Blu Tuesday: The Girl on the Train 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 social media with your friends.

“The Girl on the Train”

WHAT: Still reeling from her divorce from Tom (Justin Theroux), who left her for another woman (Rebecca Ferguson) and started a family, Rachel (Emily Blunt) has become a raging alcoholic prone to blackouts. Despite losing her job in the city, she still rides the train every morning, fantasizing about the relationship between Tom’s neighbors, Scott and Megan Hipwell (Luke Evans and Hayley Bennett), from the train window. But when Megan suddenly goes missing and Rachel fears that she may have been involved, she becomes entangled in the investigation to discover the truth.

WHY: It’s easy to see how the producers of “The Girl on the Train” thought they were making the next “Gone Girl”; in addition to being based on a bestselling crime thriller that features multiple narrators, it has a twist ending that you’re not supposed to see coming. The problem, however, is that you do see it coming in director Tate Taylor’s big screen adaptation, which deflates most of the tension in the story. Whereas “Gone Girl” had several layers to peel back and explore, “The Girl on the Train” is a fairly straightforward mystery made to seem more complicated by the disjointed timeline. It also has one of the worst opening acts in recent memory, boring you into submission with its one-dimensional characters and terrible pacing. Though the movie improves significantly in the second half as the storylines begin to converge, the damage has already been done. Emily Blunt delivers an extraordinary performance in the lead role (rather than simply acting drunk, she plays Rachel as an alcoholic desperately trying to look sober), but it feels like she’s in a different film – one that isn’t marred by soapy plot turns and Taylor’s messy direction.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Tate Taylor, there’s a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Deepwater Horizon and The Accountant

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 social media with your friends.

“Deepwater Horizon”

WHAT: On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, located just off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, explodes after BP executives bypass an important safety measure due to the project falling behind schedule. Stranded on the platform as it becomes engulfed in flames, chief electronics technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) and his fellow crew members must fight their way through the chaos in order to survive.

WHY: Everyone remembers the images of the BP oil spill that dominated the TV news cycle back in 2010, but not many people know the details of what actually happened. It remains one of the largest man-made disasters in U.S. history, and director Peter Berg recreates the tragic event with stunning authenticity. If there’s one thing that Berg clearly prides himself on, it’s the remarkable attention to detail in his films, and “Deepwater Horizon” is no different, from the technical jargon that drives the first half of the story to the brutally realistic action sequences that make up the latter half. Unfortunately, while “Deepwater Horizon” is an effective disaster movie with some decent thrills, solid performances and enough explosions to make even Michael Bay jealous, it doesn’t seem to have a purpose, forgoing the opportunity to examine the aftermath of the spill in greater detail. The film works just fine as a dramatic reenactment of corporate greed gone horribly wrong, but unlike the real-life incident, it will quickly be forgotten.

EXTRAS: In addition to a series of interviews focusing on the five main cast members (Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez and Dylan O’Brien), there’s a behind-the-scenes look at designing and building the rig, a profile on director Peter Berg, on-set footage of production and more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“The Accountant”

WHAT: Small-town accountant Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) has always been better with numbers than people, moonlighting as a freelancer for some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organizations. Determined to stay one step ahead of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes division, Christian accepts a seemingly innocuous job auditing a high-profile robotics company after an accounting clerk (Anna Kendrick) discovers a discrepancy in the finances. But as Christian gets closer to exposing the truth, he’s targeted by a contract killer (Jon Bernthal) who’s been hired by someone within the company to contain the leak.

WHY: What if Jason Bourne wasn’t an amnesiac super-soldier but rather a high-functioning autistic man with comparable fighting skills? That’s the general idea behind Gavin O’Connor’s “The Accountant,” a film suffering from such an identity crisis that it’s unclear what kind of movie he was trying to make. Though it starts out as both a generic crime procedural and a zen-like character study about an on-the-spectrum math genius struggling to lead a normal life, it completely changes gears midway through and transforms into a straight-up action thriller. The problem is that “The Accountant” never stops being those other films either, resulting in a convoluted and tonally unbalanced mess that is occasionally entertaining but feels like it’s a few drafts away from a finished product. Though “The Accountant” thrives when it embraces its B-movie roots, the film is so desperate not to be reduced to a silly genre flick that it’s unwilling to let go of the stuff that’s dragging it down. This could have been the next Bourne franchise, but sadly, it doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts.

EXTRAS: There’s a trio of featurettes on the characters, the movie’s portrayal of autism and filming the action sequences.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

  

Blu Tuesday: Blair Witch, Girls 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 social media with your friends.

“Blair Witch”

WHAT: After uncovering new evidence that suggests his missing sister Heather may still be alive, James (James Allen McCune) and his friends venture into the Black Hills Forest – the site of her mysterious disappearance – and come face to face with the legendary Blair Witch.

