Blu Tuesday: Zoolander 2 and The Finest Hours

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.

“Zoolander 2″

WHAT: Fifteen years after saving the Malaysian prime minister’s life, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) are lured back into the world of modeling by trendy fashion designer Alexanya Atoz (Kristin Wiig), only to discover that it’s all part of an elaborate scheme designed by Zoolander’s arch-nemesis Mugatu (Will Ferrell).

WHY: Fans of the original “Zoolander” have been clamoring for a sequel for more than a decade, so it’s not like director/co-writer Ben Stiller didn’t have the time to ensure that it lived up to his 2001 cult comedy. Unfortunately, “Zoolander 2” is such a complete and utter embarrassment that it boggles the mind how it got made. Though there are a handful of laughs scattered throughout the film’s painfully slow 102-minute runtime, most of the movie is predicated on lazy gags and a rapid-fire series of celebrity cameos – a few that are funny (Justin Bieber, Kiefer Sutherland), one that is really awful (Benedict Cumberbatch as a transgender model named All), and a majority of which are incredibly pointless. It’s just one bad thing after the other, from the terrible subplot involving Zoolander’s son, to Kristin Wiig’s entirely superfluous villain, to the surprising lack of chemistry between Stiller and Owen Wilson. While it’s no secret that comedy sequels are notoriously difficult to pull off, “Zoolander 2” is so dreadful that it feels like a poorly made parody of its predecessor.

EXTRAS: There’s a handful of featurettes on the “Zoolander” legacy, shooting in Rome and co-creator Drake Sather, but nothing of real substance.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“The Finest Hours”

WHAT: When a T-2 oil tanker off the coast of Cape Cod is ripped in half during a massive storm in 1952, trapping its surviving crew members on the sinking stern, Coast Guard captain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) leads a daring rescue attempt into perilous waters while the tanker’s chief engineer, Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), improvises to buy his crew more time.

WHY: With the exception of the 2007 indie, “Lars and the Real Girl,” director Craig Gillespie’s filmography is pretty underwhelming, and his latest movie is no different. “The Finest Hours” feels very much a product of its time – the kind of wholesome, self-effacing true story that Disney excels at making – but unfortunately, it’s also incredibly cheesy and dull. There’s exactly one thrilling sequence in the entire film, and even that doesn’t seem to properly capture the danger and improbability of the rescue. Instead, the movie just plods along to its inevitable conclusion without any personality or emotional heft, dragged down by a pair of unengaging protagonists and a subplot involving Webber’s fiancée that could have been cut entirely. Chris Pine and Casey Affleck look positively bored by the material, while the rest of the cast (including Ben Foster, Eric Bana, John Ortiz and Michael Raymond-James) are wasted in throwaway roles. “The Finest Hours” is supposed to be about one of the greatest rescues in Coast Guard history, but you wouldn’t know it from this forgettable period drama.

EXTRAS: There’s a featurette about the true story that inspired the film, interviews with the cast about making the movie, a pair of U.S. Coast Guard promotional videos and deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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Blu Tuesday: Dirty Grandpa and The Witch

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.

“Dirty Grandpa”

WHAT: When his recently widowed grandpa Dick (Robert De Niro), whom he used to be close with as a kid, needs someone to drive him to his Florida vacation home, uptight corporate lawyer Jason (Zac Efron) grudgingly volunteers. But as he soon discovers, Dick has ulterior motives for their road trip – namely, to get laid – and takes them on a detour through Daytona Beach to soak up the spring break festivities.

WHY: Robert De Niro has proven himself adept at comedy over the years, but he’s almost always played the straight man, which is what makes “Dirty Grandpa” an interesting choice for the actor, because it allows him to let loose in ways that audiences have never seen before. Though there’s something wrong about watching a screen legend like De Niro acting so raunchy, it’s also part of the film’s strange appeal. It would all be quite embarrassing if De Niro and Efron didn’t appear to be having such a good time, but the two actors form a great team, elevating the juvenile material just enough to earn a few chuckles. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that “Dirty Grandpa” is an incredibly stupid movie fueled by a never-ending stream of bad language, insults and frat humor that’s shocking for the sake of shock value. The film progressively gets worse the lower it sinks (wasting its supporting cast in the process), and yet despite its indefensible badness, “Dirty Grandpa” is still marginally entertaining, if only because De Niro makes it so.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by director Dan Mazer and writer John Phillips, a behind-the-scenes look at making the movie, three more featurettes and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“The Witch”

WHAT: In 1630s New England, a devout Christian family is exiled from its village and builds a homestead on the outskirts of an eerie forest. But when their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops suddenly die, the family members begin to turn on each other.

