This week on home video, we’ve got a couple of indie hits, a decent sequel, and the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Then, we’ve also got an acclaimed drama, a not so decent sequel, a few choices from the Criterion Collection, and a new cut of a recent blockbuster. Read on for details:
Alex Garland cut his teeth writing sci-fi screenplays, most notably for Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (and its sequel) and the recent Dredd, so it’s not entirely surprising that his first directorial effort would be a genre success. Ex Machina features rising stars Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, and Domhnall Gleeson in a cautionary tale about a programmer (Gleeson) who is tasked with evaluating a new artificial intelligence-powered robot (Vikander) designed by his company’s genius CEO (Isaac). The special effects used to bring Ava — the robot — to life on screen are impressively seamless, but critics agreed that the film’s writing, acting, and philosophical questions played a huge part in making it a thoughtful, engaging watch. Disc extras include a 40-minute making-of featurette, about a half hour of behind-the-scenes clips, and the hourlong Q&A session from its screening at South by Southwest earlier this year.
It’s pretty tough to come up with a fresh idea these days, particularly in the horror genre, but writer/director David Robert Mitchell managed to conjure up a film more original than most. Maika Monroe stars as teenager Jay, who has sex with her boyfriend for the first time only to be told by him that he’s passed something nasty — and supernatural — on to her, and the only way to get rid of it is to pass it on to someone else the same way. With the help of her sister and a few friends, Jay struggles to understand this creeping threat and fight it off. Critics found It Follows a smart, nuanced, and suitably frightening film that relies more on mood and tension than outright scares, but still delivers a gutpunch when it needs to. Special features are somewhat sparse, but they include a commentary track with a handful of film critics, a short interview with Disasterpeace, the film’s composer, and a gallery of poster art.
2012’s Certified Fresh The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was something of a surprise hit, but it didn’t exactly feel like the kind of movie that was ripe for a sequel. Earlier this year, though, that notion was refuted when John Madden returned to the director’s chair for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, again following the intertwining lives of the titular retirement hotel’s residents and staff. Most of the first film’s stellar ensemble are back, including Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, and Dev Patel, with a few new additions like David Strathairn and Richard Gere. It didn’t quite live up to its predecessor, but the inherent likability of its charming cast helped quite a bit to keep it afloat. Extras include a number of featurettes focuses on the cast, the hotel, some of the key plot points, and the filming locale of India.
Clouds of Sils Maria (2015) (89 percent), starring Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart in a drama about an aging star actress’s internal struggle upon meeting a young starlet that reminds her of herself.
The Longest Ride (2015) (30 percent), starring Brittany Robertson and Scott Eastwood in the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation about a bull rider and a college student who fall in love and find inspiration in an older couple.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (2015) (6 percent), which finds its hero (Kevin James) in Las Vegas for a mall security convention when he stumbles into an art heist plot.
X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut (2015) (91 percent), with 17 minutes of footage deleted from the theatrical cut and new special features, like a 9-part making-of doc. Also available in a special edition with Magneto’s helmet.
And lastly, three choices from the Criterion Colleciton: Alain Resnais’s landmark 1959 romantic drama Hiroshima Mon Amour (100 percent), Swedish director Jan Troell’s feature debut Here is Your Life, and Carroll Ballard’s 1979 drama The Black Stallion (86 percent) are all newly available on DVD and Blu-ray.