Blu Tuesday: The Knick, Keanu 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 Knick: The Complete Second Season”

WHAT: After he’s rescued from the primitive rehab center that used heroine to treat his cocaine habit, Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) returns to the Knick with a new obsession: finding a cure for addiction. Meanwhile, Dr. Edwards (Andre Holland) and Dr. Gallinger (Eric Johnson) continue to butt heads; Bertie (Michael Angarano) goes to work at a competing hospital; and Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) investigates a mysterious death connected to her family’s shipping company.

WHY: The first season of “The Knick” was a slow-moving but nonetheless compelling period drama highlighted by some fantastic performances and gorgeous visuals, which makes it all the more disappointing to see the show suffer through such a terrible sophomore slump. Several key players, particularly Andre Holland’s Dr. Edwards and Eve Henson’s Lucy, have been saddled with half-baked storylines that barely form anything resembling an arc, while Clive Owen’s Thackery is gradually built up over the course of the season just so he can be torn down again. It’s all handled very sloppily, but that’s Season Two in a nutshell. Though the surgery sequences are still fascinating to watch, and the scene-stealing Chris Sullivan is rewarded with a bigger role, just when “The Knick” seems to be finding its groove, it pivots to less worthy characters like Dr. Gallinger and the sleazy Herman Barrow, both of whom are given far too much screen time this season. The change in direction is mind-boggling to say the least, because what started as a fairly promising prestige drama has deteriorated into a series that’s hardly worth continuing at all.

EXTRAS: In addition to three audio commentaries with various cast and crew, there’s a series of behind-the-scenes featurettes on the season’s main themes, an in-depth look at some of the medical procedures, a walking tour of the set, and much more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Sing Street, Hardcore Henry 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.

“Sing Street”

WHAT: In 1980s Dublin, a young teenager named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) starts a band with his new schoolmates in an attempt to impress the beautiful and mysterious Raphina (Lucy Boynton).

WHY: Writer/director John Carney specializes in making musical fairy tales for the soul, with each film functioning like its own album. If “Once” is his critically acclaimed debut, and “Begin Again” is the more mainstream (but less successful) follow-up, then “Sing Street” is the personal album that gets back to his roots. A semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale that ranks as one of the most pleasant moviegoing experiences in recent years, “Sing Street” features Carney at his very best. Although there’s not a lot of meat to the story, the film does a good job of tracking Conor’s artistic awakening as he discovers his own identity through experimentation with different musical styles and the awful fashion trends that accompany them. The mostly unknown cast is great, especially Jack Reynor as Conor’s older brother/musical guru, while the original songs (each one better than the last) are catchy enough to believe that the titular band could actually succeed. Though their progress happens a little too easily to be realistic, Carney makes the whole fantasy go down so smoothly that you won’t mind.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette, cast auditions, and an interview with writer/director John Carney and songwriter Adam Levine.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Batman v Superman 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.

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

WHAT: Terrified of what Superman (Henry Cavill) could do with his godlike power after witnessing the damage he caused during the Battle of Metropolis, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) – now a seasoned crime-fighter as the vigilante Batman – becomes obsessed with stopping him by any means necessary. Meanwhile, billionaire tech genius Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is building his own weapon to combat the alien threat using a piece of Kryptonite uncovered in the Indian Ocean. But when Luthor discovers that he shares a common enemy with Bruce, he manipulates Batman into doing his dirty work for him.

WHY: It’s scary to think that Warner Bros. is betting the future of its entire DC Comics film slate on “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” because it’s an overlong, overstuffed and disjointed mess of a movie that’s made only slightly better with the new Ultimate Edition extended cut. The film is constantly being pulled in mutiple directions, tirelessly working to function as a sequel to “Man of Steel,” a Batman reboot and a prequel to the forthcoming Justice League movie. That it’s even remotely coherent at all is to the credit of director Zack Snyder. In fact, there’s a really solid superhero flick buried somewhere beneath all the clumsy plotting and self-seriousness, but while the film has its charms – specifically, Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Jesse Eisenberg’s bold take on Lex Luthor – Snyder gets so caught up in teasing future installments that he neglects his characters in the process. “Batman v Superman” wants to have its cake and eat it too, and although you can’t fault Snyder’s ambition, if Marvel taught us anything with its measured buildup to “The Avengers,” it’s that the proverbial cake tastes much better when it’s been earned.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release is packed with over two hours of bonus material, including a behind-the-scenes look at uniting the heroes of the DC cinematic universe, in-depth profiles on Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor, production featurettes on the Batmobile and Batcave, filming the titular showdown and much more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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The Sound of Laughter: Why the music business lends itself so well to comedy

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Music and comedy have gone together for ages, ever since the first little ditty with nonsense words, or a dirty limerick put to music, all the way up to the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan, vaudeville and even “Weird Al” Yankovic. Comedies have used music to great effect in the past, whether it’s the crooning of Nick Rivers in “Top Secret,” the lip-synching to Queen in “Wayne’s World,” or the John Farnham sing-a-long turned riot in “Hot Rod,” and many others. But there is a subsection of comedy films that is particularly obsessed with music, parodying a specific brand of music and musician to great effect.

The obsession with pop culture fads is nothing new, with Hollywood chasing the music scene for laughs arguably beginning with The Monkees. The accompanying sitcom that poked fun at Beatlemania while aping the look and feel of “Help!” and “A Hard Day’s Night” was an early shot in the battle between comedy and music.

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Blu Tuesday: House of Cards 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.

“House of Cards: The Complete Fourth Season”

WHAT: With their marriage on the rocks, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is forced to go on the campaign trail alone while Claire (Robin Wright) starts to make big moves concerning her own political ambitions. But in order to beat young Republican candidate Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman) in the upcoming presidential election, Frank needs Claire by his side more than ever.

WHY: The third season of “House of Cards” was a slight disappointment compared to the show’s excellent first two years, and sadly, that trend continues with Season Four, which really pushes the limits of suspension of disbelief. This isn’t the first time that the Underwoods have found themselves backed into a corner, but the storytelling has become so ridiculous that it simply isn’t as captivating as it once was. With that said, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright deliver such great performances in the lead roles that it papers over a lot of the cracks, demonstrating yet again why the characters are more interesting when working together than apart. The rest of the cast isn’t as effective with the limited screen time they’re given, but Joel Kinnaman’s JFK-like governor at least proves a worthy adversary for Frank. Though “House of Cards” remains one of the better dramas on TV, it’s obvious that the show is beginning to run out of ideas, as evidenced by creator Beau Willimon’s decision not to return next season, and if Netflix was smart, they wouldn’t drag it out any longer than necessary.

EXTRAS: Sadly, there’s no bonus material included.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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