Thoughtful reviews, the Boulder film scene

The Great Train Robbery

(review...)

" For your information, my life is a living Hell "
— Elizabeth Hurley (as the devil), Bedazzled

MRQE Top Critic

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Everybody has a movie lover on their gift list. This year, get them a DVD they’ll really like. Below are our DVD recommendations from the past 13 months.

Click on any title to read our full DVD review (and print it out for some handy gift wrap). Next to the title is our rating of the movie itself. Over in the right-hand box is how well we liked the DVD, along with a list of features. Finally, below each capsule review is a link to the DVD’s page on Amazon.com.

There are three pages: Kid-friendly (which is this page), Classics, and Everything else.

Aladdin ****

DVD***1/2
Picture****
Sound***1/2
Extras***
  • Two new music videos
  • “Disney’s Virtual DVD Ride,” “Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Adventure,” and “3 Wishes Game” games
  • “Inside the Genie’s Lamp” 3-D tour
  • Deleted scenes and songs
  • Audio commentary by Clements, Musker and co-producer Amy Pell
  • Audio commentary by supervising animators Andreas Deja, Will Finn, Eric Goldberg and Glen Keane
  • “Pop-Up Fun Facts” text commentary
Disney does right by Aladdin, on DVD for the first time
Disney does right by Aladdin, on DVD for the first time

Of all of Disney’s recent animated features, “Aladdin” stands apart from others thanks to its almost irreverent humor and its ability to charm to adults as well as children. The DVD release has the same level of appeal with many features that outweigh the pleasure of watching just the movie.

Disney lives up to its usual high standard when it comes to remastering its features. Very few discs will come with a sharper picture. And If this is one of those discs that is going to be played over and over to keep children occupied, “Aladdin” has a lot of mileage to offer. Two commentaries as well as a text commentary round up the extras on disc one, which are full of insightful behind-the scenes information. On disc two, A full documentary on the making of “Aladdin” is longer than the actual film.

But did they really have to create new videos for this release? Did they really have to bring in Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey to perform an uninspiring “A Whole New World”?

Disney Treasures Wave 3 ***1/2

DVD***1/2
Picture***1/2
Sound***
Extras***1/2
  • Behind-the-scenes interviews
  • Trailers
  • Drawings, storyboards, publicity materials
  • Collectible tin
  • Limited edition lithograph
From the 1930s through the 1950s, as seen by Disney
From the 1930s through the 1950s, as seen by Disney

Since 1999, the Walt Disney company has been opening its vaults and releasing some of its older materials in collectible two-disc sets. The four most recent releases cover some of Disney’s work from the 1930s through the 1950s. They feature films that aren’t as well known these days and also give a look at American popular culture from those years.

The most interesting of the new DVD sets is Tomorrowland, which successfully mixes science and entertainment. Originally shown on television, the subjects include space travel, Mars and atomic energy. On the Front Lines gives a sampling of Disney’s output during World War II, from animated shorts to propaganda and educational films. Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Volume Two and The Chronological Donald, Volume One follow the careers of two of Disney’s most popular animated characters.

Mulan ***

DVD***1/2
Picture***1/2
Sound***1/2
Extras***1/2
  • Commentary track with the directors and producer
  • Deleted scenes
  • Mulan’s World, facts about China
  • Five music videos
  • The Ballad of Hua Mulan
  • Reels and galleries tracing the development of the movie
  • International Mulan; dubbing the movie for other countries
  • French, Spanish and Mandarin language tracks
Mulan is Disney's cartoon chop suey
Mulan is Disney’s cartoon chop suey

Mulan, Disney’s animated retelling of a Chinese legend, is filmic chop suey – a Chinese dish created in America. Though the filmmakers clearly researched ancient China, the movie’s sensibilities seem distinctively American. The imposition of Disney’s formula on the story doesn’t always work, but the movie does have some good moments. A new two-disc DVD set from Disney has in-depth special features on the making of the movie that may appeal more to adults than to younger viewers.

Paul McCartney: The Music and Animation Collection ***

DVD***1/2
Picture***1/2
Sound***1/2
Extras***
  • Interview with McCartney
  • Behind-the-scenes featurettes about the making of Tropic Island Hum and Tuesday
  • Storyboards and line tests
Kids too young to know who McCartney is will enjoy these films, and their parents will too.
Kids too young to know who McCartney is will enjoy these films, and their parents will too.

With three short films and a few extra features, Paul McCartney: The Music and Animation Collection DVD seems a little sparse. But Tropic Island Hum, Tuesday and Rupert and the Frog Song, all about 12 minutes each, feature high quality animation and the second two titles have the look and feel of the children’s books on which they were based. Kids who are too young to know who McCartney is will enjoy these films and their parents will too.

Alice in Wonderland ***

DVD***
Picture***1/2
Sound***
Extras***1/2
  • Sing-along songs
  • Virtual Wonderland Party
  • Adventures in Wonderland Set-Top Game
  • Mickey Mouse animated short
  • One Hour in Wonderland, a tv show from 1953
  • Exerpt from The Fred Waring Show, a TV show from 1951
  • Operation Wonderland, a behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Theatricals
  • Song demos
  • Gallery of sketches
Disney's Alice is a good introduction to Lewis Carroll's books
Disney’s Alice is a good introduction to Lewis Carroll’s books

Disney’s Alice in Wonderland is solid entertainment for kids, although it’s flawed as an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic books. For fans of the movie and their children, the new two-disc Masterpiece Edition DVD set is worth a look.

