After another two week break (I was on my honeymoon, dammit) that saw several noteworthy titles come and go – including “Jack Reacher,” “Mama,” “Cloud Atlas,” “Dexter: Season Seven,” and the big one, “Fringe: The Complete Series” – I’m finally back, and what a great week to return. Despite the fact that the summer movie season has already kicked off, there’s still plenty of good options on Blu-ray, so let’s not waste any more time and get down to which ones are worthy buying, renting or skipping.
It’s been just over a decade since Arnold Schwarzenegger’s last major film role, but after dusting off the cobwebs in last year’s “The Expendables 2,” it’s hard to imagine a more perfect comeback vehicle than “The Last Stand.” Directed by Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon, the movie not only reintroduces Schwarzenegger as an older, wiser action hero, but it harkens back to earlier films like “Commando,” when you could get away with being silly as long as it was fun. The first half is a pretty slow burn as Kim patiently builds up to the climactic showdown between Arnie’s band of small-town cops and the bad guys, and though there are some entertaining set pieces along the way, the movie would have benefited from a stronger sense of urgency. Once the film arrives at its big standoff, however, “The Last Stand” is given a much-needed adrenaline shot that cranks up the intensity and violence, more than earning its R rating with some cool gunplay. The movie is far from Jee-woon’s best work, but it’s a mostly enjoyable U.S. debut that will hopefully inspire audiences to track down some of his previous films. It also serves as a welcome return for Schwarzenegger, because no matter how you feel about the man, Hollywood just hasn’t been the same without him.
Blu-ray Highlight: None of the extras are particularly memorable on their own, but Lionsgate has provided a solid collection that includes a behind the scenes look at making the movie, a short weapons featurette, and an in-depth breakdown of the cornfield chase sequence.
It’s a little upsetting to think that “Side Effects” could be Steven Soderbergh’s directorial swan song, because he’s proven over the last few years that while not every one of his movies is a success, his ability to jump between genres with ease makes him one of the more exciting filmmakers in Hollywood. In addition to reteaming the director with past stars like Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum, the film reunites Soderbergh with “Contagion” screenwriter Scott Z. Burns for another medical-themed thriller that strikes a similar chord of paranoia and Hitchcockian suspense. Though it’s not nearly as great as it could’ve been due to a slow first act, once the mystery at the center of the story is revealed, the movie eventually hits its stride, even if that means suspending your disbelief at times. Law, who’s always been a surprisingly underrated actor, delivers another solid performance as the hard-done psychiatrist, while Rooney Mara proves that “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” wasn’t a fluke. It’s hardly one of Soderbergh’s more memorable movies, but “Side Effects” is an enjoyably old school thriller that serves as a worthy bookend to an impressive career cut far too short.
Blu-ray Highlight: There’s a faux behind the scenes featurette that’s good for a few laughs and a pair of fictional drug commercials, but unfortunately, that’s it.