Two new DVD releases feature an Oscar-nominated actor and a very different role for a popular actor.
"Flight," (Grade B+): A heroic pilot's substance abuse comes into question when he crashes an airplane. Star Denzel Washington received an Oscar nomination for lead actor for his role.
The crash at the beginning is the kind of on-screen moment that will stick with viewers long after the movie is over. But it also doesn't take long to realize that the more spectacular crash-and-burn moments are the ones Washington's character experiences after the big fall.
Director Robert Zemeckis uses a similar format to the one that made "Cast Away" such a monumental hit. Both films start with big events, but then rely heavily on the star's acting abilities to make the rest of the movie equally as memorable.
It's a big gamble because the central figure is painfully flawed but is also worthy of salvation. Washington is one of a handful of actors capable of playing such a complicated role. He has a way, with a simple shift of his eyes or change of tone in his voice, of making a role seem emotionally real. It would have been easy for this character to come across as a full villain or overly heroic, but in the capable hands of Washington the character feels very human -- flaws and all.
"Alex Cross," (Grade C): A detective's investigation reveals more about a murder case. "Alex Cross," the latest attempt to turn one of James Patterson's crime novels into a movie, should have been Tyler Perry's opportunity to establish a film franchise where he didn't have to wear a dress. But the attempt falls short because of an uneven script and sloppy pacing. If this is the best Perry can do, then he'd better stick to the pantyhose.
The screenplay by Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson is a series of contradictions. They have the detective played by Edward Burns get emotionally involved with someone but (spoiler alert) when she's brutally murdered, he acts more like a guy upset about spilling his coffee.
Matthew Fox turns in the most psychotic killer performance since Heath Ledger creeped up the screen in "The Dark Knight." Fox deserves credit for moving way out of his acting comfort zone, but his escape took him just a little too far. He plays this role with over-the-top absurdity, and he comes across as cartoonish as the story plays out against a backdrop of Detroit.
Also new on DVD Tuesday:
"Celeste and Jesse": High school sweethearts decide to divorce. Andy Samberg stars.
"Ben 10 Omniverse: A New Beginning": Includes 10 episodes from the series' first season.
"Above Suspicion, Set 2": Detective tries to prove herself in what is mostly a man's world.
"Here Comes the Boom": Teacher (Kevin James) becomes a mixed martial arts fighter to save his school.
"Caught on Tape": Sticky Fingaz stars in this tale of a bank robbery investigation.
"Little White Lies": Friends must face the hard truths of their carefree lives.
"Gunsmoke: The Seventh Season, Volume 2": James Arness plays the TV marshal.
"R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour: Volume 3": More creepy tales for young people.
"Cougar Town: The Complete Third Season": Courteney Cox comedy about a recently divorced woman and her friends.
"So Undercover": Miley Cyrus stars.
"Testimony of Two Men": Story of the decades-long saga of Dr. Jonathan Ferrier.
"Elmo's World: All Day with Elmo": Daily activities Elmo and a child can have fun doing!
"Paul Williams: Still Alive": Documentary looks at the life of the songwriter.
"Southland: The Complete Second, Third & Fourth Seasons": Cop drama set in Los Angeles.
"Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers: 25th Anniversary Edition:" Interview Bill Moyers did with Joseph Campbell 25 years ago.
"Mafia": Ruthless crime boss (Ving Rhames) faces cop (Pam Grier) bent on revenge.
"Celebrate With Clifford": Seven Clifford tales.
"Tyler Perry's Madea Gets A Job": Newest musical stage play from Tyler Perry.
"The Whole Truth": Acting coach (Elisabeth Röhm) coaches criminal defendants on how to win jury acquittals.
"Frontline: Poor Kids": A look at how one in five of the nation's children are living below the poverty level.
"What Will the Future Be Like?": Includes four episodes of "NOVA".
"Cabaret": Bob Fosse's film is being re-released to mark its 40th anniversary.
"Animaniacs: Volume 4": Catch up with Yakko, Wakko and Dot.
"A Perfect Ending": Woman's friends set her up with a high-class call girl.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.