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.
WHAT: When an evil sorcerer named Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) sends a small war party of orcs through a portal to the peaceful realm of Azeroth in the hopes of conquering the land, the human forces – led by King Llane (Dominic Cooper), heroic warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and powerful magician Medivh (Ben Foster) – scramble to defend their kingdom with the help of Garona (Paula Patton), a human/orc half-breed who must decide where her true loyalty lies.
WHY: Hollywood has a pretty awful track record with video game adaptations, so when it was announced that director Duncan Jones would be bringing the mega-popular “Warcraft” franchise to the big screen, many people believed that he would finally break the curse. Sadly, it doesn’t even come close. Any hope that “Warcraft” would be the first great video game adaptation is promptly squashed within the opening 30 minutes, and it only gets worse from there as the audience is forced to suffer through the incredibly convoluted and disjointed plot. Although Paula Patton and Toby Kebbell (as conflicted orc warrior Durotan) deliver fine performances in their respective roles, the rest of the cast doesn’t fare quite as well, unable to rise above the hackneyed script and two-dimensionality of their video game counterparts. There are some enjoyable bits scattered throughout, and the motion capture technology is truly remarkable, but while that may be enough to please its legion of diehard fans, everyone else will see “Warcraft” exactly for what it is: just another bad video game film.
EXTRAS: In addition to a six-part making-of featurette that covers everything from pre-production and casting to visual effects and stunts, there’s a look at the Madame Tussauds exhibit created in promotion of the film, the supplemental motion comic “Bonds of Brotherhood,” deleted scenes, a gag reel and more.
October is an interesting month for film releases. The blockbuster season is a distant memory and awards season is just getting started. Some festival favorites finally hit wide release, while others are chasing the spooky atmosphere of the season. However, there aren’t many major horror movies this month (and no, “Boo! A Madea Halloween” doesn’t count); instead, it seems that the dominant genre for October is adult thrillers. Sure, there’s a comedy and a drama or two in the mix, but mainly it’s thrillers aimed at grownups with twists, turns and some sophisticated action. Who knows if any of these will succeed at the box office, but here’s what’s on the docket for the month.
“The Birth of a Nation”
Who: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Aunjanue Ellis and Gabrielle Union What: Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher in the antebellum South, orchestrates an uprising. When: October 7th Why: There’s been a lot of discussion around “The Birth of a Nation.” First, there was tons of hype about the film coming out of Sundance, but more recently, the talk has become about writer/director/star Nate Parker’s previous rape allegations. For some, that’s a deal breaker and they won’t go see the film; others have learned to separate the art from the artist and will take the movie on its own merits (see Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, etc.). Based on word of mouth, the film is a harrowing, emotional experience that does a good job of connecting audiences to this historical event while finding the humanity amid all the horrible actions of the time period.
Actor Bill Nunn passed away according to director Spike Lee. Nunn is probably best known for his iconic role as Radio Raheem in Spike Lee’s 1991 classic “Do The Right Thing.” Nunn was an excellent actor and had a long career in film, and we remember his role in “Regarding Henry” very well. He played Bradley, the physical therapist who helped Harrison Ford’s character recover and rebuild his life following a gunshot wound. It’s an underrated film that’s worth watching, and Nunn’s understated performance stood out even with great performances by Ford and Annette Bening.
Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Byung-hun Lee, Hayley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Vincent D’Onofrio
Hollywood remakes are hardly a new concept, but while there have been a handful of movies that actually improved upon the original, most tend not to be as good, either because they veer too far from what made them enjoyable or not far enough to make it worthwhile. Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven” is an interesting case in that it’s technically a remake of a remake, based on the 1960 John Sturges film of the same name, which was itself inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” Although it certainly had the odds stacked against it, the movie succeeds where so many have failed by retaining the spirit of its predecessors while also distinguishing itself just enough to stand on its own. It’s not exactly magnificent, but it’s a slick and entertaining take on a familiar tale that’s bursting with personality.
The year is 1879, and the small town of Rose Creek has been invaded by an evil mining baron named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), who presents the townspeople with an ultimatum: accept his paltry offer to buy their land or stay and suffer the consequences when he returns in three weeks. And to prove that he means business, Bogue murders the outspoken husband of Emma Cullen (Hayley Bennett). While her neighbors cower inside their homes, Emma goes searching for help in a nearby town and hires bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who in turn recruits six other men – drunken gambler Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), former Confederate sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), knives expert Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), fur trapper Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) – to protect the town and put an end to Bogue’s tyranny. But as they prepare for the inevitable attack, the seven mercenaries soon realize that they’re fighting for more than money.
Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell
Nicholas Stoller & Doug Sweetland
“Storks” is filled with sweet and funny moments, but it has two teensy weensy (read: massive) problems: a lot of the funny bits are stolen, and there is no story. Like, at all. It’s actually kind of impressive how far out of his way screenwriter Nicholas Stoller went to not come up with a coherent story, and then you remember that he’s written some funny movies that had a story (the two most recent Muppets films, for starters), and that’s when the feeling of being cheated sets in.
Storks have gotten out of the business of delivering babies in favor of an Amazon-type model, and Junior (Andy Samberg) is the star delivery stork. Boss stork Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) is being promoted and would like Junior to take his place. But first, Junior must “liberate” the accidental troublemaker and newly-18-year-old Tulip (Katie Crown), a girl whose delivery instructions were lost and has remained with the storks. Junior instead assigns her to the now-dormant mail room, expecting her to not be able to break anything, until she receives a letter from Nate (Anton Starkman), a bored single child to workaholic parents who wants a little brother. Tulip sends the letter to the wrong machine, and a baby – somehow – is born. Junior, knowing that he’ll lose the promotion if Hunter discovers what has happened, teams up with Tulip to deliver the baby.