Pixar’s latest blockbuster has arrived on home video this week, along with a new collection of those short cartoons that precede the studio’s theatrical animated features and several TV cartoon collections.
“Brave” (Disney/Pixar/Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital, 2012, PG, five discs, $49.99, extended scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, art gallery, bloopers, short cartoons: La Luna” and “The Legend of Mor’du,” trailers). Yet another summer hit for Pixar, this cartoon movie is a calculated “Disney Princess” story set in medieval Scotland but with the expected 21st century sensibilities.
The focus is on the king’s feisty daughter Merida, whose wild red curly hair is almost a character all its own. And early scenes of her rebellious antics are funny and bright, and parents will recognize her mood swings as a spot-on interpretation of the modern teenager. But when the plot really kicks in with a magical twist, it’s so out of left field that it took me awhile to adjust.
I won’t spill the beans here, for the benefit of those who missed the film in theaters, but suffice to say this film doesn’t quite measure up to Pixar’s best. On the other hand, that may be an unrealistic expectation year in and year out, and even minor Pixar is better than most other animation. (Also on three-disc Blu-ray combo, $39.99, and single-disc DVD, $29.99.)
“Pixar Short Films: Collection 2” (Disney/Pixar/Blu-ray + DVD, 2008-11, G, two discs, $39.99, 12 cartoons, seven student films). These are the delightful short cartoons that have preceded Pixar features or been video-disc extras from “Wall-E” forward, most of them featuring familiar characters from “Cars,” “Toy Story,” “Ratatouille,” etc. The bonus student films are early works by Pixar animators John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter. (Also on single-disc DVD, $29.99.)
“Dreamworks Holiday Classics” (Dreamworks/Blu-ray + DVD, 2007-11, two discs, $19.96, three cartoons). Three 20-minute animated holiday TV specials: “Merry Madagascar,” “Shrek the Halls” and “Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury,” spinoffs of the respective theatrical films “Madagascar,” “Shrek” and “How to Train Your Dragon.” Cute, amusing cartoons for fans and children.
“Kung Fu Panda Holiday” (Dreamworks/Blu-ray + DVD, 2010, two discs, $19.96, featurettes). Like the collection above, this 20-minute animated holiday TV special is a spinoff of the theatrical film “Kung Fu Panda,” with Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, et. al, reprising their characters’ voices.
“Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Season Two, Part 1: Danger in the Deep” (Warner, 2012, two discs, $19.97, 13 episodes). The Cartoon Network animated series finds the Scoob and his pals Daphne, Fred, Velma and Shaggy again in pursuit of the Crybaby Clown, along with confrontations involving witch Baba Yaga, Dreamweaver and the Hodag of Horror.
“History in 3D” (History/Blu-ray 3D, 2012, three discs, $79.95, three programs). Three 3D documentaries made for television are repackaged in this box set: “WWII in 3D,” “Titanic: 100 Years in 3D” and “History of the World in Two Hours in 3D,” all visually interesting and bolstered by experts and witnesses. The “World War II” program uses stereographs retrieved from archives and attics.
“The Universe in 3D” (History/Blu-ray 3D, 2012, three discs, $79.95, three programs). The TV documentaries repackaged here are presented in 3D for the first time: “Catastrophes That Changed the Planets,” “Nemesis: The Sun’s Evil Twin” and “How the Solar System Was Made,” enhanced by vivid computer animation.
“Dark Horse” (Virgil, 2012, not rated, $24.99). Overweight, geeky toy collector (Jordan Gelber) in his 30s is a miserable failure in life, so he makes everyone around him miserable as well. Including the audience. Despite the presence of veterans Christopher Walken, Mia Farrow, Donna Murphy and Selma Blair, only fans of eccentric filmmaker Todd Solondz will be able to warm up to this off-putting mix of fantasy and reality. (Also on Blu-ray, $34.99.)
“Savages” (Universal/Blu-ray + DVD + Digital, 2012; R for violence, language, sex, nudity; two discs, $34.98, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes). Oliver Stone co-wrote and directed this stomach-wrenching exercise in excess about a pair of drug dealers (Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson) and their girlfriend (Blake Lively) going up against a Mexican drug cartel (led by Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro) and a dirty DEA agent (John Travolta).
“Painted Skin: The Resurrection” (Well Go, 2012, not rated, $24.98, in Mandarin with English subtitles, featurette, trailer). Violent tale is an in-name-only sequel to 2008’s “Painted Skin” as a demon fox spirit in the form of a woman maintains her youthful beauty by devouring human hearts. Eventually, she crosses paths with a scarred princess who wears a golden mask and pines for one of her guards. Visually interesting and well performed Hong Kong period fantasy. (Also on Blu-ray, $29.98.)