This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The Call, Help! ...
This week: Giving Burt Wonderstone some love, Criterion offers a marathon of misery, and Halle Berry keeps phoning it in.
► I’m baffled by the raw deal THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE got. Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi are rock solid as Vegas magicians who have a falling out, the late (sigh) James Gandolfini is effortlessly great as their prick boss, and – most of all – Jim Carrey’s comeback starts right here. As a ‘shock’ street magician who threatens to bury Carell and his old school ways, he’s as funny and locked in as he’s been in years. He steals the movie, much like Carell stole Carrey’s ‘Bruce Almighty’ a decade ago. It’s not incredible, but it’s good enough.
► THE CALL can be viewed two ways: Either it’s a huge step up for WWE Studios after gems like ‘The Chaperone’ and ‘The Marine 3,’ or a huge step down for Halle Berry after … you know, winning an Oscar. She stars as a 911 operator who screws up after receiving a call from a teenaged girl fearing for her life. When a similar incident happens six months later, she tries making amends. It ended up being WWE’s most successful movie, so expect a sequel starring Dolph Ziggler any day.
► Want to kick your parties up a notch? Wait until everyone’s buzzed and then pop in the Criterion edition of SHOAH, director Claude Lanzmann’s 9½-hour documentary on the holocaust. Comprised almost entirely of interviews with survivors, bystanders and even some Nazis, this 1985 French classic is both exhausting and exhilarating in its scope – Roger Ebert described it not as a documentary but as “an act of witness.” If the main feature isn’t enough, the blu-ray includes three other films by Lanzmann, including 2010’s ‘The Karski Report.’
► Looking to score big in VENUS AND VEGAS, three desperate pals (Eddie Guerra, Donald Faison and Eddie Kaye Thomas) plan to rob a warehouse containing counterfeit casino chips owned by an old-school mobster (Jon Polito). No plan like this ever works in Vegas, and one of the gang is taken prisoner. Jamie Pressley, Joe Rogan and a crazy-looking Florence Henderson co-star.
► The Beatles’ album HELP! is a landmark of ‘60s pop with some of the most brilliant songs ever recorded. The movie … not so much. The follow-up to the classic ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ brings back director Richard Lester, but this was more of the ‘Superman III’ Richard Lester. The story aims to be a Marx Brothers riff, though it sure feels like a wacky stoner version of ‘Lord of the Rings,’ as an Eastern religious cult tries obtaining Ringo’s new ring in order to complete a human sacrifice. The Fab Four were exhausted by this point and the film overstays its welcome, but man – the soundtrack is incredible.
► Direct from Canada, TODD AND THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL is on its way to being a campy cult classic. A naughtier ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ it pits a group of high school kids against a cursed tome. Every episode finds a student using the book to try and make their life better, with disastrous results. Season 2 finds the kids contending with a beast that eats cheerleaders, an invisible peeper and a time-traveling paraplegic.
► The ‘80s were not kind to Tarzan. The stench of 1981’s ‘Tarzan, the Ape Man’ - focused entirely around Bo Derek – still hadn’t left when 1984’s nearly-as-bad GREYSTOKE, THE LEGEND OF TARZAN took another dump on Edgar Rice Burroughs. Though it claimed to stick faithfully to Burroughs’ original 1912 novel, it goes way off the rails in the second half when Tarzan tries living in Scotland. Christopher Lambert rocks the loincloth, though he’s never referred to as ‘Tarzan’ in the film.
► Based on true events, INTO THE WHITE finds two WW II fighter pilots – one German, one British – shot down over Norway and must share the same cabin in order to survive the winter. A lifelong friendship followed. The German, Horst Schopis, died in 2011 – a year before the film came out.
Also out this week:
SO WHAT DVD/BLU-RAYS ARE YOU GUYS STOKED ABOUT THIS WEEK?!