Blu Tuesday: Batman v Superman 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 social media with your friends.

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

WHAT: Terrified of what Superman (Henry Cavill) could do with his godlike power after witnessing the damage he caused during the Battle of Metropolis, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) – now a seasoned crime-fighter as the vigilante Batman – becomes obsessed with stopping him by any means necessary. Meanwhile, billionaire tech genius Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is building his own weapon to combat the alien threat using a piece of Kryptonite uncovered in the Indian Ocean. But when Luthor discovers that he shares a common enemy with Bruce, he manipulates Batman into doing his dirty work for him.

WHY: It’s scary to think that Warner Bros. is betting the future of its entire DC Comics film slate on “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” because it’s an overlong, overstuffed and disjointed mess of a movie that’s made only slightly better with the new Ultimate Edition extended cut. The film is constantly being pulled in mutiple directions, tirelessly working to function as a sequel to “Man of Steel,” a Batman reboot and a prequel to the forthcoming Justice League movie. That it’s even remotely coherent at all is to the credit of director Zack Snyder. In fact, there’s a really solid superhero flick buried somewhere beneath all the clumsy plotting and self-seriousness, but while the film has its charms – specifically, Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Jesse Eisenberg’s bold take on Lex Luthor – Snyder gets so caught up in teasing future installments that he neglects his characters in the process. “Batman v Superman” wants to have its cake and eat it too, and although you can’t fault Snyder’s ambition, if Marvel taught us anything with its measured buildup to “The Avengers,” it’s that the proverbial cake tastes much better when it’s been earned.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release is packed with over two hours of bonus material, including a behind-the-scenes look at uniting the heroes of the DC cinematic universe, in-depth profiles on Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor, production featurettes on the Batmobile and Batcave, filming the titular showdown and much more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Elvis & Nixon”

WHAT: On the morning of December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) showed up on the doorstep of the White House requesting an urgent meeting with President Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey) about being made an undercover federal agent. Though Nixon declined at first, he eventually agreed to meet with the King upon the persistence of his advisors, who believed that Elvis’ popularity would help sway younger voters.

WHY: “Elvis and Nixon” sounds like a fascinating premise on paper: put two of the world’s most famous men in a room together and see what happens. But while both Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon are both colorful characters in their own right, the movie is as dull as dishwater. Part of the problem is that, despite the title, most of the story centers on Elvis, who’s presented as an overly eccentric fool with a habit of exploiting his fame. Michael Shannon is also horribly miscast in the role, so much so that he doesn’t even bother doing an impersonation, which sort of defeats the whole purpose of watching a film about Elvis. Though Kevin Spacey fares much better as Nixon (his reactions to Elvis’ impudent behavior is pure gold), he only has a fraction of the screen time to make an impression. “Elvis & Nixon” picks up considerably once its subjects finally meet, even if the events depicted in the film are sheer conjecture, but sadly, you have to trudge through about an hour of tedium to get there.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by director Liza Johnson and producer/author Jerry Schilling, as well as a short featurette on the real-life event.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Miles Ahead”

WHAT: While chasing down a story about reclusive jazz musician Miles Davis (Don Cheadle), freelance music writer Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor) unexpectedly gets dragged along on a wild adventure to recover a stolen session tape of Davis’ latest compositions.

WHY: Don Cheadle’s directorial debut is a very different beast from the typical music biopic; it’s shapeless and chaotic (not unlike some styles of jazz) and relies predominantly on a fictionalized narrative to tell its tale. But while that brazenness to push back against genre conventions is refreshing, “Miles Ahead” fails to provide a better understanding of Davis’ music and complex personality. Cheadle and Ewan McGregor both deliver good work in their respective roles, and actress Emayatzy Corinealdi makes quite the impression as Davis’ first wife in a series of otherwise dull flashbacks, but the movie just isn’t engaging enough to keep you hooked. Part of the problem is that it’s constantly being pulled in two different directions – the past and the present – and although the latter selfishly gives Cheadle more freedom to play around with the character, it suddenly becomes less about Davis than some interpretation of him. All music biopics stretch the facts, but in trying to honor the rebellious spirit of its subject, “Miles Ahead” goes a little too far.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by director/co-writer/star Don Cheadle and co-writer Steven Baigelman, a collection of interviews about making the film, and a Sundance Q&A with Cheadle and co-stars Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi and Keith Stanfield.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Kill Zone 2”

WHAT: When his true identity is exposed while trying to bring down a notorious crime boss (Louis Koo), undercover cop Chan Chi-Kit (Jing Wu) is secretly transported to a Thai prison to rot away. But he finds an unlikely ally in good-natured prison guard Chatchai (Tony Jaa), whose dying daughter has a surprising connection to the new inmate that could save her life.

WHY: A sequel in name only to 2005’s “Kill Zone” (which also featured actors Jing Wu and Simon Yam playing different characters), this bruising crime thriller showcases both the good and bad of Hong Kong cinema. Overly complex in almost every way, the movie takes nearly 40 minutes just to get to the meat of the story due to a number of unnecessary subplots. This is a case where simpler would have been better, especially when those plot diversions get in the way of the film’s top-notch action. There’s not as much as you might expect for a movie that boasts two of the best screen fighters working today in Wu and Tony Jaa, but the massive battle royale that ends “Kill Zone 2” – particularly the duo’s final fight againt Zhang Jin’s corrupt prison warden – more than makes up for it. Granted, the film still falls a bit short of its lofty ambitions (“The Raid 2” this is not), but action fans won’t want to miss out.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

  

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