Mostly Cloudy


New video releases few in number but of high quality

By Gary Clift

There may not be just tons of new movies on the list of the general release features being offered on home viewing media during May. But there are some good films among them.

And maybe the action movies are the most consistently satisfactory of the kinds of movies headed for the new videos shelves at local stores. Consider, for example, “Jack Reacher.” This is a movie in which Tom Cruise plays a throw-back sort of hero, a competent crime-fighter more interesting in punishing the guilty than in kow-towing to administrators. He arrives in town one night to find out who killed five people in a park. As he pulls at one loose story thread he gets help from Robert Duval in a minor but important part.

Even easier to like is “Parker,” the most recent Jason Statham film. In it everyone gets their due. The crooks the title character helps rob the Ohio State Fair later dump him so they can keep his share of the loot. That’s it for them, then. A truck farmer saves Parker. So you know he will be rewarded before the final credits roll.

In most ways “The Last Stand” is even more old fashioned. In it a crooked Mexican escapes from FBI custody in Nevada and makes for an Arizona border county where his pals have set up a temporary bridge for him to cross. Too bad for them the county’s sheriff is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who rallies local forces to stop the international flight. The dialog is pretty good here, too.

Then we come to the category of films we might call “Supernatural, Science Fiction, and Both.” In it the pick this month is “Beautiful Creatures,” a movie about a young witch’s extra significant coming of age. And it features Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson. But the real subject of interest here is the point of view, which belongs to an unlikely young southerner troubled by his dreams.

The worst movie in the group, and probably the worst general release movie of 2012, is “Cloud Atlas.” The story shuffles scenes from different time periods and localities while using actors over and over in different parts. The net effect is viewer confusion. What was this movie about?

If you can imagine that ghosts can come from outer space, “Dark Skies” may appeal to you. It follows an ordinary middle-class family that has trouble enough before several strange night break-ins at their house and the appearance of strange itches and even stranger manic habits. This starts slow but eventually pays off.

We didn’t need a sixth movie in the series, but at least “Texas Chainsaw 3D” tries to stand the earlier movies’ assumptions on their heads by making the butcher Leatherface into an understandable and even heroic figure. If you like that idea, try the movie.

If you want to see where horror films are headed, try “Mama.” Here two girls are left alone in the woods for years, tended only by a supernatural character they call Mama. When they are found and taken to live with an uncle (whose girlfriend is played by Jessica Chastain), things go wrong and we follow the investigation into the circumstances.

Steven Soderberg’s “Side Effects” is an diatribe about big drug companies for about three fifths of its length. Then is suddenly realizes it can be a thriller, and if forgets what it had been doing. Unfortunately, it isn’t all that great a thriller, either.

There’s a new chick flic this month, too, the predictable but kind of nice looking “Safe Haven.” The romance-novel story and all the attendant cliches come from the Nicholas Sparks. The visuals come from director Lasse Hallstrom. Josh the flying Duhamel is the male lead.

So there aren’t that many new movies scheduled for video release this month. But there is something for just about everyone. Stay away from “Cloud Atlas” and you’ll probably do fine in picking.

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