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:



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


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


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


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 Viking explorers (How to Train Your Dragon 2, with voice performances by Jay Baruchel and Gerard Butler) and college-bound cops (22 Jump Street, starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum). What do the critics have to say?

How to Train Your Dragon 2


When How to Train Your Dragon became a runaway critical and commercial hit, it helped to quiet the contention that DreamWorks was simply a second banana to Pixar. Happily, critics say the inevitable sequel lives up to the high standards set by its predecessor — it’s exuberant, ambitious, and visually striking. This time out, Hiccup is all grown up and hoping to prove himself to his community. He and his dragon pal Toothless inadvertently discover a new land, where a different group of people work with dragons for a different purpose. The pundits say the Certified Fresh How to Train Your Dragon 2 is headier and darker than your average kiddie fare, and the result is a sweeping, imaginative fantasy adventure. (Watch our video interview with How to Train Your Dragon 2 stars Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson.)

22 Jump Street


21 Jump Street was a pleasant surprise, so what can we expect for an encore? How about a near-total repeat? Critics say that’s not a bad thing at all; 22 Jump Street works well enough as an action comedy, but it’s even better as a meta commentary on the action comedy formula. The plot unfolds exactly the same as before: two cops (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) go undercover (this time at a college) in order to foil a drug ring. Once again, they learn a bit about themselves (and each other) in the process. And once again, their boss (Ice Cube) is constantly up in their business. The pundits say the Certified Fresh 22 Jump Street has fun at the expense of cop movie cliches, but what really puts it over the top is the deft chemistry between its two leads. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, a compendium of buddy cop movies.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Agnieszka Holland‘s Burning Bush, a drama about the fallout from a brave protest of the Soviet occupation of Prague in 1969, is at 100 percent.
  • Policeman, a drama about the leader of an Israeli counterterrorism unit who’s tasked with stopping a group of armed revolutionaries, is at 82 percent.
  • Witching and Bitching, a horror comedy about a desperate criminal gang that runs afoul with a coven of witches, is at 80 percent.
  • Ivory Tower, a documentary about the high cost of college tuition, is at 77 percent.
  • A Coffee in Berlin, a dramedy about an aimless man who meets a series of interesting people, is at 73 percent.
  • Violette, a biopic about celebrated French novelist Violette Leduc, is at 69 percent.
  • The Rover, starring Robert Pattinson and Guy Pearce in a thriller about two men trying to survive in post-apocalyptic Australia, is at 68 percent.
  • Heli, a thriller about a family that gets caught up in the Mexican drug war, is at 56 percent.
  • I Am I, a drama about a woman who tracks down her estranged father only to discover he suffers from memory loss, is at 50 percent.
  • Hellion, starring Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis in a drama about a troubled 13-year-old reeling from the death of his mother, is at 50 percent.
  • All Cheerleaders Die, a horror comedy about a teenager who plans revenge on the pep squad, is at 48 percent.
  • The Signal, starring Laurence Fishburne and Brenton Thwaites in a sci-fi thriller about a group of hackers who stumble upon a top secret desert facility that may house extraterrestrial life, is at 47 percent.
  • Lullaby, starring Richard Jenkins and Amy Adams in a drama about a man who reconnects with his terminally ill father, is at 38 percent.

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