Freaky Friday ***

DVD***
Picture***1/2
Sound***1/2
Extras**1/2
  • Deleted scene
  • Alternate endings
  • Blooper reel
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Music videos from Lillix and Halo Friendlies
  • English captions
Lohan and Curtis entertain as each other
Lohan and Curtis entertain as each other

Despite a predictable plot, Freaky Friday rises above the usual teen fare. Good comedic performances by Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan and an above-average script make this an entertaining movie. The bonus features on the DVD are not very substantial, but the disc is worth viewing for the movie alone.

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over ***

DVD***
Picture***1/2
Sound****
Extras****
  • behind-the-scenes and special-effects featurettes
  • “Ten Minute Film School”
  • “How to Make Cool Home Movies”
  • director’s commentary track
  • music videos
  • video games
Kid-recommended SK3 breaks even with adults
Kid-recommended SK3 breaks even with adults

Robert Rodriguez is back as the ultimate cheap, fast, and always-in-control filmmaker with the Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over DVD, a two-disc set, packaged with four pairs of 3-D glasses and instructions for ordering additional sets.

When Juni learns that his sister Carmen is stuck inside a video game, he goes in to rescue her, with a little help from his grandpa. Joining the Spy Kids franchise is Sylvester Stallone, who plays the creator of the video game, the nefarious Toymaker.

This DVD set is chock-full of excellent special features that make the movie seem more impressive than it was in the theater. Video game-playing kids will love SK 3-D – and will be thrilled by the novelty of the virtual-reality environment of the movie, enhanced by the 3-D goggles. It’s likely that kids are already commandeering their families’ camcorders to make home movies, inspired by the multitalented Rodriguez’ simple tips and his perennial advice to “Have fun and be creative.”

The Princess Diaries ***

DVD***
Picture***1/2
Sound***1/2
Extras**1/2
  • A New Princess, behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Deleted scenes
  • Two commentary tracks
  • Livin’ Like a Princess featurette
  • Sneak Peek of The Princess Diaries 2
  • DVD-ROM features
Just in time for the theatrical run of the sequel, a new DVD is available
Just in time for the theatrical run of the sequel, a new DVD is available

The Princess Diaries follows a familiar ugly duckling story. The life of 15-year-old Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) changes dramatically when she hears from her long-lost grandmother (Julie Andrews), who happens to be Queen Clarisse of Genovia, a tiny European country. The heir to the throne, Mia’s absent father, died and now Mia is next in line. The queen and her minions must give Mia “princess lessons,” to turn this awkward teen into a poised young lady. The lessons Mia learns about self-confidence and friendship are no surprise, but this doesn’t make the movie any less entertaining.

Just in time for the theatrical run of the sequel, Disney has released a new special edition DVD of The Princess Diaries. Unlike the previous editions, which only had the movie, the new DVD two-disc set has both wide and full screen versions and many extras. Though some of these special features are entertaining, many of them seem geared toward marketing the franchise.

The Lion King 1 1/2 **1/2

DVD***
Picture***
Sound***1/2
Extras***
  • Deleted scenes
  • Hidden Mickey hunt
  • Grazin the the Grass music video
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Behind the Legend, featurette on Timon
  • Find the Face game
  • Virtual Safari
  • Who Wants to be King of the Jungle game
Straight-to-video LK 1 1/2 highlights the sidekicks
Straight-to-video LK 1 1/2 highlights the sidekicks

In an effort to milk the Lion King franchise for all it’s worth, Disney’s latest DVD release is The Lion King 1 ½. The movie’s production values and the DVD’s special features are above average for a straight-to-video release, but the story is thin. This one is for kids and Lion King fans.

The Three Musketeers **1/2

DVD***
Picture***
Sound***1/2
Extras***
  • Disney’s Song Selection, jumps to the songs in the movie
  • Music video: Three Is a Magic Number
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Cast commentary for one scene
  • Opera-Toon-Ity, build your own opera
  • The Many Hats of Mickey
  • French and Spanish language tracks
Disney hasn't forgotten: Mickey, Donald, and Goofy star in a new (straight-to-video) movie
Disney hasn’t forgotten: Mickey, Donald, and Goofy star in a new (straight-to-video) movie

As if to prove that it hasn’t forgotten its roots, Disney periodically makes new cartoons with its classic stars. Released straight-to-video, The Three Musketeers is entertaining but not memorable, with some noteworthy DVD extras (a commentary track by the voices, in character, and clips from classic Mickey cartoons.)

Mickey, Donald and Goofy, living in 18th century France, idolize the musketeers as youngsters. But instead of following in their footsteps, they are stuck working as janitors at the royal palace. That is, until the captain of the musketeers, the villainous Pegleg Pete, plans to kidnap Princess Minnie, and claim the throne.

That the plot is thin and padded with songs won’t bother young viewers, but this movie will never be considered a classic.