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Blu Tuesday: Pacific Rim, The Heat 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.

“Pacific Rim”

WHAT: Set in the not-too-distant future, giant beasts called kaiju have emerged from an inter-dimensional rift below the Pacific Ocean to wreak havoc on the planet. In response, the world’s governments came together to build giant robots called jaegers to combat these monsters, but when the program is shut down, commanding officer Marshall Pentecost (Idris Elba) recruits a retired pilot named Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) to spearhead one final attack in the fight for humanity’s survival.

WHY:Pacific Rim” is about as close to a Transformers/Godzilla mash-up as you’ll ever see, so it’s not surprising why fanboys were quick to jump on the bandwagon of Guillermo del Toro’s latest film. But while the marketing campaign focused almost entirely on the robots vs. monsters angle, the action is a pretty big letdown. While it’s hard to deny the gleeful sensation of watching giant robots pummel giant monsters, it starts to get a little repetitive and would have benefited greatly from more distinct battles and creatures. As it is, every major fight sequence takes place either at night in the pouring rain, or underwater where it’s just as murky, and that makes it really difficult to see things clearly, especially when del Toro relies so heavily on extreme close-ups and quick cuts. After all, if you’re going to promise robots vs. monsters, then you should at least be able to make out what’s going on. There’s more than enough CGI-fueled destruction on display to categorize “Pacific Rim” as a fun popcorn flick, but it’s lacking the substance that you would normally expect from a filmmaker like del Toro.

EXTRAS: The two-disc set includes an audio commentary by director Guillermo del Toro, five Focus Points featurettes, deleted scenes and a blooper reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“The Heat”

WHAT: Straight-laced FBI agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is up for a big promotion, but while she’s the perfect candidate on paper, Sarah hasn’t earned the respect of her peers. To prove that she’s a team player and the right person for the job, Sarah’s boss (Demian Bichir) sends her to Boston, where she must partner up with an uncouth and unconventional local detective named Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) to bring down a ruthless drug lord.

WHY: Though fans of “Bridesmaids” will likely enjoy Paul Feig’s latest R-rated romp with Melissa McCarthy, anyone that wasn’t already sick and tired of the actress definitely will be after sitting through two more hours of her annoyingly boorish and over-the-top brand of humor. “Identity Thief” should have been the final nail in the coffin of America’s love affair with McCarthy, but if her irritating performance in “The Heat” doesn’t put an end to that reign, then the moviegoing public deserves more lowbrow comedies just like it. “Bridesmaids” may be overrated, but at least it has some genuine moments of laughter and a decent story at its core. “The Heat,” meanwhile, never merits more than a few chuckles, and a major reason for that is the overdependence on McCarthy’s loud-mouthed buffoon. It’s supposed to be hilarious, except that it’s not. You know what would have been funny? If Sandra Bullock and McCarthy had switched roles. At least then we could have seen both actresses do something a little different for once, and it probably would have led to a more entertaining movie. Instead, we got “Miss Congeniality 3: Boston Boogaloo.”

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Paul Feig and star Melissa McCarthy, the Blu-ray includes a making-of featurette, a collection of deleted and extended scenes, two more commentary tracks (one with the original “Mystery Science Theater 3000” guys and another with the Mullins family), a blooper reel and more.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Drug War”

WHAT: Manufacturing just 50 grams of meth in China will earn you a death sentence, so when drug kingpin Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) is arrested after one of his meth labs explodes, he’s coerced by police captain Zhang Lei (Sun Honglei) into turning informant to avoid execution.

WHY: Johnnie To is arguably one of the greatest directors working in all of Asia, Hong Kong or otherwise. His films are generally several steps above the typical production, and “Drug War” is no exception. There’s a reason that his latest crime thriller has drawn comparisons to HBO’s “The Wire,” because it’s a smart and well-paced procedural that makes every character feel like an essential part of the team. It also happens to boast a pair of excellent gunfights in the latter half, although they feel a little out of place compared to the rest of the movie. Sun Honglei is excellent as the charismatic police captain (essentially playing multiple roles as part of the undercover sting), while Louis Koo delivers solid work as the meth maker who would do anything to save himself. “Drug War” is better than most of the Hollywood films released so far this year, and were it not for the senseless bloodbath that the movie ends on, it might have even been one of the best.

EXTRAS: Sadly, this Blu-ray is about as barebones as it gets.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Maniac”

WHAT: A mannequin store owner (Elijah Wood) with some serious mommy issues agrees to help a young photographer (Nora Arnezeder) who shares an appreciation of his craft with her upcoming exhibition. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that the mysterious stranger also has another hobby: stalking and killing women, and then taking their scalps as his trophies.

WHY: Though I’ve never seen the 1980 cult classic on which it’s based, director Franck Khalfoun’s 2013 update is pure exploitation trash of the highest degree. The idea of shooting the movie from the point of view of the killer may sound like a novel idea, but the gimmick grows old fast, and even Khalfoun becomes so bored by it that he breaks his own rules a few times. After all, there are only so many ways of showing Wood’s character in a reflection before you start to feel the limitations of the POV style, and although the film is only 88 minutes long, it’s a bit of a slog. That’s because you don’t really care about the killer or any of his dumb victims, and the idea that anyone could actually enjoy this sick and twisted voyeuristic serial killer fantasy is more worrying than the fact that it’s so poorly made.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary with director Franck Khalfoun and actor Elijah Wood, there’s a making-of featurette and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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