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Blu Tuesday: Fist Fight 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.

“Fist Fight”

Comedy works best when it’s grounded in real situations, but nothing about “Fist Fight” feels even remotely realistic, starting with its titular premise. Most of the teachers in this film wouldn’t pass a background check, let alone display the competence to run a classroom, while Ice Cube’s hot-headed teacher would have been fired long before swinging an axe into a student’s desk. (Side note: If he was already feared among everyone in the school, what kid would think that provoking him was a good idea?) Unfortunately, co-writers Van Robichaux and Evan Susser have put so little thought into the screenplay that the movie is filled with these kinds of questions. That might have been excusable if “Fist Fight” was actually funny, but not even Charlie Day’s manic energy can save this film.

Extras include a brief featurette on location shooting in Georgia and some deleted scenes. FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

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Movie Review: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”

Starring
Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Geoffrey Rush, Golshifteh Farahani, David Wenham, Stephen Graham
Director
Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” fails to get the 14-year-old series back on track. While it is an improvement over the previous sequel, “On Stranger Tides,” directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg succumb to many of the same problems found in that film. For starters, the character of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is no longer the charming antihero he once was – straddling the line between good and evil – but rather a drunken pirate who wanders aimlessly through set pieces.

Unlike Gore Verbinski’s massive sequels, the action sequences aren’t enough to cut it here. They’re surprisingly infrequent over the course of Sparrow’s search for the legendary Trident of Poseidon. Although screenwriter Jeff Nathanson attempts to return the franchise to the simplicity of the first movie, it lacks the same energy, and that’s a problem that begins and ends with Jack Sparrow, a character who had something driving him in the 2003 original. He used to have a personal motivation and real conflicts, but now he just drinks a lot, keeps making the same old jokes and finds his way out of sticky situations just as you’d expect him to. He’s lost his unpredictability.

This time he’s on the run from Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a performance and visual effect that’s never quite convincing. In his younger years, Jack Sparrow helped turn the pirate killer and his crew into ghosts, and now that Salazar has escaped the Devil’s Triangle where he was imprisoned, he goes hunting for the man who not only damned him but is the only one who can save him. Nobody knows where Sparrow is, including Will Turner’s son Henry (Brenton Thwaites) and an astronomer accused of witchcraft named Carina (Kaya Scodelario). Sadly, Henry and Carina aren’t particularly lively additions to the cast, as they pale in comparison to the colorful supporting characters this series once featured, such as Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush). Sparrow’s old foe is still present and has a strong payoff here, but it’s not enough to bring much heart and soul to the movie.

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Blu Tuesday: Logan 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.

“Logan”

Despite being the most popular character in the X-Men franchise, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine hasn’t had much luck when it comes to his solo outings. Though director James Mangold made half of a good film with “The Wolverine,” his second bite of the apple is a much-improved genre flick that finally gives the character his due. “Logan” may be a slower, more character-driven comic book movie, but it’s incredibly gritty and violent as well, easily earning its R rating with a handful of claw-slicing action sequences peppered throughout. While “Logan” certainly isn’t without its flaws (from the underwhelming villains to the overlong runtime), there’s enough great stuff here, including strong performances from Jackman and Patrick Stewart, to succeed both as a refreshing deviation from the typical superhero formula and a fitting end to Jackman’s remarkable 17-year run as Wolverine.

Extras include an audio commentary by director/co-writer James Mangold, a six-part making-of featurette, deleted scenes and a black-and-white version of the film titled “Logan: Noir.” FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Movie Review: “Alien: Covenant”

Starring
Katherine Waterson, Michael Fassbender, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo
Director
Ridley Scott

Fans of Ridley Scott’s “Alien” can rest easy, because the director’s latest addition to the franchise contains much of the same bite of his classic 1979 film. “Alien: Covenant” is a vicious and thoughtful, albeit unwieldy and sometimes frustrating, piece of science fiction that provides Scott with an epic canvas on which to paint his terrifying vision, all while continuing the ideas that were first introduced in “Prometheus” and the rest of the series.

Set 11 years after the events of “Prometheus” and 17 years before the original “Alien,” the story follows the crew of the Covenant, a colony ship with thousands aboard waiting to wake up to their new home. On the way to the ship’s destination, first mate turned captain Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup) receives a transmission from an unknown planet. Despite protests from crew member Daniels Branson (Katherine Waterson), Oram decides to take a trip to the nearby planet to see if it’s habitable. Unfortunately, it just so happens to be home to some deadly Xenomorphs ready to rip through Oram’s crew, which consists of Covenant pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride), his wife Maggie (Amy Seimetz), Sergeant Lope (Demián Bichir), Karine Oram (Carmen Ejogo) and dutiful android Walter (Michael Fassbender). Along the way, Walter meets a familiar face when he crosses paths with David (Fassbender), the curious android with a god-sized ego from “Prometheus.”

Co-writers John Logan and Dante Harper’s screenplay answers more questions about the expanded universe than its predecessor, for better or worse. Intially, the movie provides answers to questions that aren’t of much interest, most notably regarding the Xenomorphs. “Alien: Covenant” doesn’t demystify the horrifying creatures, but what it does tell us about them can sometimes comes across as redundant in the bigger picture.

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Blu Tuesday: Return of Xander Cage 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.

“xXx: Return of Xander Cage”

Vin Diesel famously never made a sequel to 2002’s “xXx” because he didn’t believe in them, but that was before he became the go-to franchise guy with the “Fast and Furious” series, “Guardians of the Galaxy” and, to a lesser extent, the Riddick saga. However, it seems unlikely that “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” will reboot the stagnant franchise as intended, despite its blatant attempts to mimic the “Fast and Furious” films. Though it boasts the same over-the-top energy and its own multicultural cast, the movie comes off as nothing more than a second-rate rip-off with some truly ridiculous action sequences. It’s not a complete waste of time thanks to the involvement of Donnie Yen and Ruby Rose, but for a film that borders on so-bad-it’s-good territory for most of its runtime, “Return of Xander Cage” comes up short.

Extras include behind-the-scenes featurettes on Vin Diesel’s return, the supporting cast, location shooting and stunts, as well as a gag reel. FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

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