Blu Tuesday: The Newsroom, Hercules 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.

“The Newsroom: The Complete Second Season”

WHAT: Following an exclusive report on a top-secret U.S. drone strike that turns out to be untrue, the “News Night” staff becomes embroiled in a legal battle when the producer responsible for the story sues the network for wrongful termination. Meanwhile, Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) goes on the campaign trail with the Romney press bus and Maggie (Alison Pill) deals with the aftermath of a traumatic trip to Uganda.

WHY: Some people really love to hate “The Newsroom,” and for the life of me, I don’t understand why. Though the show can be a tad exaggerated at times (both dramatically and comically), it has great characters and the kind of clever, rapid-fire dialogue that’s become synonymous with every Aaron Sorkin production. Season Two isn’t as strong as its debut season – due to the more focused, season-long drone storyline and certain subplots that remove key characters from the very environment they thrive best – but with the exception of the new title sequence, it’s the same old “The Newsroom,” particularly when taking on real-life topics like the 2012 Elections, Occupy Wall Street and Trayvon Martin. Sorkin’s writing dazzles as always, but it’s the performances by the ensemble cast (from stars Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer, to supporting players like Sam Waterson, Olivia Munn, Dev Patel and Thomas Sadoski) that makes it such a joy to watch. It’s a shame that more people didn’t feel the same way, because although the series is returning for a shortened third season, it still feels like a loss, especially with so few great shows left on HBO outside of “Game of Thrones.”

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray set includes four audio commentaries with various cast and crew, the usual collection of “Inside the Episode” featurettes and deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: BUY

“Hercules”

WHAT: After enduring his legendary 12 labors, Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) and his band of mercenaries are hired by the King of Thrace (John Hurt) to protect his people from a tyrannical warlord, only to discover that he may be fighting on the wrong side.

WHY: It’s actually quite surprising that someone hasn’t tried making a Hercules movie with Dwayne Johnson sooner, because it’s a role that he was born to play. But while the film is marginally better than Renny Harlin’s “The Legend of Hercules,” it’s rooted even less in the original myth, instead using Steve Moore’s comic book series as its inspiration, which suggests that Hercules wasn’t a demigod at all, but rather a mortal man whose legend far exceeds his abilities. Johnson does a good job in the title role, though he doesn’t have a lot to work with, and Ian McShane and Rufus Sewell (as fellow swords-for-hire) add some color to the otherwise drab story, but there’s nothing really special that sets it apart from the many other sword-and-sandal movies. The action sequences are incredibly generic, the twists aren’t surprising at all, and although the story offers a unique interpretation of the Hercules tale, it’s hard not to feel disappointed by the bait-and-switch approach to the material. After all, would you rather see a movie about the Hercules from Greek mythology, or one about an ordinary guy named Hercules who just happens to be stronger than most? Exactly.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Brett Ratner and producer Beau Flynn, there’s an introduction to the film from Ratner and Dwayne Johnson, featurettes on the characters, weapons and specials effects, a behind-the-scenes look at filming one of the major actions sequences and 15 deleted/extended scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Maleficent”

WHAT: When she’s tricked by her human friend, Stefan (Sharlto Copley) – who steals her wings in exchange for a place on the throne – vengeful fairy Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) curses the king’s newborn daughter with a spell that will take effect on her 16th birthday. Sent away to a remote cabin for her protection, Maleficent comes to care for Princess Aurora (played as a teen by Elle Fanning) after realizing that she may be the land’s only hope for peace.

WHY: Hollywood loves a good fad, and two of the more popular trends these days are fairy tales and villains, so it’s not surprising that Disney would want in on the act, especially after the mild success of Universal’s “Snow White and the Huntsman.” Just like that movie, “Maleficent” attempts to humanize its iconic baddie by turning her into a misunderstood antihero whose fall from grace wasn’t entirely of her own making. But just like every other cinematic villain to get the revisionist treatment (from Dracula to the Evil Queen), Maleficent is stripped of everything that made her such a great character in the process, and perhaps even more troubling, as the victim of a creepy drug rape that’s never addressed. Angelina Jolie has the physicality and talent required for the role, but while she does a good job with the material provided, it would’ve been more fun to see her play a full-fledged villain compared to the morally gray character here. Though “Maleficent” is an admirable attempt at breathing new life into a classic tale, there are so many problems with the story and supporting characters that it would have made more sense to go the direct route and make a live-action “Sleeping Beauty” movie instead.

