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

  

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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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Blu Tuesday: The Girl on the Train 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.

“The Girl on the Train”

WHAT: Still reeling from her divorce from Tom (Justin Theroux), who left her for another woman (Rebecca Ferguson) and started a family, Rachel (Emily Blunt) has become a raging alcoholic prone to blackouts. Despite losing her job in the city, she still rides the train every morning, fantasizing about the relationship between Tom’s neighbors, Scott and Megan Hipwell (Luke Evans and Hayley Bennett), from the train window. But when Megan suddenly goes missing and Rachel fears that she may have been involved, she becomes entangled in the investigation to discover the truth.

WHY: It’s easy to see how the producers of “The Girl on the Train” thought they were making the next “Gone Girl”; in addition to being based on a bestselling crime thriller that features multiple narrators, it has a twist ending that you’re not supposed to see coming. The problem, however, is that you do see it coming in director Tate Taylor’s big screen adaptation, which deflates most of the tension in the story. Whereas “Gone Girl” had several layers to peel back and explore, “The Girl on the Train” is a fairly straightforward mystery made to seem more complicated by the disjointed timeline. It also has one of the worst opening acts in recent memory, boring you into submission with its one-dimensional characters and terrible pacing. Though the movie improves significantly in the second half as the storylines begin to converge, the damage has already been done. Emily Blunt delivers an extraordinary performance in the lead role (rather than simply acting drunk, she plays Rachel as an alcoholic desperately trying to look sober), but it feels like she’s in a different film – one that isn’t marred by soapy plot turns and Taylor’s messy direction.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Tate Taylor, there’s a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Bullz-Eye’s 2017 Alternative Film Awards

non_awards

‘Tis the season for various critics groups and professional organizations to hand out their annual movie awards, recognizing various achievements in acting, writing and other areas of film production. These awards are prestigious but ultimately lacking in diversity and what audiences are truly seeking when they go to their local theater. To remedy that, we here at Bullz-Eye have created the Alternative Film Awards, which celebrates some lesser-acknowledged movies and performances that also shone bright in 2016. (Warning: Some mild spoilers follow.)

Best Action Sequence

The airport fight in “Captain America: Civil War”

There were more technically impressive action scenes in 2016, but what the Russo brothers captured so well with this set piece is spectacle and emotion. It highlighted the best parts of serialization and an expanded cinematic universe, and because audiences know these characters and care about them (possibly even siding with both parties as they each make excellent points), they are invested in seeing what happens when they clash. Add to that the fact that the sequence imitated the type of big, splash-page brawls often found in comic books (with multiple skirmishes happening at once), not to mention the admittedly cool sight of Spider-Man and Giant Man squaring off, and it’s no surprise why the moment was hailed as an instant classic among fans.

Runner-Up: The entirety of “Kill Zone 2”

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Blu Tuesday: Deepwater Horizon and The Accountant

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.

“Deepwater Horizon”

WHAT: On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, located just off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, explodes after BP executives bypass an important safety measure due to the project falling behind schedule. Stranded on the platform as it becomes engulfed in flames, chief electronics technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) and his fellow crew members must fight their way through the chaos in order to survive.

WHY: Everyone remembers the images of the BP oil spill that dominated the TV news cycle back in 2010, but not many people know the details of what actually happened. It remains one of the largest man-made disasters in U.S. history, and director Peter Berg recreates the tragic event with stunning authenticity. If there’s one thing that Berg clearly prides himself on, it’s the remarkable attention to detail in his films, and “Deepwater Horizon” is no different, from the technical jargon that drives the first half of the story to the brutally realistic action sequences that make up the latter half. Unfortunately, while “Deepwater Horizon” is an effective disaster movie with some decent thrills, solid performances and enough explosions to make even Michael Bay jealous, it doesn’t seem to have a purpose, forgoing the opportunity to examine the aftermath of the spill in greater detail. The film works just fine as a dramatic reenactment of corporate greed gone horribly wrong, but unlike the real-life incident, it will quickly be forgotten.

EXTRAS: In addition to a series of interviews focusing on the five main cast members (Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez and Dylan O’Brien), there’s a behind-the-scenes look at designing and building the rig, a profile on director Peter Berg, on-set footage of production and more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“The Accountant”

WHAT: Small-town accountant Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) has always been better with numbers than people, moonlighting as a freelancer for some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organizations. Determined to stay one step ahead of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes division, Christian accepts a seemingly innocuous job auditing a high-profile robotics company after an accounting clerk (Anna Kendrick) discovers a discrepancy in the finances. But as Christian gets closer to exposing the truth, he’s targeted by a contract killer (Jon Bernthal) who’s been hired by someone within the company to contain the leak.

WHY: What if Jason Bourne wasn’t an amnesiac super-soldier but rather a high-functioning autistic man with comparable fighting skills? That’s the general idea behind Gavin O’Connor’s “The Accountant,” a film suffering from such an identity crisis that it’s unclear what kind of movie he was trying to make. Though it starts out as both a generic crime procedural and a zen-like character study about an on-the-spectrum math genius struggling to lead a normal life, it completely changes gears midway through and transforms into a straight-up action thriller. The problem is that “The Accountant” never stops being those other films either, resulting in a convoluted and tonally unbalanced mess that is occasionally entertaining but feels like it’s a few drafts away from a finished product. Though “The Accountant” thrives when it embraces its B-movie roots, the film is so desperate not to be reduced to a silly genre flick that it’s unwilling to let go of the stuff that’s dragging it down. This could have been the next Bourne franchise, but sadly, it doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts.

EXTRAS: There’s a trio of featurettes on the characters, the movie’s portrayal of autism and filming the action sequences.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

  

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