‘Arthur Christmas’ witty, slow at times
This week’s new DVD releases range from a holiday treat to a pair of top-notch TV series.
• “Arthur Christmas,” Grade B-plus: Santa’s son must save Christmas.
The animated film is not a perfect gift, but it does feature enough holiday cheer and silly fun to make it more entertaining than 10 lords a-leaping. It helps that the film also has a warm message about how tradition should never be sacrificed for efficiency’s sake.
First-time film director Sarah Smith creates an up-tempo – at times frantic – pace for most of the movie. The story occasionally gets bogged down by the script from Peter Baynham and Smith. Arthur’s long trip to deliver the last gift could have used fewer pit stops. But the script does have a nice blend of jokes aimed at kids and adults, and it is filled with so many visual gags they can finally all be appreciated now that the film is on DVD.
• “Call the Midwife: Season One,” Grade A-minus: This is the original version of the series that aired in Britain before coming to America via public television.
The series, based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, is a beautiful, heart-touching and occasionally funny look at a young midwife working in one of the poorest sections of London during the 1950s. The young woman’s eyes are opened to the real world when she must deal with everything from a woman on her 25th pregnancy to a 15-year-old pregnant prostitute.
Jessica Raine turns in a masterful performance to highlight this brilliant series.
• “Entourage: The Complete Series,” Grade A-minus: Fans of this HBO series – based loosely on the association of executive producer and series creator Doug Ellin with actor Mark Wahlberg – is a must own for fans of the show. If you aren’t a fan, this is a great way to power watch your way through a series that offers a look behind the curtain of the life of a successful Hollywood actor.
Crisp and clever writing combined with a strong cast – especially Jeremy Piven as agent Ari Gold – make this set worth owning. If that wasn’t enough, it comes with six hours of bonus material.
Other new DVD releases this week:
“Sunset Boulevard”: Billy Wilder’s film debuts on Blu-ray.
“The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams: Season One”: Dan Haggerty plays TV mountain man.
“Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice”: Two holiday animated specials are on one Blu-ray.
“Fire with Fire”: Josh Duhamel and Bruce Willis star.
“Law & Order: The Eleventh Year”: Full season of the long-running TV crime drama.
“The Courtship of Eddie’s Father: The Second Season”: Bill Bixby stars.
“The Swan Princess Christmas”: Princess Odette and Prince Derek celebrate first Christmas together.
“Chilly Christmas”: Story of how holiday miracles can come true.
“Louie Anderson: Big Baby Boomer”: Comic’s Las Vegas stand-up routine.
“American Restoration: Volume 2”: Rick Dale shows he can restore almost anything.
“Christmas With Danny Kaye”: Includes two holiday episodes of Kaye’s TV show.
“Supernatural Activity”: Spoof of horror film genre.
“Wolf Lake: The Complete Series”: Short-lived series starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
“Javier Bardem 3-Film Collection”: Includes “No Country for Old Men,” “Biutiful” and “Mondays in the Sun.”
“They Live”: John Carpenter’s thriller is available on Blu-ray.
“I Wish”: Siblings are determined to stay together.
“Angelina Ballerina: Superstar Sisters”: A five-episode collection.
“REC 3: Genesis”: A wedding day turns into a nightmare when the guests become zombies.
“Vera, Set 2”: Brenda Blethyn stars in the series based on the novels by Ann Cleeves.
“Narrow Escapes of World War II”: Documentary on exploits that shaped WWII outcome.
“Cornwall with Caroline Quentin”: Travel series explores the Cornish coast.
“Sesame Street: Old School Volume 3”: Episodes from the ’80s.
“What Happened To Kerouac?”: A look at what happens when fame and notoriety are thrust upon a reticent man.
“Rags to Riches: The Mary Pickford Collection”: Set celebrates 120th anniversary of her birth.
“Barney: Let’s Go To the Doctor”: Barney and his friends show going to the doctor is important.
“Thomas & Friends: Let’s Explore With Thomas”: DVD set comes with map of Sodor.