“Jack Reacher” (Paramount/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, two discs, $39.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; audio commentaries, featurettes). As cold-blooded as much of it is, this adaptation of Lee Child’s pulp-fiction character probably should have carried an R instead of a PG-13. The violence, though not as graphic as an R-rated film might be, is calculated and harsh, with sometimes terrifying repercussions. The way violence should be. And it’s obviously not for children.
Tom Cruise, though he does not fit Child’s literary description of the character, fills his shoes nicely as a taciturn tough guy on a mission to right wrongs. Think Dirty Harry as a ghostly figure traveling from town to town, watching out for the little guy — sometimes in ways that are a bit shocking in a ’70s antihero kind of way. But there is also a lot of dark comedy, and a terrific soft-spoken but chilling villain played with genuine menace by film director Werner Herzog. The great Robert Duvall is here too, as a wisecracking, gun-toting codger who helps out in the final shootout.
“Jack Reacher” is very well crafted and feeds into that revenge-for-the-underdog mindset that has fueled many a successful cop/detective franchise, but it failed at the box office so there probably won’t be any sequels. (Also on DVD, $29.99)
“Mama” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, $34.98, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, short film). Jessica Chastain is great as a reluctant adoptive-parent figure to a pair of orphaned children plagued by a strange ghostly spirit in this film, an expansion of a three-minute short that is included in the bonus features. Interesting horror yarn is quite chilling much of the way, until the title ghost shows up and is just too weird to take seriously. There is also a sort of Spielberg-style second ending at the climax that undermines much of what has gone before. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“Side Effects” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013; R for sex, nudity, violence, language; two discs, $34.98; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; featurettes, faux commercials). Suspenseful but unnecessarily sleazy thriller from Steven Soderbergh in the Hitchcock vein is also a strong indictment of pharmaceutical companies and their methods, focusing on a woman (Rooney Mara) whose mysterious behavior may be prompted by a prescription drug and a doctor (Jude Law) who is trying to figure out the mystery. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum co-star. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“Stand Up Guys” (Lionsgate, 2013; R for language, sex, violence, drugs; $27.98, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). Al Pacino and Christopher Walken, and especially Alan Arkin (who is in the film all too little), play criminals/ex-cons who come together when Pacino is released from prison and Walken is given orders to kill him. The stars are great but the so-so script is undone as the film drifts into raunchy comedy more suited to the “Hangover” films. (Also on Blu-ray, $39.99)
“Steel Magnolias” (Sony, 2012, not rated, $22.99). Lifetime TV-movie remake of the classic 1989 film can’t hold a candle to the original, which was blessed with an amazing cast (Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton, etc.). But retelling the story from a black perspective is a worthy venture and the cast of respected actors works hard, led by Queen Latifah, Phylicia Rashad and Alfred Woodard.
“Gamer 3D” (Lionsgate/Blu-ray 3D, 2009; R for violence, sex, nudity, language; two discs, $19.99; Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, digital versions, featurette). Gerard Butler gives a boost to this unexceptional and very sleazy sci-fi thriller about death-row prisoners forced to participate in a multi-player game with real weapons.Comment on this story
“The Assassin’s Blade” (Well Go, 2008, not rated, $24.98, in Cantonese with English subtitles, trailer). The plot of this action picture would be more at home in a Shakespeare comedy as a young woman disguises her gender to gain acceptance in an all-male martial arts academy. (Also on Blu-ray, $29.98)
“Mighty Fine” (Lionsgate, 2013, R for language and nudity, audio commentary). Chazz Palminteri plays the deluded, charming owner of a failing apparel business who uproots his family from Brooklyn to New Orleans, but he has a dark side when he takes out his rage on his wife (Andie MacDowell) and their two daughters.
“Revenge for Jolly!” (Sony, 2012; R for violence, language, drugs, sex; $22.99). A low-life misfit recruits his cousin to help him get revenge on whoever killed his pet pooch, which leads to a crime/killing spree with a large cache of firepower. Ensemble cast includes Elijah Wood and Kristen Wiig.