This week on home video, we’ve got a well-received sci-fi action tale and the first half of the final season of a beloved TV drama, as well as a decent thriller, an okay sci-fi kids’ movie, and a subpar sex comedy. Then, of course, we’ve got a number of indie films, and two more from the Criterion Collection. Read on for details:



Snowpiercer

94%

Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Mother) was the last of three celebrated South Korean directors to make his English-language debut this year (the other two were Kim Jee-woon and Park Chan-wook, who also serves as producer here), but he most certainly was not the least. Set entirely aboard a train that perpetually circumnavigates a frozen, post-apocalyptic Earth, Snowpiercer stars Chris Evans as the would-be leader of a rebellion of lower-class passengers who attempt to battle their way to the engine. Critics found the film a welcome surprise during the blockbuster-heavy summer; thanks to its boldly stylized mayhem, off kilter narrative, and twisty satirical edge, Snowpiercer was Certified Fresh at 95 percent. The Blu-ray release comes with an extra disc full of bonus features, including an almost hourlong doc on the adaptation of its source material, more general featurettes on the making of the film and its characters, an animated prologue, and more.



Mad Men: The Final Season – Part 1

After six seasons, the hit drama that put AMC on the map is finally coming to a close, and appropriately enough for Mad Men, audiences will have to sit in suspense until next year to see the second half of the final season. In the meantime, you can pick up Part 1 of season seven, which aired earlier this year, on DVD or Blu-ray — assuming you don’t have all the episodes saved on your DVR. So far, the first seven episodes have garnered a Certified Fresh 87 percent on the Tomatometer from critics, who found comfort in the show’s subtle, steady pacing and superb writing and performances. The Blu-ray includes bonuses like commentary tracks, two featurettes on the era’s gay rights progress, cast interviews, and more. Hopefully, that’ll hold you over until the series comes back for its final hurrah.



The Purge: Anarchy

57%

It’s recently been announced that a third installment of The Purge will find its way to theaters next year, so it’s moving full steam ahead into franchise mode. Though the first film didn’t fare particularly well with critics, The Purge: Anarchy scored decent reviews, and all without the star power of Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey. This time around, young couple Liz (Kiele Sanchez) and Shane (Zach Gilford) are on their way to Shane’s sister’s house to barricade themselves inside during the annual Purge, but their car dies en route. As they flee a murderous gang, they meet up with a few strangers and attempt to survive the night. Critics were split on Anarchy, but most conceded it was an improvement over its predecessor, even if its ambitions far outweighed its impact, and rewarded its efforts with a 57 percent Tomatometer. The home release only carries one behind-the-scenes featurette.



Earth to Echo

50%

Mix E.T. with *batteries not included and Super 8, and you might end up with something like Earth to Echo. In Dave Green’s debut feature, a cast of mostly unknown young actors play a group of friends who discover a small, robotic, owl-shaped alien in their neighborhood after receiving a number of unidentified signals on their phones. Naturally, the gang bands together to help “Echo” to return home. Though many critics rolled their eyes at the multiple allusions to E.T. (even the poster mimics the pointing finger in the earlier film), some thought Earth to Echo served as a pleasant enough diversion for the kids, and the result was a 48 percent Tomatometer score. A handful of special features on the Blu-ray release cover various aspects of the creation of the film.



Sex Tape

16%

In light of the recent hacked celebrity photo leaks, Sex Tape might seem particularly timely (or mistimed, rather); unfortunately, most critics simply weren’t impressed by much of it. Likable stars Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz play married couple Jay and Annie who, in a desperate bid to rekindle their sex lives, decide to film themselves attempting multiple sexual positions. When they inadvertently distribute the video to all their friends, they set out on a crazy overnight adventure to try and minimize the fallout. Unfortunately, most critics agreed that Sex Tape had neither enough bite as a raunchy sex comedy nor enough heart to work as a rom-com, rendering a half-baked mix of both. At 18 percent, it probably isn’t one of the better R-rated comedies to come out of Hollywood in recent years. Bonus features include, of course, a gag reel, deleted an extended scenes, and a line-o-rama — standard stuff for a comedy these days — as well as an interview with a real psychotherapist who offers her observations on modern sex.

Also available this week:

  • A Letter to Momo (77 percent), an animated film coming-of-age film from Japan about a girl learning to cope with her father’s death with the help of three mischievous spirits.
  • German comedy A Coffee in Berlin (72 percent), about a twentysomething slacker who attempts to right his life after a series of misfortunes.
  • The Fluffy Movie (54 percent), a comedy concert film starring Gabriel Iglesias.
  • Life After Beth (46 percent), starring Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan in a comedy about a young man whose girlfriend dies and slowly transforms into a zombie.
  • The Scribbler (33 percent), starring Katie Cassidy in a graphic novel-based thriller about an institutionalized woman with multiple personalities who is subjected to an experimental new treatment.
  • And lastly, two rereleases from the Criterion Collection: Federico Fellini’s 1960 classic La Dolce Vita (96 percent) is available in a new DVD and Blu-ray; and Orson Welles’s clever documentary F for Fake (88 percent).
This week at the movies, we’ve got a legendary warrior (Hercules, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Joseph Fiennes), a brainy heroine (Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman), and a curmudgeonly guardian (And So It Goes, starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton). What do the critics have to say?



Hercules

58%

He was the son of a god. He had bulging biceps. He battled all manner of oversized, multi-headed mythological beast. Hercules was essentially an action hero two millennia before the birth of cinema, and critics say much of the fun of Hercules is in its commitment to swashbuckling escapism — this may not be the brainiest flick on the block, but at least it never feels like a dull classics lecture. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as Herc, who, after completing his fabled labors, assembles a crew of fighters to topple a bloodthirsty megalomaniac. The pundits say Hercules isn’t particularly deep, but it never takes itself too seriously, either, and the result is a surprisingly hearty sword-and-sandal popcorn movie. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Johnson’s best-reviewed films.)



Lucy

67%

Luc Besson, the director of such cult favorites as Léon: The Professional and The Fifth Element, has never been one for subtlety or nuance. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though critics say his latest, Lucy, works a lot better as a stylishly eccentric thrill-ride than as a heady sci-fi trip. Scarlett Johansson stars as a student who’s kidnapped and forced to act as a drug mule. When she unintentionally consumes the drug, she quickly morphs into a hyper intelligent, telekinetic killing machine. The pundits say Lucy is short on logic and well-developed characters, but it’s slick, briskly-paced, and often quite entertaining.



And So It Goes

18%

Not every summer movie has to be a pulse-pounding explosion-fest, but a little energy is always nice. Unfortunately, critics say the combined talents of director Rob Reiner and stars Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton can’t do much to elevate And So It Goes‘ predictable script and slack pacing. Douglas stars as a misanthropic realtor who is suddenly tasked with caring for a granddaughter he never knew existed. Eventually, our hero takes a shine to the tot — and develops a kinship with his charming neighbor (Keaton). The pundits say And So It Goes feels more like a sitcom than a film, and only the stars’ considerable talents keep it from being a complete waste of time. (Check out this week’s 24 Frames for a gallery of dysfunctional movie families.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

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