Blu Tuesday: Sherlock, Frenemies and Dogfights

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.

“Sherlock: Season Two”

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.

“This Means War”

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.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to February

For as much abuse as January receives for being a bad movie magnet, February isn’t any better, especially when you factor in the bombardment of cheesy chick flicks being unloaded in time for Valentine’s Day. In fact, with the exception of maybe one or two releases, there isn’t anything even worth getting excited about – unless you’re a really big “Star Wars” fan, in which case, keep reading. January was by no means a great month for moviegoers, but it was a heckuva lot better than what February has in store.

“THE WOMAN IN BLACK”

Who: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds and Emma Shorey
What: A young lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals.
When: February 3rd
Why: There’s no way in hell that I’m going to see this movie – not because it doesn’t look like it might be good, but rather because there are few things that scare me as unconditionally as creepy old ghost women from horror movies. (Despite really enjoying last year’s “Insidious,” I couldn’t sleep for weeks afterwards.) And that’s a shame, because “The Woman in Black” looks like it might actually rise above the typical horror trash that populates this time of year (see: “The Devil Inside”). Adapted from Susan Hill’s novel of the same name (which was also turned into a successful stage play), the script was written by Matthew Vaughn’s go-to scribe Jane Goldman and stars Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Potter role. The actor undoubtedly had plenty of offers on the table, so the fact that he chose this Hammer horror film certainly speaks of its potential.

“CHRONICLE”

Who: Michael B. Jordan, Alex Russell, Dane DeHaan and Michael Kelly
What: Three friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery, only for their friendship to be tested when one of them embraces his dark side.
When: February 3rd
Why: I didn’t even know about this movie until a few months ago when a friend sent me a link to the trailer, but consider me cautiously intrigued. Though I’m just as sick of the whole found footage fad as everyone else, “Chronicle” is set up in a way that it doesn’t have to adhere to the normal rules of the genre. For starters, since the main characters have superpowers (namely, telekinesis), they can put the camera pretty much anywhere they want, allowing for a more dynamic range of shots beyond the trademark shaky cam. The trailer also seems to suggest that there will be a healthy dose of action, so as long as the story isn’t a complete mess and director Josh Trank can keep the movie’s mystery a secret, this superhero “Cloverfield” could be the first surprise hit of the year.

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