Blu Tuesday: Jason Bourne 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.

“Jason Bourne”

WHAT: When former CIA analyst Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) steals top secret files on the agency’s black ops programs and uncovers new details about David Webb’s (Matt Damon) past, the Treadstone agent formerly known as Jason Bourne is dragged out of hiding. Hot on his trail is ambitious CIA cyber division chief Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) and a vengeful operative (Vincent Cassel) with a personal grudge against Bourne.

WHY: Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass were pretty adamant about being done with the Jason Bourne franchise after 2007’s “The Bourne Ultimatum,” but following the disappointment of the Jeremy Renner-led spinoff “The Bourne Legacy,” Universal must have thrown duffle bags of money at the duo to convince them to come back. They should have resisted, because while it’s good to see Damon and Greengrass return to the series that helped make their careers, “Jason Bourne” doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Not even Damon looks particularly excited to be back, speaking as little as possible over the course of the film’s bloated two-hour runtime. Though it boasts an excellent cast (including Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel and Riz Ahmed) and some great action that culminates in a thrilling car chase through the Las Vegas strip where a SWAT truck is used like a battering ram, “Jason Bourne” is so fixated on its titular character’s past (yet again) that it fails to look ahead to the future.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a general making-of featurette, as well as five additional featurettes on filming the major fight scenes and the Athens and Las Vegas chase sequences.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Don’t Think Twice”

WHAT: Two members of the New York City improv troupe The Commune are invited to audition for the popular TV sketch show “Weekend Live,” unearthing a deep-seated jealously among the rest of the group. When one of them actually lands the coveted job, the other performers must cope with the sting of rejection as their tight-knit community begins to unravel.

WHY: Writer/director Mike Birbiglia excels at telling human stories that combine humor and pathos with an unfiltered authenticity you don’t normally see in mainstream comedies. Although “Don’t Think Twice” doesn’t quite hit the same highs as his 2012 debut “Sleepwalk with Me,” it’s a more mature piece of filmmaking that expands on some of the same themes while cutting even deeper emotionally. Whereas “Sleepwalk with Me” drew from Birbiglia’s experiences as a stand-up comic, “Don’t Think Twice” finds him reaching even further back into his career to produce this brutally honest look at chasing your dreams and learning to accept the failure that comes with it. Though not as transparently autobiographical as his previous film, there’s a lot of truthfulness in Birbiglia’s script that, despite feeling a little insidery at times, has many layers to it beyond functioning as a love letter to improv comedy. His debut is still the better film, but thanks to its excellent ensemble cast, “Don’t Think Twice” continues Birbiglia’s impressive form with a funny and poignant alternative from the typical studio comedy.

EXTRAS: There’s a trio of featurettes on the characters, the creative process and the art of improv, as well as some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“The Secret Life of Pets”

WHAT: Pampered terrier Max (Louis C.K.) enjoys a comfortable life in a Manhattan apartment until his owner adopts a large, shaggy dog named Duke (Eric Stonestreet) whom he immediately dislikes. But when the two dogs get separated on their daily walk and are captured by animal control, Max and Duke must work together to find their way home.

WHY: Illumination Entertainment has failed to compete with the likes of Disney and Pixar when it comes to the quality of their animated films, but if there’s one thing that the studio does well, it’s branding. While the “Despicable Me” franchise has only declined with each new installment, the Minions are more popular than ever, and with a sequel to “The Secret Life of Pets” already earmarked for 2018, that seems to be the strategy for their latest movie as well, regardless of whether it’s any good. (It’s not.) Like most Illumination films, “The Secret Life of Pets” has a few great gags, but the storytelling is severely lacking. Although Kevin Hart’s sociopathic rabbit makes for a fun villain, none of the other characters are very memorable, particularly the core duo. The film is also a pretty blatant “Toy Story” rip-off that recycles entire story beats without any of the charm, heart or wit of its predecessor, and though Illumination is probably hoping that kids won’t notice, the bigger worry is that they don’t care.

EXTRAS: There’s a pair of featurettes on production, a behind-the-scenes look at cast recording sessions, interviews with the crew, three mini-movies and much more.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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