Aug. 08--"Mud" (2012, PG-13, 130 min., $19.98) The best movie to show up in U.S. theaters this year is the coming-of-age drama "Mud," a spectacular picture from the creative mind of Jeff Nichols, who wrote and directed. The movie follows a couple of teen boys (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) who discover an abandoned boat on a deserted island in their small Mississippi town. As the boys converge on the boat, they realize that someone's been living there, and that someone is a mysterious drifter named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) Mud hopes to sail the boat off the island with his girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon), but odds are against him, as the law and a vengeful family have scores to settle. He'll need the help of his new friends to get him to safety. Boosted by a strong cast and a terrifically strong story, Nichols' film is a true gem in a year that hasn't produced too many. Special features are the same on Blu-ray and standard DVD, and some decent featurettes are in the mix, along with director commentary. Viewers will find making-of featurettes on the standout cast of characters, the picture's Southern settings and Nichols' screenplay, which is described as a "very personal tale." 4 Stars.
"Oblivion" (2013, PG-13, 124 min., $29.98) Tom Cruise's last foray into science fiction was the highly successful 2005 film "War of the Worlds," and he's back in the genre with "Oblivion," a quieter film that has its assets in beautiful cinematography and a solid performance from its lead actor. Aside from those two positives, "Oblivion" is just OK. Of course, that's evident, considering the summer-blockbuster hopeful was only released in theaters in April and is already on video. The pic's plot is not all that exciting, and when it does show flashes, they're weighed down by awkward storyline twists. Cruise plays Jack Harper, a technician who repairs drones on Earth. He works with Vika (Andrea Riseborough), who is also his lover. Earth has been largely destroyed by wars between humans and Scavs, an alien race. Still, the planet is being harvested for energy by humans who live in space, and drones keep the energy stations safe. When an old ship holding plenty of secrets crashes on Earth, it changes Jack's thinking forever. The same extras are available on Blu-ray and standard DVD, and an extensive making-of featurette is worth a look. Deleted scenes and commentary are also available. 2 Stars.
"The Place Beyond the Pines" (2012, R, 140 min., $29.98) In 2010, filmmaker Derek Cianfrance burst on to the scene with the affecting "Blue Valentine," an indie movie with a broken heart. Earlier this year, the director put out "The Place Beyond the Pines," an ambitious drama that looks at the influences one generation can play on the one that follows. The picture's very powerful, and it proves that Cianfrance, with "Blue Valentine" already a success, is a filmmaker to keep an eye on. "The Place Beyond the Pines" follows two central characters. One is a motorcycle stunt driver named Luke (Ryan Gosling) who takes to robbing banks to support his son. The other is a cop named Avery (Bradley Cooper) who finds himself in a difficult situation that will lift him to the highest point of the justice system or chew him up and spit him out. Either way, both of these men will have direct influences on their families and the sons they bring into the world. Special features are just OK, but the good thing is that they're available on Blu-ray and standard DVD. A slim making-of featurette has some interviews, and there are some deleted scenes. Commentary with Cianfrance is your best bet, though. 3 Stars.
"West of Memphis" (2012, R, 147 min., $30.99) Following in the footsteps of the critically acclaimed "Paradise Lost" trilogy, "West of Memphis," directed by Amy Berg, looks at the 1993 killing of three young boys in West Memphis. The documentary presents new evidence in the case and explores the bumbling nature of the original investigation.
"Aftershock" (2012, R, 89 min., $24.98) Eli Roth stars in this picture about a group of friends pushed into a horrific situation in what was supposed to be a wonderful trip to Chile. Instead of enjoying the sights, the group is forced to deal with the fallout from a powerful earthquake that's ripped through the country, unleashing all sorts of trouble.
"On the Road" (2012, R, 124 min., $24.98) Based on the 1957 literary classic of the same name from Jack Kerouac, one of the more prominent writers of the Beat Generation, "On the Road" follows three young adults on a cross-country trek to find themselves. The talented cast includes Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart.
"The Sapphires" (2012, PG-13, 103 min., $26.98) A group of talented young Australian Aboriginal women make a name for themselves, performing as a soulful act for U.S. troops in Vietnam. Set in 1968, the performers work under the guidance of an Irish musician named Dave Lovelace (Chris O'Dowd) who really knows his way around the music business.
" Magic Magic" (2013, R, 97 min., $26.99) Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Silva wrote and directed this thriller about a young woman who travels to a foreign country to see her cousin. When the relative is called away, the woman is left in a nightmare of a situation that puts her out her head. Juno Temple, Emily Browning and Michael Cera star.
"Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal" (2012, NR, 90 min., $19.95) Just judging from its title, director Boris Rodriguez's latest picture has the potential to become a cult classic. The storyline of this horror-comedy crossover follows an uninspired artist who takes in a quiet student with the rarest of conditions.
"The King of the Streets" (2013, NR, 88 min., $24.98) The gritty underground of Beijing is the setting for this martial arts drama about an angry man looking to avenge the death of his parents, who died at the hands of local gangsters. In the process of shedding a troubled past, the man goes about attaining his revenge.
"Errors of the Human Body" (2012, NR, 101 min., $24.98) A talented scientist, recently divorced and trying to recover from the loss of his infant son to a rare genetic condition, puts all of his concentration into a medical breakthrough that could halt the condition that took his son. Unfortunately, issues from the past continue to stand in the man's way.
"Gallowwalkers" (2012, R, 90 min., $19.98) It was only a matter of time until someone in Hollywood combined zombies and the western. Wesley Snipes stars in this action picture about a mysterious gunman who's forced to deal with all the men he's killed, again, because of a curse that's been set upon him.
"Two Years at Sea" (documentary, 2011, NR, 88 min., $29.95)
"Night Across the Street" (Christian Vadim and Sergio Hernandez, 2012, NR, 110 min., $29.95)
TV ON DVD
"Community: The Complete Fourth Season" (Joel McHale and Gillian Jacobs, two discs, 13 episodes, $45.99)
"Smash: Season Two" (Anjelica Huston and Debra Messing, four discs, 17 episodes, $44.98)
"Political Animals: The Complete Series" (Sigourney Weaver and Carla Gugino, two discs, six episodes, $19.98)
"The Borgias: The Third Season" (Jeremy Irons and Holliday Grainger, three discs, 10 episodes, $56)
"Strike Back: Season 2" (Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester, four discs, 10 episodes, $39.98)
"Duck Dynasty: Season 3" (reality series, two discs, 13 episodes, $19.98)
"Gunsmoke: The Ninth Season, Vols. One and Two" (James Arness and Amanda Blake. Five discs and 18 episodes each, $44.99 each)
(c)2013 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)
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