DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
“Jack Reacher”: Fans of Lee Child’s wildly popular series of novels about ex-military investigator-turned avenging angel Jack Reacher blanched when they heard that Tom Cruise was going to play the lead in the film adaptation of the author’s “One Shot.” Reacher, after all, is a 6-foot 5-inch 250 pound blond haired bruiser; Cruise is 5-foot 7-inches, dark-haired and pretty-faced. It’ll never work, they said. But, surprisingly, it works: Cruise channels the impulse — if not the physicalness — of Reacher, and comes across as a witty, sharp, intelligent and violent-if-need-be hero in a well-laid out and executed mystery. The film revolves around the shooting of four random people in downtown Pittsburgh by an ex-Army sniper and the arrest of a suspect who, it turns out, may not be the right killer. Beaten almost unconscious on his way to jail, he tells his defense attorney one thing: “Get Reacher for me.” And sure enough, Jack Reacher shows up. He knows this shooter from his days as an MP in Iraq — a trained military sniper who never should have missed a shot (four shots hit their mark, one went astray). Reacher is certain something is not right — and he begins an investigation that quickly escalates in its brutality and concomitant bloodshed. Throw in some wild car chases, a neat guest appearance by Robert Duvall, some hidden agendas, and twists and turns, and you have a fun, exciting thriller (by the way, Reacher makes plenty of mistakes in his pursuit of the truth, a nice touch that makes him human and not just a killing machine). Only weak spot in the film: the delightful Rosamund Pike, here cast as a lame but well-meaning defense attorney. Co-stars David Oyelowo, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog (as a very nasty villain) and Jai Courtney.
One of the year’s most talked about independent films since its award-winning premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, director Shane Carruth’s “Upstream Color” (2012) has been described as baffling and enigmatic … and that it is. But it’s also so very boring. The sci-fi-mystery-romance revolves around a woman (Amy Seimetz) who is abducted and hypnotized with a “psychedelic” worm by a crook who depletes her life savings and causes her to lose her job and way in life. When she falls for a man (Carruth), the two come to realize he may also have been subjected to the same process, and they search for a way to talk to each other about their wounds and look for safety in each other’s arms. As the barriers between them break down, they uncover the plot that wrecked their lives, which also involves a pig farmer who makes music with found noise and who uses the pigs to keep track of the victims. If you can wade through the tedium, there’s immersive music and on-the-edge acting. Co-stars Andrew Sensenig and Thiago Martins. Available as a DVD and a Blu-ray/DVD combo in a beautiful package from Cinedigm.
Four years after “Breathless,” Jean-Luc Godard reimagined the gangster film even more radically with “Band of Outsiders” (1964), about two restless young men (Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur) who enlist the object of both of their fancies (Anna Karina) to help them commit a robbery — in her own home. This audacious and wildly entertaining French New Wave gem is at once sentimental and insouciant, effervescently romantic and melancholy (tropes Godard would soon abandon in his more political and experimental work), and it features some of Godard’s most memorable set pieces, including a headlong race through the Louvre. The Criterion Collection has just released a Blu-ray version of the film from Gaumont’s recent high-definition restoration, with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Extras include a visual glossary of references and wordplay found in “Band of Outsiders”; exclusive interview with cinematographer Raoul Coutard and actor Anna Karina; excerpts from a 1964 interview with director Jean-Luc Godard, including rare behind-the-scenes footage from the film; a booklet featuring an essay by poet and critic Joshua Clover, Godard’s character descriptions for the film’s 1964 press book, and an interview with the director from the same year.