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New releases: The Dardennes' 'The Kid With a Bike' charms

Also reviewed: 'Bully,' 'Robot & Frank' and 'Skyfall.'

February 10, 2013|By Noel Murray
  • Cyril (Thomas Doret) in "The Kid With a Bike."
Cyril (Thomas Doret) in "The Kid With a Bike." (Christine Plenus / Sundance…)

The Kid With a Bike

Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

Belgian filmmaking brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne settled on their signature style in the mid-'90s with "La Promesse," a movie about a working-class youngster in a desperate situation, shot mostly with a handheld camera, using a lot of follow-shots. The Dardennes' latest shows that there's plenty of life in the brothers' approach as they tell the story a pre-teen foster child who goes looking for his father and ends up befriending both a kindly hairdresser and a shrewd drug dealer. "The Kid With a Bike" isn't as nail-biting as other Dardennes films — the drama is more low-stakes, tied to a stubborn young boy's unrealistic expectations — but it's one of their most accessible, with a balance of heartbreak and sweetness that's hard to resist. Criterion's DVD and Blu-ray add a trio of typically thoughtful behind-the-scenes featurettes.

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Bully

Starz/Anchor Bay, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.99

Available on VOD beginning Feb. 12

It's all but impossible not to be moved by Lee Hirsch's documentary about kids who get picked on in school and the culture that permits it. But while "Bully" is undeniably emotional and will undoubtedly inspire viewers to support anti-bullying campaigns (which has been Hirsch's stated goal since before this project even began), the movie isn't as informative as it could be, largely because Hirsch came to "Bully" with an end point in mind rather than letting the story develop on its own. That doesn't make this documentary any less admirable; it just means it's more of a persuasive position paper than a proper film. The DVD and Blu-ray contain additional scenes and interviews.

Robot & Frank

Sony, $30.99

Available on VOD beginning Feb. 12

This delightful indie dramedy stars Frank Langella as a semi-retired jewel thief with a failing memory, whose son buys him a technologically advanced butler/healthcare worker, which Frank then turns into an accomplice for his heists and a wingman for his courtship of a friendly librarian (played by Susan Sarandon). Too much of "Robot & Frank" falls into a predictable "buddy movie" pattern, telling a quirky, affecting story that's utterly unchallenging. But that's perfectly OK for a film like this. Christopher Ford's screenplay is sturdily crafted — with a couple of good twists down the stretch — and director Jake Schreier elicits warm performances from Langella and Sarandon as well as from the robot, voiced by Peter Sarsgaard. Schreier and Ford recorded a commentary track for the DVD.

Skyfall

MGM/UA, $19.99; Blu-ray, $24.99

Available on VOD beginning Feb. 12

Ever since Daniel Craig assumed the role of James Bond, the venerable spy series has taken on a tougher quality, more reminiscent of Ian Fleming's original novels. With the Sam Mendes-directed "Skyfall," the Bond series finally develops a sense of style, as Mendes sends Agent 007 around the world to fight an anarchic former MI6-er (played by Javier Bardem) in cool-looking exotic locales. The plot pits the villain's technological know-how against Bond's more analog sensibilities, turning the entire movie into an argument for British traditionalism. But what makes that story work is how Mendes positions Bond as a resourceful man of action, fighting for his very way of being. The "Skyfall" DVD and Blu-ray add a Mendes commentary and many featurettes.

And…

Girl Model

First Run, $27.95

The Man With the Iron Fists

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD Feb. 12

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Lionsgate, $19.98; Blu-ray, $24.99

Available on VOD Feb. 12

Silent Hill: Revelation

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD Feb. 12

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