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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Performance > Magic > Satire > Mystery > Detective > Fiction > Stage > Drama > Teens > Australia > Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013/New Line/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Murder By Death (1976/Sony/Umbrella Region Four/4/PAL DVD)/Puberty Blues (1981/Umbrella/Region Free Import Blu-ray)

Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013/New Line/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Murder By Death (1976/Sony/Umbrella Region Four/4/PAL DVD)/Puberty Blues (1981/Umbrella/Region Free Import Blu-ray)


Picture: B- & C+/C+/B-     Sound: B- & C+/C/B-     Extras: C-/C-/B-     Films: D/B/B-



PLEASE NOTE: The Murder By Death Region Four PAL DVD and Poverty Blues Region Free Blu-ray may can both be ordered from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment at the website address provided at the end of the review.



Now for some comedies…



Don Scardino’s Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013) could have been a very funny film about how some funny magicians became successful and been a hit, especially with talent like Steve Carrell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde and the best work by Jim Carrey (in his sly spoof of Kriss Angel among others), but we instead get a not-so-incredible script by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley that is so bad, cookie0-cutter and flat that I can see why it faded from theaters quickly.


Not only is it everything we have seen before (including the 1980s-born but about how ‘funny’ it was to be hated and bullied and treated badly as a child) and every other cliché you can think of.  Set in Vegas, it never manages to make the city a character and it never really is able to have real fun with or show a true love for the world of performance magic, leaving it totally undermined by itself and really unfunny.  James Gandolfini also shows up and cannot save this one.


In the extras, we can see the cast was in good form in the Gag Reel, but what good is that?  We also get a DVD version, Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes-based devices, while the Blu-ray adds Steve Gray Uncut, a David Copperfield (yes, he shows up to no avail) featurette, Deleted Scenes and Alternative takes that would not have saved the film either.



Much funnier is Robert Moore’s Murder By Death (1976) which takes its subject serious and loves it, the fictional detective novel.  Written by Neil Simon, it is one of his most underrated works and this greatly realized version includes major actors sending up classic characters including Charlie Chan (Peter Sellers), Nick (David Niven) & Nora (Maggie Smith) Charles, Sam Spade (Peter Falk), Hercule Poirot (James Coco) along with Elsa Lanchester, Alec Guinness, Eileen Brennan, a young James Cromwell, Estelle Winwood, Nancy Walker and no less that Truman Capote.


It is an amazing film that deserves serious rediscovery and this new Umbrella DVD version is just a reissue of Sony’s DVD of a while ago, the same transfer, menus, extras and all, but 6that;s fine until a Blu-ray shows up.  Even if you don’t know any of the character somehow, this is still very funny and is a film that deserves serious rediscovery, starting with how funny it really is.


In it, the greatest detectives in the world are invited to a house for the weekend where they will have their talents tested by a mysterious villain who seeks revenge on all of them for some reason.


A Conversation With Neil Simon interview featurette, trailers and text on the actors are the extras.



Finally we have the Blu-ray release of Bruce Beresford’s Puberty Blues (1981) which we already covered as a DVD in a big Australian cinema set.  As noted before, this very effective teen comedy set in the time of release where a young lady (Nell Schofield) tries to fit into life, but with several complications.  Not a stuffy drama or exploitation film, it is an impressive look at then-modern life in Australia and could go a few rounds with most U.S. and U.K. films on the same subject in its realism and naturalism.  The great Tim Finn (Split Enz, Crowded House) wrote the title song and two of his Split Enz classics show up as good remakes.  Donald McAlpine was Director of Photography here and was shot in anamorphic 35mm Panavision.


It is a classic of that country’s cinema (maybe along with BMX Bandits when it comes to young female protagonist films) and comes across much better in this edition, which has expanded extras.  Interviews and trivia are carried over form the DVD (did we miss some double DVD set?), plus we now get a feature length audio commentary track with Miss Scofield and McAlpine, Photo Gallery, PDF Screenplay, PDF Press Clippings, Production Notes & general Information PDF, half-hour Rewinding Puberty Blues featurette, the Original Theatrical Trailer, Photo Gallery and on-camera interviews with Scofield and Beresford.


Now that’s an upgrade!



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Burt and Blues (mislabeled as 1.77 X 1) are the best performers on the list as expected, with Burt looking better than its softer anamorphically enhanced DVD counterpart, but still having some detail issues and color limits in its intended gaudiness.  Blues is an improvement over its PAL DVD version, but the print, restored as it is, still has some flaws.  That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Murder looking a little soft, but from a good print and retaining its fine look, but I want a Blu-ray.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Burt is dialogue-based with the surrounds not always kicking in, so the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on Blues can actually compete with it down to its music and restored, sounds good for its age and even has some warmth despite its age and budget.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the Burt DVD is weaker and has a smaller sound while the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Murder would be fine if it did not sound like it was transferred at a lower volume than it should have been, so be careful of volume switching.



As noted above, you can order the import versions of Murder By Death and Poverty Blues exclusively from Umbrella at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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