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 mysterious labyrinth (The Maze Runner, starring Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario), a tense family reunion (This is Where I Leave You, starring Jason Bateman and Tina Fey), a grizzled private investigator (A Walk Among the Tombstones, starring Liam Neeson and Dan Stevens), and a walrus-obsessed killer (Tusk, starring Justin Long and Michael Parks). What do the critics have to say?



The Maze Runner

65%

Another week, another dystopian young adult novel adaptation. Fortunately, critics say The Maze Runner is better than most, thanks to strong performances and a creepy, mysterious atmosphere. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up with no memory of his past, and finds himself within the confines of the Glade, a vast maze populated by other teenagers. Using clues within the Glade, he begins to piece together the enigma of his existence — and how to escape. The pundits say The Maze Runner‘s setup is more satisfying than its payoff, but overall, it’s smart, well-acted, and visually striking.



This Is Where I Leave You

44%

This is Where I Leave You is a dramedy about a dysfunctional family starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, and many more recognizable faces. Sounds like a winner, right? Well, critics say that despite the best efforts of the cast, the movie only generates occasional laughs. When the Altman family patriarch dies, his wife and children gather to mourn; fairly quickly, deeply-held insecurities, resentments, and family secrets bubble to the surface. The pundits say that while it’s fun to see this many good actors together onscreen, This is Where I Leave You plays everything a bit too safe, with rote characterizations and clichéd conflicts that don’t cut very deep. (Watch our video interview with the cast and crew here.)



A Walk Among the Tombstones

68%

Liam Neeson’s recent transformation into a world-weary vengeance seeker has yielded uneven — though occasionally startling — dividends. Critics say his latest, A Walk Among the Tombstones, falls right in the middle — it’s an old-fashioned, meat-and-potatoes noir with better-than-average characters to offset its shopworn plot. Neeson stars as a private investigator who’s tasked with finding those responsible for the murder of a drug trafficker’s wife. He soon learns that the killers are likely to strike again, and vows to hunt them down and stop them before they do. The pundits say that A Walk Among the Tombstones is a relatively routine detective thriller, but it’s skillfully made and benefits from the gravitas Neeson brings to the proceedings. (Check out Neeson’s best-reviewed movies here, and be sure to watch our video interview here.)



Tusk

45%

Best known for his amiable, observational comedies, Kevin Smith has recently taken a detour into horror with Red State (2011) and now Tusk. And while critics say his latest is inventive and gleefully perverse, its gruesome set pieces coexist uneasily with its macabre sense of humor. Justin Long stars as Wallace, the host of a podcast that spotlights the bizarre and grotesque. He travels to Canada to interview a mysterious loner, who eventually reveals that he intends to turn Wallace into a walrus. The pundits say Tusk certainly doesn’t lack for ambition, but it too often feels strange for its own sake.

Also opening this week in limited release:

Finally, props to Andrew LaPlant for coming the closest to guessing No Good Deed‘s 11 percent Tomatometer.

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