NEW ON THE SHELF
“THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN,” starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. With director Sam Raimi jumping ship due to creative difference with the studio, it’s reboot time for Webhead, with director Marc Webb taking the reins and Garfield (“The Social Network”) making a more than suitable replacement for Tobey Maguire as the webslinger in question. This time around, Spidey faces off against the Lizard (Rhys Ifans) in a special-effects extravaganza that mostly succeeds in carrying over the mixture of old-school comic book charm and modern-day CGI that Raimi so expertly brought to the table. Special features include screen tests and stunt rehearsals. Rated PG-13. Running time: 2:16
Suggested retail price: $30.99; Blu-ray $40.99
“FIRE WITH FIRE,” starring Josh Duhamel and Rosario Dawson. A cocksure firefighter (Duhamel) gets in over his head when he unknowingly interrupts a robbery/murder then proceeds to identify the gang leader (the dependably frightening Vincent D’Onofrio) in a lineup, incurring the wrath of every scumbag in the nearby vicinity. After some ineffective refuge courtesy of Witness Protection, Duhamel elects to take matters into his own hands. A gritty, thoroughly entertaining revenge thriller that somehow failed to secure a theatrical release despite a cast of A-listers and nonstop down-and-dirty entertainment, “Fire with Fire” will hopefully find a second life on DVD. Rated R for strong violence, language and brief sexuality. Running time: 1:37
Suggested retail price: $19.98; Blu-ray $24.99
“THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL: 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION,” starring Michael Caine and Dave Goelz. Having been catapulted back into the public consciousness in a big way thanks to last year’s “The Muppets,” the back catalog of Jim Henson’s beloved creations is now in demand all over again. One of their better later efforts was this umpteenth take on the Dickens classic that finds an ideal Scrooge in Michael Caine, who settles in with Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the gang with gruff elan. The barely controlled chaos and gleefully terrible jokes that Muppet fans know and love are in full force here. But no matter how many times the Scrooge tale gets trotted out, it never fails to tug at the heartstrings, and this 1992 favorite is certainly no exception to that rule. Special features include behind-the-scenes footage. Rated G. Running time: 1:26
Suggested retail price: $19.99; Blu-ray $26.50
“YOUR SISTER’S SISTER,” starring Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass. Writer-director Lynn Shelton has quietly assembled an impressive and rewarding career for herself with her observant, improv-heavy relationship comedies, with such films as “My Effortless Brilliance” and “Humpday” exploring friendship of all stripes with disarming realism and charm.
She reteams with the currently in-demand Duplass of “Humpday” for “Sister,” in which the depressed Jack (Duplass) is invited by friend Iris (Blunt) to stay at her family’s summer home, not realizing that her equally depressed sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) has been hiding out there as well. A few drinks later, some possibly regrettable events take place, and emotions compound to the point where the involved parties aren’t sure what to say and who to say it to. Funny, unpredictable, and never less than believable. Rated R for language and some sexual content. Running time: 1:30
Suggested retail price: $24.98; Blu-ray $29.98
NEW TO BLU-RAY
“SUNSET BOULEVARD,” starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden. Fascinating, ageless and just about as dark as comedies get (especially for its time), Billy Wilder’s 1950 classic is more than ready for its close-up thanks to a full restoration, taking a new generation of viewers into Norma Desmond’s (Swanson) grandly squalid mansion. Not rated; contains mild violence. Running time: 1:50
Suggested retail price: $26.98
“CALL THE MIDWIFE: SEASON ONE,” starring Vanessa Redgrave and Jessica Raine. Favorably compared to both “Downton Abbey” and “Mad Men” for its excellent ensemble cast and attention to period detail, this profoundly moving and frankly devastating BBC series is loosely based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, who left her relatively comfortable home to become a midwife in London’s East End slums — a far cry from her former existence, but a life she learns to love.
Unlike most medical dramas, “Midwife” doesn’t shy away from the less telegenic aspects of childbirth, plunging the viewer right into not only the painful and messy delivery itself, but the often traumatic circumstances that followed for the women in these often dire living situations.
What might have been an uncomfortably grueling experience is rendered unmissable entertainment thanks largely to an outstanding cast, which includes such steadfast veterans as Jenny Agutter (“Logan’s Run”), Judy Parfitt (“Wilde”) and Redgrave (“Howards End”) as Mature Jenny, the overseer of this understandably often harried and distressed group. Not rated; contains language, explicit birthing scenes and thematic content. Running time: 5:55
Suggested retail price: $34.98; Blu-ray $39.98
“THEY LIVE: COLLECTOR’S EDITION,” starring Roddy Piper and Keith David. It’s always fun when camp and social commentary collide, as so often happens in the work of writer-director John Carpenter (“Halloween”). This 1988 genre mash-up of action, sci-fi and horror wears its craziness like a badge of honor, with former pro wrestler Piper starring as Nada, an unemployed construction worker who happens upon a pair of magical sunglasses that allow him to see the world as it really is: Controlled by evil aliens who hypnotize the general public with a constant stream of media meant to subdue citizens into blind obedience. It’s up to Roddy to save the day, mostly by punching and shooting people. It’s a lot of fun, and eerily prescient in spite of its lunkheaded action heroics. Rated R for language and violence. Running time: 1:33
Suggested retail price: $19.93; Blu-ray $29.93
- Courtesy of Videoport