Video Minefield: DVD & Blu-Ray releases for May 22

Video Minefield: New on DVD & Blu-RayOn tap this week: five new home viewing options. Here are our capsule reviews…

Certified Copy was the cinephile’s head-scratcher of 2011, a beautiful film about the afternoon spent between a man (opera singer William Shimell) and a woman (the incomparable Juliette Binoche). What first appears to be a cerebral character piece along the lines of Before Sunrise morphs into something insightful in its peculiarity. Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s work is seductively liquid, gently flowing into meaningful, unusual points of interest — a look at a relationship that may or may not intend to transcend time and space. Whatever one’s interpretation, this is an enthralling work, made great by two pitch-perfect performances that make this snapshot of a relationship something that lingers. A   –James Frazier   (Buy on Amazon)

Red Tails tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the black fighter squadron that proved themselves invaluable to the American effort in World War II. But if this is to be taken seriously as history, the men who flew those planes across the skies of Europe were not so much men as an assortment of bland personality traits. This film might have been meaningful were it released within a decade or two of the war, but in 2012, its potential as an eye-opening portrayal of the combat prowess of black Americans is nil, while black audiences accustomed to seeing actors like Denzel Washington and Will Smith play the hero aren’t likely in desperate need of real heroes that resemble them. Executive producer George Lucas, whose fingerprints are all over this, reminds us to be thankful that he’s more interested in selling toys than making new movies. C+   –J.F.   (Buy on Amazon)

Studio Ghibli adapts Mary Norton’s beloved children’s novel The Borrowers in The Secret World of Arrietty, which makes for a journey lacking in the abstract, poetic aspects of the company’s best work. It’s hard to believe that this plot-dominated film was co-written by Hayao Miyazaki, the legendary animator who brought audiences the cat bus in My Neighbor Totoro and the spirit world in Spirited Away. (Sure, there are three-inch tall characters, but their conflicts and emotions are trivial.) That said, Arrietty is a plenty serviceable picture that should please the kiddos, boasting an innocence that is lacking in so much of today’s family fare. The hand-drawn animation is as gorgeous as anything Ghibli has ever done, and Disney’s English dub (featuring big names like Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, and Carol Burnett) is first-rate. B-   –Danny Baldwin  (Buy on Amazon)

It’s never a good sign when, as one watches a movie, one imagines the studio pitch meeting in one’s head. This is the case with This Means War, which was undoubtedly conceived as a carefully-targeted corporate product rather than an actual film. Of course, had this uncreative idea been realized with artistry—that is, directed by somebody other than McG, whose obnoxious pseudonym adequately characterizes his brand of Hollywood hackwork—perhaps the film’s commerciality would have been less evident. But even the least discriminating, couch-bound VOD viewers will recognize the shoddy filmmaking on display. On top of this, the three leads–Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy–have zero chemistry together, making their usual likability a moot point. The hideous Chelsea Handler lowers the bar even further in a supporting role. D+   –D.B.   (Buy on Amazon)

Is it possible for an entire genre to be played out? That’s the question that arises when watching The Woman in Black, which is, in nearly every objective sense, an old-fashioned ghost story done right. The atmosphere is spooky, the art direction impeccable, the sense of respect for the foundational films that came before it undeniable – and yet, every time a classic jump scare occurs, it’s oddly unmoving. In fact, aside from its surprisingly poetic final scene, the entire production feels as muted as the drab English exteriors that dominate it. Perhaps this is a sign that the ghost-story needs to be retired, or at least put on hiatus until a filmmaker more adventurous than James Watkins finds a way to reinvent it. The Woman in Black is not a complete loss–the Daniel Radcliffe-headed cast is sincere and the production design painterly–but if it’s scares that you’re looking for, look elsewhere. C+   –D.B.   (Buy on Amazon)