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.
“Now You See Me”
WHAT: When a quartet of illusionists called the Four Horsemen commit a series of crimes as part of a three-show performance bankrolled by business tycoon Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) teams up with an Interpol detective (Melanie Laurent) to track them down.
WHY: It’s always nice to see an original idea like “Now You See Me” find success amid the usual summer barrage of rehashed properties (and a sequel has since been greenlit), but unfortunately, the movie doesn’t live up to its full potential. The chemistry between the Four Horsemen – played with verve by Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco – provides many of the film’s best moments, so it’s really disappointing that the actors are used so sparingly. And though Ruffalo is certainly no slouch, following his dogged FBI agent around as he tries to unravel the mystery surrounding the Four Horsemen’s elaborate magic act isn’t nearly as much fun as watching them execute it. The movie is also riddled with giant plot holes, strange story developments and one of the lamest twist endings in recent memory. After all, if you’re going to make a film about magic, you shouldn’t cheat to sell the trick.
EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary with director Louis Leterrier and producer Bobby Cohen, a making-of featurette, a brief history of magic and deleted scenes.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
“The Office: Season Nine”
WHAT: Change is in the air at Dunder Mifflin as the documentary is finally scheduled for its TV debut, leading Andy (Ed Helms) to rethink his career choices. Meanwhile, Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) experience marital problems when he lands a dream job in Philadelphia; Angela (Angela Kinsey) discovers that her marriage has been a fraud; and Erin (Ellie Kemper) hooks up with the new office temp.
WHY: Though it was one of the funnier shows on television during its first few seasons, “The Office” has gradually become less entertaining over the years, with many clamoring for NBC to pull the plug when Steve Carell exited the workplace comedy at the end of Season Seven. Instead, they decided to forge ahead without him, and if the final two seasons are any indication, that was a terrible idea. Despite some desperate attempts to plug the hole with big-name guest stars like James Spader and Kathy Bates (both of whom made Season Eight more tolerable), the writing was already on the wall by the time Season Nine rolled along. From the contrived Jim-Pam subplot, to the complete devolution of the Andy Bernard character (somehow making him more annoying in the process), there wasn’t much to love about this season apart from the well-crafted series finale. It was a bumpy ride getting there, but at least they stuck the ending.
EXTRAS: As usual, there’s a ton of bonus material on the four-disc set, including never-before-seen audition tapes, over two hours of deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes panel discussion, a blooper reel and more.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: Set over the course of several decades, the film tells the real-life story of Robert Kuklinski (Michael Shannon), a devoted husband and father of two who secretly worked as a contract killer for the mob, murdering more than 100 people before finally being arrested.
WHY: “The Iceman” had all the makings of a good film – a magnetic leading man, a great supporting cast (save for a pointless cameo by James Franco), and story almost too crazy to be true – but while it starts out well enough, it never really builds on that early promise. Instead, it seems content to follow the same generic formula of every other gangster drama, and as a result, the movie comes off dull and predictable. For a movie based on fact, it feels an awful lot like fiction, and that may be why it took so long for someone to make a film about Kuklinski’s life. While it’s definitely an incredible story, that doesn’t necessary guarantee that it’ll be interesting, and though that hasn’t stopped Michael Shannon from delivering another fine performance, it’s not quite enough to rescue the movie from the swamp of mediocrity surrounding him.
EXTRAS: There’s a 30-minute making-of featurette and a shorter, EPK-style look behind the scenes with interviews from the cast and crew.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP