Blu Tuesday: Dead Man Down, Spring Breakers 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.

“Dead Man Down”

WHAT: After she’s horribly injured in a drunk driving accident, French immigrant Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) seduces and then blackmails a professional killer named Victor (Colin Farrell) into exacting revenge in her name. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that Victor is also the victim of an unforgivable crime who’s spent the past two years plotting his own vengeance.

WHY: After making a name for himself with the Swedish-language adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling for director Niels Arden Opev. But despite a solid cast and a bigger budget, “Dead Man Down” falls disappointingly short of its potential. There’s nothing about this crime thriller that’s even remotely suspenseful, and that’s due in part to some pretty dull characters and a general lack of focus. The subplot revolving around Rapace’s disfigured woman doesn’t add much to the main story, and although it’s nice to see the actress reuniting with her “Dragon Tattoo” director, Rapace’s performance pales in comparison to her award-winning turn as Lisbeth Salander. Terrence Howard and Dominic Cooper fare a little better in supporting roles, but it’s not quite enough to save the movie from mediocrity. Then again, considering “Dead Man Down” was produced by WWE Studios (who have yet to make one good film), that’s not too surprising.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release boasts a trio of behind-the-scenes featurettes on the film’s production, cinematography and stunts. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Spring Breakers”

WHAT: After four college girls rob a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation, the quartet’s hard-partying ways land them in prison. But when they’re bailed out by a charismatic drug and arms dealer named Alien (James Franco), the girls are introduced to a criminal lifestyle that’s far more dangerous than they could ever imagine.

WHY: Harmony Korine’s neon-tinged commentary on American youth culture has its fair share of admirers, but I’m definitely not one of them. Though I understand what the director was trying to accomplish with his satirical deconstruction of the typical spring break mindset (a heightened reality where there are no consequences for your actions), it doesn’t change the fact that it’s essentially a badly executed experimental film disguised as a mainstream crime drama. The female characters are excruciatingly one-dimensional (and whether or not that’s the point doesn’t make them any more engaging), and the constant repetition of certain scenes and lines of dialogue is incredibly grating. Sure, the movie looks great, but it’s also really boring – that is, until Franco shows up midway through and completely steals the show with one of the best performances of his career. His rapper-cum-gangster is immensely entertaining, almost hypnotically so, and it’s the only reason why anyone should consider seeking this movie out.

EXTRAS: In addition to a three-part making-of documentary, there’s a commentary with writer/director Harmony Korine, a music featurette, deleted and extended scenes, and a pair of VICE featurettes on the ATL Twins and party culture in Panama City Beach.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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A chat with Colin Farrell (“Dead Man Down”)

Colin Farrell was first introduced to American audiences in Joel Schumacher’s “Tigerland” in 2000, and he’s managed to leave a lasting impression in each film he’s done. With leading man good looks and acting chops to match, the former bad boy’s onscreen intensity is sometimes enough to make up for some questionable script choices. Whether giving life to an underrated supervillain in “Daredevil,” or starring in the 2012 reboot of the iconic “Total Recall,” Farrell is as talented as he is fearless.

In almost an extension of “Total Recall,” where the main character Douglas Quaid is trying to remember his past, his latest role as Victor in “Dead Man Down” is about a man using revenge to come to grips with his. We recently had a chance to speak to Colin about his preparation for the role, working with co-star Noomi Rapace (“Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), and his upcoming slate of films, including the animated film “Epic,” featuring the voices of Amanda Seyfried and Beyonce, and “Saving Mr. Banks,” where he plays the father of “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers.

BE: The film raises the interesting question of “How far would you go?” So how far would you go?

COLIN FARRELL: I have no idea. It’s never good to answer in “what ifs.” I think it’s horseshit. I don’t think any of us have an iota of how we’d really respond to most situations.

BE: Do you ever leave the set wondering what you would do in a character’s situation?

