Blu Tuesday: G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Black Rock

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.

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation”

WHAT: After G.I. Joe operatives Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Snake Eyes (Ray Park), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Corona) are framed for a crime they didn’t commit, they must team up with the original Joe (Bruce Willis) to stop the terrorist group Cobra from assuming control of the U.S. government and clear their names.

WHY: John M. Chu’s quasi-sequel to the 2009 flop, “G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra,” may be a slight improvement, but despite a clear passion for the source material (perhaps best illustrated by the faithful interpretation of Cobra Commander), it still suffers from equally bland action and a mediocre script. This is a property that has a ton of franchise potential, and yet time and again, Hollywood screws it up. In the case of “Retaliation,” it’s hampered by a clumsy attempt at acknowledging the events of its predecessor while also setting itself up as a reboot of sorts. But when you bring back some of the same characters, played by the same actors, it’s bound to create confusion. The small selection of Joes that Chu does have to work with is extremely limiting (especially with Channing Tatum’s Duke biting it in the first act), and as a result, the film lacks the personality that you’d expect from a series known for its colorful cast of characters.

EXTRAS: There’s an eight-part making-of featurette titled “G.I. Joe: Declassified” that covers all the usual production details, an audio commentary with director John M. Chu and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and a few deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Black Rock”

WHAT: Three childhood friends (Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell and Katie Aselton) reunite for a girls’ weekend on a remote island, only to learn that they’re not alone when they encounter a trio of military buddies hunting in the woods. After one of the guys is accidentally killed, the women are thrust into a fight for survival when the remaining soldiers target them for revenge.

WHY: Katie Aselton’s follow-up to “The Freebie” has a fairly intriguing premise – a sort of female empowerment take on “Deliverance” – but it fails horribly in execution. Though Aselton’s husband, actor Mark Duplass, is credited for writing the screenplay, “Black Rock” is another one of those semi-improvised mumblecore films where you can see the gears turning in the actors’ heads as they try to create the movie one scene at a time. Instead, the best that they can muster is a bunch of really awful dialogue, and that includes improv veterans like Aselton (“The League”) and Bell (“Children’s Hospital”). The other actors are hilariously bad (especially the main “villain” played by Jay Paulson), but the biggest issue plaguing this so-called thriller is that there isn’t a shred of suspense to be found. And with characters as dumb and shallow as the ones that appear in “Black Rock,” that’s not much of a surprise.

EXTRAS: The single-disc release includes an audio commentary with co-stars Kate Bosworth and Lake Bell, a short making-of featurette and a behind-the-scenes look at scoring the film.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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Adrianne Palicki stars in “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”

Adrianne Palicki has been breaking hearts ever since she first appeared on NBC’s football drama “Friday Night Lights,” but these days, the Ohio-born actress has been making a name for herself on the big screen with roles in action films like “Red Dawn” and the upcoming “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” as fan favorite Lady Jaye.

Though she’s a far cry from the more butch version of the character we grew up watching on the 1980s animated series, it’s not the first time that Palicki has played an iconic female warrior. Her stint as the title character on David E. Kelley’s “Wonder Woman” reboot may not have made it past the pilot stage, but if early stills from the show are any indication, it’s certainly not because the actress didn’t look the part.

It remains to be seen how her version of Lady Jaye will be received by longtime “G.I. Joe” fans, but we’re digging the updated image, which combines Palicki’s natural beauty with her tough, don’t-mess-with-me personality. In other words, she can kick ass and look good doing it.

  

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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