Blu Tuesday: RED 2, Jobs 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.

“RED 2″

WHAT: Retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is trying to lead a quiet, domestic life with girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) when he learns that he’s being framed as a domestic terrorist involved in a ludicrous Cold War plot to sneak a portable WMD into Moscow. But it turns out the nuke is real, so Frank must team up with Marvin (John Malkovich) once again to recover the bomb and prove his innocence, all while being pursued by a deadly assassin.

WHY: Robert Schwentke’s “RED” was such a surprise hit at the box office that you can hardly blame Summit Entertainment for wanting to fast-track a sequel, and although it doesn’t quite pack the same punch as its predecessor, “RED 2” is still a lot of fun thanks to its star-studded cast, including series newcomers Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins. Like most sequels, it tries and fails at one-upping the original, and while the action isn’t as memorable this time around, it’s every bit as playful. “RED 2” also lacks the breezy pace of the first movie, instead bogged down by an overcomplicated plot for seemingly no other reason than to pack as much talent into the film as possible, but then again, that’s part of its charm. By all accounts, the movie shouldn’t be so entertaining – it’s formulaic, unfocused and almost too silly for its own good – but when you have a cast this great, having this much fun, it’s hard not to enjoy.

EXTRAS: There’s a four-part featurette called “The ‘RED 2’ Experience” that covers various aspects of the movie (from the cast, to weapons and stunts), some deleted scenes and a short gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Jobs”

WHAT: The story of Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher), tracking his journey from college dropout in the early 70s, to the founding of Apple Computers a few years later, to being forced out of the company in the mid-80s, to his eventual return and success as one of the most admired entrepreneurs of the 20th century.

WHY: There’s no doubt that Steve Jobs’ remarkable life is tailor-made for the movies, but it’s not really done justice in this slight biopic by Joshua Michael Stern, which would have felt more at home on the small screen. Perhaps a better title for the movie would have been “Apple Begins,” because it’s more about the rise (and fall) of the company than Jobs himself, although he obviously figures pretty heavily into the story. Ashton Kutcher does a solid job playing the Apple co-founder, and the rest of the cast is peppered with great actors like Josh Gad and Dermot Mulroney, but it never feels like Stern has a good enough handle on his subject, and as a result, Jobs is either portrayed as a visionary genius or an asshole perfectionist, with nothing in between. As a film about the creation of Apple, it’s a fairly interesting look behind-the-scenes of a tech start-up, but as story about Jobs the man, it falls disappointingly short.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with director Joshua Michael Stern, a trio of short featurettes and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Movie Review: “RED 2″

Starring
Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Neal McDonough
Director
Dean Parisot

Though it featured a veritable who’s who of some of Hollywood’s greatest veteran actors, 2010’s “RED” was a bit of a surprise hit, earning $200 million worldwide during the doldrums of October. You’d forgive Summit Entertainment for wanting to fast-track a sequel then, even if the source material on which it’s based (Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer’s three-issue comic book series of the same name) was completely exhausted in the first film. Of course, that hasn’t stopped series writers Jon and Erich Hoeber from continuing their story of retired, extremely dangerous CIA agent Frank Martin, and although it doesn’t quite pack the same punch as its predecessor, “RED 2” is still a good deal of fun thanks almost entirely to its star-studded cast.

Following the events of the last movie, Frank (Bruce Willis) has been trying to lead a quiet, domestic life with girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), but she yearns for another adventure. And her wish is granted when Marvin (John Malkovich) tracks Frank down to warn him that they’ve been framed as domestic terrorists involved in a top secret operation known as Nightshade, a ludicrous Cold War plot to sneak a portable WMD into Moscow, only for it to go missing. But the Russian nuke is very much real, and the only person who knows of its whereabouts is Dr. Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), the physicist responsible for building it, who’s been locked away in a British insane asylum for over 30 years, despite being believed dead. So when the U.S. government hires a deadly assassin (Byung-hun Lee) to take Frank out, he must team up with his fellow operatives to recover the bomb and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to July

july_movies

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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