Blu Tuesday: Dead Man Down, Spring Breakers and More

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.

“Dead Man Down”

WHAT: After she’s horribly injured in a drunk driving accident, French immigrant Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) seduces and then blackmails a professional killer named Victor (Colin Farrell) into exacting revenge in her name. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that Victor is also the victim of an unforgivable crime who’s spent the past two years plotting his own vengeance.

WHY: After making a name for himself with the Swedish-language adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling for director Niels Arden Opev. But despite a solid cast and a bigger budget, “Dead Man Down” falls disappointingly short of its potential. There’s nothing about this crime thriller that’s even remotely suspenseful, and that’s due in part to some pretty dull characters and a general lack of focus. The subplot revolving around Rapace’s disfigured woman doesn’t add much to the main story, and although it’s nice to see the actress reuniting with her “Dragon Tattoo” director, Rapace’s performance pales in comparison to her award-winning turn as Lisbeth Salander. Terrence Howard and Dominic Cooper fare a little better in supporting roles, but it’s not quite enough to save the movie from mediocrity. Then again, considering “Dead Man Down” was produced by WWE Studios (who have yet to make one good film), that’s not too surprising.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release boasts a trio of behind-the-scenes featurettes on the film’s production, cinematography and stunts. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.


“Spring Breakers”

WHAT: After four college girls rob a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation, the quartet’s hard-partying ways land them in prison. But when they’re bailed out by a charismatic drug and arms dealer named Alien (James Franco), the girls are introduced to a criminal lifestyle that’s far more dangerous than they could ever imagine.

WHY: Harmony Korine’s neon-tinged commentary on American youth culture has its fair share of admirers, but I’m definitely not one of them. Though I understand what the director was trying to accomplish with his satirical deconstruction of the typical spring break mindset (a heightened reality where there are no consequences for your actions), it doesn’t change the fact that it’s essentially a badly executed experimental film disguised as a mainstream crime drama. The female characters are excruciatingly one-dimensional (and whether or not that’s the point doesn’t make them any more engaging), and the constant repetition of certain scenes and lines of dialogue is incredibly grating. Sure, the movie looks great, but it’s also really boring – that is, until Franco shows up midway through and completely steals the show with one of the best performances of his career. His rapper-cum-gangster is immensely entertaining, almost hypnotically so, and it’s the only reason why anyone should consider seeking this movie out.

EXTRAS: In addition to a three-part making-of documentary, there’s a commentary with writer/director Harmony Korine, a music featurette, deleted and extended scenes, and a pair of VICE featurettes on the ATL Twins and party culture in Panama City Beach.



WHAT: When Portia Nathan (Tina Fey), an admissions officer at Princeton University, receives a call from John Pressman (Paul Rudd) with a request to visit his alternative school, she’s blindsided by the suggestion that gifted but eccentric student Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) is the child she gave up for adoption almost 20 years earlier. Though Jeremiah represents a major risk for the university, Portia must decide if he’s worth fighting for, or if she’s just playing favorites.

WHY: Based on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s 2009 novel of the same name, “Admission” had the potential to be a good movie, but it’s hampered by a major identity crisis. Director Paul Weitz can’t seem to decide whether he’s making a comedy or a drama, and although it was marketed as the former, the film is almost completely devoid of laughs. Not even Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, arguably two of Hollywood’s most likable performers, are able to do much to save the movie, and that only makes “Admission” even more of a disappointment. In fact, while the duo sounds like a comedy dream team on paper, they have zero chemistry as romantic leads, which makes their inevitable hookup even more awkward as a result. This is exactly the kind of predictable, rom-com drivel that Fey has spent most of her career defying, and though her undeniable charm and wit makes the movie a little easier to endure, she’d be better off if she stuck to writing her own material.

EXTRAS: There’s only one special feature on the disc, and it’s your typical promotional fluff piece, complete with plenty of back-patting among the various cast and crew.


“Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special”

WHAT: A series of sketches starring DC Comics’ stable of superheroes and villains – from flagship characters like Superman and Batman, to obscure D-listers like B’dg and Mister Banjo.

WHY: Fans of Seth Green and Matt Senreich’s irreverent stop-motion animated series might get a kick out of this themed special, but there just aren’t as many laughs as the average “Robot Chicken” episode, despite being about twice as long. Many of the recurring gags (including one where Batman’s back is continually broken by Bane and one called “Real Characters from the DC Universe” that lampoons some of the company’s more ridiculous creations) aren’t even that funny the first time around, and with the exception of Alfred Molina and Nathan Fillion, the voice cast is lacking the show’s usual quota of cool guest stars. Some of the sketches are pretty amusing, and making fun of Aquaman never gets old, but this definitely pales in comparison to the “Star Wars” specials, probably because those films are riper for parody. The biggest negative, however, is the price, which works out to about $1 a minute.

EXTRAS: There’s actually quite a bit of good content here, including a short making-of featurette, writer and actor commentary tracks, a tour of the DC Entertainment offices, animatics for 15 deleted sketches and more.


“The Host”

WHAT: Set in a world where an alien parasite has taken of most of humanity, Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) is one of the few survivors still fighting for her freedom. But when she’s eventually captured and implanted with a host, Melanie’s consciousness fights back in an attempt to protect her loved ones from being hunted down.

WHY: Stephanie Myers received a lot of flak for the “Twilight” series, but this big screen adaptation of her latest novel makes those films look brilliant in comparison. As expected, there’s still plenty of brooding romance on display, but this time around, it takes the classic love triangle one step further by adding a fourth character to the mix. Unfortunately, director Andrew Niccol is unable to make either relationship even remotely interesting, namely because his attempts at creating romantic tension between the two guys and Melanie’s dueling minds fails miserably. It’s every bit as ridiculous as it sounds, and it doesn’t work on any level. In fact, nothing in the movie does, from the story’s gaping holes in logic (how did a peaceful, spore-like alien species take over a planet when they need to be surgically implanted in the body?), to the cardboard characters and rotten dialogue. It’s a mystery how actors like Ronan, Diane Kruger and William Hurt got involved in the project, because they’ve all proven that they’re much better than this tween romance garbage.

EXTRAS: The two-disc release includes an audio commentary with writer/director Andrew Niccol, author/producer Stephanie Meyer and producer Nick Wechsler, a making-of featurette and some deleted scenes.