Blu Tuesday: Stoker, Jack the Giant Slayer 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.

“Stoker”

WHAT: After her father dies in a car accident on her 18th birthday, India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) becomes infatuated with her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who she never knew existed, when he comes to live with India and her unstable mother (Nicole Kidman). But when people around town start disappearing, she begins to suspect that Charlie may be the one responsible.

WHY: Written by former “Prison Break” star Wentworth Miller, “Stoker” plays like one giant homage to Alfred Hitchcock (particularly his 1943 film “Shadow of a Doubt”), but with a decidedly unique and erotic twist that only a director of Park Chan-wook’s warped sensibilities could conceive. To call the movie a slow burn would be putting it lightly, but it’s entirely compelling in the way that it patiently seduces the audience into an almost dreamlike trance. You simply can’t look away, and that’s thanks mostly to the stylish combination of Chung Chung-hoon’s rich cinematography and Nicholas de Toth’s playful editing. Though it would be easy to criticize the film for favoring style over substance, there’s a lot more going on behind the sumptuous visuals, including some excellent performances by its lead actors. “Stoker” isn’t for everyone, but fans of Park’s previous work won’t be disappointed by this offbeat, psychosexual thriller.

EXTRAS: Fox’s single-disc release boasts a behind-the-scenes look at making the film, a trio of featurettes on the characters, production design and score, footage from the red carpet premiere and deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: BUY

“Jack the Giant Slayer”

WHAT: When a young farmhand named Jack (Nicholas Hoult) accidentally opens a gateway between his world and a race of vengeful giants using some magic beans, he joins a search party of the king’s bravest men to climb the beanstalk and rescue the princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) from captivity, reigniting a centuries-old war.

WHY: Bryan Singer hasn’t made a good movie since “X2: X-Men United,” and that streak continues with this dull reimagining of the classic fairy tale, which features some of the ugliest special effects of the year (unless you include Ewan McGregor’s hair). There are so many things wrong with “Jack the Giant Slayer” that it’s hard to know where to begin, but a lot of the problems stem from the script, which strikes such a contradicting tone (one minute a silly adventure film, and the next a dark and gritty action movie) that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. The actors suffer the most as a result – especially star Nicholas Hoult, who’s unable to do much with such a bland, one-dimensional character. McGregor does have a bit of fun as the head of the king’s guard, but he’s about the only enjoyable thing in an otherwise lackluster film.

EXTRAS: In addition to an interactive experience on how to “Become a Giant Slayer” hosted by Nicholas Hoult, there are also some deleted scenes and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to March

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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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