Blu Tuesday: Sing Street, Hardcore Henry 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.

“Sing Street”

WHAT: In 1980s Dublin, a young teenager named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) starts a band with his new schoolmates in an attempt to impress the beautiful and mysterious Raphina (Lucy Boynton).

WHY: Writer/director John Carney specializes in making musical fairy tales for the soul, with each film functioning like its own album. If “Once” is his critically acclaimed debut, and “Begin Again” is the more mainstream (but less successful) follow-up, then “Sing Street” is the personal album that gets back to his roots. A semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale that ranks as one of the most pleasant moviegoing experiences in recent years, “Sing Street” features Carney at his very best. Although there’s not a lot of meat to the story, the film does a good job of tracking Conor’s artistic awakening as he discovers his own identity through experimentation with different musical styles and the awful fashion trends that accompany them. The mostly unknown cast is great, especially Jack Reynor as Conor’s older brother/musical guru, while the original songs (each one better than the last) are catchy enough to believe that the titular band could actually succeed. Though their progress happens a little too easily to be realistic, Carney makes the whole fantasy go down so smoothly that you won’t mind.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette, cast auditions, and an interview with writer/director John Carney and songwriter Adam Levine.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Hardcore Henry”

WHAT: Resurrected from the dead with no memory or ability to speak, Henry joins forces with a mysterious ally named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) to rescue his wife (Haley Bennett) after she’s kidnapped by a telekinetic psychopath (Danila Kozlovsky) with plans for world domination.

WHY: Though first-time director Ilya Naishuller has admitted that he was initially skeptical that a first-person action movie could work, he deserves kudos for delivering a film that’s exactly as advertised. “Hardcore Henry” is definitely hardcore – an adrenaline-fueled, ultra-violent, one-of-a-kind experience that stands as the closest thing to a live-action video game that you’ll ever see. Too bad it’s not any good. There’s no denying that “Hardcore Henry” is an innovative piece of filmmaking, and it exhibits an impressive commitment to its gimmick, but once you peel away the layers of craftsmanship required to pull off such a trick, you’re left with a pretty awful B-movie underneath. Though Naishuller does his best to keep things fresh with some fantastic stunts and creative kills, after about an hour of watching Henry punch, kick and shoot his way through a seemingly never-ending stream of henchmen, it begins to wear you down. A film with this much action shouldn’t be boring, but most of it is exhausting rather than exhilarating.

EXTRAS: There’s a pair of separate audio commentaries by director Ilya Naishuller and actor Sharlto Copley, a Q&A with the duo and deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Criminal”

WHAT: When London-based CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is killed while trying to stop an anarchist (Jordi Mollà) from gaining access to the U.S. missile defense system, his memories are implanted into a violent death-row inmate named Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner) in the hopes that he can complete the mission.

WHY: Kevin Costner should probably leave the butt-kicking to Liam Neeson, because “Criminal” is yet another failed attempt at launching his own late-career action franchise. Though it boasts a relatively high-concept premise that borrows elements from other identity thrillers like “Face/Off” and “Self/less” (the latter of which features Ryan Reynolds on the other end of the body swap equation), the movie is as aggressively dumb as it is boring. Costner’s Jericho may technically be the hero of the story, but it’s hard to root for a psychopathic criminal just because Douglas Cook and David Weisberg’s clichéd script tells you to. The film’s biggest offense, however, is wasting its talented cast (including veteran actors like Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones, slumming it for a paycheck) on an incredibly convoluted and incoherent plot filled with underdeveloped characters and lackluster action. It’s so bad that you’ll wish the movie’s bullshit technology actually existed so you could wipe it from your memory and make someone else suffer, “A Clockwork Orange”-style, instead.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a select-scene audio commentary by director Ariel Vromen, a 40-minute making-of featurette and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“The Boss”

WHAT: After serving four months in prison for insider trading, successful businesswoman Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) finds herself broke, homeless and alone. Forced to move in with former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and her young daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson), Michelle devises a plan to build a new empire and return to the top.

WHY: Melissa McCarthy has gotten so comfortable playing the same character – loud, obnoxious and just an all-around awful human being – that many of her films are practically interchangeable at this point. In fact, the only thing separating “The Boss” from movies like “Tammy” and “Identity Thief” is her character’s needlessly goofy costume, comprised mainly of a short red wig and distractingly chin-high turtlenecks. The rest of the film plays out exactly as you’d expect, right down to Michelle’s unearned redemption in the end. (She’s neither empathetic nor the misunderstood victim that the script tries to paint her as.) Though it contains a few laughs over the course of its sluggish 99-minute runtime, “The Boss” is every bit as lazy, idiotic and mean-spirited as McCarthy’s last collaboration with director/husband Ben Falcone. The movie manages to avoid complete disaster until the final act, where it completely switches focus and goes off the rails in the process, but even in mediocrity, its message of female empowerment is muted by its protagonist’s incessant bullying.

EXTRAS: In addition to a featurette on the origins of the Michelle Darnell character, including the original Groundlings sketch performed by Melissa McCarthy, there are profiles on Kristen Bell and Peter Dinklage’s characters, deleted scenes, an alternate ending and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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