Blu Tuesday: Get Hard, While We’re Young 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 Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“Get Hard”

WHAT: When millionaire stockbroker James King (Will Ferrell) is arrested for illegal trading and sentenced to ten years in a maximum security prison, he hires Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart) – the owner of a car wash business whom James wrongly assumes is an ex-con – to prepare him for life behind bars, which proves more difficult than either one imagined.

WHY: Will Ferrell’s movie career isn’t what it used to be, so it was a really smart move to team up with Kevin Hart, the current king of the comedy box office, for his latest film. Though it’s not the most obvious pairing, they actually have some pretty good chemistry, even if the film doesn’t always know what to do with their partnership. Ferrell delivers one of his better comedic performances in quite some time, while Hart keeps his annoying outbursts to a minimum. The problem is that the jokes simply aren’t there. While the film is occasionally funny when Ferrell and Hart are allowed to let loose, the racial and homophobic humor doesn’t land quite as intended. The blatant stereotyping might be part of the message that “Get Hard” is trying to make, but director Etan Cohen doesn’t execute it particularly well. Additionally, the villains are absent for a majority of the movie, and the final act is nothing more than a hackneyed throwback to every buddy comedy from the ‘80s. “Get Hard” isn’t as bad as expected, but it’s still an incredibly uneven film that only fans of Ferrell and Hart will truly enjoy.

EXTRAS: In addition to some deleted scenes, alternate line readings and a gag reel, there are a number of short, mostly pointless featurettes on things like Will Ferrell’s wardrobe, John Mayer’s cameo and the white supremacist biker gang.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“While We’re Young”

WHAT: Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are happily married, but while all of their middle-aged friends are busy raising children, they’ve fallen into a comfortable rut both personally and professionally. So when they start hanging out with a much younger couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried), Josh and Cornelia can’t help but be charmed by their carefree lifestyle, only to discover that the couple may have ulterior motives.

WHY: After being disappointed by 2010’s “Greenberg” and downright incensed by 2012’s “Frances Ha,” my expectations were pretty low going into director Noah Baumbach’s latest film, so it’s with great pleasure to be proven wrong. Not only is “While We’re Young” the director’s best work since “The Squid and the Whale,” but it doesn’t contain nearly the same level of nastiness as his previous movies, despite treading very similar ground thematically. While some of the commentary and digital/analog comparisons between the two couples feels a little too on the nose, there are plenty of great comedic moments that arise from them, at least until the final act, when Baumbach’s story gets overly serious and starts to go off the rails. Ben Stiller’s character isn’t the most likable guy, but he’s not the annoying neurotic he played in “Greenberg” either, and that goes a long way in keeping him on the audience’s side when everything goes to shit in the final 20 minutes. It’s some of the actor’s finest work in years, and he receives excellent support from Adam Driver and Naomi Watts as well. “While We’re Young” is far from perfect, but it’s a refreshingly lighthearted (although no less honest and thoughtful) side to Baumbach that he should really showcase more often.

EXTRAS: There are six behind-the-scenes featurettes on the cast, director Noah Baumbach, working with Charles Grodin, the Ayahuasca ceremony sequence and more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Movie Review: “Terminator Genisys”

Starring
Emilia Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, J.K. Simmons, Byung-hun Lee, Matt Smith
Director
Alan Taylor

“Terminator Genisys” marks the second sequel to a seemingly dead franchise this summer. Following the massive success of “Jurassic World” comes the fifth “Terminator” movie to date. The last two sequels were failed reboots, and for good reason, as neither of them had the intensity or awe James Cameron brought to the original films. “Terminator Genisys” doesn’t recapture the series’ former glory, but it is an actual “Terminator” movie, and it’s certainly more ambitious and entertaining than its recent predecessors.

The film begins in 2029, with John Connor (Jason Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) leading an ambush against Skynet. We see the events that influence Connor’s decision to send Reese back in time to save his mother, making this both a reboot and a surprisingly faithful sequel. Reese expects a helpless Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) back in 1984, but she’s nothing of the sort; she’s a trained, skilled soldier. At her side, once again to Reese’s surprise, is a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who Sarah refers to as “Pops.” For a reason that’s being saved for a potential sequel, someone sent the T-800 back in time to protect Sarah as a child, which answers one of the most of obvious questions in this franchise: Why doesn’t Skynet simply kill Sarah as a kid? Sarah Connor, Kyle Reese and the T-800 have to work together to prevent Skynet’s takeover and, surprisingly, defeat John Connor, who’s working for the bad guys this time around.

Screenwriters Patrick Lussier and Laeata Kalogridis rewrite the past, but they don’t erase it. There is no shortage of time travel talk in the film, and one of the key decisions made is to establish this as an alternate timeline, so the other timelines, meaning the first two films, still exist. Do the time travel rules always make sense? No, but neither does time travel. Sometimes, the less explained, the better – and the first hour struggles with that. There is a cluster of exposition in the setup, often explaining what we’re literally seeing. At first, Jai Courtney’s performance suffers because of how many questions and obvious statements he has to deliver, but once the wheels start moving, “Terminator Genisys” improves as it goes along.

