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This Week in Home Video: ‘Snowpiercer,’ ‘Los Angeles Plays Itself’

This Week in Home Video: 'Snowpiercer,' 'Los Angeles Plays Itself'

This week’s other new releases all have the unfortunate timing of coming out next to Bong Joon-ho’s “Snowpiercer,” arguably the biggest sleeper hit of the summer. The film is part crackerjack action film and part weird Bong Joon-ho experiment, featuring the wild fluctuations in tone that he’s known for (an action sequence follows a psychotically chipper Alison Pill joyfully singing “What happens if the engine stops/we all freeze and die!”). The Blu-Ray is particularly worth picking up for a critic commentary track by a number of its most ardent supporters: Scott Weinberg, James Rocchi, William Goss, Drew McWeeny, Jen Yamato and Peter S. Hall.

Other new releases currently overshadowed by “Snowpiercer” include the zombie romantic-comedy “Life After Beth,” starring Dane DeHaan as a hapless teenager whose girlfriend (Aubrey Plaza) returns from death in a slightly different form; the flop Cameron Diaz/Jason Segel comedy “Sex Tape”; the found-footage “E.T.” knockoff “Earth to Echo;” the Jarmusch-like “A Coffee in Berlin;” “The Purge: Anarchy,” a sequel to last year’s home-invasion thriller; and Lav Diaz’s striking epic “Norte, The End of History.”

On the classic front, Criterion’s got you covered, with new Blu-Ray updates of Federico Fellini’s career-defining “La Dolce Vita” and Orson Welles’ last masterpiece, “F for Fake.” The first effectively ended Fellini’s run of neorealist-inspired films and started a career of more idiosyncratic, carnivalesque films. The second is a documentary and essay film that doubles as a wonderful magic trick of a movie, a sign that Welles was just as playful and eager to innovate late in his career as he was as a wunderkind. This week also brings the long-delayed release of Thom Andersen’s phenomenal film essay “Los Angeles Plays Itself.” Those looking for a classic horror fix in time for Halloween, meanwhile, can’t go wrong with “The Vincent Price Collection II” from Shout! Factory, which gathers hits like “The Raven,” “House on Haunted Hill” and “The Tomb of Ligeia” on Blu-Ray.

More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:

“A Coffee in Berlin”
Criticwire Average: B

Nick Schager, The A.V. Club

This understated indie deepens its portrait of growing up by suggesting, ultimately, that anyone who thinks wasting time is a reasonable course of action needs to wake up. Read more.

“Life After Beth”
Criticwire Average: B-

Stephen Whitty, NJ.com

DeHaan’s parents — played by Cheryl Hines and Paul Reiser — don’t register as characters. An even darker theme — that Zach is taking advantage of the fact that Beth doesn’t remember she was breaking up with him — isn’t completely explored, and a shift into some overly gory jokes near the end feels abrupt.But this is still a nicely strange, and often strangely fun movie — and, unlike most of the summer’s comedies, a film with some brains. Even if it only wants to eat them. Read more.

“Norte, The End of History”
Criticwire Average: A-

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club

“Norte” is both a radical departure for Diaz and a perfect gateway into the director’s work. For one, it’s conventionally handsome; though much of his output from the past decade was produced on noisy consumer-grade video and desaturated into black and white, the crisp-looking “Norte” finds him working in color for the first time since 2002’s shoestring sci-fi flick “Hesus The Revolutionary.” It’s shot in richly textured widescreen, and shaped by gradual, choreographed camera movements. Read more.

“The Purge: Anarchy”
Criticwire Average: C+

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

At its worst, “The Purge: Anarchy” stumbles through a vignette-like structure involving numerous shadowy gunfights and underwhelming showdowns, with the badass Sergeant leading the charge every step of the way. But the movie’s potential blossoms whenever it toys with the allegorical ingredients head-on. DeMonaco’s script plays like a devious Brothers Grimm tale told through the filter of Occupy Wall Street. Read more.

Criticwire Average: B+

Keith Phipps, The Dissolve

Evans is a revelation here, delivering a haunted performance that his previous work has only suggested he had in him. He gives the film a solid center, allowing others in the cast to explore the extreme. That includes everyone from Swinton to Alison Pill (who makes a memorable appearance as a teacher seemingly unhinged by her belief in the propaganda she uses to indoctrinate her kids) to some terrifyingly unstoppable musclebound villains. Read more.

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