A contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare and a pair of science-fiction outer-space thrillers lead this week’s new movies on DVD and Blu-ray.
“Much Ado About Nothing” (Lionsgate, 2013, b/w, PG-13, $19.98, DVD and digital versions, audio commentaries, featurettes, music video). It’s well documented now that filmmaker Joss Whedon, looking for a way to wind down after tackling the big-budget blockbuster “The Avengers,” took on this black-and-white, modern-dress adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy, filmed in his own home and featuring a number of actors from his previous movies and TV shows.
Despite being set in 2012 Santa Monica, Calif., it’s a pretty faithful adaptation, with a strong cast, but Whedon has sexed it up in a way that really pushes that PG-13 rating to its limit. All in all it’s not bad, but it also won’t displace Kenneth Branagh’s traditional version on my shelf. (Also on Blu-ray, $24.99)
“After Earth” (Columbia Pictures, 2013, PG-13, $30.99, DVD and digital versions, featurettes). Not as bad as it has been made out to be, but hampered by a weak script, this sci-fi yarn is a vanity project by Jada Pinkett and Will Smith for their son, Jaden. Despite the misleading trailers, this is not a Will Smith movie; his onscreen time is minimal as his character gives radio instruction to his estranged son (Jaden Smith) to help him navigate a hostile future Earth while tracking down a creature they were transporting before their ship crashed. Watchable but by-the-numbers special effects-heavy epic. (Also on Blu-ray, $35.99)
“Europa Report” (Magnolia, 2013, PG-13, $26.98, featurettes, photo gallery, trailer). In this found-footage sci-fi thriller, six astronauts head for one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, to investigate the possibility of life there. Low-budget but intelligent sci-fi benefits from a tight script and sincere direction. In fact, the much more expensive “After Earth” could take a lesson or two from this much more successful effort. (Also on Blu-ray, $29.98)
“Midnight’s Children” (Virgil, 2013, not rated, $19.99). Salman Rushdie adapted his own novel (with director Deepa Mehta) about two babies switched at birth in a Bombay hospital at the moment India declares its independence from Great Britain. The story follows them over the next 30 years as their lives are inevitably intertwined on opposite sides of class and politics.
“The Hangover, Part III” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2013; R for language, sex, violence, drugs, nudity; two discs, $35.99, extended scenes, featurettes, bloopers). Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong and Justin Bartha return for more of the same raunchy adventures, and even end up back in Las Vegas. (Also on DVD, $28.98)
“Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life: 30th Anniversary Edition” (Universal/Blu-ray, 1983; R for violence, sex, nudity, language; $19.98, Blu-ray and digital versions, deleted scenes, audio commentary, hourlong 30th anniversary reunion, featurettes, sing-along). This is for me the least of the Pythons’ work, a sketch film that is more gross-out outrageous than funny, though there are some inspired bits. Fans may be more interested in the bonus feature with the five surviving members of the sextet reunited for an hour of reminiscing (with Eric Idle making his appearance via satellite from Los Angeles while the other four are in London).
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