It’s a weak week for DVD and Blu-ray releases, led by the aggressively weird but disconnected and ultimately sterile “Cloud Atlas.”
“Cloud Atlas” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2013; R for violence, language, sex, nudity, drugs; two discs, $35.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; featurettes). Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, each playing multiple roles under heavy makeup, lead the cast of familiar actors (including Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant) in this sci-fi/fantasy epic, nearly three hours spent unraveling six stories across time (from the distant past to the distant future) that are meant to explore how human interaction affects future generations.
David Mitchell’s sprawling novel has been adapted by the Wachowski siblings (the "Matrix” trilogy) and Tom Tykwer (“Run, Lola, Run”) as an ambitious film, but for all its digitally created spectacle, and there are some stunning visual sequences (especially in the Blu-ray edition), most of the characters are never more than cardboard cutouts, some of them woefully underdeveloped or so broadly played they bring unintended laughter.
It’s not cool these days to embrace traditional linear narrative, but the cross-cutting here between stories that are so tonally and thematically different becomes confusing in places, and the stunt casting may have you distracted by playing spot-the-barely-recognizable-star. (Also on DVD, $28.98)
“Face 2 Face” (Wolfe Video, 2013, not rated, $24.95, deleted scenes, trailer). Interestingly, this no-budget documentary manages to touch much more deeply on the subject of human interconnection as filmmaker Katherine Brooks decides to personally meet with 50 of her 5,000 virtual Facebook friends. A bit self-indulgent at times but genuinely speaks to our technologically distanced society.
“Back to 1942” (Well Go/Blu-ray, 2013, not rated, $29.98, in Mandarin with English subtitles, trailer). Big-budget Chinese epic tells the true story of a famine that killed 3 million people in 1942 during the war with Japan. Well-constructed and gripping in its way, affecting and admirable, yet so aloof that it never quite gets under your skin the way it ought to. Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins have supporting roles. (Also on DVD, $24.98)
“Escape” (eOne/Blu-ray, 2013, not rated, $24.98, in Norwegian with English subtitles, deleted scenes, featurette, bloopers). Rural chase film set in 1363, 10 years after the Black Death has left half the population dead. A family is killed by marauders, save a 19-year-old woman, and when she escapes, the chase is on. Routine fare, save for the setting. (Also on DVD, $19.98)
“Frankie Go Boom” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2012, not rated, $26.98, deleted/alternate scenes, featurettes, trailer). Fast-rising comic actor Chris O’Dowd (“The Sapphires”) plays a self-absorbed would-be filmmaker who has been humiliating his younger brother (Charlie Hunnam) on video for most of their lives in this crass comedy. Chris Noth, Ron Perlman (in drag) and Lizzy Caplan co-star. (Also on DVD, $19.98)Comment on this story
“A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” (Lionsgate, 2013; R for language, nudity; $19.98, audio commentary, featurettes). Roman Coppola (son of Francis Ford Coppola) wrote and directed this sadly painful comedy with Charlie Sheen doing a variation on his raunchy real-life image, dragging Jason Schwartzman, Patricia Arquette and Bill Murray down with them. Vivid, imaginative production design is the only aspect worth noting. (Also on Blu-ray, $24.99)
“Liz & Dick” (eOne, 2012, not rated, $19.98, featurette). Already notorious Lifetime cable biography with woefully miscast Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor and Grant Bowler, who fares a bit better, as Richard Burton, apparently being interviewed in heaven as their story unfolds in flashback. Pretty awful, even by Hollywood bio TV-movie standards.