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The Purge Blu-ray Combo Pack
The Purge is the most recent horror installation from the producer of Paranormal Activity and Sinister, and this one has the most ridiculous premise by far. It’s one thing to believe in ghosts and dreadful deities, but it’s another to believe in a world where crime is at the minimum because every year for 12 hours the government gives its citizens a pass and makes every sort of crime legal.
During that half day every year, rape is legal, murder is legal, break-ins are legal and all number of other crimes are more than possible, they are likely. For the upper class members of society, the goal, then, is safety. James (Ethan Hawke) and Mary Sandin (Lena Headey) are among this societal elite, thanks to James’ ability to sell high-tech security systems to his wealthy pals and acquaintances. We meet them just before the yearly purge, when the couple and their children are preparing to hunker down for the night.
While The Purge could provide a workable blueprint for an interesting story, its problems are numerous. The movie's biggest issue is that the motivations of all of its characters make little sense. Part of this may be that we don’t get enough build-up with the main characters. So when Hawke’s son (Max Burkholder) opens a door in the middle of the purge, letting in a stranger, there’s no real rhyme or reason behind his decision-making process. When neighbors turn on one another and cute college aged girls decide murder is gleeful, there's no lead-in to really explain why people can justify being a part of the purge. The film tries to tie in its basic premise with a lot of social issues in the U.S. today, but it really should have attempted ideas that are a little smaller in scale.
The Purge only really works well during the few moments when it is actually a home invasion story. Watching Hawke and the more timid Headey wander around and try to defend their home from intruders is intriguing and finally gives audiences the ability to really identify with the family. Additionally, the home invasion portion of the film offers a much quicker pace than the lead-in, and that portion of the film is extremely watchable. It’s just unfortunate that a lot of the film is spent on threatening speeches and some weird dogma.
You can order The Purge over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: “Surviving the Night: The Making of The Purge is the only extra on the disc. I wouldn’t call it awesome, but since it’s the only extra, we’ll talk about it in this section. Apparently, the idea for the script came from writer and director James DeMonaco’s wife. He was having a bad case of road rage one day, and his wife stated something along the lines of it being nice if people could have “one a year.” DeMonaco thought that was a pretty dark statement, but it led into the script for the film.
When Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s The Purge Blu-ray is popped in, there are several trailers at the beginning of the disc. However, the set is super nice, offering a button at the bottom of the screen that allows buyers to directly connect with menu page, skipping the previews. I actually enjoy watching the trailers the first time I pop in a disc, but that button is really nice for repeat views.
After Earth DVD
Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith have the potential to be a box office tour de force. They proved this with The Pursuit of Happyness and they were looking to prove this again with After Earth. However, the setup for the father and son duo’s latest film puts the focus on Jaden, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
The film follows Cypher Raige (Will Smith) and his son Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith), two citizens of Nova Prime, the world humanity settled on after being forced to abandon Earth. Kitai is seen as a disappointment to his ranger father, but his mother Faia Raige (Sophie Okonedo) convinces Cypher to take their son on his last mission before retirement. A series of events leads to a crash landing on Earth in which Cypher’s legs are broken. Kitai is sent on a mission to find a distress beacon and signal for help. Because Cypher is stuck with broken legs at the site of the wreckage, After Earth relies on Jaden to carry most of the scenes in the film. He was good in The Karate Kid, but he’s less exciting here. The problem might lie less with Jaden’s acting and more with the traipsing he is forced to do from scene to scene in the film.
From the initial trailers for After Earth, the whole endeavor came across as an over-bloated stab at science fiction. While M.Night Shyamalan’s After Earth is a little much, its bigger issue is that it plays out so slowly it might lull you to sleep. You would think with an Earth full of large creatures that can take out humanity there would be plenty of action and there is, but the space between scenes featuring condors and baboons drags out quite a bit.
This is the first flick that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment put together in 4K picture, andAfter Earth looks really good. The DVD lacks the crispness that I imagine the film has in HD and 4K, but it is still fun to look at. The landscapes that Kitai encounters are wild and vulnerable; he runs across volcanic areas rife with lava, he flies with a condor hot in pursuit, and he even scuttles through a treacherous cave, encountering venomous snakes. If you want to watch a film that looks good on your TV, After Earth will certainly fit that criteria.
