With the video and DVD release of the 1999 blockbuster "Toy Story 2" a few months away, Disney and Pixar are whetting the appetite of the movie's legions of fans with the made-for-video "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins" (Disney, $25 for video; $30 for DVD).
Unlike the computer-animated "Toy Story" films, "Buzz Lightyear" is traditionally animated. And as far as made-for-video animated features go, it's a cut above the norm. A lot of the film's genial success is due to Tim Allen, who returns as the voice of the pompous but endearing hero from infinity and beyond.
This time around, Buzz's arch-enemy, the Evil Emperor Zurg (Wayne Knight), has captured those adorable Little Green Men in order to discover the secret to their Uni-Mind, a force that allows them to think as one. He steals the Uni-Mind, turns its force from good to evil and zaps the entire universe. It's up to Buzz and three crime-fighting rookies--Mira Nova, Booster and XR--to stop the nefarious Zurg.
The script by Mark McCorkle, Bob Schooley, Bill Motz and Bob Roth is breezy and funny. A plus is a computer-animated opening created by Pixar, with Woody and the "Toy Story" gang. Jim Hanks, Tom's brother, supplies the voice of Woody.
The DVD features a comic book, a trivia game and a rogues' gallery game.
Not so enjoyable is "Dragonheart: A New Beginning" (Universal; video is priced for rental; $25 for DVD), a made-for-video sequel to the 1996 hit fantasy "Dragonheart."
Produced by Raffaella De Laurentiis, as was the original film, this adventure is strictly for the kiddies.
Chris Masterson of "Malcolm in the Middle" plays a stableboy living in a monastery who wants to be a knight. One night, while exploring a forbidden dungeon, he comes across a young dragon named Drake (the voice of Robby Benson) who was raised in secrecy by the Friar. The two become friends, but trouble ensues when an evil lord (Henry Van Gorkum) wants to get the dragon's heart so he can rule the kingdom. The computer-animated Drake is quite impressive, but all the other effects look cheesy.
The DVD features the wide-screen version of the film, a trailer, a short documentary and talent bios.
The thriller "Reindeer Games" (Dimension) isn't one of director John Frankenheimer's ("The Manchurian Candidate") best films. In fact, it's not very good, despite some nifty action sequences and a fine cast that includes Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron and Gary Sinise. But it's always fun to listen to Frankenheimer discuss his craft. And he's in fine form on the digital version of "Reindeer Games" ($30)--funny, informative and passionate.
For Beatles fanatics, there's a four-disc set from MPI ($80) featuring the digital versions of "Help!," "Magical Mystery Tour," "The First U.S. Visit" and "You Can't Do That: The Making of a Hard Day's Night." All of these films have been available previously on DVD, but this is the first time they've been offered in a set.
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a snooze! It's "Supergirl," the long-forgotten 1984 action-adventure flick following the exploits of Superman's cousin (Helen Slater). Anchor Bay is releasing a single DVD version ($25) and a limited-edition two-disc set ($40) that features both the international version and the director's cut.
Both editions feature "The Making of Supergirl," trailers, TV spots and tons of original storyboards, stills and poster galleries.
The entertaining audio commentary is in the form of a Q&A session between Anchor Bay's special project consultant, Scott Michael Bosco, and director Jeannot Szwarc. The French-born director talks about how Slater, then a high school student, was chosen over thousands of girls to play the part and how she studied for several months to learn how to fly gracefully.
The delightful 1995 family fantasy "The Secret of Roan Inish" (Columbia TriStar, $25) is John Sayles' most popular film. Set on the west coast of Ireland, it's a fable about a little girl (Jeni Courtney) whose grandparents tell her that selkies--seals who can turn into humans--have a connection to the family. The DVD features a nice wide-screen transfer of the film, plus a lovely commentary from independent writer-director Sayles, who talks about how he came to make the film, as well as the trials and tribulations of working with seals and sea gulls.