It’s a great week for home video, as most of the major releases are outstanding. Children should be particularly excited because the Pixar hit “WALL-E” is finally available on DVD.
3 1/2 stars (out of four)
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray
It takes a brave director to make a silent film in the 21st century, but Andrew Stanton (“A Bug’s Life,” “Finding Nemo”) is just the guy to do it.
“WALL-E” is not, of course, a silent film in the traditional sense because it uses music and sound effects to great consequence. Still, dialog is so limited that the picture carries the spirit of a silent, telling 90 percent of its story visually.
The movie is set in the distant future where the title character is an ancient, rusted-out robot who has spent countless years trying to clean up a trash-covered planet Earth. Humans have long since abandoned the planet, having destroyed it with over-consumption. Because WALL-E is lonely, he is ecstatic when a sleek modern robot named EVE touches down on Earth.
After a shaky beginning, WALL-E and EVE start to pal around. But just when it looks like they’re destined for love, EVE is thrown into a robot coma and recalled to her mother ship. The broken-hearted WALL-E decides to hitch a ride with her in hopes of reviving their relationship.
As with all Pixar movies, the animation in “WALL-E” is astounding. But the movie is more than a feast for the eyes. The characters are wonderful, the story is sweet, and the overall execution is dynamite. Stanton and company are to be congratulated for crafting a movie that combines the best of modern technology with the visual grace of America’s silent classics.
“WALL-E” is available in several different packages, including a single-disc release and a 3-disc special edition. Extra features vary.
Available in rated and unrated versions. The theatrical cut is rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, violent content and drug material
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray
“Tropic Thunder” is vicious, crude and often offensive, but it’s also really funny.
Ben Stiller stars as Tugg Speedman, an aging action hero trying to gain artistic clout by starring in a Vietnam War movie based on real events. He’s joined by other popular actors, including Oscar-winner Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), comedian Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) and rapper-turned-actor Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson). Sadly, the group is in no way prepared to make an emotionally resonant movie.
So, director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) decides to chopper his cast into the middle of the Vietnamese jungle and force it to hike out while he grabs footage, the idea being that the realism will raise the stakes. Alas, the plan is derailed when Cockburn is taken out of the picture and the actors discover that the jungle is controlled by drug-running militants.
The comedy in “Tropic Thunder” is politically incorrect, and the gags poke fun at everyone from self-absorbed celebrities to the mentally impaired. There are even dicey racial gags, most centered on Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Lazarus, a white actor playing a black man. While the touchy subject matter could offend some viewers, those who realize it’s all in good fun will find themselves immersed in an enjoyable and consistently funny movie.
The R-rated version of the film is available on a single-disc release, and the unrated director’s cut is available on a two-disc edition. Extra features vary.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
2 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature material and sensuality
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray
Picking up where the original “Sisterhood” left off, this sequel relates new adventures from friends Carmen (America Ferrera), Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), Lena (Alexis Bledel) and Bridget (Blake Lively). All four pals are now attending prestigious colleges, and they get together just briefly before going their separate ways during summer vacation.
Tibby has to complete a class in New York, Bridget is involved in an archeological dig in Turkey, Lena is studying in a summer art program, and Carmen is working for a theater company in Vermont. To stay in touch, the girls agree to once again trade off wearing a pair of jeans that magically fit each one of them perfectly.
“Sisterhood 2” has a separate story arc for each of the main characters, plus the underlying theme that time and responsibilities are slowly pulling them apart. Because the cast is first-rate, the movie has some beautiful moments, including scenes where Carmen’s mother is giving birth to a new child and Lena must decide whether the relationship with her Greek boyfriend Kostas (Michael Rady) can work.
Alas, there are so many storylines — several of them extremely melodramatic — that the picture starts to take on the tone of a soap opera. This doesn’t kill it, but it does slow the pacing and make it less appealing than the original “Sisterhood.”
The movie is available in widescreen and full-screen versions. Extra features include extra scenes, a gag reel and a short about the inspiration for the movie’s final scene.
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
3 1/2 stars
Rated R for drug and sexual content, language and some nudity
Magnolia Home Entertainment
Available Tuesday on DVD
Director Alex Gibney, who last year won an Oscar for “Taxi to the Dark Side,” an examination of the U.S. military’s torture practices, is back with a documentary about the life of journalist Hunter S. Thompson.
“Gonzo” touches on Thompson’s childhood, but it mostly focuses on his career accomplishments, including his acclaimed books “Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga,” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72.”
Gibney tells Thompson’s tale with archival footage, interviews with the journalist’s friends and acquaintances, and a hefty dose of readings from his work. Johnny Depp, who played Thompson in the “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” movie, handles the readings with a wonderful Thompson-esque delivery.
During his lifetime, Thompson was known as much for his gun-toting, hard-drinking behavior as his stellar writing, and “Gonzo” considers his personal and professional lives. At two hours, “Gonzo” is hardly a complete portrait, but it is a nice primer.
DVD extras include deleted scenes, extended interviews, a Thompson tribute, photo galleries, drawings by Ralph Steadman and a commentary by Gibney.
ALSO OUT TUESDAY
The Complete “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” Collector’s Edition: More than 36 hours of Monty Python sketch comedy collected on 21 discs. This set includes all four seasons of the “Flying Circus” television series, two discs filled with live performances, plus two documentaries never before released in America.
“Hannah Montana” — The Complete First Season: Miley Cyrus stars as a 14-year-old who is a student by day and pop star by night in this Disney Channel series. Emily Osment, Jason Earles, Billy Ray Cyrus, Mitchell Musso and Moises Arias also star. Big fans may want to check out The Hannah Montana DVD Game, a separate release featuring 11 interactive games controlled by a DVD remote.
“Star Trek” the Original Series — Season Three Remastered: All 24 episodes from the third season of the groundbreaking science-fiction series featuring Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and the rest of the Starship Enterprise crew. This release features remastered versions of each episode, complete with new computer-generated special effects.
Griffith Masterworks 2: Five-disc set featuring six of director D.W. Griffith’s movies: “Edgar Allen Poe (1909), “The Avenging Conscience” (1914), “Way Down East” (1920), “Sally of the Sawdust” (1925), “Abraham Lincoln” (1930) and “The Struggle” (1931). Also included is “Father of Film,” a 156-minute Griffith documentary.
The Derek Jarman Collection: Three films — “Sebastiane,” “The Tempest” and “War Requiem” — by the late English director Derek Jarman. “Sebastiane” is noteworthy as Jarman’s first feature-length movie and “War Requiem” includes the final screen appearance by Sir Laurence Olivier. The collection also features “Derek,” a 76-minute documentary about the filmmaker.
“Fanfan la Tulipe”: The Criterion Collection is serving up a restored digital transfer of the 1952 French adventure about a peasant (Gerard Philipe) who joins the army to avoid a shotgun wedding. Gina Lollobrigida also stars. The movie is presented in French with English subtitles, and the DVD includes an optional English-dubbed soundtrack.
“The Universe” — The Complete Season One: A&E Home Video is releasing the first season of this popular series about the cosmos on Blu-ray. Along with the series, this set includes the documentary “Beyond the Big Bang.”