Movies Without Pity

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, October 8, 2013

by Ethan Alter October 8, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, October 8, 2013

This is what the cast of The Hangover Part III looked like after they watched their own movie.

The Hangover Part III
Like the morning after a particular killer hangover, watching this third and (thankfully) final installment in Todd Phillips's trilogy-that-never-should-have-been-a-trilogy is a wearying experience. Whatever comic energy might have been present in the original Hangover (and, for this longtime Hangover skeptic, there was never that much to begin with) has long since dissipated and, in fact, this entry is far more of an action movie, with the Wolf Pack (that would be Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis) being tasked with tracking down Ken Jeong's increasingly shrill caricature, Leslie Chow. This mission takes them from Tijuana to Las Vegas and substitutes dull chase sequences for any actual laughs. The good news is that the film's underwhelming box office grosses suggests that audiences seem to be as tired with the Wolf Pack's antics as the actors clearly are. (Cooper in particular looks as though he'd rather still be dancing alongside Jennifer Lawrence… but then again, who wouldn't?) The one good thing about The Hangover Part III? You'll come away from it stone-cold sober.
Extras: Extended scenes, outtakes, fake auditions with other actors reading for Galifianakis's role and three featurettes.
Click here to read our original review

Much Ado About Nothing
Joss Whedon fans have long been itching to see one of his famous all-star living room readings of classic Shakespeare plays, with cast members from his various televisions shows sit around his California house reading the Bard's immortal prose. And now the director has obliged, shooting this black-and-white staging of Shakespeare's much-loved comedy while in the midst of completing The Avengers. Former Angel lovers Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof head up the ensemble as battling beauties Benedick and Beatrice, while Jillian Morgese and Dollhouse's Fran Kranz play the young lovers whose romance is almost derailed by the machinations of Don John, played by Sean Maher, the first of two Firefly alums onscreen… the second being Nathan Fillion's blustery cop, Dogberry. As much fun as it is to see these familiar Whedon faces intoning Shakespeare's lines (and to catch a glimpse of the writer/director's lovely home, which serves as the primary setting), I'm sorry to report that only a few of them are actually any good at it. For every performance that demonstrates an understanding of the text (most notably Acker and Kranz), there's another that feels like rote recitation (Denisof and Maher). Much Ado is ultimately an enjoyable film, but it's distinctly mediocre Shakespeare.
Extras: Two commentary tracks -- one with Whedon solo and the other with Whedon and the cast -- a music video and two featurettes.
Click here to read our original review

After Earth
Europa Report
One of the summer's most high-profile flops, the M. Night Shyamalan/Will Smith team-up movie After Earth arrives on DVD for what I'm assuming will be a long afterlife on the late-night bad movie festival circuit. Certainly, this is a career low for both the director and his star, a laughably conceived and lazily executed futuristic adventure set a thousand years from now when Earth has been abandoned and humanity fled to distant planets, where space-age warriors prove their worth by learning to suppress their fear. Big Willie and his son Lil' Jaden play a father and son whose spaceship crash-lands on mankind's former home and they have to contend with all manner of birds and beasts while trying to find a way off the dangerous rock. Lacking even the goofy twist ending that made Shyamalan's past failures (like The Happening) at least somewhat fun to watch, After Earth is a boring, impersonal bit of hackwork for a director who is well into his Ed Wood phase. On its own terms, the low-budget sci-fi thriller Europa Report is no genre classic, but compared to After Earth, it's practically 2001. On a mission to Jupiter's moon, Europa, in search of a hidden water supply (and the possibility of life), a series of accidents and misfortunes causes the crew of the space vessel Europa One to become stranded planetside, where things quickly go from bad to worse. Presented in found-footage style, Europa Report is slightly reminiscent of Danny Boyle's Sunshine, minus that film's messy third act. On the other hand, the first half of Sunshine is more exciting than the entirety of this well-conceived, but somewhat lifeless, movie.
Extras: After Earth comes with three making-of featurettes, while Europa Report includes two featurettes and a photo gallery.
Click here to read our original review of After Earth
Click here to see how Shyamalan would have ended other Will Smith movies

