Monday, May 6, 2013

This week's DVD releases

Jack Reacher ** Apart from a car chase, the only real fun in Jack Reacher comes from Werner Herzog, playing a bad guy with Teutonic relish, and Robert Duvall, called in near the end for some marvelously gratuitous scenery chewing as a gruff former Marine. They enliven the movie’s atmosphere of weary brutality for a few moments, but they also call attention to the dullness of their dramatic surroundings. It should also be noted that Tom Cruise is absolutely wrong for the title role. As a fan of the Lee Child novels I would have rather seen Daniel Cudmore (I know you don’t know who he is, but check him out) cast in the hopes of turning this into a franchise.

Mama **½ First-time writer-director Andy Muschietti, an Argentine discovered by Guillermo del Toro, relies too much, especially in the early going, on horror clich├ęs (sudden loud noises and jagged blasts of music), but he does make the tension hum.

Safe Haven * Even when compared against other films that have been adapted from Nicholas Sparks novels, Safe Haven is terrible. This sloppy sentimental journey is long on beauty shots, short on depth and seriously intent on tugging your heartstrings. Indeed, it demands you reach for those tissues. Sob.

Upstream Color ****½ It’s all a neat trick. Or exercise. Or brain-teaser. Whatever you want to call it, Upstream Color is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. But once you have seen it, once isn’t going to be enough. A romance, a thriller, and a science-fiction drama, it tantalizes you with an open-ended narrative about overcoming personal loss. It’s lush, rhythmic, and deeply sensual, a film of exceptional beauty.

Starlet **** The story retains an inscrutable tone that sometimes makes its emotional qualities feel remote, but it still delivers a powerful message about the challenge of self-diagnosis by rooting it in universal experience. It’s a character study about faith in connectedness, with an unforced love for cross-generational companionship that’s special indeed.

Barrymore **½ Two things to keep in mind when considering Barrymore, starring Christopher Plummer as the great John B: It was brilliant as a one-man stage show; it was never a good candidate for film. It’s is a delicious opportunity to watch the superb Plummer perform the role that won him a second Tony Award. But it’s also a lesson in the pitfalls of personality-based minimalism. While Plummer acts his heart out, the script becomes one punch line after another.

Mighty Fine **½ Chugs along heartily until it abruptly stops on the edge of cliff, leaving you feeling shortchanged. It is a couple of crucial scenes away from feeling complete. Chazz Palminteri’s the best thing in the movie. He now has the look of a slightly beefier Steve Buscemi. But where Buscemi is all nerves on edge and something bad waiting to happen, Palminteri has a winning ease.

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