This is a pretty good week to be a Tom Cruise fan. The actor’s new sci-fi flick ‘Oblivion’ is still doing well in theaters, and a movie of his from last year (that you probably haven’t seen) hits video on Tuesday. Also new on Blu-ray, we have an interesting assortment of horror, classics, musicals, guilty pleasures, forgotten treasures and existential mystery. Surely, there must be something in here for you?
Is it wrong that, when I hear the title ‘Jack Reacher‘, I immediately think that it’s about a guy with really long arms who’s good at reaching for jacks? That being the case, Tom Cruise would seem woefully miscast. Fans of author Lee Child, on whose books the film is based, weren’t too happy about the 5’7″ actor playing a character described as 6’5″ and 250 pounds. The movie didn’t do too well at the box office, but many of those who saw it say that it was better than expected. This will probably make a good rental.
Guillermo del Toro produced but did not direct the horror flick ‘Mama‘, about an evil ghost (or something) that comes a-callin’ when a nice couple makes the mistake of adopting a pair of feral children that had been living in the woods with said ghost/spirit/monster/whatever. Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain seems overqualified to be starring in this type of thing.
After nine years of struggling to make a follow-up to his much-buzzed 2004 time travel drama ‘Primer’, writer/director Shane Carruth finally returned to the film festival scene this year with ‘Upstream Color‘, a movie that most viewers found indecipherable, even those who liked it. The movie never really broke out of the festival circuit, and is effectively going direct to video for most of us. This sounds like something that will benefit from repeated viewings anyway.
The best way to go through this week’s catalog assortment is to break it down by studio.
First, MGM brings us John Sturges’ prisoner-of-war classic ‘The Great Escape‘, starring Steve McQueen and featuring that very famous motorcycle jump. There’s more to the movie’s greatness than just that scene, of course.
The Criterion Collection continues its love affair with Jean-Luc Godard by adding the director’s French New Wave classic ‘Band of Outsiders‘ to its high-def offerings.
Universal celebrates Daniel Day-Lewis’ third Oscar win with a release of his 1993 prison drama ‘In the Name of the Father‘ (for which he was nominated for an Oscar, though didn’t win that particular year). Fun fact: this was one of the first movies I bought on Laserdisc back in the day. As I recall, the talking-pig sequel ‘Babe: Pig in the City‘ was film critic Gene Siskel’s favorite movie of 1998. Not too many other critics shared that opinion. I certainly didn’t. Elsewhere, the studio is in a musical mood with ‘Jesus Christ Superstar‘ and a re-release of ‘Pillow Talk‘. I believe the latter is the same disc issued last year, just without the studio’s 100th Anniversary packaging.
Disney has a double-bill of Jackie Chan’s dopey Western spoof ‘Shanghai Noon‘ and its even dopier sequel. As a rule, I avoid all of the movies Chan made in Hollywood, and these are a good example of why.
Lionsgate hopes that a 3D conversion will spark some interest in the box office dud ‘Gamer‘. Good luck with that.
Fox has an eclectic mix of titles, including Robin Williams as a serial killer in the arty thriller ‘One Hour Photo‘; Paul Newman as a washed-up lawyer in Sidney Lumet’s legal drama ‘The Verdict‘ (scripted by David Mamet back when that actually meant something); Robert Redford as a crusading prison reformer in ‘Brubaker‘; Marlon Brando as a Mexican revolutionary in ‘Viva Zapata!‘ (casting white actors in ethnic roles was considered acceptable in the ’50s); and the duo of Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes in the basketball comedy ‘White Men Can’t Jump‘.
Cheapskate distributor Echo Bridge dumps another load of movies that other studios no longer care about into bargain bins across the country. Most of these were available at Best Buy as an unadvertised exclusive for a few weeks. The fact that a genuinely good movie like Stephen Frears’ con artist thriller ‘The Grifters‘ would receive this treatment is a sad state of affairs, but I picked up a copy for $4.99 and am glad to have it. Other titles of some note include Steven Soderbergh’s experimental and highly alienating “comedy” ‘Full Frontal‘ (which was shot entirely in cruddy standard-def video with nondescript audio mixing and will not benefit in the slightest from Blu-ray). In ‘She’s So Lovely‘, Nick Cassavetes directs a script by his late father John Cassavetes. Most critics felt that he wasn’t up to the challenge. B-movie purveyor Stuart Gordon teams up with B-movie star Christopher Lambert for the cheesy sci-fi prison thriller ‘Fortress‘. (We’re getting a lot of movies about prison this week. What’s that about?) The handful of Kevin Smith apologists who’ve been waiting for a Blu-ray release of his widely-reviled comedy ‘Jersey Girl‘ can breathe a sigh of relief that they can finally file it away on their shelves and never watch it.
While I wasn’t too impressed with the final season of ‘Fringe‘ overall, it ended a little better than I expected and I don’t regret watching the show to conclusion. Warner Bros. offers the fifth season on its own or a Complete Series package for those who’ve held off on buying the series until now.
Meanwhile, Images continues to slowly break out the individual seasons of ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show‘. However, at current prices, last year’s comprehensive Complete Series set is a much better deal.
As mentioned, I already grabbed ‘The Grifters’ when I spotted it at Best Buy. ‘Band of Outsiders’, ‘The Great Escape’ and ‘In the Name of the Father’ will go on my wish list. I’ll probably catch ‘Upstream Color’ and ‘Jack Reacher’ by rental. What are your plans this week?