If you didn’t believe me when I said that May was going to be a great month for Blu-rays, well, you never should have doubted me to begin with, but I forgive you. Following in the footsteps of last week’s releases, there are several great movies and TV series arriving in stores today, including Season Two of the BBC drama “Sherlock.” Although I would have liked to see Studio Ghibli’s latest animated film, “The Secret World of Arriety,” in time to review, it’s probably safe to say that it’s at least worth renting. Sadly, that’s not the case for every new release, but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and that applies to one’s taste in movies as well.
Fans of Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ modern-day update of Sherlock Holmes have had to endure an agonizingly long wait between seasons, but I think most people would agree that it was well worth it, because “Sherlock” is every bit as good (and perhaps even better) in its second year. Part of that likely has to do with Moffat and Gatiss choosing to adapt arguably the three most popular stories in Sherlock Holmes canon. Though I’ve never been particularly fond of the oft-filmed “The Hounds of Baskerville,” the two movies that bookend it – “A Scandal in Belgravia” and “The Reichenbach Fall” – are nothing short of perfect, featuring a pair of magnetic performances by Lara Pulver (as the sexy and smart femme fatal Irene Adler) and Andrew Scott, whose deliciously twisted Moriarty is one for the ages. Of course, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are still very much the heartbeat of “Sherlock,” because no matter how clever the writing may be, the show wouldn’t work as well as it does if it weren’t for the chemistry between its two leading men.
Blu-ray Highlight: There’s not a single weak link among the included extras, though it’s a bit strange that they’d include audio commentaries for the first two movies and not the last one. The commentaries are insightful and will appeal to both fans of the show and the original stories, while the making-of featurette “Sherlock Uncovered” offers a behind the scenes look at the work that went into producing each episode.
Simon Kinberg has written some pretty good movies in the past (“Sherlock Holmes,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”), but he’s also written his share of bad ones as well, and “This Means War” falls somewhere in the middle. The film’s biggest problem is that it squanders its potential at almost every turn, and a lot of that blame falls on director McG, who fails to make the most of the promising setup. Though it’s not as flashy as you might expect compared to some of McG’s other work, “This Means War” really isn’t as much of an action movie. Instead, it’s a romantic comedy where the two love interests just so happen to be real-life action heroes, and while the scenes between Pine and Hardy in the field are a lot of fun, the main plot involving Reese Witherspoon dating both men at the same time is beyond ridiculous. Chelsea Handler is probably the only memorable thing about the movie, and not even in a good way. She’s so terrible as Witherspoon’s advice-bearing best friend that one can only hope it’ll finally expose her as the talentless famewhore she is.
Blu-ray Highlight: McG’s rapid-fire commentary is hands-down the best extra on the disc, with the director offering details on just about every aspect of the filmmaking process, even if he does talk about the attractiveness of his three stars quite a bit.
Although the story of the Tuskegee Airmen – the first African-American squadron of military pilots – is one that deserves the Hollywood treatment, “Red Tails” is littered with so many problems (from the hokey dialogue, to the cardboard characters, to the terrible pacing) that it does a real disservice to this important piece of U.S. history. Anyone hoping to actually learn something about the Tuskegee Airmen beyond their time spent as bomber escorts in World War II will be sadly disappointed, because “Red Tails” is far more interested in entertaining the audience than giving a history lesson. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it was half as exciting as it aims to be, but while “Red Tails” is pretty enjoyable when the pilots take to the skies, it stalls out the moment they land, bogged down by a poorly plotted script that lacks direction. In the hands of more talented filmmakers, “Red Tails” could have been something really special, but as it stands, the film is made-for-TV quality at best.
Blu-ray Highlight: Narrated by co-star Cuba Gooding Jr., the hour-long documentary “Double Victory: The Tuskegee Airmen at War” features interviews with several surviving members of the all-black fighter group and takes a more educational approach to the material, focusing not only on the significant part that the pilots played in the war, but also on the early days of the program training in Tuskegee.