Blu Tuesday: Snowpiercer, Sex Tape 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.

“Snowpiercer”

WHAT: The year is 2031 AD, and after a failed global-warming experiment has frozen the planet, killing off nearly all life in the process, the lucky few survivors live aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that perpetually travels around the globe. With a class system in place that divides the population by train car, lower-class passenger Curtis (Chris Evans) leads a rebellion against the oppressors in an attempt to take control of the engine and the fates of his fellow people.

WHY: Fans of Korean director Bong Joon-ho (“The Host”) have been awaiting his English-language debut for quite some time, and that wait was extended even longer when The Weinstein Company delayed its U.S. release over a dispute about the film’s original cut. In the end, Bong was successful in protecting his vision, which is a major victory for both the filmmaker and his would-be audience, especially for a movie as refreshingly unique as “Snowpiercer.” Though it’s not the sci-fi masterpiece that many have lauded it as, the film is one of the better post-apocalyptic thrillers in recent memory. A lot of that credit actually goes to the creators of the French graphic novel on which its based, but Bong brings plenty to the table as well, including some gorgeous visuals and the casting of frequent collaborator Song Kang-ho in a vital role. Chris Evans also turns in a solid performance as the de facto leader of the lower class rebels, while Tilda Swinton steals the show with an amusingly quirky turn as the right-hand woman of the train’s mysterious engineer. The blending of art house sensibilities with mainstream appeal makes for a really intriguing finished product, but the ending is so disappointing that it undermines the ambition and imagination of everything that precedes it.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes an audio commentary by film critics like Scott Weinberg, James Rocchi and Jen Yamato, a documentary about the making of the movie, additional featurettes on the production process, an interview with Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, a behind-the-scenes look at the promotional tour, concept art galleries and an animated prologue.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Sex Tape”

WHAT: Desperate to add a little spice back into their life, married couple Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) decide to make a sex tape trying out every position from “The Joy of Sex.” But when they wake up the next day to discover that the video was accidentally uploaded to the iPads that Jay gifted to various family and friends, they go on a frantic search to track them all down before anyone has a chance to see it.

WHY:Sex Tape” is an infuriating movie to watch, especially if you don’t like characters that have no common sense. Despite being one giant commercial for the iPad (at one point, Segel’s character even declares how well constructed it is), it doesn’t understand the technology behind the device. Anyone with a basic knowledge of smartphones, tablets and the Cloud knows that Jay’s videos wouldn’t automatically sync to the other iPads unless they were still connected to his Apple account, but there’s absolutely no reason the recipients would do this, because it would essentially render their devices useless. Worse yet, the identity of the mysterious “villain” blackmailing Jay and Annie is an absolute joke, threatening them with putting the video on a popular internet porn site unless they pay a hefty bounty. Jay could just call the website and have them take it down, but they chose a much more excessive method because it seems funnier, even though it’s really not. Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel fail to display a fraction of the chemistry that they had in “Bad Teacher,” and although there are some amusing comments on parenthood in the opening act, once the hunt for the sex tape kicks into gear, the film nosedives quicker than a kamikaze fighter pilot.

EXTRAS: In addition to a selection of deleted scenes, alternate takes and bloopers, there’s a featurette on the chemistry between director Jake Kasdan and his two leads, as well as a discussion with psychotherapist Dr. Jenn Berman about the film.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“The Purge: Anarchy”

WHAT: During the latest installment of the annual Purge, single mother Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul) are attacked by a government hit squad, only to be saved by a mysterious stranger (Frank Grillo) seeking revenge on the man who killed his son. Along the way, they’re joined by a couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) that’s been stranded in the city and must work together to survive the night against psychotic gangs and twisted one-percenters.

WHY: The first “Purge” movie was an incredibly stupid horror-thriller dragged down by its comically far-fetched concept and idiotic characters, and although the inevitable sequel is slightly better, “The Purge: Anarchy” is plagued by many of those same issues. But unlike the home invasion plot of the original, James DeMonaco’s follow-up has shed itself almost entirely of all horror elements, aiming for something more along the lines of a retro John Carpenter movie. The film is definitely more action-oriented than its predecessor, less concerned with building suspense than watching its would-be victims fight off a never-ending onslaught of crazies (“The Warriors” and “Assault on Precinct 13” were obvious influences), but there are still so many questions about the sheer absurdity of the premise that it’s hard to invest in the story. And just like the original, “Anarchy” is packed with one-dimensional characters that make a series of bad decisions and deliver even worse dialogue. The exception to that rule is Frank Grillo’s nameless hero, the only person in the movie with anything resembling an arc. Amid all the stupidity, poor acting and unintentionally funny moments, Grillo adds a touch of humanity to an otherwise hateful film that at least makes it watchable, and that’s something not even Ethan Hawke or Lena Headey were able to do the first time around.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes deleted scenes and a making-of featurette.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Life After Beth”

WHAT: After his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza) is killed by a snakebite while hiking in the woods, Zach (Dane DeHaan) is shocked to discover that she may not be dead after all. Though they’re not sure how it happened, Beth’s parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon) are just happy to have their daughter back, and they’re willing to let Zach continue to see her if he promises to keep Beth’s resurrection a secret. But as Zach attempts to rekindle their relationship, he can’t shake the feeling that something just isn’t right with her.

WHY:Life After Beth” is a terrible movie, a dead-on-arrival zombie comedy that’s just as much in need of some brains as its title character. This is basically a one-joke premise that’s been stretched (and stretched and stretched) to feature length, and even at a snappy 91 minutes, the seams start to show by the midway mark. Though its premise is ripe for comedy, the film is so aimless and poorly executed that it never really finds its voice, let alone one that’s even remotely funny. Kudos to Aubrey Plaza for completely throwing herself into the role, because it’s her committed performance (balancing the sweet and sour sides of Beth’s combating personalities) that prevents the movie from being any worse. Between the embarrassing attempts at dark humor and the ludicrous development of a full-on zombie apocalypse in the final act, “Life After Beth” is so bad that it’s hard to believe it was made by the same guy who co-wrote David O. Russell’s underrated existential comedy, “I Heart Huckabees.” That film is way more out there than this one, but at least it has clear direction and jokes that work, instead of just wandering around like a mindless zombie hoping to skate by on its clever title.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by writer/director Jeff Baena and actors Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan and Matthew Gray Gubler, a look back at the film with the cast and nearly 20 minutes of deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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