Valkyrie ** (2 stars)
Starring Tom Cruise. Directed by Brian Singer. Released by United Artists. $34.98 (Blu-Ray $39.95).
Tom Cruise, who once could seemingly do anything in the movies, tries to revive his reputation, resuscitate United Artists and kill-off Adolf Hitler, all in the same movie. Valkyrie details -- that is, excruciatingly details -- a 1944 plot by a handful of enlightened German officers to assassinate the fuhrer.
Had it been made 50 years ago, when exciting, star-studded World War II films were al l the rage, Valkyrie would have been filled with colorful performances, multiple climaxes and lots of stirring, bombastic music. It also would have been a much better film.
But director Bryan Singer is too busy trying to ennoble the German people to try any of that. Valkyire spends way too much time detailing events (the plot was not only to kill Hitler, but to seize control of the army) and making a hero of the plot's mastermind, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise). The result is more a procedural than a movie.
Also out this week: : True Blood: The Complete First Season (HBO Home Video, $59.95): HBO and Alan Ball put a new spin on bloodsuckers with this heavily stylized, sometimes even campy, exploration of a town where vampires and the people they should be feasting on live not-so-happily side-by-side.
- Chris Kaltenbach
Relapse * (1 star)
And so it has come to this: rebel-turned-celebrity turns into celebrity-as-cliche.
How else to explain Eminem's latest studio album, Relapse? It took five years to make not because the artist born Marshall Mathers III was squirreling himself away in an attempt to reinvent himself. No, he was preoccupied with a drug habit.
His dependency on painkillers frames a 20-track, 76-minute album, and the by-now expected digressions into audio pathology. There are a few genuinely chilling moments, a few shots of dark humor and a lot of trolling through one of the most disturbing imaginations in pop culture.
Eminem and his longtime collaborator, producer Dr. Dre, set out to make a relatively austere album in the mold of his incendiary 1999 debut, The Slim Shady LP, with few cameos, few obvious samples and few pop choruses.
He does manage to spare his former wife, Kim, another frequently abused recipient of his verbal daggers on past albums. But inexplicably he keeps tweaking fellow celebs, such as Mariah Carey, Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan as if anyone cared.
These played-out references only add to the feeling that Eminem can't be bothered to challenge himself anymore. Even the countless misogynistic and homophobic references that pepper this album are no longer shocking. They're merely pathetic.
- Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune
Assault On Dark Athena *** (3 stars)
Available on Playstation 3, Xbox 360. Released by Atari. Rated Mature. $59.99.
With Assault on Dark Athena, there are now as many Chronicles of Riddick games as there are movies - and the games have a better track record.
Once again starring Vin Diesel in the title role, Dark Athena sees the criminal/ survivalist/anti-hero arrive undetected aboard the mercenary ship Dark Athena. But this ship's crew is up to something other than typical merc work - the halls are patrolled by creepy cyborg drones, and the vessel appears to be attacking defenseless colonies.
The game play is a combination of stealth segments in which the tough but vulnerable Riddick skulks around and kills from the shadows, and action-oriented sequences where he's more heavily armed. The combination works well, though enemies have an annoying tendency to see behind them.
- Justin Hoeger, McClatchy-Tribune