DVD reviews: 'World War Z,' 'The Bling Ring' and 'Behind the Candelabra'
“World War Z” (2013, PG-13, 116 min., $30.99). Director Marc Forster's “World War Z” is yet another example of a movie being a far cry from the book it's based on. Loosely taken from Max Brooks' 2006 novel of the same name, the pic starts off with a bang, as a zombie outbreak envelops the city of Philadelphia. Gerry (Brad Pitt), a former investigator for the United Nations, and his family are trying to escape, and they end up getting a boost from one of his former co-workers. To keep his family safe, Gerry is tasked with going out to the danger spots to try to find a cure for the outbreak. “World War Z” is a decent submission to the zombie genre, and it offers plenty of action-packed thrills in a pic that puts a lot into its cinematography. Where the film falls short is its storytelling, as it tries to pack too much serious stuff into its final act. With that, it collapses under all that pressure and never sustains its remarkable opening. Special features can only be had on Blu-ray packages, as standard DVDs are empty. On Blu-ray sets, viewers will find interviews and a handful of making-of featurettes that explore key aspects of the film. Pitt — very good here — also has a key role in the extras. 2.5 Stars.
“The Bling Ring” (2013, R, 90 min., $19.98). After following up her 2003 Academy Award winner, “Lost in Translation” with a couple of lackluster pics, writer and director Sofia Coppola is back on solid footing with “The Bling Ring,” a stylish and relevant drama that's packed with unbelievable thrills. The film takes viewers inside a small group of teens who were coined the Bling Ring. These California kids would break into the homes of celebrities — including Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan and Megan Fox — when they were out of town, stealing clothes, jewelry, money and much more. Coppola does a fine job of telling the stories of these kids, and the viewer will come away with an understanding of why these crimes were committed. Additionally, Blu-ray and standard DVD packages carry some nice featurettes. Hilton takes viewers through her house on one featurette, while another gives us more info on the real-life Bling Ring. A comprehensive making-of featurette also is available. 3 Stars.
“Behind the Candelabra” (2013, NR, 118 min., $19.97). With excellent performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, not to mention top-notch direction from Steven Soderbergh, “Behind the Candelabra,” a biopic that looks at the last 10 years of legendary pianist Liberace's life, is a fantastic treat. The picture, which aired on HBO, explores Liberace's flamboyant lifestyle and his relationship with Scott Thorson, a live-in lover who spent five years with the entertainer. The flick is based on Thorson's book, “Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace.” Damon plays the role of Thorson, and Douglas is Liberace, and they're joined by Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula and Rob Lowe. The performances really set this one apart, while the awkwardness of the story won't allow viewers to turn away. This is a filmmaker and a couple of talented actors at the peak of their powers. Nominated for 15 Emmy Awards, “Behind the Candelabra” is undoubtedly one of the better films of 2013. It's just too bad it never made it to the silver screen. “Behind the Candelabra” is available on standard DVD and Blu-ray, and it only carries with it a making-of featurette. It's OK, but commentary with Soderbergh would've been nice. 3 Stars.
“The East” (2013, PG-13, 116 min., $22.98). Filmmaker Zal Batmanglij's picture follows an operative for an elite intelligence firm who's tasked with going undercover in an anarchist group to protect the wealthy interests of her employer's clients. The film is packed with talented players, including Brit Marling, Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard.
“Disconnect” (2013, R, 115 min., $19.98). Technology takes center stage in filmmaker Henry-Alex Rubin's multi-narrative picture about a group of strangers going about their own business in a wired world. Eventually, these worlds collide in this dramatic thriller that stars Jason Bateman, Paula Patton, Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Nyqvist.
“Gimme the Loot” (2012, NR, 81 min., $24.98). Adam Leon earned rave reviews as a writer and director for this feature-length film debut about two graffiti artists looking to gain some major respect in New York City. They set forth a plan to tag the homerun apple that emerges at Citi Field each time a member of the Mets homers.
“Greetings from Tim Buckley” (2012, NR, 99 min., $26.95). A young musician from Los Angeles is the focus of this film written and directed by Daniel Algrant. When Jeff Buckley (Penn Badgley) is asked to participate in a tribute concert in New York City for his late father — a famous folk singer — he is forced to deal with his doubts as a musician.
“Augustine” (2012, NR, 102 min., $29.95). A period drama set in 19th century France, this drama written and directed by Alice Winocour explores the relationship that develops between a neurologist and his star patient, a teen maid who suffers a seizure that leaves her partially paralyzed. Vincent Lindon and Soko star in lead roles.
“Drift” (2012, R, 114 min., $19.99). Myles Pollard, Xavier Samuel and Sam Worthington star in a surfing film that's based on actual events. Set in Australia in the 1970s, the picture follows the Kelly brothers, who find a niche in the business of surfing.
“Somebody Up there Likes Me” (2012, NR, 76 min., $26.95). Real-life husband and wife Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally star in an independent comedy from Bob Byington. The picture follows a fellow named Max, who stumbles through life with his best friend Sal. The original film features music from Vampire Weekend's Chris Baio.
“Bless Me, Ultima” (2013, PG-13, 106 min., $30.99). Based on a novel from celebrated author Rudolfo Anaya, this movie follows a young boy growing up in New Mexico during World War II. When a mysterious healer comes to live with his family, she teaches the boy about the spiritual world, and it opens up a whole new way of thinking.
“Simon Killer” (2012, NR, 101 min., $24.98). Talented young director Antonio Campos follows up his 2008 indie hit “Afterschool” with this neo-noir thriller about a man who takes off for Paris after a tough breakup. While in France, he develops a relationship with an alluring prostitute who makes a tremendous impact on his life.
“The Last Tycoon” (2012, NR, 107 min., $24.98). Actor Chow Yun-Fat and director Wong Jing team up for this coming-of-age drama about a Shanghai gangster who rises to the upper echelons of power. As the gangster collects more power, his decisions have more impact on the city in which he does most of his business.
“Suddenly” (2013, NR, 90 min., $14.93). Ray Liotta, Dominic Purcell and Michael Pare star in this remake of a film noir classic from 1954 which had Frank Sinatra and Sterling Hayden in leading roles. The film finds a lousy cop with an alcohol problem trying to halt an assassination attempt on the president of the United States.
NEW ON BLU-RAY
“Two Men in Manhattan” (Jean-Pierre Melville and Pierre Grasset, 1959, NR, 94 min., $39.98)
“A Letter to Three Wives” (Ann Sothern and Linda Darnell, 1949, NR, 103 min., $24.99)
TV ON DVD
“Bates Motel: Season One” (two discs, 10 episodes, $44.98)
“Grimm: Season Two” (five discs, 22 episodes, $59.98)
“Arrow: The Complete First Season” (five discs, 23 episodes, $59.98)
“Vegas” (five discs, 21 episodes, $64.99)
“Leverage: Season 5” (four discs, 15 episodes, $39.98)
“The Mentalist: The Complete Fifth Season” (five discs, 22 episodes, $59.98)
“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Thirteenth Season” (six discs, 22 episodes, $68.99)
“Haunted History” (paranormal reality presentation, two discs, six hours, $19.98)