Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.
WHAT: After her father dies in a car accident on her 18th birthday, India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) becomes infatuated with her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who she never knew existed, when he comes to live with India and her unstable mother (Nicole Kidman). But when people around town start disappearing, she begins to suspect that Charlie may be the one responsible.
WHY: Written by former “Prison Break” star Wentworth Miller, “Stoker” plays like one giant homage to Alfred Hitchcock (particularly his 1943 film “Shadow of a Doubt”), but with a decidedly unique and erotic twist that only a director of Park Chan-wook’s warped sensibilities could conceive. To call the movie a slow burn would be putting it lightly, but it’s entirely compelling in the way that it patiently seduces the audience into an almost dreamlike trance. You simply can’t look away, and that’s thanks mostly to the stylish combination of Chung Chung-hoon’s rich cinematography and Nicholas de Toth’s playful editing. Though it would be easy to criticize the film for favoring style over substance, there’s a lot more going on behind the sumptuous visuals, including some excellent performances by its lead actors. “Stoker” isn’t for everyone, but fans of Park’s previous work won’t be disappointed by this offbeat, psychosexual thriller.
EXTRAS: Fox’s single-disc release boasts a behind-the-scenes look at making the film, a trio of featurettes on the characters, production design and score, footage from the red carpet premiere and deleted scenes.
FINAL VERDICT: BUY
WHAT: When a young farmhand named Jack (Nicholas Hoult) accidentally opens a gateway between his world and a race of vengeful giants using some magic beans, he joins a search party of the king’s bravest men to climb the beanstalk and rescue the princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) from captivity, reigniting a centuries-old war.
WHY: Bryan Singer hasn’t made a good movie since “X2: X-Men United,” and that streak continues with this dull reimagining of the classic fairy tale, which features some of the ugliest special effects of the year (unless you include Ewan McGregor’s hair). There are so many things wrong with “Jack the Giant Slayer” that it’s hard to know where to begin, but a lot of the problems stem from the script, which strikes such a contradicting tone (one minute a silly adventure film, and the next a dark and gritty action movie) that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. The actors suffer the most as a result – especially star Nicholas Hoult, who’s unable to do much with such a bland, one-dimensional character. McGregor does have a bit of fun as the head of the king’s guard, but he’s about the only enjoyable thing in an otherwise lackluster film.
EXTRAS: In addition to an interactive experience on how to “Become a Giant Slayer” hosted by Nicholas Hoult, there are also some deleted scenes and a gag reel.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP
WHAT: Pre-med student Jeff Chang (Mike Chon) doesn’t have any big plans for his 21st birthday, instead resigned to staying in and preparing for an important interview the next morning. But when his two best friends from high school (Miles Teller and Skylar Astin) persuade him into going out for a few drinks, what begins as a casual pub crawl quickly devolves into a wild night of debauchery after Jeff Chang passes out and the guys have no idea how to get him back home.
WHY: There’s a lot of stupidity to be found in “21 & Over,” but it’s not nearly as damning as anything that appears in the abysmal “Project X,” which several critics unfairly compared it to during its theatrical release. Although the screenplay is pretty juvenile and far-fetched at times, the film still contains a decent amount of laughs thanks to its likeable cast of up-and-comers. Sure, the movie feels a little bit like “The Hangover: The College Years” (it was even written by the same two guys), but despite boasting a similar wild streak, it also features some real heart and life-and-death stakes sandwiched between all the crazy hijinks. In fact, it actually shares more in common with films like “Superbad” and “Weekend at Bernie’s” than the Todd Phillips-directed comedy, and though it takes a while to get going, once the beer starts flowing, “21 & Over” manages to be somewhat entertaining provided you’re in the right mindset.
EXTRAS: Considering its last-minute addition to the release schedule, it’s not surprising that the only included bonus material is a pair of featurettes and a gag reel.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT