On-campus antics

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Disney-Pixar
Sulley (voiced by John Goodman) and Mike (Billy Crystal) major in scaring in “Monsters University.”
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Higher ed for monsters, goofy version of Google figure into flicks

This week, we begin at the university:

Monsters University

3.5 stars

Rated G, 103 minutes.

Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray and in various download formats.

Disney-Pixar’s computer-animated treat, a prequel to their earlier hit Monsters, Inc., again takes up the high jinks of cuddly monsters Mike Wazowski (voice of Billy Crystal) and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman).

The story follows the two friends when they first meet at Monsters University. They prove so competitive, they end up being expelled before finally deciding to work together.

Helen Mirren voices the school’s Dean Hardscrabble, and Alfred Molina is Professor Knight. Other voices are supplied by a distinguished group, including Steve Buscemi, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, Nathan Fillion, Aubrey Plaza and others. And Randy Newman contributes one of his inimitable music scores.

Monsters University comes in all disc formats, downloads and combo packs. The abundant supplements include commentary, four deleted scenes, and around nine “making of” featurettes, covering the challenges of creating a prequel, a look at the university, Newman’s music and more.

*

The Internship (2.5 stars) Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson team up again in this buddy comedy that hopes to rekindle some of the zany magic of their 2005 hit Wedding Crashers. The results prove lukewarm, however, as the two struggle under Vaughn and Jared Stern’s script, from a story by Vaughn, that is meant to draw laughs from the fish-out-of-water scenario but feels noticeably light on the laughs.

Vaughn and Wilson play two hapless salesmen left adrift when their company goes under. They then have the brilliant idea of applying for an internship at Google, which they hope might lead to a job. They are somehow selected and find themselves competing with a large group, all better educated, smarter and about half their age. But of course they use their wily smarts to succeed in various contests, all while a romance flickers between Wilson and Rose Byrne.

Supporting help comes from The Daily Show connections Aasif Mandvi, Josh Gad and Rob Riggle. The party that comes out looking best, not surprisingly, is Google.

The DVD comes with two versions of the film, unrated (125 minutes) and PG-13 (119 minutes). The disc includes commentary with director Shawn Levy, eight minutes of deleted scenes, and an 18-minute “making of” featurette, “Any Given Monday.”

*

The Beauty of the Devil (3.5 stars) In 1951, Rene Clair, prolific French director and one-time World War I ambulance driver, helmed this lively take on the Faust legend. The film had been more recently overlooked but has now been gratefully recovered and remastered for issue by the Cohen Film Collection.

Clair, who loved to work in the fantasy genre, benefited here from the presence of aged French icon Michel Simon in the role of Professor Faust, who barters his soul to the devil for money, success and prolonged youth. Popular French actor Gerard Philipe takes the role of the reimagined youth who finds himself in constant dilemmas and love affairs, all while being guarded and watched by his hovering devil, Mephistopheles.

Clair came to America during World War II and directed two hits, I Married a Witch and And Then There Were None, both delightful successes that still hold up today.

Not rated, 97 minutes. The DVD contains Pierre-Henri Gibert’s excellent 50-minute documentary on Clair, Through the Looking Glass with Rene Clair: Master of the Fantastic.

*

Funeral in Berlin (3 stars) and Elephant Walk (2.5 stars) The Warner Archive Collection releases two unrated titles worth looks for various reasons.

The 1966 espionage-caper Funeral in Berlin (102 minutes) followed 1965’s The Ipcress File, the first of Len Deighton’s Cold War novels featuring Michael Caine as Harry Palmer, an often obstreperous employee of England’s MI5. Palmer’s boss sends him to Berlin to help bring a defecting Russian officer (Oscar Homolka) to safety.

But once there, Palmer becomes mixed up with various intrigues, including, of course, a beautiful woman (Eva Renzi) and even a former Nazi concentration camp officer gone into hiding. Director Guy Hamilton took time off from his many James Bond films to render a methodical, cool piece of deceit and bountiful double-crosses.

The 1954 film Elephant Walk (102 minutes) remains notorious for several reasons. The film began with Vivien Leigh in the lead female role. For various health problems, she was replaced by 21-year-old Elizabeth Taylor. Also, the film’s ending called for a herd of elephants to destroy the Ceylon (Sri Lanka) plantation known as Elephant Walk. But, being elephants, they refused to follow their cues, leading to an escalated budget and a delayed shooting time for veteran director William Dieterle.

The film is based on Robert Standish’s melodramatic novel about a tea plantation owner, John Wiley (Peter Finch), who travels to London to marry and bring back his new wife, Ruth (Taylor). The charm she saw in London dwindles away as John resorts to his plantation-owner mentality, bossing his wife along with the servants.

Before long, Ruth begins responding to the attentions of John’s manager, Dick Carver (Dana Andrews). Domestic squabbles, a cholera epidemic and thwarted love play out somewhat desultorily until the culminating scene when the elephants finally take over.

*

And finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Complete DVD Collection Fix yourself a drink, or two, light up a cigarette, and then — and this is the important part — look very, very relaxed. Only with such preparation will you then be ready to watch Dean Martin in his role as host in 53 roasts of an all-star celebrity group. He also sits for a roast himself.

Appearing on television from 1973 to 1984, the shows sat down some strange targets, such as the first, Ronald Reagan. Also included among the odd participants were Barry Goldwater, Wilt Chamberlain, Hubert Humphrey, Truman Capote, Hank Aaron, Evel Knievel, Ralph Nader and others. But some more fitting names catch the eye: Johnny Carson, Don Rickles, Jack Benny, Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, Frank Sinatra and others.

The affairs played on network TV and lacked the venom seen in the modern Comedy Central roasts. But the roasters included some of the best comics then working, thereby proving unfailingly hilarious.

The set comes on 24 discs and also includes an additional 15 hours of supplements, including new interviews, Dean Martin specials, a 44-page collector’s book and much more. And included for the serious Dino fan is a 7.5-inch Dean Martin figurine.

*

Also available Tuesday on DVD: Harlequin, R.I.P.D.


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