PINOCCHIO (1940). Walt Disney's second full-length animated feature – the first, of course, was 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – remains one of his studio's genuine masterpieces, an emotionally rich, narratively weighty and visually spectacular motion picture that never loses any of its power to dazzle the senses. Based on Carlo Collodi's tale, this finds kindly toymaker Geppetto creating a wooden puppet that magically comes to life. The curious lad, named Pinocchio, dreams of nothing but becoming a real boy, and with the conscientious Jiminy Cricket by his side, he sets out into the world for a series of exciting adventures. Pinocchio is unique in the annals of Disney animation in that it's the studio's only toon movie in which evil is never punished: When all is said and done, Pleasure Island is still operating, Stromboli is still scouring the countryside looking for susceptible prey, and Monstro the whale is still plundering the ocean depths. Yet despite its scenes of suspense and the haunting morality tale at its center, Pinocchio is also breezy enough to be enjoyed by tots looking for nothing but a good time – for that, we largely have to thank Jiminy Cricket, delightfully voiced by Cliff Edwards. Pinocchio earned two Academy Awards, for Best Original Score and Best Original Song (the immortal "When You Wish Upon a Star").
Extras in the two-disc Platinum Edition include audio commentary by film critic and author Leonard Maltin (The Disney Films), film historian and author J.B. Kaufman (Walt in Wonderland: The Silent Films of Walt Disney), and animation director Eric Goldberg (Pocahontas); an hour-long making-of piece; four deleted scenes and one deleted song; pop-up trivia facts; and a featurette on real-life toymakers.
QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008). Casino Royale, the 2006 revamp of the 007 film franchise, turned out to be the best James Bond outing since the start of Reagan's first term, so expecting Quantum of Solace to match it was probably asking too much. And indeed, this second effort starring Daniel Craig gets off to a rough start, simply because the two elements we can always rely on – the opening credits and the theme song – are particularly painful. Fortunately, it isn't long before we're again immersed in the 007 mystique. Half gentleman, half bruiser, Craig's Bond is still learning the ropes of his newly designated status as a field operative, and it's up to his superior, M (again played by Judi Dench with the right mix of pissed-off exasperation at the monster she helped create and barely concealed pride at the confident, competent male she's released to the world), to try to keep him in line. In a first for the 46-year-old series, this is a direct sequel to its predecessor: To watch it without having seen Casino Royale would be akin to viewing The Empire Strikes Back without having seen Star Wars. In short, the villainous organization from the previous picture is still operating full speed ahead, and revenge for the death of a loved one remains foremost on our hero's mind. One of the keys to this franchise's longevity is each entry's ability to adapt to the times, and Quantum of Solace is no exception. But don't think for a moment that real-world issues dominate the movie: The stunts are as outlandish as ever, the typically lavish settings allow us to live vicariously through Bond, and fans of the Connery/Moore eras will spot a few neat touches, including an homage to Goldfinger. If I rated with numbers instead of stars, it would merit – dare I type it? – a 007 out of 10.
Extras in the two-disc set include a 25-minute look at the location shooting; featurettes on director Marc Forster, the music score, and the first day of shooting; the music video for "Another Way to Die"; and brief interviews with 32 members of the cast and crew, most of them in generally unsung positions (production sound mixer, unit nurse, second assistant director, etc.).
THE ROBE (1953). This religious epic stands as one of the most important pictures in Hollywood history for the mere fact that it was the first movie released in CinemaScope, the revolutionary widescreen process that became the industry standard after it successfully lured viewers away from the boxy confines of television. An expensive production that went on to become the top-grossing film of the year, this centers on Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton in a star-making performance), a Roman centurion assigned to oversee Christ's execution. Marcellus thinks nothing of his task until his slave, a Christian convert named Demetrius (Victor Mature), hands him Jesus' robe; from that moment, Marcellus is tormented by inexplicable feelings, and he decides the only way to end what everyone believes to be a bout of madness is to destroy the garment. Jean Simmons co-stars as Marcellus' lady love, while Michael Rennie, the alien emissary Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still, plays another liberal pacifist: the apostle Peter. The Robe isn't as lead-footed as many of the era's religious epics, as it mines real emotion from its scenes involving faith and devotion. Nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Actor and Color Cinematography), this won for Best Color Art Direction & Set Decoration and Best Color Costume Design; the men behind CinemaScope nabbed special Oscars for their invention.
DVD extras include audio commentary by film composer David Newman and a trio of film historians; an introduction by Martin Scorsese; and a half-hour making-of piece. In a sloppy bit of packaging – as well as further evidence that the studios care less and less about standard DVDs and more and more about pushing customers to go Blu-Ray – the back of the box states that the disc includes the featurette The CinemaScope Story. It's nowhere to be found, though it is included on the Blu-Ray edition. Oops.
TWILIGHT (2008). Working from the first novel in Stephenie Meyer's literary franchise, director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) and scripter Melissa Rosenberg have made Twilight a love story first and a vampire tale second. Kristen Stewart stars as Bella, who moves to Forks, Wash., and finds herself attracted to the enigmatic Edward (Robert Pattinson), who sports a pasty-white complexion and avoids the company of the other high school kids. But he is likewise drawn to Bella, and as their relationship grows, he exposes his true nature to her. Twilight is occasionally overwrought, yet Hardwicke turns that into a blessing rather than a curse. The astute director understands her teen protagonists, and rather than speak down to them (and, by extension, to the film's youthful viewers), she allows their angst-filled behavior, their oversized emotionalism, to register as the most important thing in the world (because, to a teenager caught up in the moment, that's exactly what it is). This ripeness in the movie's form and content fuels the heated romance between the pair, and their scenes have an aching sweetness, marred only by an obtrusively florid score (by the usually reliable Carter Burwell) that threatens to turn these sequences into Viagra for Teens commercials. There's some late-inning action when Edward must stop a "bad" vampire (Cam Gigandet) who's determined to snack on Bella's blood, but this part of the film feels rushed and tacked-on. Clearly, Hardwicke's interest remains firmly on matters of the heart – a heart unencumbered by the traditional wooden stake, of course.
Extras in the two-disc edition include audio commentary by Hardwicke, Stewart and Pattinson; an hour-long making-of feature; five deleted scenes; music videos by Linkin Park, Muse and Paramore; and footage from Comic-Con.
LILO & STITCH (2002). In this Disney toon tale, Lilo is a troubled Hawaiian girl while Stitch is a mischievous outer space visitor. Naturally, these two bond, but their friendship is disrupted by various elements, including other aliens hell-bent on capturing Stitch. The animation is fine, but the rough screenplay has little regard for smooth transitions or believable character arcs, while Stitch's antics grow exhausting. On the plus side, the soundtrack offers Elvis Presley classics rather than the usual Oscar-bait ear-bleeders from the likes of Phil Collins or Bryan Adams.
Extras in the 2-disc Big Wave Edition include audio commentary by writer-directors Chris Sanders and Dean Deblois; a 125-minute making-of documentary; five deleted scenes; and games.
NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983). Long after Roger Moore had firmly entrenched himself as the new James Bond, Sean Connery returned to the role one final time in this entertaining yarn that isn't part of the official series (in fact, it competed that year with Moore's Octopussy). A loose remake of Thunderball, this finds Connery as a more whimsical Bond, weathering cracks about his age and health even as he's called upon to stop the requisite madman (Klaus Maria Brandauer, very good), tangle with a femme fatale (Barbara Carrera) and save the good girl (Kim Basinger). Look for Rowan Atkinson as a bumbling government suit named Nigel Small-Fawcett.
DVD extras include audio commentary by director Irvin Kershner and Bond historian Steven Jay Rubin; a short piece on the film's genesis; and a discussion of Connery's return to the role.
TELL NO ONE (2008). One of last year's most acclaimed imports, Tell No One is a twisty French film about a doctor (Francois Cluzet) who, eight years after the brutal slaying of his wife (Marie-Josee Croze), receives an anonymous e-mail hinting that she's still alive. Initially complex, the piece's grip loosens with the introduction of a transparent villain, but it remains an absorbing thriller bolstered by Cluzet's appropriately angst-driven performance.
DVD extras include 35 minutes of deleted scenes and six minutes of outtakes.