May 22, 2009 in Features

Tom Cruise’s hero sees the light in ‘Valkyrie’

The Washington Post
 
MGM photo

Tom Cruise portrays Claus von Stauffenberg in “Valkyrie.” MGM
(Full-size photo)

Coming up

Among upcoming DVD releases (schedule subject to change):

Tuesday: “New in Town,” “Forever Strong,” “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers”

June 2: “Defiance,” “He’s Just Not That Into You,” “Revolutionary Road”

June 9: “Gran Torino,” “The International,” “Spinning Into Butter”

June 16: “Friday the 13th,” “Madea Goes to Jail”

‘Valkyrie’

Expectations for Tom Cruise’s history-based thriller about Claus von Stauffenberg’s 1944 attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler were low. And against all expectations he has fashioned a successful if not exceptional film.

Von Stauffenberg was not only untroubled by Hitler’s nationalism and early aggression, he helped further it as a loyal soldier. It was only later, when he learned more about the master he served with military punctiliousness, that he saw the light.

All of that is left out of the film. It is so austere, so strangely inhuman in its depiction of heroism, that you can’t help but admire it as an entertainment juggernaut, and fret about it, too, for its celebration of a very limited ideal of human behavior.

DVD extras: Commentary by Cruise, director Bryan Singer and writers Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander; featurettes. (2:00; PG-13 for violence and strong language)

‘My Bloody Valentine 3-D’

No cartoon cuddliness in this hand-drips-blood-in-your-lap exploitation picture that lacks the subtlety or horror foreplay of the original. Editor-turned-director Patrick Lussier jumps straight into the mayhem as he re-creates the mining disaster that gave us the miner-mass murderer Harry Warden.

A brisk opening shows us the mine owner’s son Tom (Jensen Ackles), whose blunder caused a cave-in; the single comatose miner rescued six days later; and the awful realization that his fellow victims didn’t die of asphyxiation or the crush of earth. They were killed by a guy who didn’t want them using up his oxygen.

The plot staggers from absurd to ridiculous, and we don’t have enough time with any character to wish them well in the face of certain death. But if horror in general is the last great communal movie experience, 3-D just heightens the shared fun.

DVD extras: contains both 2-D and 3-D versions; four pairs of 3-D glasses included; special edition includes commentary, deleted scenes, gag reel and featurettes. (1:41; R for brutal horror, violence, grisly images, strong sexuality, graphic nudity and language)

‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop’

Even though this film was co-produced by Adam Sandler, it never sinks to scatological humor. That’s pretty much where the accolades end for this mediocre, unmemorable comedy, one with such obviously humble intentions that busting on it is a bit like harassing the junior high school outcast who just wants to eat his tater tots in peace.

Kevin James plays an overweight mall security officer named Paul Blart. On a particularly unfortunate Black Friday, a posse of thieves assumes control of the mall and starts to take hostages. Will the man who can’t even break up a catfight at Victoria’s Secret step up when it really counts?

James gamely pratfalls and stumbles through all 90 minutes of these proceedings, but his clumsy somersaults and silly Segway maneuvers elicit few giggles. More intriguing is Raini Rodriguez, a 15-year-old actress who conveys a believable sweetness as Blart’s daughter and, with luck, will score a better part in a better movie someday.

DVD extras: commentary with James and producer Todd Garner; deleted scenes; featurettes. (1:30; PG for some violence, mild crude and suggestive humor, and language)

‘Fanboys’

Three years after graduating from high school, Eric (Sam Huntington), Hutch (Dan Fogler), Windows (Jay Baruchel) and Linus (Chris Marquette) are still living with their folks and working at dead-end jobs.

When a terminal illness strikes one of the four and they fear he won’t make it until the official release of “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace,” they decide to drive from Ohio to George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch in California. There, they’ll break in and watch a rough cut of the movie that they’ve been yearning for and dreaming about for years.

Stops along the way include the birthplace of Capt. James T. Kirk, a gay biker bar, a snack of peyote-laced guacamole and the obligatory stopover in Las Vegas.

Director Kyle Newman doesn’t capture the sense of landscape and movement that a good road movie needs, and two slapstick chase scenes are lethargic. The Force is not strong with this one.

DVD extras: deleted scenes, commentary by cast and producers. (1:30; PG-13 for strong language, sexual humor and drug use)

Also available: “24: Season 7,” “Driven to Kill,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Centennial Collection),” “Monsters, Inc. (Blu-ray),” “Outlander,” “Pufnstuf,” “True Blood: The Complete First Season”

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