Blu Tuesday: Vice Principals 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.

“Vice Principals: The Complete First Season”

The newest show from Danny McBride and Jody Hill, the team behind the HBO cult comedy series “Eastbound & Down,” probably won’t win over too many new fans, but it’s a decidedly more mature piece of storytelling that only gets better over the course of its first season. While McBride plays another boorish man-child in the same vein as Kenny Powers, the character isn’t nearly as annoying or unsympathetic; in fact, he really starts to grow on you. Walton Goggins’ nasty rival turned collaborator doesn’t fare quite as well, but the two actors strike up a good partnership that results in many of the show’s best moments. Though “Vice Principals” suffers from the same unevenness that plagued McBride and Hill’s last project, it does just enough to keep you invested.

Extras include Extras include cast and crew audio commentaries on all nine episodes, deleted scenes and a blooper reel. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Jack Reacher 2 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.

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”

The first Jack Reacher movie may have underperformed at the box office, but it would’ve been a shame if that had marked the end of the character’s cinematic adventures. Granted, “Never Go Back” isn’t as much fun as its 2012 predecessor, but the film still succeeds thanks to Tom Cruise’s charismatic turn as the badass ex-military man. Though the family dynamic between Reacher, Cobie Smulders’ framed army major and Danika Yarosh’s feisty teenager allows Cruise to explore the character’s emotional side, this particular story would have been better saved for a future installment. After all, Jack Reacher is at his best when he’s working alone, and while “Never Go Back” features some great Reacher moments, it fails to make a strong enough case for continuing the series.

Extras include six featurettes that cover topics like shooting on location in Louisiana, filming the rooftop battle, on-set photography and more. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Inferno and The Light Between Oceans

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.

“Inferno”

WHAT: When he wakes up in a hospital in Florence, Italy with no memory of the last 48 hours, famed symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) must team up with Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) to stop the release of a deadly virus created by an American billionaire (Ben Foster) who believes that the only way to solve the world’s overpopulation problem is through mass genocide.

WHY: Just when you thought that the Robert Langdon franchise was dead, Ron Howard and Tom Hanks have teamed up again for another installment based on the fourth (and latest) book in Dan Brown’s ongoing series. Why the studio chose to adapt “Inferno” over 2009’s “The Lost Symbol,” we may never know, but this is easily the worst installment to date. The opening 30 minutes is an overdirected mess of bright lights, quick cuts and hazy visions that’s meant to simulate the effects of Langdon’s amnesia but only proves to be incredibly annoying. Though it’s refreshing to see Langdon out of his element for once (even if the idea that he can remember obscure facts and not the word for “coffee” is as ridiculous as some of the film’s major plot turns), it also defeats the purpose of going to see a Robert Langdon adventure. Hanks and Felicity Jones are both fine in their roles, but between the lack of a compelling villain and the absurdity of the story itself, “Inferno” is a dull reminder why this franchise never really took off.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes six featurettes on the film’s main characters, director Ron Howard and location shooting, as well as some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“The Light Between Oceans”

WHAT: While living on a remote island off the coast of Australia, lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and his wife Isabel (Alicia Vikander) rescue a baby from a drifting rowboat and decide to raise it as their own. Wracked with guilt over his failure to report the incident, Tom upends their perfect life when he anonymously contacts the baby’s real mother (Rachel Weisz).

WHY: Derek Cianfrance was hailed as one of the most promising young directors in Hollywood after 2010’s “Blue Valentine,” and while he continued to build on that potential with “The Place Beyond the Pines,” his latest movie represents a major step back. Although it boasts strong performances from Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz, “The Light Between Oceans” is a melodramatic slog that’s neither as emotional nor engaging as it intends to be. Based on M.L. Stedman’s debut novel of the same name, “The Light Between Oceans” deals with some pretty heavy themes like guilt, forgiveness and the things we do for love, but it doesn’t dig deep enough into its characters’ psyches to leave much of a lasting impression. The first hour is sluggish, detailing Tom and Isabel’s courtship and ensuing miscarriages, while the latter half basically asks the audience to sympathize with a pair of kidnappers. Obviously, there’s more to the story than that, but Cianfrance doesn’t do enough with it to make you care.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by writer/director Derek Cianfrance, there’s a pair of featurettes on making the film and the Cape Campbell Lighthouse.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

Blu Tuesday: The Girl on the Train 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.