WHY: When it was revealed that Adam Wingard’s latest movie, originally titled “The Woods,” was actually a direct sequel to the 1999 hit indie film, “The Blair Witch Project,” horror fans were excited to see if Wingard and frequent collaborator Simon Barrett (“The Guest,” “You’re Next”) could revive the would-be franchise. Unfortunately, it turns out that the best thing about “Blair Witch” was the secrecy of its production. The movie itself is pretty unspectacular, filled with many of the same beats as the original, albeit with a much larger budget. Though there are a handful of good moments scattered throughout (including a gruesome death scene involving the iconic stick figures), and it addresses a couple longstanding problems with the found footage genre, “Blair Witch” is unable to recapture the magic of its predecessor. Wingard and Barrett are clearly big fans of the first movie, but despite their attempts at expanding the mythology, the final product is almost as disappointing as the ill-conceived 2000 meta-sequel “Book of Shadows.”

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, there’s a six-part making-of featurette and a tour of the set.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

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Blu Tuesday: Snowden 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 social media with your friends.

“Snowden”

WHAT: The true story of controversial whistleblower Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the former NSA employee who leaked thousands of classified documents regarding the agency’s illegal surveillance activities to the public.

WHY: It’s been years (decades, really) since Oliver Stone made a great film, and although “Snowden” sadly continues that trend, it’s still a solid biopic that fits nicely into the director’s oeuvre. Cutting back and forth between Snowden’s rise through the ranks of the intelligence community and his 2013 covert meeting with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and Guardian journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, the movie loses a bit of suspense as a result of its nonlinear structure, but it holds your interest throughout thanks to some good performances from Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Shailene Woodley and Rhys Ifans. Though the film goes too far out of its way to paint Snowden as a loyal patriot, it wisely takes its time in revealing how he became disillusioned with his government (After all, this wasn’t an overnight decision but something that troubled him for years.) Whether or not you agree with what Snowden did, he clearly believed that he was doing the right thing, and if nothing else, Stone’s movie conveys that message effectively.

EXTRAS: In addition to a Q&A panel with Edward Snowden (via satellite), director Oliver Stone, and actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, there’s a making-of featurette and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: The Magnificent Seven and Sully

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 social media with your friends.

“The Magnificent Seven”

WHAT: When the villainous Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) takes over the small mining town of Rose Creek, vengeful widow Emma Cullen (Hayley Bennet) hires a group of mercenaries – including bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), drunken gambler Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt) and Confederate sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) – to put an end to Bogue’s tyranny.

WHY: Remakes are rarely as good as the original, but Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven” succeeds where so many have failed by retaining the spirit of its predecessors while also distinguishing itself just enough to stand on its own, beginning with its refreshingly diverse ensemble. Their camaraderie, and the chemistry among the actors themselves, is what keeps you engaged even during the few lulls in the story. Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt are perfectly cast as the film’s leading men, but it’s the supporting players who steal the show, especially Ethan Hawke and Byung-hun Lee’s delightful double act. Although the first half of the movie is surprisingly light on action save for a well-staged standoff between the mercenaries and Bogue’s men, Fuqua makes up for it with the climactic finale, which delivers everything you could possibly want from a large-scale Wild West shootout. Its unmistakable “Fast and Furious”-like flavor won’t go down well with fans of the original Western, but much like the long-running franchise, “The Magnificent Seven” is good pulpy fun that’s far better than anyone expected.

EXTRAS: In addition to an interactive feature called Vengeance Mode that intercuts the film with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew, there are six featurettes and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Sully”

WHAT: On January 15, 2009, commercial airline pilot Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the middle of the Hudson River when the plane struck a flock of geese shortly after takeoff. While Sully and his crew were hailed as heroes by the media, the National Transportation Safety Board quietly launched an investigation into the incident to determine whether it was reckless, casting a shadow of self-doubt on the experienced pilot.

WHY: Clint Eastwood’s latest biopic may not have enough narrative meat to warrant a feature-length film, but it’s such a fascinating story that it survives on the sheer awe factor and a solid performance by Tom Hanks. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting choice to play the modest and mild-mannered pilot, and although he doesn’t get a lot to work with from a character standpoint (Sully is extraordinary only in his ordinariness), the actor makes the most of even the smallest moments. For as great as Hanks is in the role, however, the real highlight is the movie’s gripping reenactment of the Miracle on the Hudson, which is hands-down one of the best sequences of the year. Eastwood doesn’t give up the goods right away, holding back the set piece until nearly an hour into the film’s lean 96-minute runtime, but he revisits the harrowing event multiple times, revealing new details and perspectives. Though “Sully” borders on syrupy sentimentalism at times and could have easily been undone by its own simplicity, the movie ultimately succeeds as an effective and enjoyable tribute to everyday heroism.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a profile on Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, a retrospective on the Flight 1549 incident with Sullenberger, copilot Jeff Skiles and air traffic controller Patrick Harten, and a behind-the-scenes look at creating the movie’s pivotal set piece.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

  

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