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.
WHAT: When young Riley (Kaitlyn Davis) is uprooted from Minnesota and moved to San Francisco for her father’s new job, her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black) – struggle to adjust to her new life, creating havoc inside her mind where her memories and personalities are stored.
WHY: For a movie studio founded on innovation, it’s been awhile since Pixar has created something truly original, which is why it’s so great to see the animation outfit return to those roots with “Inside Out.” Featuring all the touchstones of a typical Pixar film – it’s funny, charming, clever and touching, often at the same time – “Inside Out” is one of the studio’s most unique features to date, and arguably its most mature as well. Though it borrows generously from the Woody/Buzz road-trip plot of the original “Toy Story,” the movie is incredibly sophisticated, dealing with big-picture ideas that kids may not completely understand on a conceptual level, but can still identify with thanks to the way co-directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen have deconstructed it. Amy Poehler is also smartly cast as the voice of Joy, although surprisingly, it’s Phyllis Smith (best known for her role on “The Office”) who is the real standout as Sadness. The other voice actors aren’t given as much to do, and the film has a habit of oversimplifying its treatment of Riley’s emotions (which were clearly inspired by the work of Robert Plutchik), including some manufactured conflict that’s a bit flimsy, but it makes up for those minor blemishes with boundless levels of creativity that win out every time.
EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by co-directors Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen and producer Jonas Rivera, there’s a behind-the-scenes look at the movie’s evolution, featurettes on sound design, film editing and creating the emotions and the inside of Riley’s mind, as well some deleted scenes, the short film “Lava” and an all-new short titled “Riley’s First Date?”
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: When Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) realizes that his family’s annual vacation is in desperate need of a little shakeup, he finds inspiration from his own childhood and plans a cross-country road trip to Walley World. But just like his vacation to America’s favorite family fun park as a kid, things don’t go exactly as planned, as the Griswolds must contend with thieving rednecks, psychotic truck drivers and their own extended family.
WHY: Though the original “Vacation” featured its share of lowbrow comedy, the 2015 sequel/reboot is so embarrassingly dumb that it makes the Harold Ramis/John Hughes classic seem decidedly highbrow by comparison. Nothing that happens in this film makes a shred of sense, while the Griswolds themselves are so naïve that it’s a miracle they’re able to function in their daily lives. In fact, they’re such miserable company that it’s hard to recall a single laugh in the movie earned by any of the family members. Fortunately, the supporting cast steps up to save the film from being a complete waste of time. Chris Hemsworth and Charlie Day are both funny in their respective roles, while a scene involving a standoff between the different state police officers in charge of patrolling the Four Corners Monument is the funniest bit in the entire movie. It hardly makes up for the stupidity on display in the rest of the film, however, because “Vacation” goes for the cheap and easy joke every time, and although some work well, most of them are so lame that it’ll make you wish the franchise stayed dead after “Vegas Vacation.”
EXTRAS: In addition to a making-of featurette and interviews with the cast about honoring the legacy of the franchise, there are some deleted scenes and a gag reel.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP
“The Final Girls”
WHAT: On the anniversary of her mother’s death, Max (Taissa Farmiga) and her friends attend a special screening of “Camp Bloodbath,” the ‘80s slasher film that starred Max’s mom (Malin Akerman). But when the theater suddenly catches fire and Max cuts through the projector screen in order to escape, the group is mysteriously sucked into the cult horror classic where they must team up with the movie’s fictional characters in order to battle its machete-wielding killer.
WHY: There’s been a surge of meta horror films released over the last few years, but while Todd Strauss-Schulson’s “The Final Girls” boasts a really clever premise and a solid cast, it doesn’t succeed on the same level as other recent entries like “The Cabin in the Woods” and “You’re Next.” Though it has a lot of fun playing with slasher tropes and cinema in general (showing the way Max and her friends are affected by elements like musical cues, monochromatic flashback sequences and slow motion within the fictional movie), the film isn’t funny or scary enough, ultimately becoming a victim of its own satire due to its insistence on preserving the genre’s traditionally bad acting and writing. Additionally, the movie only follows its established rules when it’s convenient for the story, creating several plot holes in the process, while the funniest cast members are killed off too early. Diehard horror fans will still find plenty to love about “The Final Girls” in spite of these flaws, but it’s definitely not as good as it could have been.
EXTRAS: There are three different audio commentaries – one with director Todd Strauss-Schulson, another with the cast and crew, and a third with writers M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller – as well as featurettes on visual effects and previsualization, and some deleted scenes and alternate endings with optional director commentary.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT