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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Movie Review: “The Bling Ring”

Starring
Katie Chang, Isreal Broussard, Emma Watson, Taissa Farmiga, Claire Julien
Director
Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola was once heralded as one of Hollywood’s most promising young directors, but over the years, she’s looked more likely to follow in the footsteps of her famous father’s recent work than his celebrated early films. After duds like “Marie Antoinette” and “Somewhere,” Coppola needed to deliver something great to get her career back on track, but while “The Bling Ring” offers an interesting commentary on America’s fame-obsessed youth culture, it’s an incredibly shallow exposé that barely skims the surface of what could have been a fascinating drama. Based on Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair article “The Suspect Wore Louboutins,” there’s no real point to the movie, unless it’s to say that stealing from B-list celebrities will make you equally as famous, in which case, isn’t it just contributing to the problem?

Though all of the names have been changed, Coppola doesn’t shy away from the fact that it’s based on a true story. If only the studio was as upfront about Emma Watson’s involvement, because despite being marketed as the star of the film, the actress plays a surprisingly small role. Instead, the story is centered on a gay outcast named Marc (Israel Broussard), who meets type-A bad girl Rebecca (Katie Chang) during his first day at a new school and is promptly taken under her wing. After wetting their feet with some petty thefts, Rebecca convinces Marc to break into Paris Hilton’s house when they read on a gossip website that she’s out of town for the night, leaving the pair free to go on a mini shopping spree of the hotel heiress’ massive wardrobe.

When they boast about how easy their conquest was to friends Nicki (Watson), Sam (Taissa Farmiga) and Chloe (Claire Julien), the group of teenage kleptomaniacs returns to Hilton’s house to indulge in their celebrity fantasies, leading to a series of burglaries in the homes of other Hollywood Hills residents like Lindsay Lohan, Megan Fox, Miranda Kerr and Rachel Bilson. (In every instance, one of the doors was either unlocked, or in the case of Hilton, a key was left under the doormat.) And since Coppola intercuts the main narrative with scenes of the rich kids preparing for their big day in court, it’s not a spoiler to reveal that they were eventually caught.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to June

june_movies

Though the summer movie season is typically reserved for the kind of big blockbuster action films that dominated theaters last month, June offers a more eclectic assortment of movies, including star-studded comedies, small indies, and yes, another helping of big blockbuster action films. From the return of Superman to the end of the world (twice), there are plenty of good reasons to get out of the sweltering heat and be entertained this June.

“THE INTERNSHIP”

Who: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne and John Goodman
What: Two salesmen whose careers have been ruined by the digital age get internships at Google, where they must compete against young, tech-savvy geniuses.
When: June 7th
Why: It’s been almost a decade since Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson teamed up for “Wedding Crashers” – which, along with “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” helped revive the R-rated comedy – so there’s a certain degree of excitement about seeing them together on screen again. Of course, “Wedding Crashers” was actually funny, whereas “The Internship” doesn’t look quite as promising. The studio clearly believes that just by reuniting the two actors, the laughs will automatically flow, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Director Shawn Levy’s previous comedies have been pretty tame in comparison to the duo’s last film, and many of the jokes in the trailer feel about five years past their sell-by date, Still, the Vaughn/Wilson reunion is simply too enticing to pass up, so I wouldn’t count out “The Internship” just yet.

“MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING”

Who: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond and Nathan Fillion
What: A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy about two pairs of lovers with different takes on romance and a way with words.
When: June 7th
Why: Most directors would take a much deserved vacation after wrapping on a movie as massive as “The Avengers,” but not Joss Whedon, who used his short break between filming and post-production on the Marvel blockbuster to shoot a modern day version of “Much Ado About Nothing” with some friends at his house. The movie is packed with familiar faces from the director’s so-called Whedonverse, with every one of his former TV shows represented in some capacity. Shot entirely in black and white, the film looks about as close to a low budget indie as you’re bound to find, but Whedon and Shakespeare are such a great fit (both celebrated for their sharp and witty dialogue) that it’s a wonder the latter didn’t attempt an adaptation of the Bard’s classic any sooner.

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