Blu Tuesday: Boyhood, Get On Up 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.

“Boyhood”

WHAT: A coming-of-age tale that follows a boy named Mason Evans, Jr. (Ellar Coltrone) from grade school to his first day of college and examines his relationship with his divorced parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) as he matures into a young man.

WHY: In an industry driven by innovation, it’s incredible that no one thought to make a movie like “Boyhood” before Richard Linklater embarked on his 12-year journey, because it’s a really great idea with even better execution. A cinematic time capsule of sorts in that you’re essentially watching a kid (both the character and the actor playing him) grow up before your very eyes, the film has some very poignant things to say about adolescence, parenting and life in general. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke deliver a pair of solid performances as Mason’s divorced parents, but sadly, Ellar Coltrone is terrible as the main character, emitting almost no emotion throughout the course of the film. It’s always a gamble when you cast young actors for a lengthy project like this (the “Harry Potter” franchise was extremely lucky with all three leads), but you’d think that Coltrone would have at least gotten a little better over the years. He doesn’t, and that’s one of my biggest problems with the movie, which makes it a lot easier to admire than love as a result. There’s no question that “Boyhood” is a technical achievement and one-of-a-kind piece of filmmaking that demands to be seen, but whether it deserves the many accolades that have followed is debatable.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette called “The 12 Year Project” and a Q&A with writer/director Richard Linklater and the cast, but sadly, no audio commentary.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Get On Up”

WHAT: The rise of James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) from an impoverished child who was abandoned by his parents, to a young man in trouble with the law, to one of the most influential musicians in history.

WHY: As my colleague David Medsker said in his review of the film, “no one misses the biopic,” and he couldn’t have been more right. But if Hollywood was going to make a movie about any musical icon from the past 50 years, James Brown certainly made the most sense, not only because of his contributions to the industry, but because he’s a flashy, larger-than-life character with a catalog of catchy tunes. In fact, the musical sequences are the highlight of the film, but the whole thing wouldn’t work without Chadwick Boseman’s incredible performance as the Godfather of Soul, holding the audience’s attention even as the movie continuously jumps back and forth in time with a funked-up chronological order that would make Quentin Tarantino’s head spin. Though it’s nice to see someone stray from the usual biopic formula, it’s far too messy and difficult to follow, as if director Tate Taylor had so much great material to mine that he didn’t know how else to present it. And that’s the problem with “Get on Up”: it feels more like a greatest hits of classic James Brown moments than an examination of the artist himself, barely scratching the surface of what was clearly a very complex man.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Tate Taylor, there are some deleted/alternate scenes, full and extended song performances, and a series of short behind-the-scenes featurettes about the making of the movie.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“The Guest”

WHAT: A recently discharged soldier named David Collins (Dan Stevens) shows up at the doorstep of the Peterson household claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. But after he’s welcomed into their home, the family’s daughter (Maika Monroe) becomes suspicious of David following a sudden chain of murders in town.

WHY: After taking the festival circuit by storm with their home invasion thriller, “You’re Next,” the writer-director duo of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett seemed poised to deliver another cult classic with this low-budget genre flick. Many people would even argue that they’ve done just that, but while “The Guest” certainly had the potential to be great, it falls disappointingly short. The acting is pretty poor with the exception of Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”), who does an excellent job straddling the line between well-mannered nice guy and stone-cold killer. He’s the only thing that keeps the movie afloat, because although the first half builds some nice tension as David infiltrates the Peterson’s family dynamic, all of that hard work is wasted in the final act when it devolves into a silly B-movie that favors violence over subtlety, falling victim to the typical slasher film conventions with some incredibly strange and odd-placed moments of humor. I really wanted “The Guest” to be as good as everyone said it was, but it’s a fairly mediocre thriller that takes its leading man’s star-making performance for granted.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, some deleted scenes and an interview with star Dan Stevens.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Horns”

WHAT: Following his girlfriend’s (Juno Temple) mysterious death, Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) awakens to discover a pair of horns sprouting from his forehead. Blamed by the townspeople for the murder, Ig sets out to track down the real killer when he learns that his newfound horns have the power to compel people to confess their sins.

