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.

“Oblivion”

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.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“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.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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