Blu Tuesday: Die Hard, Zombie Love and More

After last week’s disappointing haul, Blu-ray fans will be pleasantly surprised by the wealth of new releases arriving in stores today. In addition to the movies covered below, you can also pick up other high-profile tiles like “Breaking Bad: Season Five,” “Falling Skies: Season Two,” “Adventure Time: Season Two” and “Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection,” all of which I recommend. Though it’s a bit strange that the studios would release so many great titles in the same week, it just means that you’ll have to be extra mindful of my suggestions.

“A Good Day to Die Hard”

The “Die Hard” series may have proven that it still had some life left in it with 2007’s “Live Free or Die Hard,” but the latest installment is so shockingly dull that the studio would have been better off ending it there. Not only is it the weakest entry in the action franchise, but it’s so generic in just about every way that the only thing that makes it feel like a “Die Hard” movie at all is the inclusion of John McClane, and even he seems like a watered-down version of the character we know and love. After bringing back McClane’s daughter in the last film, it made sense to incorporate his son Jack into the story this time around. But while that dynamic may have sounded great on paper, it doesn’t work as well in execution. A lot of that falls on Skip Woods’ awful script, and between the clichéd plot and recycled jokes, “A Good Day to Die Hard” feels like a direct-to-video action film that’s replaced key characters with members of the McClane family. Director John Moore takes it one step further by sucking almost all the fun out of the experience. Though he clearly takes pride in the sheer ridiculousness of the violent set pieces, it’s mostly just a bunch of noise, and not terribly exciting to watch either.

Blu-ray Highlight: A review copy wasn’t provided in time, but if the list of bonus material is any indication, the extras are probably the best thing on the disc.

“Warm Bodies”

Director Jonathan Levine has tackled some pretty ballsy material in his short career, but “Warm Bodies” is easily his most adventurous and challenging project yet, if only because the subject matter is about as outside-the-box as you can get. Based on Isaac Marion’s young adult novel of the same name, the movie plays out like “Romeo and Juliet” by way of George Romero – a post-apocalyptic fairy tale that takes quite a few liberties with zombie film mythology along the way. One of the biggest changes is that eating someone’s brains now comes with the added effect of absorbing their memories. It doesn’t exactly make sense, but it’s essential to the story that Levine is trying to tell. And for the most part, he gets away with it, thanks mainly to his two leads. Teresa Palmer does a good job playing the love interest (a more proactive damsel in distress who could kick Bella Swan’s butt), while Nicholas Hoult’s performance is nothing short of impressive considering a bulk of his speaking lines are delivered in hilariously self-aware narration. The film drags a bit in the middle, but Levine’s script is bursting with such wry, dark humor that it just barely tips the scales in its favor.

Blu-ray Highlight: Same deal as above, and with a collection of extras that includes a cast and crew commentary and production featurettes on everything from casting and locations, to make-up and stunts, some of it will surely be worth checking out.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to February

If this past January proved anything, it’s that the movies weren’t nearly as bad as those from previous years. Unfortunately, I highly doubt the same will be true of February’s line-up when all is said and done. Though there are certainly a couple movies to look forward to (including the latest John McClane adventure and only the second rom-zom-com in existence), the pickings are even slimmer and less promising than last month.

“WARM BODIES”

Who: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich and Rob Corddry
What: After a zombie named R saves Julie from an attack, they form a relationship that sets in motion a series of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.
When: February 1st
Why: If there’s one movie that I’m actually looking forward to this February, it’s the big screen adaptation of Isaac Marion’s clever YA novel. Director Jonathan Levine has already tackled some pretty ballsy material between “The Wackness” and “50/50,” but this is probably his most adventurous and challenging project yet, if only because the subject matter is about as outside-the-box as you can get. Vampires are one thing (and though the “Twilight” comparisons are inevitable, they’re completely unwarranted), but the idea of doing a romantic comedy where a zombie falls in love with a human is ripe for exactly the kind of dark humor that “Warm Bodies” will hopefully deliver in spades.

“BULLET TO THE HEAD”

Who: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Jason Momoa and Christian Slater
What: After watching their respective partners die, a New Orleans hitman and a Washington D.C. detective team up to bring down their common enemy.
When: February 1st
Why: Arnold Schwarzenegger may be back to reclaim his action hero title, but Sylvester Stallone never gave it up, and though his latest movie doesn’t look very good, you have to respect the guy for grinding away all these years. Though director Walter Hill has made his share of fun buddy action films (including “48 Hours” and its sequel), that formula has been run so far into the ground that only a dinosaur like him would think it’s still relevant. It’s always nice to see Sung Kang getting work, because he’s probably one of the best Asian-American actors in the business, but if the cheesy dialogue from the trailer is any indication, “Bullet to the Head” is destined for the Wal-Mart bargain bin.

“IDENTITY THIEF”

Who: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet and Morris Chestnut
What: When a mild-mannered businessman learns his identity has been stolen, he hits the road in an attempt to foil the deceptively harmless-looking thief.
When: February 8th
Why: Jason Bateman reteams with “Horrible Bosses” director Seth Gordon for a new film co-starring Hollywood It Girl Melissa McCarthy. On paper, “Identity Thief” sounds like it should be comedy gold, but go watch the trailer again and count how many times you laughed. Did you get zero too? It’s not entirely surprising considering the film was written by the same guy behind a trio of spoof movies and “RocketMan,” but I’ve come to expect better from Bateman. McCarthy, on the other hand, continues to overact the only way she knows how, and though some people seem to find her funny, I’m not one of them. In other words, unless you’re a fan, you can probably wait for it to hit home video.

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