WHY: Based on the bestselling novel by Joe Hill (son of author Stephen King), “Horns” is a completely tonal mess, jumping between genres – from dark comedy, to gothic horror, to crime drama, to fantasy – with such sloppiness that it doesn’t seem like director Alexandre Aja and writer Keith Bunin have any idea what kind of film they want to make. It lacks direction both on the page and the screen, like a rough draft in need of some heavy edits. The killer’s identity is obvious by the end of the first act (just one of many predictable plot twists), while the gimmick of Ig’s demonic abilities wears out its welcome shortly after. It may have been a bit more enjoyable if it wasn’t such a slog to sit through, but the movie’s two-hour runtime kills any hope of that, despite a mostly solid performance from Daniel Radcliffe, who continues to challenge himself with interesting script choices post-Potter. Fans of Hill’s novel will claim that it’s much better than the film version, but if that’s the case, what the hell went wrong during the adaptation process for it to turn out as awful as this?

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette, but that’s all.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“No Good Deed”

WHAT: After he’s refused parole, a dangerous convict (Idris Elba) escapes from police transport and ends up on the doorstep of suburban housewife Terry (Taraji P. Henson) claiming car trouble. Terry agrees to let the stranger use her phone, but soon learns that no good deed goes unpunished when he invades her home and terrorizes her family.

WHY: “No Good Deed” is so stupid that it’s embarrassing. This is the kind of movie where the lead heroine does things that no one with a shred of common sense would ever consider, and yet we’re supposed to believe that she used to be a lawyer for the District Attorney’s office. That seems highly unlikely considering the number of idiotic decisions that she makes over the course of the film’s thankfully short runtime, as if she’s never seen a horror movie before in her life. The whole thing is so painful to watch unravel that it makes you wonder how a pair of talented actors like Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson could be attracted to this kind of garbage. The fact that a woman (Aimee Lagos) was responsible for writing such a dumb and helpless female character is especially disappointing, because it’s films like this that only endorse that negative stereotype. Of course, there would be no movie if Henson’s protagonist played it safe from the start, but “No Good Deed” is so atrociously bad that the world would be a better place if it had never been made at all.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray includes a trio of featurettes on production, filming the action sequences and the movie’s characters.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Girls: The Complete Third Season”

WHAT: After getting back together at the end of last season, Hanna (Lena Dunham) and Adam (Adam Driver) turn their focus to their professional lives when they receive some exciting job opportunities. Meanwhile, Marnie (Allison Williams) attempts to reinvent herself following a breakup with Charlie; Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) reevaluates her priorities after cheating on Ray (Alex Karpovsky); and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) checks into rehab.

WHY: Season Three isn’t nearly as excruciating as the previous season, but if you didn’t like “Girls” before, this batch of episodes isn’t going to change your mind. There are even a few that rival the cocaine bender and Patrick Wilson episodes in terms of sheer awfulness, including one in which Hannah’s mother and aunts are revealed to be just as annoying, self-centered and petty as her own circle of friends. The parallels are meant to be funny and a revelation of sorts for Hannah, but it only highlights everything that’s wrong about this show – namely, that everyone is a miserable bitch. Though it’s nice to see Hannah finally grow up a bit by taking a job at a high-profile magazine (even if it doesn’t end well), she’s still one of the worst characters on television, making it virtually impossible to root for her. At times, “Girls” is no better than reality TV shows like “The Real Housewives” or “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” and while it can be fun to hate-watch out of a morbid curiosity to see what kind of ridiculous shenanigans they get up to next, that’s no way to watch TV, even a show as frustrating as this one.

EXTRAS: There are audio commentaries with the cast and crew, a making-of featurette, an hour of deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, “Inside the Episodes” featurettes, and much more, including Marnie’s hilariously bad “What I Am” video.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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