Blu Tuesday: Boy Scouts, Child Stars and Mutants

Though the rest of the month promises a healthy selection of new releases, there’s not a whole lot to choose from this week. My first instinct was to skip the column altogether, but that wouldn’t have been fair to “Moonrise Kingdom,” which deserves all the attention it can get. Plus, it would have meant letting “That’s My Boy” off the hook, and I’m not in the business of going easy on Adam Sandler films, because he’s a plague on cinema.

“Moonrise Kingdom”

I’ve liked just about everything Wes Anderson has done since first arriving on the scene with “Bottle Rocket,” but I was pretty skeptical going into “Moonrise Kingdom,” even if it ended up being all for naught. Though he’s done the precocious kid thing before with “Rushmore,” his latest film features all the usual keystones of an Anderson production (quirky characters, gorgeous cinematography and a folk/rock soundtrack) while still managing to feel totally original. All of those elements play a part in the movie’s success, but it ultimately comes down to two things: the sweet and clever script by Anderson and Roman Coppola (who also co-wrote the underrated “Darjeeling Limited”) and the fantastic ensemble cast. Though the adult actors turn in some really funny performances, especially Edward Norton and Bruce Willis in their first (but hopefully not last) Anderson film, it’s newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward who steal the show as the adolescent runaway lovers. “Moonrise Kingdom” still ranks below “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” on a list of the director’s best films, but it’s one of his more enjoyable and accessible movies to date.

Blu-ray Highlight: The film may have been a hit both critically and commercially, but Universal apparently didn’t see fit to produce any worthwhile bonus material. The best extra they could conjure was a collection of short behind-the-scenes featurettes focusing on actors Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and director Wes Anderson.

“That’s My Boy”

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise just how bad “That’s My Boy” turned out to be, but despite its many problems, none is worse than the discovery that the movie is two fahking hours long – a death kiss for most comedies, let alone one starring Adam Sandler. There’s absolutely no reason for such a long runtime, and had I known about it going in, I probably wouldn’t have agreed to review the film. Though it’s actually better than Sandler’s last outing (the embarrassingly awful “Jack and Jill”), “That’s My Boy” features the former “Saturday Night Live” star at perhaps his most annoying. Sandler seems to think that the louder he shouts, the funnier it is, but it doesn’t work that way, and after making as many shitty movies as he has over the years, he should know that by now. It’s actually pretty incredible that he’s still able to recruit the kind of talent that he does (see: Susan Sarandon), because Andy Samberg is the only one who doesn’t come out looking like a complete idiot. He’s also what prevents the film from being any worse, although that’s not exactly saying much.

Blu-ray Highlight: The disc comes loaded with a gag reel, deleted scenes and a few behind the scenes featurettes, but after wasting two hours watching the film, you’d be better off just cutting your losses than spending more time on these worthless extras.

“Chernobyl Diaries”

The cover art for “Chernobyl Diaries” proudly exclaims that it comes from the mind of “Paranormal Activity” creator Oren Peli, but if anything, that only made me less impressed, because the found footage series is all bark and no bite, and Peli’s latest film is no different. Though it’s competently made by first-time director Brad Parker, it’s lacking in just about every department. The story doesn’t have a concrete hero or villain, and you couldn’t care less what happens to any of the characters. Perhaps more importantly, the scares are virtually nonexistent and you’re never given a logical explanation for anything that happens over the course of the movie. It’s a pretty hollow horror experience, which is a shame, because the Ukrainian backdrop provides a unique and atmospheric setting, even if Parker doesn’t make the most of it. But if there’s one thing that bothers me more than anything else, it’s why anyone would go on an “extreme tour” of a creepy Eastern European city in a post-“Hostel” world. Don’t the people in horror movies actually watch horror movies?

Blu-ray Highlight: The selection of bonus material is so piss-poor that it doesn’t seem like Warner Bros. was even trying with this film. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

  

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to May

I remember a simpler time when May was still considered part of spring, but these days, the studios are so eager to beat the competition to the punch with the first big blockbuster of the season that it’s now widely accepted as the start of summer. That’s all fine and well, but by extending the season by an additional month, it also increases the chance of disappointment, which is looking pretty likely based on the May release schedule, despite the fact that a certain superhero film will be kicking off the festivities.

“THE AVENGERS”

Who: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson
What: Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together a team of super humans to form The Avengers in order to save the Earth from Loki and his invading army.
When: May 4th
Why: The idea of an Avengers movie may not sound like much of a gamble today as it did four years ago when Marvel first announced its ambitious master plan, but it’s a risk that certainly seems to have paid off. Anyone that considers themselves a fan of comics or the recent Marvel solo films has undoubtedly placed this movie at the top of their must-see list. After all, the prospect of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the rest of the Avengers sharing the screen is simply too awesome to ignore, and the decision to bring back Loki as the main villain (hands down the most interesting of the Marvel film baddies) only makes things that much more exciting. Sure, Joss Whedon has never taken on a project of this scale before, but as a self-professed geek with a great track record of managing ensemble casts, there’s no one more qualified for the job than him.

“THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL”

Who: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and Dev Patel
What: British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel, only to find that it’s less luxurious than its advertisements.
When: May 4th
Why: It’s hard to imagine a better piece of counterprogramming to “The Avengers” than this John Madden dramedy, because although studios have typically put a chick flick up against a surefire blockbuster to lure female moviegoers in the past, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is a film that both sexes can enjoy. And the best part is that it actually looks pretty good, although that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering the cast includes four of the most respected British actors working today. While the movie could have easily come across as being too schmaltzy in the hands of another director, Madden appears to have struck the right balance between comedy and sentimentality.

“DARK SHADOWS”

Who: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter
What: An imprisoned vampire is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.
When: May 11th
Why: I’ve never seen the late ‘60s TV show that serves as the inspiration for this big screen adaptation, but based solely on the early reaction to the trailer, it’s not exactly what anyone was expecting. Though it may seem strange that director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp, both of whom claim they were massive fans of the gothic drama as kids, would re-imagine it as a comedy, their version seems to be less about damaging the show’s memory and more about embracing its campiness. While they admittedly might have taken it a little too far (cue Alice Cooper cameo), the cast is simply too good for “Dark Shadows” to be a complete disaster. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

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