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: It’s been over 20 years since Gary King (Simon Pegg) and his high school friends embarked on a quest to finish The Golden Mile, a 12-pub crawl through their peaceful town of Newton Haven. Desperate to relive those glory days, Gary gets the gang back together under false pretensions to complete the illustrious pub crawl, only to inadvertently uncover a secret invasion by robot-like beings that have assimilated most of the town’s inhabitants.
WHY: For fans of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” the final installment in Edgar Wright’s Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy couldn’t come soon enough. Of course, it’s not even a real trilogy in the traditional sense, but any time that Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost join forces is cause for celebration. Best described as “The Big Chill” meets “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “The World’s End” is more of a group effort than their previous movies, with all five actors – Pegg, Frost, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan and Paddy Considine – in fine form. In fact, their chemistry is so good that some of the funniest scenes take place when they’re just sitting around the table talking. The action sequences, however, are pretty hit and miss, which is a shame considering Wright’s outstanding work in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” and the sci-fi setting seems to be working against the story at times. Still, while expectations were undoubtedly high for their third (and hopefully not last) cinematic outing, Wright, Pegg and Frost have produced another excellent comedy that, although it falls a little short of their previous films, still delivers all the laughs that we’ve come to expect from the trio.
EXTRAS: Following in the footsteps of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” Universal has packed this Blu-ray release with an unbelievable amount of bonus material, including three audio commentaries (one with Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, one with Wright and director of photography Bill Pope, and one with Pegg, Nick Frost and Paddy Considine), a U-Control storyboard picture-in-picture track, a 48-minute making-of featurette and a 28-minute stunt and FX featurette. There’s also a pop-up trivia track, 10 mini-featurettes covering various areas of production, deleted scenes, alternate takes, outtakes, a montage of the film’s hidden Easter eggs and more, if you can believe it.
FINAL VERDICT: BUY
WHAT: When DEA agent Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) and naval intelligence officer Michael Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) fail to infiltrate a Mexican drug cartel, they decide to rob a bank that they believe contains evidence incriminating the cartel’s boss. But the $42 million they make off with actually belongs to the CIA, and to make matters worse, neither one knows that the other is working undercover.
WHY: It’s hard to believe that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were originally tapped to play the two leads in this throwback to late 80s and early 90s buddy cop films, because while a lot of the dialogue sounds like it was written with the “Wedding Crashers” duo in mind, they’re not exactly convincing action stars. Credit to director Baltasar Kormakur, then, for casting Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in the roles instead, because while “2 Guns” is a pretty average action-comedy that’s riddled with decades-old clichés and plot holes, the actors make it much more enjoyable. Not only can they handle the physical stuff, but they’re also both incredibly charismatic, forming the kind of effortless rapport that directors only dream about. The rest of the cast isn’t quite as memorable – though Bill Paxton has some fun as a crooked CIA agent – and the plot is beyond ridiculous, but Washington and Wahlberg have such great chemistry that it’s just fun watching the odd couple bicker while blowing away bad guys.
EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary with director Baltasar Kormakur and producer Adam Siegel, a 30-minute making-of featurette and some deleted/extended scenes.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: After low-level drug dealer David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) loses his entire stash and personal savings to a group of thugs, his boss (Ed Helms) offers him the chance to make amends by smuggling a shipment of marijuana across the Mexican border. Knowing that he’ll draw attention on his own, David convinces his neighbors – stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston), dork Kenny (Will Poulter) and runaway Casey (Emma Roberts) – to pose as his fake family.
WHY: “We’re the Millers” is every bit as formulaic as the typical road trip movie, but the cast makes up for those generic story beats with some winning performances, and they all pull their weight equally. In fact, although Sudeikis is technically the film’s lead, he’s actually the weakest link of the bunch, relying too much on his one-note wisecracking to realize that he’s being outshined by the rest of his “family.” Aniston should tap into her naughty side more often, because the actress delivers one of her more enjoyable roles to date as the stripper-turned-housewife, while Poulter steals nearly every scene he’s in. What’s perhaps most surprising about the movie, however, is that the trailers haven’t ruined all the good bits, which is very telling of just funny the movie is at times. It’s also oddly sweet in the way that the Millers gradually evolve into a real family over the course of the film, even if you can see that twist coming from a mile away. Still, “We’re the Millers” could have been a lot worse, because though it drags on for a little too long, it’s one of the year’s better comedies.
EXTRAS: In addition to an extended cut of the movie featuring 9 minutes of new material, there’s a collection of behind-the-scenes featurettes, outtakes and some deleted scenes.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) has always lived by a strict plan – and for the most part, it’s paid off – but along the way, she forgot to have fun. So when she meets school hunk Rusty Waters (Scott Porter) at a graduation party, Brandy vows to become more sexually experienced before she heads off to college, and losing her virginity to Rusty is at the top of her list.
WHY: First-time writer/director Maggie Carey’s coming-of-sexual-age comedy is a lot better than its trailers would leave you to believe, but for every joke that lands, there are two more that fall flat. Carey embraces the film’s R rating with some pretty raunchy humor, but it feels like it’s trying too hard at times, and the overdependence on its 90s period setting for laughs gets old quick. Thankfully, the cast is filled with some really great comedians, particularly star Aubrey Plaza, who proves that she has what it takes to headline her own movie, and Bill Hader in a hilarious supporting role as her boss. Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele also earn some laughs as Plaza’s best friends, as does the always dependable Clark Gregg as her overprotective father. “The To Do List” is hardly this generation’s “Porky’s” or “American Pie,” but it’s still an entertaining teen sex comedy that’s refreshingly told from the woman’s point of view for once.
EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes an audio commentary with writer/director Maggie Carey and co-star Bill Hader, a trio of deleted scenes, a short gag reel and a montage of all the “naughty” language used in the film.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: After being released from prison on parole, ex-con Dennis (Paul Giamatti) attempts to go straight by taking a job selling Christmas trees in New York with former partner-in-crime Rene (Paul Rudd). Dennis hopes to make enough money to buy his estranged daughter a Christmas present, while Rene plans to use his earnings to marry Dennis’ ex-wife.
WHY: Phil Morrison is perhaps best known for directing the Oscar-nominated film “Junebug,” but any promise that he may have showcased with that movie has likely already been forgotten about between his little-seen follow-up “Perfect Partner” and this joyless black comedy. Despite the fact that it stars two of the most charismatic actors in Hollywood, “All Is Bright” is one of the gloomiest Christmas films ever made. Not even “Bad Santa” was a complete downer. For what it’s worth, Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd actually deliver fairly solid performances, but they’re hampered by a script that doesn’t give them much to work with, and though it’s supposed to be a story about redemption, neither character learns his lesson in the end – at least, not really. There are a few good laughs scattered throughout, and Sally Hawkins is always delightful (even when playing a heavily-accented Russian housekeeper), but “All Is Bright” is a pretty forgettable entry in the holiday movie playbook, which is probably why this is the first you’re hearing of it.
EXTRAS: Bah, humbug! Not even a lump of coal.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP