Fairy tales and folklore rule the home video world this week, as new releases include Disney’s latest take on Tinkerbell and Russell Crowe’s stab at the Robin Hood legend.
2½ stars (out of four)
Home video release contains rated and unrated versions of the film. The rated version received a PG-13 for violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content.
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
With the economy in shambles and corporate greed going mostly unchecked by American political leaders, the public should be aching for a good Robin Hood tale. Unfortunately, director Ridley Scott’s take on the English folk hero focuses more on international politics than the simple concept of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.
Scott is, of course, welcome to his take, as Robin Hood has been presented in countless forms over the last seven centuries or so. Trouble is, Robin Hood’s adventures have become almost synonymous with swashbuckling and fun, and Scott’s movie doesn’t have much of either. Sure, there’s fighting, but it’s mostly of the epic scale seen in countless other historical war dramas. The battles are decently staged and often exciting, but they’re so big and grand that they don’t properly connect the audience to Robin and his merry men (who aren’t, by the way, very merry).
One of the better scenes in the film has the group stealing a wagonload of seed from a small contingent of King John’s men. Although intimate in scale, the sequence has personality and defines Robin as a good-hearted outlaw, not just a professional soldier.
Scott, it seems, wasn’t satisfied with this. His Robin Hood, portrayed aptly enough by Russell Crowe, starts as a lowly archer in the army of King Richard the Lionheart, then makes an unlikely political rise until he’s leading English soldiers against a massive French invasion force.
Crowe is backed by a terrific supporting cast that includes William Hurt, Max von Sydow and Cate Blanchett, and they make the relatively mundane script palatable. In fact, they make it just tasty enough to leave you yearning for a more traditional Robin Hood story, one where the hero is wearing green tights and heckling the Sheriff of Nottingham while relieving Prince John of his loot.
“Robin Hood” is available as part of multiple home video releases, including a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack. Extra features vary.
Rated PG-13 for some violence, sensuality and brief strong language
Magnolia Home Entertainment
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
When Syracuse (Colin Farrell), a simple Irish fisherman, catches a beautiful woman in his trawling net, he’s horrified … until he realizes she’s still alive. He quickly frees her and insists that she visit a hospital, but she refuses. In fact, she refuses to interact with anyone but him.
Syracuse’s young daughter (Alison Barry) begins to suspect that the woman, who says her name is Ondine (Alicja Bachleda), is actually a selkie (a mermaid like creature). Strangely enough, signs say she may be right.
Directed by Neil Jordan (“The Brave One,” “Interview with the Vampire,” “The Crying Game”), the film is a sort of modern-day fairytale that meditates on love and people’s willingness to entertain ideas of the supernatural. Farrel and Bachleda are solid in the leading roles and the film deserves credit for its inventive plotting.
Jordan, who also wrote the screenplay, allows the story to bog down at times, and it doesn’t help that Farrel (a native Irishman) maintains his thick natural accent throughout the movie. For Americans, it will take a deft ear just to keep up with what’s going on. Those who suceed, will be rewarded with a sweet, if somewhat slow, love story.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include a making-of feature and an HDNet short about the film.
Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Disney has had such success with its direct-to-video Tinkerbell movies that the studio is already on to number three. In “The Great Fairy Rescue,” director Bradley Raymond tells the story of the first time fairies and humans met. This happens when Tinkerbell, mischievous as ever, is accidentally discovered by a little girl named Lizzy.
Disney deserves credit for continuing to give its direct-to-video movies a great deal of production value. The animation is terrific, and the film looks beautiful, particularly on Blu-ray. It also has a respectable voice cast that includes Michael Sheen, Kristin Chenoweth, Lucy Liu and Jesse McCartney. Unfortunately, the storytelling isn’t so remarkable.
Young children, particularly those enamored with Tink, should find the movie entertaining enough, but it lacks the wit, charm and ingenuity of the best animated movies. In other words, it should play relatively well to its target audience but is not sophisticated enough to draw a large adult following as well.
The movie is available on a single DVD and as part of a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. Extra features include deleted scenes, a music video by Disney Channel’s Bridgit Mendler, and an interactive game where kids answer trivia questions in order to create a fairy field guide.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“Spartacus – Blood and Sand” – The Complete First Season: The stylized visuals in this Starz original series owe more than a small debt to director Zack Snyder’s 2006 movie “300.” But that’s a compliment really. How often, after all, does one come upon a TV series with production value rivaling a feature film. As the title indicates, the series is a fictionalized account of the story of Spartacus, a real-life slave who led a revolt against the Roman republic in 73 BC. In the first season, Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) is forced to become a gladiator and much of the action occurs in a Roman arena. John Hannah, Peter Mensah and Lucy Lawless star alongside Whitfield, and the series is available on both Blu-ray and DVD.
“The Secret in Their Eyes”: This Argentinean drama won the best foreign language film award at this year’s Oscars. It tells the story of a criminal court investigator writing a book about a decades-old unsolved murder that haunts him. Presented in Spanish with English subtitles.
“(Untitled)”: Offbeat love story built around the owner of a contemporary art gallery (Marley Shelton) and a new music composer (Adam Goldberg). Directed and co-written by Jonathan Parker.
“Bored to Death” – The Complete First Season: HBO series about Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman), a writer who decides to become a private investigator despite a complete lack of experience. Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis also star.
Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at Forrest@ForrestHartman.com