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Blu Tuesday: Jack Reacher 2 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.

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”

The first Jack Reacher movie may have underperformed at the box office, but it would’ve been a shame if that had marked the end of the character’s cinematic adventures. Granted, “Never Go Back” isn’t as much fun as its 2012 predecessor, but the film still succeeds thanks to Tom Cruise’s charismatic turn as the badass ex-military man. Though the family dynamic between Reacher, Cobie Smulders’ framed army major and Danika Yarosh’s feisty teenager allows Cruise to explore the character’s emotional side, this particular story would have been better saved for a future installment. After all, Jack Reacher is at his best when he’s working alone, and while “Never Go Back” features some great Reacher moments, it fails to make a strong enough case for continuing the series.

Extras include six featurettes that cover topics like shooting on location in Louisiana, filming the rooftop battle, on-set photography and more. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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The 17 Most Anticipated Films of 2017

2017_films

Despite all of its many faults and shortcomings, 2016 had at least one bright spot: it was a very good time for some excellent films. From blockbusters to indies, almost every genre had at least one stellar example that will stand the test of time in the minds of viewers and the hearts of cinephiles. As the dust settles on 2016 and awards are given out to the year’s best films, it’s time to look forward. While 2017 is shaping up to be another rough 12 months for all sorts of reasons, what will it hold for moviegoers? Below is a list of the most hotly anticipated films of the new year broken down by release date. These are the movies we are most looking forward to in 2017, and hopefully, they will continue the trend of a good time at the movie theater.

“The Girl with All the Gifts” (January 26)

While the U.K. and a few other countries have already gotten a look at director Colm McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic zombie film, U.S. viewers will soon get a chance of their own to see this amazing film. Having caught it at Fantastic Fest in 2016, as well as being familiar with the original book by M.R. Carey, I can vouch that it is an incredibly original takes on the zombie subgenre that dares to ask tough questions and provide even tougher answers. It’s beautiful, impressive, tense, and it feels like something both oddly familiar yet utterly new.

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Movie Review: “Gold”

Starring
Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll
Director
Stephen Gaghan

Former Hollywood golden boy Stephen Gaghan was at the top of his game when he seemingly vanished from the industry following 2005’s “Syriana,” so it’s easy to see why his latest project (which he directed but didn’t write) has been met with guarded enthusiasm. After actually watching the film, however, it’s not surprising that it was shut out of this year’s awards race. Although the movie is loosely based on incredible true events and features a committed performance from Matthew McConaughey, “Gold” fails to capitalize on its intriguing premise. The potential was certainly there, but despite the similarities to other recent films about greed and the American Dream like “The Big Short” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Gaghan’s sophomore effort lacks the energy and wit that made those movies so enjoyable.

The film opens in 1981 with Reno-based prospector Kenny Wells (McConaughey) working for his family’s successful mining company. Fast-forward seven years later and the business has fallen on hard times due to a crumbling economy and the death of Kenny’s father. He’s barely keeping the company afloat, working out of a bar to save on expenses. But just when it seems like Kenny has finally hit rock bottom, he has a dream about discovering gold in the uncharted jungles of Indonesia and decides to make one last gamble, pawning his jewelry and jetting off to Southeast Asia in order to convince geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramírez) – who has a theory about untapped mineral reserves in the country – to partner with him. Though they initially have zero luck finding anything, the pair eventually strikes gold in a big way, attracting the attention of Wall Street banker Brian Woolf (Corey Stoll). But as everyone fights to get a piece of Kenny and Michael’s success, the whole thing threatens to come crashing down around them.

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Blu Tuesday: Inferno and The Light Between Oceans

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.

“Inferno”

WHAT: When he wakes up in a hospital in Florence, Italy with no memory of the last 48 hours, famed symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) must team up with Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) to stop the release of a deadly virus created by an American billionaire (Ben Foster) who believes that the only way to solve the world’s overpopulation problem is through mass genocide.

WHY: Just when you thought that the Robert Langdon franchise was dead, Ron Howard and Tom Hanks have teamed up again for another installment based on the fourth (and latest) book in Dan Brown’s ongoing series. Why the studio chose to adapt “Inferno” over 2009’s “The Lost Symbol,” we may never know, but this is easily the worst installment to date. The opening 30 minutes is an overdirected mess of bright lights, quick cuts and hazy visions that’s meant to simulate the effects of Langdon’s amnesia but only proves to be incredibly annoying. Though it’s refreshing to see Langdon out of his element for once (even if the idea that he can remember obscure facts and not the word for “coffee” is as ridiculous as some of the film’s major plot turns), it also defeats the purpose of going to see a Robert Langdon adventure. Hanks and Felicity Jones are both fine in their roles, but between the lack of a compelling villain and the absurdity of the story itself, “Inferno” is a dull reminder why this franchise never really took off.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes six featurettes on the film’s main characters, director Ron Howard and location shooting, as well as some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“The Light Between Oceans”

WHAT: While living on a remote island off the coast of Australia, lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and his wife Isabel (Alicia Vikander) rescue a baby from a drifting rowboat and decide to raise it as their own. Wracked with guilt over his failure to report the incident, Tom upends their perfect life when he anonymously contacts the baby’s real mother (Rachel Weisz).

WHY: Derek Cianfrance was hailed as one of the most promising young directors in Hollywood after 2010’s “Blue Valentine,” and while he continued to build on that potential with “The Place Beyond the Pines,” his latest movie represents a major step back. Although it boasts strong performances from Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz, “The Light Between Oceans” is a melodramatic slog that’s neither as emotional nor engaging as it intends to be. Based on M.L. Stedman’s debut novel of the same name, “The Light Between Oceans” deals with some pretty heavy themes like guilt, forgiveness and the things we do for love, but it doesn’t dig deep enough into its characters’ psyches to leave much of a lasting impression. The first hour is sluggish, detailing Tom and Isabel’s courtship and ensuing miscarriages, while the latter half basically asks the audience to sympathize with a pair of kidnappers. Obviously, there’s more to the story than that, but Cianfrance doesn’t do enough with it to make you care.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by writer/director Derek Cianfrance, there’s a pair of featurettes on making the film and the Cape Campbell Lighthouse.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

Movie Review: “Split”

Starring
James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Betty Buckley, Brad William Henke
Director
M. Night Shyamalan

I kind of feel sorry for M. Night Shyamalan. Despite the fact that the majority of his directorial efforts make people want to drown kittens, I want him to prove his doubters wrong. Yes, this reeks of Stockholm syndrome, but it is true just the same. Somewhere in that head of his is another killer story.

But “Split” isn’t it. Shyamalan explores some interesting ideas about the true worth of a person, the power of belief, and the lengths that the mind will go to normalize things that just aren’t normal (insert your own current events joke here), but the whole turns out to be much less than the sum of its parts. He also pulls a stunt at the end that seems cool in the moment, but sad once removed from the moment.

Kevin (James McAvoy) is a horribly broken man. As a result of childhood trauma, he has developed 23 different personalities, but with the help of therapist Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), he has managed to keep them in check and live a normal life, all things considered. One day, though, one of the more dominant personalities assumes control and kidnaps three teenage girls in a mall parking lot. This personality assures the girls that he won’t hurt them, but that is only because he is saving them for The Beast to do with them what he will. Doctor Fletcher has heard about this Beast for years but considers it a bogeyman story the dominant personalities tell the others to keep them in check. The girls’ best chance to escape appears to be Hedwig, the youngest personality in the bunch who has aligned himself with the other dominants.

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