Blu Tuesday: Sicario, The Walk 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.

“Sicario”

WHAT: FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is recruited by a government task force led by Department of Defense consultant Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to help bring down a Mexican drug cartel whose grisly business has bled over into the U.S. But Graver and his mysterious colleague, Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), operate under a completely different set of rules, leading Kate to wonder what she’s gotten herself into.

WHY: “Sicario” isn’t the first movie to tackle the illegal drug trade along the U.S.-Mexico border, but it’s easily one of the best, a relentlessly suspenseful crime thriller that offers a merciless look behind the curtain of the real War on Drugs. The film rarely takes its foot off the gas, continuing director Denis Villeneuve’s excellent form with a masterclass in building tension that will tie your stomach in knots. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is as stunning as ever, somehow finding the beauty in an ugly situation, but it’s the performances from the three leads that really elevate the material. Benicio Del Toro is especially good, delivering his best work in over a decade as the silent but deadly consultant – a veritable wolf in sheep’s clothing who eventually bares his teeth and claws in the explosive final act. Though a few missteps prevent “Sicario” from true greatness, it’s an outstanding, white-knuckle thriller that will leave you mentally and physically exhausted in the best way.

EXTRAS: There’s a trio of featurettes on the film’s origins, its visual design and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score, as well as some interviews with the cast and crew.

FINAL VERDICT: BUY

“The Walk”

WHAT: When Paris street performer Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sees a concept photo of the Twin Towers in a magazine, he immediately becomes obsessed with walking between them on a high wire. Several years later, Philippe’s dream comes true when he travels to New York City with a small team of conspirators and they sneak into the under-construction buildings to pull off the artistic crime of the century.

WHY: Philippe Petit’s death-defying walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on August 7, 1974 was previously spotlighted in James Marsh’s Oscar-winning documentary, “Man on Wire.” But for as compelling as that film was, it lacked a key element: actual footage of Petit’s performance. Recognizing an opportunity to recreate that once-in-a-lifetime moment on the big screen, director Robert Zemeckis gives Petit’s famous high-wire act the Hollywood treatment with this adaptation of the unbelievable true story. Though “The Walk” is far from a perfect movie – the fourth-wall-breaking narration is distracting and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s cartoonish French accent takes some getting used – when it’s time to deliver the goods, Zemeckis doesn’t disappoint. The planning and execution of the “heist” makes for some thrilling moments, but it’s the titular climax that’s the obvious highlight, and Zemeckis squeezes every drop of tension and delight out of it, redefining the phrase “end on a high note” with a sequence that will leave you breathless and wanting more.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes featurettes on the film’s visual effects, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s wire-walking training and the supporting cast, as well as a handful of deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Infinitely Polar Bear”

WHAT: A manic-depressive father (Mark Ruffalo) agrees to become the primary caregiver for his two children (Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide) when his wife (Zoe Saldana) is accepted into an out-of-state graduate program.

WHY: Mental illnesses like bipolar disorder are very serious, which is why it seems a bit disrespectful of Maya Forbes’s “Infinitely Polar Bear” to make such light of the subject. Though the indie drama doesn’t hide the difficulties of living with someone suffering from the illness, it too often relies on humor to shrug off the dark emotional moments that are constantly being teased. There’s a yo-yo effect to the movie that prevents the characters from ever really growing, bouncing from one extreme to the next without actually showing signs of improvement. The two daughters, in particular, are such little monsters that it’s no wonder why their father keeps having mental breakdowns; they’re old enough to know better, yet they constantly push his buttons. Mark Ruffalo delivers a solid performance as the father struggling to keep his family together despite being the source of their problems, but it’s ultimately overshadowed by a tone-deaf script that isn’t exactly sure what kind of movie it wants to be.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Maya Forbes, producer Wally Wolodarsky and star Mark Ruffalo, there’s a cast and crew Q&A from the LA Film Festival and deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“The Visit”

WHAT: After agreeing to visit their grandparents on their secluded farm for the week, Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) discover that something isn’t right with the elderly couple when they begin to exhibit increasingly strange behavior.

WHY: M. Night Shyamalan’s career has been circling the drain for the better part of a decade, so it’s not surprising to see him reduced to making found-footage horror movies like “The Visit.” What is surprising, however, is that many critics were quick to label his latest film as a return to form (a statement that several will probably regret upon second viewing), because there’s nothing about the movie that suggests Shyamalan has learned from his past mistakes, particularly the awful script. In addition to featuring two of the most insufferable horror protagonists in recent memory – pretentious wannabe filmmaker Becca and freestyle rapping dweeb Tyler – the story is incredibly boring and even unintentionally funny at times. And save for a cheap jump scare or two, it isn’t very frightening either. Though “The Visit” does have a pretty decent twist, it hardly makes up for the mostly uneventful 85 minutes that precede it. This might not be Shyamalan’s worst effort, but it definitely belongs in the conversation.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette, an alternate ending and deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”

WHAT: When their town suddenly becomes overrun by flesh-eating zombies, lifelong friends Ben (Ty Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller) and Augie (Joey Morgan) team up with a badass cocktail waitress (Sarah Dumont) to save mankind using their scouting skills.

WHY: Christopher Landon’s “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” desperately wants to be the next great horror/comedy, but while it boasts some great gore effects and inventive kills, the film is disappointingly short on laughs, despite being clearly influenced by cult classics like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Zombieland.” Not only does the story take nearly 30 minutes to get going, but just when it seems to be finally embracing its fun premise, the movie is undone by an over-reliance on vulgar, juvenile humor and some truly annoying characters. Tye Sheridan’s Ben is the only tolerable member of the main trio, and though the actor scores some laughs thanks to his deadpan performance (including a moment of emasculated genius during one of the funniest/grossest scenes of last year), it’s not enough to conceal the film’s many flaws. “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” could have been really entertaining, but as it stands, it will likely only appeal to teenage boys and anyone else who still hasn’t grown up.

EXTRAS: There’s a short making-of featurette, additional featurettes on makeup effects, costume design and zombie choreography, as well as some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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