Blu Tuesday: World War Z, Behind the Candelabra and More

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.

“World War Z”

WHAT: After barely surviving a zombie outbreak in his hometown of Philadelphia, former United Nations crisis specialist Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) leaves his family aboard a military vessel and heads to the other side of the world to track down the cause of the epidemic before it’s too late.

WHY:World War Z” may have gone through a battle of its own on the way to theaters – with rumors of a ballooning budget, massive reshoots and more – but you wouldn’t know it from the final product. Staged more like a socio-political thriller than a typical zombie film, even the creatures themselves are unique compared to the classic variety. Not only are they fast and twitchy, but they behave like insects, swarming together to create large, living structures in order to attack helicopters or traverse walls. It’s a really interesting, nature-based approach to the timeworn zombie mythology, and it makes the action sequences even more intense as a result. The movie is also peppered with some great actors in small supporting roles, although it’s essentially the Brad Pitt Show, who’s one of the few guys that can pull off such a star-centric performance without making it feel flashy. Fans of Max Brooks’ bestselling novel will undoubtedly be disappointed by how much was changed from page to screen, but “World War Z” is an immensely entertaining film that’s smarter than your average summer blockbuster.

EXTRAS: Though it was a missed opportunity on Paramount’s part to include the original ending (unless they’re saving it for the rumored sequel), the two-disc set boasts behind-the-scenes featurettes on the movie’s journey to the big screen, the filming of several major set pieces and more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Behind the Candelabra”

WHAT: Based on the autobiography of Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), a veterinarian who had a chance meeting with Liberace (Michael Douglas) at one of his Las Vegas shows, leading to a secretive five-year love affair with the famous piano player from 1977 to 1982.

WHY: Steven Soderbergh marked his early retirement from feature films with this long-gestating biopic about Liberace, and though it works perfectly fine as a TV movie, it’s hard to believe that it got a theatrical release in other countries. Though Douglas and Damon are both really good in their respective roles (the former is practically guaranteed to walk home a winner at this year’s Emmys), the film just isn’t as interesting as you might expect. The first half of the movie recounts the early years of the couple’s relationship, and it provides some great material for both actors, but the latter half is incredibly monotonous, devolving into movie-of-the-week melodrama that, quite frankly, is above Soderbergh and his two leads. The rest of the cast delivers solid performances, but only Rob Lowe makes much of an impact as the perpetually drugged-up plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz. Then again, the other actors aren’t given a whole lot to do, and it’s exactly this cursory treatment of the material that makes “Behind the Candelabra” feel like such a wasted opportunity.

EXTRAS: A making-of featurette with interviews from the cast and crew.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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