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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Want more bang for your DVD buck? Cloud Atlas offers six movies in one.

Cloud Atlas
It seemed like an impossible task: adapting David Mitchell's intricate, era and genre-spanning novel Cloud Atlas into a feature film. And, to be perfectly honest, Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer didn't completely pull it off. In bringing the movie to the screen, this trio of friends and filmmakers made several key narrative and structural decisions (most notably cutting between the six separate stories that constitute the book instead of placing them alongside each other) that blunts some of the emotional and thematic impact of Mitchell's book. At the same time, though, the simple fact that they got this movie made and that it moves as fluidly as it does is pretty damn impressive. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry head up the large ensemble cast of men and women who move in and out of each other's lives as the timeline stretches from the 19th century through the present day and on into a distant dystopian future. (Not surprisingly, the Wachowskis directed the futuristic segments and once again demonstrate their mastery of sci-fi spectacle.) Even at a super-sized three hours, the movie isn't long enough to fully capture every nuance of Cloud Atlas, but you won't see a handsomer, more ambitious Cliffs Notes movie version of a terrific book this year.
Extras: Seven making-of featurettes exploring both the novel and various aspects of the film's production.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to see our picks for other unlikely book to film translations

Texas Chainsaw
By this point, the long-running The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has been through more reboots and revisions than your average comic book series. This 3D-enhanced installment, titled simply Texas Chainsaw, abandons the continuity of the 2003 reboot and its 2006 prequel and instead returns to the timeline established by Tobe Hooper's 1974 original. Picking up moments after that movie concludes, director John Luessenhop opens with the members of Leatherface's crazy extended family being executed by an angry posse of Texas rednecks. An infant girl survives the carnage, and -- decades later -- she's grown up into a busty grocery store wage slave (Alexandra Daddario) who is invited to return to the homestead she has no memory of, bringing her obnoxious, horny friends (including Tania Raymonde a.k.a Alex Rousseau from Lost) along for the ride. And guess what... actually, make that who she finds there? A generic C-movie all the way, Texas Chainsaw is at least relatively efficient and professional in its bloodshed. It's slick, gory and completely forgettable -- more focused on keeping the brand name alive, than in making a movie on par with the 1974 film.
Extras: Multiple commentary tracks (including one with Hooper, who has given this sequel his full support), an alternate opening and seven featurettes.

Frankie Go Boom
How could a comedy starring Charlie Hunnam, Chris O'Dowd, Lizzy Caplan and Ron Perlman go wrong? Here's how. Hunnam plays the title character, the handsome, but socially maladjusted Frankie, who is still reeling from from the childhood humiliations he endured at the hands of his obnoxious brother, Bruce (O'Dowd). And Bruce isn't done with Frankie yet, filming a sloppy one-night stand his bro shares with the wacky daughter (Caplan) of a drug addict (Noth) trying to kick the habit. It's a wacky plot that demands a lighter touch than director Jordan Roberts demonstrates here. Instead, the film gets off on the wrong foot within the first five minutes and just gets more tortured as it goes along, as Roberts plays comic beats too broadly and can't help his talented cast locate the balance between likable eccentricity and aggravating cartoonishness. It's an easy lay-up, but Boom is a real bomb.
Extras: Deleted scenes, alternate takes and two featurettes.

Crimewave
The Great Escape
One Hour Photo
A trio of distinguished catalogue titles make their Blu-ray debuts this week, leading off with Sam Raimi's little-seen 1985 sophomore feature Crimewave, which he made after The Evil Dead became a breakout cult hit. Interestingly, Crimewave is a better representative of a typical "Sam Raimi film" than his debut, as it fuses the violence of the horror/thriller genre with a healthy dose of comedy. The silly plot is set in motion when a seedy businessman hires a pair of remarkably dumb hitmen to off his partner, a plan that backfires in spectacular fashion. (If it sounds vaguely similar to Blood Simple and Fargo, that may be because Raimi co-wrote the movie with a certain pair of brothers with the last name Coen.) Audiences didn't bite at the time, but today Crimewave looks pretty ingenious -- a signpost pointing to where Raimi would excel later in his career. (At least, prior to his current incarnation as a director-for-hire of blockbusters like Oz: The Great and Powerful.) Despite celebrating its 50th birthday this year, the John Sturges-helmed prison break classic The Great Escape doesn't feel a day over 25. Steve McQueen heads up a stellar cast that includes James Garner, Richard Attenborough and Charles Bronson as a group of World War II POWs who concoct a grand, unlikely plan to flee their prison camp and head for the safety for Allied territory. Although the actual great escape is unquestionably the highlight of the film, the post-prison break second half is pretty terrific as well as the tone shifts from jaunty caper movie to a darker, more tension-filled survival tale as favorite characters don't always meet the happiest of ends. If you only know The Great Escape for its catchy theme song, it's well-past time to see the movie it accompanies. Finally, music video director Mark Romanek gave Robin Williams one of his most memorable dramatic roles in the 2002 thriller One Hour Photo, which casts the one-time Mork from Ork as a creepy photo lab technician (remember those?) who starts to feel like a part of the handsome family whose pictures he frequently develops. Although the movie flatlines dramatically in the third act, Williams delivers a remarkably restrained performance throughout. Might be time for a career resurrection, hmmm?
Extras: Crimewave includes a commentary track with Raimi regular Bruce Campbell, who co-stars in the film, as well as the original theatrical trailer. The Great Escape features a commentary track with Sturges and 8 retrospective featurettes. One Hour Photo comes with a Romanek-curated gallery of bonus features, ranging from a commentary track to footage from location scouts, cast rehearsals, a Charlie Rose show interview and additional featurettes.

Also on DVD:
The popular 1957 Western 3:10 to Yuma gets the Criterion treatment, while the 1982 courtroom drama The Verdict -- which boasts some of Sidney Lumet's finest direction, one of Paul Newman's finest performances and David Mamet's finest screenplays -- scores a new Blu-ray edition with a fine featurette focusing on Lumet's underappreciated craft. Also turning up on high-def is Marlon Brando and Elia Kazan's pre-On the Waterfront collaboration, Viva Zapata! and the Robert Redford prion picture Brubaker. The Henry Fonda Collection assembles 10 films from the screen legend's career, including The Grapes of Wrath and My Darling Clementine, into a handy two-volume set, while Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 7 collects four pre-Code features from the Warner Bros. archive featuring all manner of illicit behavior that the Production Code later made verboten. Warner Archive is also releasing Tony Richardson's groundbreaking '60s kitchen sink drama The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner. Last, but not least, travel back to 1992 when a little sci-fi pictured called Freejack, somehow put Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger and Anthony Hopkins in the same movie. Set in the distant future-past of 2009, the film involves Estevez's race-car driver being rescued by time traveling bounty hunters moments before his demise and brought to New York, where his mind will be swapped into the body of a wealthy corporate tycoon. Naturally, Estevez decides he'd rather keep his mind and body united, thanks very much, and the movie just gets sillier and more early '90s from there. Put on some Hypercolor, pump on the MC Hammer and be prepared to be transported back to your childhood.

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