Digital Crave

New on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital: Smart sci-fi, dark thrillers and lone rangers

Digital Crave

Elysium

Elysium

The cerebral sci-fi thriller Elysium is one of the year's better examples of speculative fiction at the movies. That's the polite term for science fiction that dares to take itself seriously. Elysium was directed by South African director Neill Blomkamp (District 9), who likes his sci-fi spiked with visceral violence and sly allegory.

The film is set in a dystopian future society where pollution and overpopulation have rendered the planet almost uninhabitable. Almost. The lower classes still knock about in slum cities, policed by menacing robots. The lucky ones labor in factories to provide goods for the wealthy One Percenters, who live in luxury on a giant orbital space station called Elysium.

Matt Damon stars as our working-class hero, who makes his way off-planet to confront the situation -- specifically Jodie Foster as a merciless gatekeeper for the wealthy. Does anyone do cold and calculating better than late-career Jodie Foster? Along the way he tangles with said menacing robots, plus the psychotic (and cybernetic!) secret agent Kruger (Shalto Copley)

Peek beneath the surface and Elysium has plenty to say about contemporary social, ecological and technological concerns. For instance, the opening sequence depicts 2154 Los Angeles as a giant shantytown, with millions of desperate citizens vying for limited resources. Skyscrapers are augmented with giant rickety balconies to house the population overflow. According to the numbers in a recent study by the United Nations, world population from 2000 to 2050 in expected to grow by 47 percent – from 6.1 billion to 8.9 billion. Projections past that get a little dicey, but one number-crunching scenario produces "an almost unimaginable world population of 134 trillion by 2300."

Elysium provides some compelling visuals, too, including the titular torus-style space station, which uses centrifugal force to produce artificial gravity, keeping the residents (and the atmosphere) from flying off into space. The design is based in part on the Stanford Torus model, developed by NASA in the 1970s, with its use of a ring-and-spokes system, and mirrors to redirect sunlight.

As you can see, Elysium has plenty to keep the endeavoring sci-fi nerd occupied. It's more thoughtful than the usual summer popcorn feature and is a good choice for those who like science fiction they can chew on a bit.

Extras: The usual assortment of behind-the-scenes material on special effects, art design, etc.

Prisoners

Prisoners

Or, for something completely different: A hard and disturbing thriller elevated by some stellar performances, Prisoners stars Hugh Jackman as a Pennsylvania carpenter and survivalist who goes off the rails when his young daughter is abducted. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the detective on the case, with supporting turns from Paul Dano, Terrence Howard and Maria Bello.

Twisty, tense and overall rough on the stomach, it's a movie that digs into some very dark material -- it was originally given an NC-17 rating. But it also asks complicated questions about morality and it treats its themes of violence seriously. So long as you know what you're getting into, the performances from Jackman and Gyllenhaal are not to be missed.

Extras: Two brief production featurettes.

Also New This Week:

Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer in the Western action-adventure reboot The Lone Ranger. This one is making lots of worst-of-the-year lists, but it's essentially harmless and the kids might dig it.

Poseidon, Hermes and several extremely good-looking young people in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.

Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer in the Mafia witness relocation comedy The Family.

More good-looking young people in the documentary/concert film One Direction: This Is Us

Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and other three-name up-and-comers in the gonzo crimefighting satire Kick-Ass 2.

The European historical drama Night Train to Lisbon stars Jeremy Irons and should appeal to fans of old-fashioned mystery plotting.

Speaking of old-fashioned, the 1958 Omnibus television special Dancing, A Man's Game -- written, choreographed and performed by Gene Kelly -- has been reissued on DVD.

Plus:

Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Force of Execution

Insidious Chapter 2

Shadow on the Mesa

TV-on-DVD:

The Big C: The Complete Fourth Season

Burn Notice: Season Seven

Family Guy: Volume 12

Justified: The Complete Fourth Season

Shameless: The Complete Third Season

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