This week: Tom Cruise proves naysayers wrong yet again in the above-average thriller "Jack Reacher," which was shot entirely in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is based on Lee Child's 2005 mystery novel, "One Shot."
Also new this week is the horror hit "Mama" with Jessica Chastain, the Nicholas Sparks adaptation "Safe Haven" with Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough and the Blu-ray 3D conversion of "Gamer" with Gerard Butler.
Box Office: $80 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 61% Fresh
Storyline: After five people are shot to death along a riverside Pittsburgh trail, a man is arrested and writes only one message: "Get Jack Reacher." Tom Cruise plays Reacher, an ex-military investigator who lives off the grid and ascertains that the accused has been framed. Reacher teams up with the accused's defense attorney (Rosamund Pike) to figure out who is really behind the shootings on the North Shore Trail and whether or not all the people killed were truly random. Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog and Jai Courtney also star in this adaptation "One Shot," one of Lee Child's many Jack Reacher novels.
Extras!: Bonus features are only available on the Blu-ray, which include two commentary tracks (one with Cruise), a making-of feature, "You Do Not Mess with Jack Reacher: Combat and Weapons" and a look at the popularity of the "Jack Reacher" book series.
We Say: "Jack Reacher" isn't breaking any new ground but it's refreshing to see an old-school action thriller sans any blatant CGI wizardry. Just like when Cruise was cast as Lestat in "Interview with the Vampire," fans initially complained that the actor didn't match the physical description of the character in the books: a tall, imposing figure. And, like "Interview with the Vampire," Cruise again proves that his talent for adapting to the requirements of a character should never be underestimated.
Box Office: $72 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 65% Fresh
Storyline: This surprise horror hit presented by Guillermo del Toro tells the tale of two young girls who disappeared in the woods the day their parents were killed. Five years later, the girls are found living in a decrepit cabin and are brought home to live with their uncle, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and his rocker girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain). When Lucas is injured and ends up in the hospital, a reluctant Annabel is tasked with helping the young girls acclimate to a world they left behind. But something has followed the girls back from the woods: a supernatural presence that they call "Mama."
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray have a commentary track with sibling writer-directors Andre and Barbara Muschietti, "The Birth of 'Mama'" behind-the-scenes featurette, the original short film introduced by del Toro and six deleted scenes. The Blu-ray also has "Matriarchal Secrets: The Visual Effects of 'Mama,'" which explains how the CG was a finishing touch added over as many practical effects as possible.
We Say: Like Ethan Hawke's clout-aided "Sinister," Chastain was riding high on the acclaim from "Zero Dark Thirty" when "Mama" hit theaters and thusly attracted a wider audience to this genre film. Aside from having a more celebrated leading lady than most horror films, the genuinely creepy "Mama" works by building suspense and not revealing the titular menace too soon. By the time you get a good look at what's been looking over the lost little girls, you might find yourself afraid to look into a dark closet ... just like Chastain's character.
Box Office: $71 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 13% Rotten
Storyline: The latest Nicholas Sparks romance novel adaptation stars Julianne Hough as a young woman who moves to a new town for a fresh start and Josh Duhamel as a widowed store owner with whom Hough starts a relationship. Will the dark secrets she is keeping spoil the romance? Have you ever seen a movie based on a Sparks book before?
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain deleted scenes and an alternative ending. The Blu-ray adds "Igniting the Romance in 'Safe Haven,'" a set tour and "Josh Duhamel's Lesson in Crabbing."
We Say: It's been said before and is worth repeating: Nicholas Sparks must be stopped at all costs. There is an audience for "The Notebook" author's unwavering commitment to schmaltz and syrupy sentimentality, but these movie adaptations of his work do nothing except showcase pretty actors lit by soft, pretty light acting pretty PG-13. If this does it for you, grab a bowl of the vanilla-est vanilla ice cream and enjoy the processed sweetness.
'Gamer' Blu-ray 3D
Box Office: $21 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 29% Rotten
Storyline: In the not-too-distant future, video game god Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) has made billions of dollars from the ultimate video game: "Slayers," a a mass-scale, multi-player first-person shooter that allows players to control participants in real life. Unfortunately, the participants are mostly death row inmates fighting for a shot at freedom, including Kable (Gerard Butler), a man framed for a crime he didn't commit. The only hope Kable has of regaining his freedom and seeing his family is to escape the constraints of the game and expose Castle for the fraud he is.
Extras!: The only extra on this Blu-ray 3D is the same one as the previous Blu-ray release: an 80-minute, multi-part documentary called "Inside the Game: Controlling 'Gamer.'"
We Say: This hyperkinetic 2009 sci-fi action flick unfolds like a video game with nonstop action and quick cuts for Generation ADHD … but you already knew that. This new 3-D conversion is a curious choice for Lionsgate since the movie didn't exactly tear up the box office like other recent 3-D conversions ("Jurassic Park"). Still, the 3-D does add a lot of welcome depth, like the scenes in the underground rave and wide shots of the city. When the action is mano a mano, the benefits are negligible, but fans of the movie will still want to upgrade for the added dimension.
Also New This Week:
"The Great Escape" Blu-ray
"An Officer and a Gentleman" Blu-ray
"In the Name of the Father" Blu-ray
"Runaway Bride" Blu-ray
"Marley Africa Road Trip"