Blu Tuesday: Edge of Tomorrow, A Million Ways to Die in the West and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“Edge of Tomorrow”

WHAT: When he’s ordered onto the front lines as part of a synchronized attack against alien invaders, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is killed in action… only to discover that he’s been infected with the aliens’ ability to control time. Stuck in an infinite loop where he must repeat the same day over and over again (with his death serving as the reset button), Cage teams up with a celebrated war hero (Emily Blunt) to track down the alien hive and end the war.

WHY: Though it shares a similar plot device as “Groundhog Day” and “Source Code,” Doug Liman’s “Edge of Tomorrow” is a truly original piece of science fiction that Hollywood should make more often. Clever, fun and surprisingly bold, it also happens to be ultimate Tom Cruise movie. Those who like the actor will enjoy watching him thrive in one of his best roles in years, while those who hate Cruise get to watch him die about 50 times over the course of the film. Emily Blunt is also in top form as the face of the war effort – a total badass who wields a helicopter blade as a sword and is nicknamed Full Metal Bitch – and Bill Paxton delivers a hilarious supporting turn as a scene-chewing Master Sergeant in charge of Cage’s military unit. In fact, the movie as a whole is much funnier than you might expect, using comedy to break up the monotonous nature of the story, and it works remarkably well thanks to a combination of smart writing, great actors and pitch-perfect editing by James Herbert. “Edge of Tomorrow” isn’t without its faults – the script has some logistical problems and the final act is pretty generic – but those are minor annoyances for a film that proves to be such a satisfying breath of fresh air.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a making-of documentary, dedicated featurettes on the exo-suits, alien creatures and filming the Operation Downfall sequence, as well as some deleted scenes.


“A Million Ways to Die in the West”

WHAT: When cowardly sheep farmer Albert (Seth MacFarlane) challenges his ex-girlfriend’s new beau (Neil Patrick Harris) to a duel in the hopes of winning her back, a beautiful stranger (Charlize Theron) agrees to help him become a better gunfighter, falling for the lovable loser in the process. But what Albert doesn’t realize is that the woman is married to a dangerous outlaw named Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), who rides into town upon hearing of his wife’s infidelity to kill the man that stole his woman.

WHY: There’s a reason why there aren’t many comedy Westerns, and even fewer that are any good, and that’s because the subgenre as a whole is very difficult to pull off. So you have to credit Seth MacFarlane for not only having the cojones to follow up “Ted” with such an offbeat film, but actually succeeding where so many others have failed. “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is probably his most ambitious project to date, and although that may sound strange for a man who made a movie about a talking teddy bear, it’s nice to see a filmmaker with that kind of confidence. By setting the film in the 1800s, MacFarlane has effectively forced himself to eschew from his usual pop culture references in favor of more observational humor about the general horribleness and idiosyncrasies of the American frontier. Not every joke works, and the toilet humor is totally unnecessary, but there’s a lot of great material. The movie starts to drag in the latter half as it meanders towards its conclusion (there’s no reason this needed to be almost two hours long), and it would have benefited from some stronger supporting characters, but “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is a really solid comedy with more than enough laughs to offset its minor shortcomings.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director/co-writer/star Seth MacFarlane, co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild and actress Charlize Theron, there’s a short making-of featurette, an alternate opening and ending, deleted scenes and a gag reel.


“Obvious Child”

WHAT: After Brooklyn comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) gets dumped and fired in the same day, she has a drunken one-night stand with nice guy Max (Jake Lacy), only to discover several weeks later that she’s pregnant. Forced to confront the realities of adulthood for the first time, Donna prepares herself to have an abortion – on Valentine’s Day, of all days – and finds support in the most unexpected places.

WHY: Gillian Robespierre’s directorial debut was one of the most talked-about movies at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but it’s neither as funny nor as edgy and controversial as it aims to be. Most of the “comedy” in the movie is channeled through Donna’s stand-up material and everyday musings, which are so gratuitously vulgar and childish that it boggles the mind how anyone could be even remotely attracted to her. Don’t get me wrong, Jenny Slate is actually quite attractive, and she’s more talented than Robespierre’s script might suggest, but the filth that comes out of her character’s mouth (mostly bowel related) is a major turn-off. Slate still manages to make Donna somewhat likeable thanks to her charming screen presence, but all that good work is undone with the casting of Jake Lacy, who is so incredibly dull that he might as well have been played by a cardboard box. The movie itself is pretty boring as well, because while “Obvious Child” pretends to be groundbreaking in its candid treatment of abortion, it’s even safer than most of the generic romantic comedies that it mimics.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by writer/director Gillian Robespierre, co-writer Elisabeth Holm and star Jenny Slate, a making-of featurette, some extended scenes and the original 2009 short film.


“Rick & Morty: Season One”

WHAT: Sociopathic scientist Rick Sanchez (Justin Roiland) takes his grandson Morty (Roiland) on a series of dangerous inter-dimensional adventures involving aliens, robots and more.

WHY: Wondering what “Community” creator Dan Harmon was up to during his exile from the show’s fourth season? He was busy making this weird and irreverent Adult Swim series with “Adventure Time” alum Justin Roiland, and his involvement is evident from the very first episode. Leaning heavily on the same kind of pop culture references that made the early seasons of “Community” so enjoyable, “Rick and Morty” is like a vulgar love letter to science fiction, from its “Doctor Who”-inspired theme song, to its blatant similarities to “Back to the Future.” Rick is basically a twisted version of Doc Brown (though I could do without the constant belching and slobbering), while the naïve Morty is so much like Michael J. Fox’s iconic character that he’s only one letter away from having the same name. Even the storylines are greatly influenced by the genre, including mash-ups of “Inception” and “Nightmare on Elm Street,” as well as “Jurassic Park” and “Innerspace.” The animation is a little crude, but it works well with the tone of the show, and although its characters sometimes get in the way of the humor, this is one of the funnier adult-themed animated series on TV.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray set includes a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes and audio commentaries on all 11 episodes with special guests like Matt Groening, Robert Kirkman and Pendleton Ward.


“Adventure Time: The Complete Fourth Season”

WHAT: The further exploits of Finn the Human (Jeremy Shada), his best friend Jake the Dog (John DiMaggio) and the other residents of the enchanted Land of Ooo.

WHY: The fourth season of Cartoon Network’s hit animated series ended in 2012, and although that may not seem like too long ago, it’s very rare for that much time to pass between a show’s original airing and home video release, especially one as wildly popular as “Adventure Time.” While its key demo continues to be the school-aged kids who tune into Cartoon Network on a daily basis, the series transcends age by appealing to both children and adults with its clever but goofy sense of humor, colorful cast of characters and whimsical songs. Though Season Four isn’t as strong as previous years (it’s the only one not to be nominated for an Emmy), that’s partly because the show underwent a pretty significant evolution, introducing more characters and taking bigger risks with the storytelling, which expanded the show’s mythology in the process. Not every episode is a winner, but there are several standouts, including “In Your Footsteps,” “Card Wars” and the black-and-white “BMO Noire.” And while Finn and Jake are still very much the stars of the series, if the fourth season does anything right, it’s making you miss them just a little less in the episodes where they don’t prominently feature.

EXTRAS: In addition to cast and crew commentaries on all 26 episodes, there’s a featurette on the important role that music plays in the series.



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