You can order After Earth over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: Most of the extras on this disc are odd segments that “look at nature” and play out like really weird screensavers. Probably the best bonus feature is “A Father’s Legacy,” which playfull looks at Will and Jaden Smith’s relationship offscreen, as well as Cypher and Kitai’s relationship in the film. The two like to joke around a lot, and it’s a pleasant enough extra to watch, although I would have liked to have seen more of a focus on the special effects in the film. Apparently, if you purchase the Blu-ray copy of the film, you’ll get more of a behind-the-scenes look.
Other Special Features:
“1,000 Years in 300 Seconds”
“The Nature of the Future”
“XPrize After Earth Challenge”
Much Ado About Nothing Blu-ray
Despite Much Ado About Nothing’s extremely small theatrical release, much has been written and spoken about the Shakespeare retelling. I peg most of this on the fact that fan–favorite Joss Whedon directed the film, cast the film, and mostly even shot the film at his Santa Monica residence. Most films aren’t birthed in a director’s backyard, but Much Ado About Nothing actually thrives in this environment.
The film follows the traditional story from Shakespeare’s play of the same name. It’s shot in black and white for effect and it features a lot of handheld camera work. Overall, the finished look of the film isn’t overly impressive, despite the black and white coloring giving Much Ado About Nothing a bit of charm. What works is the dialogue and its delivery, which comes to life straight off the pages of the original play.
Much Ado About Nothing stars a slew of famous faces and quite a few more faces fans will recognize but maybe not be able to place. Person of Interest and Angel’s Amy Acker and Angel’s Alexis Denisof play the quarrelsome Beatrice and Benedick, and Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Sean Maher and Ashley Johnson, all pop up in the film, as well. Part of the fun is seeing who will show up and what role they will play. Much Ado About Nothing seems like a fun romp at Whedon’s home, and while we watch, it’s almost like we are a part of the fun, as well.
Shakespeare's plays typically end in a death or a marriage, and this one’s a comedy, so there’s not a ton of surprise in the plot. Despite its very modern setting, the film relies a lot on Shakespearean dialogue, which means if that’s not your cup of tea, this one won’t be worth a watch. Otherwise, feel free to delve right in. You might be pleasantly surprised, and it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed.
You can order Much Ado About Nothing over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s set actually features a goodly amount of extras for a small release, many of them featuring Whedon. The whole process of putting together Much Ado About Nothing has been widely discussed, but the bonus feature “Much Ado About Making Nothing” hones in on Whedon’s ideas, the actors’ involvement, and even how the producers became involved. It’s pretty cool that this film started when Whedon began putting together Sunday afternoon gatherings where friends would come over and read Shakespeare.
The hand camera work and the black and white footage are also discussed for quite a while during the extra. Whedon explains that the black and white was a stylistic choice, but later it helped a lot more because it covered up glaring images, like giant orange lawn mowers, etc. Finally, Nathan Fillion is also amusing in this segment because he talks about how difficult Shakespeare is and how he tried to chicken out.
Other Special Features:
Director’s Commentary with Joss Whedon
Commentary with Cast & Joss Whedon
“Bus Ado About Nothing”
“Sigh No More” music video
Other October 8 Releases
The Hangover Part III is one of this week’s other big releases, bursting onto the scene with a set chock full of bonus features. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s release is the third and final installment in the Hangover Trilogy and it’s a nice looking release on Blu-ray, with a menu page that’s fun to peruse. Not to be beaten out this week, Psych has released its seventh season, a set that is also chock full of bonus features. If you recall, Season 7 offers the famed “100 Clues” episode, put together for the film’s hundredth episode. The director’s extended edition is part of the set and an exclusive alternate ending is also available. There's actually a nice hodgepodge of films and television from a variety of different genres available this week. You can check out some of the other October 8 titles, below.
Unless otherwise noted, the upcoming releases are available on both Blu-ray and DVD.
The Hangover Part III
Psych: The Complete Seventh Season DVD
Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life 30th Anniversary Edition
Curse of Chucky
Monster High: 13 Wishes
The Best of the Original An Evening at the Improv DVD
Midnight’s Children DVD
American Horror Story: Asylum
White Collar: Season 4 DVD
Exorcist: 40th Anniversary
The Middle: The Complete Third Season DVD
Bones: The Complete Eighth Season Zombie Hunter
Robot Chicken: Season 6 DVD