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RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and More

Halle Berry takes a phone call, Ed Harris commands a sub, and Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst fall head over heels for each other, literally.

by | June 25, 2013 | Comments

This week on home video, we’ve got a wacky comedy about Las Vegas magicians, an abduction thriller, and a star-crossed sci-fi romance. Then, we also have a Cold War submarine movie, a smart historical drama, and a number of Blu-ray “steelbook” rereleases. See below for the full list.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

38%

On paper, the idea of casting Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi as partners in a Vegas magic act sounds like a winning proposition. Throw in Jim Carrey as a dark, Criss Angel-like street magician, Alan Arkin as a retired illusionist, and Olivia Wilde as the lovely assistant with a few tricks of her own — as well as a brief supporting turn from the late James Gandolfini — and it boggles the mind how The Incredible Burt Wonderstone ended up with a 37% Tomatometer. Carell plays the titular Burt, who forged a lifelong friendship with another awkward kid when the two of them discovered magic. Now, as Burt and his partner Anton (Buscemi) struggle to keep their stale Vegas act relevant, Burt’s inner diva drives the two friends apart, and he must return to his roots in order to make a triumphant comeback. Burt Wonderstone has a few laughs, but most critics were hoping for something a little sharper than what it had to offer. The premise is rich with potential, but the story opts instead to play it safe, and the end result is disappointingly tame and predictable, considering the talent involved.

The Call

44%

Director Brad Anderson has proven in the past that he’s capable of crafting effective tension and smart thrills, with films like Session 9, The Machinist, and Transsiberian. Critics say his latest film, the Halle Berry-powered The Call, almost gets it right before falling apart. Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) used to field 9-1-1 calls for the LAPD, but after a tragic kidnapping gone wrong, she opted to train others instead. When another abducted teenager (Abigail Breslin) calls from the trunk of a car, Jordan instinctively jumps on the call and soon finds she may be facing someone from her past. Critics say Anderson does a fairly decent job of ratcheting up the tension, but the plot is ultimately so implausible — especially the final act — that it loses much of its steam. At 41% on the Tomatometer, The Call has a few nice touches from a genre veteran, but it may not hold up under scrutiny.

Upside Down

28%

Lately, Jim Sturgess seems to be drawn to ambitious sci-fi projects like last year’s epic Cloud Atlas and, more recently, Upside Down, a story about star-crossed love that takes place on twin planets that exist so close to each other that their inhabitants experience dual gravity. Here, Sturgess plays Adam, an orphan from the poorer “Down” planet who meets and falls in love with Eden (Kirsten Dunst), whose wealthier “Up” planet prohibits interaction with those from Down. When tragedy separates the young couple from each other, Adam spends his time perfecting a product that will equalize gravity between the two planets and potentially reunite him with his lost love. If the physics of it all seems a little difficult to wrap your head around, that’s alright; the film is clearly less interested in how scientifically plausible its concepts are. Unfortunately, critics mostly thought that Upside Down‘s script left quite a bit to be desired as well; at 29% on the Tomatometer, there’s plenty of visual wizardry on display here, but little else in the way of effective drama or characters to provide a compelling reason for the spectacle.

No

93%

Chilean director Pablo Larrain has found great success setting his previous films (Tony Manero, Post Mortem) against the backdrop of his country’s civil unrest during the Augusto Pinochet era. With his latest feature, No, Larrain delves directly into the politics of Pinochet’s rule, setting the story in 1988, just before the end of the dictator’s reign. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Rene, an ad man who’s approached by anti-Pinochet activists to help market their campaign; with government authorities pressuring him and his family, Rene puts together a daring proposal in hopes of ousting the dictator and bringing democracy to Chile. Though it only saw a fairly limited release, No earned glowing reviews from most critics, who called it a smart, surprisingly funny, and poignant film that provides a perspective on democracy not often explored. Don’t let its historical context deter you; Certified Fresh at 92%, No is a thoughtful drama that further cements Pablo Larrain’s credentials as a solid filmmaker.

Phantom

25%

The tagline for Cold War submarine thriller Phantom is “You’ll Never See It Coming,” which is ironically appropriate since hardly anyone watched it, and most of you reading this probably forgot it even existed. Inspired by a true story (aren’t they all?), Phantom stars Ed Harris as Captain Dmitri “Demi” Zubov, commander of a Soviet nuclear sub, who takes on one final top secret mission before retirement. When a shadowy KGB agent (David Duchovny) accompanies his crew and ultimately reveals the nefarious true purpose of the operation, Demi must retake control of the vessel in order to avert an all-out war. Despite a solid cast, which included supporting turns by Lance Henriksen and William Fichtner, Phantom was content to retread familiar themes from other, better films of its ilk (The Hunt for Red October, Crimson Tide, etc). The story lacks the necessary tension and taut narrative to make for an engaging thriller, and so it sits at a mediocre 25% on the Tomatometer.

Also available this week:

  • In the Family (96%), a drama about a gay man who must make peace with his “in-laws” when his partner dies in an accident and the extended family is given custody of his son.
  • The Certified Fresh A Place at the Table (89%), a documentary examining hunger issues in the US.
  • Supporting Characters (86%), an indie comedy about two film editors who find their relationships tested when they’re hired to recut a botched film.
  • Edgar Wright’s recent trio of feature film successes is among this week’s Blu-ray “Steelbook” reissues: Shaun of the Dead (91%), Hot Fuzz (91%), and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (81%).
  • The Criterion Collection releases another important film: French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann’s unflinching Holocaust documentary Shoah (100%), which also includes three additional films by Lanzmann, a few interviews, and other extras.
  • Some of the other notable Blu-ray Steelbook releases out this week include: the Firefly movie Serenity (82%), Brian DePalma’s Scarface (89%), and the Beatles’ Help! (91%).

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