Chris Hicks: DVD reviews: Swimmingly good 'Dolphin Tale' arrives on DVD

Published: Thursday, Dec. 22 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

Nathan Gamble stars as Sawyer Nelson and Winter stars as herself in the family adventure "Dolphin Tale."

Jon Farmer

These newly released Blu-rays and DVDs are led by a heartwarming family film based on a true story.

"Dolphin Tale" (Warner/Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy, PG, two discs, $35.99). When a free-swimming dolphin seriously injures its tail in a Florida crab trap, a lonely young boy is the first to find her, and they immediately bond.

After the dolphin's fin is amputated at the local marine hospital, the boy's unique relationship with the creature proves invaluable in helping her adapt. But without a fin, the dolphin's swimming will cause spinal damage, so a VA doctor specializing in prosthetics is recruited to develop an artificial fin.

The story of the boy (Nathan Gamble) and his mother (Ashley Judd), the boy's relationship with the marine biologist (Harry Connick Jr.) and his young daughter, and a parallel story about a cousin returning from war injured and broken, are overly familiar and mired in cliches.

But the dolphin's story is completely fascinating and the filmmakers have wisely avoided over-sentimentalizing or anthropomorphizing, as the sincere, clear-eyed unfolding of the central plot becomes irresistible.

Also, kudos to the terrific cast — with a special nod to Morgan Freeman as the prosthetics surgeon. And to the real-life dolphin of the story who plays herself!

Extras: widescreen; Blu-ray, DVD, digital copies; deleted scenes, featurettes, bloopers (also in 3-D Combo Pack, $40.99, and single-disc DVD, $28..98)

"Blackthorn" (Magnolia, 2011; R for violence, language; $26.98). Butch Cassidy didn't die but lived out most of his life in Bolivia! That's the premise of this Spanish-funded, English-language western that is impressively photographed (in Bolivia), with thoughtful widescreen composition and nicely choreographed action by director Mateo Gill.

But the reason to see it is Sam Shepard as Butch — traveling under the name Blackthorn — whose gravitas anchors the proceedings, providing more depth than the screenplay.

Too often the film shifts from the interesting story of older Butch to flashbacks of his time with the Sundance Kid and Etta Place, with a younger actor as Butch and suggesting unfortunate comparisons to Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Katharine Ross.

Still, if you are a western fan, this is the best since the Coen Brothers' "True Grit," and who knows when the next one will come along.

Extras: widescreen, deleted scenes, featurette, two short films by Gill, trailer

"Futurama: Volume 6" (Fox/Blu-ray, 2011, two discs, $39.99). Funny animated sci-fi satire (from the folks over at "The Simpsons") continues to get laughs in this collection of episodes from the second half of Season 6. Even the episode titles are funny: "Mobius Dick," "Silence of the Clamps," "All the Presidents' Heads," etc.

Extras: widescreen, 13 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes (also on DVD, $29.98)

"Colombiana" (Sony/Blu-ray, 2011, $35.99). Zoe Saldana, who impressed in "Avatar" and "Star Trek" is the whole show in this action thriller as a trained assassin killing bad guys, working her way up to the drug lord who killed her parents. Plausible? No. Logical? No. Character development … well, does that really matter? But if you like your action mindless and fast, here it is in an unrated, lengthier version than was seen in theaters (and closer to an R rating than the original's PG-13).

Extras: widescreen, featurettes, trailers (also on DVD, $30.99)

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