Blu Tuesday: Olympus Has Fallen, Girls 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.

“Olympus Has Fallen”

WHAT: When former Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) gets trapped inside the White House following a terrorist attack, he must rely on his special skills to rescue the President (Aaron Eckhart) from his captors before they detonate the country’s entire nuclear stockpile on domestic soil.

WHY: Antoine Fuqua may have beat Roland Emmerich’s “White House Down” to the punch by being the first Presidential action flick out of the gate, but not without the final product suffering as a result. The special effects, in particular, look a little unpolished (undoubtedly due to its tight post-production schedule), and although it features an excellent cast, many of the actors are wasted, perhaps none more so than Eckhart, who’s given very little to but grimace and grit his teeth. It’s also completely ridiculous in just about every way, from an unidentified Black Hawk flying straight into Washington, D.C. (when it would have been shot down as soon as it entered U.S. airspace), to North Korean terrorists overtaking one of the country’s most heavily guarded buildings in a matter of minutes. The film takes a while to get going, but once Banning gets into full stealth mode, “Olympus Has Fallen” becomes quite enjoyable – a poor man’s “Die Hard” in the best sense possible.

EXTRAS: In addition to a making-of featurette titled “Under Surveillance,” there are four more featurettes on the cast, special effects, stunts and the Black Hawk sequence, as well as a short blooper reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Girls: Season Two”

WHAT: The further adventures of Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) and her group of twenty-something friends – Marnie (Allison Williams), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) – as they traverse the ups and downs of adulthood in New York City.

WHY: I had a very love-hate relationship with the first season of “Girls,” but Season Two is such a complete train wreck that it made me want to stop watching the show altogether. Dunham has created one of the most unlikable protagonists on TV (between her coke-fueled meltdown and the Patrick Wilson episode, she hits an all-time low), and Williams’ laughably insecure Marnie isn’t too far behind. In fact, the female characters have so few redeeming qualities – even Mamet’s lively Shoshanna resorts to some bad behavior this season – that it’s a wonder how the audience is supposed to keep rooting for them. Thankfully, their male co-stars at least make “Girls” tolerable. Season One standout Adam Driver continues his strange but endearing performance as Hannah’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, while Alex Karpovsky seizes his expanded role with aplomb. Unfortunately, the show isn’t called “Boys,” although as far as spinoff ideas go, giving Driver and Karpovsky their own series sounds infinitely better than whatever Dunham cooks up next.

EXTRAS: There’s certainly no shortage of bonus material here, highlighted by cast and crew audio commentaries on seven episodes. Also included is a series of deleted scenes, Inside the Episode featurettes, a table read for Episode 5, a Charlie Rose interview with Lena Dunham, a making-of featurette, a roundtable discussion with the show’s male co-stars, and if you can believe it, much more.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to April

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April has always been an odd month for new releases, particularly now that the spring movie season doesn’t really exist anymore, at least not in the minds of studios. Instead, everything seems to be split into two groups: films that fit the summer mold and those that don’t. But while moviegoers will be pretty limited with their options this month, it’s definitely one of the more promising Aprils in recent memory.

“EVIL DEAD”

Who: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas and Lou Taylor Pucci
What: Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods.
When: April 5th
Why: Remakes are always a worrying proposition, especially for fans of the original film, but when it was announced that Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert were behind the modern-day update of “Evil Dead,” there was a collective sigh of relief. After all, who better to trust then the trio responsible for the 1981 cult original? It’s also nice to know that the film isn’t just a rehashing of Raimi’s first movie, but rather a whole new story with new characters in an otherwise familiar setting, and if the early buzz from the film’s world premiere at last month’s SXSW festival is any indication, Fede Alvarez’s remake/reboot/sequel (whatever you want to call it) has everything horror fans could possibly want – namely, the gooey red stuff, and plenty of it.

“TRANCE”

Who: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel and Danny Sapani
What: An art auctioneer mixed up with a group of criminals teams up with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.
When: April 5th
Why: Danny Boyle’s follow-up to “127 Hours” can’t get here quick enough, especially after being delayed by the director’s other engagements on stage (the National Theatre production of “Frankenstein”) and for his country (the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony). His new movie is a return to roots of sorts, reteaming with frequent collaborator John Hodge (“Shallow Grave,” “Trainspotting”) for the kind of gritty, edgy crime thriller that he cut his teeth making in the mid-90s. It’ll be interesting to see what Boyle brings to the genre now that he’s a more mature and wiser filmmaker, because “Trance” looks a lot more experimental than his recent work, and despite its “Inception”-like premise, that’s probably the most exciting thing of all.

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