Tomb Raider

Alicia Vikander and her amazing abs star in Tomb Raider, a gritty origin story of the video game character Lara Croft. Lara already had two Tomb Raider films starring Angelina Jolie. Then, in 2013, the Tomb Raider video game was rebooted with more cinematic graphics and a new story for Lara Croft. It was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling.

The new Tomb Raider, from director (and possible cartoon lion) Roar Uthaug, follows the Batman Begins/Casino Royale approach, in that it shows us how Lara Croft became Lara Croft. But who the hell wants to see that? We don’t need to learn Lara’s backstory – we just want to see her raid some damn tombs! A movie about Alicia Vikander running around like a female Indiana Jones shouldn’t be this lifeless, and yet…here we are.

To her credit, Ms. Vikander gives this film her all, running, jumping and putting her .00 % body fat to great use. It’s a shame Tomb Raider is such a let-down, because in the right hands, Vikander’s Lara Croft could’ve been great – the type of memorable character made to launch franchises. Instead, she’s stuck in this low-energy special effects extravaganza. Lara sets out on a quest to find her long-lost father (Dominic West). She finds him stranded on an island which is currently under the control of crazy bad guy Walton Goggins. Goggins wants to open the tomb of a legendary queen, but Lara’s pop thinks opening the tomb could bring about the end of the world.

This sounds pretty exciting, right!? It isn’t!

Tomb Raider didn’t blow up the box office, but a part of me hopes that a better filmmaker (and a better screenwriter) gets a chance to give this series one more go with Vikander in the lead. She deserves the chance to get this right, and there is a good movie to be made out of this material. Just rip-off every single Indiana Jones movie, but don’t make it too obvious. That’s it! That’s all you need to do to get Tomb Raider right. It shouldn’t be that hard.

Special Features To Note: 

“Tomb Raider Uncovered” is your typical making-of feature. Here, we see the filmmakers discussing the movie growing from the 2013 video game reboot, and how, with this new Tomb Raider film, they were hoping to tell a gritty origin story for Lara Croft. There’s lots of praise here for Vikander and how committed she was to the role, and understandably so. She’s the only genuinely good element to the whole dang movie. 

“Croft Training” is your front row seat to learn all about how Alicia Vikander got dem abs. There is lots of footage of Vikander hitting the gym to get ripped with her personal trainer/lifestyle coach. It looks grueling and exhausting, but you can’t argue with the results. 

“Breaking Down the Rapids” gives viewers an overview of the creation of one of the film’s big action set-pieces – a scene featured in all the trailers, where Lara gets swept down a river and dangles above a waterfall. This feature will appeal to people interested in the specifics of blockbuster filmmaking, as it shows the combination of the raw footage of Vikander (and stunt performers) shooting the scene before special effects were added, and then the finished product. 

“Evolution of an Icon” tracks Lara Croft’s many incarnations in her various video games. You learn about the character’s origins, and you see her ever-changing form through multiple games. Anyone interested in the character will likely enjoy this. 

Special Features:

  • Tomb Raider: Uncovered – The cast and crew reveal the challenges – and the fun – of bringing Lara Croft’s thrilling adventures of life for a new generation.
  • Croft Training – Enter the gym with Award winning actress Alicia Vikander as she prepares for the most physically demanding role of her career and transforms into the iconic action hero Lara Croft.
  • Breaking Down the Rapids – Join Director Roar Uthaug as he and other members of the cast and crew break down the film’s most exciting action set piece.
  • Lara Croft: Evolution of an Icon – Explore the revolutionary TOMB RAIDER saga from video games to movies, and discover how Lara Croft became one of the most popular and successful female characters of all time.

 

Death Wish

The last thing we needed right now was a film about an old, angry white guy shooting people of color, but we got it anyway. That film is Eli Roth‘s Death Wish, the remake of the 1974 Charles Bronson film. No one would ever accuse the Bronson original of being sensitive, but that movie had a sleazy, exploitation charm to its proceedings. Roth’s Death Wish has none of that. Instead, it’s a slick, ultra-violent gun commercial.

Star Bruce Willis spends nearly every scene acting as if he’s overdue for his afternoon nap, and it’s not fun. Willis actually can deliver a great performance if he tries. But he stopped trying a long time ago, and he clearly has no real enthusiasm for the role, or this film. So why should we? Willis plays Dr. Paul Kersey, an average upper-class family man who transforms into a deadly vigilante after punks break into his house and kill his wife and injure his daughter.

Kersey goes around Chicago gunning down criminals – many of whom are black. And if you think the image of old, white Bruce Willis shooting down black people is cringeworthy, you’re right. To be clear, someone could actually make a smart, disturbing movie using this material. But that person isn’t Eli Roth. Roth doesn’t really care about a message, and I honestly don’t think he put much thought into the real-world implications of this subject matter. All Roth wants to do is have an excuse to stage big violent scenes loaded with gore. Mission accomplished, I guess.

But here’s the thing: even if you removed the political subtext from this movie, Death Wish would still be hollow and un-engaging. Anytime Roth has to film something other than violence, it comes across as flat and uninspired. And Willis’ sleepy performance is depressing. The only life here is Vincent D’Onofrio, playing Willis’ ne’er-do-well brother.

Special Features: 

There’s a string of deleted scenes: one where Willis learns more about a violent man he almost had a confrontation with; another where Willis comes home for the first time after his wife and daughter were attacked, and sort-of-cries when he sees the mess (Willis scrunches up his face and frowns, so I’m assuming he’s supposed to look like he’s crying, but he might just be gassy). Then there are two other scenes with the cops (played Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise) investigating Willis’ crimes.

“Directing Death Wish” delves into the making of the movie. Here, Roth compares the vengeance theme to superhero movies, and says that Death Wish is like a violent superhero movie. There are some interviews with Willis, who seems even more sleepy behind-the-scenes than he does on screen. The somnolent actor says says he wanted to be in the film because he liked the “idea” of the story. For his part, Roth says here he wanted to make a movie that was “respectful to all sides.” I’ll let you decide if he’s being honest or not.

Special Features: 

  • Commentary w/ Eli Roth & Roger Birnbaum
  • Deleted scenes with optional commentary w/ Eli Roth & Roger Birnbaum
  • Mancow Morning Show Extended Scenes
  • Sway in the Morning Extended Scene
  • Vengeance and Vision: Directing Death Wish
  • Grindhouse Trailer

***

Also available on Blu-ray this week: The Strangers: Prey at Night. See our full Blu-ray review here.

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