Blu Tuesday: Sing Street, Hardcore Henry 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 social media with your friends.

“Sing Street”

WHAT: In 1980s Dublin, a young teenager named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) starts a band with his new schoolmates in an attempt to impress the beautiful and mysterious Raphina (Lucy Boynton).

WHY: Writer/director John Carney specializes in making musical fairy tales for the soul, with each film functioning like its own album. If “Once” is his critically acclaimed debut, and “Begin Again” is the more mainstream (but less successful) follow-up, then “Sing Street” is the personal album that gets back to his roots. A semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale that ranks as one of the most pleasant moviegoing experiences in recent years, “Sing Street” features Carney at his very best. Although there’s not a lot of meat to the story, the film does a good job of tracking Conor’s artistic awakening as he discovers his own identity through experimentation with different musical styles and the awful fashion trends that accompany them. The mostly unknown cast is great, especially Jack Reynor as Conor’s older brother/musical guru, while the original songs (each one better than the last) are catchy enough to believe that the titular band could actually succeed. Though their progress happens a little too easily to be realistic, Carney makes the whole fantasy go down so smoothly that you won’t mind.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette, cast auditions, and an interview with writer/director John Carney and songwriter Adam Levine.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Batman v Superman 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 social media with your friends.

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

WHAT: Terrified of what Superman (Henry Cavill) could do with his godlike power after witnessing the damage he caused during the Battle of Metropolis, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) – now a seasoned crime-fighter as the vigilante Batman – becomes obsessed with stopping him by any means necessary. Meanwhile, billionaire tech genius Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is building his own weapon to combat the alien threat using a piece of Kryptonite uncovered in the Indian Ocean. But when Luthor discovers that he shares a common enemy with Bruce, he manipulates Batman into doing his dirty work for him.

WHY: It’s scary to think that Warner Bros. is betting the future of its entire DC Comics film slate on “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” because it’s an overlong, overstuffed and disjointed mess of a movie that’s made only slightly better with the new Ultimate Edition extended cut. The film is constantly being pulled in mutiple directions, tirelessly working to function as a sequel to “Man of Steel,” a Batman reboot and a prequel to the forthcoming Justice League movie. That it’s even remotely coherent at all is to the credit of director Zack Snyder. In fact, there’s a really solid superhero flick buried somewhere beneath all the clumsy plotting and self-seriousness, but while the film has its charms – specifically, Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Jesse Eisenberg’s bold take on Lex Luthor – Snyder gets so caught up in teasing future installments that he neglects his characters in the process. “Batman v Superman” wants to have its cake and eat it too, and although you can’t fault Snyder’s ambition, if Marvel taught us anything with its measured buildup to “The Avengers,” it’s that the proverbial cake tastes much better when it’s been earned.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release is packed with over two hours of bonus material, including a behind-the-scenes look at uniting the heroes of the DC cinematic universe, in-depth profiles on Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor, production featurettes on the Batmobile and Batcave, filming the titular showdown and much more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Green Room 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 social media with your friends.

“Green Room”

WHAT: Down-on-their-luck punk band The Ain’t Rights accept a gig playing at a skinhead hangout on the outskirts of Portland. But when guitar player Pat (Anton Yelchin) accidentally witnesses a murder backstage, the band is thrust into a fight for survival against the club’s ruthless owner (Patrick Stewart) and his gang of backwoods neo-Nazis.

WHY: If Jeremy Saulnier’s slow-burning sophomore effort “Blue Ruin” announced him as a filmmaker to watch, then “Green Room” confirms that he’s the real deal. A brilliantly taut and grisly horror-thriller that defies genre conventions at every turn, “Green Room” is one of the most intense moviegoing experiences in recent years. There’s hardly a single wasted frame in this tightly-paced siege film, turning the screw on its characters (and the audience itself) with some nail-biting tension that doesn’t let up. The violence is gory but never gratuitous, while the lived-in performances – particularly Anton Yelchin’s frightened musician and Patrick Stewart’s surprisingly calm and rational white supremacist – lend an unsettling authenticity to the proceedings. The movie is at its best when the band is trapped inside the titular room, and although the suspense is slightly deflated once the action spills out into the rest of the building, becoming a more visceral affair where duct tape and a box cutter are the primary tools for survival, “Green Room” maintains its vice-like grip on the audience.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by writer/director Jeremy Saulnier and a making-of featurette.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: House of Cards 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 social media with your friends.

“House of Cards: The Complete Fourth Season”

WHAT: With their marriage on the rocks, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is forced to go on the campaign trail alone while Claire (Robin Wright) starts to make big moves concerning her own political ambitions. But in order to beat young Republican candidate Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman) in the upcoming presidential election, Frank needs Claire by his side more than ever.

WHY: The third season of “House of Cards” was a slight disappointment compared to the show’s excellent first two years, and sadly, that trend continues with Season Four, which really pushes the limits of suspension of disbelief. This isn’t the first time that the Underwoods have found themselves backed into a corner, but the storytelling has become so ridiculous that it simply isn’t as captivating as it once was. With that said, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright deliver such great performances in the lead roles that it papers over a lot of the cracks, demonstrating yet again why the characters are more interesting when working together than apart. The rest of the cast isn’t as effective with the limited screen time they’re given, but Joel Kinnaman’s JFK-like governor at least proves a worthy adversary for Frank. Though “House of Cards” remains one of the better dramas on TV, it’s obvious that the show is beginning to run out of ideas, as evidenced by creator Beau Willimon’s decision not to return next season, and if Netflix was smart, they wouldn’t drag it out any longer than necessary.

EXTRAS: Sadly, there’s no bonus material included.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Eye in the Sky 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 social media with your friends.

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”

WHAT: In 2003, cable news producer Kim Baker (Tina Fey) leaves behind her banal, dead-end life in New York to accept a daring assignment covering the war in Afghanistan. Dropped into a chaotic war zone without the comforts of home, Kim befriends a fellow female reporter (Margot Robbie) and a charming photojournalist (Martin Freeman) to help navigate her strange new surroundings.

WHY: Based on journalist Kim Barker’s 2011 memoir, “The Taliban Shuffle,” about her experiences reporting in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2004-2009, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is a tonally confused war satire that struggles to find the right balance between drama and comedy. This isn’t the first movie of its kind to run into that problem, but it handles the juggling of the two genres better than most thanks to a solid script by Tina Fey’s longtime writing partner, Robert Carlock (“30 Rock,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), and some deft direction by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (“Crazy Stupid Love”). Though the decision to cast non-Afghan actors in prominent roles is disappointing, Christopher Abbott’s local fixer, and the relationship he forms with Kim, is one of the best things about the film. (Alfred Molina’s government official is more problematic, although that has more to do with the character itself than who’s playing him.) “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is equally as hit-and-miss on the whole, but it’s nonetheless a fun if slight tragicomedy that benefits greatly from its talented cast.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a behind-the-scenes look at making the movie, four additional featurettes and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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