Give Tom a break
Poor Tom Cruise.Not something you hear every day, but let’s face it: The guy never seems to get a break.
Consider how often he was trashed, bashed and eviscerated for playing a German officer in “Valkyrie” — before the movie even came out.
Then came the reviews. Some couldn’t past his celebrity. Others slammed him for passing up the chance to use a German accent
Well, he wasn’t the only cast member to eschew the affectation. And as for his celebrity, it didn’t bother me one iota.
And speaking of eyes, Tom loses one of his when, as Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, he’s injured by an explosion that also destroys one hand.
The colonel’s loving wife and children don’t mind and Hitler considers him a hero, which comes in handy when he becomes prime mover in a plot to assassinate the Nazi leader near the end of World War II.
This isn’t a wonderful film; it meanders when it should strut. But the suspense is decent, given that most people already know the story’s outcome. (I won’t spoil it if you don’t.)
Also, the historical blow-by-blow provides tasty background details.
Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson deliver strong supporting performances but Cruise is the standout. Also on Blu-ray.
Extras: An intriguing handful. Check out “The Valkyrie Legacy,” with more history, pictures of the real officers involved and recollections from their surviving spouses, children and grandchildren.
A vampire flick to chew on
Anna Paquin, Oscar winner as a little girl for “The Piano,” earned a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Sookie Stackouse, a feisty 19-year-old virgin who waits tables in a small-town restaurant and bar in the addictive HBO series “True Blood: The Complete First Series.”
Cursed with the ability to hear people’s thoughts, Sookie fends off advances from her nice-guy boss (Sam Trammell), clashes with her narcissistic, womanizing brother (Ryan Kwanten) and falls in lust with a hunky vampire (Stephen Moyer).
Think “Twilight” with lots of sex, more blood, grown-up issues and grisly wit.
The story’s set in Louisiana in a world where vampires and humans coexist tenuously due to a manufactured blood substitute, available everywhere in six-packs.
Based on Charlaine Harris’ popular Sookie Stackhouse novels, the first season is built around a series of murders — and a pretty good mystery — involving women Sookie’s brother sleeps with. (Consider it a “Twilight”-like argument for celibacy.)
Racial bias involving vamps and humans wafts through the story, buoyed by appealing supporting portrayals, highlighted by Rutina Wesley as Sookie’s argumentative BFF.
Created by Alan Ball (“Six Feet Under”). Five discs, 12 episodes. Also on Blu-ray.
Extras: Six commentaries, insights into effects of fake blood, more.
Aging action icon Steven Seagal whispers his minimal dialogue and walks like an overweight robot (his shoulders don’t move; what’s up with that?) in “Driven to Kill,” an adequate time-filler for desperate people.
Seagal plays Ruslan, a former Russian mobster who writes crime novels. Ruslan resurrects his old persona to find the person or persons responsible for killing his ex-wife and attempting to kill his daughter — just before her marriage to the son of an East Coast Russian mafia leader.
It’s the usual Seagal rough-and-tumble revenge drama, but more confusing.Also on Blu-ray.
Extras: None, which is just as well.
Also on DVD:
“A Bug’s Life” on Blu-ray: Beautiful high-def transfer of the lively 1995 Pixar computer-animated tale of a free-thinking ant (voiced by Dave Foley) who leaves the colony and — in a kind of homage to “The Magnificent Seven” — recruits a ragtag troupe of circus bugs to help battle predatory grasshoppers; has many new extras.
“Changing Lanes” on Blu-ray: Compelling drama about the adversarial relationship between an uptight attorney (Ben Affleck in his best role) and a stressed-out father (Samuel L. Jackson) that develops after they’re involved in a minor traffic accident.
“Eden Log”: An amnesiac who awakens in a cave next to a dead man is hunted by mysterious creatures through a laybyrinth of abandoned labs; and people claim there are no new ideas in Hollywood.
