Blu Tuesday: Trance, Welcome to the Punch 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.

“Trance”

WHAT: With his gambling debt piling up, art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) teams up with a group of thieves to steal a Francisco Goya masterpiece. But during the robbery, Simon suffers a blow to his head, and in order to figure out where he stashed the painting, the gang’s leader (Vincent Cassel) hires a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to dig deep into Simon’s psyche and help jog his memory.

WHY: Adapted from the 2001 TV movie of the same name, “Trance” is so thinly plotted and riddled with gaps in logic that it’s to the credit of director Danny Boyle and his cast (including a surprisingly good Rosario Dawson) that they’re able to keep things interesting. Though Boyle masks a lot of the script’s problems with some nifty visuals and the same kinetic energy prevalent in his other films, the frantic pace only lasts so long before the story grinds to a halt, suffocated by a never-ending series of twists and red herrings that makes it almost impossible to discern what’s real. That’s obviously the point, but by the time the movie arrives at its climactic ending, it becomes one twist too many, and instead of a brilliant mind-bender, it feels like a cheap trick written by someone trying to outdo “Inception.” The movie is ultimately saved by Boyle’s ingenuity and some strong performances, but for a film with such a unique premise, “Trance” should have left a more lasting impression.

EXTRAS: There are six production featurettes (including one on the making of the film), deleted scenes, a retrospective on director Danny Boyle and the short film “Eugene.”

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Welcome to the Punch”

WHAT: After failing to capture master thief Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) several years earlier, detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) is given a second chance to bring down the elusive criminal when Sternwood returns to London following his son’s death, only to uncover a much deeper conspiracy within his own police department.

WHY:Welcome to the Punch” has garnered a few comparisons to Michael Mann’s cat-and-mouse thriller “Heat,” but the movie pales in comparison. Though it boasts a similar visual style to a lot of Mann’s films, the tension is almost non-existent, and despite an interesting dynamic between McAvoy’s cop and Strong’s robber, it’s never fully explored, nor does it have the same allure of seeing Hollywood heavyweights like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino face off. This is a movie in dire need of a better script, because not only does it lack personality, but it’s too complicated for its own ogod – a tangled mess of half-baked ideas and telegraphed plot twists that never properly explains anything. It’s a generic crime thriller in just about every way, and although it looks great and features a couple of nifty gunfights, the film is ultimately a case of style over substance, and one that its top-notch British ensemble is unable to rescue.

EXTRAS: The single-disc release is a little light on bonus material, but it does include a making-of featurette and interviews with the cast and crew.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

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Movie Review: “Trance”

Starring
James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel, Danny Sapani
Director
Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle is one of the few directors working today whose projects are almost always met with fervent excitement, and that’s certainly the case with “Trance.” Though moviegoers were forced to wait a few years for Boyle’s much-anticipated follow-up to “127 Hours” – due to other engagements on stage (the National Theatre production of “Frankenstein”) and for his country (the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony) – the delay seemed well worth it following the news that he would be reteaming with frequent collaborator John Hodge (“Shallow Grave,” “Trainspotting”). In retrospect, my expectations were probably set a little too high, because although “Trance” is an entertaining psychological thriller, it doesn’t quite live up to Boyle’s more recent, award-winning work.

The film’s whiz-bang opening sets the stage when art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) teams up with a group of criminals to steal Francisco Goya’s 1798 masterpiece “Witches in the Air” during an auction in progress. Everything is going according to plan when Simon suffers a blow to the head during the heist, only to awaken with no memory of where he hid the painting. When more conventional methods (i.e. torture) prove ineffective, the gang’s leader Franck (Vincent Cassel) hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to dig deep into Simon’s psyche and help jog his memory. But as Simon starts to piece together his broken subconscious, he becomes increasingly suspicious of Franck and Elizabeth’s ulterior motives, reconfirming why he chose to stash the painting in the first place.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to April

april_preview

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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