Now You See Me Blu-ray
If its quick pace and large ensemble cast doesn’t interest you, the magic in Now You See Me should. From basic spoon bending tricks to bank heists, Summit Entertainment’s film is constantly asking fans to be open to new possibilities, and even when the movie gives audiences a few ludicrous premises, they should still enjoy the rollicking ride.

Toward the beginning of the film, four magicians show up at an apartment after receiving a mysterious invitation. The four magicians each have different talents and personalites and include the cocky J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), the sneaky mentalist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), the daredevil escape artist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), a newbie who is in awe of the older musicians but knows how to pick a lock. A few months later they appear onstage as a group, a clan of magicians hellbent on robbing a bank. After they seem to succeed at the large ‘trick,’ lawman Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) are brought in to handle the case.

The film is full of twists and turns, some of which are easy to believe and others that stretch our imaginations somewhat. Still, Now You See Me is one of those rare fun flicks that asks us to just suspend disbelief and go along with the ride. Thanks to several tight opening scenes and an interesting mystery surrounding a magician who drowned decades ago, it’s pretty easy to stick with the film until its conclusion and to enjoy the unique twists the movie employs.

Now You See Me is a film that excites the senses without ever really doing anything groundbreaking. Still, the movie is a fun one and now is a good time to give it a shot, as director Louis Letterier will be back with a sequel in the future.

You can order Now You See Me over at Amazon.

Best Special Feature: The menu for Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s release is pretty exciting. While watching a bonus feature, you can peruse the menu while still keeping an eye on the extra via a picture in picture screen. “A Brief History of Magic” is probably the most interesting extra, but it does present the information in a pretty dry manner. You can check out the other bonus features, below.

Other Special Features:
Deleted Scenes
Now You See Me Revealed”
Audio Commentary from producer Bobby Cohen and director Louis Leterrier
Theatrical Trailer
Da Vinci’s Demons: The Complete First Season Blu-ray
Starz’s new drama, Da Vinci’s Demons, is a divisive program, following a young Leondardo Da Vinci (Tom Riley), who hops from project to project and goal to goal on a whim, all with his merry band of troublemakers there to help him. He’s playing with fire as he hooks up with women connected to the powerful Medici family and bluffs his way through warfare, but throughout Season 1, the man mostly still manages to land on his feet.

Riley is enigmatic in the series, but he does have a great character to work with. There are a lot of shades of Sherlock Holmes in Starz’s drama, from the way Da Vinci puzzles out mysteries to his abrupt personality and his infuriating ability to come up with the right answer in most situations. He’s not the only character in the series that is fascinating, though. The two Medici brothers, Lorenzo (Elliot Cowan) and Giulino (Tom Bateman), rely on each others’ strengths to help navigate Florence politically in a seemingly never-ending battle against Rome. Medici’s wife, Clarice (Lara Pulver) and his mistress, Lucrezia (Laura Haddock) are also multi-faceted and give us plenty of reasons to tune in.

Regardless, Da Vinci’s Demons is mostly a tale of revisionist history, and Starz’s new drama hasn’t quite figured this out yet. Some weeks, we get stories that seem to be straight out of the pages of dry history books, while other weeks we get tales of mythos and horror and are introduced to demons, mystics, and maybe even some magic. The show has the opportunity to go boldly where no show featuring Da Vinci has ever gone, but sometimes the series is too over-the-top and in other moments, the drama feels a little too grounded.

Throughout Season 1, Da Vinci’s Demons never finds the right balance in its plotlines, but I do appreciate that the drama likes to try new things, including a fluttering of illustrated drawings whenever Da Vinci has come up with a new idea or is trying to piece together an invention. Sometimes it takes a show several episodes to find the right balance, and since the series only got eight episodes to flesh out its first season, I’ll be happy to see what it attempts in Season 2.

You can order Da Vinci’s Demons: The Complete First Season over at Amazon.

Best Special Feature: When I first began watching the bonus features, I assumed the “Constructing Da Vinci” segment would be about creating the character. Instead, it was about the sets in the series. A closer look at each of them shows extraordinarily detailed rooms and backdrops. These sets look great in HD picture, but they also look as if they were expensive to produce. It’s no shock, then, that Starz might want to go ahead and sign on for a second season of the drama if the network already has a lot invested in the series.

Other Special Features:
“Mastering Da Vinci”
“Dressing Da Vinci”
“Worldwide Fanfare”
Deleted Scenes
Audio Commentaries
Spartacus: War of the Damned Blu-ray
The final battle cry was yelled and the final sword was crossed months ago, but it’s still difficult to believe that Starz’s drama Spartacus has finished out its final installation with War of the Damned. The Roman gladiator and rebellion-based drama really put Starz on the map as a scripted player and its final season sent our main characters out in style.

Anyone familiar with the story of Spartacus in Roman history knows that the gladiator rebellion did not end well for the smaller, less well-financed party. Thus, for three seasons, Spartacus wasn’t about determining the outcome of our group of rebels, but rather, it was a show that made us love a group of solid fighters with different motivations and personalities. It was about fighting for honor, glory, freedom, asylum, and much more, all against the tyranny of a Roman faction that also included likeable and intricate personalities. Spartacus is a complicated drama, and that extends all the way into War of the Damned.

In War of the Damned, Spartacus (Liam McIntyre), Crixus (Manu Bennet), Agron (Daniel Feurriegel), Naevia (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), Saxa (Ellen Hollman), and Gannicus (Dustin Clare) are working to battle harder and take over larger parts of Rome, freeing servants and slaves while they go. The group is divided in some ways due to petty infights and an influx of people, but they still manage to challenge Roman armies led by Glaber (Craig Parker) and Caesar (Todd Lasance).

