Blu Tuesday: G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Black Rock

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.

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation”

WHAT: After G.I. Joe operatives Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Snake Eyes (Ray Park), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Corona) are framed for a crime they didn’t commit, they must team up with the original Joe (Bruce Willis) to stop the terrorist group Cobra from assuming control of the U.S. government and clear their names.

WHY: John M. Chu’s quasi-sequel to the 2009 flop, “G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra,” may be a slight improvement, but despite a clear passion for the source material (perhaps best illustrated by the faithful interpretation of Cobra Commander), it still suffers from equally bland action and a mediocre script. This is a property that has a ton of franchise potential, and yet time and again, Hollywood screws it up. In the case of “Retaliation,” it’s hampered by a clumsy attempt at acknowledging the events of its predecessor while also setting itself up as a reboot of sorts. But when you bring back some of the same characters, played by the same actors, it’s bound to create confusion. The small selection of Joes that Chu does have to work with is extremely limiting (especially with Channing Tatum’s Duke biting it in the first act), and as a result, the film lacks the personality that you’d expect from a series known for its colorful cast of characters.

EXTRAS: There’s an eight-part making-of featurette titled “G.I. Joe: Declassified” that covers all the usual production details, an audio commentary with director John M. Chu and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and a few deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Black Rock”

WHAT: Three childhood friends (Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell and Katie Aselton) reunite for a girls’ weekend on a remote island, only to learn that they’re not alone when they encounter a trio of military buddies hunting in the woods. After one of the guys is accidentally killed, the women are thrust into a fight for survival when the remaining soldiers target them for revenge.

WHY: Katie Aselton’s follow-up to “The Freebie” has a fairly intriguing premise – a sort of female empowerment take on “Deliverance” – but it fails horribly in execution. Though Aselton’s husband, actor Mark Duplass, is credited for writing the screenplay, “Black Rock” is another one of those semi-improvised mumblecore films where you can see the gears turning in the actors’ heads as they try to create the movie one scene at a time. Instead, the best that they can muster is a bunch of really awful dialogue, and that includes improv veterans like Aselton (“The League”) and Bell (“Children’s Hospital”). The other actors are hilariously bad (especially the main “villain” played by Jay Paulson), but the biggest issue plaguing this so-called thriller is that there isn’t a shred of suspense to be found. And with characters as dumb and shallow as the ones that appear in “Black Rock,” that’s not much of a surprise.

EXTRAS: The single-disc release includes an audio commentary with co-stars Kate Bosworth and Lake Bell, a short making-of featurette and a behind-the-scenes look at scoring the film.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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A chat with Katie Aselton and Lake Bell (“Black Rock”)

“Black Rock” hits theaters this week, starring Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell and director Katie Aselton. The latter two sat down to talk to us regarding the making of the thriller, set on a deserted island where three friends have to fight for their survival. Bell and Aselton forged a quick friendship, with Bell taking on a character far different from the one she plays on Cartoon Network’s “Children’s Hospital,” while actor/director Aselton faced off against the elements and sometimes husband/screenwriter Mark Duplass in her creation of a true labor of love.

BULLZ-EYE: Katie, could you tell me the genesis of the story?

KATIE ASELTON: It’s the story of three childhood friends who have grown apart, and in an effort to reconnect, revisit an island that they used to frequent as kids. The movie really starts off as a chick flick/romantic dramedy and takes a severe turn when they learn that they are not the only ones on the island. There are three men out there hunting. After a series of unfortunate events, they find themselves in a fight for survival in an effort to get off the island alive. My first film, “The Freebie,” was a very quiet, intimate, emotional, talky-talky movie that was all inside a very small, Spanish bungalow. I felt the need after that to get outside, move my body and maybe kill someone. It’s just something I had to do. I don’t know why.

LAKE BELL: You had to express yourself.

KATIE ASELTON: Honestly, I’m new at this whole filmmaking thing and I’m trying some different things out and experimenting with different genres and seeing what I like. This type of thriller, this approach to a thriller that is very reality based, very truthful and simple in story and concept is something that excited me. It’s the kind of movie that I love to watch. I love “Deliverance.” I love “Misery,” even “The River Wild.” I used those as my points of reference. I also loved the idea of working with women. The TV show that I am on, I am the only girl with five guys. So, it was really exciting to get the chance to sit with two girls and kick some guys’ asses. That was fun, too.

LAKE BELL: Including the crew.

KATIE ASELTON: Including the crew. I kicked their asses too. And I had female crew members as well. It was a movie about strong women made by strong women and female producers. I had a female DP. I, myself, am female.

LAKE BELL: She is female.

KATIE ASELTON: And I had Lake and Kate [Bosworth], who are super rad ladies. It was a really, really fun experience and something that I had never done before and something that I’m very glad I did.

BE: With this being your second feature, what advice did Mark give you?

KATIE ASELTON: Well, we came up together. We made all of the movies together. He is wonderful about letting me have my own independent voice that is not his movie. What’s special about our collaboration professionally is that he really lets me do my thing and tell the story I want to tell the way I want to tell it. He got to write a script that’s very different than what he’s ever written before. He’s just really supportive. I will definitely run things past him. There were certain things he was very supportive of and certain things he was very critical of and I will take it or leave it. (laughs)

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