THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“Stories We Tell”: In this inspired film, Oscar-nominated actor-writer-director Sarah Polley investigates the secrets kept by her family of “storytellers” — an investigation mounted after she discovers that her mother had had several extramarital affairs and that her dad was not her biological father. To uncover the truth of her mom’s life — and her family — she interviews her relatives (including her four siblings) and friends of her parents and discovers differing versions of the family mythology. Present-day recollections shift into nostalgia-tinged glimpses of her mother (who died when Sarah was 11). Though “Stories We Tell” attempts to explore the elusive nature of truth and memory, and how our narratives shape and define us as individuals and families, the film gets tedious after awhile, with too many repetitive clips, and interviews that sorely needed to be edited down. And as the narrative unfolds, it becomes difficult to determine who is being interviewed and who is acting: While Polley uses actual home movie footage, she also uses reconstructions (with actors) on Super-8 film. Interesting but disappointing. From Lionsgate.
“Now You See Me”:A sleeper hit with fine acting and a fast-moving story line with plenty of twists and turns. “The Four Horsemen” (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco) are a super-team of the world’s greatest illusionists, brought together by a mysterious “patron” and booked into Las Vegas, where they put on astonishing shows of magic. They first amaze audiences by remotely robbing a Paris bank, and then expose a white-collar criminal and funnel his millions into the audience members’ bank accounts. But FBI Special Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is hot on their trail, desperately trying to catch the magicians and make them pay for their crimes — and to stop them before they pull off what promises to be an even more audacious heist. Add in an Interpol detective (Melanie Laurent) about whom he is instantly suspicious, and a famed magic debunker (Morgan Freeman), who claims the Paris bank trick was actually a meticulously planned illusion, and reality begins to change faster than you can say “Abracadabra.” A fun outing. Extras include commentary with producer Bobby Cohen and director Louis Leterrier and a “Now You See Me Revealed” featurette. The Blu-ray includes the extended director’s cut featuring 16 minutes of never-before-seen footage, “A Brief History of Magic” featurette, and deleted scenes. From Lionsgate.
“From Up on Poppy Hill”:From the legendary and highly celebrated Studio Ghibli comes a pleasant coming-of-age story from Goro Miyazaki and Hayao Miyazaki. Set in Yokohama in 1963, as Japan is picking itself up from the devastation of World War II and preparing to host the 1964 Olympics, the hand-drawn film centers on Umi (voiced by Sarah Bolger) and Shun (voiced by Anton Yelchin) and the budding romance that develops as they join forces to save their high school’s ramshackle clubhouse from demolition. A warm, loving film for kids of all ages — but definitely not as edgy as previous Studio Ghibli outings. Extras include a celebrity cast recording featurette with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, an interview with Goro Miyazaki, and a featurette about Yokohama, exploring the history of the seaside setting where the film takes place. The Blu-ray adds a staff speech and press conference by Hayao Miyazaki days after the Fukushima earthquake; and a 20-page booklet containing the original project proposal by Hayao Miyazaki. From Disney.
Also due this week: “The Iceman,” a gripping, true-life drama about notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon), who led a normal family life with a wife and daughters while murdering more than 100 men for the mob. Co-stars Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer, Robert Davi, Danny Abeckaser, Stephen Dorff and James Franco. From Millennium Films.
For collectors of old TV series, the folks over at StarVista Entertainment/Time Life have just released “Mama’s Family: The Complete Series.” From the first time the wildly-popular sketch “The Family” aired on “The Carol Burnett Show” in 1974, Vicki Lawrence has been followed by a buxom, blue-haired, purse-lipped, 65-year-old widow. This is, of course, Thelma Mae Crowley Harper, Lawrence’s indelible, abrasive and smart alecky alter ego who would eventually be spun-off into her own delightfully offbeat sitcom “Mama’s Family,” which debuted on NBC on January 22, 1983 and ran for six seasons (until 1990). Set in the fictional city of Raytown, “Mama’s Family” revolves around the eye-opening escapades of the Harper clan, headed by formidable matriarch, Mama Harper, a fiery-tempered no-nonsense woman who does not suffer fools gladly. In fact, she makes everybody suffer a little with her patented snappy retorts that truly put the “diss” in dysfunction. Across 130 30-minute episodes spanning six seasons, viewers were treated to hilarious — and sometimes heart-warming — family comedy. Adding to the mix were Mama’s journalist sister, Fran (Rue McClanahan), who lives with her; her youngest son, Vint (Ken Berry), who moves in with his two teenagers after he’s evicted; and Naomi (Dorothy Lyman), who marries Vint by Episode 4. Mama’s extended family includes her two daughters, highfalutin’ Ellen (Betty White) and high-strung Eunice (Carol Burnett), as well as Eunice’s husband, Ed (Harvey Korman). The set is comprised of 130 episodes across 24 DVDs in a collector’s set with an introductory note from Vicki Lawrence. On DVD for $199.95 from MamasFamilyDVDs.com.The set includes a collectible “Mama’s Family” album featuring character bios, a “Mama’s Family” tree, and interviews and anecdotes from cast members; 10 hours of specially-created bonus material including interviews, featurettes and much, much more.
Warner has released a new Blu-ray version of Andrew Davis’s 1993 “The Fugitive,” starring Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward, Julianne Moore, Joe Pantoliano, Andreas Katsulas, Jeroen Krabbe. Dubbed “The Fugitive 20th Anniversary Blu-ray,” the release features a new featurette, “The Fugitive: Thrill of the Chase,” with Andrew Davis, Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones and others. The original extras include an introduction by Davis and Ford; commentary by Davis and Jones; “On the Run With the Fugitive” behind-the-scenes featurette; “Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck” behind-the-scenes featurette; “The Fugitive” (2000 WB Pilot); and the theatrical trailer.