X-Men Apocalypse (Fox, Blu-ray, 4K HD, DVD, VOD), the sixth in the official X-Men big screen franchise (the ninth if you count the Wolverine and Deadpool spin-offs) and the third film in the prequel trilogy, is cut to fit into the big screen mythos as carved out of the source comics by director Bryan Singer. He directed the first two films in the series and now, following his time travel-based X-Men: Days of Future Past, he wraps the series with another end-of-the-world battle. The villain this time is an ancient mutant, a big blue baddie from ancient Egypt played by Oscar Isaac. He fancies himself a god and, after being roused from a nearly 6,000 year hibernation, decides to raze civilization and start over with the survivors. You know, Darwinism as a global reset.
We jump from his backstory, an extended prologue that looks like a CGI version of an Egyptian epic, to 1983. It’s ten years after the end of Days of Future Past and we begin again introducing and/or reintroducing what seems like dozens of characters destined to line up behind either Apocalypse, who goes in a recruiting drive for his Four Horsemen, or Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), the telepath who runs the covert mutant academy called the School for Gifted Children and believes that man and mutant can co-exist peacefully. Frenemy and future nemesis Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender), sides with Apocalypse (in every sense of the term) after his experiment with co-existence ends with, once again, his family killed in front of his eyes.
His is merely the most dramatic of tragic pasts and traumatic events that define the dramatis personae, which include the young versions of future X-Men leaders Jean Grey (Sophie Turner of Game of Thrones, bringing conviction to a role that largely calls upon her to look tortured and intense while projecting psychic powers) and Scott Summers, aka Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), the man with the laser eyes. There are also young versions of Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Storm (Alexandra Shipp), new characters like Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Angel (Ben Hardy; we’ll pretend that The Last Stand isn’t part of the X-legacy), and best of all a return visit from Quicksilver (Evan Peters). Peters brings a playfulness to the role and contributes the wittiest and most enjoyable action scene in the film, a supersonic rescue mission speeding through a slow-motion explosion. And it’s surely no secret anymore that Hugh Jackman makes a startling cameo as Wolverine in a scene that plugs right in to his own elaborate history.
It’s overloaded, to say the least, but if it gets a little clumsy at times and leaves potentially fascinating characters neglected (Storm and Psylocke are particularly underserved), it’s still kind of impressive how much information screenwriter Simon Kinberg (who plotted the original story with Singer and others) crams in with the spectacle of the 143-minute film. Singer’s direction brings out character beats and suggests relationships in the heat of action and he adds touches of humor and humanity throughout, which helps add texture to the increasingly familiar spectacle of CGI-assisted battleground demolition and battles of superpowered figures.
In this sea of cool costumes, colorful powers, and epic destruction, Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence (as Mystique / Raven, the face of mutant liberation on a one-woman campaign to save her people from human oppression and exploitation) bring some much-needed gravitas and grounding. They suggest strength and power even before the digital effects and stuntwork are unleashed. Isaac, buried under enough make-up to make him unrecognizable, doesn’t fare so well but he makes a credible villain by virtue of his commitment to his stony confidence and absolute belief in his divine right.
Like the Avengers movies, the X-Men films don’t really work outside of the franchise—there’s too much character history woven through story for it to stand alone—and the visual overload of so many characters buzzing through the chaos is better suited to the big screen than the home screen. But as the final piece in the self-contained screen mythology of the X-Men, it’s quite satisfying, even with the timeline adjustments (time travel twists are so forgiving!). It surely won’t be the last X-Men film but it’s likely the last to feature star players Lawrence, Fassbender, and McAvoy. Expect the next generation of young heroes introduced here to lead the next chapters.
On Blu-ray and DVD, with filmmaker commentary, a gag reel, and a gallery of stills. Exclusive to the Blu-ray is the hour-long documentary “X-Men: Apocalypse Unearthed,” deleted and extended scenes, and a wrap party video.
Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (Sony, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, 4K Ultra HD, DVD), originally released as simply Ghostbusters (2016), is the reboot / remake / revival of the 1984 frat boy comedy starring Bill Murray as a sardonic con man in academia turned nuclear powered paranormal investigator and the most controversial film of the year, at least if you measure such things by Facebook rants and Twitter burns from arrested adolescents. Why? Because it stars four women in the roles originally played by four men. Which is apparently is blasphemy in the fanatical fringe of the church of popular culture.
It’s a hard case to make when you actually see the film, a playful romp through a haunted New York City by four extremely funny women improvising banter through a half-baked script. Falling somewhere between remake and reinvention, it takes the basic premise, tosses in a new bad guy, adds lots of CGI phantoms and the usual apocalyptic assault on NYC, and… well, that’s pretty it. Which is enjoyable enough as these things go but a little disappointing from a film that reunites filmmaker Paul Feig with collaborators Kristen Wiig (of Bridesmaids) and Melissa McCarthy (The Heat and Spy), tag-team leads who generously share the laughs in a genuine ensemble comedy. Wiig is a physicist whose tenure track is derailed when her buried ghost-obsessed past comes back to haunt her thanks to her former high school BFF McCarthy, still struggling to give her paranormal research an academic stamp of approval. Kate McKinnon is the team’s secret weapon, a maverick nuclear engineer who whips up proton packs, atomic-powered ghost traps, and other cool inventions. She’s not so much a mad scientist as a gleeful eccentric with a manic energy that comes out in sideways glances, wicked grins, and spontaneous moves that suggests she’s dancing to her own private soundtrack. Completing the team is Leslie Jones as a subway worker and amateur New York historian who provides the blue collar practicality.
There are plenty of cameos from the original film, from cast members Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson, and Sigourney Weaver to the grinning green Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and precious few surprises. But there is one unexpected delight: Chris Hemsworth, taking a break from the regal authority of Thor, plays their bubble-headed hunk of a receptionist (aka “stripogram Clark Kent”) with the glassy-eyed abandon of a born improv comic. The big special effects set pieces lack the whimsical invention and twisted absurdity of the original film and the running jokes are tired before they hit their stride but these women have chemistry and quickly build a compelling sense of solidarity. They are a fun group to spend time with. If only they had a movie worthy of their comic potential.
The film has been rebranded Ghostbusters: Answer the Call for home video but it’s the same film, at least in the PG-13 theatrical version. An extended version with over 15 minutes of additional and extended scenes is also available on both VOD and disc.
The disc features the IMAX presentation, with the film letterboxed in the 2.39:1 widescreen format with some scenes reverting to IMAX full frame and special effects spilling out of the frame and into the black bars.
On Blu-ray and DVD with two commentary tracks (one from director Paul Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold, the other featuring editor Brent White, producer Jessie Henderson, production designer Jeff Sage, visual effects supervisor Pete Travers, and special effects supervisor Mark Hawker), the featurettes “Meet the Team,” “Visual Effects: 30 Years Later,” and “Slime Time,” and “Jokes a Plenty: Free For All,” and a collection of alternate improvisational takes (what was called “Line-o-rama” in Judd Apatow disc releases).
The Blu-ray editions add two additional featurettes (including a spotlight on Chris Hemsworth’s improvisations as Kevin), collections of deleted scenes and extended and alternate scenes, and the obligatory gag reel, plus an Ultraviolet Digital HD copy of the film (which also includes extended and alternate scenes).
Also new and notable:
The Infiltrator (Broadgreen, Blu-ray, DVD) stars Bryan Cranston as real-life federal agent Robert Mazur, who went deep undercover into Pablo Escobar’s drug trafficking business in the 1980s. John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt, and Amy Ryan costar and Brad Furman directs. Blu-ray and DVD with commentary, deleted scenes, and two featurettes.
Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (Sony, Blu-ray), starring Gary Cooper as an eccentric small town poet and tuba player who inherits $20 million and Jean Arthur is the big city reporter who exploits the rube for her paper, makes its Blu-ray debut in an 80th Anniversary edition. Restored and remastered in 4K and presented in a book edition with essays, stills, and notes, it also includes commentary by Frank Capra Jr., the documentary featurette “Frank Capra Jr. Remembers,” and vintage advertising carried over from the DVD edition.
The Thing: Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory, Blu-ray) presents a two-disc edition of John Carpenter’s inspired remake of the classic science fiction horror, mastered from a new 2K scan and featuring hours of new interviews along with archival documentaries and featurettes. Review to come.
Carrie: Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory, Blu-ray), the first screen adaptation of Stephen King work and the first hit movie from director Brian De Palma, earned Oscar nominations for stars Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. Newly remastered from a 4K scan, this two-disc edition features new and archival interviews and featurettes. Review to come.
Violent Cop (Film Movement, Blu-ray, DVD) and Boiling Point (Film Movement, Blu-ray, DVD) present restored editions and Blu-ray debuts of the first two features directed by “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, the Japanese comedian and TV personality who remade himself as a stone-faced screen gangster with an offbeat sense of humor. Reviews to follow.
Classics and Cult:
Boyhood (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD)
Dark Water (Arrow, Blu-ray+DVD)
The Hills Have Eyes (Arrow, Blu-ray+DVD)
Astro Zombies (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
Daughter of Dracula (Redemption / Kino, Blu-ray, DVD)
Slugs (Arrow, Blu-ray+DVD)
TV on disc:
Preacher: Season One (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD)
Constantine: The Complete Series (Warner Archive, Blu-ray, DVD)
American Horror Story: Hotel (Season 5) (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD)
Feed the Beast: Season One (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD)
Penny Dreadful: The Final Season (Showtime, Blu-ray, DVD)
Banshee: The Final Season (HBO, Blu-ray, DVD)
Adventure Time: The Complete Sixth Season (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Musketeers: Season Three (BBC, Blu-ray, DVD)
Hannibal: The Complete Series (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD)
Vikings: Season 4, Volume 1 (MGM, Blu-ray, DVD)
Winter: The Complete Series (Acorn, DVD)
Murdoch Mysteries: A Very Murdoch Christmas (Acorn, DVD)
(Impractical) Jokers: The Complete Fourth Series (Warner, DVD)
Charlie Brown’s All Stars: 50th Anniversary Edition (Warner, DVD)
The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson: The Series Archive Classics (Time Life, DVD)
More new releases:
The Legend of Tarzan (Warner, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, DVD)
Ice Age: Collision Course (Fox, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, DVD)
The Purge: Election Year (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD)
Swiss Army Man (A24, Blu-ray, DVD)
Complete Unknown (Sony, DVD)
Blood Father (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD)
Broken Vows (Lionsgate, DVD)
Approaching the Unknown (Paramount, DVD)
The Innocents (Music Box, Blu-ray, DVD)
Les Cowboys (Cohen, Blu-ray, DVD)
Diary of a Chambermaid (2016) (Cohen, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Wailing (Well Go, Blu-ray, DVD)
Phantom of the Theatre (Well Go, DVD)
The Last King (Magnolia, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD)
Life, Animated (Sony, DVD)
Into the Forest (A24, Blu-ray, DVD)
Joshy (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD)
Being Charlie (Anchor Bay, DVD)
Wild Oats (Anchor Bay, DVD, VOD)
Laid in America (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD)
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD)
Fender Bender (Scream Factory, Blu-ray, DVD)
She Who Must Burn (Midnight Releasing, DVD)
My Many Sons (Well Go, DVD)
Sherpa (Lionsgate, DVD)
Amazonia (Lionsgate, DVD)
Blinky Bill the Movie (Shout! Kids, Blu-ray+DVD)
The Passion Live (Shout! Factory, DVD)
Sharknado: The 4th Awakens (Asylum/Gaiam, Blu-ray, DVD)