WHY: Praised as the best horror movie in years upon its debut at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, “The Witch” is a decent but wildly overrated period drama masquerading as a genre flick. Though first-time director Robert Eggers creates an unsettling sense of dread that looms over the entire film, there’s nothing very scary about the events that transpire apart from a few choice moments, like the possession sequence with the family’s middle child, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw). “The Witch” is an incredibly slow burn that boasts some beautiful imagery and fantastic atmosphere, but there’s so little to the actual story that it’s easy to lose interest during its many lulls. Thankfully, the cast delivers such compelling performances – especially newcomer Anna Taylor-Joy – that it’s never as boring as it could have been. While “The Witch” is definitely worth experiencing once, the movie has too many issues (for instance, the manner in which it plants the seed of paranoia within the family) to warrant the kind of acclaim that’s been thrust upon it.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by director Robert Eggers, a making-of featurette, a Q&A with Eggers and star Anna Taylor-Joy, and a photo gallery.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

  

Blu Tuesday: Deadpool 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.

“Deadpool”

WHAT: After he’s diagnosed with cancer, mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) agrees to participate in an experimental treatment that grants him special healing abilities but horribly scars his body in the process. Upon escaping the secret facility, Wade sets out to exact revenge on the deranged mutant (Ed Skrein) responsible for both saving and ruining his life.

WHY: The road to bringing “Deadpool” to the big screen may have been riddled with challenges, but it only makes the finished product that much more satisfying, because it’s a fresh and wildly entertaining action-comedy that demonstrates why studios should take more risks. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s screenplay nails the dark, twisted and juvenile tone of the wisecracking antihero, and the decision to dole out his backstory in bits and pieces via flashback is a clever way of getting around the tediousness of the typical superhero origin story. The film also completely earns its “R” rating with enough violence and foul-mouthed language to please diehard fans. But while “Deadpool” has clearly been made with those fans in mind, the movie stretches beyond sheer fan service thanks to the strength of the script and Ryan Reynolds’ pitch-perfect performance (completely atoning for the bastardized version of the character in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) to deliver a hilariously self-aware take on the genre that audiences unfamiliar with Deadpool will enjoy as well.

EXTRAS: In addition to a pair of audio commentaries (one with director Tim Miller and Deadpool co-creator Rob Liefeld, and the other with star Ryan Reynolds and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick), there’s a making-of featurette, five production galleries, deleted scenes and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: BUY

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Blu Tuesday: Joy, The 5th Wave and Easy Rider

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.

“Joy”

WHAT: After giving up her dreams to help take care of her family, Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) gets a second chance to make something of herself when she invents a self-wringing mop that has the potential to launch a business empire… if only her destructive family would get out of the way.

WHY: Writer/director David O. Russell could seemingly do no wrong after the one-two-three punch of “The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” but that hot streak has finally ended with this surprisingly joyless dramedy that’s all over the place. Though his films have always been slightly offbeat, Russell’s latest effort is a tonally inconsistent mess that bounces between family farce and soap opera, sometimes quite literally. The first 30 minutes are particularly bad as it figures out what kind of movie it wants to be, and while “Joy” eventually finds its groove once the titular character gets her big break at QVC, it makes you wish that more of the film was set within that world. Jennifer Lawrence is great as usual, showcasing her full range of talent, but the rest of the cast is hindered by shallow, underwritten characters. There’s a really great movie in here somewhere (perhaps one that more closely follows co-writer Annie Mumolo’s original biopic idea about HSN queen Joy Mangano), but unfortunately, this isn’t it.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette and a TimesTalk interview with director David O. Russell and star Jennifer Lawrence.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Jane Got a Gun, Ride Along 2 and Krampus

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.

“Jane Got a Gun”

WHAT: When her outlaw husband (Noah Emmerich) returns home riddled with bullets after an altercation with the dastardly John Bishop (Ewan McGregor), Jane (Natalie Portman) recruits her bitter ex-lover (Joel Edgerton) to help protect them once John’s gang comes to finish the job.

WHY: “Jane Got a Gun” had such a rocky road to the big screen – including shakeups in the cast and crew, lawsuits and distribution problems – that it’s a miracle the film survived to see the light of day, let alone turned out as good as it did. Though the movie is a bit of a slow burn, the recurring use of flashbacks helps to break up the tediousness of the present-day action while also providing important backstory for its three lead characters. “Jane Got a Gun” isn’t quite the female empowerment Western that its title suggests, but it’s still a pretty decent genre flick that’s anchored by a top-notch cast. While Ewan McGregor is sadly wasted in the generic villain role, Joel Edgerton and Natalie Portman deliver solid work as the former lovers brought back together under difficult circumstances. Director Gavin O’Connor’s stripped-down approach gives the performances room to breathe, and it’s during these quieter moments, when he’s able to explore the emotional complexities of the central love triangle, that the movie really shines.

EXTRAS: Nothing to see here folks.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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