EXTRAS: There are five short featurettes – including a look at Elle Fanning’s involvement in the film, Maleficent’s costume design and the various stages of the writing process – as well as a handful of deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

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The Rise of Mobile Gambling in Sports: Changing Perceptions and Ideals

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Historically, gambling has polarised opinions and suffered from a number of damaging misconceptions. From images of smoke-fuelled and dimly lit rooms to crowded bookmakers, gambling has always been plagued by negative connotations and faced criticism from individuals throughout the world. The rise of mobile gaming has been as impactful as it has been pronounced, however, with the result that it managing to change perceptions and create an entirely new image for the gambling sector as a whole.

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5 Great Cars for 2015

NSX Concept

It’s that time of year again! Dealers are ready to unveil all the newest models from your favorite brands. Whether you’re looking for a sleek sporty convertible or a nice family-sized SUV, here are just five cars that are perfect for 2015.

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Arnette Eyewear’s Public Enemy Collection Sunglasses

Public Enemy Arnette Sunglasses

What I didn’t realize while it was happening in the 1980s and 90s, and even up until this year, was how successfully Public Enemy branded themselves in an era when “branding” wasn’t a buzzword or something that everyone was trying to build, bereft of skill as they may be.

Even today, if you blast Public Enemy in your office at what is considered more than a reasonable volume, it will likely be received as a “statement” of some kind, just like when you hear a commercial for the latest U2 album and know there must be a new Apple product out.

The Public Enemy logo, a silhouette of a b-boy in the crosshairs of a gun sight, stood on its own merit independent of the group and became a defiant fashion statement against oppression (perceived or real), e.g. Edward Furlong as antagonist John Connor in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” who wears a PE shirt for the entirety of the movie.

Iconic still today, sunglass company Arnette Eyewear launched a limited edition Public Enemy Collection as a part of both its “Uncommon Projects” initiative and the 25th Anniversary of the song, “Fight the Power.”

“I like to wear sunglasses, but I don’t like to wear sunglasses at performances,” the group’s Chuck D said to Rolling Stone. “We decided to do this because we were tired of not having things for people. We’re not going to go do some lucrative vodka shit, where it’s the rapper goes big and has his own vodka. I can’t do that. I’m not part of that one. But I hope these do well.”

Built on the classic look of Arnette’s Witch Doctor frame, the glasses come with interchangeable black and white arms that feature the logo on one side and the classic “Public Enemy” name on the other.

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Delano Las Vegas another feather in the cap for MGM Resorts

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As MGM Resorts continue to expand and modernize their portfolio of properties in Las Vegas, the momentum picks up with the recently launched Delano Las Vegas. Bullz-Eye visited the new resort recently and found out exactly what the hype was all about with the Delano opening her doors in Vegas. With its all-suite boutique offering, Delano Las Vegas (which is the same building as the former The Hotel) brings the effortless style and unparalleled service of the original Delano South Beach to the energy and buzz of the Las Vegas Strip.

When you first enter the Delano Las Vegas, you know there is something different about this hotel, from the private and separate entrance from the attached Mandalay Bay resort and Casino, to the natural desert fixtures welcoming you to the true desert resort. This all-suite oasis features rooms with a clean color palette of whites and neutrals, like the 725 square-foot king suite, which incorporates Delano’s iconic window sheers, crisp white linens and oversized tufted headboards, updated with playful gold accents for a bold and modern touch. Each suite features a private bedroom with a king-sized bed, a spacious spa-style bath and separate living room with its own powder room. Clean and neat is measured to the max and we appreciated the understated luxury that was very cool without trying too hard.

We started most days at the 3940 coffee and tea joint on the lobby floor. Inspired by the shaded area of a sun-drenched desert, 3940 is a comfortable retreat featuring mid-century modern furniture, plush sofas and communal seating. The ceiling’s unique lighting features cast a patterned glow to the comfortable surroundings, where we lounged and unwound by the marble fireplace or in the alluring living room. The menu is perfect for a quick bite or refreshing beverage and one can enjoy one of their many artisanal teas, freshly squeezed juices and signature coffees, or perhaps sample one of the signature menu items such as our Breakfast Burrito and Ham & Brie Paninis. The granola with yogurt was superb and was a smart healthy option.

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