This week, we begin with a little Magic: Magic Mike (***) Rated R, 110 minutes. Available Tuesday on DVD.
Although a select demographic helped make this entertaining opus successful, it can easily be enjoyed by anyone, thanks to director Steven Soderbergh’s knack for weaving gold from any subject.
Co-producer and screenwriter Reid Carolin provided the story of Mike (Channing Tatum), a construction worker during the day who turns into Magic Mike at night when he performs at the male strip club owned by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey).
Mike takes young Adam (Alex Pettyfer) under his wings, while promising his sister Brooke (Cody Horn) he will be looked after. Various other subplots play out, including romance, failed business deals, failed drug deals and more, but the film rises and falls with its entertaining, well-choreographed dance sequences.
The DVD comes in all formats and various combo packs and includes nine minutes of extended dance scenes, a dance play-mode enabling viewers to watch dance sequences sequentially, and a seven-minute “making of” featurette with bounteous cast and crew interviews.
Fear and Desire (***) and The Seafarers (***) In a joint effort from Kino Classics, the Library of Congress and the Museum of Modern Art, a team of technicians has rescued Fear and Desire (60 minutes), the first feature from master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick.
The 1953 opus has been mastered in high definition from restored archival 35 mm footage. The unrated black-and-white film highlights Kubrick’s already formidable attention to detail, with its low-budget rendering of a story of World War II American soldiers behind enemy lines. They attempt to rejoin their unit but face obstacles in the form of young women and Nazi soldiers.
Kubrick’s own photography and lean editing help the story remain engaging throughout. Perhaps for budgetary reasons, some actors take two roles in the limited cast, with future director Paul Mazursky taking one of the lead roles.
Immediately after Fear, Kubrick made The Seafarers (28 minutes), a for-hire job for the Seafarers’ Union. It marked his first work in color, and it again demonstrates his growing craft by the film’s fastidious approach to covering all the benefits offered by the union.
Both unrated films come on one disc.
The Ice House (***1/2) Daniel Craig starred in this 1997 BBC crime thriller based on Minette Walters’ novel. The future James Bond plays Andy McLoughlin, assistant detective to Corin Redgrave’s Chief Inspector George Walsh. But McLoughlin takes the center role in the clever, twist-filled story of a decomposed body that turns up on the estate of Phoebe Maybury (Penny Downie), a rich woman who shares her residence with two other women who pretend to be lesbians to ward off the local men.
The body may or may not be that of Phoebe’s husband who went missing a decade earlier and never re-appeared. A massive hunt for identity collides with hidden secrets, a resentful community, a budding romance, and an interoffice feud between the two detectives.
Not rated, 180 minutes. The DVD also contains a 49-minute featurette titled “Minette Walters on Writing a Novel.”
D.L. Hughley: Reset! This filmed live performance in New Jersey reveals Mr. D.L. Hughley as a funny, funny man. The popular comedian, one of the “Original Kings of Comedy,” riffs on all the subjects he’s for: women, politics, race, life growing up in New Jersey and more. Not rated, 58 minutes.
Nina Conti: Her Master’s Voice (**1/2) Ventriloquist Nina Conti wrote, directed and then starred in this unlikely yet entertaining documentary, of sorts, about herself, as she struggles with her desire to continue in the business, mostly while having a conversation with the monkey on her arm. She pays homage to her deceased mentor, and one-time lover, actor and writer Ken Campbell, when she travels from London to a ventriloquists’ convention in Kentucky.
Not rated, 60 minutes. In the supplements, the monkey interviews Conti, and she also performs an onstage seance.
The Heart of Christmas (**1/2) This heartwarming, fact-based story tells how a neighborhood and an entire community help a dying boy. Austin (Eric Jay Beck) and Julie (Jeanne Neilson) Locke learn their son Dax (Christopher and Nicholas Shone) has cancer and may die before Christmas. To give him one last festive event, everyone comes together to make it Christmas in October.
Not rated, 89 minutes. The DVD includes a music video for Matthew West’s Emmy-nominated song “The Heart of Christmas.”
And, as always, it looks like a good week for kids:
Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume Two This next batch of great old Warner Bros. cartoons includes 50 more favorites featuring the work of animation legends Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Friz Freleng and others. These classics make their debuts on Blu-ray and showcase some of the best of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Road Runner, Foghorn Leghorn (my favorite) and many others. Adults may appreciate the Warners’ animated skewering of once-famous movie stars Greta Garbo, Bing Crosby, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and others of the era.
Not rated, 365 minutes. The three-disc collection also offers 30-more cartoons, a related 28-page booklet, music and effects-only soundtracks on some selections, and documentaries on the timeless work of Chuck Jones and his illustrious cohorts.
My First Collection, Volume 4 featuring Robot Zot Scholastic Storybook Treasures unveils this three-disc collection filled with 12 separate stories aimed to encourage learning and creativity for those ages 2 to 6. Included are animated versions of the books Trashy Town, I Lost My Bear, The Lion and the Mouse and other favorites.
Not rated, 107 minutes. The collection also includes a sing-along option, as well as separate interviews with authors and illustrators David Shannon, Peter Brown and Jerry Pinkney.
The Adventures of Scooter the Penguin In this animated feature, Scooter, a cute little silver penguin, feels he’s an outcast. He wanders off but returns to help save his village, learning he is loved more than he ever knew. Not rated, 80 minutes.
Ghost Hunters: Season Seven, Part 2 Thirteen episodes arrive from the second part of this seventh season featuring hunters from the TAPS team. Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson investigate various sites for paranormal activity, such as an old farm allegedly haunted by a Confederate soldier, a state penitentiary active with executions, a hotel known for suicides, and others.
Not rated, 570 minutes. The collection also offers unaired footage.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Apocalypse: Hitler, Crooked Arrows, Take This Waltz