Blu Tuesday: Transformers, Chef and Third Person

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.

“Transformers: Age of Extinction”

WHAT: Following the Battle of Chicago, a CIA black ops team led by the ruthless Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) has begun hunting down the surviving Autobots and Deceptions in order to destroy them. When wannabe inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) discovers Optimus Prime hiding as a beat-up semi-truck, the Autobot leader must protect the Yeager family from Attinger and a mercenary Transformer called Lockdown.

WHY: The most important thing you need to know about “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is that it clocks in at a ridiculously bloated 164 minutes. That’s not a typo, and worse yet, the first half is all just setup to the overly complex plot. Why Michael Bay thought that audiences wanted another “Transformers” film, let alone one that’s nearly three hours long, is anyone’s guess, because “Age of Extinction” is every bit as terrible as the last two installments. The bad dialogue and shameless product placement are to be expected, and the dynamic between the three lead human characters is pretty annoying, but Bay can’t even get the action right in this one, settling for unintelligible set pieces that evade logic almost as much as the story. At this point in the franchise, you’d think that Bay would have a better understanding of what works versus what doesn’t, but he makes many of the same mistakes, including a few new ones. Even the visual effects look less polished than past installments, and if you’re going to surround your action with dull human drama, the least Bay could have done is make it look good.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a ton of bonus material for “Transformers” fans to dive into, beginning with the two-hour documentary “Evolution Within Extinction. There’s also a featurette where director Michael Bay discusses some key shots from the film, a behind-the-scenes look at production and a trip to Hasbro headquarters.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Chef”

WHAT: After quitting his comfy restaurant job due to creative differences with the owner, Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) does the unthinkable by starting up a food truck to revive his passion for the craft. While driving the truck cross-country from Miami to Los Angeles, Carl attempt to mend his relationship with his estranged son (Emjay Anthony), who accompanies him on the trip.

WHY: After the critical and commercial failure of “Cowboys & Aliens,” it’s nice to see Jon Favreau getting back to his roots with a small character-driven piece like “Chef.” Of course, that hasn’t stopped him from filling the movie with lots of great actors, including Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr. and Dustin Hoffman in cameo roles. The crux of the film, however, falls on Favreau and Emjay Anthony, who work really well together as the father-son duo, while John Leguizamo rounds out the food truck team (as Carl’s dutiful line cook) with his best part in a long time. The feel-good nature of the story means that it’s a fairly predictable journey for Carl, but Favreau takes a timely approach to the material with the whole food truck angle and the incorporation of social media. Though far from the big-budget extravaganza of the first two “Iron Man” films, what the indie comedy lacks in spectacle it makes up for with a great cast, a warm and funny script, and some mouth-watering food porn. Seriously, don’t watch this movie on an empty stomach. You’ve been warned.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary with writer/director Jon Favreau and co-producer Roy Choi, as well as some deleted scenes and outtakes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Third Person”

WHAT: Three connecting stories that take place in three different cities. In Paris, an esteemed author (Liam Neeson) begins an affair with a fellow writer (Olivia Wilde); in New York, a mother (Mila Kunis) struggles to regain visitation rights of her child; and in Italy, a businessman (Adrian Brody) helps an immigrant woman (Moran Atias) rescue her daughter from a human trafficker.

WHY: It’s incredible how much can change over the course of just a few years, and no one knows that better than Paul Haggis, who went from being one of the most sought-after writer/directors in Hollywood to a filmmaker who hasn’t done anything noteworthy in almost a decade. In fact, it appears that Haggis is still living off the 10-year-old fumes of “Crash,” because his latest multi-story drama also hinges on a narrative device, although to lesser effect. Discussing the silly gimmick in any detail would risk major spoilers, but let’s just say that watching different variations of the same bad story is even worse than sitting through it once. “Third Person” is without a doubt one of the most joyless moviegoing experiences of the year – a convoluted mess filled with insufferable characters and dull stories where nothing really happens. Don’t let the star-studded cast fool you, either, because while Liam Neeson delivers solid work as usual, the rest of the actors are either really poor or look bored out of their minds. Maybe they were promised the chance to be a part of the next “Crash,” but sadly, “Third Person” doesn’t even come close to replicating the excellence of the Oscar winner.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by writer/director Paul Haggis (along with several of his cast and crew), there’s a short making-of featurette and a 32-minute Q&A with Haggis moderated by film critic Pete Hammond.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to June

june

The summer season is typically reserved for the year’s biggest films, and although May certainly delivered in that department, this month’s slate is in remarkably short supply of tentpole movies. There are a few surefire blockbusters on tap – like “22 Jump Street,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and the latest Transformers flick – but the rest of June is mostly comprised of smaller dramas that don’t fit the traditional summer mold. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a little strange for a time of year where studios tend to live by the mantra that bigger is better.

