Blu Tuesday: X-Men: Apocalypse, The Purge: Election Year 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 social media with your friends.

“X-Men: Apocalypse”

WHAT: When a powerful mutant named En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) reawakens in 1983 after thousands of years in hibernation, he recruits Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and three other mutants to join his side as he attempts to destroy the world and remake it in his image. Standing in his way his Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his X-Men, including Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) and new students Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Cyclops (Tye Sheridan).

WHY: “The third one is always the worst.” That’s an actual line of dialogue from Bryan Singer’s “X-Men: Apocalypse,” and though it’s technically referring to “Return of the Jedi,” it could just as easily be applied to the latest installment in the long-running superhero franchise. Messy, overstuffed and generally dull, there’s so much wrong with “X-Men: Apocalypse,” beginning with its titular villain. Not only is the all-powerful mutant surprisingly unimposing, but the movie completely wastes Oscar Isaac by burying him under layers of makeup and giving him very little to do. The same goes for stars Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence, none of whom look particularly interested this go-around, as well as the young X-Men, who are well-cast but get lost in the shuffle of the crowded ensemble. What initially seemed like the franchise’s biggest asset (its deep roster) has quickly become its Achilles’ heel. There just isn’t enough time to service all of these characters, and yet that doesn’t stop Singer from cramming as many as possible into the story. Although “X-Men: Apocalypse” has a few good moments (including yet another fun Quicksilver set piece), it’s so far behind what Marvel is doing with their movies that Fox would be better off handing over creative control (see: Sony and Spider-Man) and reaping the benefits.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Bryan Singer and writer/producer Simon Kinberg, there’s an hour-long making-of documentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel and more.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“The Purge: Election Year”

WHAT: Fast-rising politician Senator Charlene Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) is targeted for assassination by the New Founding Fathers of America when she emerges as a presidential frontrunner thanks to a campaign built on ending the Purge once and for all. With an army of trained killers on her trail, Roan’s new head of security Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) teams up with a group of survivors to protect her by any means necessary.

WHY: It’s very rare for a movie franchise to get better with each successive installment (especially in the horror genre), but that’s exactly what writer/director James DeMonaco has accomplished with the “Purge” series, refining the concept each time by carrying over the elements that worked best. Frank Grillo is great once again as the taciturn tough guy, while series newcomers Elizabeth Mitchell and Mykelti Williamson provide good support. It’s just a shame that the villains aren’t very memorable, despite the fact that the film ups the ante considerably in the carnage and costume departments. Though “The Purge: Election Year” inherits many of the same problems from 2014’s “The Purge: Anarchy,” chief among them the absurdity of the Purge itself, it also builds on its strengths to produce another John Carpenter-styled action thriller that’s equal parts cheesy B-movie and pulpy fun. It’s not exactly a good film, but what “Election Year” lacks in quality it makes up for with a deft understanding of its audience and what they’ve come to expect from the franchise.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette, a behind-the-scenes look at Frank Grillo on set and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“The Wailing”

WHAT: When a mysterious plague hits the small South Korean village of Goksung – inflicting its victims with a madness that compels them to kill – investigating detective Jong-Goo (Kwak Do-won) suspects that the old Japanese man (Jun Kunimara) who recently arrived in town may be responsible. After his daughter (Kim Hwan-hee) begins to exhibit the same symptoms, Jong-Goo decides to consult a shaman for answers, unknowingly escalating the situation.

WHY: South Korea has long been a bastion for dark and disturbing movies, and the supernatural thriller “The Wailing” is one of the best to come out of the country’s burgeoning film industry. An incredibly unnerving examination of faith, spirituality and the nature of evil, director Na Hong-jin’s long-awaited follow-up to “The Yellow Sea” is one of the most suspenseful movies you’ll see all year. Though he peppers the opening half with moments of pitch-black humor that help to defuse the horror of what’s happening, as Na digs deeper into the story’s central mystery, he gradually increases the stakes until all hell breaks loose, both figuratively and literally. The movie’s 157-minute runtime is a bit long, leading to some pacing issues in the middle that threaten to derail its momentum, but once the film sinks its hook into you, it doesn’t let go. While the numerous loose ends and unanswered questions prevent “The Wailing” from being truly exceptional, it’s a mesmerizing and well-crafted thriller that demands to be seen.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a pair of production featurettes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Swiss Army Man”

WHAT: Stranded on a desert island and contemplating suicide, Hank (Paul Dano) is given a renewed hope for survival when a talking corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) washes ashore. Though Hank is uncertain whether Manny is just a figment of his imagination, he discovers that his new friend is capable of extraordinary feats, and together, they embark on a journey to get home.

WHY: “Swiss Army Man” is one of the weirdest, most original films to come along in years. Writers/directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (who work under the collective name DANIELS) have produced an existential survival dramedy that’s endlessly creative, gorgeously shot and at times emotionally affecting. Best described as “Cast Away” meets “Weekend at Bernie’s,” the movie is anchored by a pair of great performances from Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, who fully embrace the oddball premise. Unfortunately, while Hank and Manny’s budding friendship is a real joy to watch, “Swiss Army Man” begins to run into some issues in the final act, particularly with its ending. It lacks the confidence of the first hour, undermining its grand metaphor (which, no joke, compares the act of holding in a fart to hiding one’s true self) because Kwan and Scheinert refuse to commit to a definitive answer about Manny’s existence. Although the film is certainly worth seeing for the experience alone, like many of A24’s releases, it’s not for everyone.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by Kwan and Scheinert, a making-of featurette, a brief look at creating the Manny dummy, a filmmaker Q&A and deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV”

WHAT: The magical kingdom of Lucis has been at war with the evil empire Niflheim for more than a decade, and with defeat appearing more likely by the day, King Regis of Lucis (Sean Bean) makes a deal to marry his son to Niflheim captive Princess Lunafreya (Lena Headey) and surrender his lands. When it turns out to be a trap, one of the king’s elite soldiers, Nyx (Aaron Paul), takes it upon himself to protect the princess and stop Niflheim from achieving world domination.

WHY: A prequel/companion story to the upcoming “Final Fantasy XV” video game, “Kingsglaive” continues the franchise’s poor string of feature films. Although it certainly looks great, boasting super photorealistic animation that further bridges the gap between fantasy and reality, the story is a convoluted mess that expects the audience to follow along without any explanation whatsoever. It’s mostly just a means for the overblown action sequences, which take up a large chunk of the unnecessarily long 115-minute runtime and are often as incoherent as the story itself. Not even the A-list voice talent can do much to save it. Lena Headey and Sean Bean do a decent enough job in their respective roles, but the rest of the cast is terrible, especially Aaron Paul, whose voice simply doesn’t fit the look of his character. Stunning visuals aside, “Kingsglaive” has very little to offer the average viewer, and though fans of the long-running game series might appreciate the way it connects to the larger story, as a standalone film, it’s a complete failure.

EXTRAS: There are four featurettes covering various aspects of production, including the voice cast, motion capture, production design and the musical score.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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