Blu Tuesday: Lights Out, Nerve 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.

“Lights Out”

WHAT: When her little brother (Gabriel Bateman) begins experiencing the same visions that haunted her as a kid – a terrifying, supernatural entity with a connection to their mentally unstable mother (Maria Bello) – Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) attempts to unlock the mystery behind its existence in order to rid their family of the demonic spirit for good.

WHY: Based on David F. Sandberg’s short film of the same name, “Lights Out” is a fresh take on an age-old phobia – specifically, being afraid of the dark – that boasts some effective scares throughout its well-paced 81-minute runtime. (New rule: no horror movie should be more than 90 minutes long). Where the movie falters is with its mythology, which creates an entire backstory for the spirit that’s not only absurd but never really fleshed out beyond one scene. Sandberg also fails to introduce a fixed set of rules for his villain, which are constantly evolving as it becomes necessary or convenient to the story. The acting is about as good as you’d expect from the genre, though Teresa Palmer and newcomer Alexander DiPersia are both solid in their roles, while the creature effects are pretty cool for a character that spends most of the film bathed in darkness. There have been better horror movies released this year, but “Lights Out” is a decent addition to the genre that will please a certain subset of fans.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes some deleted scenes, but that’s all.



WHAT: Bookish high school senior Vee (Emily Roberts) is pressured by her friends into joining an underground online game called Nerve, where players complete dares in exchange for money while strangers follow along on their phones. But as Vee gets caught up in the thrill of the competition alongside fellow player Ian (Dave Franco), the game takes a sinister turn.

WHY: It’s easy to see how someone could read the screenplay for “Nerve” (based on Jeanne Ryan’s 2012 novel of the same name) and think it was a good idea, but while there’s no denying that the premise is intriguing, like other recent high-concept films such as “The Purge,” it quickly falls apart under even the slightest scrutiny. Logistically, it’s just not very plausible (you’re telling me that the government and law enforcement are completely oblivious to this massive, real-life video game taking place?), which is a shame, because the movie is clearly trying to make a larger point about the cult of celebrity and how we hide behind the anonymity of our digital screens. “Nerve” isn’t as awful as it could have been thanks to its charismatic leads and a solid supporting cast that includes two “Orange is the New Black” alumni, but compared to directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s 2010 documentary “Catfish,” the escalating series of ridiculous plot turns only push you away rather than you pull in.

EXTRAS: There’s a collection of short featurettes on making the film, as well as an interactive game and a player/watcher quiz.


“Captain Fantastic”

WHAT: For several years, Ben (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Leslie have raised their six children in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, away from the corruption and distractions of the real world. But when a personal tragedy draws the family out of isolation, Ben is challenged by those around him on whether his unconventional parenting methods are best for the kids.

WHY: “Captain Fantastic” made a splash earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival, where it earned mostly rave reviews and an Un Certain Regard award for directing. Written and directed by Matt Ross (perhaps best known as Hooli CEO Galvin Belson on the HBO comedy series “Silicon Valley”), the film is a sometimes affecting and darkly comic look at parenting, family and death that succeeds due to an excellent performance by star Viggo Mortensen. It’s been many years since the actor did anything of note, but his work in “Captain Fantastic” shows just how good he can be when given the right material. Mortensen’s child co-stars don’t have much to do besides George MacKay, who plays eldest son Bodevan, but it’s a well-cast bunch that works together really well. Unfortunately, the movie gets swallowed up by its own idealism at times, making it very difficult to side with Ben, while the poor pacing causes it to drag in the middle. Although “Captain Fantastic” isn’t without its charms, it’s a little too slight to leave much of a lasting impression.

EXTRAS: There’s a short behind-the-scenes featurette.