New to DVD and Blu-ray: Male Strippers in ‘Magic Mike,’ and the ‘End of the World’
New on DVD, Blu-ray and streaming this week, one of the year's surprise best films comes home to show off its assets, while love and politics get complicated.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh and inspired by the real life of star Channing Tatum, 'Magic Mike' wound up as one of the surprise hits of the summer, as sexy men sexy dancing to sexy songs captivated an audience out for a good time... and made money hand over fist at the box office. The home video release, though, may be sold on the sizzle (there's a sticker on my copy advertising "Extended Dance Sequences," for but one example), but the movie still has plenty of juicy steak to go with the sell. Tatum and Alex Pettyfer star respectively as an experienced male exotic dancer and his protégé, who each learn some hard truths about workin' for a living when you sell your body. Soderbergh is, as ever, at the top of his game or anyone else's, and the most magical thing about 'Magic Mike' is how the fun and the flesh and the flash hide a real movie about work in America.
I know many viewers who admired this film but were also infuriated by it; that kind of strong reaction should tell you that 'Take This Waltz' is as brilliant as it is tough. Young married Michelle Williams meets her next-door neighbor, Luke Kirby, and can't figure out why her safe-but-stolid marriage to Seth Rogen keeps slipping her mind as her conversations turn to flirting turn to much more. Brilliantly directed and written by actress and director Sarah Polley ('Dawn of the Dead,' 'Away from Her'), 'Take This Waltz' features Oscar-level acting from Williams, as well as an honest and tough look at love, desire and true feeling. With a limited life on the big screen, this movie could have slipped away, and this release is the best chance to catch up with it. Anyone interested in seeing one of our best actresses in her best ever role would do well to find, and watch 'Take This Waltz.'
One of the most funny (and scary) documentaries of the year begins as journalist and film maker Mads Brugger acquires a cash-and-carry title as an "Ambassador" to the Central African Republic. There's some dark humor in the circumstance -- "If the Congo is the heart of darkness," Brugger notes, "the Central African Republic is the appendix of it." But there's also real peril, as Brugger secretly tapes conversations with shadowy fixers and men who can get you any title of responsibility with cold, hard cash. The home video release contains a full commentary from Brugger as well, detailing the facts behind his fantastic journey of brazen lies, outright corruption and political upheaval for fun and profit. Playing like a mix of Stephen Colbert, 'Borat' and 'Blood Diamond,' 'The Ambassador' is one of the strangest, funniest and truly riskiest films of the year, where the laughs come with the threat of death or disaster. ...
A warm and winning comedy with a big, blockbuster premise, 'Seeking a Friend For the End of the World' looks at unhappy neighbors Steve Carell and Kiera Knightley, as they -- and everyone else in the world -- get ready for the death of the entire planet at the hands of a space rock in a few weeks. The sprawling cast is a lot of fun -- T.J. Miller, Patton Oswalt, Melanie Lysnkey, Gilian Jacobs, Rob Corddry and many more. At heart, though, it's the chemistry of Steve Carell, a sad sack even at the end of days, and Keira Knightley, an optimist even in the face of armageddon, that makes the film as good as it is. Lone Scafaria (writer of 'Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist') makes her directorial debut here, and for all of the crazy antics implied by the plot, it's also a sweet and strange romance about second chances as the seconds dwindle.