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.Vitals: Director: Christopher McQuarrie. Stars: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Robert Duvall, David Oyelowo, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney.
2012, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 130 min., Action, Box office gross: $79.465 million, Paramount.
When a mysterious young woman arrives in a small North Carolina town, her reluctance to join the tight knit community raises questions about her past. Slowly, she begins putting down roots, and gains the courage to start a relationship with a widowed store owner with two young children. But dark secrets intrude on her new life with such terror that she is forced to rediscover the meaning of sacrifice and rely on the power of love. Romantic thriller based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks.
Vitals: Director: Lasse Hallstrom. Stars: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders, David Lyons.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 115 min., Romance, Box office gross: $70.327 million, Fox.
Guillermo del Toro presents this supernatural thriller that tells the tale of two little girls who disappeared into the woods the day that their parents were killed. When they're rescued years later and begin a new life, they find that someone or something still wants to come tuck them in at night. Five years ago, sisters Victoria and Lilly vanished from their suburban neighborhood without a trace. Since then, their Uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain), have been madly searching for them. But when, incredibly, the kids are found alive in a decrepit cabin and brought back to civilization, the couple wonders if the girls are the only guests they have welcomed into their home. As Annabel tries to introduce the children to a normal life, she grows convinced of an evil presence in their house. Are the sisters experiencing traumatic stress, or is a ghost coming to visit them? How did the broken girls survive those years all alone? As she answers these disturbing questions, the new mother will find that the whispers she hears at bedtime are coming from the lips of a deadly presence.
Vitals: Director: Andres Muschietti. Stars: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nelisse, Daniel Kash, Javier Botet, Jane Moffat, Morgan McGarry, David Fox.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 100 min., Horror, Box office gross: $70.230 million, Universal.
Drama, mystery, action and enduring love thread through a single story that unfolds in multiple timelines over the span of 500 years. Characters meet and reunite from one life to the next, are born and reborn. As the consequences of their actions and choices impact one another through the past, the present and the distant future, one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution. Based on the celebrated best-selling novel by David Mitchell.
Vitals: Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski. Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Sturgess, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Keith David, James D'Arcy, Hugo Weaving, Gotz Otto, Zhu Zhu.
2012, CC, MPAA rating: R, 172 min., Drama-Mystery-Sci-Fi, Box office gross: $27.027 million, Warner.
Yet another "Texas Chainsaw": This one continues the legendary story of the homicidal Sawyer family, picking up where Tobe Hooper's 1974 horror classic left off in Newt, Texas, where for decades people went missing without a trace. The townspeople long suspected the Sawyer family, owners of a local barbecue pit, were somehow responsible. Their suspicions were finally confirmed one hot summer day when a young woman escaped the Sawyer house following the brutal murders of her four friends. A vigilante mob of enraged locals surrounded the Sawyer stronghold, burning it to the ground and killing every last member of the family -- or so they thought. Decades later and hundreds of miles away from the original massacre, a young woman named Heather learns that she has inherited a Texas estate from a grandmother she never knew she had. After embarking on a road trip with friends to uncover her roots, she finds she is the sole owner of a lavish, isolated Victorian mansion. But her newfound wealth comes at a price as she stumbles upon a horror that awaits her in the mansion's dank cellars.Vitals: Director: John Luessenhop. Stars: Alexandra Daddario, Dan Yeager, Trey Songz, Scott Eastwood, Tania Raymonde, Shaun Sipos.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 92 min., Horror, Box office gross: $34.334 million, Lionsgate.
The Last Stand
After leaving his LAPD narcotics post following a bungled operation that left him wracked with remorse and regret, Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) moves out of Los Angeles and settles into a life fighting what little crime takes place in sleepy border town Sommerton Junction. But that peaceful existence is shattered when Gabriel Cortez, the most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the western hemisphere, makes a deadly yet spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy. With the help of a fierce band of lawless mercenaries led by the icy Burrell, Cortez begins racing towards the U.S.-Mexico border at 250 mph in a specially-outfitted Corvette ZR1 with a hostage in tow. Cortez' path: Straight through Sommerton Junction, where the whole of the U.S. law enforcement, including Agent John Bannister will have their final opportunity to intercept him before the violent fugitive slips across the border forever. At first reluctant to become involved, and then counted out because of the perceived ineptitude of his small town force, Owens ultimately rallies his team and takes the matter into his own hands, setting the stage for a classic showdown.
Vitals: Director: Jee-woon Kim. Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzman, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford, Genesis Rodriguez.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 107 min., Action, Box office gross: $11.964 million, Lionsgate.
