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After a couple of stacked weeks of Blu-ray and DVD releases, it’s kind of nice to sit back and enjoy just a few movies this week. From magicians to high stakes car chases, this week’s new releases are full of a bunch of oddball films that have made their way through theaters and festivals earlier this year. Read on to learn about some of June 25th’s best releases, and maybe even a few that may have slipped under your radar.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Blu-ray
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is the tale of a partnership gone awry, of magic and spectacle versus crazy and dangerous antics. The tale pokes fun at some of Las Vegas’ finest while still managing to be a film about how a person handles the big moments in his or her life, including dealing with work partnerships and maintaining lifelong friendships.
Though its trailers make the film seem like a balls-to-the-wall comedy, Burt Wonderstone is often a really thoughtful film. Early on we get to see two young kids engage with magic and invest in a partnership because of it. Years later, Burt (Steve Carell) and Anton (Steve Buscemi) are a wildly successful Vegas magician team who barely speak to one another offstage. When a new and dangerous street magician named Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) comes to town, Burt and Anton’s show is threatened for the first time.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’s comedy is, for the most part, character-based, rather than focused on quick dialogue or ridiculous situations. Carell’s Wonderstone has a typical superstar mentality, but he’s living in the past and has trouble with change. There’s plenty of humorous affect in the character, but other than one instance in a hotbox, it's never so over-the-top that wild shenanigans occur. Steve Buscemi is especially great in this movie, playing the quiet and wry straight man to Buscemi’s more vibrant personality. It’s nice to see him take a huge step away from his Boardwalk Empire character and play a man with less violent tendencies. Additionally, Alan Arkin pops up in the film, playing a character far removed from last year’s Argo performance. Arkin plays Rance Holloway, a man devoted to magic who helps the dynamic duo to get back on track.
However, it’s sort of hard to see James Gandolfini in this movie, as he is underutilized as the corporate casino owner pulling the strings when Burt and Anton’s gig is on the line. After news broke that Gandolfini had died of a heart attack earlier this week, I hoped this last big theatrical gig would feature the man going out with a bang. Instead, like Olivia Wilde’s Jane, we don’t get to see enough of Gandolfini’s character, even though he pops up frequently throughout the flick.
All in all, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone won’t keep audiences in a fit of giggle. Additionally, Don Scardino’s film isn’t breaking any barriers in comedy and it doesn’t off the best performance we’ve seen from its lead actor. However, the magician-based tale is a good story, and it’s an enjoyable and easy movie to watch—especially from the comfort of your own couch.
You can order The Incredible Burt Wonderstone over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: The deleted and alternate scenes are usually pretty good when they are a bonus feature with comedy films. However, these scenes are especially interesting this time around, thanks to how many scenes that seem to have been shot and re-shot. Improv is a big part of comedy, but the amount of content in this bonus feature shows how much extra footage was shot for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, which may mean the film had some trouble finding a direction to go. More importantly, it gives fans some extra time with the characters in the film.
Other Special Features:
“Steve Gray UNCUT”
“Making Movie Magic with David Copperfield”
The Call DVD
The Call has some problems simply due to its concept. It’s a film about a 911 operator attempting to save the lives of people who call in, and in the case of the main plotline in the movie, it follows our operator as she attempts to save a young woman who has been kidnapped. Conveniently, the kidnapped teen has a phone in her back pocket that her inept kidnapper doesn't know about. Inconveniently for the movie, this means we spend a lot of time with our two heroines while they chat on the phone.
These are problems movies like Cellular and Taken 2 have dealt with in the past, to varying degrees of success. Luckily, director Brad Anderson knows how to keep the stakes and thus the suspense high throughout the film, taking viewers on an extended car chase through a good percent of the movie. He also creates an engaging soundtrack throughout the car chase, juxtaposing fast-paced music with some much creepier stuff, including They Might Be Giants’ “Puttin on the Ritz." If this doesn’t work to give fans the heebie jeebies, some of the more visual aspects of the film will.
Our two heroines are played by Halle Berry and a now-teenaged Abigail Breslin. The former is a 911 operator who has been on edge ever since she made a mistake that cost a life during an important emergency call. The latter is an average teenager who is forced into extraordinary circumstances after being kidnapped. The two must work together to lock in the kidnap victim's location before it’s too late.
The high stakes timeframe of the film allows for fans to engage in The Call’s plot easily and quickly, but unfortunately, this pace doesn't continue into the third act, which slows the film down and goes off the rails in terms of plot. Slowing down at the climax is never particularly awesome for any film, and it’s a problem that this movie made for itself while building its script. To compensate, fans will get a ludicrous ending, but it doesn't make sense in terms of the strong and honest protagonist Berry has built. Despite this, The Call is still worth a watch for the first hour, though.
The set offers an annoyingly lengthy number of trailers before you get to the menu screen, and the DVD is not particularly impressive, either in picture quality or in bonus features. We’ve written on The Call’s Blu-ray and DVD release before, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment opted to put together a Blu-ray set featuring more extras than the DVD set, including an alternate ending and deleted scenes. Having only seen the DVD, I can’t tell you whether trading up for the Blu-ray is a great purchase, but I can tell you that the bonus features with the DVD set are lackluster.
You can order The Call over at Amazon.
Other June 25 Releases
There are plenty of re-releases and some other oddball stuff rounding out this week in home entertainment. At the top of the list is The Rambler, which stars Dermot Mulroney as a man recently released from prison who finds himself with nothing but the clothes on his back, a cowboy hat, and a penchant for wandering. The movie takes a cult film perspective and also stars Justified’s Lindsay Pulsipher and American Reunion actress Natasha Lyonne. As Anchor Bay Home Entertainment has noted, this one sold out at Sundance and SXSW and may be worth a watch for fans of Mulroney or throwback movies.
Unless otherwise noted, releases are available on both DVD and Blu-ray.
Upside Down 3D
CSI: NY – The Final Season DVD
Wild Africa 3D
Into The White
Shoah Criterion Collection
Doctor Who & The Daleks 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray