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Rush Blu-rayRush is a movie that’s primarily about F1 racing and specifically about a rivalry between real-life British racer James Hunt and German competitor Niki Lauda. It’s also a tale about celebrity status and the media, differing perspectives, near-death experiences, and much, much more.
Director Ron Howard’s always been an able storyteller, and even if Rush was snubbed by the Academy this year, it doesn’t change the fact that the setup and narrative in the flick make for a nuanced sports movie. At the start, Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) don’t seem to have much in common. They race differently, they think differently and they show an intense dislike for one another on and off the track. They are very different men, but as Rush begins to follow the trajectories of their respective careers, the audience grows to understand the drive for excellence that propels both of them.
While the drama is enough to entice most viewers, it’s not all that Rush has to offer. A slick soundtrack and fun race sequences permeate the film, and both men have their share of romances, although the way they woo women is another easy way to pit the two competitors as opposites. Lauda finds a woman he likes and marries her and Hunt finds several women he likes, marries one and enjoys the company of the rest alongside a never-ending cocktail of booze and other drugs. The character study is a worthwhile one, but mostly you should give Rush a chance because it’s a whole lot of fun.
You can order Rush over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: "The Real Story of Rush" gives the film historical context. The extra is split into three parts—"Meeting James Hunt and Niki Lauda," "F1 Take 1: F1 Racing and the F1 Car," and "The Rock and Roll Circus"—and each part looks at the film and its historical context, as well as gives the cast and crew the opportunity to explain their perspectives on the making of the film. The role of the media in making F1 racing a real story of celebrity is one of the more interesting parts of the extras, and Howard’s knowledge of celebrity behavior in the 70s is also discussed.
Other Special Features:
"Race for the Checkered Flag: The Making of Rush"
Bad Grandpa Blu-rayBad Grandpa marks the first time the Jackass crew made a real movie with a plot out of its sketch comedy antics. We’ve seen the evolution of Johnny Knoxville’s Bad Grandpa character over several movies, but this time he’s front and center, and he has an eight-year-old sidekick named Billy (Jackson Nicholl) to help him get some laughs.
Nicholl and Knoxville worked together on the set of Fun Size and immediately built some rapport. By the time they started shooting Bad Grandpa, they come across like true partners in crime, whether those antics involve stealing groceries, trying to pick up women, or engaging in female beauty pageants.
While I give Jeff Tremaine credit for building a series of pranks into a road trip movie with half a plot, it still feels like a disjointed film, jumping from gross out pranks to site gags, to award situational humor with quick cut-to shots. It’s tough to tell how much time passes and how many days go by as the young man and the old man try to head to Raleigh, North Carolina to meet Billy’s father. Luckily, what the movie lacks in continuity it makes up in laughs.
The Jackass guys have always been fans of stretching the limits of jokes, and some of the stuff covered in Bad Grandpa might be unnerving for even the most raucous of fans. The good news is that no one was harmed in the making of the film, and Bad Grandpa goes out of its way to show the aftermath of many of its pranks in the extras on the disc. In fact, the film thrives on its hour of bonus features, going into detail about how each of the pranks were shot, how releases were acquired afterward and how the whole production was built around good-natured fun. The way Bad Grandpa was shot sets it up for some excellent extras, and Paramount Home Media Distribution’s Blu-ray release doesn’t disappoint.
You can order Bad Grandpa over at Amazon.
Other Special Features:
Unrated Cut of the film
Alternate Real-Life Reactions
The Fifth Estate Blu-rayThe Fifth Estate opens up with one of the most intricate opening sequences in recent memory, introducing viewers to the dawn of the printing press and the first inklings of the rapid sharing of information. It sets the tone for a serious movie with lofty expectations, but unfortunately, Bill Condon’s latest film never quite achieves its lofty goal.
Instead, it dithers around the origins of Wikileaks and the controversy surrounding the unveiling of "The Iraq War Logs" and the "Afghan War Diary." Instead of telling a story from the perspective of Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), we learn about the organization through the eyes of Assange’s right-hand man, Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl, who also pops up in Rush this week). Since Assange wasn’t keen to talk to Cumberbatch or the rest of the production, watching Wikileaks explode into prominence through Domscheit-Berg’s eyes is an easy way to get the Cliff Notes version of the story.
