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Columbia Pictures

DVD reviews: Force of the future

Profile image for By Boo Allen
By Boo Allen
Frank (Billy Crudup) and Vanessa (Zoe Saldana) have a complicated relationship in “Blood Ties.”
Frank (Billy Crudup) and Vanessa (Zoe Saldana) have a complicated relationship in “Blood Ties.”
Reese Witherspoon and Alessandro Nivola star in “Devil’s Knot,” director Atom Egoyan’s dramatization of the West Memphis Three story.
Reese Witherspoon and Alessandro Nivola star in “Devil’s Knot,” director Atom Egoyan’s dramatization of the West Memphis Three story.

‘RoboCop’ gets a high-tech reboot

This week, we begin in the future.


2.5 stars

Rated PG-13, 118 minutes.

Available now on DVD and Blu-ray and in various digital download formats.

Director Jose Padilha remakes the 1987 film with Joel Kinnaman playing Detroit detective Alex Murphy, who finds only parts of himself have survived a car bomb.

He wakes encased in a suit of black armor controlled by his brain. He leaps into action against corporate honchos and cartoonish bad guy Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton).

Padilha humanizes Murphy, accentuating the pain suffered by him as well as his wife Clara (Abbie Cornish). But RoboCop rests mainly on its loud action sequences, as the new Murphy fights advanced mechanized machines and Detroit’s street criminals. In this, the director succeeds in delivering what audiences will most likely expect.

DVD extras: five deleted scenes, a brief OmniCorp product announcement, and a 29-minute, three part “making of” featurette.


Blood Ties (2.5 stars) In this action-drama film, based on a French novel and its subsequent film, director Guillaume Canet works through every cliche in the genre, turning the crime-thriller/family-drama picture into too-familiar territory.

Billy Crudup and Clive Owen play a formulaic pair of brothers Frank and Chris — one good, one bad. Chris leaves jail and takes temporary shelter with Frank, a Brooklyn police detective.

Chris fights to remain straight. Frank helps him, while struggling to stay honest. Of course, they both have women trouble, Frank with an ex-girlfriend (Zoe Saldana), whose husband Frank put in jail. Chris battles with his drug-addicted, prostitute ex-wife (a curiously miscast Marion Cotillard).

Unfortunately, the drama never ratchets up any tension or gives us anyone to care about.

Rated R, 128 minutes.

DVD extras: a 26-minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette.


Devil’s Knot (2.5 stars) The true story of the West Memphis Three has already been the subject of a lengthy documentary (West of Memphis) as well as a series of HBO documentaries. And director Monte Hellman has another related feature film in the works this year.

But here, director Atom Egoyan examines the murders of three adolescent boys in 1993 Arkansas that led to the trials and convictions of three teenage boys. The trio were tried, convicted and sent to prison. But over the years, their innocence became apparent, leading to their release in 2011.

In this methodical retelling of the murders and trials, Colin Firth plays Ron Lax, an investigator who uncovers exculpatory evidence, and Reese Witherspoon is Pam Hobbs, the mother of one of the victims. Despite the all-around good cast, the film never rises above the level of the too-familiar police procedural.

Not rated, 114 minutes.

DVD extras: a seven-minute “making of” featurette, an eight-minute segment on “Getting Into Character,” and six minutes of deleted scenes.


Unacceptable Levels (3 stars) Ed Brown directed this thoughtful documentary that examines the constant and often unknown influx of chemicals into our bodies.

An impressive roster of interviewees sits for Brown, discussing the science and the data behind how various foods and other products work their way into our systems. The experts may not be familiar names (except Ralph Nader), but they head some of the country’s foremost groups and agencies.

Not rated, 76 minutes.


We Always Lie to Strangers (2.5 stars) Perhaps not so revealing as it hints, this entertaining documentary from director A.J. Schnack and David Wilson pulls the covers back, a little, from the real story of Branson, Missouri.

The duo examines a select group of the performers who have turned this Ozark mountain town into a sensational live music mecca. The portrait may at times be harsh, but the ride is overall positive and engaging.

Not rated, 109 minutes.


And, finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:

Ray Donovan: Season One For cable channel Showtime, series creator Ann Biderman followed up her gritty cop drama Southland with this gritty family drama with an emphasis on one man.

Liev Schreiber stars as the title character, a Boston native (complete with accent) transplanted to Los Angeles where he works as an all-around “fixer.” When needed, he and his crew (Steven Bauer and Katherine Moennig) tend to a roster of movie stars, celebrities and high-powered figures. These celebs, power brokers and playboys have run aground with thanks to peccadilloes of the sex/money/power sort.

But from the first episode, Ray’s world stands imperiled by the unwanted and unexpected arrival of his mob boss father, Mickey (Golden Globe-winning Jon Voight), who has just left jail after 20 years. Much of the season revolves around Mickey forcing his way into the family. But around this father-and-son dynamic, various forces play out to make these 12 episodes gripping entertainment.

In an excellent supporting cast filled with noted flavorful actors, Eddie Marsan and Dash Mihok play Ray's dysfunctional brothers, Paula Malcomson is his volcanic wife, and Elliott Gould appears as a senior confidant.

On four discs. Not rated, about 10 1/2 hours.


Deltora Quest: The Complete Series This complete Japanese anime series arrives on eight discs, featuring the colorful action that originates with Emily Rodda’s children’s books of the same name. Magical worlds, fanciful characters and an ongoing mystery complement the action in the land of Deltora. It suffers under the harsh hand of the evil Shadow Lord, and it’s up to the main character, Lief, to find seven magical diamonds and free his friends.

Not rated; 19 hours, 25 minutes.

DVD extras: character sketches.


Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete Fourth Season TV’s popular buddy team returns in this season of 16 episodes.

Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and medical examiner Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) experience personal trouble as well as professional challenges in this fourth season. The drug division has a new boss (Amaury Nolasco), someone with whom Jane has a history. And Maura’s long-separated parents cause her trouble — mother (Jacqueline Bissett) and her father (John Doman), a former mob boss.

But it’s grisly murders, complex mysteries and, particularly, the quick-witted exchanges between Jane and Maura that provide weekly entertainment.

Not rated, 673 minutes.

DVD extras: two “making of” featurettes, “When Truth Meets Fiction” and “Building Boston.”


Also available Tuesday on DVD: The Missing Picture, Non-Stop and Visitors.