The Purge
The Exorcist: 40th Anniversary Edition
Chucky: The Complete Collection
The Purge boasts such a killer hook, it's no surprise that the film premiered at the top of the box office charts earlier this year. In the not-too-distant future, America has solved its crime problem outlawing murder, rape and pillaging outright… except for one night a year, where the citizenry is allowed to do whatever they want to whomever they want. On the eve of one of these "purges," we're set down in the home of a well-off family (headed up by Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey) that eventually becomes a battlefield when a gang of masked, weapons-wielding killers turn up on their front door in pursuit of the victim that's taken refuge there. And that's about where the film's sense of innovation ends, as the rest of The Purge plays out as a rote home invasion thriller, one marred by poor action geography and relentlessly dumb characters. Seeing a botch like The Purge makes you appreciate William Friedkin's genre classic The Exorcist, out in a new 40th anniversary edition Blu-ray set, all over again. Yes, the movie is plenty scary, but it's also wicked smart, turning a straightforward tale of demonic possession into a meditation on faith and family dynamics. Both Friedkin's original theatrical version and his extended director's cut are included here, along with a hardcover book containing the director's reminiscences. Less artistically accomplished, but plenty of fun, are the Chucky movies, starring that pint-sized toy with the appearance of a plaything and the soul of a killer. The original Child's Play remains the best pure-horror movie of the bunch, but latter-day comedy-laced installments like Bride of Chucky and the newest entry, Curse of Chucky (which is also available in a standalone edition), have their pleasures as well starting with Brad Dourif, the voice of Chucky. Say it with me now, "Hi, I'm Chucky. Wanna play?"
Extras: The Purge sports a lone making-of featurette, while The Exorcist includes a profile of William Peter Blatty, the author of the book the film is based on, and a documentary about the real-life version of the exorcism-happy priest seen in the film. The Chucky set includes commentary tracks, deleted scenes, gag reels, featurettes and storyboard-to-film comparisons.
Click here to read our original review of The Purge

The Lifeguard
Stuck in Love
It's a Kristen Bell double feature on DVD this week, with the release of the indie flicks The Lifeguard and Stuck in Love. In the former, the once and future Veronica Mars plays an on-the-verge-of-30 career woman who experiences a slightly delayed case of quarter-life crisis that forces her to retreat from the big city to her tiny hometown, where she moves back in with her parents and takes up her old job at the local public pool. It's a minor, too-familiar movie that's only really notable as a showcase for Bell, who clearly wants it known that she's ready to take on more adult roles… like, say, an adulterous housewife who enjoys a string of afternoon delights with Greg Kinnear's divorced novelist in the drama Stuck in Love. It's worth noting that Bell is just one part of the larger ensemble here, which also includes Jennifer Connelly as Kinnear's ex-wife and Lily Collins and Logan Lerman as their kids, both of whom are entering Dad's business as writers. Stuck In Love displays a welcome amount of affection for the written word (bonus points for the Dear Mr. Henshaw shout-out), but it's not an especially distinguished film. But hey, it's still a better career move for Bell than, say, When in Rome.
Extras: The Lifeguard is a bare-bones release, but Stuck in Love includes a commentary track and a making-of mini-doc.
Click here to read our original review of The Lifeguard
Click here to read our original review of Stuck in Love

Monty's Python's The Meaning of Life: 30th Anniverssary Edition
Fantastic Voyage
Monty Python's final feature film doesn’t have the endless quotability of Holy Grail or the devious satirical wit of Life of Brian, but it does boast some of the troupe's most provocative -- and hard-R rated -- skits, not to mention their most hummable tunes. (Just try not dropping a rhyme from "Every Sperm is Sacred" the next time you pass a place of worship.) Kicking off with the Terry Gilliam-directed short film The Crimson Permanent Assurance, additional sketches in The Meaning of Life include a very untraditional sex-ed class, a vomit-laden dinner and an argumentative Grim Reaper. Even thirty years on, some of this stuff is pretty damn bold… not to mention brilliant. Speaking of oldies-but-goodies, the '60s adventure Fantastic Voyage remains one of the best ways to teach young kids about the magic and mystery of the human body (provided you don't pretend that everything that goes down here is medically accurate). In order to save a dying diplomat, a crew of scientists is shrunk down to microscope size and injected into his bloodstream in a tricked-out ship. It's good, clean PG-rated fun. And hey, now that this is on Blu-ray, when are we getting our high-def version of spiritual sequel, Innerspace?
Extras: The big new features on The Meaning of Life disc are an hour-long reunion special with the surviving Pythons talking about the movie and a sing-along version. (A commentary track with Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, deleted scenes and additional featurettes are ported over from a previous edition.) Fantastic Voyage includes a commentary track, an isolated score track, storyboard-to-film comparisons and a visual effects-themed featurette.

Also on DVD:
Xavier Dolan's acclaimed three-hour drama Laurence Anyways charts the ten-year romance between a transgender woman and her lover. When he's not busy killing half of Mexico as Machete, Danny Trejo meets Satan himself in Dead in Tombstone. The two-part animated adaptation of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns is combined into one for The Dark Knight Returns: Deluxe Edition. If you don't want to buy all six movies on Blu-ray, the individual sets Star Wars Trilogy: Episodes I-III and Star Wars Trilogy: Episodes IV-VI allow you to own your preferred trilogy. And finally, the good folks at Warner Archive have unearthed the truly bizarre 1960 sex comedy Sex Kittens Go to College from their back catalogue, which stars screen siren Mamie Van Dorn and a robotic chimp.

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