DVDs and streaming for Oct. 6 by Boo Allen
This week, we begin in Tony Stark’s laboratory:
Avengers: Age of Ultron (***)
Joss Whedon returns as writer-director of this highly successful franchise that delivers chaotic, non-stop action along with the expected fireworks. This time, the gang of Tony Stark-Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Steve Rogers-Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner-the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff-the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton-Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and a few others team up to fight Ultron (voiced by James Spader), the all-powerful Transformer-like gizmo created by Stark and Banner but that now wants to destroy the world. The dismissible, convoluted plot serves at the pleasure of the special effects, as again an array of dazzling fireworks makes this summer spectacular fun viewing.
Rated PG-13, 141 minutes
Extras: commentary with Whedon, 12 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, four “making of” featurettes totaling around 33 minutes, and a four minute gag reel.
Melissa McCarthy plays desk-bound C.I.A. agent Susan Cooper. When her favored secret agent (Jude Law) seemingly meets his end, she convinces her boss (Allison Janney) to put her, Cooper, in his place. She then travels to Paris, Rome, Budapest and beyond to apprehend the sultry villain (Rose Byrne) out to steal a nuclear weapon, or some such. Paul Feig wrote and directed this funny but absurd spy-satire, squeezing an hour’s worth of quality comic material into two hours. For her part, McCarthy makes the most of her infectious comedic talents. Jason Statham scores by poking fun at his own image, playing a clueless, boastful fellow agent. The strong supporting cast includes Miranda Hart and Bobby Cannavale.
Blu-ray includes both R-Rated (120 minutes) and unrated (130 minutes).
Extras: commentary, three deleted scenes, 15 alternate scenes, two gag reels totaling 11 minutes, 11 “making of” featurettes totaling around 45 minutes, eight brief “behind-the-scenes” featurettes, and more.
Dark Places (**)
The obvious main pull of this dark mystery-thriller is that Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn penned the source novel. But the murky, slow paced film never reaches those heights, with its strained plot and funereal atmospherics. Charlize Theron plays Libby Day, perpetually scowling underneath her ever-present ball cap. As a child, she witnessed the murder of her mother and two sisters. She then served as the major witness in convicting her older brother Ben (Tye Sheridan as the younger, Corey Stoll as the adult) of the crime. A cult following now surrounds the murders, with various conspiracy theory groups adding varying interpretations. Years later, as an adult, Libby still has a grudge about her unwanted celebrity, but not enough that she doesn’t take the proffered chance to speak to a group of conspiracy theorists who believe Ben innocent. The incarcerated Ben has never refuted anything, a conundrum that sends Libby for a prison visit and an eventual self-questioning. Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner flips among past and present while drenching his scenes in shadows and dark interiors and slowly progressing the plot.
Rated R, 113 minutes.
Extras: 23 minute “making of” featurette, nine minute featurette on Gillian Flynn, with interview.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service—limited edition steelbook (**1/2) (and other James Bond goodies)
To coincide with the release of the new James Bond film, Spectre, MGM-Fox Home Entertainment releases several collectible box sets along with a new, limited edition Blu-ray of one of the most often over-looked Bond films. Overlooked because it stars, in his only appearance as Bond, much maligned George Lazenby. Despite its shortcomings, the film features some impressive aerial photography of the Alps, along with the usual array of Bond gadgets and a full cast of Bond beauties, including Diana Rigg and Joanna Lumley (TV’s “Absolutely Fabulous”). Terry Savalas plays villainous Blofeld, the head of crime organization Spectre. Directed by Peter Hunt and actually based on an Ian Fleming novel. 1969.
Rated PG, 142 minutes.
Extras: commentary, featurettes on casting and George Lazenby, as well as other, vintage 1969 original “making of” featurettes.
As part of the Fox Home Entertainment Holiday Collection, Fox is also releasing the Ultimate James Bond Collection, which includes all 23 Bond films, with supplements, in a single Blu-ray box set. Other limited edition Steelbook offerings will be dedicated solely to the six films featuring the Spectre Organization and the three recent films starring Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall).
Despite a name that sounds like it’s the next James Bond movie, this cheesy sci-fi flick sports special effects ranging from laughable to passable. In the not-so-intense thriller, the fate of earth once again hangs in the balance as it has been knocked from its orbit by the always-dreaded movie villain, the “rogue planet.” Half of earth faces the sun and the other rests in shadows. Thankfully, in California, Steve Lannon (Joe Lando) might have the solution to restore earthly balance even though he must first rescue his wife Nancy (Michelle Stafford) and daughter Allie (Diana Hopper). As ordained in these disaster flicks, director Steven Daniels flips among the three story-lines to keep the action moving just fast enough to distract you from thinking about it.
Not rated, 89 minutes.
Last Shift (**1/2)
In this minimalist horror flick, a young rookie police officer, Jessica (Juliana Harkavy), must sit in a deserted police station waiting for a hazardous-material unit to come and remove the dangerous substance before the building is razed. She has the usual empty-nest creepy encounters before finally confronting what may or may not be a disembodied evil spirit. Be afraid.
Rated R, 85 minutes.
Extras: a “making of” featurette, a featurette on the sound design, a viral video, a “behind-the-scenes” photo gallery, and more.
We Are Still Here (**1/2)
In this familiar looking horror entry, Andrew Sensenig and Barbara Crampton play New England couple Paul and Anne Sacchetti. When they lose their teen son Bobby in an auto accident, they do what is required in a horror film: they move into an isolated haunted house. And more, they discover that the residents of the nearby small town also have some other-worldly secrets. Ted Geoghegan co-wrote and directed, creating some effective atmospherics to gloss over the shaky narrative.
Not rated, 84 minutes.
Extras: commentary, a “behind-the-scenes” featurette, and more.
He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown
Charlie and his friends head for summer camp in this feature length animated adventure. Joining the group is Lucy’s brother, Rerun, who makes the mistake of bringing his prized collection of marbles. When Rerun loses his marbles, Charlie Brown must help him stand up to the bully who unfairly took them.
Not rated, 69 minutes.
Extras: the short “It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown,” and an episode of “The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show.”
Also on DVD and streaming: Air, The Ardor, Fresh Dressed.