‘Hangover,’ ‘Much Ado’ among new DVD and Blu-ray releases

By Rich Heldenfels Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Justin Bartha (from left) as Doug, Zach Galifianakis as Alan, Ed Helms as Stu and Bradley Cooper as Phil in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures comedy, The Hangover Part III. (Warner Bros.)

A threepeat, some Shakespeare and a low-budget thriller are among Tuesday’s offerings on DVD and Blu-ray.

First is The Hangover Part III (Warner, $28.98 for a two-disc DVD/digital, $35.99 in a Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo). The last of the series of movies about a bunch of buddies involved in intermittently comedic adventures, it was also the most expensive and least successful of the lot, demonstrating how much the series had worn out.

And, as I said in my review of the film when it was in theaters, the first two movies were comedies with action; the third is an action movie with doses of comedy. If you expect a pure comedy, it’s a dud — and even as an action comedy, it’s uneven at best. Much as it wants to have the flavor of the two earlier films, it’s often sullen and sour. And, while it brings back the cast from the earlier films, most of the work is done by Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong. Indeed, Bradley Cooper is not only peripheral, he’s less than energized when onscreen.

Extras include outtakes, extended scenes and featurettes.

Far less seen, but far more recommended here, is Much Ado About Nothing (Lionsgate, $19.98 DVD, $24.98), writer-director Joss Whedon’s black-and-white, modern-dress adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy.

The movie is, if nothing else, a testament to the workaholic side of Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Marvel’s The Avengers). He was supposed to take a break after he completed shooting of the partly-made-in-Cleveland Avengers but opted instead to make this film — in 12 days, at his home and with the help of people from the Whedon stock company (Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion and Clark Gregg among them).

As I said when the movie was in theaters, Whedon’s trimming of the Shakespeare text created some plot holes that are at best barely patched over. But the piece as a whole is endearing in both its comedic and dramatic moments. The film also works around some favorite Whedon topics, about identity and deception, about who we are and what we aim to be. Denisof and Acker form the center of the production, and both are quite good. Acker shines most — smart, vibrant and beautiful, the kind of woman to whom many men would be helplessly drawn even as she is detailing their inadequacy.

Extras include a making-of featurette, a music video and two audio commentaries — one with Whedon solo, one with Whedon and cast members. He is, after all, a famous talker.

Whedon has made jokes about the microscopic budget for Much Ado, reportedly declaring that whatever you think it must have cost, “it’s less.” But filmmakers are finding ways to use modest amounts to do interesting work. Consider The Purge (Universal, $29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo), which, according to Box Office Mojo, had a budget of $3 million — or about 3 percent of what Hangover III cost — and raked in close to $90 million worldwide.

The movie was able to be an unsettling little thriller through its premise and setting. At some point in the not too distant future, America has decided that the solution to violence is to have a 12-hour period once a year when any and all crimes are legal; that lets everyone release their nastiest urges before going back to their regular lives. Taking place on a purge night, the film focuses on a family headed by Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey who is locking down for the night. Or so they think.

The bloodshed is considerable, the ending a little hard to swallow. But for much of the time it works as a tight (86 minutes) adventure. The lone extra is a making-of piece.

The Purge is also part of a fresh wave of fright features hoping that folks are looking for Halloween-themed viewing. And with that in mind, I have to mention Chucky: The Complete Collection (Universal, $59.98 DVD, $84.98), a six-film compilation of the 25-year-old movie series including Child’s Play, Child’s Play 2, Child’s Play 3, Bride of Chucky, Seed of Chucky and the new, direct-to-video Curse of Chucky. Curse is also being sold separately, for $29.98 on DVD and $34.98 in a Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo.

Down video road: Carmen Jones, the operatic film starring Cleveland’s own Dorothy Dandridge, will be on Blu-ray on Dec. 3. The release is part of Fox Home Video’s “Voice Your Choice” project letting fans vote for titles they want released. Other voter picks coming to Blu-ray on Dec. 3 include Tyrone Power’s Jesse James, Call of the Wild, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (with Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney), the ’40s movie Black Swan, the Tracy-Hepburn Desk Set and two John Wayne films: North to Alaska and The Undefeated.

The wackily entertaining Fast & Furious 6 will be on Digital HD on Nov. 19 and on DVD and Blu-ray on Dec. 10. The Following: The Complete First Season will be on DVD and Blu-ray on Jan. 7. So you’ll have to think of a different Christmas gift for the Edgar Allan Poe fan in your house.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.

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