Blu Tuesday: Veronica Mars, Son of Batman and The Art of the Steal

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.

“Veronica Mars”

WHAT: It’s been years since Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) walked away from her life as a teenage private eye, now living in New York City with the hopes of landing a job at a major law firm. But when her former flame, Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), becomes the lead witness in a murder case, Veronica flies back to her hometown to help clear his name.

WHY: If you didn’t know what Kickstarter was prior to March 13, 2013, then there’s a pretty good chance that you were awakened to its existence after a campaign to fund a “Veronica Mars” movie reached its $2 million goal in only 10 hours. That’s how badly fans of Rob Thomas’ cult TV drama (which ran from 2004-2007 on The CW) wanted to see their favorite show revived on the big screen, even if that meant footing the bill themselves. This is the kind of thing that every fanboy dreams about, and also the reason why “Veronica Mars” is almost exclusively a fans-only affair. The chances that you’ll become a fan of the show after seeing the film is certainly possible, but it’s not likely, especially when the movie clearly panders to the existing audience. It’s the ultimate fan service, complete with the return of some familiar faces and in-jokes that only a Marshmallow would understand. As an outsider, that makes it a lot easier to identify the film’s faults (like the TV-grade production value, Scooby-Doo plot and wooden leading man), but Kristen Bell is so enjoyable in the title role that it’s easy to see why so many people fell in love with the character in the first place.

EXTRAS: In addition to a 56-minute making-of featurette, the Blu-ray release includes some interviews with the cast and crew, deleted scenes and a gag reel.


“Son of Batman”

WHAT: After the League of Shadows’ fearless leader, Ra’s al Ghul, is killed by a former student, his daughter Talia (Morena Baccarin) flees to Gotham City with her son Damian (Stuart Allen) to seek protection from Batman (Jason O’Mara), who is actually the young boy’s father. But when Damian proves to be more trouble than expected, Batman agrees to help track down Ra’s al Ghul’s killer – the power-hungry Deathstroke – as long as they play by his rules.

WHY: The DC Universe animated movies won’t replace their live-action counterparts any time soon, but they’re perfectly adequate distractions that generally clock in at a brisk 80 minutes or less. They also give the company the chance to tell stories that wouldn’t necessarily be considered for the big screen, even if their short runtimes don’t allow for very much character development or emotion – and in the case of those adapted from popular comic book arcs (like with “Son of Batman”), the same level of complexity. The voice acting could be better, and the amount of blood on display is astounding for a PG-13 animated movie, but it’s still pretty entertaining at times (especially the action sequences), despite the fact that it comes at the expense of any real substance. “Son of Batman” certainly isn’t the Dark Knight’s finest DC Universe adventure, but it explores one of the character’s more unique storylines of the past decade, ushering in an exciting new era for Batman and his pint-sized sidekick that has a certain Big Daddy/Hit-Girl feel to the whole partnership.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a trio of featurettes, a sneak peek at the upcoming movie “Batman: Assault on Arkham” and some bonus DC cartoons.


“The Art of the Steal”

WHAT: Following a five-and-a-half-year stint in prison after his sleazy half-brother Nicky (Matt Dillon) rats him out to save his own ass, art thief-turned-motorcycle daredevil Crunch Calhoun (Kurt Russell) is persuaded into reuniting with Nicky and the rest of their crew – including newcomer Francie (Jay Baruchel) – to steal a valuable Gutenberg book.

WHY: A north-of-the-border crime caper that plays like a poor man’s “Ocean’s Eleven” (right down to the jazzy musical score and fast-cut montages), “The Art of the Steal” is not only incredibly forgettable, but it offers nothing new to the genre. Writer/director Jonathan Sobol’s biggest mistake is thinking that his movie is much hipper and cleverer than it really is, bogged down by so many needless twists and double-crosses that it becomes increasingly less plausible by the minute. Despite its overly complex plot, Sobol manages to keep the runtime short and snappy, and he’s assembled an immensely likeable cast, headlined by Kurt Russell, who for my money is still one of the most charismatic leading men working today. Lately, Russell’s relationship with Hollywood has been flirtatious at best, and that’s a real shame, because even though his roles have been limited over the past decade, he’s an actor whose presence lights up the screen. Seeing him front and center again is reason enough to watch “The Art of the Steal,” even if the movie is every bit as mediocre as its initial VOD rollout suggests.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by writer/director Jonathan Sobol and producer Nicholas Tabarrock, a fairly extensive making-of featurette and a behind-the-scenes look at the Mona Lisa sequence.