CHICAGO – When faced with adversity, the best way around it is to somehow break into song. That is the feeling behind the Brown Paper Box Co.’s “Positively Present: An Uplifting Cabaret,” running April 7th and 8th at Mary’s Attic in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. The event features company member Kristi Szczepanek as host, and presents song stylings by other company members, including Anna Schutz, plus some special guests. For details and ticket information, click here.
Blu-Ray Review: Tom Cruise’s ‘Valkyrie’ a Disappointing Film, Excellent Blu-Ray
CHICAGO – The Blu-Ray release of “Valkyrie” is another case of a disappointing movie being elevated by an excellent home release. With its miscast lead and mediocre screenplay, “Valkyrie” was a near-miss in theaters, but the film looks and sounds great on Blu-Ray and comes accompanied by informative commentaries and featurettes. If you’re a fan, you won’t be disappointed.
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0
As for the film itself, “Valkyrie” is about the incredible true story of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) and his ingenious assassination plot targeting Adolph Hitler. The film reenacts the daring operation designed to take out one of the most evil men in history. The film co-stars Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp, Eddie Izzard, and Carice von Houten.
Valkyrie was released on Blu-Ray on May 19th, 2009.
Photo credit: MGM
I stand by my theatrical review of “Valkyrie,” in which I wrote, “The supporting cast does their best, but Singer and his cinematographer, Newton Thomas Sigel, shoot nearly everything in extreme, claustrophobic close-up, never giving the audience the sensation that we know exactly what’s going on and what’s at stake. ”
“And writers Christopher McQuarrie & Nathan Alexander don’t provide nearly enough of a back story for any of their characters, as if filming a scene where von Stauffenberg writes an angry letter about Hitler and another where he’s injured in combat would be enough for us to get behind him as a lead. History makes it easy to support a lead trying to kill one of the most evil men in history, but imagine how much more effective “Valkyrie” would be if he was a fully, three-dimensional character of his very own.”
“If “Valkyrie” was just an action movie, the lack of back stories wouldn’t be a problem, but it’s not effective as a thrill ride either. Cruise and Singer take themselves way too seriously for that. Singer can’t just make a historical drama or an action adventure movie, he has to make the best of both that anyone has ever seen. There’s a self-seriousness to “Valkyrie” that sinks it. It’s ironic that a film about an attempt that had some pretty serious flaws feels like its creators made a few mistakes of their own.”
Having said (or re-said) all of that, “Valkyrie” undeniably looks and sounds great on Blu-Ray. The 1080P video transfer is crisp and clear and the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is better-than-average for Fox.
Special features on “Valkyrie” include an informative and rare audio commentary from Tom Cruise himself with Singer and McQuarrie. It’s unusual to find a star of Cruise’s magnitude on a commentary track and that alone should be a nice enough special features for fans of the actor or the film.
Another commentary with just the writers - McQuarrie and Alexander - goes into more detail about the history of the film. The featurettes and documentaries are extensive and include “Reel Pieces with Tom Cruise and Bryan singer,” “The Valkyrie Legacy,” “The Journey to Valkyrie,” “The Road to Resistance,” “The African Front Sequence,” “Taking to the Air,” and “Recreating Berlin”. A digital copy of the film is also included.