Blu Tuesday: Get Hard, While We’re Young 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.

“Get Hard”

WHAT: When millionaire stockbroker James King (Will Ferrell) is arrested for illegal trading and sentenced to ten years in a maximum security prison, he hires Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart) – the owner of a car wash business whom James wrongly assumes is an ex-con – to prepare him for life behind bars, which proves more difficult than either one imagined.

WHY: Will Ferrell’s movie career isn’t what it used to be, so it was a really smart move to team up with Kevin Hart, the current king of the comedy box office, for his latest film. Though it’s not the most obvious pairing, they actually have some pretty good chemistry, even if the film doesn’t always know what to do with their partnership. Ferrell delivers one of his better comedic performances in quite some time, while Hart keeps his annoying outbursts to a minimum. The problem is that the jokes simply aren’t there. While the film is occasionally funny when Ferrell and Hart are allowed to let loose, the racial and homophobic humor doesn’t land quite as intended. The blatant stereotyping might be part of the message that “Get Hard” is trying to make, but director Etan Cohen doesn’t execute it particularly well. Additionally, the villains are absent for a majority of the movie, and the final act is nothing more than a hackneyed throwback to every buddy comedy from the ‘80s. “Get Hard” isn’t as bad as expected, but it’s still an incredibly uneven film that only fans of Ferrell and Hart will truly enjoy.

EXTRAS: In addition to some deleted scenes, alternate line readings and a gag reel, there are a number of short, mostly pointless featurettes on things like Will Ferrell’s wardrobe, John Mayer’s cameo and the white supremacist biker gang.


“While We’re Young”

WHAT: Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are happily married, but while all of their middle-aged friends are busy raising children, they’ve fallen into a comfortable rut both personally and professionally. So when they start hanging out with a much younger couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried), Josh and Cornelia can’t help but be charmed by their carefree lifestyle, only to discover that the couple may have ulterior motives.

WHY: After being disappointed by 2010’s “Greenberg” and downright incensed by 2012’s “Frances Ha,” my expectations were pretty low going into director Noah Baumbach’s latest film, so it’s with great pleasure to be proven wrong. Not only is “While We’re Young” the director’s best work since “The Squid and the Whale,” but it doesn’t contain nearly the same level of nastiness as his previous movies, despite treading very similar ground thematically. While some of the commentary and digital/analog comparisons between the two couples feels a little too on the nose, there are plenty of great comedic moments that arise from them, at least until the final act, when Baumbach’s story gets overly serious and starts to go off the rails. Ben Stiller’s character isn’t the most likable guy, but he’s not the annoying neurotic he played in “Greenberg” either, and that goes a long way in keeping him on the audience’s side when everything goes to shit in the final 20 minutes. It’s some of the actor’s finest work in years, and he receives excellent support from Adam Driver and Naomi Watts as well. “While We’re Young” is far from perfect, but it’s a refreshingly lighthearted (although no less honest and thoughtful) side to Baumbach that he should really showcase more often.

EXTRAS: There are six behind-the-scenes featurettes on the cast, director Noah Baumbach, working with Charles Grodin, the Ayahuasca ceremony sequence and more.


“The Gunman”

WHAT: Eight years after carrying out a political assassination in the Democratic Republic of Congo, former special ops agent Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) is forced to go on the run when he’s betrayed by an old comrade trying to erase any proof that the operation ever happened.

WHY: After Liam Neeson’s career resurgence as an action hero, it seemed like every middle-aged actor in Hollywood was searching for their own “Taken,” including Sean Penn, who took a very direct approach by teaming up with the film’s director, Pierre Morel, for this globe-trotting action-thriller. Unfortunately, while the genre is well-suited to Penn’s piercing intensity, “The Gunman” lacks the energy and entertainment value of “Taken.” For starters, the movie is surprisingly short on action. Though there are a handful of solid set pieces scattered throughout the film’s 116-minute runtime, it really drags in the middle, bogged down by an ancillary love story and a subplot about the disrupting effects of Jim’s years-old head trauma that’s totally unnecessary. It also lacks any genuine suspense and is far too serious for its own good. A movie like this would have benefited from a little levity, but the only thing remotely humorous about “The Gunman” is Javier Bardem’s awful performance as one of Jim’s colleagues from the DRC, whose ludicrously vindictive jealousy rivals most teenage girls. And between Bardem and the rest of the supporting cast, you won’t see a bigger waste of talent all year.

EXTRAS: Nothing. Nada. Zilch.


“Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter”

WHAT: After discovering a grainy VHS copy of “Fargo” in a cave, lonely Tokyo office worker Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) becomes convince that the movie’s buried suitcase of money actually exists. But when she travels to North Dakota in search of the treasure, she discovers that the line between reality and obsession is dangerously blurred.

WHY: Based on an alleged true story that, much like the 1996 crime drama that drives the plot of the film, turned out to be a complete work of fiction (an urban myth that was perpetuated by the media), the Zellner brothers’ “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter” is a strange case of art imitating life imitating art. It also makes for a more interesting story than what really happened, regardless of whether there’s any truth to it. The problem with the movie is that Kumiko isn’t the most pleasant character to follow around for nearly two hours. She’s either depressed, mentally ill or just really stupid, and while her passion and conviction are to be admired, you can only watch for so long before you want to reach through the screen and shake some sense into her. The stereotypical Midwestern characters that Kumiko meets along the way are even more annoying, especially when not a single one thinks to track down a translator to help with the language barrier. (A friendly sheriff does seek assistance from the owner of a Chinese restaurant, but that goes about as well as you’d expect.) Some well-placed moments of humor help to balance the film’s dreary tone, but for such a unique premise, “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter” never quite lives up to its full potential.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by actor/director/co-writer David Zellner, producer/co-writer Nathan Zellner and producer Chris Ohlson, as well as some deleted and alternate scenes.


“Last Knights”

WHAT: When their master (Morgan Freeman) is killed for defying the land’s evil emperor, a band of honor-bound knights led by grizzled commander Raiden (Clive Owen) seek revenge on the corrupt royal minister (Aksel Hennie) pulling his strings.

WHY: Despite boasting a pair of excellent actors in Clive Owen and Morgan Freeman, “Last Knights” is a disappointingly generic medieval fantasy flick that’s missing much of what makes the genre so enjoyable. Owen is well-cast as the weathered soldier-for-life, and Freeman makes the most of his limited screen time, but both men deserve better than this. Though they perform admirably with the material provided (especially Freeman, who could have easily phoned it in, collected his paycheck and called it a day), the movie is a terribly grim and gloomy affair that doesn’t even seem to find pleasure in its few action sequences. The supporting cast is basically just a bunch of glorified extras with maybe a dozen lines of dialogue split amongst them, while Aksel Hennie’s villain is so completely absurd that someone would have killed him long before his dispute with Raiden… and likely from within his own court. “Last Knights” is far from a terrible movie, but it is an incredibly mediocre one, and sometimes, that can prove to be even more damning, since it not only shows a lack of quality, but passion as well.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette, a behind-the-scenes look at the film’s special effects, and some interviews with the cast and crew.