COLIN FARRELL: When you’re doing a film, once you start asking “What would I do?” you start getting the distance greater between yourself and the character or you’re bringing the character to you, which is self-serving in the wrong way. I think it seems that the idea is to bring yourself to the character.

BE: Were you able to relate to the character?

COLIN FARRELL: Well, you know, it’s fiction. I don’t even have to do that. It’s in you already. You just treat the fiction as reality, kind of. Ideally, you read a script so often and you think about the context of the scene so much that you begin to dream. You’re in pretty good shape if you begin to dream the character and certain conventions of the story. Noomi started having earlier dreams than I did. (laughs)

BE: How are you feeling, outside of the role?

COLIN FARRELL: I’m was doing good. I’m fairly healthy. Sometimes, you come home from work and you’re just tired and you wouldn’t want to see anyone and just be on your own. Consciously, you kind of look after yourself, whatever that may be. Whether you go out for a few drinks and dinner or just hit the couch and watch TV, or go to the gym or yoga class. Just be aware that there’s the potential for you to be in it and respecting wherever you find yourself, so I was fine.

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A chat with Terrence Howard (“Dead Man Down”)

Terrence Howard is one of those rare actors who you almost hope jumps into one of his characters when he talks to you. Whether it’s street pimp turned rapper DJay in 2005’s “Hustle & Flow,” or his latest role as mid-level mobster Alphonse, his soft-spoken demeanor masks a persona that is always in a state of hustling. Behind the hazel green eyes that appear to stare through you is a man who seems enamored with his craft, but always looking for the next piece of the puzzle to inner piece.

He reconnects with Colin Farrell in “Dead Man Down” as Alphonse, a mobster struggling with respectability as he tries to keep his close-knit crew together from an enemy that’s closer than he thinks. We had a chance to sit down to talk to Terrence Howard – actor, entrepreneur…and chemical engineer – to discuss his role, his relationship with Farrell, and how he plans on making diamonds a boy’s (and girl’s) best friend.

BE: How were you comparing your life to a tone?

TERRENCE HOWARD: A solid tone; a true element is one that is able to reach the wave amplitude, but after the fifth octave, all elements carbon is no longer able to reach its full amplitude and so it breaks down into small things called isotopes. Then, it becomes lead and gold and all of those other processes. It’s the decay of matter. I’m a chemical engineer.

BE: Your role is reminiscent of Henry Fonda in “Once Upon a Time in the West.” You think he’s a good guy, but he’s not.

TERRENCE HOWARD: Neils [Arden Oplev] did a good job of establishing my character as a victim and someone that’s being attacked. It’s slowly revealed that he was responsible for all of the circumstances that are befalling him, at present. It’s the karmic retribution. It’s the reciprocity of sowing poor and bad seeds, but he also establishes the true dichotomy of humanity. What we are dealing with is that all of the characters are so rich in the fact that they are all seeking some sense of retribution against life and an entitlement of lost happiness. But they’re doing it by creating more problems. They’re digging graves for other individuals and forget that they’ll carry the weight and responsibility of that dead person and need to dig a grave for themselves. He didn’t make anybody a villain or a victim. He made them very human and I think that was quite genius of him in telling this simple story and making it so diverse. I think Dominic Cooper’s character is the only one that is reconciled to good, because he makes a good choice for the sake of his family. He does good at the end of it, so I think he will have a good life at the end of this movie.

BE: The character starts the movie as being afraid. Do you intentional set out to make your character sympathetic?

