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: Retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is trying to lead a quiet, domestic life with girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) when he learns that he’s being framed as a domestic terrorist involved in a ludicrous Cold War plot to sneak a portable WMD into Moscow. But it turns out the nuke is real, so Frank must team up with Marvin (John Malkovich) once again to recover the bomb and prove his innocence, all while being pursued by a deadly assassin.
WHY: Robert Schwentke’s “RED” was such a surprise hit at the box office that you can hardly blame Summit Entertainment for wanting to fast-track a sequel, and although it doesn’t quite pack the same punch as its predecessor, “RED 2” is still a lot of fun thanks to its star-studded cast, including series newcomers Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins. Like most sequels, it tries and fails at one-upping the original, and while the action isn’t as memorable this time around, it’s every bit as playful. “RED 2” also lacks the breezy pace of the first movie, instead bogged down by an overcomplicated plot for seemingly no other reason than to pack as much talent into the film as possible, but then again, that’s part of its charm. By all accounts, the movie shouldn’t be so entertaining – it’s formulaic, unfocused and almost too silly for its own good – but when you have a cast this great, having this much fun, it’s hard not to enjoy.
EXTRAS: There’s a four-part featurette called “The ‘RED 2’ Experience” that covers various aspects of the movie (from the cast, to weapons and stunts), some deleted scenes and a short gag reel.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: The story of Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher), tracking his journey from college dropout in the early 70s, to the founding of Apple Computers a few years later, to being forced out of the company in the mid-80s, to his eventual return and success as one of the most admired entrepreneurs of the 20th century.
WHY: There’s no doubt that Steve Jobs’ remarkable life is tailor-made for the movies, but it’s not really done justice in this slight biopic by Joshua Michael Stern, which would have felt more at home on the small screen. Perhaps a better title for the movie would have been “Apple Begins,” because it’s more about the rise (and fall) of the company than Jobs himself, although he obviously figures pretty heavily into the story. Ashton Kutcher does a solid job playing the Apple co-founder, and the rest of the cast is peppered with great actors like Josh Gad and Dermot Mulroney, but it never feels like Stern has a good enough handle on his subject, and as a result, Jobs is either portrayed as a visionary genius or an asshole perfectionist, with nothing in between. As a film about the creation of Apple, it’s a fairly interesting look behind-the-scenes of a tech start-up, but as story about Jobs the man, it falls disappointingly short.
EXTRAS: The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with director Joshua Michael Stern, a trio of short featurettes and some deleted scenes.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: Former race car driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) comes home to discover that his wife has been kidnapped. Instructed to steal a custom Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake and given a series of seemingly unrelated tasks to accomplish across the city, Brent is reluctantly helped by the young woman (Selena Gomez) whose car he just stole.
WHY: “Getaway” is every bit as generic as its title would suggest. It’s basically “Speed” meets “Taken” for gearheads, only not nearly as exciting. While there are some great car chase sequences over the course of its 90-minute runtime (most of the budget was probably spent on the stunt team and insurance), that’s pretty much the extent of the film’s positives. Everything that happens inside or away from the Shelby GT500 is terrible. The story is not only ludicrous, but it seems to be the last thing on director Courtney Solomon’s mind, giving the actors very little to work with. Ethan Hawke spends most of the movie looking intense and shifting the gearbox to death, while Selena Gomez has no choice but to be annoying with some of the dialogue she’s forced to repeat. “Getaway” is the kind of film where the main character proudly proclaims, “I’m not a killer,” and then proceeds to destroy everything in his path, likely murdering several people along the way. Fans of old-school car movies will get a kick out of the stunts, but that’s all it really is: one long stunt demo.
EXTRAS: There are five incredibly short (mostly car-related) behind-the-scenes featurettes that barely run a minute each.
FINAL VERDICT:: SKIP
WHAT: Small-time movie producer Christian (James Deen) has been dating Tara (Lindsay Lohan) for a year, engaged in a bizarrely open relationship that involves inviting strangers over to the house to have sex. But when he begins to suspect that she’s having an affair with Ryan (Nolan Funk), the lead of his new film project, he spirals out of control.
WHY: Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis have had their share of success over the years, but not even their reputations can mask the stink of “The Canyons,” a shallow erotic thriller best known for spurring the brilliant New York Times piece “This Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie.” To be fair, Lohan is the least of the film’s problems. While she doesn’t exactly deliver a good performance, the tabloid princess isn’t nearly as terrible as the rest of the acting in the movie, particularly porn star James Deen, though that’s hardly a surprise considering his regular day job. The only thing worse than Lohan’s co-stars is the script, which reads like something Ellis banged out during a booze-fueled bender over the weekend. “The Canyons” shares some similar themes with the author’s previous work, but it lacks the engaging characters and pitch black humor of novels like “American Psycho” and “Less Than Zero.” Unless you’re a fan of Schrader or Ellis, avoid this one at all costs. And even if you are, you should probably avoid it anyway.
EXTRAS: There’s a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes, but nothing else, unless you count the inclusion of the unrated director’s cut.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP