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Frequently, when home entertainment studios are putting together releases, they’ll split content up into a bunch of “featurettes” in order to make it seem like there are a ton of bonus features with the set. While this week’s big movie releases offer plenty of featurettes, most of these are surprisingly lengthy and informative, rather than short and ineffective. There are so many goodies out this week that we couldn’t even get to all of them, but read on to learn about some of June 4th's best releases, and maybe even a few that may have slipped under your radar.
A Good Day To Die Hard
The Die Hard franchise has never been concerned with coming up with likely scenarios to populate the pages of its scripts. Instead, the films have thrived on Bruce Willis’ John McClane, on a vivid and foul-mouthed anti-hero who puts cars through helicopters and forces Samuel L. Jackson to jump off high platforms. The biggest problem with A Good Day To Die Hard is not that the film’s plot is too ridiculous, it’s that the newest flick does take McClane beyond believability and into superhero-dom.
The set-up for the newest movie isn’t half bald. Taking the plot out of the States for the first time, McClane heads to Russia to retrieve his son, Jack (Jai Courtney) from a prison. Through a strange sequence of events, John and Jack team up to tackle a mystery and take down a series of bad guys. At the beginning, this includes a couple of short fights and a really great car chase, but this later gives way to wild twists and over-the-top action sequences, including jumping out of exploding buildings in order to avoid the clutches of a crashing helicopter. For a man who claims to be getting old throughout the movie, he’s still a bigger daredevil than ever before.
Willis and Courtney actually make a pretty good team during the film, with filmmakers stating they wanted “John 2.0” in Jack. Courtney lacks the wry ability to quip that Willis has always had, but even if his comedic timing is a little less natural, adding a father-son dynamic in a Die Hard movie is one of the plot points in the film that really works.
I could rant about the silly old man jokes the film employs to make McClane seem more out of his element than normal, but I’d rather talk about the pros with the set. If you did enjoy the film, the Blu-ray combo pack offers a Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy of the film. The theatrical version of the flick is available, but so is an extended cut of the film, which is only a few minutes longer. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s set is one of the nicest I’ve seen, with over 14 minutes of deleted scenes, galleries, and featurettes that mostly look into action sequences. There's a lot that doesn't work in A Good Day To Die Hard, but the studio certainly knows the film's audience.
Best Special Feature: The nice thing about each of the featurettes within the set is that they are full-length rather than just a couple of minutes and really get into all of the dynamics of creating the film. If you are into the technical stuff, you’ll probably like “Anatomy of a Car Chase,” a 26-minute mini-documentary that looks into Moore’s directorial vision and how the whole crew was able to put together the epic car chase present at the beginning of the film.
Other extras talk characters, storylines, and the Russian settings, but since a lot of these segments involve concepts that are true of all the films or look into the movie’s history, they are similar to extras we’ve seen with other Die Hard sets, including the recent Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Collection.
You can order A Good Day To Die Hard over at Amazon.
Other Special Features:
“Making it Hard to Die”
“Two of a Kind”
“Back in Action”
“The New Face of Evil”
Concept Art Gallery
Warm Bodies Blu-ray
Warm Bodies is a little slow out the gate but eventually develops into a satisfying romance and action flick about R (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie who is beginning to get his heart back after meeting Julie (Teresa Palmer), a lovely young woman who may just be falling for R, as well. Part of the problem with the film is that it’s necessary to build the exposition of the love story for audiences to make the second half of the film, which tells the tale of zombies gone rogue and reuniting humanity with its zombie counterparts, work. I’m sure most of us would still prefer to see more of funnyman Rob Corddry in the first half of the film, though.
Jonathan Levine’s directorial effort is based on a young adult novel of the same name by Isaac Marion, and largely tells the same tale. While it would be impossible to translate the beautiful prose in the novel onto the screen, Levine, who also wrote the screenplay, strives in preserving the book’s sense of humor, as well as adding his own comedic flourishes to his film.
In the theater, the first half of the story, which describes what it is like to be a zombie as well as introduces us to the possibility of young love, felt a little slow, often because R has major trouble communicating during the first portion of the movie. Upon second watch, these sequences become even more arduous. It’s not that Julie and R aren’t funny and don’t have chemistry, they do, it’s just the nature of the story that’s being told and how it needed to unfold that makes the film difficult to get through during a second watch.
The film also offers a decently expansive cast, including Corddry, who brings an added element of comedy to the film. Additionally, John Malkovich signs on to play General Grigio, Julie’s father and the leader of a human community surviving in a world overrun by zombies. Dave Franco and Analeigh Tipton also round out the cast. Because the film takes the right tone and offers a nice cast, there are plenty of reasons to invest in the quirky zombie rom com.
You can order Warm Bodies over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: Some of these extras just offer the cast goofing around, but some do offer a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to create a movie. If you’ve ever wondered exactly why a producer gets excited about a project or how Warm Bodies slyly references Romeo and Juliet (balcony scene, obviously), you’ll get plenty of that on this set. Oddly, the extras are also a little haphazard, as some are geared to adults that are into how films are made and some are geared toward the much more youthful teen moviegoing audience. At least there's something for everyone within the bonus features.
The deleted scenes are probably the best extras, especially if you catch them with the audio commentary. In them, Levine gets jokingly choked up about the stuff he “messed up” during filming. In some of the scenes, it’s easy to see why stuff was cut, but in other instances, we get more moments between R and Julie, and even a few instances of romance between Analeigh Tipton’s Nora and another soldier.
Other Special Features:
“Boy Meets, err, Doesn’t Eat Girl”
“A Little Less Dead”
“Extreme Zombie Makeover!”
“A Wreck in Progress”
“Beware the Boneys”
“Whimsical Sweetness: Teresa Palmer’s Warm Bodies Home Movies”
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
Shrugs and Groan Reel
Identity Thief Blu-ray
This winter saw two different road trip comedies hit theaters and both turned out to be average movies that are worth a watch. The first of the two, The Guilt Trip, hit Blu-ray just a few weeks ago and the second of these, Identity Thief, is hitting Blu-ray today in a combo pack that includes a DVD, digital copy, and access to Ultraviolet, as well as the Unrated Edition of the film.
Unlike The Guilt Trip, Identity Thief offers a wild premise. In the film, Mike and Molly’s Melissa McCarthy plays Diana, a shameless con artist who steals people’s identities in order to finance her hoarding obsession. She’s a lonely, unlikeable woman, but she may have met her match when she steals the identity of Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman), a scrupulous accountant who wants his life back. To make this plotline work, Sandy goes after the fake Sandy and wild shenanigans ensue.
Identity Thief isn’t low on the humor. There’s plenty of improv going on and there are enough oddball characters to fill a couple of comedy movies. It’s the latter bit that becomes the rea film's biggest obstacle as Sandy and Diana make their way along the road. The movie doesn’t need detectives, hitmen, and a bounty hunter, but all three are present. The movie doesn’t need a wild sex scene (with Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet) and a weird snake scene, but both show up in this film. This leads to a runtime of an hour and fifty minutes, which could have been seriously trimmed and made for a tighter movie. Half of the battle in making a great comedy is knowing when to edit, and Identity Thief doesn’t always hit the right notes.
Bateman’s Sandy is thrown into the straight-man role within the film, which often means he is playing second fiddle to McCarthy’s Sandy/Diana, who rules the show in Identity Thief. Still, Bateman and McCarthy are really funny off-the-cuff and offer a great team dynamic for a road trip film. Additionally, John Favreau, Morris Chestnut, Robert Patrick, John Cho, Ben Falcone, Amanda Peet, T.I., and the cute little girl from We Bought a Zoo all bring comedy or warmth to the movie and leads to decently satisfying results. At the end of the day, Identity Thief doesn’t play out wholly satisfactorily, but the movie does try for something. There are worst road trip comedies out there, and I can name one that pops up in the above paragraphs.
You can order Identity Thief over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: Universal Studios Home Entertainment is still rolling with advertisements in the upper right hand corner of its Blu-rays, but some of the extras are quite good. I could take or leave the weird segment looking into the bounty hunter’s van, but give the rest of ‘em a chance.
The Alternate Takes segment is probably the best extra, showing how good Melissa McCarthy, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman and others are off the cuff. Additionally, I really liked that the takes weren’t completely edited and fans could see just how often green screen was implemented in the film. As I assumed, the driving scenes were all done that way, but I was surprised to see green screens pop up in other instances.
Other Special Features:
“The Skiptracer’s Van Tour”
“Scene Stealing: Capturing the Humor of Identity Thief”
“The Making of Identity Thief”
Other June 4 Releases
Beyond the big movie releases this week, there are a slew of prominent TV sets that are about to be available on Blu-ray and DVD. From cartoons to science fiction to some good old tales about cooking meth, this week’s television releases should keep fans of many different genres of television at the edge of their seats.
Probably the most prominent of these sets is Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season from Sony Pictures Television and AMC. If you happen to be a bit behind on AMC’s hit drama, the studio is graciously putting out the set before Season 5.5, also known as the final eight episodes, hits the airwaves in August. Plus, the 3-disc Blu-ray and 4-disc DVD sets of the series are running at a pre-order price of more than 50% off on Amazon right now. The season, which follows Walt (Bryan Cranston) as he transitions even further into the world of drugs and crime, comes with numerous bonus features (many of which are actually exciting), including an eight-minute bonus scene called “Chicks and Guns,” which may make owning a Blu-ray or DVD copy of the season worthwhile. You can check out some more of this week’s releases, below.
Unless otherwise noted, the sets below are available in both Blu-ray and DVD format this week. Some earned earlier digital releases.
Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season
Falling Skies: The Complete Second Season
Pretty Little Liars: The Complete Third Season DVD
Adventure Time: The Complete Second Season
Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection Blu-ray
12 Rounds 2
The Last Ride
Mountain Men: Season 1 DVD And, because we like to end on a high note:
The Clint Eastwood: 20 Film Collection Blu-ray