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

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Movie Review: “The Purge: Election Year”

Starring
Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria, Betty Gabriel, Edwin Hodge, Kyle Secor
Director
James DeMonaco

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 done with the “Purge” series, refining the concept each time by carrying over the elements that worked best. 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 necessarily a good film, but what “Election Year” lacks in quality it makes up for with a deft understanding of its audience.

Two years after choosing not to murder the man who killed his son in a drunk driving accident, former police sergeant Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) is now working as the head of security for Senator Charlene Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a fast-rising politician who watched her entire family get massacred during Purge Night 18 years earlier. Senator Roan has been gaining ground on the current presidential frontrunner thanks to a campaign built on ending the Purge once and for all, and the NFFA (the New Founding Fathers of America, a.k.a. the rich white guys behind the Purge) wants her gone before the election. After lifting the immunity clause on all government officials for the upcoming Purge, the NFFA plots to eliminate Roan by attacking the senator at her well-guarded home in Washington, D.C. Forced to go on the run when a trusted staff member betrays them, Leo cautiously teams up with some fellow survivors – including corner shop owner Joe (Mykelti Williamson), Mexican immigrant Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria) and reformed gangbanger Laney (Betty Gabriel) – in order to protect Roan by any means necessary.

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Blu Tuesday: The Hangover Part III, The Purge 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.

“The Hangover Part III”

WHAT: When the Wolfpack is kidnapped by a vengeful gangster (John Goodman) who blames the guys for introducing Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) into his life, he tasks them (sans Doug, naturally, who’s kept as collateral) with tracking Chow down and recovering his stolen money, taking them back to Las Vegas, the city where it all began.

WHY:The Hangover Part III” is a really bad movie – a joyless and humorless cash-in that bears little resemblance to the 2009 original except by name. Say what you will about the first sequel, but at least that one actually felt like a “Hangover” movie. I’m not even sure if “Part III” is supposed to be a comedy, but the shocking lack of laughter would suggest otherwise. Galifianakis and Jeong are more annoying than ever in their respective roles, while Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms are simply on auto-pilot, going through the motions to collect their paychecks. And can you really blame them? The script is so terrible and devoid of laughs (despite some half-assed attempts at humor that rarely land) that it’s hard to imagine anyone signing on to the movie for anything other than the great payday. The film mostly runs on nostalgia – a fact made clear by the return of several familiar faces, even if they have nothing to offer the story – but even that little bit of fan service sputters out well before the end, much like the finale itself.

EXTRAS: The two-disc release includes a few extended scenes, an 8-minute outtakes reel, and some mini-featurettes that are all pretty terrible.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“The Purge”

WHAT: In the near future, the government has introduced an annual event called The Purge where all crime – including murder – is legal for 12 hours. The Sandins are fortunate enough to be able to afford a security system that keeps them safe, but when son Charlie (Max Burkholder) provides sanctuary to a homeless man on the run from some attackers, James (Ethan Hawke) and the rest of his family become their new targets.

WHY: “The Purge” is hands-down one of the dumbest movies of the year. Nothing about this film works, beginning at the concept stage, which is laughable in its suggestion that a) the government would ever impose something like the Purge, b) everyday people would actually embrace it, and c) no one would commit crimes during the rest of the year, not even the homeless people being beaten and murdered. It just isn’t plausible, and as such, the premise is completely drained of any suspense. The characters all act like idiots – especially Charlie, who doesn’t think twice about the fact that the man he’s helping could be tricking him in order to gain entry to the house – and the lead villain is just plain ridiculous. (His gang wears masks for no apparent reason other than that writer/director James DeMonaco thought it would be creepy.) And if that wasn’t bad enough, DeMonaco actually thinks that he’s making some kind of bold political statement, when in reality, it’s simply the musings of a crazy person.

EXTRAS: Considering how well it performed in theaters, it’s a little surprising that the only included bonus material is a making-of featurette titled “Surviving the Night.”

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

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