“Divergent” and “God’s Not Dead” Top Week’s Blu-Ray Releases

“Divergent” and “God’s Not Dead” Top Week’s Blu-Ray Releases

Divergent and God’s Not Dead headline new Blu-Ray releases for the week of August 4.

Divergent – Shailene Woodley stars in this futuristic thriller about a young woman rebelling against the government, which has forced all citizens into one of several different “factions” based upon their talents and personality types. Kate Winslet co-stars as the head of one of those factions, which may be plotting a coup.

Divergent will likely please fans of the young-adult novel series on which it is based. Newcomers, however, may feel that it’s all set-up for the inevitable sequels, and therefore lacking any real energy or momentum of its own. If you aren’t already invested in this material, it can be an overlong chore to sit through.

Special features on the Blu-Ray are two separate audio commentaries, one from the director, the other from the producers. Also here is a making-of documentary, a special look at the “factions,” deleted scenes, and a marketing gallery.

God’s Not Dead – A Christian college student (Shane Harper) has to convince his atheist professor (Kevin Sorbo) of God’s existence if he wants to pass a philosophy course. Duck Dynasty stars Willie and Korie Robertson cameo, as do Christian rock band Newsboys.

This faith film is the highest-grossing independent film so far in 2014, having earned $60 million. The scenes between Harper and Sorbo are generally compelling, offering a fascinating back-and-forth dialogue about the intersection of religion and science. Whenever it steps outside the classroom, though, the movie becomes contrived and melodramatic. Audiences looking for an explicitly Christian-themed film will probably be more forgiving than general audiences.

The supplementary material includes a 9-minute behind-the-scenes feature, two music videos, and a short look at some of the real cases that inspired the film’s plot.

Oculus – Karen Gillan (currently on-screen in Guardians of the Galaxy) plays a woman trying to prove it was a supernatural force, and not her brother, that committed a crime. Critics were kind to this horror film, which has a 74% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Blu-Ray comes with audio commentary, deleted scenes, a making-of doc, and the original 23-minute short film on which Oculus is based.

Also this week, Scream Factory releases extras-laden Blu-Rays for two notable horror films: Brian DePalma’s cult masterpiece Phantom of the Paradise (starring Paul Williams), and the never-before-available Without Warning, a 1980 creature feature starring Jack Palance, Martin Landau, and a pre-fame David Caruso. Both are highly recommended.

Do any of this week’s releases appeal to you? Give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Mike McGranaghan is the film critic for The Aisle Seat. His film writing can also be found at Film Racket and Daily Grindhouse, and his reviews are heard weekly on the radio stations of Sunbury Broadcasting Corporation. He is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society, as well as the author of two books, "Straight-Up Blatant" and "My Year of Chevy."