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Movie Review: “Magic Mike XXL”

Starring
Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Adam Rodriguez, Kevin Nash, Jada Pinkett Smith, Amber Heard
Director
Gregory Jacobs

One of the biggest complaints about “Magic Mike” was that it was a lot more serious than people were expecting for a film about male strippers, and producer/star Channing Tatum addressed that issue with the promise that the upcoming sequel would be a much lighter affair. And you can’t say that Tatum isn’t a man of his word, because “Magic Mike XXL” couldn’t be any more different from the original. Whereas Steven Soderbergh’s movie was a moody drama about the dark underbelly of the stripper lifestyle that focused on character and story, “XXL” (which was directed by Soderbergh understudy Gregory Jacobs) is an upbeat and whimsical bro-fest that plays like a racier, bizarro version of “Entourage.” Both films are good for their own reasons, but “XXL” is definitely the more enjoyable of the pair.

Three years after leaving the stripper life to pursue his dream of starting his own custom furniture business, “Magic” Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) reunites with the remaining Kings of Tampa – Ken (Matt Bomer), Big Dick Ritchie (Joe Manganiello), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and Tarzan (Kevin Nash) – for a wild night out on the town. When he learns that the group is being disbanded after their boss, Dallas (played by Matthew McConaughey in the first movie), fled to Macau for greener pastures, Mike agrees to join them on their road trip to the annual stripper convention in Myrtle Beach for one last blow-out performance. But after their MC (Gabriel Iglesias) gets injured in a car accident, Mike is forced to call on an old friend from his past, former lover and business partner Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), for help in pulling off their one-night show, complete with new, personalized routines.

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Movie Review: “Ted 2″

Starring
Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Giovanni Ribisi, Morgan Freeman
Director
Seth MacFarlane

“Ted 2” is a sweet but profane love letter to Universal Pictures. Writer/director/star Seth MacFarlane references several high-profile Universal properties, with the plot serving as the connective tissue. This naturally makes for a threadbare story, to be sure, but this is Seth MacFarlane we’re talking about. The man has never let story get in the way of a good joke, or even a bad one. To the surprise of no one, “Ted 2” has plenty of each.

The story begins at the wedding of magical, real-life teddy bear Ted (MacFarlane) and Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). Ted’s best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) is happy for the couple, but still reeling from his recent divorce. Ted and Tami-Lyn have a perfect wedding day, but one year later, they are fighting nonstop. Ted suggests that having a baby might solve their problems (this is a terrible, terrible idea, for the record), but after their attempts to do in vitro or adopt fail, Ted finds his life unraveling as his creditors begin terminating his accounts on the grounds that the government doesn’t recognize him as a real person.

John and Ted retain a top-rate lawyer to fight for Ted’s civil rights, and he assigns it to his niece and junior attorney, Samantha (Amanda Seyfriend), who does the case pro bono. While they’re working on Ted’s defense, Ted stalker Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) conspires with the president of Hasbro to kidnap Ted pending him losing the case (as he will officially be considered property at that point), so they can use his mojo to mass produce “human” Teds.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to July

july

After a rather lackluster June with very few major releases (and even fewer that were any good), the summer season kicks back into high gear this July with a trio of highly-anticipated sequels, the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a handful of original comedies that could end up being the biggest surprises of the month.

“Terminator Genisys”

Who: Emilia Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke
What: After finding himself in a new timeline, Kyle Reese teams up with Sarah Connor and an aging terminator to try and stop Judgement Day.
When: July 1st
Why: The “Terminator” movie franchise has been limping along for over a decade now, first with the terrible “Rise of the Machines,” and more recently with the failed reboot starring Christian Bale, but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from trying to keep the series alive. So what makes this latest attempt any different? For starters, it has James Cameron’s official seal of approval, and it’s easy to see why, since the movie is tied very closely to the first two installments, playing with the time travel aspect in the same way that J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” did to reinvent the franchise. It still doesn’t look very good, but we’re willing to give it the benefit of the doubt because we love watching Arnold Schwarzenegger in full Terminator mode.

“Magic Mike XXL”

Who: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello and Jada Pinkett Smith
What: Three years after Mike bowed out of the stripper life, he and the remaining Kings of Tampa hit the road to Myrtle Beach to put on one last blow-out performance.
When: July 1st
Why: One of the biggest complaints about the first “Magic Mike” was that it was a lot gloomier than moviegoers were expecting for a film about male strippers, and Channing Tatum has addressed those issues with the promise that the upcoming sequel will be a much lighter affair. Though it’s sad to see Matthew McConaughey isn’t involved in the project (he was, after all, one of the highlights of the first film), “Magic Mike XXL” doesn’t appear to be short on colorful characters, including bigger roles for supporting players like Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello, and the addition of Jada Pinkett Smith. And if the trailers are any indication, it hasn’t lost its self-mocking sense of humor, either.

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