Blu Tuesday: The Knick, Keanu 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.

“The Knick: The Complete Second Season”

WHAT: After he’s rescued from the primitive rehab center that used heroine to treat his cocaine habit, Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) returns to the Knick with a new obsession: finding a cure for addiction. Meanwhile, Dr. Edwards (Andre Holland) and Dr. Gallinger (Eric Johnson) continue to butt heads; Bertie (Michael Angarano) goes to work at a competing hospital; and Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) investigates a mysterious death connected to her family’s shipping company.

WHY: The first season of “The Knick” was a slow-moving but nonetheless compelling period drama highlighted by some fantastic performances and gorgeous visuals, which makes it all the more disappointing to see the show suffer through such a terrible sophomore slump. Several key players, particularly Andre Holland’s Dr. Edwards and Eve Henson’s Lucy, have been saddled with half-baked storylines that barely form anything resembling an arc, while Clive Owen’s Thackery is gradually built up over the course of the season just so he can be torn down again. It’s all handled very sloppily, but that’s Season Two in a nutshell. Though the surgery sequences are still fascinating to watch, and the scene-stealing Chris Sullivan is rewarded with a bigger role, just when “The Knick” seems to be finding its groove, it pivots to less worthy characters like Dr. Gallinger and the sleazy Herman Barrow, both of whom are given far too much screen time this season. The change in direction is mind-boggling to say the least, because what started as a fairly promising prestige drama has deteriorated into a series that’s hardly worth continuing at all.

EXTRAS: In addition to three audio commentaries with various cast and crew, there’s a series of behind-the-scenes featurettes on the season’s main themes, an in-depth look at some of the medical procedures, a walking tour of the set, and much more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Keanu”

WHAT: When his pet kitten Keanu is stolen by a local gang, pot-smoking slacker Rell (Jordan Peele) and his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) go undercover as a pair of hardened thugs to retrieve him. Though the gang’s leader (Method Man) has already taken a shine to the kitten, he agrees to give him up if Rell and Clarence – whom he mistakes for notorious assassins the Allentown Brothers – agree to tag along with his crew on an upcoming drug deal.

WHY: After gaining popularity with their eponymous Comedy Central sketch show, it was only a matter of time before Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele made the jump to the big screen. Their debut feature may not be as steeped in political and racial humor as some of their funnier skits, but “Keanu” is still an enjoyable and often hilarious action-comedy that serves as a great showcase for the duo’s chemistry. Though it’s a little ridiculous to suggest anyone would be dumb enough to believe Rell and Clarence’s tough-guy act, the setup provides Key and Peele the opportunity to subvert African-American stereotypes of what a black man is supposed to act like. You’d think that the nerds-as-gangsters shtick would get old, but the duo – who are capable of elevating any gag with the perfect delivery or reaction – continually finds ways to mine it for comedy. Not every joke lands, and the problematic second act ruins any momentum it’s built up to that point, but “Keanu” is so riotously funny at times that it compensates for that unevenness. Plus, it has a cute cat.

EXTRAS: There are deleted scenes, a gag reel and an interview with the titular star.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“The Lobster”

WHAT: In a dystopian future where it’s illegal to be single, recently divorced introvert David (Colin Farrell) checks into a mysterious seaside hotel and is given 45 days to find a new mate or be turned into an animal of his choosing. But with his deadline fast approaching and no closer to finding a female companion, David decides to take his chances outside the hotel with a rebellious group of singles who live in the woods.

WHY: Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ English-language debut is unlike anything you’ve seen before, but while it starts out as a sharp and refreshingly original satire on the horrors of modern dating, “The Lobster” stretches so far into absurdity that its various eccentricities overshadow the point it’s trying to make. Though the premise itself is clever and loaded with darkly comic situations, Lanthimos has such a cynical attitude towards relationships that the film comes across a bit cold. It’s this kind of negativity that prevents “The Lobster” from fulfilling its true potential. All of the actors are great, especially Colin Farrell in a hilariously deadpan performance, but you never really identify with any of the characters because they’re so desensitized, programmed to treat dating like a business transaction. Although “The Lobster” is undoubtedly a unique movie, and one that could have been truly excellent in someone else’s hands, Lanthimos gets so caught up in his grand metaphor that he fails to inject a little hope and humanity into the proceedings.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a making-of featurette, but that’s all.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“High-Rise”

WHAT: Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is the newest resident of a luxury apartment building on the outskirts of London. But while the high-rise seems like paradise at first glance, Laing notices a simmering tension between the upper-class tenants who live on the top floors and the middle-class tenants confined to the lower levels – a tension that eventually boils over, leading to a literal class war that devolves into a barbaric wasteland of debauchery and destruction.

WHY: J.G. Ballard’s acclaimed 1975 novel “High-Rise” has been deemed unfilmable by many, and judging from director Ben Wheatley’s stylish but empty adaptation, that may very well be true. Though it aspires for the same kind of socio-political allegory as similarly themed movies like “Snowpiercer” and “Lord of the Flies,” there’s no real narrative to latch onto. The first hour is a bit slow, but at least it seems to be building towards something. The second half, on the other hand, finds Wheatley succumbing to his own primal urges as he sets fire to the movie, burning down any semblance of character or plot. It’s too bad that Stanley Kubrick isn’t still around, because he would have knocked “High-Rise” out of the park. Wheatley’s version, meanwhile, is not unlike the titular building itself: it looks great on the surface, but the deeper you dig, the more problems you uncover. That could very well be the point that he was trying to make, but surely there was a more engaging way to go about it.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by director Ben Wheatley, actor Tom Hiddleston and producer Jeremy Thomas, as well as some featurettes on adapting the novel, special effects, costumes and production design.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Batman: The Killing Joke”

WHAT: After escaping from Arkham Asylum, The Joker (Mark Hamill) sets out to prove that it only takes one bad day to reduce the sanest man to lunacy by targeting Commissioner Gordon. But when the Joker takes things too far by harming his daughter Barbara (Tara Strong), Batman (Kevin Conroy) must stop the Clown Prince of Crime from implementing his demented plan.

WHY: Over the past few years, DC Comics has adapted some of their most popular stories into animated films, so it was only a matter of time before Alan Moore’s controversial graphic novel, “The Killing Joke,” received a similar treatment. But while the 1988 one-shot has been lauded as one of the best Batman stories ever written, the animated version is so awful that it exposes just how overrated Moore’s comic really is. The new 30-minute prologue focusing on Barbara Gordon/Batgirl may have been necessary to pad the story to feature length, but although it’s a well-meaning addition designed to flesh out the character before her tragic confrontation with the Joker, it adds very little to the main narrative while further reducing Barbara to a sexual object. Fan favorite voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are both solid in their respective roles, but the movie is so boring and offensive (in all the wrong ways) that, like most of Moore’s work, it should have been left well enough alone.

EXTRAS: There’s a behind-the-scenes look at making the film’s musical sequence, a featurette on the artistic process behind the original graphic novel, and a pair of animated Batman episodes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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