Blu-ray/DVD Pick(s) of the Week: ‘Before Midnight,’ ‘The Conjuring’

This week on Blu-ray and DVD, we drop back into the lives of Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy), and I use the phrase “drop-in” because “Before Midnight,” the final film in Richard Linklater’s trilogy, is another fascinating intrusion into a segmented, pivotal point in the relationship of these two.

We return to Jesse and Celine nine years after “Before Sunset,” at the end of a summer vacation in Greece, where age and reality begin to catch up to our once-young lovers who met on a train in Europe 18 years ago. But it’s more than just age that wears on these two, as Linklater and company casually bring you up to speed on what you missed during the last nine years, starting with a set of twins and a bitter divorce.

As Jesse longs to be part of his son Henry’s life in Chicago, feeling inadequate over his absence in much of his life, Celine reads deep into her partner’s emotions, foretelling the beginning of the end of their relationship.

For me, part of what makes these films such a joy to watch are Hawke and Delpy, who are at home as Jesse and Celine. Everything from their banter to their deep-cutting accusations or philosophical whimsy is 100 percent natural, and in turn it makes you, the viewer, comfortably part of this often uncomfortable conversation.

For me, there are few things better in life than a personal story that on the surface seems so simple, yet it speaks volumes. Not only does “Before Midnight” provide us with some of the best writing of 2013, it’s also one of my favorite films from the year.

Also out on Blu-ray and DVD this week is James Wan’s throwback haunted house film “The Conjuring.”

“Based on a true story,” a claim made by many horror films, “The Conjuring” is set against the wonderfully creepy New England autumn, where the Perron family looks to settle into an old, spacious farmhouse. Of course, this one carries secrets and spirits, as any good old farmhouse should. As Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) suffers mysterious bruising, and haunts begin to make their presence known to the children of the house, Carolyn and Roger (Ron Livingston) call in paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) for help.

Their analysis? It’s bad.

Having the distinction of being rated R simply because it’s too scary, “The Conuring” was practically gifted a marketing campaign by the MPAA, but it also had a lot to live up to. For the most part, it succeeds.

Against my better judgment, I’ll go on the record to say that James Wan is a master of timing in horror, despite his failed sequel to “Insidious,” which hit theaters in September. “The Conjuring,” however, is an example of what happens when Wan gets it right. Audiences have been trained to anticipate a jump or scare in a horror film based on music cues or previous trends. Wan, however, delivers his scares a beat ahead or behind, completely throwing you out of your comfort zone and keeping you on your toes. It’s like a roller coaster of horror, sending you down 80-foot drops when you least expect it.

“The Conjuring” generates those kind of scares that run deep and stay with you – the kind that only come along once every five or 10 years, if you’re lucky. It’s also tons of fun for anyone who likes to be scared.

What are you watching this weekend on DVD or Blu-ray? Let me know by commenting below, send me your opinions on Twitter @JoelCrabtree, or find me on Facebook.

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