Like other seasons of Spartacus, War of the Damned is well-crafted in some ways and kitschy in others. The highly stylized rendition of the rebellion is no less bloody than in past seasons, but in many ways it is a more meaningful and grown-up battle that gives us a tale of a bold ending, rather than one filled with hope.

The season also looks spectacular on Blu-ray, and if you get the chance to catch it in High Definition, that’s certainly the way I would suggest watching it. You can order the Spartacus: War of the Damned Blu-ray over at Amazon.

Best Special Feature:My copy of War of the Damned was presented in a Blu-ray book format. Each of the discs is enclosed in one of the “pages” of the Blu-ray book, and each of the pages features a pretty collage. It’s a really nice-looking set, and it’s full of bonus features.

Of these, the best extra is probably “Spartacus: The Legend Retold.” It’s the first featurette available on the fourth disc in the set, and it goes through the history of the series since its 2010 inception. There are some goofy introductions from a voiceover guy, but we get to hear from characters who made a major impact throughout the series, and Gods of the Arena and Andy Whitfield’s cancer diagnosis is also discussed. There’s always a lot to talk about with a season that finishes out an epic series, and the Spartacus: War of the Damned set hits all of the right notes.

Other Special Features:
“The Price of Being a Gladiator”
“A Bloody Farewell”
“The Spoils of War Revealed: Visual Effects”
“Adorning the Damned”
“The Mind Behind Spartacus
Audio Commentaries
Extended Episodes
The League: The Complete Season 4 DVD
The League has always been a consistently funny series and Season 4 is no exception. Coming off of an epic Season 3 finale, I wasn’t certain that FX’s comedy would have the chops to be bold in Season 4, but right off the bat, fans are in for some hilarious plotlines, including the wrath of Shiva and a fantasy football league bet to name Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi) and Jenny’s (Katie Aselton) baby.

Though the series follows the antics of a group of friends whose lives revolve around a fantasy football league, there are actually a lot more plotlines revolving around the character’s families in Season 4. I chalk most of this up to the pregnancy plotline, but Ruxin’s (Nick Kroll) wife Sofia (Nadine Velazquez) also pops up in a whopping five episodes in the season and his dad (played by Jeff Goldblum) even makes an appearance. More family isn’t a bad thing, and it means The League has a little more going on in terms of plot than is typical.

Jenny and Kevin’s baby problems are not the only great moments in Season 4, however. Shiva actually shows up at Andre’s (Paul Scheer) home to curse the guys in the group stating, “This league does not have the Shiva’s blessing. This year will go badly.” Other humorous plotlines revolve around Taco’s hijinks, which include squatting in people’s homes and on website addresses.

Season 4 offers us 13 episodes full of plotlines similar to these, and while that isn’t a ton of episodes, both the Blu-ray and DVD sets are on sale for a reasonable cost over at Amazon.

Best Special Feature: The League is often a collection of loosely related scenes featuring the guys riffing off one another. As such, the deleted scenes are awesome. Sometimes, deleted scenes are hard to follow and are dependent on knowing the context of the episode they correlate with, but that doesn’t really matter with this set. Additionally, the gag reel is worth a watch.

Other Special Features:
Extended Episodes
Gag Reel
Taco Tones
“Rafi’s Helpful Holiday Hints”
“Witchy Woman Podcast”
Alt Nation
Other September 3 Releases
If you haven’t caught the gist of this week’s releases so far, television is front and center. Fall TV premieres begin rolling out in just a few weeks and this month’s early Blu-ray and DVD releases are a good indicator of what shows fans will be getting, and soon (with the exception of Spartacus and The Office, which already ended their respective runs).

One of the big releases this week is Parks and Recreation, an NBC comedy that has been well-liked on the network for several years now, but which just managed to eke by with a renewal order as comedy after comedy on NBC bit the dust. This week’s DVD release is a triumph for the comedy, which is headed into Season 6 this fall, with Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe only set to appear in the first part of the season before exiting the series.

The Season 5 DVD set isn’t anything to write home about, although it does come with a few bonus features, including extended episodes, deleted scenes, a gag reel “unsensored,” and Patton Oswalt’s Sci-Fi Filibuster, which was actually a really good segment this season. I wish we could have seen more from the “Bailout” episode, in which Leslie Knope tried to save a local video store by giving it historic status, only to be repaid by having it turned into a porn haven, replete with a porn video modeling members of the Parks and Recreation Department. I know that extra probably would have been NC-17, but still, hilarious.

If you’re looking for a set that covers plenty of bonus features, Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s other set this week, The Office: Season Nine, might actual be a better purchase. The farewell to the show features over two hours of deleted scenes, audition tapes for some members of the cast, and a few segments dedicated to the end of an era. You can order that set over at Amazon, or you can check out some more of the August 27th releases, below. Unless otherwise noted, the upcoming releases are available on both Blu-ray and DVD.

The Office: Season 9
Parks and Recreation: Season 5
Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fourth Season (featuring “The Originals” intro episode)
Empire State
Stories We Tell
The Lords of Salem
From Up on Poppy Hill Blu-ray
Person of Interest: The Complete Second Season
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The Complete Season Eight
Revolution: The Complete First Season
Haven: The Complete Third Season
Regular Show Fright Pack DVD
Criminal Minds: Season 8 DVD
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