This week’s DVD releases include the latest James Bond thriller and two animated films, one for adults and one for the kiddies.
3 1/2 stars (out of four)
Rated PG for some mild action and peril
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Disney’s computer-animated adventure about a dog who believes he has super powers made its way into this year’s Oscar race and gave “WALL-E” a run for its money in the best animated film category.
The title character is a lovable white canine who stars in a weekly television drama about a dog who can jump incredible distances, shoot lasers from his eyes and stop massive vehicles with nothing more than a bark. Although the super powers are the result of TV magic, nobody has bothered to let Bolt in on the secret because his director believes his performances will be more realistic if he believes he and his master, Penny, are in real danger.
That arrangement works fine until the production company shoots a cliffhanger that ends with Penny being kidnapped. Convinced that his master is in peril, Bolt escapes from his trailer and mounts a rescue mission. In short order, the clever canine has recruited a manic hamster sidekick and kidnapped a cat that he believes was in on Penny’s abduction. Alas, the longer Bolt is away from the TV set, the clearer it becomes that his superpowers were a fabrication, and he must come to terms with that.
“Bolt” is sweet and cleverly scripted, and directors Byron Howard and Chris Williams did a fine job balancing action and exposition. With a great voice cast that includes John Travolta, Miley Cyrus and Susie Essman, “Bolt” was easily among the best animated films released into theaters last year.
The movie is available on multiple releases, including a 3-disc set that includes both standard DVD and Blu-ray transfers of the film. Extra features vary.
Quantum of Solace
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
“Quantum of Solace” is the first true sequel in the James Bond franchise, as its events take place directly after those depicted in the 2006 series reboot, “Casino Royale.” Daniel Craig is back as Bond, and he’s seeking revenge for the death of his lover, Vesper Lynd. He is also trying to learn more about a mysterious organization known as Quantum.
Bond’s investigation leads him to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), the head of an environmental organization who is planning to overthrow the Bolivian government. He also becomes acquainted with an exotic woman (Olga Kurylenko) with surprising plans of her own.
The plotting is complex and draws heavily on events from “Casino Royale,” so advance viewing of that film is recommended. Sadly, “Quantum” is not as good as its predecessor because it places more emphasis on action than storytelling and relationship building.
As a result, director Marc Forster delivers a picture that is often exciting but emotionally shallow and a tad difficult to follow. Compared to “Casino Royale,” “Quantum” is a disappointment, but it is better to view it against the entire Bond canon and, in that context, it holds up reasonably well.
The movie is available on multiple DVD releases, including a two-disc special edition. Extra features vary.
Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter & Under the Hood
“Tales of the Black Freighter” is rated R for violent and grisly images. “Under the Hood” is rated PG for mild thematic elements, brief violent and suggestive images and smoking
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Although both are packaged on this release, “Tales of the Black Freighter” and “Under the Hood” are separate shorts that tie in to the “Watchmen” feature film. They are also hard-core fanboy pieces that would work perfectly as extras on the eventual DVD for said movie. But, since they add up to an hour’s worth of material, its reasonable to release them now.
“Tales of the Black Freighter” is a 26-minute cartoon based on a story within the “Watchmen” graphic novel, and it is interesting even viewed outside that framework. The animation is beautifully rendered, and Gerard Butler narrates, giving the piece some star power.
Don’t let the work’s cartoon nature fool you, though. Like the “Watchmen” feature film, this work is dark and often grotesque, and it earned its R rating.
“Under the Hood” is a tamer, live-action, faux documentary in which a TV show host interviews former superhero Hollis Mason (Stephen McHattie) and other characters from the “Watchmen” comics. The piece documents the beginning of costumed heroes in the “Watchmen” universe, and director Eric Matthies did a terrific job giving the piece a vintage feel.
Although “Under the Hood” offers an additional level of depth to the “Watchmen” experience, it’s hard to imagine anyone who didn’t like the feature film warming to it. Like many actual documentaries, it’s dry and lacking in action, but it’s still a fine addition to the library of any “Watchmen” fan, new or old.
DVD extras include a feature on how “Black Freighter” and “Under the Hood” connect to the “Watchmen” movie, the first chapter of the “Watchmen” motion comic and a preview of DC Comics’ forthcoming, animated Green Lantern DVD.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“The Last Metro”: Restored transfer of writer-director Francois Truffaut’s much-praised, 1980 film about a French theater company struggling to survive in German-occupied Paris during World War II. Catherine Deneuve stars as Marion Steiner, the theater manager who is doing her best to run things while her Jewish husband (Heinz Bennent) hides out in the basement. Adding to the tension is a dashing leading man (Gerard Depardieu) who clearly has a thing for Marion. Presented in French with English subtitles.
“Andy Richter Controls the Universe” — The Complete Series: Richter’s short-lived comedy series gets new life on DVD. This three-disc set includes all 14 episodes that aired on Fox, plus five that were never shown on network TV.
“Happily N’ever After 2”: This animated, direct-to-DVD sequel to 2007’s “Happily N’ever After” focuses on Snow White, who is portrayed as a selfish teen-ager. But, if Snow White learns a lesson in humility, she might be able to save her kingdom from the rule of an evil witch.
“Lilo & Stitch” — 2-Disc Big Wave Edition: Disney is reviving its 2002 animated feature about a sweet Hawaiian girl who befriends a mysterious creature from outer space. The DVD includes deleted scenes, music videos, a bit on the Hawaiian Islands, a making-of feature, games and more.
“Living With the Wolfman”: A collection of episodes from the Animal Planet series about Shaun Ellis, who lives with a wolf pack. This 170-minute set focuses on his efforts to introduce his girlfriend, Helen Jeffs, to the pack.
“A Woman Called Golda”: This 1982 television drama tells the story of Golda Meir (Ingrid Bergman), Israel’s first female prime minister. Bergman won a Golden Globe for her title performance, and the picture won three Emmys, including outstanding drama special. Leonard Nimoy and Ned Beatty also star.
“Nickelback — Live at Sturgis 2008”: Live Nickelback concert recorded in Sturgis, South Dakota, using high-definition cameras. The show includes performances of the hits “Photograph,” “How You Remind Me,” “Too Bad,” “Someday” and “Never Again.” Extra features include a photo gallery and the video for the song “Rockstar.”
— Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose bylines have appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at Forrest@ForrestHartman.com