Blu Tuesday: Zoolander 2 and The Finest Hours

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.

“Zoolander 2″

WHAT: Fifteen years after saving the Malaysian prime minister’s life, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) are lured back into the world of modeling by trendy fashion designer Alexanya Atoz (Kristin Wiig), only to discover that it’s all part of an elaborate scheme designed by Zoolander’s arch-nemesis Mugatu (Will Ferrell).

WHY: Fans of the original “Zoolander” have been clamoring for a sequel for more than a decade, so it’s not like director/co-writer Ben Stiller didn’t have the time to ensure that it lived up to his 2001 cult comedy. Unfortunately, “Zoolander 2” is such a complete and utter embarrassment that it boggles the mind how it got made. Though there are a handful of laughs scattered throughout the film’s painfully slow 102-minute runtime, most of the movie is predicated on lazy gags and a rapid-fire series of celebrity cameos – a few that are funny (Justin Bieber, Kiefer Sutherland), one that is really awful (Benedict Cumberbatch as a transgender model named All), and a majority of which are incredibly pointless. It’s just one bad thing after the other, from the terrible subplot involving Zoolander’s son, to Kristin Wiig’s entirely superfluous villain, to the surprising lack of chemistry between Stiller and Owen Wilson. While it’s no secret that comedy sequels are notoriously difficult to pull off, “Zoolander 2” is so dreadful that it feels like a poorly made parody of its predecessor.

EXTRAS: There’s a handful of featurettes on the “Zoolander” legacy, shooting in Rome and co-creator Drake Sather, but nothing of real substance.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“The Finest Hours”

WHAT: When a T-2 oil tanker off the coast of Cape Cod is ripped in half during a massive storm in 1952, trapping its surviving crew members on the sinking stern, Coast Guard captain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) leads a daring rescue attempt into perilous waters while the tanker’s chief engineer, Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), improvises to buy his crew more time.

WHY: With the exception of the 2007 indie, “Lars and the Real Girl,” director Craig Gillespie’s filmography is pretty underwhelming, and his latest movie is no different. “The Finest Hours” feels very much a product of its time – the kind of wholesome, self-effacing true story that Disney excels at making – but unfortunately, it’s also incredibly cheesy and dull. There’s exactly one thrilling sequence in the entire film, and even that doesn’t seem to properly capture the danger and improbability of the rescue. Instead, the movie just plods along to its inevitable conclusion without any personality or emotional heft, dragged down by a pair of unengaging protagonists and a subplot involving Webber’s fiancée that could have been cut entirely. Chris Pine and Casey Affleck look positively bored by the material, while the rest of the cast (including Ben Foster, Eric Bana, John Ortiz and Michael Raymond-James) are wasted in throwaway roles. “The Finest Hours” is supposed to be about one of the greatest rescues in Coast Guard history, but you wouldn’t know it from this forgettable period drama.

EXTRAS: There’s a featurette about the true story that inspired the film, interviews with the cast about making the movie, a pair of U.S. Coast Guard promotional videos and deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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Drink of the Week: Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (TCM Fest 2016 Salute #2)

Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back.When superstar film distributor Michael Schlesinger introduced 1934’s “Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back” at TCM Fest 2016 as the greatest movie we in the audience had never seen, I was inclined to be skeptical. After all, as a lifelong film geek, I’ve heard that one a lot. I was there because I’d long been curious about Drummond, an early pulpy prototype for James Bond created by one H. C. McNeile, aka “Sapper.” I was expecting a historically interesting movie but not one that was likely to become a huge personal favorite.

Imagine my surprise when the movie turned out to be about as good as Mr. Schlesinger had suggested. Indeed, while I remember a theatrical spoof I saw as a young teen, “Bullshot Crummond,” being very funny, it’s hard to imagine it being half as amusing as the film, directed by the highly prolific Roy del Ruth, and co-written by the almost as prolific and incredibly witty and versatile Nunnally Johnson (who also co-wrote last week’s beverage-inspiring “The Keys of the Kingdom“and was a close personal friend of my childhood hero, Groucho Marx).

“Bullshot Drummond Strikes Back” is filled with enough self-referential comedy and wit to play beautifully in the post-“Austin Powers” era, and it’s blessed with top-drawer pacing and a borderline superhuman lead performance by the always super-suave Ronald Colman. In this film, Colman seems to exist in a sort of alternate universe of perfect confidence in the face of numerous socially awkward misadventures as he continuously stumbles over dead bodies, while constantly interrupting the sleep of an increasingly apoplectic Scotland Yard colonel (C. Aubrey Smith) and the wedding night of his hilariously stolid sidekick (Charles Butterworth).

