A 2006 retelling of the Nativity gets a Blu-ray upgrade, older films debut on DVD

Published: Tuesday, March 19 2013 5:40 p.m. MDT

Keisha Castle-Hughes in "The Nativity Story."

New Line Cinema

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“The Nativity Story” leads several features receiving Blu-ray upgrades this week, while a wide variety of older titles come to DVD for the first time.

“The Nativity Story” (New Line/Blu-ray, 2006, PG, two discs, $19.98, Blu-ray and DVD versions, featurette, trailers). Keisha Castle-Hughes (“Whale Rider”) stars in this retelling of the birth of Jesus from the New Testament gospels of Matthew and Luke, a flawed but sincere and reverent film that should satisfy those of us who hunger for movies of this kind in the 21st century.

The film is perhaps a bit too reverent, especially in Castle-Hughes’ pouty performance and the gray, metallic-looking cinematography, which has the Holy Land appearing to be perpetually cloudy. But it gets better as it goes along, and Shohreh Aghdashloo’s portrayal of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth wonderfully observes that a visit from an angel and the promise of a deliverer is reason to rejoice.

“Mulan”/“Mulan II” (Disney/Blu-ray, 1998/2005, three discs, G, $39.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, music videos, trailers). Disney’s animated retelling of a 2,000-year-old Chinese legend about a young woman (voiced by Ming-Na Wen) disguising herself as a man to join the Imperial Army is fast-paced and amusing. The straight-to-video sequel has more songs but less emphasis on story and character. (Also on DVD, $29.99)

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”/“The Hunchback of Notre Dame II” (Disney/Blu-ray, 1996/2002, three discs, G, $39.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; audio commentary, featurettes, trailers). Disney’s animated adaptation of the Victor Hugo classic is surprisingly good, with heart and humor in all the right places, some nice songs and wonderful voice performances from Tom Hulce as “Quasi,” Demi Moore as Esmerelda and Kevin Kline as the captain of the guard. But it’s also too violent and sensual for the very young. How’d this one get a G rating? The straight-to-video sequel is deplorable.

“Brother Bear”/“Brother Bear 2” (Disney/Blu-ray, 2003/2006, three discs, G, $39.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted scenes, deleted song, featurettes, outtakes, music videos, sing-along, trailers). This one is an OK time-waster kids will like (though parents may blanch at the animal bodily function gags), borrowing perhaps a bit too much from Disney’s legacy (“Bambi,” “The Lion King”) and another studio’s “Ice Age” franchise. The story has an Iniut boy changed into a bear. The straight-to-video sequel is weak.

“Tristana” (Cohen/Blu-ray, 1970, PG-13, $24.98, in Spanish with English subtitles, alternate ending, audio commentary w/Catherine Deneuve, featurettes, trailers; 20-page booklet). Deneuve delivers a brilliant performance in this tragedy about sexual dynamics by the notorious Spanish surrealist Luis Bunuel. She’s an orphan adopted by aging nobleman Fernando Rey, who goes from father-figure to husband-figure until the tables turn a few more times. (Also on DVD, $19.98)

“South Pacific”/“Gypsy” (Mill Creek, 2001/1993, not rated, $9.98). These are the two TV-movie versions of these classic Broadway musicals, “South Pacific” starring Glenn Close and Harry Connick Jr., and “Gypsy,” with Bette Midler in the lead. One can argue about the merits of “South Pacific” compared to the lavish 1958 movie version, but there’s no question that “Gypsy” is tailor-made for Midler’s talent and her presence boosts this one a few notches above the 1962 film version.

“The Hudsucker Proxy” (Warner Archive/Blu-ray, 1994, PG, $19.95). Gentler in tone and sunnier than most Coen Brothers’ comedies, this period fantasy stars Tim Robbins, perfectly cast as a naïve country boy in New York becoming a patsy for a large corporation led by manipulative Paul Newman. Longish but charming and funny. (Available at www.WarnerArchive.com)

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