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: Laying low in Spain following their latest heist, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is visited by DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) with news that his old flame, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), is not only alive, but is working with a British soldier turned criminal named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) who’s planning to steal a top secret computer chip worth billions. With the promise of full pardons for anyone that helps stop him, Dom enlists the rest of the crew and heads to London to face off against Shaw and his own team of street racing criminals.
WHY: The “Fast and Furious” franchise is like popcorn movie kryptonite, because for as cheesy, soapy and utterly preposterous as the movies can get at times, they’re also incredibly entertaining, especially following director Justin Lin’s retooling of the series. Though the sixth installment doesn’t quite live up to 2011’s “Fast Five,” which took the franchise to new heights in more ways than one, it still delivers everything that fans have come to expect over the years. One of main reasons the last film worked as well as it did was the excellent chemistry between its ensemble cast, and that’s still the case here. Of course, the real reason anyone watches these films is the action, and “Fast & Furious 6” doesn’t disappoint, with a series of excellent set pieces that somehow manage to outdo the previous movies in excess and sheer ridiculousness. The over-the-top nature of the “Fast and Furious” franchise has always been its greatest asset and its biggest criticism, and there’s no better example of that than in some of the gleefully amusing “Oh my god, I can’t believe that just happened” insanity that takes place in the film. Bigger and dumber but still tons of fun, “Fast & Furious 6” may have you rolling your eyes even more than usual, but that’s part of what make the series so great.
EXTRAS: There’s a wealth of bonus material on the Universal’s Blu-ray release, including an audio commentary by director Justin Lin, a four-part making-of featurette, interviews with the cast and crew, three more production featurettes, deleted scenes and an exclusive (but haunting) first look at “Fast & Furious 7.”
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: Against his master’s wishes, Tai Chi student Chen Lin-Hun (Tiger Chen) competes in a local martial arts competition to prove the style’s effectiveness. After attracting the attention of wealthy businessman Donaka Mark (Keanu Reeves), Chen is offered the chance to compete in an underground fight club with the promise of making enough money to save his temple. But when he discovers the true purpose behind the fights, Chen teams up with an ambitious police detective (Karen Mok) to bring Mark down.
WHY: Conceived by Keanu Reeves as a starring vehicle for friend/stuntman Tiger Chen, whom he met while working on the “Matrix” trilogy, “Man of Tai Chi” is a throwback to classic martial arts films, right down to Reeves’ over-the-top villain. But while the story is pretty generic and the acting is only marginally better than the movies that it’s paying homage to, it features some incredible fight choreography from fellow “Matrix” alumnus Yuen Woo-ping. The early fights that take place inside the mirror room are not only some of the best in recent memory, but they really showcase Chen’s talent as a martial artist. The final battle between Marks and Tiger isn’t quite as memorable from a technical standpoint, but just seeing how much Reeves towers over his pint-sized co-star makes for a visually interesting sequence that evokes the Bruce Lee/Kareem Abdul Jabbar fight in “Game of Death.” Though the performances are surprisingly weak for a director that also plies his trade as an actor, “Man of Tai Chi” is nonetheless a solid debut from Reeves who smartly lets the action speak for itself.
EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director/co-star Keanu Reeves and Tiger Chen, the Blu-ray includes a behind-the-scenes look at making the film.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: Desperate to reinvigorate interest in B-Boy culture in America, hip-hop mogul Dante Graham (Laz Alonso) convinces childhood friend and former basketball coach Jason Blake (Josh Holloway) to recruit a B-Boy dream team to compete against other elite dance crews from around the world in the upcoming Battle of the Year competition.
WHY: I’m not really sure what Hollywood’s obsession is with dance movies (apart from the fact that they’re super cheap to produce), but here’s hoping that “Battle of the Year” puts an end to this strange fad, because it’s one of the worst dance films yet. The premise is absurd, particularly in its lame attempts to validate B-Boy dancing as anything other than a niche subculture, though that doesn’t stop director Benson Chen from pimping his 2007 documentary, “Planet B-Boy,” every chance he gets. It’s hard to believe that Josh Holloway is finding it so hard to get work after the success of “Lost” that he’d have to resort to this, but it goes without saying that he’s the only thing that makes this movie even remotely watchable. Usually, the dancing sequences make these films easier to sit through, but everything is edited so poorly that you can’t even enjoy the amazing technique on display. It also runs an ungodly 110 minutes long, features more product placement than should be legally allowed, and has enough split-screen montages to make you wonder if you’re watching a movie or a music video. Need I say more?
EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a look at B-Boy culture and signature moves, as well as rehearsal footage and some extended dance sequences.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP