Blu Tuesday: Evil Dead, 42 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.

“Evil Dead”

WHAT: Drug addict Mia (Jane Levy) is taken to a remote cabin in the woods by her brother (Shiloh Fernandez) and three friends to help kick the habit. But when one of them unknowingly summons an evil spirit from the Book of the Dead, the demon possesses Mia and turns her against the others.

WHY:Evil Dead” is one of the few remakes that’s not only a success, but actually improves upon the original in certain departments. Though Sam Raimi’s version will forever be the “Evil Dead” of choice for horror purists, director Fede Alvarez has done an admirable job of preserving the tone of Raimi’s film while making it just different enough to stand on its own. The whole drug angle was a really smart way of introducing the characters into the story, and although they still make their share of bad decisions (particularly Lou Taylor Pucci’s Eric, whose stupidity will drive you crazy), for the most part, they’re much more developed than the typical cast of horror victims. Where Alvarez’s “Evil Dead” really flourishes, however, is the gore factor, because there’s absolutely no shortage of the red gooey stuff throughout the film’s brisk 91-minute runtime, and for horror fans, that’s surely music to their ears.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary with director Fede Alvarez, writer Rodo Sayagues and stars Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas, there’s a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes, interviews with the cast and crew about remaking the horror classic and more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“42″

WHAT: In 1947, African-American baseball players were relegated to their own Negro League, but that all changed when Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) made the bold decision to break the color line and offer Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) the chance to make history as the first professional black player in the National League.

WHY: The story of Jackie Robinson is pretty much the ultimate civil rights tale, so it’s surprising that only one other film has been made on the subject, and that movie starred the famous athlete as himself. It’s probably because no matter how inspiring Robinson’s story may be, he’s not a particularly interesting figure, and that’s something that director Brian Helgeland constantly wrestles with in “42,” a conservative and slightly cheesy sports drama that feels like a product of its 1940s setting. Though Robinson makes for a dull protagonist, Helgeland surrounds him with a cast of colorful characters, including Christopher Meloni as Dodgers manager Leo Durocher, Alan Tudyk as racist Phillies manager Ben Chapman and Harrison Ford in a standout performance as Branch Rickey. It’s the veteran actor’s involvement that just barely tips the scale in the favor of “42,” because while the movie is an enjoyable tribute to one of baseball’s biggest heroes, it’s not as memorable as the source material warrants.

EXTRAS: There’s a behind-the-scenes featurette on training the actors to play baseball and recreating the old stadiums with special effects, another featurette on Boseman and Ford getting into character, and a brief retrospective on Robinson’s legacy.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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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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