Comedy brings on ‘The Heat’
Owls Head — The Heat (20th Century Fox, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR/R, 120/117 min.). Sandra Bullock is on a bit of a roll, having won an Oscar for “The Blind Side” and being touted as an early Oscar favorite for her work in “Gravity,” now showing in theaters. In between comes this often raucous, and yes potty-mouthed, comedy, co-starring Melissa McCarthy, who starred in director Paul Feig’s “Bridesmaids,” earning an Oscar nomination for her work.
Bullock plays uptight FBI agent Sarah Ashburn, a veteran of 12 years with great instincts on solving cases, and attention to detail, but who is universally disliked for her superior attitude. When a possible promotion opens up, her superior says that while she may be suited for the job, no other agents like her and there are complaints about her arrogance and showmanship. Ashburn is sent to Boston to work a drug case, and there she is paired with McCarthy’s hilarious Boston cop Shannon Mullins, a foul-mouthed, do-it-her-way force of nature. We first meet Mullins in a hilarious bit in which she takes down a would-be john (cameo by Tony Hale) and stumbles on low-level drug dealer Rojas (Spoken Reasons -- yup, that is his name), who happens to be involved in the same drug chain as the kingpin Mullins is after.
Plot-wise, there really is not anything new here, but the two actresses play well off of each other and the film is a lot of fun. Michael Rapaport plays Mullins’ brother Jason, just out of prison after she sent him there to save his life. Then, there is the whole dysfunctional Mullins clan, headed by Mom (Jane Curtin), that has a couple of hilarious scenes that really are aside from the pain plot. Marlon Wayans plays Levy, an FBI agent at the Boston office. The film does set up the possibility of an ongoing series of films, which I would be onboard for.
The Blu-ray disc has a ton of extras, including four audio tracks. The three-minute-longer unrated version has commentary by Feig; there is a reunion of the original Mystery Science Theater 3000 cast on a separate commentary; and the theatrical version has two commentary tracks of its own. One features McCarthy, Feig, screenwriter Kathy Dippold and others in a party-like atmosphere; the other features the cast that makes up the Mullins family, including Curtin, who stays in character. Other extras including more scenes with the Mullins family (9:20); 11 deleted scenes (10:12); physical bloopers (6:31); outtakes of McCarthy’s “police brutality” (6:43); a gag reel (15:41); outtakes featuring the supporting cast (7:44); extended scenes (14:45); alternate scenes (3:41); and a making-of feature (19:44). Grade: film 3.25 stars; extras 3.5 stars
Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it
The Internship (20th Century Fox, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR/PG-13 (130/125 min.). I was expecting funnier from this repairing of stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, who sparked together in “Wedding Crashers.” Nonetheless, it is a decent enough movie and shows an inside look at the Google campus in Mountain Valley, California. Vaughan also is listed as a producer and co-wrote the script.
Vaughn plays Billy McMahon and Wilson is Nick Campbell, both watch salesmen; however, as everyone checks the time on their cell phones, it appears watches are no longer needed and their boos (John Goodman as Sammy) shuts down the company without even telling them. They learn the bad news from a client; then the next day, they get their walking papers. While Nick attempts a job in a mattress store (a typically forced raunchy performance by Will Farrell as his boss; easily could have and should have been cut), Billy signs them up for a shot at a Google internship, not caring that they know absolutely nothing about computers.
At Google, they make the initial cut, after turning being miniaturized and put into a blender into a positive. Their biggest supporter is Lyle (Josh Brener), who later turns out to be their team captain, as they are grouped with the others no one else chose: cynical Stuart (Dylan O’Brien of MTV’s “Teen Wolf”); Asian-American Yo-Yo Santos (Tobit Raphael), who is afraid of his mother; and Neha (Tiya Sircar), an Indian-American with a hidden wild side. The plot is as you would expect, with the older guys eventually winning over the rest of the team through their life experiences and, of course, a wild night out at a strip club. During the internship, the various teams compete against each other in both tech problems and physical events, the most fun of which is the Quidditch match, but even that follows a tired-old-script of falling behind early, bug rallying halftime speech and, ultimately, victory being wrested away at the last second. Nick is given a potential love interest in Google employee Dana (Rose Byrne) and they do have some good moments together, including a warm and fun dinner. Aasif Mandvi plays Mr. Chetty, who runs the internship program, and he is another plus in the film.
