Blu-ray Today: Disasters, Cavemen and Monsters, Oh My!



This Is the End Possibly my favorite of the rash of recent apocalypse comedies that also includes It’s a Disaster and The World’s End, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s tale of a friendship strained by the arrival of the Rapture would be an effective low-budget, Blumhouse-style thriller if played straight. Needless to say, in Rogen and Goldberg’s hands, with favors called in from every celebrity friend of theirs, it goes for the laughs. Rogen and Jay Baruchel essentially play themselves, friends grown slightly apart due to varying degrees of fame. When the entire city of Los Angeles goes up in flames during a party at James Franco’s house, it’s up to Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride to survive as a group as best they can.

Most of the actors are gleefully unafraid to play to audience’s worst perceptions of them – McBride, unsurprisingly, becomes the Kenny Powers-esque villain of the bunch – with the major exception being Hill, who embraces an over-enthusiastic positivity that may or may not be for real. When I saw Hill’s exorcism scene out of contest at WonderCon, it didn’t work at all – but that’s because it comes late in the film and you have to build up to it.

Rogen and Goldberg deliver a commentary track that can’t possibly be as funny as the film, but has some decent laughs, as well as revelations about the less obvious CG enhancements onscreen (Michael Cera’s ass? Sorry, not real). Also included are a gag reel and six featurettes, including the original short that inspired the feature, “Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse.” Amid all the celebrities, the breakout star is Baruchel – having aged out of playing young nerds in first love, he’s becoming more interesting as a character actor than he was as a lead.

The Croods Nicolas Cage is a caveman. Also there’s some movie coming out called The Croods.

Bond 50 With Skyfall The James Bond box set from last holiday season came with one empty slot for the then-unreleased Skyfall, but since Bond never met a slot he couldn’t fill, you can now buy a newer version of the set with that disc included. Frankly, you’re better off without it – minority opinion here, I know, but director Sam Mendes never met a tedious “hero in empty room, symbolizing isolation” shot he didn’t adore, and seems unable to decide whether he’s doing an origin story or a “gettin’ too old for this shit” last hurrah.

The Monster Club For personal reasons, I’m slightly bummed to see this Vincent Price horror-comedy get upgraded, as the previous DVD from Pathfinder Pictures featured me doing a smart-ass alternate commentary track, and interviewing one of the supporting cast whom I believe died soon thereafter. I all but guarantee those won’t be on this one, but it’s worth a look anyway – an anthology horror film that intersperses three semi-serious tales of terror with incredibly campy and overlong musical numbers clearly inspired by the Mos Eisley cantina. Features at least one monster in a major role that you’ve likely never heard of before: the Shadmock, who has a terrifying…whistle.

House of Wax 3D If you pick up one Vincent Price disc today, it’ll probably be this one; it’s good to see Blu-ray 3D technology being used for classics of the form as well as every blockbuster that comes along. Not to be confused with the loose remake that gave Paris Hilton a violent onscreen death, it’s a 1953 horror with Price as a sculptor of waxworks who takes his job a little too seriously.

Volcano Wow, Anne Heche got memory holed off the cover in a hurry! The template for so many Syfy movies since, Volcano plays better if you’ve ever lived in Los Angeles. The whole thing is a massive L.A. in-joke disguised as a disaster movie, from the Angelyne billboards to the subway drivers reading books about screenwriting, and the hysterically on-the-nose anti-racism line at the end (nobody can see skin color any more – because they’re all covered in volcanic ash!). If you miss all the humor, it may play as just another cheesy disaster flick, but it strikes me as a project where all involved were told they could get away with whatever they wanted as long ass they delivered the requisite action beats. If you’ve seen Mick Jackson’s deadly serious anti-nuclear TV epic Threads, you know he can do disaster straight. He ain’t doing that here.

The Wizard of Oz 3D Oops, sorry, Volcano – here’s one that inspired even more crappy Syfy knockoffs than you did. What’s the revisionist take on this that people keep passing around as a meme – an illegal alien murders a woman for her fancy shoes, then rounds up a lynch mob to kill her sister too? Whatever. You don’t need me to recommend or not recommend The Wizard of Oz.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec [Director’s Cut] – Luc Besson gets a tad more family friendly than usual in adapting a popular French comic about a female adventurer in 1911 who encounters dinosaurs and mummies in her quest to catch a mad scientist. The “director’s cut” features a few extra seconds of the kind of naturalistic (bathtub) nudity that French audiences think nothing of, but which may upset some Americans showing it to children.

And those are my Blu-ray picks for today. What are yours?