Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.
WHAT: Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carrel) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) used to be the hottest act on the Vegas Strip, but in recent years, they’ve been overshadowed by a self-mutilating street magician named Steve Gray (Jim Carrey). When the duo parts ways following a failed attempt to update their show, they must put aside their differences and compete against Gray for the chance to earn the headlining spot at their former employer’s brand new hotel.
WHY: The trailer for “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” had disaster written all over it, but much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed the film quite a bit. The movie is laugh-out-loud funny at times, and there’s not a single weak link in the cast. Steve Carell channels his inner Will Ferrell as the conceited magician, while Jim Carrey proves that he’s still got it as the Criss Angel-like villain. Even Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin and James Gandolfini (in one of his final film roles) get in on the laughs, and that’s mostly to the credit of Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daly’s amusing screenplay. Though it may seem like the movie is just making fun of magicians at their expense, it has a healthy respect for its subject matter (David Copperfield even served as a special consultant) and does a better job of showcasing the art of magic than last month’s “Now You See Me.”
EXTRAS: In addition to nearly 30 minutes of deleted scenes and alternate takes, there’s also a short magic featurette with Copperfield, footage from Steve Gray’s faux video series “The Best of the Brain Rapist” and a gag reel.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: Feeling partially responsible for the kidnapping and subsequent death of a teenage girl, 911 dispatcher Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) takes a leave of absence, eventually returning six months later in a new position as a training supervisor. But when a fellow operator receives a distress call from teenager Casey Wilson (Abigail Breslin) after she’s kidnapped and locked in the trunk of a car, Jordan jumps back into the hot seat, only to discover that the abductor is the same man from the previous incident.
WHY: The WWE logo is a strange thing to see before any movie, but especially one that stars a former Oscar winner like Halle Berry. Sadly, just when it looks like “The Call” is going to deliver a fresh take on the kidnapping genre, it switches gears and becomes another run-of-the-mill thriller better suited for VOD than the big screen. Though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the film starts to go downhill, you won’t find a more unintentionally funny scene this year than the introduction of the villain – an over-the-top Norman Bates clone who’s first seen listening to Taco’s synth-pop cover of Puttin’ on the Ritz.” It’s disappointing to see Brad Anderson’s once-promising career relegated to low-rent fodder like this, because while the director and his two stars try their best to elevate the material, their effort only goes so far before the movie crumbles into a clichéd mess.
EXTRAS: The bonus material features a little bit of everything, including deleted scenes, an alternate ending, the audition tape for actor Michael Eklund, a tour of the film’s two main sets, and a stunt featurette on the gas station sequence.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP
WHAT: Adam (Jim Sturgess) and Eden (Kirsten Dunst) fell in love as teenagers, despite the fact that they live on neighboring planets with gravities that pull in opposite directions and citizens separated by social status. Ten years after an accident results in Eden’s apparent death, Adam discovers that she’s still alive and sets out on a dangerous quest to reconnect with his true love.
WHY: Although this sci-fi spin on the classic Romeo & Juliet romance has a pretty interesting concept, the longer that writer/director Juan Solanas spends exploring the world that he’s created, the more it starts to fall apart. It doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, especially in regards to the film’s three big laws, which Solanas happily whenever bends it’s convenient for the story. That’s the easiest way to unravel any sci-fi movie, but “Upside Down” suffers from a lot more than sloppy logic. It also features two of the dullest protagonists in recent memory – especially Dunst’s Eden, who’s so poorly developed that we’re never given any reason to believe why she’s so special that someone would risk their life just to see again. The relationship between Adam and Eden is meant to provide the heart of the story, but it only exposes the film’s other flaws, which no amount of gorgeous visuals can cover up.
EXTRAS: The single-disc release contains a fairly meaty making-of featurette and a bunch of pre-production material like conceptual drawings, storyboards (including one for an alternate opening), and previz footage for three sequences.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP