Blu Tuesday: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The Call 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.

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”

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

“The Call”

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

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Movie Review: “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”

Starring
Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia
Wilde, Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini
Director
Don Scardino

In a nutshell, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” with magicians, but whatever your feelings may be about “Talladega Nights” (this writer, for one, was not impressed), keep in mind that that description serves solely as a comparison to the story structure. Each features an underdog becoming wildly successful at his craft, only to turn ridiculously spoiled and contemptuous, and then losing everything he ever held dear. The big difference is that the jokes in “Talladega Nights” are born from abuse, while “Burt Wonderstone” takes the high road. Well, for the most part.

Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have been doing magic tricks together since they were kids, and 30 years after they first met, they have become a premiere act in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, they can’t stand each other anymore, and their box office is starting to wane due to both their lack of chemistry on stage and the fact that they haven’t changed their act (or clothes) in 10 years. The duo is also feeling the heat from Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), a self-mutilating street magician who’s attracting the younger audience that Burt and Anton’s employer Doug Munny (James Gandolfini) desperately covets. After an attempt at an image makeover goes horribly wrong, Burt and Anton split up. Doug then shuts down their show, after which Burt quickly finds himself on skid row, but he finds redemption in the form of the person who inspired him to choose his path in the first place.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to March

march_preview

After suffering through the doldrums of winter, it’s encouraging to see that the quality (and selection) of movies will improve along with the weather. Though many of this month’s films probably won’t be remembered by the time summer rolls around, there are a few indie flicks with real cult potential and a pair of tentpole-type movies based on popular properties that will benefit from opening during a less competitive time of year.

“JACK THE GIANT SLAYER”

Who: Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ian McShane and Bill Nighy
What: When a young farmhand unwittingly opens a gateway between our world and a fearsome race of giants, he must fight for his kingdom and the princess he loves.
When: March 1st
Why: It’s been awhile since Bryan Singer directed a movie that I was genuinely excited about, and unfortunately, “Jack the Giant Slayer” doesn’t break that trend. Though the fantasy film sounds great in theory, the trailers don’t look very promising, particularly in regards to its uneven tone (is it for children, adults or the whole family?) and cartoonish CGI. It doesn’t even bare much resemblance to the fairy tales on which it’s based, and while the cast is filled with some great actors (Nicholas Hoult appears to be the real deal), there’s probably a good reason why the original summer release date was axed.

“STOKER”

Who: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Jacki Weaver
What: After India’s father dies, her Uncle Charlie comes to live with her and her unstable mother, only to discover that he has ulterior motives.
When: March 1st
Why: Continuing the Korean invasion that kicked off in January with Kim Ji-woon’s “The Last Stand,” Park Chan-wook’s English-language debut hits theaters in time for U.S. audiences to get accustomed to the director’s unique style ahead of the long-awaited remake of his 2003 cult hit “Oldboy.” It’s taken longer than expected for Park to export his talents to Hollywood, but “Stoker” is the perfect project if there ever was one. It’s also clear from the cast he’s assembled that the director is well-admired within the industry, and all three leads don’t seem to be holding back. Early buzz has been mostly positive, drawing comparisons to Hitchcock, and that alone should be enough to get you excited.

“OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL”

Who: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Zach Braff
What: A small-time magician with questionable ethics arrives in a magical land and must choose between becoming a good man or a great one.
When: March 8th
Why: Disney is putting a lot of faith in Sam Raimi’s “Wizard of Oz” prequel, no doubt hoping that it can reach “Alice in Wonderland” levels of success, but was anyone really clamoring for another movie? It’s not even based on any of L. Frank Baum’s novels, despite the fact that Disney owns the rights to nearly every book in the Oz series, and though it’s supposedly inspired by his works, the risk of upsetting fans of the original film doesn’t seem worth it. Then again, “Oz the Great and Powerful” is exactly the kind of franchise-ready cash cow that Disney loves to produce (i.e. “Pirates of the Caribbean”), and while it’s depressing to see Raimi wasting his talents, at least it’s in good hands.

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