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: While on a routine trip around the Horn of Africa, Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) orders his crew to practice prevention tactics against possible hijackers, only for the drill to become a real-world situation when a group of Somali pirates (led by Barkhad Abdi) boards the commercial freighter and takes Phillips hostage.
WHY: Based on the incredible true story of the 2009 hijacking of an American-flagged cargo ship, “Captain Phillips” is a gripping hostage thriller that boasts some of the year’s finest performances. Director Paul Greengrass has a knack for dramatizing real-life events (as evidenced in “Bloody Sunday” and the excellent “United 93”), and that success continues here, throwing the audience right into the middle of the action docudrama-style in order to best capture the intensity of the situation. But while Greengrass excels at creating a sense of claustrophobic tension (especially once the story moves into the lifeboat, where he really ratchets up the suspense), it’s the acting that makes “Captain Phillips” work as well as it does. Barkhad Abdi is particularly impressive as the leader of the pirates, while Tom Hanks delivers his strongest performance in over a decade in the title role. The final five minutes alone pack such an emotional wallop that it should have guaranteed him another Oscar nomination, and his work throughout is a stark reminder why he’s one of the best actors in the business.
EXTRAS: In addition to an excellent audio commentary by director Paul Greengrass, there’s a three-part featurette running just under an hour long that tells you pretty much everything you’d want to know about the making of the movie.
FINAL VERDICT: BUY
WHAT: When her husband (Alec Baldwin) is arrested for investment fraud, New York socialite Jasmine French (Cate Blanchett) is forced to give up her glamorous lifestyle and go stay with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco. Mentally unstable and on a steady diet of booze and prescription drugs, Jasmine attempts to put her life back together, with disastrous results.
WHY: Woody Allen is one of the most prolific filmmakers in history, but it’s hard to maintain any level of quality with that sort of productivity, and moviegoers have witnessed the hit-and-miss nature of the director’s work first-hand over the past two decades. “Blue Jasmine” falls somewhere in between, mainly because it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be: a biting dark comedy or a drama. A modern-day retooling of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the movie has its share of laughs in the opening act, but it gets darker by the minute, especially since Blanchett’s character is more of a schizophrenic than the typical Allenesque neurotic. The problem with that, of course, is that Jasmine is a lot less likable as a result, and though the actress turns in a mostly good performance, it borders on parody at times. In fact, there aren’t many characters in the movie that are very likable, and that’s the biggest obstacle standing in the way of “Blue Jasmine” being as great as it could have been.
EXTRAS: Woody Allen movies are always light on bonus material, and this one is no different. Apart from a press conference featuring actors Cate Blanchett, Peter Sarsgaard and Andrew Dice Clay, there’s a brief collection of red carpet interviews.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: After his partner is killed by a crazed terrorist (Mel Gibson) with plans to start a global nuclear war, Machete (Danny Trejo) is recruited by the U.S. President (Carlos Estevez) to stop him. But with a $10 million bounty on his head, Machete must first fight his way through any army of deadly assassins.
WHY: I wasn’t a big fan of the first “Machete,” but it was still sort of fun in a cheesy B-movie kind of way. However, this half-baked sequel is not only incredibly stupid, but really boring, running an ungodly 108 minutes when it should have been closer to 80. The whole grindhouse fad has more or less been played out since the original film was released, and “Machete Kills” takes what was a funny gag in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 double-feature and made it into an almost completely joyless experience. Though the star-studded cast is even more impressive this time around, many of the actors are relegated to mere cameos, popping by for a scene or two, only to never be seen again. The decision to tease a third installment before the movie (and thus directly spoiling certain plot points) is especially idiotic, though someone no doubt thought it would be a good laugh. Unfortunately, there’s nothing funny about “Machete Kills,” save for Mel Gibson, who’s easily the best part… and that’s before he puts on the cape.
EXTRAS: The Blu-ray disc includes a making-of featurette and deleted scenes.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP
WHAT: Stressed out and suffering from unbearable stomach pain, Duncan (Ken Marino) agrees to see a hypnotherapist to uncover the root of the problem. But when he learns that a pint-sized demon is living in his intestine, forcing its way out through his anus to kill the people who’ve caused him anxiety, Duncan attempts to befriend it before any more harm is done.
WHY: If you’re wondering how someone made an entire movie about a demon that lives up a guy’s ass, well, you’re not alone. Though writer/director Jacob Vaughan certainly gets points for creativity, “Bad Milo!” is just as terrible as the schlocky ‘80s horror films (like “Ghoulies”) that it pays homage to with its low-budget creature effects. It’s actually pretty incredible that Vaughan managed to stretch this out into an 84-minute feature, because not a whole lot happens over the course of the movie’s rinse-and-repeat formula. Ken Marino spends most of the film bent over writhing in pain, while Gillian Jacobs is wasted as his incredibly understanding wife. But while “Bad Milo!” is meant to be a comedy, the laughs just aren’t there, save for a few chuckles thanks to Marino’s fully committed performance. However, it’s the attempt to make it all mean something (Milo is symbolic of Duncan’s fears of fatherhood) that sends it over the edge, because instead of a silly short film about a demon living up a guy’s ass, it becomes too serious for its own good.
EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes an audio commentary with the cast and crew, a pair of production featurettes, extended outtakes and two deleted scenes.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP