Blu Tuesday: Oblivion, The Place Beyond the Pines 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.


WHAT: Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is one of the last remaining humans on Earth – a drone repairman that’s part of an operation to extract vital resources from the planet after a decades-long war with an alien race known as Scavengers. But when Jack rescues the literal woman of his dreams (Olga Kurylenko) from a crashed spacecraft, her arrival triggers a series of events that forces him to rethink everything he knows about the world.

WHY: Following the massive disappointment of “TRON: Legacy,” Joseph Kosinski’s sophomore effort looked like it would just be more of the same, but much to my surprise, his latest sci-fi project is a lot better than expected. Unlike the “TRON” sequel, Kosinski created the world of “Oblivion” from the ground up, and it really shows, from the rich mythology to the Apple-inspired production design. Kosinski’s outstanding visuals are still front and center, but this time around, he’s also delivered an engaging story in addition to the effects-driven spectacle. Though genre fans will notice that “Oblivion” borrows pretty heavily from a recent sci-fi movie that will remain unnamed (not to mention other classics), it’s still a really great concept that, while not exactly original, is cool to see realized on a grander scale. The final act isn’t handled quite as gracefully as its indie counterpart, but between Kosinski’s visuals and Tom Cruise’s commanding performance, “Oblivion” is still one of the better sci-fi flicks of the past few years.

EXTRAS: There’s a good deal of bonus material here, including an audio commentary with star Tom Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski, a making-of featurette, four additional production featurettes on things like stunts, visual effects, the bubble ship and scoring the film, some deleted scenes, and the ability to watch the entire movie accompanied by M83’s isolated score.


“The Place Beyond the Pines”

WHAT: When motorcycle stunt rider Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) discovers that he has a son, he turns to robbing banks as a way to provide for him and his mother (Eva Mendes). But Luke’s actions place him on a collision course with a rookie policeman (Bradley Cooper) who gets caught up in an investigation involving some dirty cops.

WHY: Derek Cianfrance’s multi-generational crime drama is an incredibly ambitious piece of work, though he seems to have bitten off more than he can chew. Divided into three interconnected stories, there’s not much to each one, but they’re all necessary to telling the larger narrative, and that’s what makes the movie so frustrating. Cianfrance deals with some familiar themes of fatherhood, consequences and destiny, but it’s such an epic undertaking that it ultimately becomes too much movie for its own good. The opening segment is the standout, mainly thanks to some great performances by Gosling, Mendes and character actor Ben Mendelsohn, and although the other two stories aren’t bad, they’re noticeable weaker, causing the film to feel a bit lopsided. “The Place Beyond the Pines” isn’t perfect (the first hour makes up for some of the more unflattering heavy-handedness that Cianfrance resorts to in the latter half), but it’s a movie that demands a lot of respect for not only taking big risks, but the way that it resonates emotionally.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary with director/co-writer Derek Cianfrance, a short but sweet making-of featurette and four deleted/extended scenes.


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A chat with Olga Kurylenko (“Oblivion”)

Olga Kurylenko has starred alongside “Seven Psychopaths” and nearly taken out superspy James Bond in “Quantum of Solace.” It seems only obvious that her latest role would be fighting side-by-side with Tom Cruise in the new sci-fi film “Oblivion.” As Julia, she helps Cruise determine his role as he fights to save the Earth. The beautiful Ukrainian actress recently sat down with us to discuss her latest role, as well as how being a Bond girl prepared her for it.

Bullz-Eye: Did the director give you a lot of leeway in expanding your character?

Olga Kurylenko: It’s always teamwork. I spoke with him a lot. He, Tom and I would have meetings and discuss our characters, the backstory and we rehearsed. I watched videos of astronaut trainings. I watched some old romantic movies as preparation and inspiration. It’s a working process and you grow together.

BE: Was it hard to play a character that’s so mysterious early on?

Olga Kurylenko: That’s what I found initially very interesting. There’s this mystery to Julia and that I couldn’t reveal everything right away with the first appearance of her. The fact that she had to unravel and uncover her story during the whole film, she’s a completely different thing in the end from what we see in the beginning. All that mystery was interesting to work on.

BE: You’ve recently worked with two of the biggest stars in Hollywood. How is it different working with Tom Cruise and Daniel Craig?

Olga Kurylenko: A couple of things that they both have in common is that they’re both action heroes. I think another similar thing is that they both do their stunts by themselves. They train a lot and physically work a lot. They’re very hard-working. Tom is fascinating. I don’t know what that man doesn’t know how to do. He flies a plane, a helicopter, everything. It’s very inspiring to work with them, but don’t try to outshine them in action scenes. It’s just incredible. I think a stunt guy tried to compete in running with Tom Cruise and Tom ran faster. And stunt guys are tough. They’re the strongest, the fastest, and Tom Cruise is still stronger and faster. He’s one of a kind.

BE: Creatively, what was it like working with Tom?

