February’s home entertainment offerings start off a bit on the weak side, but they do include a powerful performance by Denzel Washington, the first volume of the new Ultimate Spider-Man series from Marvel, and a wonderfully restored version of Disney 1953 animated classic Peter Pan.
Denzel Washington has received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal in Flight (Paramount, "R," $29.99, BD $39.99) of an airline pilot whose life comes apart after his brilliance in avoiding a major catastrophe attracts unwanted attention. Admittedly it is a bit tough seeing Washington self-destruct, but it is powerful performance with plenty of nuances. Flight is an actor’s movie with a basic storyline that has been treated again and again in the movies (The Lost Weekend, Days of Wine and Roses, Leaving Las Vegas). As hackneyed as its theme of addiction may be, the authenticity of Washington’s performance is startling.
The rest of this week’s offerings are of lesser interest. Here Comes the Boom (Sony, "PG," $30.99, BD $35.99) stars the likeable Kevin James (Paul Blart Mall Cop) in a contrived story about a high school biology teacher who enters a mixed martial arts tournament to earn cash for his school, while Alex Cross (Summit, "PG-13," $29.95, BD $38.99) gives Tyler Perry a chance to play James Patterson’s Detroit police detective in film that could manage only a 12% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which might have something to do with Perry’s having to step into the very big shoes of Morgan Freeman.
Anyone who would like romantic comedy movies to take a different approach might want to check out Celeste and Jesse Forever (Sony, "R," $30.99, BD $35.99), an attempt to find humor in the fadeout rather than the bloom of romantic love. Rashida Jones, who is particularly effective, and Andy Samberg star in a film that will perhaps appeal more to female viewers, though for fans of the well-worn romcom genre any film that gets a 69% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes is probably worth checking out.
TV on DVD
The "Man of Action" group, which helped fashion the Ultimate Spider-Man series, also created the popular Ben 10, which continues to prosper on the Cartoon Network. The latest iteration is Ben 10: Omniverse Vol.1: A New Beginning (Warner Bros., 220 min., $19.97). This 2-disc set includes 10 episodes from the all-new series with its all-new Omnitrix and new alien heroes.
Also due this week is Animaniacs Vol.4 (Warner Bros., 528 min., $29.99), a three-disc collection which includes the final 24 episodes of the 1990s series produced by Stephen Spielberg’s Amblin’ Entertainment that took its cue from the anarchic humor of great Looney Tunes directors like Tex Avery and Chuck Jones.
The top domestic release is Southland: The Complete Second, Third, and Fourth Seasons (Warner Bros., 1144 min., $59.98), which includes all 26 episodes from seasons 2-4 of the hard-hitting cop drama that may have just been too raw for network TV (which explains why there were only 26 episodes in three seasons of a show that has bounced around considerably before finding its current home on cable).
Speaking of series that float between network and cable, there is Cougar Town: The Complete Third Season (Lionsgate, 520 min., $19.98), which includes all 15 episodes of the third season of the wacky sitcom series that has found a new home on cable (TBS). The first two seasons of the show are also being reissued at the $19.98 price point, which makes them very affordable.
Vintage domestic TV series out this week include Gunsmoke: The Seventh Season, Vol.2 (Paramount, 859 min., $36.98), which features choice episodes from the longest-running western series in TV history, The Virginian: The Complete 7th Season (Timeless Media, 1950 min., $59.98), which features episodes from TV’s first 90-minute western series, and Alias Smith and Jones: The Complete Series Special Edition (Timeless Media, 2940 min., $29.83), which contains all 50 episodes of the 1970s western series.
Also new this week is Listen to Me Girls, I Am Your Father Complete Collection (Sentai Filmworks, "14+," 325 min., $49.98) which all 12 episodes (plus a special) for the slice-of-life/comedy anime TV series produced by Studio feel in 2012 that was based on the light novel series by Tomohiro Matsu about a university student who has to look out for his three nieces when their parents disappear in a plane crash.
For traditional anime fans who like their dystopian science fiction served up with a heaping helping of robots, there is the Casshern Sins Complete Series (Funimation, "17+," 600 min. $29.98, BD $29.98), which collects all 24 episodes of the 2008-2009 series produced by Madhouse and available now for a very low price. Since they are the same price, the Blu-ray version is highly recommended.
Classic on Blu-ray
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors of ICv2.com.