“The Girl on the Train”

WHAT: Still reeling from her divorce from Tom (Justin Theroux), who left her for another woman (Rebecca Ferguson) and started a family, Rachel (Emily Blunt) has become a raging alcoholic prone to blackouts. Despite losing her job in the city, she still rides the train every morning, fantasizing about the relationship between Tom’s neighbors, Scott and Megan Hipwell (Luke Evans and Hayley Bennett), from the train window. But when Megan suddenly goes missing and Rachel fears that she may have been involved, she becomes entangled in the investigation to discover the truth.

WHY: It’s easy to see how the producers of “The Girl on the Train” thought they were making the next “Gone Girl”; in addition to being based on a bestselling crime thriller that features multiple narrators, it has a twist ending that you’re not supposed to see coming. The problem, however, is that you do see it coming in director Tate Taylor’s big screen adaptation, which deflates most of the tension in the story. Whereas “Gone Girl” had several layers to peel back and explore, “The Girl on the Train” is a fairly straightforward mystery made to seem more complicated by the disjointed timeline. It also has one of the worst opening acts in recent memory, boring you into submission with its one-dimensional characters and terrible pacing. Though the movie improves significantly in the second half as the storylines begin to converge, the damage has already been done. Emily Blunt delivers an extraordinary performance in the lead role (rather than simply acting drunk, she plays Rachel as an alcoholic desperately trying to look sober), but it feels like she’s in a different film – one that isn’t marred by soapy plot turns and Taylor’s messy direction.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Tate Taylor, there’s a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Deepwater Horizon and The Accountant

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.

“Deepwater Horizon”

WHAT: On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, located just off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, explodes after BP executives bypass an important safety measure due to the project falling behind schedule. Stranded on the platform as it becomes engulfed in flames, chief electronics technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) and his fellow crew members must fight their way through the chaos in order to survive.

WHY: Everyone remembers the images of the BP oil spill that dominated the TV news cycle back in 2010, but not many people know the details of what actually happened. It remains one of the largest man-made disasters in U.S. history, and director Peter Berg recreates the tragic event with stunning authenticity. If there’s one thing that Berg clearly prides himself on, it’s the remarkable attention to detail in his films, and “Deepwater Horizon” is no different, from the technical jargon that drives the first half of the story to the brutally realistic action sequences that make up the latter half. Unfortunately, while “Deepwater Horizon” is an effective disaster movie with some decent thrills, solid performances and enough explosions to make even Michael Bay jealous, it doesn’t seem to have a purpose, forgoing the opportunity to examine the aftermath of the spill in greater detail. The film works just fine as a dramatic reenactment of corporate greed gone horribly wrong, but unlike the real-life incident, it will quickly be forgotten.

EXTRAS: In addition to a series of interviews focusing on the five main cast members (Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez and Dylan O’Brien), there’s a behind-the-scenes look at designing and building the rig, a profile on director Peter Berg, on-set footage of production and more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“The Accountant”

WHAT: Small-town accountant Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) has always been better with numbers than people, moonlighting as a freelancer for some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organizations. Determined to stay one step ahead of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes division, Christian accepts a seemingly innocuous job auditing a high-profile robotics company after an accounting clerk (Anna Kendrick) discovers a discrepancy in the finances. But as Christian gets closer to exposing the truth, he’s targeted by a contract killer (Jon Bernthal) who’s been hired by someone within the company to contain the leak.

WHY: What if Jason Bourne wasn’t an amnesiac super-soldier but rather a high-functioning autistic man with comparable fighting skills? That’s the general idea behind Gavin O’Connor’s “The Accountant,” a film suffering from such an identity crisis that it’s unclear what kind of movie he was trying to make. Though it starts out as both a generic crime procedural and a zen-like character study about an on-the-spectrum math genius struggling to lead a normal life, it completely changes gears midway through and transforms into a straight-up action thriller. The problem is that “The Accountant” never stops being those other films either, resulting in a convoluted and tonally unbalanced mess that is occasionally entertaining but feels like it’s a few drafts away from a finished product. Though “The Accountant” thrives when it embraces its B-movie roots, the film is so desperate not to be reduced to a silly genre flick that it’s unwilling to let go of the stuff that’s dragging it down. This could have been the next Bourne franchise, but sadly, it doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts.

EXTRAS: There’s a trio of featurettes on the characters, the movie’s portrayal of autism and filming the action sequences.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT