Blu Tuesday: The Flash, Arrow 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 Flash: The Complete First Season”

WHAT: When Central City forensic investigator Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) gains super-human speed after he’s struck by electricity during a failed science experiment, he teams up with Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) and his two assistants – Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) – to stop criminals and other “metahumans” created from the explosion who don’t use their powers for good.

WHY: The idea of a “Flash” TV series didn’t sound very promising when the Barry Allen character was initially introduced in the second season of “Arrow,” but co-creator Greg Bertlanti quickly proved me wrong by delivering an immensely enjoyable (and much lighter) superhero drama that only got better as the season progressed. Much like its sister show, “The Flash” thrives primarily due to its awesome ensemble; everyone has a purpose, and they all bounce off one another incredibly well. Grant Gustin is perfectly cast as the titular hero, Tom Cavanagh handles the dual role of mentor and villain with ease, and Carlos Valdes provides great comic relief as the Q-like inventor/superhero expert of the group. Even the villains aren’t nearly as cheesy as they could have been, with Cavanagh’s Reverse-Flash, Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold and Mark Hamill’s return as the Trickster among the standouts. The romantic subplot between Barry and childhood friend Iris West (Candice Patton) suffers from the same problems that plagued the first season of “Arrow” (namely, it’s just not as interesting as the superhero stuff), but “Flash” makes up for it with some sci-fi heavy mythology that isn’t afraid of alienating viewers by leaning on its comic book roots.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes an audio commentary by executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg on the pilot episode, four production featurettes, footage from DC Comics Night at Comic-Con 2014, deleted scenes and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Arrow: The Complete Third Season”

WHAT: After defeating Slade Wilson and being accepted as a hero by the citizens of Starling City, Oliver Queen/The Arrow (Stephen Amell) struggles to keep his family together while facing off against a terrible new threat in the form of Ra’s al Ghul (Matthew Nable). Meanwhile, Laurel (Katie Cassidy) assumes the mantle of Black Canary after Sara is brutally murdered, Thea (Willa Holland) begins her training under Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), and Queen Consolidated is taken over by wealthy businessman/aspiring hero Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh).

WHY: Despite making some huge strides in its sophomore year, “Arrow” suffered a bit of a slump during Season Three due to a number of factors. Though the superhero drama has had a problem maintaining the same level of energy and quality over the course of each 22-episode season, it’s especially noticeable here, in large part because the accompanying flashback storyline (which trades the deserted island setting for Hong Kong) isn’t very compelling. Additionally, the show’s insistence on making nearly everyone in Oliver’s life a crime-fighting member of Team Arrow not only defies logic (there’s no way Laurel, Roy and Thea got that good in such a short amount of time), but gives Oliver less to do as a result. Laurel, in particular, is so lame as the new Black Canary that it’s almost as if the writers were trying to find ways to make her character even more annoying. Thankfully, Season Three isn’t a complete disaster. The group dynamic remains one of its best assets, the crossover episodes with the Flash are a lot of fun, and both Brandon Routh and Matthew Nable prove strong additions to the cast. “Arrow” doesn’t play to its strengths as often as it should, but when it does, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better comic book show on TV, other than “The Flash,” of course.

EXTRAS: The four-disc set includes a pair of audio commentaries by executive producers Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle, featurettes on costume and production design, a behind-the-scenes look at the Atom’s first fight, deleted scenes and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Pitch Perfect 2”

WHAT: After the Barden Bellas are suspended following a humiliating performance that lands them in hot water with the collegiate a cappella association, the all-female group uses a loophole in the bylaws to enter the World Championships (a competition that no American team has ever won) in order to restore the Bella’s reputation and preserve the future of their sisterhood.

WHY: The first “Pitch Perfect” was one of the sleeper hits of 2012, and while it was only inevitable that Universal would want to cash in on that success, it’s not exactly the kind of movie that calls for a sequel. Of course, that didn’t stop them from making one anyway, but despite being shepherded by returning writer Kay Cannon and producer/co-star Elizabeth Banks (making her directorial debut), “Pitch Perfect 2” never reaches the same heights as the original. The film is incredibly unfocused, juggling so many different subplots that it never seems entirely sure who the main protagonist is supposed to be (reluctant leader Beca, new recruit Emily or comic relief Fat Amy), and all three characters end up being underserved as a result. The rest of the group is even more one-dimensional than before, including a Latina member who’s basically a walking immigration joke, while the Treblemakers are relegated to a footnote. “Pitch Perfect 2” isn’t a total disappointment, though. German rivals Das Sound Machine make for great villains, and as expected, the musical numbers are the highlight, even if Banks leans on them a little too heavily. There are also enough laughs and fun cameos to keep you entertained for the majority of its overlong two-hour runtime, but as is the case with most sequels, it’s just not as good.

EXTRAS: There’s a collection of featurettes covering a range of topics (including profiles on director Elizabeth Banks and co-star Hailee Steinfeld, Snoop Dogg’s cameo and staging the Riff-Off), as well some extended musical numbers, a never-before-seen Treblemakers performance, deleted scenes, alternate line readings and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Moonrise Kingdom”

WHAT: Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, a pair of 12-year-old kids (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) fall in love and decide to run away together. As various authorities – including the boy’s Khaki Scout troop leader (Edward Norton), the local sheriff (Bruce Willis) and a social worker (Tilda Swinton) – turn the town upside down trying to find them, a violent storm brews in the background.

WHY: Though Wes Anderson has done the precocious kid thing before with “Rushmore,” the writer/director’s 2012 comedy (which is being re-released as part of the Criterion Collection like his other movies) features all of the usual keystones of an Anderson production – quirky characters, gorgeous cinematography, excellent production design and a folk/rock soundtrack – while still managing to feel totally original. All of those elements play a part in the movie’s success, but it ultimately comes down to two things: the sweet and clever screenplay by Anderson and Roman Coppola (who also co-wrote the underrated “The Darjeeling Limited”) and the fantastic ensemble cast. While the adult actors turn in some really funny performances, especially Edward Norton and Bruce Willis in their first Anderson film, it’s newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward who steal the show as the adolescent runaway lovers. “Moonrise Kingdom” still ranks below “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “The Royal Tenenbaums” on my list of the director’s best movies, but it’s definitely one of his more enjoyable and accessible films to date. And just like the rest of his filmography, it only gets better with additional viewings.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director/co-writer Wes Anderson, co-writer Roman Coppola and stars Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, there’s a making-of documentary, interviews with the cast and crew, Norton’s home videos from the set, storyboard animatics, audition footage and more.

FINAL VERDICT: BUY

  

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