Tuesday, May 07, 2013

New Releases On Blu Ray & DVD: 5/7/13

Today’s biggest release is the Tom Cruise action vehicle JACK REACHER, available in a Two-Disc Blu ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy package or a single disc DVD. The film, which I called a “cookie cutter crowd pleaser” in my review last December, is augmented by such Special Features as two audio commentaries (one with Cruise and Director Christopher McQuarrie; another with composer Joe Kramer), and three featurettes (“When the Man Comes Around,” “You Do Not Mess with Jack Reacher: Combat & Weapons,” and “The Reacher Phenomenon”).

Next up, at the same time that Jessica Chastain was getting a lot of buzz (and an Oscar nomination) for ZERO DARK THIRTY early this year, she was also appearing in Andrés Muschietti’s horror flick MAMA, out today on both single disc Blu ray and DVD editions. Special Features include a commentary with brother and sister collaborators director/co-writer Andy Muschietti and producer/co-writer Barbara Muschietti, deleted scenes, the original “Mama” short film that inspired the production, and a few “making of” featurettes. 

For reasons that elude me, a 2009 movie from high tech schlock meisters Neveldine/Taylor (the CRANK films, JONAH HEX, GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE, and some other crap), that wasn’t liked much by critics or audiences, the Gerald Butler sci-fi action thriller GAMER, has been retro-actively outfitted in 3D for a new Blu ray release today. As the previous Blu ray release of the film, from 2010, has more bonus material (including a couple of commentaries) than this new version only containing a few featurettes, it seems this new edition’s only draw is its 3D conversion. Sure isn’t enough to draw me in as for it was a pretty bad film to begin with. 

A much better Blu ray experience of battle action can be found on the new History Channel special WWII From Space, which boasts that it’s “America’s war as never seen before from the unique vantage point of space.” That means this Blu ray features CGI recreations from a satellite view of such major historical World War II events like Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and Stalingrad. 

It may sound cheesy (and it is in shots that too much resemble the angles from Michael Bay’s 2001 atrocity PEARL HARBOR), but overall the approach is pretty impressive, with the vivid shiny imagery, along with interview sound-bites from experts like Lt. General Raymond V Mason, Richard Overy (author of the bestseller “How The Allies Won The War”), and Pulitzer prize winning historian David Kennedy helping to provide an immersive overview. No Special Features, but that’s no biggie. 

Another worthwhile release today on the historical documentary front is Leslie Iwerks’ CITIZEN HEARST, only available on DVD, which examines the vast media game-changing empire of William Randolph Hearst, that Orson Welles' immortal classic CITIZEN KANE apparently only tangentially touched on, with the tagline: “125 years in the making.” The well-made, swiftly-paced, and nicely narrated (by William H. Macy) film is enhanced by such bonus material as the “Hearst Castle” episode from the A & E television series America’s Castles, and over 30 minutes of deleted footage.

Also on that front is the release, also only on DVD, of the 4 part HBO documentary series Witness: A World of Conflict Through a Lens, from executive producer Michael Mann, executive producer/director David Frankham, and director Abdallah Omeish. Respectively the programs cover Juarez, Libya, South Sudan, and Rio as covered by three noted combat photographers (Eros Hoagland, Michael Christopher Brown and Veronique de Viguerie). No Special features, but with a running time of 187 minutes, it sure doesn’t need any.

Finally, an interesting indie called STARLET, directed by Sean S. Baker (TAKE OUT, PRINCE OF BROADWAY), hits Blu ray and DVD in single disc editions. Mariel Hemingway's 21-year old model/actress daughter Dree, stars as a flighty young woman living in the San Fernando Valley with stoner roommates (Stella Maeve and James Ransone), who befriends a cranky 85-year old lady (the late Besedka Johnson in her only film role). Bonus material: commentary with director Baker along with cast and crew, audition/rehearsal footage, and a few featurettes.

For more of today’s new releases, check out Amazon’s extensive list of titles (i.e. much more than I could even hope to cover).

More later...

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