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: After embarking on an international tour arranged by slick talent agent Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), Kermit the Frog is framed by his evil lookalike, Constantine, and shipped off to a Siberian prison. Meanwhile, Dominic and Constantine plot to steal a series of artifacts that will enable them to pull off the ultimate heist, using the Muppets’ tour to cover their tracks.
WHY: Like many people, I walked into “Muppets Most Wanted” convinced that it would be a colossal disappointment. But while this follow-up to the 2011 Muppets reboot starring Jason Segel doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, the movie comes surprisingly close. In addition to the screenplay by returning director James Bobin and co-writer Nicholas Stoller, which retains the Muppets’ trademark humor, charm and heart, Bret McKenzie provides half a dozen original songs that are incredibly witty and catchy, and among the film’s many highlights. The human co-stars aren’t as developed as Segel’s character, but Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey (as a Siberian prison guard) and Ty Burell (as a Jacques Clouseau-like Interpol agent) all fare remarkably well alongside their respective Muppet partners. If there’s one complaint, it’s that many of the supporting Muppets are relegated to the background in order to make room for all the new faces, though it certainly helps that Constantine is such a fun villain. It’s that sense of playfulness that makes “Muppets Most Wanted” such a success, and considering how bad things could have turned out, that’s a massive win for fans of Jim Henson’s felt-covered friends.
EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes an “unnecessarily extended” cut of the film, a blooper reel, music videos and some other goofy bits, but nothing really substantial.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is a dedicated family man and successful construction foreman, but on the eve of the biggest job of his career, he receives a phone call triggering a series of events that threaten to shatter his seemingly perfect life.
WHY: By far one of the most unique moviegoing experiences of the year, Steven Knight’s “Locke” takes a relatively simple premise and squeezes every last drop from its pulpy body, to the point that it’s actually quite incredible just how much the director was able to do with so little. The single-location setting is a bit gimmicky, but it serves a purpose as you watch the life of an otherwise decent man – literally trapped in a horrible situation but determined to make it right the only way he knows how – implode before your very eyes. It’s nothing short of heartbreaking at times, and although the supporting cast (including Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson and Andrew Scott, who appear as voices over the phone) is essential to making the film work, Tom Hardy is the heart and soul of the movie, delivering an absolutely brilliant performance that will leave you spellbound for the entirety of its taut 84-minute runtime. Though some of the plot turns feel contrived and it starts to drag in the final act, “Locke” is so immersive in its minimalistic approach that even the film’s flaws are more of a nuisance than a distraction.
EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by writer/director Steven Knight and a behind-the-scenes featurette on making the film.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is a manipulative and bigoted junkie who spends his days bullying coworkers and indulging in abusive sexual relationships. But while investigating the brutal murder of a Japanese exchange student, Bruce begins to suffer from intense hallucinations as his sanity slowly unravels.
WHY: With the exception of Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting,” filmmakers haven’t had much success in adapting author Irvine Welsh’s work for the big screen, though writer/director Jon S. Baird certainly comes close with the appropriately titled “Filth.” The movie has even drawn some comparisons to “Trainspotting,” even if the pitch-black comedy feels more like another book-to-film cult classic, “Fight Club.” To say anything further would only spoil the movie’s enjoyably bizarre surprises, but while there are some great moments littered throughout, “Filth” is never quite the sum of its parts. Despite a promising first act and a fantastic final 10 minutes, the film devolves into a mindless mess during the middle portion that it doesn’t fully recover from. James McAvoy is excellent as the misanthropic antagonist, delivering one of the best performances of his career, but the rest of the cast (including Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan and Jim Broadbent) is wasted in throwaway roles. The movie is also a little too experimental for my taste, and though it reaps big rewards from some of the risks that it takes, they’re not enough to offset the flaws. “Filth” is a fascinating and sometimes hilarious failure, but it’s a failure nonetheless.
EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Jon S. Baird and author Irvine Welsh, there’s a large collection of deleted scenes, some outtakes and a pair of featurettes focusing on James McAvoy’s character and the Christmas party scene.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: When the Riddler (Matthew Gray Gubler) steals a database of top secret information from government agent Amanda Waller (CCH Pounder), she assembles a group of supervillains – led by Deadshot (Neal McDonaugh) – to break into Arkham Asylum and retrieve it, only for Batman (Kevin Conroy) to crash the party.
WHY: DC Comics has been cranking out animated movies featuring its stable of heroes for several years now, so it was only a matter of time before some of its villains got a chance to step into the spotlight. But while centering a film on the bad guys may sound like a cool idea, it’s massively hampered by the fact that the Suicide Squad team is mostly comprised of D-list characters (like Killer Frost and Captain Boomerang) so obscure that they’re every bit as expendable as Waller claims them to be. Not even Deadshot or fan favorite Harley Quinn leaves much of an impression, so when The Joker makes his grand entrance in the final act, he steals the show without even trying. It also doesn’t help that despite its best intentions to exist as a Suicide Squad movie, Batman is always lurking in the shadows, and as a result, it’s hard to determine who exactly the audience is supposed to be rooting for. The animation and voice work is solid, and the slightly more adult tone is a welcome change of pace, but even at a brisk 76 minutes, “Batman: Assault on Arkham” isn’t nearly as enjoyable as its premise suggests.
EXTRAS: There’s a filmmaker commentary, there’s a pair of featurettes on Arkham Asylum and Harley Quinn, a sneak peek at the next DC Universe original movie, and four episodes from various DC Comics animated series.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP