Blu Tuesday: Olympus Has Fallen, Girls 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 Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“Olympus Has Fallen”

WHAT: When former Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) gets trapped inside the White House following a terrorist attack, he must rely on his special skills to rescue the President (Aaron Eckhart) from his captors before they detonate the country’s entire nuclear stockpile on domestic soil.

WHY: Antoine Fuqua may have beat Roland Emmerich’s “White House Down” to the punch by being the first Presidential action flick out of the gate, but not without the final product suffering as a result. The special effects, in particular, look a little unpolished (undoubtedly due to its tight post-production schedule), and although it features an excellent cast, many of the actors are wasted, perhaps none more so than Eckhart, who’s given very little to but grimace and grit his teeth. It’s also completely ridiculous in just about every way, from an unidentified Black Hawk flying straight into Washington, D.C. (when it would have been shot down as soon as it entered U.S. airspace), to North Korean terrorists overtaking one of the country’s most heavily guarded buildings in a matter of minutes. The film takes a while to get going, but once Banning gets into full stealth mode, “Olympus Has Fallen” becomes quite enjoyable – a poor man’s “Die Hard” in the best sense possible.

EXTRAS: In addition to a making-of featurette titled “Under Surveillance,” there are four more featurettes on the cast, special effects, stunts and the Black Hawk sequence, as well as a short blooper reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Girls: Season Two”

WHAT: The further adventures of Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) and her group of twenty-something friends – Marnie (Allison Williams), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) – as they traverse the ups and downs of adulthood in New York City.

WHY: I had a very love-hate relationship with the first season of “Girls,” but Season Two is such a complete train wreck that it made me want to stop watching the show altogether. Dunham has created one of the most unlikable protagonists on TV (between her coke-fueled meltdown and the Patrick Wilson episode, she hits an all-time low), and Williams’ laughably insecure Marnie isn’t too far behind. In fact, the female characters have so few redeeming qualities – even Mamet’s lively Shoshanna resorts to some bad behavior this season – that it’s a wonder how the audience is supposed to keep rooting for them. Thankfully, their male co-stars at least make “Girls” tolerable. Season One standout Adam Driver continues his strange but endearing performance as Hannah’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, while Alex Karpovsky seizes his expanded role with aplomb. Unfortunately, the show isn’t called “Boys,” although as far as spinoff ideas go, giving Driver and Karpovsky their own series sounds infinitely better than whatever Dunham cooks up next.

EXTRAS: There’s certainly no shortage of bonus material here, highlighted by cast and crew audio commentaries on seven episodes. Also included is a series of deleted scenes, Inside the Episode featurettes, a table read for Episode 5, a Charlie Rose interview with Lena Dunham, a making-of featurette, a roundtable discussion with the show’s male co-stars, and if you can believe it, much more.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

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Win a trip to Britain in cool Skyfall contest

We’re huge James Bond fans, so this looks pretty interesting. Check out the video above and this free secret agent game – AGENT UK for a chance to win a trip to Britain. The game is being released in connection with the new James Bond film, “Skyfall,” opening in November.

The prize package for the winner is pretty impressive:

An Aston Martin for the weekend

Two BA flights to london

A set of Globe trotter luggage

Three nights at a luxury london hotel

Tickets to experience the top London attractions.

If you’re a Bond fan you’ll probably appreciate the game, so check it out for a chance to win.

  

This season, a king will fall

A&E Network’s original scripted drama series, “Breakout Kings,” returns for an action-packed second season. From Matt Olmstead and Nick Santora, writers/producers of the hit series “Prison Break,” “Breakout Kings” follows an unconventional partnership between the U.S. Marshals’ office and a group of convicts as they work to catch fugitives on the run.

In “Breakout Kings,” veteran U.S. Marshals Charlie Duchamp (Laz Alonso, Avatar, Fast and the Furious 4: Fast & Furious) and Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi, “The Wire,” “Entourage”) decide to reject protocol and take an unorthodox approach to their work: using former criminals to catch current ones. They form a special task force composed of the three most elusive convicts Ray ever captured: Lloyd Lowery (Jimmi Simpson, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,”), a former child prodigy and behaviorist/psychiatric expert who excels in psychoanalysis; Shea Daniels (Malcolm Goodwin, American Gangster), an ex-gang banger who knows how to work the system, both in prison and on the street; and Erica Reed (Serinda Swan, Tron: Legacy, “Smallville”), a sexy expert tracker who learned her trade from her bounty hunter father. Charlie and Ray also employ the services of Julianne Simms (Brooke Nevin, “Worst Week”), a civilian who acts as the “funnel” for the group – all information, tips and data go through her.

  

Blu Tuesday: Gonzo Depp, Fallout Shelters and the Female Woody Allen

It’s another big week for Blu-ray fans, and not because you can finally watch the latest installment of the “Twilight” saga in the comfort of your own home. Though “Breaking Dawn: Part One” was released last Friday, therefore making it eligible for this week’s column, there were fortunately plenty of other great titles to choose from. And because I don’t want to waste another second on that godforsaken franchise, let’s get right to it.

