This week, we begin in Los Angeles:
City of Angels
Rated PG-13, 114 minutes.
Available Tuesday on Blu-ray.
Two immensely different romances make their Blu-ray debuts this week, both with passable supplements. Wim Wenders’ 1987 German masterpiece Wings of Desire serves as the source for director Brad Silberling’s 1998 update, City of Angels.
This more recent version stars Nicolas Cage as Seth, a pensive angel who hovers over Los Angeles, occasionally influencing human affairs. But he wonders what it is to be human, to touch, to taste, to feel pain and love. His curiosity intensifies while watching Maggie (Meg Ryan), a cardiac surgeon who often has the gift of life in her own hands.
When Seth appears to Maggie, the two explore questions of free will and even divine guidance. Eventually, Seth’s painfully human love for Maggie propels him to think the impossible, that of forever giving up his angelic status to be with her. Director Silberling squeezes every ounce of treacly romanticism out of his situations, ending in a somewhat prolonged but often effective tearjerker.
The disc includes commentary, a 30-minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette, an 11-minute segment on the special effects, about 13 minutes of additional scenes with commentary and two music videos.
The other Blu-ray romance is lighter fare.
Two Weeks Notice (2 1/2 stars) Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant, at their most likable in this 2002 film, play a Harvard Law School graduate who specializes in hopeless social causes, and a self-absorbed playboy and building magnate who relishes creating monstrosities.
Through circumstances, she goes to work for him, until eventually realizing it won’t work and gives two weeks’ notice. He recognizes her invaluable qualities as a worker until they both acknowledge (surprise!) they were meant for each other. Written and directed by frequent Bullock collaborator Marc Lawrence.
Rated PG-13, 101 minutes. The disc includes a 13-minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette, seven minutes of additional scenes and three minutes of bloopers.
A Case of You (2 1/2 stars) — Justin Long co-wrote and stars in this transparent yet innocuous romantic comedy. He plays Sam, a Brooklyn author who specializes in the novelization of cheesy movies. But he wants to be taken seriously, of course.
He meets and develops a crush on the local coffeehouse attendant (Evan Rachel Wood). After checking out her Facebook profile, he starts remaking himself according to her “likes.” He grudgingly undergoes a series of taxing challenges — ballroom dancing, judo lessons, wall climbing — until finally realizing that his best bet is to just be himself (as we knew all along).
Directed by Kat Coiro. With Sienna Miller, Vince Vaughn and Peter Dinklage.
Rated R, 91 minutes. The DVD includes a six-minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette.
Pride and Perseverance: The Story of the Negro Leagues (3 stars) This 2009 documentary from Major League Baseball Productions has been revived for Black History Month, but any excuse is good enough to look again at the baseball stars from what used to be known as the “Negro leagues.”
Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield narrates the story of the league, how it began, where it thrived, and didn’t, and how the major leagues eventually realized their ignorance in banning black players.
Unfortunately, the Negro leagues left little of their filmed exploits, but existing recorded interviews from former players attest to the brilliance of some of the great stars: Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, James “Cool Papa” Bell, Monte Irvin and many more.
Major league superstars such as Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella and even Jackie Robinson spent time in the Negro leagues before Robinson broke the color line in 1947. Not rated, 48 minutes.
McConkey (3 stars) This engaging documentary explores the life and career of pro skier and extreme sportsman Shane McConkey, who died in 2009. A team of five writers and directors assembles interviews with McConkey’s family and many friends. They examine McConkey’s legacy, his popularity, and what made him so unusual in his sport.
The film includes McConkey’s home movies as well as plenty of action footage of him. Not rated, 109 minutes.
Code Red (2 stars) This cheesy horror flick takes place, supposedly, mostly in today’s Bulgaria. There, a secret stash of lethal weapons left over from Stalin’s World War II chemical program accidentally sets off an unforeseen crisis. People who live near the army base become infected with the gas, turning them into mutant creatures that look a lot like zombies. The difference is these mutants run around like crazy with none of that silly shuffling nonsense.
The result is often unintentionally funny, particularly when stern-faced NATO physician Ana Bennett (Manal El-Feitury) scours the streets for her lost child with help from U.S. agent John McGahey (Paul Logan).
Not rated, 94 minutes. The DVD includes a 12-minute “making of” featurette, a 13-minute segment on the opening World War II sequence and around seven minutes of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage.
And, for kids this week:
Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain: The Complete Series Thirteen episodes of this popular 1998-99 animated series — which is tagged “Steven Spielberg Presents” — appear now on two discs. Rob Paulsen voiced Pinky, the sidekick to the Brain (Maurice LaMarche). After circuitously ending up in the home of Elmyra (Cree Summer), Pinky and the Brain set in motion their plan to overtake the world, but are usually foiled by Elmyra.
During the series, various guest stars contributed to the voice cast, including Nancy Cartwright, Ben Stein, John Vernon (forever Dean Wormer) and others. Not rated, 278 minutes.
Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express The clever mouse journalist Geronimo Stilton and his cousin, Trap, his sister, Thea, nephew Benjamin and others have a series of adventures in these four episodes, with the lead segment being the title “Intrigue.” Not rated, 96 minutes.
And, finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:
The White Queen: Season One Drama trumps history in this original Starz series based on Phillipa Gregory's historical novels that begin near the end of England’s self-destructive War of the Roses.
The 10 episodes begin with the marriage of York King Edward IV (Max Irons) to upstart commoner Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson), previously a rival Lancaster. Their marriage sets off a chain of historic events in this era filled with many strong women, international conflicts and clandestine espionage. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
The handsome, well-produced series should have no trouble finding drama for coming seasons. Janet McTeer plays Elizabeth’s mother, a secret sorceress, and James Frain is Warwick, the evil “Kingmaker.”
Not rated, 580 minutes. The collection, which comes on three discs, includes 11 featurettes of five minutes or less on a variety of related topics, such as a “making of,” the series’ history, King Edward, Queen Elizabeth, the costumes, the sets and more.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: About Time, Blood Brother, Cutie and the Boxer, Dallas Buyers Club, Mother of George.