DVD reviews: 'Now You See Me,' 'The Iceman' and 'Stories We Tell'
“Now You See Me” (2013, PG-13, 115 min., $29.95) Filmmaker Louis Leterrier's latest film boasts an incredible cast — Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg and Isla Fisher have lead roles — and an exciting storyline that has a group of musicians pulling off large heists. Yeah, it sounds fantastic, but the follow through is far from great. Underdeveloped characters and lousy storytelling are hard to overcome here, even though Leterrier tries his best with flashy special effects and an annoying score. The stylish picture brings four solo magicians (Dave Franco, Eisenberg, Fisher and Harrelson) together to perform at some of the biggest venues in the world. The unusual thing about the partnership is that the crew is brought together by an unknown with plenty of connections. This guiding force has his team pulling off heists in which they take from the rich and give to the poor. Their last gig will be the toughest, as the authorities are closing in. Blu-ray buyers are treated to the best here, as that copy carries an additional cut of the film and a cool featurette on the history of magic. Commentary and a making-of featurette are available on standard DVD and Blu-ray. 1.5 Stars.
“The Iceman” (2012, R, 105 min., $28.99) Michael Shannon continues to gain acclaim as one of the better actors working today, and he proves that again with his lead role in “The Iceman.” Director Ariel Vroman's film won't be remembered as one of the best mobster movies of the past few years — the storyline gets confusing in the final act and the picture fails to finish as strong as it started — but because of Shannon's performance, it will find some devoted followers. “The Iceman” is focused on the story of contract killer Richard Kuklinski — played by Shannon — a cold-blooded murderer who claimed to have killed over 100 men. While “The Iceman” does cover Kuklinski's job as a killer, it gives equal time to him being a great family man. How does this ruthless brute go out and kill a guy, then return home to be a sweet and devoted husband and father? That's the question that Vroman's film asks of its viewers, and it's the one he tries to answer. Special features for “The Iceman” are decent, and they're available on standard DVD and Blu-ray. Two featurettes — a making-of extra and a look behind the scenes — give viewers access to the cast and crew and answers some questions about filming. 2.5 Stars.
“Stories We Tell” (2012, PG-13, 108 min., $19.98) Sarah Polley might've started out as an actress, but she's really found her niche as a director. She follows up her 2006 hit “Away From Her” and “Take this Waltz,” an under-the-radar triumph from 2011, with “Stories We Tell,” a remarkably touching documentary, that proves that the Canadian has a bright future behind the camera. In “Stories We Tell,” Polley bravely explores a dark myth about her family, and it's the rumor that she's the result of an extramarital affair her mother had when she was starring in a play away from home. It's a documentary unlike any other, as Polley explores every angle of the story, using interviews with family and friends to weigh in on what they knew about her mother. Polley also uses a Super-8 camera to shoot re-creations of the moments her mother might have had with the man who raised her and the one who was rumored to be her biological father. “Stories We Tell” should garner much attention come awards season, as it's easily one of the better motion pictures of the year. It appears the film is only available on standard DVD, and, unfortunately, it doesn't carry any special features. A Polley interview would've been nice. 3.5 Stars.
“From Up on Poppy Hill” (2011, PG, 91 min., $29.95) Japanese animation giant Studio Ghibli has another classic on its hands with this pic about a group of teens trying to find their way in 1963 Japan, as the country tries to pick itself up after World War II. Voices are provided by Jamie Lee Curtis, Aubrey Plaza, Gillian Anderson, among others.
“The English Teacher” (2013, R, 93 min., $24.95) Julianne Moore, Greg Kinnear, Lily Collins and Nathan Lane star in a sweet romantic comedy about an English Teacher — set in her ways — who is forced to switch her boring personal life around when a former star student returns to town after failing miserably as a playwright.
“The Lords of Salem” (2012, R, 101 min., $26.98) Filmmaker Rob Zombie — also the frontman for rock band White Zombie — returns with his latest horror picture, taking on the evil forces of Salem, Mass. The picture follows a radio station deejay who receives a strange wooden box that triggers flashbacks from a horrific past.
“Arthur Newman” (2012, R, 101 min., $24.95) Colin Firth, Emily Blunt and Anne Heche headline a romantic road movie about a crazy couple, not only taking on the different identities of those people they encounter in their travels, but engaging in role-playing games that take them far from home. Dante Ariola makes his directorial debut.
“Empire State” (2013, R, 94 min., $19.98) Dwayne Johnson, Liam Hemsworth and Emma Roberts lead the way in this straight-to-video action flick about two buddies who pull off one of the largest cash heists in U.S. history. With the law and some shady underground characters on their tails, the two buddies face a long road to safety.
“Slightly Single in LA” (2013, NR, 88 min., $24.98) A talented, young cast — Lacey Chabert, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Kip Pardue and Haylie Duff — takes its place in this independent picture about a young woman looking for love in Los Angeles. It isn't until Dale (Chabert) stops looking that she realizes that romance might be in her future.
“Petunia” (2012, NR, 111 min., $24.95) A young man named Charlie, coming from a screwed-up family, finally finds the love of his life, but soon realizes that someone is hiding something. Ash Christian wrote and directed this well-received flick that stars Thora Birch, Brittany Snow, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Christine Lahti and Michael Urie.
“Blancanieves” (2012, PG-13, 104 min., $29.98) Pablo Berger directed this award-winning silent film about a bullfighter who suffers a terrible injury in the ring on the same day that his wife dies during childbirth. Turned into an invalid, the bullfighter ends up marrying his nurse, an evil person who takes advantage of the situation.
“Shadow Dancer” (Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson, 2012, R, 102 min., $26.98)
“Peeples” (Kerry Washington and Craig Robinson, 2013, PG-13, 95 min., $19.98)
“No Place on Earth” (documentary, 2012, PG-13, 83 min., $26.98)
TV ON DVD
— “Scandal: The Complete Second Season” (five discs, 22 episodes, $45.99)
— “Parks & Recreation: Season Five” (five discs, 22 episodes, $39.98)
— “Da Vinci's Demons: The Complete First Season” (three discs, eight episodes, $44.98)
— “The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fourth Season” (five discs, 23 episodes, $59.98)
— “The Office: Season 9” (five discs, 23 episodes, $49.98)
— “Criminal Minds: The Eighth Season” (six discs, 23 episodes, $64.99)
— “Haven: The Complete Third Season” (four discs, 13 episodes, $39.98)
— “Ancient Aliens: Season 5, Volume 1” (three discs, 12 episodes, $19.98)
— “Sons of Anarchy: Season Five” (three discs, 13 episodes, $59.98)