This week’s releases deserve a second of your time and more of your wallet. Not only does one of the most interesting detective/drama games get ported to the PS3, there are some awfully good flicks that are released on DVD/Blu-Ray. Let’s get into it.
Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut
(PS3, $40, Mature)
This mesmerizing hot mess of a detective yarn – originally released in 2010, but given another go here with refined controls and visuals – blends the oddball, dry humor of Twin Peaks with the obtuse shock factor of the early Silent Hill games, and the bizarre open worlds of Shenmue and Yakuza. You help a fed with a strange voice inside his head make his way around a quirky town, piecing together a ridiculous murder mystery while digging deeper into funny-strange, creepy, barely-intelligible plot mechanics.
This is the sort of game you either toss aside in disgust or become obsessed with to the point that you’d defend its honor in a barroom brawl. The remake makes the game’s antiquated quirks easier to stomach, but offers little to draw back fans of the original.
Zombie Tycoon II: Brainhov’s Revenge
(PS3, Vita, $10, Teen)
Hardly a week passes without yet another zombie game slow-walking your way with intent to bite and infect you. The twist to this real-time strategy time-suck is that you’re controlling the undead hordes rather than slaughtering them. Different varieties of the undead have different powers, and it’s up to you to decide how and when to deploy each type to annihilate humanity.
Simplistic missions, clunky controls and impossibly dumb A.I. – Why is it that the humans seem so much dumber than the zombies? – keep the antics more frustrating than exciting. Despite the presence of a slim multiplayer mode to pad things out, the game is hardly worth precious hard drive space, let alone the $10 asking price. At least it’s available for free for members of Sony’s paid PlayStation Plus service.
($23 Blu-ray, $20 DVD)
This came out last month, but I only recently had the chance to check out the disc. Quentin Tarantino’s best original screenplay Oscar-winning tale of revenge-obsessed slave (Jamie Foxx) and his cool-headed German mentor (best supporting actor Oscar winner Christoph Waltz) may be one of the better action movies, but it’s a letdown compared to Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs or Kill Bill. The dialogue and music aren’t quite up to the usual Tarantino standards, and the screenplay basically consists of “bloody kill, bloody kill, n-word, n-word, n-word, bloody kill, n-word.” Featurettes in the Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo take a look at the stunts, costume designs and a 23-minute doc with interviews of Tarantino and cast members.
The Great Escape
This nearly three-hour beast is exhausting to sit through, but an experience every self- respecting male movie-lover must go through before he can call himself a man. Steve McQueen, James Garner, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Richard Attenborough and a ton of other tough guys who could have kicked your tail slog through this 1963 World War II saga, about allied soldiers who plan out an improbable escape from a Nazi prison camp. The Blu-ray gives a loving spit shine to the gritty visuals, and the disc is loaded with extras, including background interviews, director John Sturges’s commentary and an examination of the true story on which the movie is based.
($20 Blu-ray, $16 DVD)
Tom Cruise tries to start another franchise, based on a series of pulp novels read mainly by people like your unemployed uncle. Cruise plays a tough-guy detective who investigates a series of sniping murders and gets involved in improbably fisticuffs and chase scenes as he winds his way through the web of red herrings and conspiracies on the way to defeating the end boss and prepping for the inevitable sequel. Cruise does his best to keep a straight face and make himself halfway believable as a brainy roughhouser – think of a less intense Jason Bourne – but ridiculous plotting undermines his efforts. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo has commentary with Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie and a look at the character’s history and appeal.
($22 Blu-ray, $18 DVD)
There’s a thin plot at play in this creepy, Korean-style horror flick, but the movie is all about its off-putting tone and nonsensical shocks, which are all the more unnerving because of how little sense they make. Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau play an unsuspecting couple who take in a pair of orphaned sisters who talk to a supernatural, havoc-causing entity. Director Andy Muschietti, who understands the fact every parent is familiar with – that little kids can be pretty damn scary – grabbed the attention of Mexican maestro Guillermo del Toro with his short film based on the subject, spinning it into a promising debut feature that proves he’s someone to watch in the horror realm. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo includes that original short with del Toro’s commentary, deleted scenes and a featurette on the making of the movie’s creepy effects.
($23 Blu-ray, $18 DVD)
This is yet another chick flick based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, meaning you know exactly what you’re in for: A young, single woman attempting to make her own way in the Deep South, a wounded love interest who longs for her from afar, and a crazy stalker boyfriend who’s always ready to pop in and shake things up. Dancing with the Stars’ Julianne Hough pairs up with professional mannequin Josh Duhamel to dance the same old dance. Expect to gag early and often, and consider breaking up with anyone who forces you to sit through this. Deleted and alternate scenes and peeks at Duhamel on set getting into his stupid character onset pad out the Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo.
($25 Blu-ray, $20 DVD)
Sometimes-sellout director Steven Soderbergh snaps back into indie form for this twist-filled psychological thriller, about a drugged-up woman (Rooney Mara), married to a newly-released-from-prison insider trader (Channing Tatum), who is fingered for a crime and seeks help from her psychiatrist (Jude Law). A crafty screenplay and devilishly sexy turns from Mara and Catherine Zeta-Jones keep the movie mesmerizing, and one of my favorite movies released in 2013 so far. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo includes fake pharmaceutical commercials concocted for the film, as well as a behind-the-scenes featurette.
Silver Linings Playbook
($23 Blu-ray, $17 DVD)
I don’t know about all the Oscar love this romantic comedy/sports flick hybrid (think Jerry Maguire) received, but the funny, poignant and well-acted movie was undoubtedly one of the must-see films of 2012. Bradley Cooper plays a sad-sack, Philadelphia Eagles-obsessed loser who seeks redemption in the form of a spandex-clad dancer played by Jennifer Lawrence. Robert De Niro is solid as Cooper’s OCD, Eagles fanatic dad, and man’s man writer/director David O. Russell (I Heart Huckabees, Three Kings) keeps things from getting stupid. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo boasts 26 minutes of deleted scenes, post-screening Q&A footage and a breakdown of the choreography in the climactic dance.
($17 Blu-ray, $15 DVD)
It remains to be seen whether Supes’ latest live-action attempt will suck as bad as most of his others, but his animated flicks usually do the superhero of superheroes justice. This outing, in which the Man of Steel and Supergirl tangle with nemesis Brainiac, may not be as exciting and deep as some of his others, such as Superman/Doomsday, but it’s still an entertaining yarn that does the 2008 source material (Superman: Brainiac) proud. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy includes a digital comic excerpt from Superman: Brainiac, filmmaker commentary, background featurettes and episodes from Superman: The Animated Series.
Screeners were provided by the publishers for review.