Blu Tuesday: Spectre, Crimson Peak 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.

“Spectre”

WHAT: When he receives a cryptic message from the recently deceased M (Judi Dench), James Bond (Daniel Craig) goes on an unsanctioned mission to bring down the terrorist organization known as Spectre, whose enigmatic boss (Christoph Waltz) shares a deep connection with the secret agent.

WHY: Director Sam Mendes should have trusted his first instinct and called it quits after “Skyfall,” because while that movie was always going to be difficult to top, “Spectre” doesn’t even come close. Though it hits all the beats of a typical Bond adventure, it feels like it’s just going through the motions. Daniel Craig looks bored for most of its bloated 150-minute runtime, while Christoph Waltz is wasted in a role more concerned with hiding his identity than properly integrating him into the story. The sole highlight is Léa Seydoux, who plays one of the more intriguing Bond girls in recent times; she’s sexy, smart and can take care of herself. Unfortunately, she doesn’t arrive until the second half, at which point you’ll likely have already tuned out. One of the running themes in “Spectre” is that Bond has become obsolete, and it applies to the production as well, because while Craig may have helped usher in a new era of the franchise, he nearly undoes all that hard work with this listless installment.

EXTRAS: There’s a featurette on shooting the opening sequence and a series of video blogs about director Sam Mendes, the cars, the action and more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Crimson Peak”

WHAT: After she’s whisked away to England to live with charming baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his ice-cold sister (Jessica Chastain) in their crumbling mansion, young American heiress Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) uncovers terrible secrets about the Sharpe family history when tortured apparitions begin to haunt

WHY: It’s no secret that Guillermo del Toro has a slightly deranged imagination, but there’s a beauty to his madness that flows through all of his movies, none more so than “Crimson Peak,” which delivers a different kind of horror from the typical haunted house story. Though the film drags a bit in the first hour, it picks up considerably in the latter half thanks to the chemistry between its three leads. Jessica Chastain is particularly good as the villain, digging into her juicy role with a quiet intensity that could have easily devolved into camp. However, the movie’s real MVP is the mansion itself, a remarkable piece of craftsmanship that highlights del Toro’s visually distinct style and functions as its own character. “Crimson Peak” could have been better if del Toro paid as much attention to the story as the lavish costumes and production design, but it’s an enjoyable piece of gothic horror that adds a dash of prestige and sophistication to a genre not usually known for those qualities.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director/co-writer Guillermo del Toro, there’s a making-of featurette, interviews with the cast, additional featurettes on costumes, make-up effects and production design, a tour of Allerdale Hall and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Falling Skies: The Complete Series”

(Disclaimer: This title was released last week, but we didn’t receive review material in time.)

WHAT: Following an alien invasion, the 2nd Massachusetts Militia Regiment – a small group of resistance fighters and citizens led by former history professor Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) – try to survive the post-apocalyptic landscape in order to take back their planet.

WHY: Say what you will about the quality of the show itself, but “Falling Skies” features some impressive visual effects (a clever blend of practical and CGI) for a basic cable series produced on a seemingly low budget. The aliens, in particular, look really good thanks to the unique creature designs for each species. Of course, it takes more than flashy special effects and the name recognition of co-creator Steven Spielberg to make a great sci-fi drama. Though it functions as a fairly entertaining guilty pleasure in the first three seasons, “Falling Skies” goes downhill in its final two years as the writing becomes increasingly inconsistent and creatively bankrupt, constantly upping the stakes with ridiculous plot twists. The ensemble cast does a decent job with the material they’re provided – Noah Wyle, Will Patton and Colin Cunningham are among the standouts – but while “Falling Skies” delivers a refreshing take on a familiar premise by setting the story in the aftermath of the invasion, it eventually sputters out in the end.

EXTRAS: While there’s no new bonus material exclusive to the set, it does include all of the previous extras from the season releases, including audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, cast and crew interviews, and more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Love the Coopers”

WHAT: Four generations of the Cooper family – including long-married couple Sam (John Goodman) and Charlotte (Diane Keaton), their children Hank (Ed Helms) and Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), and Charlotte’s father, Bucky (Alan Arkin) – reunite for their annual Christmas Eve celebration, with plenty of emotional baggage in tow.

WHY: “Love the Coopers” desperately wants to be the next “Love Actually,” but whereas Richard Curtis’ 2003 holiday classic featured a series of interconnected stories that the audience actually cared about, there’s not a single interesting storyline in this miserable and humorless Christmas “comedy” – at least not one developed enough to fully invest in. Every character’s arc feels cheap and unearned, while the omniscient narrator (who happens to be the family dog, voiced by Steve Martin) is such a stupid plot device that it’s hard to believe director Jessie Nelson was able to attract this much talent. None of the actors are able to elevate the material despite their best efforts, although Olivia Wilde and Jake Lacy fare better than the rest. Even more disappointing is the fact that we hardly get to see the ensemble cast interact as a family, because while “Love the Coopers” has its heart in the right place, it’s a poorly written mess that would have been better suited for the Hallmark Channel.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette, some on-set antics and more.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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