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.
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
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