Extras include eight deleted scenes (Blu-ray exclusive; 8:26, including two with Tom Lennon as the foreclosure notice guy and one pretty funny); a 17:52 documentary on filming the Quidditch match in Atlanta’s 105-degree heat; and audio commentary by director Shawn Levy. Grade: film and extras 2.75 stars
Dracula: The Dark Prince (Lionsgate DVD, R, 100 min.). What is an old pirate doing in a Dracula film? Wait, that’s not an old pirate; it is Jon Voight playing Leonardo Van Helsing with an extremely long mustache. Voight’s appearance, unfortunately, is about the only surprising thing in this rather trite film. In the lengthy prologue, which effectively uses comic book-style animation every now and then (helps with the budget, no?), we get the background in which Dracula, Prince of Wallachia, loses his kingdom and woman when his advisors strike behind his back as he is battling the Ottoman-Turks in 1453. Dracula turns to the dark side and somehow gains immortality (not clear on what led to that).
Now it is 100 years later and Crusader Alina (Kelly Wenham), a dead ringer for Dracula’s lost love, is carrying the Lightbringer to Van Helsing. There is lots of background garbage about Cain and Abel and the weapon being made from their bones and only able to be wielded by a blood descendent, who just happens to be the thief Lucian (Ben Ronson) that Alina runs into. Dracula is played by Luke Roberts of TV’s “Beauty and the Beast.” The film has a decent look, especially the CGI castle, and the Romanian locations help, but the story brings little new to the table. Currently a Wal-Mart exclusive, the DVD includes audio commentary by director Pearry Teo; eight minutes of cast interviews; and a brief look at creating the castle (1:38). Grade: film 2 stars; extras 1.5 stars
Europa Report (Magnet, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 90 min.). Inspired by such, at least in part, technical-based space films as “2001: A Space Odyssey,” writer Philip Gelatt and director Sebastian Cordero use a very technical approach to this film in which a six person crew is sent to Europa, a moon of Jupiter, to see if there are any signs of life underneath its frozen oceans. Six months into the mission, a solar flare causes the crew to lose contact with Earth and an accident, while trying to fix the problem, costs one life. The mission continues and, 16 months later, they land on Europa, where they meet with more tragedy and some outstanding success. The film is presented as a cut-up compilation of recorded scenes onboard the space ship, so the time element often jumps about.
The crew includes Christian Camargo as science officer Daniel Luxembourg, Anamaria Marinca as pilot Rosa Dasque, Michael Nyqvist as chief engineer Andrei Blok, Daniel Wu as captain William Xu, Sharlto Copley as engineer James Corrigan and Kaolina Wydia as marine biologist Katya Petrovna. Again, the approach is very technical and you feel like you could be watching a real mission. Most of the drama comes at the very end, which might make some viewers impatient. Bonuses include a look at the visual effects (6:37); a behind-the-scenes photo gallery (you see men clothed in green holding up the actors for the weightlessness scenes); and a look at composer Bear McCreary and the score (5:41). Grade: film 3.25 stars; extras 2 stars
Drug War (Hong Kong, Well Go USA, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 107 min.). In many ways, also a very technical film, you feel like you are part of the police crew trying to bring down a drug ring in the latest film from director Johnnie To, master of the Hong Kong crime thriller. Two roles are central to the tale. The first is Timmy Choi (Louis Koo of “Triple Tap”), a meth manufacturer, who crashes his car into a restaurant, after escaping from the explosion of his lab, which killed his wife and her two brothers. The other is police Capt. Zhang (Sun Honglei of “A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop”), who goes along with Choi’s idea of him turning informant to capture Uncle Bill, a big-time drug distributor.
