Blu Tuesday: Joy, The 5th Wave and Easy Rider

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.

“Joy”

WHAT: After giving up her dreams to help take care of her family, Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) gets a second chance to make something of herself when she invents a self-wringing mop that has the potential to launch a business empire… if only her destructive family would get out of the way.

WHY: Writer/director David O. Russell could seemingly do no wrong after the one-two-three punch of “The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” but that hot streak has finally ended with this surprisingly joyless dramedy that’s all over the place. Though his films have always been slightly offbeat, Russell’s latest effort is a tonally inconsistent mess that bounces between family farce and soap opera, sometimes quite literally. The first 30 minutes are particularly bad as it figures out what kind of movie it wants to be, and while “Joy” eventually finds its groove once the titular character gets her big break at QVC, it makes you wish that more of the film was set within that world. Jennifer Lawrence is great as usual, showcasing her full range of talent, but the rest of the cast is hindered by shallow, underwritten characters. There’s a really great movie in here somewhere (perhaps one that more closely follows co-writer Annie Mumolo’s original biopic idea about HSN queen Joy Mangano), but unfortunately, this isn’t it.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette and a TimesTalk interview with director David O. Russell and star Jennifer Lawrence.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“The 5th Wave”

WHAT: When a series of alien attacks decimate the planet, separating Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) from her younger brother in the process, she attempts to rescue him from a shady military base where kids are being trained to serve as the frontline for the upcoming war.

WHY: There have been some pretty bad movies adapted from YA novels in recent years, but “The 5th Wave” is hands-down one of the worst; it’s derivative, dull and so poorly made that you have to feel sorry for the talented actors (including Moretz, Liev Schreiber and Maria Bello) who got involved thinking they were making the next “Hunger Games.” The film unfolds as if it’s only the first half of a much bigger story, bogged down by a silly teen romance that goes nowhere and isolates its lead character from the main action. (It doesn’t help that the Edward Cullen-esque love interest has the personality of a rock.) Although there’s an interesting twist involving the aliens’ true intentions, it’s revealed so late in the game that it feels more like a tease for future installments than a proper ending. Of course, the irony is that “The 5th Wave” is such an awful mess of YA movie clichés that the likelihood of Sony adapting the final two books in the trilogy is very slim.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by director J Blakeson and star Chloe Grace Moretz, a series of production featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Easy Rider”

WHAT: After making some quick cash selling the cocaine that they smuggled out of Mexico, a pair of hippie bikers (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper) set out on a road trip from Los Angeles to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras festival.

WHY: Dennis Hopper’s directorial debut, which he also wrote with co-star Peter Fonda, may have its share of admirers for the way that it captures the spirit of the hippie counterculture movement during the late 1960s, but it’s a largely uneventful road trip movie with no real narrative drive and a pair of thinly developed, unlikable leads. Though its groundbreaking rock soundtrack changed the way that Hollywood used music in film, and Jack Nicholson’s Oscar-nominated performance as boozy lawyer George Hanson (his first major movie role) is so good that it’s like watching a star born before your very eyes, it’s not enough to offset the sheer monotony of the rest of the film. It’s been widely documented that Hooper was not only stoned throughout its troubled production, but that he and Fonda made up most of the movie as they went along, and it certainly feels that way, punctuated by a strangely abrupt ending that seems to have something important to say but doesn’t want to take the time to say it.

EXTRAS: In addition to a pair of audio commentaries – one with director/actor/co-writer Dennis Hopper, and the other with Hopper, actor/co-writer Peter Fonda and production manager Paul Lewis – there’s the 1995 documentary “Born to Be Wild,” the 1999 documentary “Easy Rider: Shaking the Cage,” excerpts of Hopper and Fonda at the Cannes Film Festival, a new interview with BBS co-founder Steve Blauner, and an essay by film critic Matt Zoller Seitz.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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