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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, June 25, 2013

by Ethan Alter June 25, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Presenting the not-so-incredible Burt Wonderstone.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Proof positive that sometimes the funniest people can make a remarkably unfunny movie, this Las Vegas-set comedy casts Steve Carell and Jim Carrey as rival magicians (Carell is a David Copperfield type, while Carrey is more in the gonzo Criss Angel vein) whose battle of wills tests each other's magical skills and the audience's patience. Beyond the leads, Burt Wonderstone wastes the talents of co-stars like Steve Buscemi, Oliva Wilde, Alan Arkin and James Gandolfini (RIP) as well as co-writer John Francis Daley, all of whom seem to recognize on some level that this thing just isn't working, but soldier on like professionals, a glazed look of detachment in their eyes. Flat and flabby from the first scene, the film does at least allow Carell to muck about with his goody-goody screen image a bit, initially playing the titular Vegas illusionist as a giant A-hole. But the movie soon falls into the familiar self-improvement narrative that sets Burt on the path toward an unconvincing redemption -- one that once again forces Carell to romance an actress half his age, much like in Get Smart and Seeking a Friend at the End of the World. (Carell indulges his inner bad guy far more effectively in the upcoming indie comedy, The Way Way Back, which hits theaters next week.) Not only is Burt Wonderstone not incredible... it's not even halfway amusing.
Extras: 20 minutes of deleted scenes that don't make the film any funnier (or less logic-challenged), bonus footage of Carrey's faux-Criss Angel theatrics, a gag reel and a featurette in which Copperfield himself explains how the filmmakers accomplished the movie's one big magic stunt. Tattletale.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to see the cast's least magical movies

The Call
A grindhouse movie for the cell phone age, The Call finds Oscar winner Halle Berry getting her action movie heroine on as a 911 call center employee who somehow manages to field two calls from two separate women being menaced by the same serial killer. The first one doesn't end so happily, but Berry gets a second chance at being a lifesaver when the girl (Abigail Breslin) dials the three-digit number while trapped in the trunk of the murderer's car. What follows is a silly, improbable and, yes, very entertaining pursuit through the highways and side streets of L.A., with Berry talking Breslin through her kidnapping over the phone. Unfortunately, the third act reverts to a more predictable "in the killer's lair" encounter that may satisfy the audience's bloodlust (much like those old grindhouse flicks), but is a dud creatively. For a superior cell phone-themed thriller, check out 2004's Cellular which Chris Evans, Kim Basinger and Jason Statham (as the villain!), which is essentially The Call's second (and best) act stretched out to an entire movie.
Extras: A commentary track with Berry and Breslin, deleted scenes, an alternate ending and three featurettes.
Click here to read our original review

No
North Face
Had Michael Haneke's Amour not been the deserved shoo-in to win the Foreign Language Oscar at this year's Academy Awards, the Chilean film No would have made a fine alternate choice. Based on a real (and recent) slice of '80s history, the film stars Gael García Bernal as a forward-thinking advertising guru (he's like Don Draper without the alcoholism) who agrees to spearhead the "No" campaign in a direct election to decide whether dictator Augusto Pinochet will remain in power another eight years. Strong performances, a subtle screenplay and nimble, inventive direction make this a provocative and timely look at the way contemporary political narratives can be (and frequently are) shaped by advertising. Going further back in history, the German film North Face dramatizes a real-life 1936 mountaineering expedition to conquer the "Murder Wall" -- the nickname awarded the deadly North Face of the Eiger mountain in the Swiss Alps. Spurred on by a Nazi propaganda campaign designed to prove German exceptionalism, a team attempts to reach the summit, but endures one of the harshest climbs on record along the way. If Touching the Void alone wasn't enough to convince you that climbing a mountain should really be left to the professionals, give North Face a spin.
Extras: No comes with a commentary track anchored by Bernal and director Pablo Larraín and a separate Q&A with the actor. North Face includes deleted scenes and two making-of featurettes.
Click here to see our original review of No.

