DVD reviews: 'Jack Reacher,' 'Mama' and 'Safe Haven'
“Jack Reacher” (2012, PG-13, 130 min., $30.99) Filmed in Pittsburgh, “Jack Reacher” didn't enjoy the best run in theaters. The picture, which is heavy on guns, ventured onto the silver screen around the same time as the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, which probably hurt it on the big screen. Lead actor Tom Cruise and “Jack Reacher” should enjoy a better run on video. Director Christopher McQuarrie's picture is a throwback action pic with Cruise playing a real toughie. It's lots of testosterone-laced fun, and there's plenty of Pittsburgh. The picture is based on a series of books by British author Lee Child. Reacher (Cruise) is a military investigator called into Pittsburgh to look at a shooting that's being pinned on a former Army sniper. Reacher was the sniper's last request before being beaten into a come by a handful of prison inmates. Reacher works with the suspect's lawyer (Rosamund Pike) to find the truth. In the process, Reacher comes across plenty of danger in uncovering a conspiracy that goes way past the sniper. In addition to Cruise and Pike, the cast also includes Robert Duvall, Richard Jenkins, a creepy Werner Herzog and plenty of Pittsburgh extras. As far as extras go, Blu-ray is the way to go. There's next to nothing on the standard DVD. On Blu-ray, commentary is available with three featurettes that take a look at the character of Jack Reacher and his development. 3 Stars.
“Mama” (2013, PG-13, 100 min., $29.98) The horror genre never seems to take a break. Each year, there are plenty of additions. “Mama” just happens to be one of the better ones of the past few years. The picture is based on a 2008 short film from Argentina, and while it has some issues within its plot, it offers enough scares to keep viewers entertained for a couple of hours. Another positive with “Mama” is it chooses frights over the bloodbaths that continue to hurt the genre. Two young girls — Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse) — are left alone at a cabin in the woods after a tragic incident with their parents, and are raised for a few years by a supernatural spirit that's very motherly. However, when they're discovered by their uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the girls are taken in by him and his girlfriend (Jessica Chastain) The girls face a very long road in returning to domestic life, but things are even tougher when that spirit doesn't want to let them go. That's a deadly problem for all involved. The original short film and a featurette exploring the birth of “Mama” kick off the extras in standard DVD and Blu-ray packages. Another interesting featurette takes a look at how the supernatural spirit was created for the screen. Deleted scenes and commentary also are worth a look. 2.5 Stars.
“Safe Haven” (2013, PG-13, 115 min., $29.98) For author Nicholas Sparks, “Safe Haven” marks the eighth time one of his books has been adapted to film. All of these films follow a similar plot, as a beautiful woman and a handsome man fall in love, before or after they overcome some kind of hurdle. In “Safe Haven,” Julianne Hough plays Katie, who is escaping some kind of bad situation by escaping the police on a bus out of Boston destined for Atlanta. She skips out on the bus in a small resort town, where she decides to start her new life. Eventually, she meets the hunky Alex (Josh Duhamel), a small-business owner with two kids who has lost his wife to cancer. Alex and Katie fall for each other, but not before her past comes back to haunt them. “Safe Haven” isn't good, but it knows its audience. Between all the cliches, there's plenty of schmaltz for all. An alternate ending and deleted scenes are available in Blu-ray and standard DVD sets. Blu-ray buyers can find a few more extras with their purchase, though. Two featurettes, including a making-of extra, are Blu-ray exclusive, along with a set tour. 1.5 Stars.
“Upstream Color” (2013, NR, 90 min., $24.95) Shane Carruth, the director of the well-received “Primer” from 2004, is responsible for this drama about a man and woman (Carruth and Amy Seimetz) drawn together while undergoing the same struggles in life. The picture received plenty of praise from the critics on its festival run.
“The Oranges” (2011, R, 90 min., $22.98) Catherine Keener, Hugh Laurie, Leighton Meester and Oliver Platt make up the cast for this film about a family living comfortably in New Jersey until their daughter arrives home from a five-year absence. She sends the neighborhood into a tailspin when she falls for the married neighbor.
“Starlet” (2012, NR, 103 min., $29.95) Dree Hemingway — the great granddaughter of Ernest — stars in a picture about the relationship that forms between a young actress looking to make it big and an elderly woman, who's really got nothing going on in life. The film was written and directed by independent filmmaker Sean Baker.
“Revenge for Jolly” (2012, R, 85 min., $22.99) A terrific cast — Elijah Wood, Oscar Isaac, Gillian Jacobs, Ryan Phillippe, Kristen Wiig and Adam Brody — has been assembled for this action-packed picture about a drunk who's after revenge when he returns home and finds out his dog has been murdered.
“Citizen Hearst” (2013, NR, 84 min., $19.98) Leslie Iwerks directs and William H. Macy narrates this interesting documentary about William Randolph Hearst, the man behind one of the largest media empires the world has ever seen.
“The Rabbi's Cat” (2011, NR, 100 min., $29.95) Joann Sfar adapts her best-selling graphic novel for this animated picture about a cat belonging to a widowed rabbi. What's so special about the cat? It acquires the ability to speak after swallowing the family parrot. The cat has quite a sharp tongue when it comes to speaking out.
“The Exorcist in the 21st Century” (2012, NR, 80 min., $19.98) Directors Fredrik Horn Akselsen and Christian Falch were granted lots of access by the Catholic church in making this documentary about Father Jose Antonio Fortea and Father Gabriel Amorth, two specialists in the terrifying world of demonic possession.
“Doctors of the Dark Side” (2011, NR, 74 min., $24.98) Documentarian Martha Davis takes another approach to the United States' torture scandal by showing how American psychologists and physicians facilitated and covered up the torture of the many detainees in military prisons like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
TV ON DVD
“Witness: A World in Conflict Through a Lens” (one disc, four parts, $19.98)
“Private Practice: The Complete Sixth Season” (three discs, 13 episodes, $39.99)
“30 Rock: Season 7” (two discs, 13 episodes, $44.98)
“Rookie Blue: The Complete Third Season” (four discs, 13 episodes, $39.98)
“Flashpoint: The Fifth Season” (three discs, 11 episodes, $42.99)
“Gunsmoke: The Eighth Season, Volumes One and Two” (each volume is five discs, 19 episodes, $44.99)
“Have Gun Will Travel: The Sixth Season, Volumes One and Two” (each volume is two discs, 16 episodes, $29.99)
“WWII from Space” (History Channel presentation, 2013, NR, 90 min., $19.98)