Video Verdict: New DVDs for Dec. 2

Ben Barnes is Prince Caspian.

Ben Barnes is Prince Caspian.

There’s a particularly large crop of new DVDs hitting stores this week, and they range from a family sports dramedy to a hard-hitting, R-rated action flick.

 

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
3 1/2 stars (out of four)
Rated PG for epic battle action and violence
Disney
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

Anyone who liked the first “Chronicles of Narnia” movie, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” is all but assured a great experience with “Prince Caspian.” The franchise avoided the dreaded sophomore slump by retaining most of the players from the first movie, and delivering a story that is every bit as exciting and well-staged.

“Caspian” is set shortly after the events in the first film, with the Pevensie children — Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) — having difficulty adapting to life outside Narnia. By the end of the first movie, the children had grown to maturity as the rulers of the fantasy world of Narnia, but when they returned to their real home — 1940s England — they grew young again.

In “Caspian,” they are called back to Narnia only to discover that 1,300 years has passed in the fantasy land and that most of the fanciful creatures they loved have been forced into hiding by an evil human race known as the Telmarines. One Telmarine, Caspian (Ben Barnes), is friendly toward Narnian creatures and he also happens to be the rightful heir to the Narnian throne. So the Pevensies join him in battle in hopes of bringing equality to their beloved land.

For a family film, “Caspian” is remarkably violent, but this should only be a problem for small children. Overall, the movie is an exciting and dramatic fantasy packed with astounding visuals and a plot to back them up.

“Caspian” is available in multiple DVD editions. Extra features vary.

 

Wanted
3 stars
Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language and some sexuality
Universal
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

Sometimes it’s nice to watch a movie that cares more about style and fun than anything else. For those moments, there’s “Wanted.”

Based on the comic book series by the same name, the film is centered on a fraternity of assassins who get their marching orders from an ancient loom. Sure, it sounds silly, but viewers who go with the flow will find themselves immersed in a heart-thumping action flick that mixes great stunts with surprisingly good performances.

James McAvoy leads the way as Wesley Gibson, a paper-pushing office worker who is so insecure that he doesn’t even leave the girlfriend that he knows is sleeping with his best friend. He’s forced to buck up when an ultra-sexy assassin named Fox (Angelina Jolie) tells him he’s about to be murdered, then starts a running gun battle in what was a quiet drugstore.

In short order, Wesley learns that his father was a famous killer with the power to defy the laws of physics and that he has inherited the same abilities. Wesley is also told that his father was murdered and that he is the only one who can exact revenge. Intrigued, Wesley begins to train with Fox and a handful of other assassins, honing his abilities until he becomes a one-man wrecking crew.

The plotting in “Wanted” isn’t deep or even particularly inventive, but director Timur Bekmambetov has an impressive visual style and the movie has a swagger that’s too rare in Hollywood action films.

The movie is available in multiple DVD editions, including a collector’s gift set. Extra features vary.

 

The X-Files: I Want to Believe
3 stars
Rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing content and thematic material
20th Century Fox
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

Few television characters are as iconic as Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), so its impossible to complain about a new adventure that places them in the spotlight. Still, it’s a little disappointing to see them return in a film that’s basically an extended episode of “The X-Files” TV series.

The movie picks up six years after the series finale with Scully working as a physician and Mulder living off the grid because he’s wanted by authorities. Neither has official ties to the FBI anymore, but an agent named Mosley Drummy (Xzibit) tells them Mulder will be cleared if he helps with a new case.

It seems that another agent has been kidnapped and the only lead is a psychic with a criminal record. Since nobody knows psychics better than Mulder, the lead investigator (Amanda Peet) wants to tap his expertise.

Of course, Scully and Mulder saddle up, and it doesn’t take long for them to sink into their traditional roles. Mulder wants to believe in the supernatural elements of the case while Scully is the ultimate skeptic. It’s well and good to see these characters on screen again, but it would have been far more interesting if writer-director Chris Carter had brought something new to the table. Rather, viewers get a solid thriller that is always entertaining but never remarkable or fresh.

