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 social media with your friends.
“Westworld: Season One”
HBO’s “Westworld” is a really cool premise in search of a great show. Though it has some talented people working behind the scenes, including executive producers Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams, the first season of the sci-fi drama is wildly uneven. So much energy is spent trying to hide the major revelations at the center of its mystery box plot (even though many of them are fairly obvious) that it comes up short in other areas. Not everything works as a result, but to completely discount “Westworld” as a failure would be to rob yourself of its delights (violent and otherwise), particularly the storyline involving Thandie Newton’s self-aware robot. Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood are also good in their respective roles, while Anthony Hopkins chews scenery like no one else can. That’s not to say that “Westworld” doesn’t have its problems, because Season One is littered with them, but while it may never replace “Game of Thrones” as HBO’s flagship program, it’s still a fairly entertaining genre show that has the potential to be even better.
Extras include a series of promotional featurettes, a video diary of the first week on set, a look at creating the opening title sequence, a discussion about the real-life dangers of A.I., an interview with co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy about the final episode, a gag reel and more. FINAL VERDICT: RENT
The “Cars” franchise is easily the weakest link in the Pixar chain, but that hasn’t stopped the animation studio from cranking out yet another sequel, because they sell toys. Lots and lots of toys. There’s not much else going for these movies, and “Cars 3” is evidence of that with a totally predictable redemption story that’s every bit as tedious as it sounds. Though it was ballsy to relegate the franchise’s entire supporting cast to cameo roles (especially Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater), they haven’t replaced them with anyone interesting. Armie Hammer is well cast as douchey antagonist Jackson Storm but is given very little to do, while Cristela Alonzo’s Cruz Ramirez is remarkably dull for a character who’s supposed to represent female empowerment. To be fair, “Cars 3” is no better or worse than the previous two films, but that’s the problem.
Extras include an audio commentary by director Brian Fee, producer Kevin Reher, co-producer Andrea Warren and creative director Jay Ward, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at creating the story and new character Cruz Ramirez, additional racing featurettes, deleted scenes, two short films (“Lou” and “Miss Fritter’s Racing School”) and much more. FINAL VERDICT: RENT
“Ingrid Goes West”
Matt Spicer’s directorial debut has the makings of a great dark comedy, but it’s almost too pitch black to be funny. A satire of today’s social media culture, “Ingrid Goes West” knows exactly what it wants to say but fails to dig deep enough to make its point, blurring the lines between fanaticism and mental illness in the process. Though Ingrid is clearly unhinged, she still comes across as a somewhat sympathetic character purely because everyone else around her (save for O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s friendly landlord) is a terrible person. Aubrey Plaza is excellent in the title role, and Elizabeth Olson turns in some good work as the subject of Ingrid’s obsession, but the movie doesn’t really accomplish anything by the end. It’s like a companion piece to the “Black Mirror” episode “Nosedive,” albeit with a much worse (and dangerously irresponsible) ending that seems to contradict its own message.
Extras include an audio commentary by director/co-writer Matt Spicer, co-writer David Branson Smith and actress Aubrey Plaza, as well as three deleted scenes with optional commentary. FINAL VERDICT: RENT
“The Glass Castle”
Based on Jeannette Walls’ 2005 memoir of the same name, “The Glass Castle” plays like a Lifetime version of “Captain Fantastic.” But whereas that film’s kooky dad had some redeeming qualities, the negligent parents at the center of this story – from Woody Harrelson’s alcoholic father to Naomi Watts’ cowardly mother – don’t deserve to be let off the hook so easily. It’s amazing that their children developed into functioning adults considering the horrifying level of abuse they were exposed to on a near-daily basis. That kind of melodrama might make for a good book, where you have the time to explore the complexities of each relationship, but it doesn’t work as well in a two-hour movie. Though there are some good performances here, namely from Harrelson and Ella Anderson as the teenage Jeannette, “The Glass Castle” is unable to rise above its misguided execution.
Extras include a trio of featurettes on adapting the book, the film’s score and the original song “Summer Storm,” an interview with author Jeannette Walls and some deleted scenes. FINAL VERDICT: RENT
Giancarlo Esposito may be forever enshrined in pop culture history for his iconic turn as Gus Fring on “Breaking Bad,” but that doesn’t excuse him from making garbage like “The Show.” This schlocky thriller about a TV host (Josh Duhamel) and a network executive (Famke Janssen) who launch a new reality series where people voluntarily commit suicide is truly bottom of the barrel stuff. It’s so awful on so many levels that it’s difficult to know where to begin. The show itself is incredibly stupid and unrealistic, while the circumstances surrounding one character’s decision to become a contestant is a simple case of bad screenwriting. Esposito and Sarah Wayne Callies deliver good work in front of the camera, but unfortunately, it’s not enough to hide the movie’s stink – especially one as terrible as this.
Extras include a making-of featurette and interviews with the cast and crew. FINAL VERDICT: SKIP