Blu Tuesday: The Drop, Lucy 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.

“The Drop”

WHAT: When the Chechen-owned drop bar that he works at is robbed by a pair of amateur thieves, well-meaning bartender Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) and his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) are tasked with finding those responsible. Meanwhile, Bob finds a wounded pit bull in a trash can and decides to adopt it, but when the previous owner (Matthias Schoenaerts) resurfaces looking for trouble, he must decide how far he’s willing to go to protect the mutt and the woman (Noomi Rapace) helping him care for it.

WHY: Adapted by esteemed crime writer Dennis Lehane from his own short story, “The Drop” doesn’t have the same cynicism as past adaptions of the author’s work, but it’s a grimy little crime drama that harkens back to the great Sidney Lumet films of the 1970s. This is a movie that places mood and character above all else, and though it comes with the undesirable label of being James Gandolfini’s final screen appearance, “The Drop” is a well-paced and expertly acted film that serves as a fitting end to one actor’s career and the exciting emergence of another. Gandolfini shines as the wannabe tough guy who thinks he deserves more respect than he gets, but this is Hardy’s movie through and through, delivering an unusually subdued turn that becomes more impressive by the minute as he carefully peels back each layer of his character. Director Michaël R. Roskam and Lehane also deserve a lot of credit for their respective parts in crafting the movie, because although it hits all the familiar beats of a slow-burning crime thriller, there are just enough small nuances that allow it to stand on its own. Hollywood doesn’t make too many movies like this anymore, but “The Drop” is a perfect example of why it should.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Michaël R. Roskam and author Dennis Lehane, there’s a collection of deleted scenes with option commentary and five production featurettes, including a profile on the late James Gandolfini.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Lucy”

WHAT: An American student (Scarlett Johansson) living in Taiwan is forced to become a drug mule for the mob. But when the experimental substance implanted in her stomach accidentally leaks into her system, it grants her the capacity to tap into her brain’s full potential and unlock new abilities.

WHY: On the surface, “Lucy” sounds like a typical Luc Besson film, complete with a kickass heroine and goofy premise. But while the movie starts off that way, it eventually devolves into a metaphysical mess that’s equal parts “Tree of Life,” “Limitless” and “Transcendence,” with a not-so-subtle nod to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Though Besson is clearly intent on exploring deeper, philosophical themes with “Lucy,” he doesn’t seem to know what they are, or at the very least, able to convey them in a manner that doesn’t come across as just a bunch of gobbledygook tacked on at the end of a lifeless action thriller. The material prevents Johansson from doing anything other than look like a deer in headlights for 90 minutes, while Choi Min-sik is wasted as the one-dimensional villain and Morgan Freeman’s only purpose is to explain all the bullshit sciencey stuff. The film is also surprisingly short on action, which makes you question why Besson felt the need to package it like one of his usual genre movies at all, because although it’s nice to see the director stepping out of his comfort zone and taking bigger risks narratively, the problem with “Lucy” is that it none of it really works.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette and a look at the science behind the film, namely the debate about the idea that humans only use 10 percent of their brains.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“The Boxtrolls”

WHAT: A race of trash-collecting builders called Boxtrolls are forced into hiding after a charlatan named Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) blames them for the disappearance of a local baby and strikes a deal with the elite White Hats to eliminate the Boxtrolls in exchange for entry into their exclusive social circle. But what the townspeople don’t realize is that missing child is alive and well, raised by the Boxtrolls as one of their own. Now a fully-grown boy, Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) must venture into the city to rescue his friends and expose Snatcher’s devious plan.

WHY: Pixar may get all the love, but over the last five years, Laika Studios has come into its own as a company that you can usually expect great things from. Not only has the animation house breathed new life into the underappreciated art of stop-motion, but they’ve done so with an offbeat style unlike any of their competitors. That Burton-esque spirit is alive and well in “The Boxtrolls,” but sadly, that’s about it. The studio’s latest film is an uncharacteristic misfire lacking the charm, wit and heart of its previous efforts, and although it has moments of brilliance, they’re buried beneath an uninspired script that left me feeling cold and indifferent. Adapted from Alan Snow’s “Here Be Monsters” book series, the story simply isn’t interesting enough to withstand its 97-minute runtime. It feels like a collage of much better movies funneled through a grotesque storybook world of discarded concept art, with hardly any interesting characters apart from Snatcher’s henchman, voiced by the very funny Nick Frost and Richard Ayoade. “The Boxtrolls” isn’t so much terrible as it is pedestrian and unmemorable, but it’s a disappointment no matter how you slice it.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes an audio commentary with directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, a making-of documentary, five additional behind-the-scenes featurettes, and preliminary animatics for deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Annabelle”

WHAT: After their home is invaded by satanic cultists, a young couple (Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton) begins to experience supernatural events believed to be connected to a vintage doll serving as the conduit for a soul-seeking demon.

WHY: It’s not often that a horror movie finds success both critically and commercially, but “The Conjuring” is without a doubt one of the best horror films of the past 20 years, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t much care for the genre. Though a sequel was only inevitable (it’s currently scheduled for 2016), the studio clearly didn’t want to wait that long to jump on the gravy train, fast-tracking a spinoff based on the creepy Annabelle doll featured in the movie. Unfortunately, even with James Wan involved as a producer, and his longtime cinematographer, John R. Leonetti, stepping in behind the camera, “Annabelle” is a boring mess plagued by bad acting and an unoriginal script that blatantly steals from better films like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Omen.” Part of the problem is that the Annabelle doll isn’t interesting enough to carry her own movie, but more than anything else, it simply isn’t scary. There’s only one genuinely frightening moment in the film, and it doesn’t even involve the titular doll, which sort of defeats the purpose. A smart person would lock Annabelle in a chest filled with concrete blocks and sink that sucker to the bottom of the ocean, but if audiences have learned anything about dumb horror movies like this, it’s that those kinds of people don’t exist.

EXTRAS: There are over 20 minutes of deleted scenes and four featurettes covering things like production design, make-up effects and filming a particular sequence.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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