Video Verdict: New DVDs for Nov. 9

 

Po completes his training and receives the Dragon Scroll in "Kung Fu Panda."

Po completes his training and receives the Dragon Scroll in "Kung Fu Panda."

Children and fantasy fans shouldn’t have trouble finding a movie this week because DVD releases include the sequel to “Hellboy,” a new “Star Wars” adventure and a delightful animated comedy from DreamWorks.

 

Kung Fu Panda
3 1/2 stars (out of four)
Rated PG for sequences of martial arts action
DreamWorks
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray

DreamWorks Animation has another winner in “Kung Fu Panda,” a creative feature about Po, an overweight panda bear who dreams of becoming a martial arts hero.

He gets his chance when Master Oogway, the most famous martial artist in his land, announces that Po is destined to become the Dragon Warrior, a fierce fighter with the power to defeat an evil and feared leopard named Tai Lung. Po’s anointment doesn’t sit well Master Oogway’s protégé, Master Shifu, who can’t imagine turning Po into a hero. Shifu would rather see one of his long-time students — known collectively as the Furious Five — become Dragon Warrior.

In order for the lowly Po to fulfill his destiny, he must overcome not only the prejudice of others but his own self doubt.

“Kung Fu Panda” is wonderfully realized, with every animal character rendered in glorious detail. While this makes the movie great to look at, it’s the clever storytelling and fantastic voice cast that really set it apart. Comedian Jack Black voices Po, infusing him with an irresistible, manic energy. Other big-name voicers include Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu and Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu as members of the Furious Five.

The movie is available by itself or in a two-pack with the short film “Secrets of the Furious Five.” The latter is a cute, 24-minute picture in which Po explains how members of the Furious Five got their starts.

 

Hellboy II: The Golden Army
3 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence and some
language
Universal
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

Writer-director Guillermo del Toro’s second stab at the Hellboy franchise is a considerable improvement over his first. This time, he’s delivered a comic book movie that is fast-paced, filled with great special effects and often quite funny.

The plot has Hellboy, a powerful demon who fights for America under the auspices of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, attempting to stop the spiritual world from starting a war on humanity. The leader of the spiritual rebellion is Prince Nuada (Luke Gross), a powerful warrior who is angry that his father agreed to a truce with humanity eons before.

Convinced that his kind should rule the world, Nuada schemes to take control of a mechanical army that is said to be indestructible. Hellboy (Ron Perlman) does his best to foil Nuada’s plans with the help of other heroes possessing special abilities, most notably his fiery girlfriend, Liz (Selma Blair), and the amphibian Abe Sapien (Doug Jones).

“Golden Army” is heavy on action, and most of the sequences are beautifully staged, making the film terrific eye candy.

It is available on single-disc releases and on a three-disc special edition. Extra features vary.

 

This Christmas
2 stars
Rated PG-13 for comic sexual content and some violence
Sony Pictures
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

Why do people watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” year after year after year? Because new holiday classics are hard to come by. Writer-director Preston A. Whitmore II did his best to create one with “This Christmas” but, like most of his filmmaking peers, he came up short.

“This Christmas” takes a hard look at the Whitfield family, which is gathering together for the holidays for the first time in years. The matriarch is Ma’Dere (Loretta Devine), a traditional mother who insists that her live-in boyfriend, Joe (Delroy Lindo), pretend that he has his own place when the kids are around.

While Ma’Dere puts on her holiday charade, her children deal with their own issues. Her oldest daughter (Regina King) is trying to convince everyone to sell the family business. A son (Idris Elba) is being chased by small-time thugs. Another son (Chris Brown) is hiding his desire to become a full-time musician.

Believe it or not, that’s just the half of it, and that’s the problem with “This Christmas.” There are so many characters and subplots that it is difficult to invest in any of them, which is too bad because the cast is very good.

DVD extras include deleted and extended scenes, a filmmakers’ commentary, a making-of feature and a music video featuring Brown.

 

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
3 stars (out of four)
Rated PG for sci-fi action violence throughout, brief language and momentary smoking
Warner Brothers
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

Like Cartoon Network’s “Clone Wars” television series, the action in this animated feature is set between the live-action “Star Wars” films “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith.”

When Jabba the Hutt’s son is kidnapped, Jedi knights Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are asked to rescue the infant in an effort to garner favor with Jabba, who controls crucial shipping routes. The mission isn’t simple because the renegade count Dooku and his apprentice Ventress are working to assure their failure. Also, Anakin must watch over his new Padawan learner Ahsoka.

“Clone Wars” has a lighter tone than the live-action movies, and that makes it kid appropriate, but it is also well-plotted enough for adults to enjoy. The stylized animation is a cross between anime and more traditional computer-generated imagery, but it isn’t as detailed as in most modern theatrical releases. Still, the look is generally appealing, and the many action sequences are beautifully choreographed.

All in all, “Clone Wars” is an enjoyable adventure film that “Star Wars” junkies will do well to check out.

The movie is available on a single-disc release and a two-disc special edition. Extra features vary.

 

ALSO OUT TUESDAY

“Beer for My Horses”: Country singer Toby Keith co-wrote this adventure comedy with comedian Rodney Carrington. It was inspired by one of Keith’s songs, and he and Carrington star as deputies who defy orders in hopes of saving a friend who was kidnapped by drug dealers.

Walt Disney Treasures: For years, Buena Vista Home Entertainment has been treating fans to vintage cartoons and television shows via its Disney Treasures releases. The latest are “The Chronological Donald: Volume Four,” “The Mickey Mouse Club Presents Annette” and “Dr. Syn: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh.” The Donald Duck set includes 31 of the popular character’s cartoons released between 1951 and 1961. “Annette” collects 20 episodes of Annette Funicello’s daily TV series about a country girl who moves to the suburbs to live with her rich aunt and uncle. Lastly, “Dr. Syn” features all three installments of the 1960s Disney miniseries about a parson with a heroic alter ego.

“The Boys in the Band”: Director William Friedkin’s 1970 relationship drama about gay men who gather for a birthday party but experience something more outrageous was restored just for this DVD. The film is considered a groundbreaking piece of gay cinema, and it stars Leonard Frey, Kenneth Nelson, Peter White, Laurence Luckinbill and Cliff Gorman.

“Scrubs” — Season Seven: The seventh season of this medical comedy about employees of Sacred Heart teaching hospital was abbreviated by the Hollywood writers’ strike, but 11 episodes still made it on air. This two-disc set has them all.

“Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage”: Direct-to-DVD film based on painter Thomas Kinkade’s life. The film tells the story of a young Kinkade (Jared Padalecki) who returns from college to find that his mother (Marcia Gay Harden) is in danger of losing her home. He is inspired to paint a mural and discovers his calling while infusing others with the Christmas spirit.

“7th Heaven” — The Seventh Season: All 22 episodes from the seventh season of this long-running family drama about a Protestant minister and his family.

“The Streets of San Francisco” — Season 2, Volume 2: Twelve episodes of the classic police drama centered on investigators Mike Stone (Karl Malden) and Steve Keller (Michael Douglas).

“Studio One” Anthology: Seventeen episodes of “Studio One,” which aired teleplays in the 1940s and 1950s. Included are presentations of “June Moon” with Jack Lemmon and Eva Marie Saint, “Twelve Angry Men” with Robert Cummings, “1984” with Eddie Albert and Lorne Greene, and Julius Caesar with Theodore Bikel.

“Son of the Beach” — Volume 2: The action — and comedy — centers on a squad of lifeguards known as Shore Patrol 30. Produced by Howard Stern, “Son of the Beach” is essentially a “Bay Watch” parody. This set includes unaired episodes from season two along with every regular episode of season three.

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