This week's DVD selections offer different looks at male bonding.
"The Grey," Grade B: A group of survivors of a plane crash must battle a pack of hungry wolves. Liam Neeson stars.
Unlike the traditional horror film, "The Grey" doesn't allow for passive viewing. Joe Carnahan shot the film in sub-zero weather, giving it an authentic feel. From the men struggling to make their way through waist-deep snow to the dramatic curl of their frozen breath, "The Grey" reaches out with icy fingers to pull the viewer into the ordeal.
The movie also gets strength from a script by Carnahan and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, which sets aside time to learn about these men. These are not just victims; they're three-dimensional characters driven by a variety of factors.
"Red Tails," Grade C-: A crew of black pilots in the Tuskegee training program are called into World War II duty.
The script by John Ridley and Aaron McGruder follows a very safe paint-by-numbers approach.
The film is about 60 years too late. Had this tale of the historic Tuskegee Airmen been made in the '50s, audiences would have accepted the stereotype characters, passive approach to racism and hackneyed dialogue. By today's standards, the movie never gets off the ground.
"This Means War," Grade B-: This film has some very likable stars, with Chris Pine and Tom Hardy playing CIA agents -- and best friends -- who, by chance, fall for the same woman, played by Reese Witherspoon.
The film is at its best when Pine and Hardy are together as a spy team or as opponents in the game of love.
After such a long stretch of forgettable romantic comedies, "This Means War" proves there's still some sweet and funny life left in the genre. Of course, the bar has been set pretty low.
"Route 66: The Complete Series," Grade B+: The series, starring Martin Milner, George Maharis and later Glenn Corbett as friends traveling Route 66, was the perfect escapist series of the '60s. It ran during the early years of the decade, a time when young people were caught between the work ethics of the '50s and the lure of freedom that was enveloping the '60s.
The weekly travels were a way to have both. The guys drove the open road -- during the time just before webs of freeways -- in their Corvette convertible, stopping only long enough to touch the lives of the people along the way.
The DVD set includes all 116 episodes.
Also new on DVD May 22:
- "The Strange Case of Alice Cooper": The film was inspired by Cooper's stay in a New York sanitarium.
- "Metal Tornado": Lou Diamond Phillips stars in this story of an industrial experiment that goes bad.
- "The Secret World of Arrietty": Animated story of a 14-year-old who lives with her family in a garden home.
- "My Babysitter's a Vampire: The First Season": Two best friends team with a vampire to fight creatures.
- "NOVA: Cracking Your Genetic Code": Science series shows we stand on the verge of a genetic revolution.
- "Sherlock: Season Two": Benedict Cumberbatch plays Holmes in this updated version.
- "The Woman in Black": A young lawyer (Daniel Rad-cliffe) encounters a mysterious woman at an old estate.
- "Carol Channing: Larger Than Life": A look at the life and career of Carol Channing.
- "95 Miles to Go": Documentary of Ray Romano's comedy tour.
- "Love, Etc.": Director Jill Andresevic's look at love.
- "Worried About the Boy": Examination of the rise in popularity of Boy George.
- "Racing Dreams": Look at the world of NASCAR culture.
- "The First Beautiful Thing": An optimistic mother (Micaela Ramazzotti) tries to raise her two children against all odds.
- "The Kane Files": A double-crossed hitman seeks revenge.
- "S.W.A.T.: The Final Season": Robert Urich stars.
- "Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete Second Season": Angie Harmon stars in the cable detective series.
- "Mutant Girls Squad": A 16-year-old experiences a wild coming-of-age when she learns she's a mutant.
- "Teen Spirit": Tale of righting wrongs and sharing secrets.
- "Bob the Builder: Adventures by the Sea": Includes five stories of work around Fixham Harbor.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org
or @RickBentley1 on Twitter.