Blu Tuesday: R.I.P.D. and Byzantium

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.

“R.I.P.D.”

WHAT: When Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds), a dirty Boston cop with a guilty conscience, is killed during a major drug bust, he’s given the chance to redeem himself by joining the Rest in Peace Department – a group of deceased lawmen from throughout history who protect the living world from those who have escaped Hell.

WHY: As much as I wanted to like this movie, “R.I.P.D.” just isn’t very good. Though it’s based on a comic book of the same name, the film feels eerily like the “Men in Black” series, both in tone and the dynamic between its lead characters. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work nearly as well as its high-concept premise suggests, despite a cast that includes Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon and Mary-Louise Parker. Bridges, in particular, is the only reason the movie is even remotely watchable, camping it up as a hootin’ and hollerin’ Western lawman that’s partnered with Reynolds’ morose cop. Parker has a few bright moments as their boss, but for the most part, “R.I.P.D.” represents a pretty big waste of talent on several fronts. It’s also incredibly corny, formulaic and features some awful special effects for a summer blockbuster. Still, at a brisk 96 minutes, the movie is almost worth suffering through just to see Bridges do his thing. Almost.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, two alternate openings, a gag reel and several Blu-ray exclusive featurettes, including “Anatomy of a Shootout.”

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Byzantium”

WHAT: Mother-daughter vampires Clara (Gemma Arterton) and Eleanor (Saorise Ronan) are forced to flee to an English coastal town when they attract some unwanted attention from their own kind. After years of keeping her story a secret, Eleanor finds solace in a sulky teenager named Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), unaware of the grave consequences that doing so will have.

WHY: Neil Jordan may be responsible for adapting one of the most popular vampire stories of the modern age (“Interview with a Vampire”), but that doesn’t give him license to ruin the genre with a film that completely rewrites the classic mythology. That’s because no matter how hard he tries, “Byzantium” doesn’t feel like a vampire movie at all. Fangs have been replaced by a sharp nail that extends to puncture victims’ necks, sunlight is fair game (though they don’t sparkle), and the method of turning into a vampire is terribly unsexy, unfrightening and anticlimactic. More than anything else, though, the film is just really boring. None of the characters are particularly interesting, and the brief flashbacks explaining Clara and Eleanor’s transformation feels like an afterthought. It’s a shame to see actors like Saorsie Ronan and Johnny Lee Miller trapped in such a dull movie, because “Let the Right One In” proved that it’s possible to make a great vampire film that defies conventions; “Byzantium” just isn’t one of them.

EXTRAS: There’s over an hour of interviews with various members of the cast and crew, but that’s the extent of the bonus material.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to July

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Audiences have seen quite a few big movies may their way into theaters over the past two months, but the onslaught of summer tentpole films isn’t even close to over. In fact, we’ve just reached the midway point of the season, and as you might expect, there’s plenty more big blockbusters on their way, including a potential new Disney franchise for Johnny Depp, Guillermo del Toro’s answer to Godzilla, and the return of Wolverine.

“THE LONE RANGER”

Who: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner and Helena Bonham Carter
What: Native American warrior Tonto recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid, a man of the law, into a legend of justice.
When: July 3rd
Why: Disney may think that they have another ready-made hit on their hands with this big screen adaptation of the popular radio serial, but I don’t know many people that are actually excited about “The Lone Ranger,” and that includes myself. Though Johnny Depp will almost certainly be a riot as the dead-bird wearing Tonto (he’s at his best when playing eccentric characters), Armie Hammer has yet to prove himself as a viable leading man. Additionally, the rumors about the film’s troubled production don’t exactly exude confidence, and although “World War Z” taught us not to take behind-the-scenes drama at face value, there hasn’t been a single trailer released yet that doesn’t make the movie look like one really expensive mess.

“THE WAY, WAY BACK”

Who: Liam James, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carrell and Amanda Peet
What: Over the course of his summer break, a teenager comes into his own thanks in part to the friendship he strikes up with one of the park’s managers.
When: July 5th
Why: After becoming a smash hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the coming-of-age comedy ignited a bidding war, with Fox Searchlight ultimately acquiring the rights for a near-record $10 million. The indie studio clearly believes that the film can replicate the box office success of “Little Miss Sunshine” (it even features two of the actors from that movie in Steve Carell and Toni Collete), and if the festival buzz is to be believed, an awards campaign might not be too far behind. The film marks the directorial debuts of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who first turned industry heads with their Oscar-winning script for “The Descendants,” and boasts a star-studded cast that also includes Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet. Though it may seem like an odd time of the year to release such a small comedy, it’s actually a smart piece of counterprogramming that could work to its benefit.

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