“El Dorado”: Howard Hawks’ Western with good guy, gunman John Wayne helping alcoholic sheriff Robert Mitchum battle bad guys; on two discs with new extras.
“Enemy at the Gates” on Blu-ray: A Russian political officer markets his sniper friend (Jude Law) as a hero to lift his country’s spirits during the Nazi siege on Stalingrad in 1942; with Rachel Weisz and Ed Harris (as a German sniper).
“Fanboys”: Four longtime friends travel cross-country to sneak into George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch and see a rough cut of “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” six months before the film opens; coming-of-age saga with Sam Huntington, Chris Marquette, Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel, Kristen Bell and Carrie Fisher.
“Infected”: While investigating the mayor’s assassination, two exes, both ambitious reporters, discover the killer was trying to stop an alien invasion spread by infection; gross but not awful for Grade-B, sci-fi, straight-to-video fare; with Gil Bellows, Judd Nelson and Isabella Rossellini; could use a gag reel.
“Yonkers Joe”: Old-time dice hustler’s plan for one last Vegas score gets complicated by the unexpected reappearance of his developmentally disabled son; with Chazz Palminteri.
“Just Another Love Story”: Danish suspense thriller about a crime-scene photographer, mistaken for a comatose victim’s boyfriend by her family, who allows the deception to continue after the woman awakens with amnesia. Right.
“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”: John Ford’s meditation on myth and legend, digitally mastered, with John Wayne as a tough rancher, James Stewart as a tenderfoot lawyer and Lee Marvin as a dastardly gunfighter; on two discs with new features.
“Mum & Dad”: British horror about a kidnapped young Polish immigrant forced to stay with a violent, abusive, insane suburban family. Yum.
“My Bloody Valentine 3D”: The sequel to the 1981 ax-wielding gorefest, pegging to a mine massacre, serves up a few good jolts of adrenaline; comes with 3-D glasses.
Also on Blu-ray.
“Paul Blart Mall Cop”: Mall security cop Kevin James, a wannabe detective, gets serious when crooks hit the shopping center in the surprisingly popular comedy. Also on Blu-ray.
“Paycheck” on Blu-ray: High-tech engineer Ben Affleck tries to figure out why someone’s trying to kill him and what happened during the years erased from his memory; so-so sci-fi thriller co-stars Uma Thurman.
“3 Days of the Condor” on Blu-ray: Taut 1975 Sydney Pollack suspense thriller with CIA analyst Robert Redford on the run after everyone else in his office is murdered; with Faye Dunaway.
“The Town That Was”: Documentary about the 11 remaining residents of Centralia, Pa., a once-thriving mining town razed after an anthracite fire started in 1962 was deemed too costly to put out; inspiration for the 2006 horror film “Silent Hill”; given all the coal beneath the city, the fire could burn for another 250 years.
TV on DVD
“The Fall and rise of Reginald Perrin: The Complete Series”: Clever but way-over-the-top late-’70s BBC comedy about an oddball, disillusioned sales exec (Leonard Rossiter) who fakes his suicide, reinvents himself as a buck-toothed pig farmer and, later, as owner of a shop that sells worthless things — that people go crazy over.
“Friday Night Lights: Third Season”: Quality small-town high school football drama.
“Gigantor: The Collection – Vol. 1”: 1960s Japanese animated series about a boy and his flying robot.
“Jo Koy: Don’t Make Him Angry”: Young comic does stand-up.
“Peyton Place: Part One”: Mia Farrow, Barbara Parkins and Ryan O’Neal star in the then-racy1964 black-and-white ABC soaper set in New England.
“Russell Brand in New York City: Extended & Uncensored”: Eccentric British comic/ actor/author does stand-up.
`Sister, Sister: The Second Season”: Twins teens Tia and Tamera Mowry play twins, get giddy.
“Suspense: Ultimate Collection”: All 90 episodes from 1949-54 CBS mystery/macabre series that aired live.
“24: Season 7”: Jack Bauer rules. Also on Blu-ray.