- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Blu-ray home entertainment releases this week include some E.T. horror and Thor turned into a hacker.

Blackhat (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Rated R, $34.98) — A functionally mediocre cybercrime thriller from director Michael Mann bombed with critics and at the box office in late 2014 but looks for a bit of redemption from home theatre audiences.

Alas, it’s probably not going to happen for this clunker starring Chris Hemsworth as Nicholas Hathaway, a convicted blackhat hacker who finds himself released from prison and, with help from an old friend now working for the Chinese government, must stop a cybercrime mastermind to stay free from incarceration.

When the principal cast members (including Viola Davis) are not busy staring at computer screens and explaining why they are staring at computer screens, they take their cues from the sourpuss school of acting and seem to be constantly scowling.

With an reported $70 million budget, the stars of this less-than-thrilling thriller is a car explosion (that’s right) and the scenic, international atmosphere.



Mr. Mann boasts that the film takes place in 74 locations and over four countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco and China, and viewers do get an impressive looking high-definition travelogue as the story plays out.

I just wish this excessive detail had been applied to more judicious editing of a film clocking in at 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Cementing the reason to rent and not buy the Blu-ray is the slim set of extras offering a mere trio of too-promotional featurettes.

The best one takes a precursory look at the new reality of cyberthreats around the world. I could have used longer interviews with the actual hackers discussing their craft instead of listening to Mr. Mann and the cast offering their amateur opinions.

Extraterrestrial (Shout! Factory, Rated R, $24.97) — Canadian filmmakers Stuart Ortiz and Colin Minihan’s latest film makes its high-definition debut hoping to creep out home theater audiences. The filmmakers are, after all, better known as The Vicious Brothers.

This slasher, sci-fi horror movie, not endorsed by E.T., finds a group of college students spending a weekend at an isolated cabin within the outskirts of a town dealing with a hostile extraterrestrial problem.

The plot meanders through a “found footage” and dark-ride experience with a couple of scares and a pinch plenty of gore before taking viewers to a grandiose, unexpected location. I’ll never tell where, but it allows us to witness one of the more legendary human abuses by spindly aliens.

Unfortunately, after 101 minutes of potential pleasing payoffs, the movie ends in the most frustratingly way possible with less frights and more government conspiracy shenanigans.

Amazingly, the digital transfer highlights some impressive cinematography, use of lighting and sounds to relay the arrival of the enemy, cool computer-generated effects and some very familiar-looking extraterrestrials.

Best extra is a lively commentary track with Mr. Ortiz, Mr. Minihan and a pair of actresses, Brittany Allen and Melanie Papalia, who play two of the group of teens. They giggle and sound like they are hanging out at a party as they watch the movie and discuss, often profanely, its merits and production.

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