October 10, 2013

DVD Releases

New on the shelf: ‘After Earth’ / 'The Hangover Part III' / 'Much Ado About Nothing' / 'The Purge'


Jaden Smith and Will Smith in “After Earth.”

Columbia Pictures

“AFTER EARTH,” Jaden Smith, Will Smith. Another troubled yet intriguing sci-fi offering from one of cinema’s most notorious problem children, M. Night Shyamalan (“The Happening”). He teams up with the most famous Smiths in the world to deliver this visually impressive but narratively perplexing futuristic fable, which following young Kitai (Jaden) as he traverses the unfriendly terrain of the now polluted and uninhabitable Earth after crash-landing there with his seriously injured father, Cypher (Will). There’s of course chemistry between real life father and son, and the special effects are often quite creative and something to behold, but Shyamalan attempts to cram so much information and backstory into a relatively brief running time that the overall effect is dizzying. Still, “After Earth” is worth a look for the effects alone, and as ever there’s the sense, however faint, that Shyamalan’s seemingly off-kilter works may merit re-evaluation down the road a bit. Special features include an alternate opening sequence. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:40. Suggested retail price: $30.99; Blu-ray $35.99.

“THE HANGOVER PART III,” Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis. In what promises to be the final adventure for the beloved (and lucrative) “Wolf Pack,” Phil (Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms, “The Office”), and Alan (Galifianakis) are forced to collaborate on a thoroughly ill-advised mission by drug lord Marshall (an enjoyably threatening John Goodman), who demands that they track down their former nemesis Chow (the reliably insane Ken Jeong of “Community”), a recent prison escapee who has evidently stolen from Marshall. A definite step up from the mindless retread of “II,” your enjoyment of this final installment will depend heavily on your tolerance for the none-too-subtle antics of Galifianakis and Jeong, who receive the majority of the key scenes. Rated R. Running time: 1:40. Suggested retail price: $28.98; Blu-ray $35.99.

“MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING,” Nathan Fillion, Alexis Deniof. Like Joss Whedon? Like Shakespeare? Meet your new favorite movie. This labor of love finds Whedon taking to his own backyard to film a black and white, stripped down version of the Bard’s beloved play. Considering the expansiveness of the original, it’s interesting to watch Whedon find ways to make it all a bit more intimate, putting his own signature touches on the material and creating a take that’s as compelling as it is rough around the edges. Viewers expecting something akin to the onscreen spectacle of Kenneth Branagh’s acclaimed adaptation will probably come away disappointed, but those prepared for something a bit different will be well rewarded by this affectionate and resourceful spin. Special features include a commentary from Whedon and the cast. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:49. Suggested retail price: $19.98; Blu-ray $24.99.

“THE PURGE,” Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey. A very promising B-movie premise becomes something of an afterthought in this gripping but somewhat underdeveloped thriller from writer-director James DeMonaco (“Little New York”), which presents an America that devotes one day a year to the titular event, a twelve hour span on time in which any and all crime is legalized, with no emergency services available. Rather than focusing on the multitude of entertaining possibilities inherent in such a situation, DeMonaco chooses to focus on one family, led by security alarm salesman Hawke, whose impenetrable fortress of a home is beset upon by masked maniacs. While “The Purge” has tension to spare and proves to be a better than average home invasion thriller, the insular approach is something of a letdown in the face of such a gutsy premise. Perhaps the upcoming sequel will capitalize better on its plot device, but in the meantime, “The Purge” is a skillful thriller in its own right taken on its own modest terms. Rated R. Running time: 1:25. Suggested retail price: $29.98; Blu-ray $34.98.

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