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New Releases: 'Brave' is latest from Pixar

Also reviewed: 'The Island President,' 'The Queen of Versailles,' 'Red Hook Summer'

November 10, 2012|By Noel Murray
  • Merida, voiced by Kelly Macdonald, in "Brave."
Merida, voiced by Kelly Macdonald, in "Brave." (Disney / Pixar )


Pixar/Walt Disney, $35.99; Blu-ray, $39.99/$49.99

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday

The computer animation pioneers at Pixar made their reputation on technical innovations and masterful storytelling — the studio's latest excels at the former, it falls a little short in the latter. Set in the Scottish Highlands many centuries ago, "Brave" follows a shaggy-haired princess named Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) who asks a witch to help "change her fate" and let her live as a tomboy instead of as a future wife and queen. What follows is a strange adventure, involving an ancient beast, a bear and Merida's contentious relationship with her mother (Emma Thompson). The film looks stunning and is consistently amusing and action-packed, but it doesn't have much of an arc; the pieces of the plot feel disconnected and unfinished. It's a marvel by any normal family-movie standards though, and the DVD and Blu-ray are typically impressive, with copious featurettes and fun bonus materials.

REVIEW: Pixar's 'Brave' doesn't hit the bull's-eye

The Island President

First Run, $27.95

Politician and activist Mohamed Nasheed helped found the Maldivian Democratic Party to raise international awareness about his country's dictatorial president, then became the Maldives president himself, inheriting an economic and environmental crisis brought on by rising tides and a shrinking fish population. Jon Shenk's documentary is mostly about Nasheed's presentation at a U.N. Climate Change Conference and reveals how international politics can be even more polarized and mired in bureaucracy than local politics. The first half-hour shows a dynamic politician who gets things done; the last hour shows how he gets ground to dust by diplomats. The DVD includes an interview with Shenk.

BUZZMETER: Race to the Oscars

The Queen of Versailles

Magnolia, $26.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday

Lauren Greenfield's hugely entertaining documentary started as the story of timeshare billionaire David Siegel's efforts to build the biggest house in Orlando, Fla., for his aging trophy wife, Jackie; but then the recession hit, and Greenfield's movie became about the Siegels adjusting to being merely rich instead of filthy rich. "The Queen of Versailles" lets viewers enjoy the fantasy of wealth while watching a couple of fat cats suffer, but it's also fairly sympathetic to the Siegels, who both came from modest backgrounds, became wildly successful and then found themselves at the mercy of an untenable social and financial system they helped enable. The DVD and Blu-ray covers more of the story, via a set of deleted scenes.

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Red Hook Summer

Available on VOD beginning Monday

Spike Lee returns to Brooklyn and to low-budget indie filmmaking for the first time in nearly a decade with this vibrant slice-of-life starring Clarke Peters as a preacher who looks after his teenage grandson, trying to persuade the boy to turn to God instead of technology. The movie is a broad comedy at times, a searing drama at others and a clumsy coming-of-age piece overall, though it does teem with life and take big chances, much like Lee's best work.


Dark Horse

Virgil $24.99; Blu-ray, $34.99


Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday

The Watch

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday


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