Blu Tuesday: The Way Way Back, Only God Forgives 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 Way, Way Back”

WHAT: 14-year-old loner Duncan (Liam James) has been dragged by his mom (Toni Collette) to a Massachusetts beach home to spend the summer with her overbearing boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter (Zoe Levin). While the adults party like they’re on spring break, Duncan finds solace at the local water park, where he meets an unexpected friend and mentor in easygoing manager Owen (Sam Rockwell).

WHY: Earlier this year, “The Way, Way Back” made waves at the Sundance Film Festival when Fox Searchlight bought the crowd favorite for a near-record $10 million, and though that may sound like a lot for an indie movie, it was worth every penny. Much like “Little Miss Sunshine” (another Sundance darling), “The Way, Way Back” succeeds due to its winning script and talented cast. James holds his own alongside some really great performers, and Carell proves once again that he may be a stronger dramatic actor than a comedian. But it’s Rockwell who completely owns the movie as the fast-talking king of the water park, channeling Bill Murray from “Meatballs” with an immensely charming and hilarious performance. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (who won an Oscar for penning the 2011 tragicomedy “The Descendants”) also deserve a lot of credit for writing a movie that’s as smart, funny and sweet as it is incredibly heartbreaking at times, because although their coming-of-age story follows an all too familiar journey, they manage to make it feel like an entirely fresh experience.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette exclusive to the Blu-ray, a trio of behind the scenes featurettes (including a tour of the water park) and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Only God Forgives”

WHAT: After his brother is killed as revenge for raping and murdering a teenage girl, drug smuggler Julian (Ryan Gosling) is pressured by his domineering mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) to track down and kill the Bangkok police lieutenant (Vithaya Pansringarm), who the locals refer to as the Angel of Death, responsible for authorizing the retaliation.

WHY: Those expecting another “Drive” will be sadly disappointed by “God Only Forgives,” because director Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film is a very different animal – an abstract and morally ambiguous neo-noir dealing with classic themes like vengeance, justice and loyalty that is almost dreamlike in its execution. Though Refn’s artistic flourishes do more harm than good, turning the barebones story into a daring exercise in expressionism, the movie still managed to hold my interest, thanks in part to its great cast. Gosling has such a strong screen presence that he barely needs to utter a word, while Thomas delivers a memorable turn playing against type as the bitchy queen bee. But it’s Thai actor Pansringarm that is the biggest surprise, nearly stealing the show as the bloodthirsty lawman with a God complex. The film isn’t for everyone, but between Larry Smith’s stunning cinematography and Cliff Martinez’s hypnotic score, “God Only Forgives” is an amazing sensory treat that deserves to be seen for the experience alone.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes an audio commentary with writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn, a behind the scenes featurette, a look at Cliff Martinez’s score, and additional interviews with Refn.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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A chat with Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and director Richard Linklater (“Before Midnight”)

It’s not often that a romantic movie sparks a sequel, and even rarer when the sequels are set nine years apart. The relationship between actors Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and director Richard Linklater is just as unique as the characters Hawke and Delpy portray in their latest film, “Before Midnight.” The dialogue-heavy film focuses on the struggles of married life and the sacrifices that must be made. Recently, the trio sat down to discuss the collaborative effort involved and how they’ve managed to stay on the same creative page over the last 18 years.

BULLZ-EYE: The couple deals with the problem of moving to another country to be with their partner. Have any of you faced that kind of decision?

ETHAN HAWKE: Part of the idea of the movie is that it’s very easy to look at a romantic relationship when there’s an obvious bad guy. One person’s an alcoholic or one person is abusive, but what if you were to take two well-meaning people who actually love each other and want the best for each other? It’s still hard. We paint that portrait. I think anyone who’s been in a long term relationship, whether it feels as dramatic as Chicago and Paris, it’s whether or not your lives are still growing on the same road or does one need to change the road to keep growing.

JULIE DELPY: That’s what it’s about. There’s no bad guy, in particular. They still have to make compromises and they all feel like who’s making the most compromises and what compromise might jeopardize their relationship and their love. It’s all about finding the right road, and the road is this small not for it to fall apart. In a long term relationship, you always have to make choices. Actually, their relationship starts with a choice that Jesse makes, which is to follow his heart, but that comes with consequences. The film starts with the consequences of that choice. We find out that there’s a situation again where they have to make a choice. Jesse’s putting in her face that he might want to move back to the States, but it might jeopardize their entire life, so the life of a relationship.

RICHARD LINKLATER: That’s appropriate for where they find themselves in life. In the first movie, for instance, they’re unattached. You see how easily they get off a train and go home a day later and do whatever. You have that looseness. They both actually moved around a lot over the years, but when they were single and unattached. Now, you see how difficult that is to maneuver through life with the exact same person and stay on the same track. It’s tough.

ETHAN HAWKE: We will also take questions about your personal relationships and advise you. (laughs)

BE: What are the challenges of performing the long dialogues in the movie, especially the one in the car with the kids?

JULIE DELPY: Just mentioning that scene gives me a flashback of anxiety. (laughs) My heart is already beating slightly faster.

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