DVD reviews: 'Transcendence,' 'Blue Ruin' and 'Sabotage'
“Transcendence” (2014, PG-13, 119 min., $28.98) Wally Pfister, best known for his work as a cinematographer on Christopher Nolan's films, made his directorial debut with the futuristic sci-fi thriller “Transcendence,” a movie that flopped at the box office and was hit hard by most critics upon its release. “Transcendence” has some good things going for it, including a solid cast (Rebecca Hall, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany and Morgan Freeman) and stunning visuals. Pfister's debut fails in the most important category, though. “Transcendence” carries a plot with lots of holes, unfortunate for a film with lots of moving parts. The pic follows a scientist named Will (Depp) who's working on building a computer capable of feelings. In the process of his research, he's attacked by an anti-technology group and faces death. His wife (Hall) decides to upload Will's conscience to a computer, and it leads to the scientist growing even stronger in cyberspace, even gaining the ability to control people. As concerns grow, a group of people gather to attempt to stop Will before it's too late. A hefty set of featurettes, looking at every inch of the film, are available on Blu-ray. Standard DVDs carry only a couple of featurettes. 2 Stars.
“Blue Ruin” (2013, R, 90 min., $24.98) When we look back at the best movies of 2014, the independent “Blue Ruin” will certainly own a place near the top. It's a crackling thriller from writer-director Jeremy Saulnier, who funded the flick on the cheap, along with his best friend, Macon Blair, who shines in the lead role. The film follows a drifter named Dwight who is fueled by revenge when the guy who killed his parents gets out of jail. Dwight, who isn't the violent type, dives into a lousy plan, and draws the scorn of the family of the man he's targeted. Making the first move, Dwight plunges into an eye-for-an-eye fight with the family that could find him dead. “Blue Ruin” shows lots of promise from Blair and Saulnier, as it takes advantage of a scintillating storyline filled with interesting characters. The overcast cinematography also boosts “Blue Ruin,” giving the viewer a darker backdrop that enhances the plot. It's a pic that grabs the viewer, and doesn't let go until the compelling story runs its course. Commentary, deleted scenes and a making-of featurette are available in Blu-ray and standard DVD packages. The featurette takes a look at how the production came together. 4 Stars.
“Sabotage” (2014, R, 109 min., $29.98) Arnold Schwarzenegger has been in his share of bad movies — “Jingle All the Way,” anybody? — but “Sabotage” might be his worst. It's surprising, too, because the film has solid pedigree, including a cast that includes Olivia Williams, Terrence Howard and Mt. Lebanon native Joe Manganiello. Additionally, “Sabotage” is written and directed by the talented David Ayer. Unfortunately, it's saddled with terrible dialogue and a storyline that falls apart. There are some interesting camera angles that make the action sequences pop, and that's the best “Sabotage” has to offer. The film follows a tough guy named Breacher (Schwarzenegger) who runs a DEA task force of skilled soldiers who hit drug cartels. When the crew is charged with stealing $10 million on a routine job, the DEA breaks them up. When the investigation is dropped, the team gets back together, but the missing money is a serious problem inside the task force. The threat of retribution from the cartel also weighs on the crumbling team. A decent making-of featurette, a few lousy alternate endings and deleted scenes are available inside standard DVD and Blu-ray packages. 1.5 Stars.
“Dom Hemingway” (2013, R, 93 min., $27.99) The talented Richard Shepard wrote and directed “Dom Hemingway,” a comedy drama about a criminal (Jude Law) who just spent the last 12 years of his life in jail for keeping his mouth shut. Back on the streets, looking for what is owed to him, Dom Hemingway finds some tough hurdles along the way.
“Cesar Chavez” (2014, PG-13, 102 min., $19.98) Hispanic activist Cesar Chavez — played by Michael Pena — is the focus of this biopic from director Diego Luna. The pic follows Chavez's fight for social justice across the United States and parts of Europe. In addition to Pena, the film also stars Rosario Dawson, Wes Bentley and John Malkovich.
“Heaven is for Real” (2014, PG, 99 min., $30.99) A family film based off of a true story, “Heaven is for Real,” directed by Randall Wallace, is about a young boy who survives a near-death experience. The incredible part of his tale happens after he wakes up and recounts his visit to heaven. The film stars Greg Kinnear and Thomas Haden Church.
“The Angriest Man in Brooklyn” (2014, R, 83 min., $19.98) A talented cast, including Robin Williams, Melissa Leo, Peter Dinklage and Mila Kunis, gathers for a flick about an unhappy guy named Henry Altmann (Williams) who's told he only has 90 minutes to live. In that span, he attempts to make amends with everyone he's ever hurt in his life.
“GMO OMG” (2013, 90 min., NR, $24.98) Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert explores the world of genetically modified organisms in this food-centered documentary that packs a scary punch in regard to what we put in our stomachs. Seifert hits the road to different countries to see what is going on compared to what he sees in the United States.
“Antboy” (2013, PG, 77 min., $14.93) In an all-too familiar storyline, “Antboy” is a picture about a 12-year-old boy named Pelle (Oscar Dietz) who's turned into a superhero after being bit by a super ant. Pelle assumes a host of magical powers, and he'll need them for a new nemesis. He must defeat a baddie named The Flea to save his town.
“Make Your Move” (2013, PG-13, 110 min., $26.99) The dance movie attempts a comeback with “Make Your Move,” a film from Duane Adler about two dancers from opposite sides of New York City. Donny (Derek Hough) and Aya (BoA) join forces to make things happen in the midst of an intense battle between two rival underground dance clubs.
“The Suspect” (2013, NR, 137 min., $24.98) Gong Yoo assumes the role of Dong-chul, an experienced field agent who's abandoned during a mission in North Korea. On the run, Dong-chul takes a job as a driver for a CEO. When his boss is killed, he passes a secret on to Dong-chul, who finds himself on the run from the bad guys yet again.
“Shogun” (1980, NR, 300 min., $85) One of the most watched TV miniseries of all time, the three-part “Shogun” picked up three Golden Globes and three Emmys in 1981. Starring Richard Chamberlain, “Shogun,” adapted from the book by James Clavell, follows an British man's attempt in Japan to become the first-ever foreign Samurai Warrior.
“Open Grave” (2013, R, 102 min., $24.95) Just in case you hadn't had your fill of zombies, there's the post-apocalyptic thriller “Open Grave,” a thriller about a group of people thrown together to deal with a deadly threat wiping out humanity. The pic stars Sharlto Copley, Joseph Morgan and Thomas Kretschmann, and is directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego.
“The Face of Love” (2013, PG-13, 92 min., $24.98) A powerful cast, including Annette Bening, Ed Harris, Robin Williams and Amy Brenneman, star in a drama about a widow who falls for a man who bears a resemblance to her late husband. As their relationship grows, the woman has problems letting her new boyfriend know what attracted her to him.
TV ON DVD
“Wahlburgers: The Complete First Season” (two discs, 10 episodes, $19.98)