“The Rum Diary”

It’s no secret that Johnny Depp is a big fan of Hunter S. Thompson (in addition to playing a fictional version of him in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” he also narrated “Gonzo,” the 2008 documentary about the writer), and “The Rum Diary” was a project that he had been trying to get made for several years prior to Thompson’s untimely death. Unfortunately, while Depp clearly has a lot of fun channeling the eccentric journalist yet again in this adaptation of the writer’s “lost novel,” the movie is a rambling mess that fails to find any sort of rhythm over the course of its 120 minute runtime. The acting is solid and there are some great set pieces throughout, but it doesn’t really add up to anything of much substance. Having never read any of Thompson’s work, that may have very well been the point, but that doesn’t make the film any more accessible or entertaining.

Blu-ray Highlight: Though fans of Hunter S. Thompson will undoubtedly enjoy “The Rum Diary Back-Story,” a 2002 documentary that features Thompson and many others talking about the publication of the novel and the long road to adapting it for the big screen, I found the much briefer making-of featurette, “A Voice Made of Ink and Rage,” more interesting. In it, Johnny Depp and director Bruce Robinson discuss making the film while still keeping Thompson’s spirit alive on set. (Hint: It involved plenty of rum.)

“Take Shelter”

There always seems to be at least one indie movie that emerges as a potential dark horse in the months leading up to the Oscars, and this year, that film is “Take Shelter.” Although it was overlooked by every major awards show, that hasn’t stopped some cinephiles from insisting that it deserved more recognition. In fact, my own critics group awarded the movie the #3 spot in our annual Top 10 and handed Best Actor honors to star Michael Shannon. But while “Take Shelter” is certainly a good film, I’m not convinced that it’s a great one, even in a year saturated with underwhelming movies. Shannon’s intense performance as a family man suffering from visions of an impending apocalypse has garnered a lot of attention, but it’s really no different from the work that the bug-eyed, off-kilter actor has been consistently delivering for years. Whether or not you actually like the film ultimately comes down to its polarizing ending, however, because it’s about as love-it-or-hate-it as they come.

Blu-ray Highlight: There are actually quite a few good bonus features on the disc – including an audio commentary by writer/director Jeff Nichols and actor Michael Shannon, as well as a short but sweet making-of featurette – but the best of the bunch is a surprisingly funny Q&A with Shannon and co-star Shea Whigham where they chat about how they got involved with the project and reveal other anecdotes from the set.

“Tiny Furniture”

I missed out on seeing Lena Dunham’s “Tiny Furniture” when it debuted at SXSW two years ago; it was my first time at the event and I didn’t want to take the chance on a movie I knew nothing about. But after it won the festival’s award for Best Narrative Film, I made a mental note to watch it as soon as it was available on Blu-ray. Although I didn’t fall quite so head-over-heels for the movie as some, “Tiny Furniture” serves as a great showcase for a promising young talent who’s already drawn comparisons as a female Woody Allen. Granted, Dunham still has a ways to go – both behind the screen and in front of it – but the cornerstones are already there in her smart and funny writing. Your mileage will vary depending on how much you can tolerate Dunham’s hopelessly self-involved protagonist, but while “Tiny Furniture” is definitely rough around the edges, it’s worth seeing if only to bear witness to a filmmaker on the verge of a major breakout.

Blu-ray Highlight: Criterion always does a fantastic job with their Blu-ray releases, and “Tiny Furniture” is no exception. In addition to an engaging 30-minute conversation between writer/director/actor Lena Dunham and rom-com guru Nora Ephron, the single-disc effort also includes Dunham’s first feature, “Creative Fiction,” four of her early shorts, and an interview with Paul Schrader. They’re all highlight-worthy extras, but the discussion between Dunham and Ephron is something that any film fan will enjoy.

  

Rockport x Barbour Fall 2011 Collaboration Boots

We were lucky enough to test a pair of Rockport x Barbour limited edition collaboration boots in the Break Trail Cap Toe design. The line will launch December 2011 as this is Rockport’s second collaboration with Barbour for footwear (they did their first collaboration last Fall 2010 season) and they expanded their collaboration to include three styles in multiple colorways.

- Break Trail Cap Toe in polar/sage colorway (Jake Gyllenhaal was recently pictured wearing the Rockport x Barbour Breaktrail Cap Toe)
- Day to Night Buckle Hi Boot in raize/sage and camel/muted tartan colorways

These are great gifts for the style conscious guy this holiday season as they can be worn to parties or outdoors. They are really that versatile! Along with the upscale design, Rockport added adiPRENE by adidas to create a stylish yet completely walkable boot. For this special collection, they also used suede leather from CF Stead which is one of the most respected tanners of suede leather in the world. Get them on your shopping list now as these Rockport x Barbour designs can be found at Bloomingdale’s, Paragon Sports (NY), The Tannery (Boston), Zappos.com and many other specialty retailers around the US.

  

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