Blu Tuesday: RED 2, Jobs 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.

“RED 2″

WHAT: Retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is trying to lead a quiet, domestic life with girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) when he learns that he’s being framed as a domestic terrorist involved in a ludicrous Cold War plot to sneak a portable WMD into Moscow. But it turns out the nuke is real, so Frank must team up with Marvin (John Malkovich) once again to recover the bomb and prove his innocence, all while being pursued by a deadly assassin.

WHY: Robert Schwentke’s “RED” was such a surprise hit at the box office that you can hardly blame Summit Entertainment for wanting to fast-track a sequel, and although it doesn’t quite pack the same punch as its predecessor, “RED 2” is still a lot of fun thanks to its star-studded cast, including series newcomers Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins. Like most sequels, it tries and fails at one-upping the original, and while the action isn’t as memorable this time around, it’s every bit as playful. “RED 2” also lacks the breezy pace of the first movie, instead bogged down by an overcomplicated plot for seemingly no other reason than to pack as much talent into the film as possible, but then again, that’s part of its charm. By all accounts, the movie shouldn’t be so entertaining – it’s formulaic, unfocused and almost too silly for its own good – but when you have a cast this great, having this much fun, it’s hard not to enjoy.

EXTRAS: There’s a four-part featurette called “The ‘RED 2’ Experience” that covers various aspects of the movie (from the cast, to weapons and stunts), some deleted scenes and a short gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Jobs”

WHAT: The story of Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher), tracking his journey from college dropout in the early 70s, to the founding of Apple Computers a few years later, to being forced out of the company in the mid-80s, to his eventual return and success as one of the most admired entrepreneurs of the 20th century.

WHY: There’s no doubt that Steve Jobs’ remarkable life is tailor-made for the movies, but it’s not really done justice in this slight biopic by Joshua Michael Stern, which would have felt more at home on the small screen. Perhaps a better title for the movie would have been “Apple Begins,” because it’s more about the rise (and fall) of the company than Jobs himself, although he obviously figures pretty heavily into the story. Ashton Kutcher does a solid job playing the Apple co-founder, and the rest of the cast is peppered with great actors like Josh Gad and Dermot Mulroney, but it never feels like Stern has a good enough handle on his subject, and as a result, Jobs is either portrayed as a visionary genius or an asshole perfectionist, with nothing in between. As a film about the creation of Apple, it’s a fairly interesting look behind-the-scenes of a tech start-up, but as story about Jobs the man, it falls disappointingly short.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with director Joshua Michael Stern, a trio of short featurettes and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to August

august

In recent years, August has typically been the month where studios dump their summer fare that can’t compete with the bigger blockbusters, and although that’s probably true with this year as well, it’s hard to complain with a line-up as great as this, including the latest sci-fi treat from “District 9” director Neill Blomkamp, the sequel to “Kick-Ass” and the final chapter in Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.

“2 GUNS”

Who: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton and Edward James Olmos
What: A DEA agent and an undercover Naval Intelligence officer who have been tasked with investigating one another find they have been set up by the mob.
When: August 2nd
Why: It’s hard to believe that “2 Guns” was originally planned as a post-“Wedding Crashers” reunion for Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, because they’re hardly the action movie types. Thankfully, that never came to pass, and director Baltasar Kormakur ended up finding an even better onscreen duo in Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, who are just as good at handling action as they are at delivering a quip. And that’s important, since it appears that the humor in Blake Masters’ script has remained mostly intact. Washington and Wahlberg are both incredibly charismatic actors that have the box office power to sell a movie on their names alone, so while audiences may have missed out on the chance of seeing Vaughn and Wilson do their version of “Bad Boys,” “2 Guns” is probably better off for it.

“ELYSIUM”

Who: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley and Alice Braga
What: Set in a future where the wealthy live on a space station while the rest of society resides on a ruined Earth, a man embarks on a mission to bring equality to the worlds.
When: August 9th
Why: Moviegoers have been patiently awaiting Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to “District 9” ever since the 2009 sleeper hit arrived in theaters, and although it’s not a sequel like some were hoping for, it is another sci-fi thriller with a socio-political message. Obviously, getting actors like Matt Damon and Jodie Foster was a huge coup for Blomkamp, but the success of “Elysium” will once again rest on its unique premise, which already has my interest piqued. The South African director proved with his debut that he’s really good at world building, and the same holds true for “Elysium,” which looks like a fully formed piece of science fiction with some great visuals to boot. And with the talent involved, another Oscar nomination certainly isn’t out of the question, though it’s just nice to see such an original voice working in Hollywood.

“WE’RE THE MILLERS”

Who: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, Will Poulter and Ed Helms
What: A veteran pot dealer assembles a fake family as part of his plan to move a huge shipment of weed into the U.S. from Mexico
When: August 9th
Why: It probably won’t be the best comedy you see this year (and quite likely, not even this month), but “We’re the Millers” has the potential to be a lot funnier than it sounds. For starters, the movie is directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (who made the underrated 2004 comedy “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”) and written by the same duo behind “Wedding Crashers,” which means that you can expect plenty of silliness without it going too far over the top. There are better leading men than Jason Sudeikis, who’s usually more effective in supporting roles, but the rest of the cast is great, including Jennifer Aniston (tapping into her naughty side once again after the positive reception from “Horrible Bosses”) and up-and-comer Will Poulter in what promises to be a scene-stealing performance.

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