A Place at the Table
Pusher
Upside Down
Following VOD and limited theatrical funs, three new indie titles turn up on DVD this week. The first and most significant (in its own mind, anyway) is A Place at the Table, an extremely well-meaning documentary designed to call attention to the ongoing problem of hunger in America. Produced by Tom Colicchio and co-directed by his wife, Lori Silverbush, Table tries to make the political personal, focusing in on a few select subjects (typically mothers with young kids) who describe the challenges they face trying to put food on the table. Although the documentary covers a lot of ground in 84 minutes -- also touching on issues relating to government farming subsidies and the inequities of the current food stamps program -- it comes across as too earnest and eager to not offend. A subject that should make viewers angry instead inspires feelings of "Oh, that's a shame." Switching gears from earnest docs to earnest crime movies, Pusher is a British remake of the 1996 movie by Nicolas Winding Refn a.k.a. the dude who made Drive. An enjoyable, but derivative Tarantino riff, the original Pusher is mainly notable for inspiring two superior sequels released in 2004 and 2005 respectively. The remake, which was directed by Luis Prieto with Refn's blessing, is similarly competent without being particularly memorable. Stick with the original, if only as background for Pusher 2 and Pusher 3 (the best of the bunch). Finally, the sci-fi drama Upside Down is based around a single gimmick, but boy, is it a neat gimmick: in an alternate universe, there's a pair of planets that exist one on top of the other with opposing gravitational fields. Travel between the two worlds is possible, but strongly discouraged by the dictatorial corporation that monitors the all traffic back and forth. Leave it to two young lovers -- with the eyeroll-inducing names Adam (Jim Sturgess) and Eden (Kirsten Dunst) -- to challenge the status quo, finding a way to continue their romance in a literally topsy-turvy world. The visual imagination and effects work on display is very impressive throughout. Too bad they are in service of such a bland, boring narrative. Still, I wouldn't say no to a sequel if only to see how another storyteller might use this unique world for more than just another Romeo and Juliet re-telling.
Extras: A Place at the Table includes a commentary track with the directors and Colicchio, deleted scenes and interviews, additional cast and crew Q&A's and three featurettes. Pusher comes with a making-of featurette and interview with the actors and filmmakers. Upside Down offers deleted scenes, early sketches, additional storyboards and three featurettes.

At Long Last Love
Help!
Released to terrible reviews and dismal box office in 1975, Peter Bogdanovich's much-maligned Cole Porter musical At Long Last Love, starring Cybill Shepherd and Burt Reynolds, is finally receiving its first-ever DVD release in a director-approved version that, funnily enough, didn't originate with the director. Bogdanovich himself had taken two passes at the film -- one for its theatrical release and another for its television version -- and came away dissatisfied both times. Somewhere along the line, completely unbeknownst to him, an employee at the studio had edited together an alternate version that was put into circulation on television and later Netflix, where Bogdanovich saw it and pieced together what had happened. That's also the cut that's on this new Blu-ray disc and while it doesn't reveal Love to a lost classic, it is a modestly entertaining retro-feature that benefits from those great Porter tunes as well as a spirited supporting turn by the late, great Madeline Kahn. But if you can only buy one high-def movie musical make it Help!, the second collaboration between that mop-topped Fab Four and director Richard Lester. While messier and less focused than its predecessor, A Hard Day's Night, Help! does go on some wild flights of fancy (such as the adventures of a microscopic Paul on the floor of the group's bachelor pad) and arguably features a better crop of Beatles standards, from the title track to "Ticket to Ride" and "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away." Above all, it features Paul, John, George and Ringo at the zenith of their clean-cut early '60s fame, just before they crossed over into more psychedelic, hippie-ish territory. Help's release also means that four out of five vintage Beatles vehicles (Night, Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine being the other three) are available on Blu-ray. Time for Let it Be to finally be freed from the Apple archives to complete the set.
Extras: At Long Last Love is a bare-bones release, while Help! comes with a 30-minute making-of documentary, a deleted scene, a featurette about the restoration process and vintage trailers and radio spots.

Also on DVD:
Rupert Grint trades his Hogwarts wand for a pair of aviator glasses in the World War II flyboy adventure, Into the White. Before the release of The World's End later this summer, catch up on the first two installments of Edgar Wright's "Cornetto Trilogy" Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz in new Steelbook case editions. Finally, David Duchovny and Ed Harris square off Crimson Tide-style in the submarine thriller, Phantom.

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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