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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, September 3, 2013

by admin September 3, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Jesse Eisenberg was this summer's unlikely magic man.

Now You See Me
One of the surprise hits of the just-concluded summer movie season, Now You See Me promises a high-concept premise -- a team of magicians pull of a series of bank heists! -- that it never completely delivers on. Still, the overqualified ensemble cast is charismatic enough to keep the audience engaged and distract them from the various plot holes and outright cheats built into the narrative. Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and James Franco's little brother Dave play the core four team of illusionists-cum-robbers, who take their signature trick -- stealing from the rich to give to the poor -- on the road, while an FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo) and his comely Interpol counterpart (Mélanie Laurent) stay doggedly on their heels. Also in the mix is Morgan Freeman's ex-magician turned one-man magical spoiler machine and Michael Caine's wealthy tycoon, who bankrolls the so-called Four Horseman's magical act… at least until they turn the tables on him. Director Louis Leterrier sends his camera all over the damn place trying to jazz up the mostly disappointing heists, but the movie is at its most… well, magical, when it simply involves the stars riffing off each other. Frankly, we would have been perfectly happy if the movie had just been two hours of Zombieland cohorts Eisenberg and Harrelson busting each other's balls with the occasional card trick thrown in.
Extras: A commentary track with Leterrier, deleted scenes and two featurettes.
Click here to read our original review

Stories We Tell
Sarah Polley turns the camera on her own family in this compelling, if at times irritatingly self-satisfied feature-length home movie. Beginning as a memorial of sorts to her late mother -- fleshed out with testimonials from various friends and family members -- the movie soon segues into its central gimmick, namely teasing the question of who is Polley's real baby daddy? Is it the man who raised her -- actor Michael Polley, who you may recognize from the great Canadian series Slings & Arrows -- or another person from Mom's past? This story would be compelling enough on its own terms, especially since her family seems so willing and even eager to talk about it, but Polley can't resist and adding a layer of formal and narrative meta-ness to the proceedings, blending re-enactments with self-aware touches like filming Michael in a recording studio reading (often pretentious) narration. Though these flourishes are intended to serve a thematic point -- touching on the vagaries of memory and whatnot -- they often come across as a way for Polley to detach herself from her own life story. Stories We Tell is still well worth-seeing, but it's not quite as artistically provocative as it clearly wants to be.
Extras: Just the trailer.

Cockneys vs. Zombies
Empire State
The Stranger Within
The direct-to-DVD market welcomes three new titles this week, leading off with Matthius Hoene's zombie comedy, Cockneys vs. Zombies, where the title pretty much sums up the content. After the walking dead swarm the streets of London, a gang of East End toughs (including Michelle Ryan, late of the Bionic Woman reboot) fight back in a series of comically gory ways. If you're already a fan of zombies who moan and groan with an English accent (i.e. Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later), this cheeky romp will mostly satisfy your inner Anglophile. Writer/director Dito Montiel (helmer of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and The Son of No One) continues to tell authentically New Yawk crime stories with Empire State, a ripped-from-the-'80s-headlines drama about an impressionable employee (Liam Hemsworth, ineffectively taking over for Montiel's regular leading man, Channing Tatum) at an armored truck company who is tempted into ripping off his own place of employ by the no-goodnik hoods in his neighborhood. Though the story is fairly predictable, Empire State benefits from a good supporting cast (including Dwayne Johnson as a tough-talking cop) and Montiel's typically vivid feel for New York's mean streets. By this point, he's basically a B-movie version of Sidney Lumet. Finally, if you're in need of a few good laughs, the inept psychological thriller The Stranger Within, which stars Estella Warren as a mentally unstable actress and Billy Baldwin as her psychotherapist hubby, is vintage late-night Skinemax badness, filled with wooden line readings (particularly by Warren, who was never a natural actress even in her ultra-brief early '00s heyday), brain-dead plotting and random insertions of T&A. If there's any justice in the world, this will become the Sharknado of cheaply-made erotic thrillers.
Extras: Cockneys vs. Zombies sports a pair of commentary tracks and a making-of featurette. Empire State includes a commentary, deleted scenes, a making-of featurette and an interview with the guy whose story inspired the film. And The Stranger Within is sadly extras-free, but you can make up your own drinking game as a bonus.

From Up on Poppy Hill
Though primarily known for more fantastical fare like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, the Hayao Miyazaki-backed animation house Studio Ghibli has a long history of releasing reality-based, slice-of-life cartoon features as well. Ghibli's latest, From Up on Poppy Hill, joins the ranks of these more grounded titles like Only Yesterday and My Neighbors the Yamadas. Written by Miyazaki and directed by his son, Goro, this '60s-set period piece depicts the friendship between a teenaged boy and girl who attend the same high school and collaborate on a campaign to save a building that houses many of their after school clubs. In the process of getting to know each other, they discover that they might share more than just school spirit (think DNA). Boasting Ghibli's typical top-notch production values and gentle storytelling, Poppy Hill is a fine movie that never quite scales the heights of the studio's finest achievements. We'll wait and see how Miyazaki Sr.'s latest film, The Wind Rises, fares when it blows onto these shores this fall.
Extras: The original Japanese-language version is included alongside the pretty-good English dub and there's also a collection of storyboards, featurettes and a music video.

Also on DVD:
Leaving the rebooted Halloween franchise behind, Rob Zombie returns to his indie horror roots with the daffy concoction, The Lords of Salem. Before playing an intergalactic assassin in Man of Steel, Michael Shannon portrayed a more Earth-bound hitman in the small-scale drama, The Iceman. Space scavengers stumble upon world-destroying alien technology in the low-budget sci-fi action flick, Scavengers. Sopranos vet Jamie-Lynn Sigler plays a lesbian who agrees to a green card marriage with a dude in I Do. Remember back when Devon Sawa was a thing? The new-to-Blu 1999 horror comedy Idle Hands takes you back to that heady era and captures Seth Green at the height of his post-Can't Hardly Wait awesomeness.

Think you've got game? Prove it! Check out Games Without Pity, our new area featuring trivia, puzzle, card, strategy, action and word games -- all free to play and guaranteed to help pass the time until your next show starts.

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