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.
WHAT: After being arrested for crashing over 1,500 computer systems in a single day, 11-year-old tech prodigy Dade Murphy is banned from using computers until his 18th birthday. Seven years later and now a senior in high school, Dade (Jonny Lee Miller) is forced to move to New York City with his mother, and before long, he’s back to his old ways. But when Dade and his new friends uncover a plot to frame a fellow hacker for installing a dangerous computer virus, they must prove his innocence while being pursued by the U.S. Secret Service.
WHY: Everyone has at least a few guilty pleasures in their movie collection, and one of my all-time favorites is Iain Softley’s “Hackers.” The film may have been ahead of its time in its portrayal of hackers as the next generation of activists (though it’s done in the most accidental, roundabout way that it barely counts), but the cyberpunk thriller feels incredibly dated and even cheesier than it was back in 1995. After all, this is a movie where Fisher Stevens’ villainous computer geek rides around on a skateboard and demands to be referred to by his handle, The Plague, with a straight face. But while “Hackers” is so stupid at times that it’s amazing anyone could take it seriously, the film is still entertaining in a fun B-movie sort of way. It certainly helps that the cast has such great chemistry – particularly stars Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie, who have since gone on to bigger and better things – because it makes all the absurd costumes and dialogue a lot easier to swallow. Kudos to the gang at Shout! Factory for recognizing the movie’s cult fanbase and releasing it on Blu-ray to celebrate its 20th anniversary, because while “Hackers” is admittedly very silly, that’s part of its charm.
EXTRAS: There’s an hour-long retrospective featuring new interviews with director Iain Softley, actors Matthew Lillard, Fisher Stevens and Penn Jillette, and various crew.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: A collection of short films produced by Walt Disney Animation between 2000 and 2015, including “Lorenzo,” “The Little Matchgirl,” “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater,” “Tick Tock Tale,” “The Ballad of Nessie” and “Get a Horse!”
WHY: Why: Having already released two volumes of Pixar shorts (with another likely on the way), it was only a matter of time before Walt Disney put out a collection of its own short films. Unfortunately, it becomes abundantly clear while watching the 12 shorts included on this set that they’re just not as good as the ones made by Disney’s sister company. There are a few standouts – like 2000’s “John Henry,” a traditional hand-drawn short featuring some great music; the charming 2012 Oscar winner “Paperman,” about a meet-cute involving paper airplanes; and the incredibly sweet and funny “Feast,” which was attached to last year’s “Big Hero 6” – but there are more misses than hits. 2015’s “Frozen Fever,” a shallow cash-in that should have never made it past the conception stage, is so awful that I couldn’t bring myself to watch it again, while the other two tie-ins, “Prep & Landing – Operation: Secret Santa” and “Tangled Ever After,” are cute but forgettable. Many of the other shorts (listed above) fall into a similar category or worse, which makes the collection hard to recommend to anyone other than the most diehard Disney fans, especially when there’s so little value on the Blu-ray beyond the films themselves.
EXTRAS: There’s a behind-the-scenes look at the process of developing and producing a short film, but that’s the extent of the bonus material.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT