NEW ON THE SHELF
“ALEX CROSS,” starring Tyler Perry and Matthew Fox. Best known for a seemingly endless series of comedies featuring a sassy, gun-toting grandma, it’s unlikely that Perry would have been sprung immediately to most viewers’ minds as an ideal replacement for Morgan Freeman as the titular detective. But truth be told, Perry acquits himself fairly well in this gritty, often downright sadistic action/thriller, which finds Cross trailing brutal hitman Picasso (a jacked-up Fox), who leaves behind unhinged drawings to taunt his pursuers. Severely pushing the boundaries of its PG-13 rating, “Cross” is compelling, if relentlessly downbeat, entertainment. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:41
Suggested retail price: $29.95: Blu-ray $39.99
“FLIGHT,” starring Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle. After more than a decade of delivering visually stunning (but curiously inexpressive) features such as “The Polar Express” and “Beowulf,” director Robert Zemeckis makes a welcome return to live action with this incredibly intense character study. Washington delivers one of his finest roles to date as Whip, an airline pilot able to navigate the worst weather has to offer with ease — all while under the influence of alcohol and cocaine, an addiction that threatens to come to light when an otherwise well-handled crash landing kills six passengers. A tough but rewarding watch, “Flight” is Oscar-caliber work from all concerned. Rated R. Running time: 2:18
Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $39.99
“HERE COMES THE BOOM,” starring Kevin James and Salma Hayek. An uninspired biology teacher (James) finds his joie de vivre restored when he enters the world of mixed martial arts in an effort to raise money to prevent his school from cutting extracurricular activities, including the music classes taught by his friend Marty (Henry Winkler). While there’s nary a surprise to be found in the by-the-numbers screenplay, “Boom” is nonetheless one of James’ most charming efforts to date. Rated PG. Running time: 1:45
Suggested retail price: $30.99; Blu-ray $35.99
“THE BALLAD OF NARAYAMA,” starring Kinuyo Tanaka and Teiji Takahashi. Gorgeous and haunting, the 1958 adaptation of a Japanese folk tale is a marvel of innovation, filmed almost entirely on sets that impressively bring to vivid life the sad yet oddly uplifting story of Orin (Tanaka), an elderly woman preparing to undertake the age-old tradition of being carried to the summit of Mount Narayama and left to die upon reaching 70 years of age. Partially told via kabuki, director Keisuke Kinoshita’s masterpiece is given the customary deluxe treatment by Criterion. Not rated. Running time: 1:38
Suggested retail price: $19.95; Blu-ray $29.95.
NEW TO BLU-RAY
“CABARET,” starring Liza Minnelli and Michael York. Director Bob Fosse’s multi-Oscar-winning musical of sorts from 1972 has suffered from lackluster video releases until now, with Warner’s long-awaited Blu-ray presentation pulling out all the stops. The Kit Kat Club and its singular performers have never looked better. Rated PG. Running time: 2:04
Suggested retail price: $27.98
“PETER PAN,” animated with the voices of Bobby Driscoll and Kathryn Beaumont. Widely considered the best animated feature of the 1950s, this beloved family classic is Disney’s latest hi-def release, and its charms and hand-drawn artistry prove timeless. Special features include deleted scenes and a commentary from Roy Disney. Rated G. Running time: 1:17
Suggested retail parceI: $44.99
“CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER,” starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg. At a time when American comedies seem to be competing to see who can make its audiences as uncomfortable as possible (hello, “Movie 43”), a movie as likable and relatively considerate as director Lee Toland Krieger’s “Celeste and Jesse Forever” comes as a pleasant surprise and a welcome tonic.
Co-scripted by Jones and co-star Will McCormack, the couple of the title are recently divorced yet closer than most married couples, a conundrum that confounds friends and family alike but suits Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Samberg) just fine — until Jesse unexpectedly meets another woman, throwing Celeste into a turmoil that’s as funny as it is sadly relatable. The chemistry between the stars and a wittily observant script result in an ideal film for people who like their romantic comedies with as little fluff as possible. Rated R. Running time: 1:32
Suggested retail price: $30.99; Blu-ray $35.99
“A LATE QUARTET,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken. The complex relationships, harmonious interplay and flat-out bad decisions of the Fugue String Quartet make for sophisticated drama of the highest order in this impressive film. Writer-director Yaron Zilberman details the tumultuous downward spiral that begins when cellist Walken announces that he is in the beginning stages of Parkinson’s Disease and won’t be able to continue with the group, leading to disagreements as to how the group should be restructured and further leading to deception, infidelity and other misunderstandings that threaten a once rock-solid group.
Aside from their expected excellent dramatic abilities, Hoffman, Walken and co-stars Catherine Keener and Mark Ivanir do a masterful job of believably miming the musical performances, adding greatly to our investment in this troubled but fascinating fictional group. Rated R. Running time: 1:45
Suggested retail price: $22.98; Blu-ray $29.99
– Courtesy of Videoport