The movie is available in multiple DVD releases, including a two-pack containing the first “X-Files” film, “Fight the Future.” Extra features vary.

 

The Longshots
3 stars
Rated PG for some thematic elements, mild language and brief rude humor
Genius Products
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

“The Longshots” is a straightforward and predictable family drama, but the likable cast and strong execution make it a winner nonetheless. The movie is based on the true story of Jasmine Plummer, the first female quarterback for a junior Pop Warner football team.

At first, Jasmine (Keke Palmer) is painted as a bookish introvert, but that changes when her mother hires her unemployed uncle Curtis (Ice Cube), to watch after the girl. Curtis is bitter at being out of work, and he and Jasmine have little in common, but they begin to bond when he teaches her to throw a football.

When it becomes obvious that Jasmine has a monster arm, he convinces her to try out for the town’s Pop Warner football team and … well you can guess what happens from there.

“The Longshots” is unapologetically cloying, so those who steer clear of sentiment will do well to look elsewhere. But families looking for an upbeat dramedy anchored by fine performances can do a lot worse.

DVD extras include deleted scenes, a making-of feature, and interviews with Ice Cube and director Fred Durst.

 

Fly Me to the Moon
2 stars
Rated G
Summit Entertainment
Available Tuesday on DVD

Very young children may enjoy “Fly Me to the Moon,” but it lacks the punch and creativity that drive the best animated films. The story centers on Nat, a young housefly who dreams of doing something adventurous, just like his beloved grandfather did as a young man.

Nat gets the chance when he learns that humans living near his Florida home are planning on sending a group of astronauts to the moon. So, he and his buddies I.Q. and Scooter hatch a plan to stowaway on the rocket. Soon, they’re headed to space and the whole fly world is following their exciting adventure.

Since “Fly Me to the Moon” uses the Apollo 11 space mission as a backdrop, the film has a touch of educational value. But that is overshadowed by drawn-out storytelling and a silly subplot centered on Russian flies trying to sabotage the mission so that they can be the first to successfully return from space.

The DVD houses 2-D and 3-D versions of the film and comes with a pair of 3-D glasses. This is a nice feature, but 3-D effects generally work better in movie theaters than in a home theater environment. That makes the 3-D version of the film a novelty that most folks won’t want to mess with more than once.

DVD extras are limited to an interactive planetarium game.

 

ALSO OUT TUESDAY

“Step Brothers”: Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play grown men who become stepbrothers when their parents get married. Because both men have been living at home, they are forced to move in together, and this creates a classic case of sibling rivalry … at first. The movie is available on DVD in rated and unrated cuts.

“Saturday Night Live” — The Complete Fourth Season: The long-running sketch comedy series had a terrific cast during season four, including John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and Jane Curtin. The seven discs in this set feature many of their classic performances, plus guest appearances by Fred Willard, Carrie Fisher, Milton Berle, Peter Tosh, Mick Jagger, Devo and many others.

“White Dog”: Director Samuel Fuller’s controversial racial commentary is getting its first-ever release thanks to the Criterion Collection. The 1982 drama stars Kristy McNichol as an actress who adopts a dog only to learn that it has been trained by a white racist to attack black people. Paul Winfield, Jameson Parker and Burl Ives also star.

“Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear!”: Yogi Bear’s first feature-length film is finally getting a DVD release, and Warner Brothers re-mastered it for the occasion. The 1964 animated picture sees Yogi and his pal Boo Boo shipped to the San Diego Zoo by Ranger Smith. Yogi escapes, of course, but only to discover that his girlfriend has been kidnapped. So, he and Boo Boo mount a rescue mission.

“The Man Called Flintstone”: Warner also remastered this 1966 classic for its first-ever DVD release. The animated Flintstone and Rubble families are shown traveling to Eurock on what is supposed to be a family vacation, but Fred Flintstone is secretly moonlighting as a secret agent. The feature-length picture was released in theaters shortly after the Flintstones television series wrapped.

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