Unfortunately, the large span of time the film covers and the various side plots don’t amount to a story that is carefully framed. We see Domscheit-Berg, the rise of his relationship with Assange, their early successes, and then the downfall of their relationship. We also see Domscheit-Berg’s relationship issues, especially with his girlfriend. We also see hyped up versions of the U.S. officials dealing with the ramifications of certain documents that were exposed on Wikileaks. It’s a lot to take in, and The Fifth Estate is simultaneously extremely detailed and extraneous.
Still, there are moments where Cumberbatch pulls off the accent and the ideals to portray a vivid Julian Assange and there are other moments when the whirlwind of information transfer that is Wikileaks is explained with fun camera shots onscreen. In those moments, we can see what Condon was striving for. We can see a movie that might have matched its opening credits. The Fifth Estate just never quite gets what it wants out of the information it is built on.
You can order The Fifth Estate over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: The Fifth Estate is a film that is technology-driven, and it really works hard to invest fans in this technological world. In order to make this idea "cinematic," Condon and his crew put together a "Submission Platform" that is basically Assange’s fantasy office. The extra about shooting the platform scenes is actually pretty interesting if you are into how VFX people layer scenes.
Other Special Features:
Bonnie & Clyde Blu-rayClyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker have been the subjects of public fascination for many years. The two robbers and lovers made the papers numerous times during their heyday, and have been portrayed on film and television numerous times since, most recently with the original miniseries Bonnie & Clyde, a 2013 production that made history by airing on three different networks simultaneously.
Bonnie & Clyde hypes up a lot of the characteristics of the two criminals mentioned by the media in the 1930s. Clyde, for instance, exhibits a tendency to see visions of the future, which leads to a few scenes that are disjointed and distort the reality of Barrow (Emile Hirsch) and Parker’s (Holliday Grainger) living situation. She’s also extremely keen on her poetry and keeps a little box filled with keepsakes of her old life. It’s the only thing tying Bonnie to a past that didn’t involve gunfire or bloodshed. Lane Garrison and Sarah Hyland also pop up as members of the Barrow Gang, while Elizabeth Reaser plays the media journalist responsible for getting the two young lovers into the papers.
On Blu-ray, Bonnie & Clyde is presented as a lengthy movie. It’s a little stop and start that way, with the arcs of multiple episodes ebbing and flowing through the program’s run. However, it’s kind of nice to not have to re-watch an introductory sequence again or return to the menu page to start a new episode. Despite the menu-based pros, the event ran for four hours over two nights, and presented in its present format, it takes quite some time to get to the inevitable ambush that did the two crooks in. The journey, however, is bold and flashy, playing out an eight decade-old story in a way that should be appealing to a new generation of viewers.
You can order Bonnie & Clyde over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: All of the bonus features for Bonnie & Clyde are located on a separate disc. The best of these is probably "Iconography: The Story of Bonnie & Clyde," a featurette that looks at the "Making of" the series, and focuses on many of the vintage weapons, cars and costumes that make an appearance in the series. If you like hearing about guns or clothing, this extra is the one for you.
Other Special Features:
"A Legendary Story Revisited"
Treme: The Complete Fourth Season DVDThere are a lot of shows written in the present and plenty of programs written in the past, but recent history is not often explored on television. A show like Treme, set in the recent past, is rare, but it allows viewers into an extremely unique space on television. Season 4 of HBO’s drama culminated this past winter, and the network has rushed to both release The Complete Fourth Season and The Complete Series Sets this week.
The 5-episode final season isn’t a lengthy endeavor, and the set itself isn’t up to the grandiose standards HBO generally attempts, with Blu-ray, DVD and Digital copies creating thick sets (although a Blu-ray copy is also available). However, the final five episodes, set 38 months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, offer plenty of tender and revealing moments. Besides, the release of the final five means a Complete Series set is also available. That might be the collection for your shelf.
You can take a look at some of this week’s other releases, below. Unless otherwise noted, sets are available on both Blu-ray and DVD.
Other January 28 Releases
Treme: The Complete Series
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Downton Abbey: Season 4
Metallica: Through the Never
Argento’s Dracula 3-D
Nicholas Sparks: Limited Edition Collection DVD
Danny Phantom: The Complete Series DVD
The April Fools DVD
Dark Touch DVD
The War Between Men and Women DVD
Who is Harry Kellerman and Why is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?