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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Only one movie in and Tom Cruise is already leaving the Jack Reacher franchise in his rearview.

Jack Reacher
Buoyed by the success of the fourth Mission: Impossible movie, Tom Cruise hoped to continue his career turnaround with Jack Reacher, the first in a potential franchise of detective thrillers based on the best-selling series by British crime author Lee Child. Never mind that Cruise didn't much fit the character the author described on the page, who tipped the scales at 250 pounds and topped out at 6'5". He wanted to get in on some that sarcastic antihero action that had worked so well for Robert Downey Jr. and Jason Statham. And Cruise tries his hardest to be a bad-ass, he really does. But his Reacher isn't intimidating in the slightest; he comes across more like a neighborhood punk with a better arsenal of martial arts moves. The miscasting maybe wouldn't be as apparent if the story were more intriguing, but Jack Reacher's central crime is fairly banal and uninteresting all things considered. Behind the camera, director Christopher McQuarrie admirably tries to ape the low-key, unshowy mise-en-scène of '70s thrillers like The Friends of Eddie Coyle, but only one sequence -- a killer car chase through the streets of Pittsburgh after dark that avoids the rushed, chopped-up editing style of Fast and the Furious-inspired auto wrecks -- really pops. A creative and commercial disappointment, Jack Reacher resembles a television pilot that was never ordered to series.
Extras: A commentary track with Cruise and McQuarrie and three freaturettes.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to read our Q&A with the cast and crew

Mama
The second horror movie to be released under the "Guillermo del Toro Presents" banner, Mama is a feature-length extrapolation of a three-minute short (actually, it's really more of a sketch) directed by Andy Muschietti. The full version taps on an initially intriguing backstory: after being kidnapped by their father, two little girls end up lost in the woods when his car crashes. The next few years of their lives are spent living practically like wild animals in a dilapidated cabin, with only a maternal phantom for company. Eventually they're found and returned to civilization, moving in with their uncle (Game of Thrones's Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his goth rocker girlfriend (Jessica Chastain). And guess who decides to tag along, but that ghostly mama? Great set-up... shame about the execution. Although Muschietti manages some effective scares, the movie is far less artful and well-told than any of del Toro's work or the underrated 2001 remake of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark that he produced. Fortunately, Mama does recover somewhat in the final act, when what had been a fairly ordinary ghost story builds to a surprisingly moving payoff. If only the rest of the movie had the imagination and heart of those final moments.
Extras: A commentary track with the filmmakers, two making-of featurettes (one of which is a Blu-ray exclusive), deleted scenes and Muschietti's original short with a new introduction from del Toro.
Click here to read our original review

Upstream Color
Almost ten years in the making, Shane Carruth's long-awaited follow-up to his 2004 debut film, Primer, both conforms to and defies the traditional definition of a sophomore slump. Certainly, Upstream Color is an utterly unique picture, one that demonstrates its director's impressive precision, both in terms of content and craft. I'd hesitate to even venture at summing up the plot, because the movie has less to do with the story that's being told than in how Carruth chooses to tell it, through an intricately layered editing scheme that cuts between two key story threads that eventually weave together into one. Watching Upstream Color can be a confounding experience at times, but the movie's rhythm and it's close attention to elements like sound are enough to keep you engaged if you're willing to put in the work. At the same time, though, I have to admit to finding the basic premise less interesting than Primer, which pursued the time travel narrative in a way I hadn't seen done onscreen before. Upstream Color is, at the end of the day, a more traditional love story between two wounded souls. And while Carruth recounts this narrative in an entirely untraditional way, I simply wasn't as engaged in where these characters and their story was headed as I was with the situation presented in Primer. I went in to Upstream Color hoping to love it and emerged with an emotion closer to admiration than passion.
Extras: None, which is a shame, because few movies cry out for a commentary track more than than this one.
Click here to read our interview with Shane Carruth

Superman Unbound
Just in time for June's live-action Superman relaunch Man of Steel, DC's flagship hero gets his fourth -- and probably his best -- solo direct-to-DVD animated feature. Adapted from Geoff Johns's five-issue Superman: Brainiac arc in Action Comics, Unbound finds Supes dating (but not yet married to) Lois Lane and watching over Earth's newest Kryptonian arrival, his cousin, Supergirl. Then things get really complicated when robot troops launched from a spacecraft turn up on Earth and Supergirl instantly recognizes them as belonging to Brainiac, the all-powerful alien entity that miniaturized and bottled her hometown of Kandor. So Superman flies out to take this new menace on, but quickly discovers that Brainiac can't be defeated as easily as, say, Lex Luthor. One of the challenges of any Superman feature (animated or live-action) is giving the Man of Steel an enemy of sufficient power so that it actually seems like a fair, exciting fight. Unbound more than provides this, as this version of Brainiac is not only smarter than the Big Blue Boy Scout, but packs a mean punch as well. The animated action is well-choreographed and thankfully gives Supergirl as much to do as her more famous cousin. (The Lois material isn't quite as forward-thinking, unfortunately, with the Daily Planet's top reporter spending too much time moaning about the relationship pitfalls that come with dating a superhero.) Man of Steel will almost certainly be a weightier take on the Superman mythos, but if all you're in the mood for is pure comic book fun, Unbound fits the bill nicely.
Extras: A sneak peek at the next DC Animated movie, the Flash-centric The Flashpoint Paradox, four bonus cartoons, a digital comic excerpt from Johns's book, two featurettes (including one that traces the history of the Bottle City of Kandor) and a commentary track with the filmmakers.

Also on DVD:
Dree Hemingway, daughter of Mariel and great-granddaughter of Ernest, gets her first starring role in Starlet, a Sofia Coppola-lite indie drama about an aspiring actress currently dabbling in porn. Hemingway demonstrates a decent screen presence, but the movie around her is so flat, it's hard to get a real sense of her range. The latest Nicholas Sparks weepie Safe Haven boasts one of the author's most unintentionally hilarious screen romances between Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel. On the other hand, the movie's "Did that really just happen?" ending is almost kinda brilliant. A great cast is wasted in the American Beauty wanna-be The Oranges and when you've made a suburban satire that's even worse than American Beauty, you know you've failed. Marley Africa Road Trip documents an African expedition undertaken by Bob Marley's three sons to perform at a concert celebrating Zimbabwe freedom. Gerard Butler's washboard abs and Neveldine & Taylor's overcaffeinated direction can't rescue the video game-theme action movie Gamer 3D from being a big missed opportunity... like all video game inspired movies. Henry Jaglom Collection, Vol 2: Three Comedies collects a trio of low-budget comedies from the fiercely independent filmmaker and playwright, including Sitting Ducks, Can She Bake a Cherry Pie? and New Year's Day. A classic of the prison escape genre, The Great Escape features Steve McQueen in one of his most iconic roles and an earwormy score. A more serious prison picture, In the Name of the Father is a reminder of just how great Daniel Day-Lewis is when he's not dressing up as 19th century American presidents. And finally, John Woo's finest American feature Face/Off gets another Blu-ray release, because you can never have too many versions of one of the best Hollywood action films of the past twenty years.

Think you've got game? Prove it! Check out Games Without Pity, our new area featuring trivia, puzzle, card, strategy, action and word games -- all free to play and guaranteed to help pass the time until your next show starts.

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