Stand Up Guys
Tough but touching action comedy about retired gangsters who reunite for one epic last night. Val (Al Pacino) has been released from prison after serving 28 years for refusing to give up one of his close criminal associates. His best friend Doc (Christopher Walken) is there to pick him up, and the two soon re-team with another old pal, Hirsch (Alan Arkin). Their bond is as strong as ever, and the three reflect on freedom lost and gained, loyalties ebbed and flowed, and days of glory gone by. And despite their age, their capacity for mayhem is still very much alive and well -- bullets fly as they make a hilariously valiant effort to compensate for the decades of crime, drugs and sex they've missed. But one of the friends is keeping a dangerous secret -- he's been put in an impossible quandary by a former mob boss, and his time to find an acceptable alternative is running out. As the sun rises on the guys' legendary reunion, their position becomes more and more desperate and they finally confront their past once and for all.
Vitals: Director: Fisher Stevens. Stars: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Katheryn Winnick, Julianna Margulies.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 95 min., Crime Comedy, Box office gross: $3.264 million, Lionsgate.
A supernatural love story set in the South, "Beautiful Creatures" tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers: Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), a young man longing to escape his small town, and Lena (Alice Englert), a mysterious new girl. Together, they uncover dark secrets about their respective families, their history and their town. Based on the best-selling book (and book series) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.
Vitals: Director: Richard LaGravenese. Stars: Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum, Thomas Mann, Emma Thompson, Eileen Atkins.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 124 min., Fantasy Drama, Box office gross: $19.018 million, Warner.
Parker (Jason Statham) is a professional thief who lives by a personal code of ethics: Don't steal from people who can't afford it and don't hurt people who don't deserve it. But on his latest heist, his crew double crosses him, steals his stash, and leaves him for dead. Determined to make sure they regret it, Parker tracks them to Palm Beach, playground of the rich and famous, where the crew is planning their biggest heist ever. Donning the disguise of a rich Texan, Parker takes on an unlikely partner, Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), a savvy insider, who's short on cash, but big on looks, smarts and ambition. Together, they devise a plan to hijack the score, take everyone down and get away clean. Based on the novel "Flashfire," one of the series of bestselling novels by Donald E. Westlake (under the pen name of Richard Stark).
Vitals: Director: Taylor Hackford. Stars: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Michael Chiklis, Clifton Collins Jr., Wendell Pierce, Micah Hauptman, Patti LuPone, Emma Booth, Bobby Cannavale.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 118 min., Action Thriller, Box office gross: $17.536 million, Sony.
After her husband (Channing Tatum) is released from prison, Emily (Rooney Mara) begins suffering from terrifying anxiety and turns to psychiatrist Dr. Banks (Jude Law) for help. But when Banks prescribes an experimental drug for her, the side effects have chilling and deadly consequences. Sexy psychological thriller full of unexpected twists.
Vitals: Director: Steven Soderbergh. Stars: Channing Tatum, Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 106 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $30.482 million, Universal.
A young German girl struggles to survive the punishing conditions of post-World War II Germany and begins to understand the harsh realities of her Nazi parents and their support of Hitler and his horrifying agenda. Newcomer Saskia Rosendahl stars as Lore, a 14-year-old girl who is left to fend for herself after her Nazi parents are imprisoned by the victorious Allies at the end of World War II. Lore takes the lead as she and her four siblings set out on a harrowing journey across the devastated country, towards the safety of their grandmother's house in the North. On the road, the children struggle to survive the land's punishing post-war conditions, and Lore begins to understand the truths and consequences of her parents' actions, their support of Hitler's war, and their direct knowledge and support of the atrocities of the Holocaust. Meeting a mysterious young refugee during their travels, Lore soon finds her world shattered by feelings of both hatred and desire as she realizes that, in order to survive, she must trust the one person she has always been taught to hate. Based on the 2001 novel by Rachel Seiffert.
Vitals: Director: Cate Shortland. Stars: Saskia Rosendahl, Kai Malina, Nele Trebs, Ursina Lardi, Hans-Jochen Wagner, Mika Seidel, Andre Frid, Eva-Maria Hagen.
2012, CC, MPAA rating: NR, 109 min., Drama, Box office gross: $.718 million, Music Box Films.
Supernatural thriller follows a young family living in the suburbs bedeviled by unknown forces. Husband and wife Daniel and Lacey Barret witness an escalating series of disturbing events involving their family, unraveling their safe and peaceful home life. When it becomes clear that the family is being targeted by an unimaginably terrifying and deadly force, Daniel and Lacey take matters in their own hands to solve the mystery of what is after them.
Vitals: Director: Scott Stewart. Stars: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, J.K. Simmons.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 97 min., Horror, Box office gross: $17.178 million, The Weinstein Co./Dimension Films.
All DVDs are screened on a reference system consisting of a
Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player w/SACD & DVD-Audio, a
Rotel RSX-972 Surround Sound Receiver, and Phase Technology 1.1 (front), 33.1 (center),
and 50 (rear) speakers and Power 10 subwoofer.