A new reboot of an old franchise leads new movies on home video this week, including an unusual number of interesting documentaries.
“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” (Paramount/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2014, PG-13, deleted/extended scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). Chris Pine, not content with just the Capt. Kirk role in the Star Trek franchise, takes on a second movie series as CIA analyst Jack Ryan, previously played by Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck. Although, since this one underperformed at the box office and didn’t impress critics, the franchise might stop here.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also has a supporting role, this is a genuine reboot with a new origin story: Ryan is Marine veteran of the war in Afghanistan working as a covert CIA operative on Wall Street when he is suddenly thrust into the field, with his boss (Kevin Costner) as back-up. Their investigation into the dealings of a duplicitous Russian tycoon (Branagh) also inadvertently involves Ryan’s fiancée (Keira Knightley).
There are no surprises but the action is swift, the production sleek and the actors appealing. It’s not going to replace “The Hunt for Red October” or “Clear and Present Danger” in our esteem, but it’s not bad.
“Visitors” (Cinedigm/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2014, b/w, not rated, featurettes, trailers). Director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass follow up their Qatsi trilogy with this artful, experimental, static, fitfully mesmerizing black-and-white documentary that explores our relationship with technology. Although whether that can actually be discerned from this dreamlike experience is in the eye of the beholder.
“Bible Quiz” (Virgil/DVD, 2014, not rated). Each year, evangelical teens come together for a variety of Bible competitions that follow the College Bowl template. The focus here is on 17-year-old Mikayla, from Tacoma, Washington, who is a bit of a misfit, comes from a broken home and has a crush on her team captain as they prepare for the National Bible Quiz Championship. Sweet exploration of adolescence, as well as a unique subculture.
“Midrange” (Cinedigm/DVD, 2014, PG-13, featurettes). On the fast track to become a pro basketball player, a college graduate (Jason Fields, who also wrote and directed) has also found God. But when he returns home to his Chicago suburb, his brother tries to pull him back into his former drug-fueled lifestyle. Uplifting Christian film about overcoming weaknesses, forgiving others and seeking redemption.
“Banner 4th of July” (Cinedigm/DVD, 2014, not rated). Hallmark Channel cable-TV movie stars Mormon singer Brooke White (an “American Idol” finalist) as one of three estranged siblings who once had a successful rock band. Fifteen years later, they are reunited when their mother (Mercedes Ruehl), who is also the mayor of their small town, and she feigns a heart attack to bring them together. White also wrote two of the songs.
“Alan Partridge” (Magnolia/Blu-ray/DVD, 2013; R for language, violence, nudity; featurettes). British comic Steve Coogan (“Philomena”) reprises the title character, which he’s been playing on and off on British television since 1991, a fatuous, self-involved talk-show celebrity. In this theatrical farce, he discovers that his radio station’s new owners are going to fire either him or his colleague Pat (Colm Meaney), so he sabotages Pat’s chances, leading to a hostage situation.
“Tim’s Vermeer” (Sony Classics/Blu-ray/DVD, 2014, PG-13, deleted/extended/alternate scenes, audio commentary, featurette). This documentary by comic magicians Penn & Teller (both wrote it; Teller directed) is about inventor Tim Jenison trying to prove that the artist Vermeer used a mirror device to copy images 150 years before the invention of photography.
“Unacceptable Levels” (Disinformation/DVD, 2014, not rated). Documentary suggests that the chemical revolution of the 1940s began the regular, if unintentional, ingesting of toxic chemicals by humans that has exponentially grown worse.
“Ride Resort” (Cinema Libre/DVD, 2014, not rated, featurette, trailer). Two documentary filmmakers chronicle their 10,000-mile, cross-continental road trip from Las Vegas to Rio de Janeiro on Suzuki motorcycles while making friends of generous strangers along the way.
“Capital” (Cohen/Blu-ray/DVD, 2013, not rated, featurette, in English and in French with English subtitles).
“Amen” (Cohen/Blu-ray/DVD, 2002, not rated, audio commentary, trailer, BBC documentary: “Pope Pius XII: The Pope, the Jews and the Nazis”). Two films by political-activist filmmaker Costa-Gavras, “Capital,” based on a novel by Stephane Osmont, is a dark, comic, suspenseful look at global finance, and “Amen,” based on Rolf Hochhuth’s play “The Deputy,” is about a German chemist during World War II who discovers his work is being used for Hitler’s Final Solution, so he appeals to a Jesuit priest with ties to Pope Pius XII.
“Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles” (Shout!/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2014, not rated, featurette, in Japanese with English subtitles or English dubbed). Japanese action film about seven battles fought with seven disciplines — kung fu, sword, stick, handgun, etc. — with each preceded by a lavish meal.
“The Secret Lives of Dorks” (Cinedigm/DVD, 2014, PG-13). High school farce about a nerdy boy who has an annoying crush on a cheerleader until she gives him dating tips, directing him toward an equally nerdy girl. Jim Belushi and Jennifer Tilly have supporting roles.
“Brawl” (Lionsgate/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2014, R for violence, featurette, trailers). A former boxer moves to Thailand where he meets a Muay Thai boxer who brings him into a dangerous underground fight club.
“Kill Zombie!” (Well Go/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, not rated). The populace of Amsterdam is infected with a zombie-creating virus just as two brothers are released from prison, along with other criminals. So they form an unlikely crew to take down the zombies with whatever is available, from crossbows to bowling balls.
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