October 10, 2013

DVD Releases

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

NEW ON THE SHELF

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.

NEW TO DVD

“BONES: THE COMPLETE EIGHTH SEASON,” Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz. As if becoming a new mother with her longtime co-worker (Boreanaz) weren’t stressful enough, Bones (Deschanel) finds herself framed for murder, and that’s only the beginning of this typically eventful season of the long-running forensics favorite. Special features include a “Bones Answers Your Questions!” featurette. Not rated. Running time: 17:21. Suggested retail price: $59.98; Blu-ray $69.99. 

“WHITE COLLAR: THE COMPLETE SEASON FOUR,” Matt Bomer, Tim DeKay. The ever-fascinating partnership between con man Neal (Bomer, “In Time”) and FBI Agent Peter (DeKay, “Big Eden”) is entertainingly put to the test with Neal ditching his tracking anklet and heading for the hills following an extremely lucrative art heist, a development that gives the normally indulgent Peter considerable pause about continuing to work alongside him. Top notch writing and a perfect cast continue to make “White Collar” one of the most purely entertaining hours on television. Not rated. Running time: 11:00. Suggested retail price: $39.98.

NEW TO BLU-RAY

“THE EXORCIST: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION,” Max Von Sydow, Linda Blair. Still arguably the scariest movie ever made after all this time, master director William Friedkin’s (“Killer Joe”) 1973 horror classic easily retains the power the shock and terrify, and this set commemorating its fortieth anniversary (we’ll give you a moment to let that sink in) is appropriately loaded up with special features, including commentaries from both Friedkin and author William Peter Blatty, and an all new documentary: “Beyond Comprehension: William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist”. Rated R. Running time: 2:12. Suggested retail price: $49.99.

“STAR WARS: EPISODES I-VI,” Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford. In yet another hi-def release of arguably the most influential series of movies of the 20th century, George Lucas’ beloved saga is gussied up once again for a new generation of fans gearing up for the upcoming J.J. Abrams revamp. Special features include commentaries spliced together from archival interviews on all six movies. Rated PG/PG-13. Running time: 13:22. Suggested retail price (each set): $59.99.

VIDEOPORT PICKS

“AIN’T IN IT FOR MY HEALTH,” documentary. The world of music lends itself to characters that can be charitably referred to as larger than life, so much so that to stand out, sometimes all you have to do is just be a regular guy or gal, and that’s more or less what the subject of this powerful and adoring doc, Levon Helm, appears to have been. One of the pioneering members of The Band, Helm was the rare drummer that also doubled as a vocalist, and his memorable performances on such classics as “Up on Cripple Creek” have deservedly gone down in rock history. Helm passed away in 2012, and the brunt of “Health” was filmed in 2007 and 2008, after he won an unexpected Grammy for his excellent solo album, “Dirt Farmer,” and he toured relentlessly in spite of flagging health, rejuvenated by a reconnection with fans and the music. Talking heads include relatives and close friends, but it’s the time spent with Helm that provides the most telling portrait of the man, an amazingly talented musician disguised as an average joe. Not rated. Running time: 1:23. Suggested retail price: $26.95; Blu-ray $29.95.

“EUROPA REPORT,” Sharlto Copley, Michael Nyqvist. The science fiction genre is often associated with overblown budgets and dazzling effects, but sometimes the fantastic and impossible can be conveyed even more effectively with a less is more approach, as in such recent standout efforts as “Moon,” “Trollhunter,” and this exemplary effort from director Sebastian Cordero (“Rage”) and writer Philip Gelatt (“The Bleeding House”). It concerns an international crew of astronauts and their extremely ambitious, privately funded mission to locate life on one of Jupiter’s moons, “Europa” shows the everyday procedures of space exploration and the behaviors that arise from being cooped up with the same people for extended periods, presenting well-developed characters throughout. When things start going wrong, it’s fast and furious, and the escalating tension is all the more unbearable having been so well introduced to the people involved. A prime example of high-tech ideas delivered low-tech style. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:30. Suggested retail price: $26.98; Blu-ray $29.98.

– Courtesy of Videoport

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