Blu Tuesday: The Walking Dead, Aloha 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 Walking Dead: The Complete Fifth Season”

WHAT: After escaping from Terminus, Rick Grimes and Co. find refuge in a rundown church as they’re hunted by their cannibalistic captives. But when Beth (Emily Kinney) is kidnapped amidst all the chaos, and Daryl (Norman Reedus) discovers that she’s being held hostage by another group of survivors in downtown Atlanta, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) assembles a team to rescue her, while the others investigate Eugene’s promise of a cure in Washington, D.C.

WHY: AMC’s habit of splitting each season of “The Walking Dead” into two halves has never been very popular among fans, but it actually worked pretty well with Season Five, because the first eight episodes are jam-packed with so much story that you need a break in between just to process everything. Though the hospital subplot is a completely new creation for the series, the rest of the season covers a lot of familiar ground from its pre-existing source material. Of course, with each new storyline comes plenty of new characters, and the show does a remarkably good job of juggling its large cast to keep everyone happy. The show’s most popular characters – Andrew Lincoln’s Rick, Norman Reedus’ Daryl and Melissa McBride’s Carol – are front and center as expected, and each actor delivers excellent work, but Emily Kinney (who gets perhaps the best sendoff arc yet) and newcomers Tovah Feldshuh and Ross Marquand also shine in supporting roles. Veteran cast members like Lauren Cohen are shoved to the sidelines as a result, but that’s all part of being on a show like “The Walking Dead,” which is just as much an ensemble piece as “Game of Thrones.” Though Season Five isn’t without its flaws (the handling of fan favorite Tyrese is especially poor), thanks to some great writing and interesting new dynamics among the core group, it’s easily one of the best, if not the best, seasons to date.

EXTRAS: In addition to cast and crew audio commentaries on six episodes, there are “Inside ‘The Walking Dead’” and “The Making of ‘The Walking Dead’” mini-featurettes for every episode, a behind-the-scenes look at constructing the Alexandria set, a pair of video diaries with actors Michael Cudlitz and Josh McDermitt, deleted scenes and more.

FINAL VERDICT: BUY

“Aloha”

WHAT: Military contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) returns to the site of his greatest career triumphs – Honolulu, Hawaii – to help billionaire communications mogul Carson Welch (Bill Murray) launch his latest satellite into space. Along the way, Brian reconnects with a former love (Rachel McAdams) who may not completely be over him, while falling hard for the spirited Air Force watchdog (Emma Stone) assigned to babysit him during his stay.

WHY: Cameron Crowe’s latest film came under a lot of fire following its release in theaters – some deserved and some not so much. Although it’s understandable why people would be upset over the supposed whitewashing casting of Emma Stone as mixed-race jet fighter Alison Ng, the whole point of her overeager character is that she desperately wants to be accepted by the islanders as one of their own (constantly informing people that she’s one-quarter Hawaiian) despite not really looking the part. The fact that so much attention was placed on this controversy is remarkable, because “Aloha” is such a complete disaster that there was plenty of other ammunition to choose from. For starters, the movie is all over the place, polluted with weird subplots that aren’t fully explained, an awkward love triangle that goes nowhere, and characters who are so poorly developed that you still don’t know what their purpose is to the story when it’s over. The cast looks just as confused most of the time, with Stone the only actor who comes away with any sort of dignity intact. “Aloha” isn’t the first time that Crowe has made a bad film, but this is easily his worst and most embarrassing failure yet.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary with writer/director Cameron Crowe, a feature-length making-of documentary titled “The Untitled Hawaii Project,” an alternate opening and ending, four featurettes, a gag reel and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Two Days, One Night”

WHAT: After she suffers a nervous breakdown and is forced to take time off from her job, Sandra (Marion Cotillard) discovers that while she was away, the company forced its staff to choose between receiving a €1,000 bonus or allowing Sandra to keep her position. When all but two co-workers vote for the bonus over Sandra, she’s given the weekend to convince the others to change their minds or risk being out of a job in a tough economic climate.

WHY: If you don’t get into a heated argument with somebody over “Two Days, One Night,” then writers/directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes haven’t done their jobs, because the film is basically one huge social experiment that, while fictional in nature, doesn’t make the content any less primed for debate. Though it seems ridiculous that anyone could be so heartless as to accept a one-time bonus with the knowledge that it would result in someone else losing their job, there are people in the world that are selfish enough to do just that. What’s really unbelievable about the premise, however, is that a company would actually present such an ultimatum to its workers. Though I’m hardly an expert on the Belgian government, aren’t their laws out there to prevent something like this from happening? And even if there aren’t, surely there’s a more inventive solution to the problem than making Sandra’s co-workers decide her fate. It’s manufactured conflict of the highest order, and the only thing that makes it tolerable is Marion Cotillard’s masterful, heart-breaking performance as the desperate woman forced to drive around town begging for the mercy of her co-workers. There aren’t many actresses working today better than Cotillard, and with “Two Days, One Night,” she manages to turn an otherwise mediocre and flawed film into something far more engrossing than it had any right to be.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes the 1979 documentary, “When Leon M.’s Boat Went Down the Meuse for the First Time,” interviews with directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes and actors Marion Cotillard and Fabrizio Rongione, a tour of the film’s key locations and a video essay by critic Kent Jones.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom!”

WHAT: Sick and tired of being defeated by the newly formed Justice League, evil genius Lex Luthor recruits some of the world’s greatest supervillains to form their own group, the Legion of Doom, and put an end to the likes of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman for good.

WHY: As the third installment in a continuing series of direct-to-video animated films starring LEGO versions of DC Comics’ most popular characters, “Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom!” proves that Warner Bros. has every intention of milking its relationship with the toy company for all it’s worth. But while there are some funny in-jokes for comic book fans and a dash of LEGO’s own playful humor, the movie is an otherwise slight and childish action-comedy that never comes close to realizing the full potential of the DC Universe. Obviously, the film is catered more towards younger audiences, so things need to be kept relatively simple, but would it have killed the filmmakers to make it at least a little more adult-friendly? After all, if “The LEGO Movie” taught us anything, it’s that adults enjoy this stuff too. Even more frustrating is the decision to use Cyborg as the audience’s guide through the story, not only because he’s the least interesting member of the group, but because it comes at the cost of more important characters like Wonder Woman, who’s treated with such blatant sexism that it’s amazing no one involved in the film noticed. These characters and the LEGO brand deserve better than this.

EXTRAS: There’s a featurette on the movie’s sound design, but that’s all.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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