another. It’s amusing at times, but never enough to hold your interest, despite the fact that Sara Paxton and Pat Healy have good chemistry. If there’s one redeeming quality, it’s the fantastic score by Jeff Grace, which at least makes the movie more watchable. Unfortunately, “The Innkeepers” is a mediocre horror film at best, and that’s a shame, because while it had the potential to revitalize the genre, it falls short.
Blu-ray Highlight: There’s not much to choose from on the single-disc release, but fans of Ti West will certainly enjoy the director’s pair of audio commentaries – one with producers Peter Phok and Larry Fessenden and 2nd Unit Director/Sound Designer Graham Reznick, and another, much livelier affair with stars Sara Paxton and Pat Healy.
A massive hit in China after smashing box office records to become the highest-grossing domestic film of all time, Jiang Wen’s action comedy “Let the Bullets Fly” sadly didn’t have as much success overseas. Though U.S. audiences likely weren’t able to appreciate the movie on the same level as native Chinese speakers because of the way that the film plays around with the language, it’s still an amusing and wildly madcap spaghetti western that’s anchored by a trio of fantastic performances by director/star Wen, Chow Yun-Fat and Ge You, who have such great comedic timing between them that the subtitles often move too quickly to read. Like most Chinese movies, it’s also way too long for its own good, and the story gets a bit convoluted as the three lead characters continuously try to outsmart one another. But those are minor complaints compared to its many strengths, because while the film isn’t for everyone, fans of Chinese cinema or just really good black comedy will love it.
Blu-ray Highlight: Unfortunately, the only “bonus material” included are a few trailers.