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Chris Hicks: Shakespeare and sci-fi thrillers lead new movies on DVD, Blu-ray

Published: Sunday, Aug. 30 2015 2:03 a.m. MDT

In Joss Whedon's modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare's In Joss Whedon's modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker star as the bickering Beatrice and Benedick. The black-and-white film made its DVD debut this week. (Lionsgate)

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).

“The Exorcist: 40th Anniversary” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1973, R for language and violence, three discs, $49.99, Blu-ray and digital versions, R-rated and extended director’s cut versions, two new featurettes with William Peter Blatty, audio commentaries, introduction, original ending, BBC documentary, featurettes, storyboards, trailers/ad spots; 40-page booklet excerpted from William Friedkin’s autobiography). Inexplicably one of the biggest moneymaking movies of all time, this story of demonic possession was adapted by Blatty (who won an Oscar) from his novel (inspired by an allegedly true story) and directed by Friedkin. Pretty horrifying gross-out fright flick earned 10 Oscar nominations. Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller and Max von Sydow star.

“Chucky: The Complete Collection” (Universal/Blu-ray, 1988-2013; R for violence, language, sex, drugs; six discs, $84.98, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes, storyboard, trailers). The killer doll Chucky returns for “Curse of Chucky,” a new, sixth entry in this very odd splatter franchise. This set includes all six films on Blu-ray plus a digital version of the new film. (Also on DVD, $59.98, and “Curse of Chucky” sold separately on Blu-ray, $34.98, and DVD, $29.98)

“Zombie Hunter” (Well Go, 2013, not rated, $29.98). Danny Trejo stars in this title-tells-all zombie flick as an ax-wielding priest leading a small band of survivors. (Also on DVD, $24.98)

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com Email: hicks@deseretnews.com

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