TERRENCE HOWARD: No, Khalil Gabran wrote “The Prophet,” but he also wrote this story called “The Criminal.” In it, this man at the top of a hill, strong of body and good of spirit, but his nature is being broken. He’s crying out to the heavens and he says, “Lord, you said knock and the door would be opened.” Well, I knocked upon the doors and asked for work, but they said I was uneducated. And they sent me away. Therefore, I went to the schools and begged that I could gain and education. And they said you don’t have any money and they sent me away. So, I was left to beg on the streets and everyone said that I was of strong body. I must be lazy and weak and they spit upon me. So, now I find myself here. At that moment, a lightning bolt struck a tree and the branch fell upon him. When the branch fell up on him, he asked that I should be given what I should be given and it was not given to me, so now I shall take what I want. By the strength of my brow, and the strength of my arm. He said that he descended into the city and within two years, he was the most notorious villain and gangster of all time. A new wicked Emir took over the city and made him the chief of his army. This is what we do of good men. By our inhumanity, we turn them into monsters. That’s who I based Alphonse on. The criminal who had a good heart, but as a little kid was hurt. He just needed a couple more hugs.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to March

march_preview

After suffering through the doldrums of winter, it’s encouraging to see that the quality (and selection) of movies will improve along with the weather. Though many of this month’s films probably won’t be remembered by the time summer rolls around, there are a few indie flicks with real cult potential and a pair of tentpole-type movies based on popular properties that will benefit from opening during a less competitive time of year.

“JACK THE GIANT SLAYER”

Who: Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ian McShane and Bill Nighy
What: When a young farmhand unwittingly opens a gateway between our world and a fearsome race of giants, he must fight for his kingdom and the princess he loves.
When: March 1st
Why: It’s been awhile since Bryan Singer directed a movie that I was genuinely excited about, and unfortunately, “Jack the Giant Slayer” doesn’t break that trend. Though the fantasy film sounds great in theory, the trailers don’t look very promising, particularly in regards to its uneven tone (is it for children, adults or the whole family?) and cartoonish CGI. It doesn’t even bare much resemblance to the fairy tales on which it’s based, and while the cast is filled with some great actors (Nicholas Hoult appears to be the real deal), there’s probably a good reason why the original summer release date was axed.

“STOKER”

Who: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Jacki Weaver
What: After India’s father dies, her Uncle Charlie comes to live with her and her unstable mother, only to discover that he has ulterior motives.
When: March 1st
Why: Continuing the Korean invasion that kicked off in January with Kim Ji-woon’s “The Last Stand,” Park Chan-wook’s English-language debut hits theaters in time for U.S. audiences to get accustomed to the director’s unique style ahead of the long-awaited remake of his 2003 cult hit “Oldboy.” It’s taken longer than expected for Park to export his talents to Hollywood, but “Stoker” is the perfect project if there ever was one. It’s also clear from the cast he’s assembled that the director is well-admired within the industry, and all three leads don’t seem to be holding back. Early buzz has been mostly positive, drawing comparisons to Hitchcock, and that alone should be enough to get you excited.

“OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL”

Who: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Zach Braff
What: A small-time magician with questionable ethics arrives in a magical land and must choose between becoming a good man or a great one.
When: March 8th
Why: Disney is putting a lot of faith in Sam Raimi’s “Wizard of Oz” prequel, no doubt hoping that it can reach “Alice in Wonderland” levels of success, but was anyone really clamoring for another movie? It’s not even based on any of L. Frank Baum’s novels, despite the fact that Disney owns the rights to nearly every book in the Oz series, and though it’s supposedly inspired by his works, the risk of upsetting fans of the original film doesn’t seem worth it. Then again, “Oz the Great and Powerful” is exactly the kind of franchise-ready cash cow that Disney loves to produce (i.e. “Pirates of the Caribbean”), and while it’s depressing to see Raimi wasting his talents, at least it’s in good hands.

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“Dead Man Down” Trailer Starring Noomi Rapace and Colin Farrell

(Sponsored)

Watch the trailer above for a perfect combo of suspense and action. “Dead Man Down” tells the story of a New York City enforcer who becomes wrapped up in a web of violent revenge when he seeks to atone for the death of his wife and daughter. This film marks the American theatrical debut of the director behind the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy – Niels Arden Oplev – and co-stars Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard and Dominic Cooper.

“Dead Man Down” hits theaters March 8th, 2013. Check out Facebook.com/DeadManDown and DeadManDownMovie.com for more info.

  

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