Olga Kurylenko: Very interesting, creatively. It was unexpected to see how much he gives. He’s a big star and a wonderful actor, but only his partners and other actors know how much he gives to the other. He gives so much. He’s such a generous partner and that’s not always the case. I’ve never seen him sit in his trailer. Even if he’s far away or in my eyeline, he would prefer to be there. He would never leave the set, even if I told him, “Seriously, I don’t need you.” (laughs) He would still be there. He is involved a hundred percent and that’s a wonderful thing. He is very supportive, of course. He’s done all these stunts. When I came on set and there was this gimbal that was spinning, he talked me through it. He knows how it works. It’s very reassuring and it’s very reassuring to have a partner like that. He’s not just an actor who is there who has no idea. He actually, technically, knows how things work. You feel safe with him.

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A chat with Morgan Freeman (“Oblivion”)


Fans might think it would be a burden to not only be one of the most respected actors in film, but to have a voice that is universally recognized. From science documentaries to films involving a certain caped crusader, Morgan Freeman has seemingly done it all and shows no signs of slowing down. He sat down recently to talk about his relationship with fans and working with a screen idol of his, Tom Cruise, in the new sci-fi flick “Oblivion.”

Bullz-Eye: This is the first time you’ve worked with Tom. Do you have differing ways of how you approach a role?

Morgan Freeman: I don’t know. Everybody works the same. Preparation, very often, may be different, but you can’t work differently. You have to say the words that were written on the page. You have to make your marks. That’s the work.

BE: This film has many aspects that sci-fi purists enjoy. What do you think sets it apart?

Morgan Freeman: One of the things that stands out in this film is the love story. It’s not like one we’ve seen before. Then, there’s the awesome technology. The bubble ship can be remotely controlled. I agree that this is unlike many we’ve seen, or any we’ve seen prior. It’s very intelligent and extremely creative. Joseph designed these doggone toys. Awesome. Those drones are things you can’t believe, but there they are… believable.

BE: What aspect of the script most appealed to you?

Morgan Freeman: When I first read it, it talked about the mysteriousness of this group. At the outset, you don’t see them. They’re there, but you don’t see them. Then, when they are finally revealed, they’re the good guys and I’m the leader.

BE: In “Olympus Has Fallen,” you play your usual authoritative figure, but in this movie, you got to use some heavy machinery. Was that a choice on your part?

Morgan Freeman: No, I don’t make choices like that. (laughs) That’s written in that he goes up there and mans the machine gun. How these things work out is strictly the writer’s thing. It’s not the director. It’s not the actor. It’s strictly the writer.

BE: Was it fun?

Morgan Freeman: It was fun. That was dual 50-calibers on that tractor. I’d never fired a 50-caliber machine gun before.

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Movie Review: “Oblivion”

Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo
Joseph Kosinski

He rides a sweet motorcycle, flies a badass futuristic stealth bomber, wears a cool NASCAR-like uniform, does a scene in zero gravity, and kisses two beautiful women. Needless to say, Tom Cruise had several reasons to sign up for “Oblivion,” and as an added bonus, writer/director Joseph Kosinski assembled a slick, compelling story around which to frame the riding and the flying and the floating and the kissing. Sci-fi fans will likely cry foul with regard to how much “Oblivion” borrows from a smaller film released a few years back (to say its name would give away too much), and rightfully so. Indeed, “Oblivion” is in many ways a souped-up, big-budget remake of the smaller film. The original is better, as is often the case, but “Oblivion” is quite good as well. It’s beautifully shot, it carries a palpable sense of unease, and it keeps its cards close to the vest. The poker face approach gets frustrating at times, but in the end it was nice to see a science fiction film that doesn’t patronize its audience.

In the years following a war that devastated Earth and killed the population, technician Jack Harper (Cruise) and his work/life partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) literally live in a penthouse in the clouds. Jack and Victoria take instructions from Sally (Melissa Leo) at Mission Control to keep a group of spherical drones functioning so the good guys can defend themselves against a group of alien scavengers who seek to undermine their efforts even though the war is long over. Jack has strange memories, though, of a woman he’s never met and a life he’s never lived. When the scavengers set up a beacon that attracts a ship, Jack investigates the landing site and is stunned to discover that the woman in his dreams is one of the passengers. Soon after, Jack receives a visit from the scavengers, and is forced to rethink everything he has ever known.

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Tom Cruise and former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko in Dublin at Guinness Storehouse

Earlier today, the Guinness Storehouse (the Guinness brewery in Dublin, Ireland) rolled out the red carpet to welcome one of the world’s most famous actors in history, Tom Cruise. Cruise jetted into Dublin as part his worldwide tour for his latest movie, “Oblivion,” accompanied by director Joseph Kosinski and Cruise’s leading, lady former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko.

The group was treated to a private tour of the Guinness Brewery, and Tom received a one-on-one session with Master Brewer Fergal Murray to learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness.

Since opening its doors in 2000, the Guinness Storehouse has welcomed over 9 million visitors from around the world and is Ireland’s number one international visitor attraction. The building, a former fermentation plant in the legendary St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin, holds a seven story Guinness experience which allows visitors to gain an understanding of why Guinness has become one of the world’s most iconic and best loved brands.