Blu Tuesday: The Hateful Eight 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 Hateful Eight”

WHAT: In post-Civil War Wyoming, renowned bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) is forced to take shelter at a haberdashery in the mountains when a blizzard prevents him from transporting wanted murder Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock. Trapped in a room with six other strangers he doesn’t trust – at least one of whom he believes is in cahoots with Daisy – John must uncover the mole before they make their move.

WHY: Quentin Tarantino’s first crack at making a Western may have resulted in the slightly disappointing “Django Unchained,” but his second attempt is a much-improved genre piece that represents his most accomplished work behind the camera to date. While Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins all deliver excellent work, Samuel L. Jackson’s show-stopping turn is the real standout, chewing up scenery with every juicy monologue and sly look. Granted, the first half of the film moves like molasses as Tarantino gets all of his pieces on the board, but the pacing is intentional, slowly building to a boil that spills out into a flurry of violence in the final hour. Though “The Hateful Eight” is filled with the same self-indulgent tendencies that fans have come to expect from the director’s movies, this Agatha Christie-styled whodunit is a lot of fun thanks to a smartly crafted script, some outstanding camerawork that benefits from the 65mm film format, and riotous performances from the cast.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a short behind-the-scenes featurette and a closer look at the movie’s 70mm presentation.

FINAL VERDICT: BUY

“Concussion”

WHAT: When Nigerian-born pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players who have suffered repeated concussions, he publishes his findings in the hope that it will help save lives. However, the NFL sees Omalu as a threat to its multibillion-dollar industry and attempts to discredit him.

WHY: Much like writer/director Peter Landesman’s previous films (“Kill the Messenger,” “Parkland”), “Concussion” is a middling, fact-based story that feels disconnected from its own material. While the movie is about a fairly important event in modern medicine – the discovery and recognition of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as a very real problem within the sport of football – it’s told in such a dull, straightforward manner that its message doesn’t resonate. Will Smith delivers his best work in over a decade as the real-life Omalu, completely throwing himself into the role, but the rest of the cast isn’t given as much to work with, particularly Gugu Mbatha-Raw, whose talents are squandered as his wife. The whole thing feels more like a TV movie due to the pedestrian writing and direction, and although it’s worth seeing for Smith’s passionate performance, “Concussion” isn’t compelling enough to incite the kind of reform within the NFL (and the sport as a whole) that’s desperately needed.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by director Peter Landesman, a pair of featurettes on making the movie and the true story that inspired it, and deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Point Break”

WHAT: FBI recruit Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) volunteers to go undercover to investigate a gang of extreme sports athletes posing as modern day Robin Hoods who steal from the rich and give to the poor. But as Johnny’s admiration for the group’s enigmatic leader Bodhi (Édgar Ramírez) blossoms into a friendship, he must decide where his true loyalties lie.

WHY: “Point Break” has already been remade once before with “The Fast and the Furious” (if not in name, then certainly in spirit), but whereas that film retained many of the key elements that made Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 cult classic so enjoyable, this 2015 remake is an overly serious dud. Though replacing Californian surf culture with the high-adrenaline world of extreme sports was a smart choice, the movie is hindered by an overbearing stream of hokey Zen philosophy and a paltry story that cares less about its characters than what cool stunt they get to do next. The acting isn’t much better. Australian import Luke Bracey is more wooden than the surfboard he rides in on, while Ramírez’s Bodhi is intriguing but underwritten. Not even the collection of thrilling set pieces are enough to rescue the film from its uninspired plotting, because although it contains a few amusing callbacks to the original, its biggest mistake was trying to fix what wasn’t broken instead of doubling down on the things that audiences loved most.

EXTRAS: There are four featurettes on filming some of the movie’s key set pieces (including the awesome wingsuit stunt), as well as some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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