“EDGE OF TOMORROW”

Who: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson
What: A military officer is dropped into battle against an alien race, only to find that he’s caught in a time loop that allows him to replay the day over and over again.
When: June 6th
Why: It’s a shame that the studio felt the need to replace the film’s playfully offbeat original title (“All You Need Is Kill”) with something so safe and generic, because “Edge of Tomorrow” looks a lot more interesting than it sounds. The whole “Groundhog Day” concept isn’t exactly new, and it’s not even the first time that it’s been used in a sci-fi movie, but it does provide a unique angle to the clichéd alien invasion premise that should please genre fans. Plus, it features cool exoskeleton suits, a solid cast led by Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, and a director in Doug Liman who’s not only willing to take risks, but hungry to atone for the disappointment of his last sci-fi venture, “Jumper.”

“THE FAULT IN OUR STARS”

Who: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff and Willem Dafoe
What: Teenagers Hazel and Gus meet and fall in love at a cancer support group.
When: June 6th
Why: “The Fault in Our Stars” isn’t the kind of movie you’d normally expect to see released during the summer, so you really have to applaud 20th Century Fox for placing so much confidence in the teen drama. It’s also not the kind of movie that would normally interest me, but between the casting of Shailene Woodley and the almost unanimous admiration for the John Green novel on which it’s based, there’s a certain air to the project that suggests it’ll be much better than the typical young adult book adaptation. If it’s anything like 2012’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” – and judging by the trailer, that’s a pretty fair comparison – then moviegoers are in for a real treat.

“22 JUMP STREET”

Who: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Peter Stormare and Dave Franco
What: After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt and Jenko when they go deep undercover at a local college.
When: June 13th
Why: “21 Jump Street” proved that it’s possible to make a good movie based on a hit TV show, but the sequel has a much more difficult task: doing it all over again, only this time, even bigger and better. Of course, if anyone is capable of handling that sort of pressure, then surely it’s the directing duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who seem to turn everything they touch into gold. Not only was “The LEGO Movie” a critical and commercial success, but “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is one of the funniest new comedies on TV, and it’s hard to imagine that “22 Jump Street” won’t continue that streak, especially with a pair of stars that have such great chemistry as Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Titus Welliver (‘Bosch’)

There are so many things that you might know Titus Welliver from that we simply don’t have the time or space to list them all – although you can hit up his IMDb listing if you really want the full monty – but, for example, even just limiting it to shows that are currently on the air that’s he’s popped up in, you’ve got NCIS, Supernatural, Sons of Anarchy, Suits, The Good Wife, CSI: Criminal Scene Investigation, Grimm, White Collar, and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. At the moment, though, Welliver has high hopes that he’ll have a full-time gig on his hands in the near future…but that’s going to be up to audiences to decide.

If you’re a fan of author Michael Connelly, then you’ll most likely recognize the name “Hieronymus Bosch” as belonging to someone other than a Dutch painter: he’s a character in more than a few of Connelly’s novels – you may know him better as Harry – and now he’s making the jump to the small screen…or, more specifically, to Amazon…with Welliver playing the part in a new pilot. If it proves successful amongst viewers, then Bosch will go to series, and if not…well, let’s not even consider that possibility, because I’ve seen the pilot, and it’s pretty damned good.

In fact, it’s so good that you really ought to go watch it right now, which you can do by clicking right here. After you’re done, though, be sure to come back, because I had a chance to talk with Welliver about working on the project in some detail, and before we wrapped up, we also had a bit of time to chat about his experiences on one of his earlier TV projects as well. (Hint: he worked with David Milch on the series.)

bosch

Bullz-Eye: I’m sure you’ve gone on record elsewhere about the origins of how you came aboard the project in the first place, but as I haven’t heard them, how did you end up in the mix to play Harry Bosch?

Titus Welliver: Well, I read the script and…it was sort of a funny situation, because I was trying to meet with the producers and Michael Connelly, because I read the script and I went crazy for it and just felt like I so desperately wanted to play this character. But I was shooting Transformers 4, and a lot of different locations and a very long shoot, and sometimes it was a little bit like being in the military – in, like, special operations – where, literally, I’d get a call saying, “We need you here, now!” [Laughs.] So there were, like, three attempted meetings, and I was really getting nervous about it because, y’know, at a certain point they kind of go, “Well, as much as we’d really like to meet with you, we’ve gotta get going!”

So when I did finally get to sit down and meet with Michael Connelly and Erik Overmyer and Jim McKay and Henrik Bastin and Pieter Jan Brugge and the whole clan, it was one of those things where I walked into the room and sat down, and within five minutes… I already knew that I wanted to play the character and I loved the script, but just the energy – for lack of a better word – coming from this group, I thought, “I have to do this. My God, I really have to do it!” And that’s not always the case, y’know? Sometimes you can love material but there’s personality conflicts or whatever, you just have a gut feeling about something. But I knew from the second I got in there, “I want to work with these people.” So in that way, it was great. And I feel very blessed that I’ve been given the opportunity.

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