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Movie Review: “The Nice Guys”

Starring
Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Kim Basinger, Margaret Qualley, Yaya DaCosta
Director
Shane Black

Shane Black may not have invented the buddy cop film, but he’s widely viewed as the modern-day godfather of the subgenre thanks to seminal movies like “Lethal Weapon,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” Black is to buddy cop films what Raymond Chandler is to hard-boiled crime novels (a fitting comparison considering the writer/director lists the author as a major influence), and his latest movie, the retro detective noir “The Nice Guys,” is arguably his best entry in the genre since redefining the buddy cop formula three decades ago. Although it hits all of the usual beats of a Shane Black feature, “The Nice Guys” does so with such remarkable efficiency, brimming with witty banter, solid action and even a little heart, that it feels totally fresh.

Set in 1977 in the seedy, neon-tinged underbelly of Los Angeles, the movie stars Ryan Gosling as Holland March, a drunken private eye who’s less concerned about solving mysteries than getting paid. His latest gig finds him investigating the death of famous adult film star Misty Mountains, and though it sounds like an open-and-shut case, Misty’s grandmother claims that she saw the actress alive several days after the car accident that supposedly killed her. Holland’s only lead is a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), who was seen leaving Misty’s house on the date in question, but the trail goes cold after enforcer-for-hire Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is enlisted by Amelia to stop Holland from following her around. However, when Amelia’s life is threatened by a pair of menacing thugs and she goes on the run, Jackson and Holland team up to track her down with some help from the latter’s precocious tween daughter Holly (Angourie Rice). But as they get closer to uncovering the truth behind Amelia’s involvement in the conspiracy, an assassin (Matt Bomer) is sent to silence them.

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Movie Review: “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”

Starring
Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein, Ike Barinholtz
Director
Nicholas Stoller

The 2014 film “Neighbors” cost $18 million to make and brought in $270 million worldwide. That is a spectacular, “Saw”-like return on investment, so it makes sense that the studio would be interested in making a sequel. There’s just one teensy little problem: there was nothing about “Neighbors” that lends itself well to a sequel. (Also, no one appears to have been asking for a sequel, but that is apparently beside the point.) It’s a film where the main characters each win a battle, but lose what’s left of their dignity. No bonds are forged, and the attempt at a happy ending drips with sadness. One of the first film’s good points was that they didn’t seem concerned about tomorrow because they were having too much fun today. Then tomorrow came, panic settled in, and for God knows what reason, the decision to not make a second film wasn’t considered. This is a mistake.

“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” isn’t even remotely tethered to reality. If this took place in the real world, at least two people would be dead and one would be in traction. It requires “Horrible Bosses 2” logic in order to work, which dictates that if you’ve been badly burned in your personal or professional life, you will learn absolutely nothing from the experience and make the same mistake again. “Horrible Bosses 2,” for the record, was another movie that no one asked for, and it made half as much as the original. Universal should prepare themselves for a similar drop-off.

Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, respectively), now with a two-year-old and another baby on the way, have decided to sell their house and move to the suburbs. They have a family who wants to buy, and the house is put in escrow. The Radners do not understand that the sale is not final until their realtor spells it out for them for the sake of the plot (and the audience); the buyers have 30 days to back out of the deal for any reason. When Mac and Kelly see that a group of rebel girls wants to start a new party-friendly sorority in the abandoned house next door (the house previously owned by the Delta Psi Betas from the first film), they ask the girls to tone it down until the sale goes through. The girls are already annoyed that sororities are not allowed to throw parties, but fraternities are. They are not receptive to this request.

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Movie Review: “The Lobster”

Starring
Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman, Ariane Labed
Director
Yorgos Lanthimos

There was a time when married people used to be envious of their single friends, but dating in the 21st century has become such a weird and awkward process (dominated by superficial dating platforms like Match.com and Tinder) that being single isn’t as attractive as it once was. Director Yorgos Lanthimos explores that strangeness along with the social pressures of marriage with his English-language debut “The Lobster.” Bizarre, refreshingly original and darkly comical at times, the movie is unlike anything you’ve seen before, but while it starts out as a sharp satire on the horrors of dating, “The Lobster” stretches so far into absurdity that its various eccentricities overshadow the point it’s trying to make.

Set in a dystopian future where it’s illegal to be single, the film follows a recently divorced introvert named David (Colin Farrell) as he 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. His brother Bob has already been through the hotel and now accompanies him as a Border Collie, a constant reminder of the threat of failure, and David has prepared himself for a similar fate by electing to live out his final days as a lobster due to their long lifespans and his affinity for the ocean.

Though he quickly makes friends with some fellow bachelors (John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw), David has no luck finding a female companion, and with his deadline fast approaching, he decides to take his chances outside the hotel with a rebellious group of singles in the woods. Led by a cold anarchist (Léa Seydoux) who’s trying to bring down the whole oppressive system, the so-called Loners live by their own set of strict rules and punish anyone who so much as flirts with another person. But when David meets his perfect match in Rachel Weisz’s Short-Sighted Woman (none of the characters are given names apart from David), the two risk everything in order to be together.

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