Of course, since this is China, Choi faces the death penalty (manufacturing only 50 grams of meth earns you that). Yet, as Choi brings Zhang undercover into his drug world, he bypasses a couple of chances to make a run, making his final actions a bit more confusing. Choi first brings Zhang to meet Brother Haha (played by Hao Ping as a very strange character who laughs a lot, who owns a fleet of ships). It is amazing to see Zhang take on Haha’s characterizations and voice immediately after that meeting, and the sting is underway. Eventually, we learn that Uncle Bill actually consists of seven people, including Choi’s brother and grandfather, whom he does not want to see arrested. The result is a massive shootout ending that occurs outside a primary school, just as children are entering for the day. For me, it was an unexpected action sequence -- very well done and riveting.
Along the way, we meet the two mute brothers who run Choi’s other meth factory and only communicate by sign language. There also are overly detailed early scenes where some drug smugglers are apprehended who are carrying the drugs in their intestines. There are no extras. Grade: film 3.25 stars
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965, Criterion Blu-ray disc, NR, 112 min.). John le Carre’s Cold War thriller, about a spy on one final dangerous mission in East Germany, is wonderfully adapted by director Martin Ritt. A pitch-perfect Richard Burton plays the world-weary secret agent Alec Leamas.
After an important British agent is killed in Berlin, Control (Cyril Cusack) meets with Leamas in London. Leamas is to help neutralize his East German counterpart, Mundt (Peter Van Eyck), who has been intercepting Western spies. Leamas has to become a double agent and convince Mundt's ambitious right-hand man, Fiedler (Oskar Werner), that his superior is not a man that can be trusted. Leamas gets an ordinary job in a local library, where he befriends Nan Perry (Claire Bloom), an outspoken member of the British Communist Party, who falls madly in love with him. As the film progresses, it turns darker and the lines between right and wrong blur, before turning to a more sure footing in East Berlin.
Extras include a 39-minute interview with le Carre (including the sometimes difficult on-set relationship between Burton and Ritt); a 60-minute 2000 BBC film on le Carre, his career and works; audio excerpts from a 1985 interview with Ritt (49 min.); 40 minutes of audio commentary on key scenes by cinematographer Oswald Morris; a gallery of set designs; a 1967 interview of Burton by Kenneth Tynan (34 min.); and a booklet with an essay by critic Michael Sragow. Grade: film and extras 4 stars
On the Waterfront (1954, Criterion, 2 Blu-ray discs, NR, 108 min.). A triumph all the way around, Director Elia Kazan’s film won eight Academy Awards, including best picture, best director, best actor (Marlon Brando in one of his best performances), supporting actress (Eva Marie Saint in her debut) and screenplay (Budd Schulberg, with some terrific dialogue). Brando plays tough prizefighter-turned-longshoreman Terry Malloy. Malloy must decide whether to remain loyal to the mob-connected union boss (Lee J. Cobb as Johnny Friendly) and Friendly’s right-hand man, Malloy’s brother, Charley (Rod Steiger), or to new-in-town Edie (Saint), the sister of a worker who Malloy knows was killed by the union for squealing to a commission that is investigating misdoings. A local priest, Father Barry (Karl Malden), who has been trying to organize the longshoremen and bring down Friendly's organization, helps lead Malloy to question whether keeping quiet is the right choice.
In this special edition, the film is presented in three different aspect ratios. The 4k restoration on the first disc is superb; the film has never looked better. The copious extras include a 2012 conversation between Martin Scorsese (he compares it to the Italian neorealist’ work) and Kent Jones (18 min.); a 1982 documentary of Kazan as an outsider (54 min.; Kazan, once a member of the American Communist Party, appeared as a "friendly witness" before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952 and testified against many former colleagues); a 45-minute documentary featuring four film critics and or Kazan biographers; Richard Schickel’s 2002 interview with Kazan (12 min.); a 2012 interview with Saint (12 min.); a 2012 interview with Thomas Hanley, who played a friend to Brando’s character in the film (12 min.); a 26-minute documentary with film critics discussing the classic taxi cab scene; a 21-minute look at Leonard Bernstein’s score; audio commentary by Schickel and Jeff Young, both of whom have written books on Kazan; and a booklet with an essay by filmmaker Michael Almereyda, Kazan's 1952 defense of his House Un-American Activities Committee testimony, one of the 1948 Malcolm Johnson articles that inspired the film, and a 1953 piece by screenwriter Schulberg. Grade: film and extras 5 stars