CINDERELLA (1950). Disney's version of the timeless fairy tale has lost none of its luster -- if anything, it's added some, thanks to the painstaking efforts to restore the 55-year-old animated treasure for this Platinum Edition release. As with the previous five titles under the Platinum banner, the studio has gone all-out in producing this two-disc DVD edition, enhancing the picture quality, adding a 5.1 soundtrack, and turning over every rock on the studio grounds in search of invaluable archival material. Among the more interesting extras: ESPN Classic's look at Cinderella stories in the sports world, including Joe Namath's Super Bowl victory prediction for his New York Jets, the US hockey team's amazing 1980 Olympic victory over the Russians and (my fave) injured LA Dodger Kirk Gibson's game-winning home run during the 1988 World Series; a tribute to Disney's "Nine Old Men," the animators behind many of the studio's most enduring classics; and a Cinderella cartoon from 1922. On the down side is the constant shilling of Disney Channel actors -- honestly, did we really need a new version of "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" sung by the stars of Phil of the Future and The Suite Life of Zach and Cody?
KICKING & SCREAMING (2005). The "underdog sports comedy," which hasn't been run into the ground as much as it's been pureed in a top-model blender, travels as far as it probably can go these days in this immensely likable if somewhat toothless family film. Will Ferrell ably tackles his most complete role to date, as a wimpy dad who elects to coach a losing boys soccer team. As Ferrell's macho pop, Robert Duvall seems to have wandered in from a much more serious movie, and the usual sports flick cliches are repeated verbatim. What elevates the picture is Ferrell himself: While his patented shtick can often grow tiresome (see Bewitched), here it's in the service of an actual character, and that seems to make all the difference. Rather than random acts of lunacy, the insecure Phil's outbursts are hardwired into his psyche, which allows us the luxury of feeling sorry for the guy even as we're laughing at him. DVD extras include 12 minutes of deleted scenes, outtakes and a making-of featurette.
THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS (2005). Ann Brashares' best-selling book was transformed into a luminescent motion picture for anyone interested in an emotional high. As they prepare to go their separate ways for the summer, four high school friends (winningly played by America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel, Blake Lively and Amber Tamblyn) stumble across a pair of jeans that miraculously fits all of them. They quickly decide that the pants will be passed among them throughout the summer, as a way of staying in touch over long distances. Statutory rape, parental abandonment, the death of a child -- these are heavy issues for any movie, let alone one aimed at young girls. Yet while Sisterhood occasionally skirts around the full import of these hot-button items, it's still honest enough to acknowledge the perils of adolescence as well as the pleasures. DVD extras include additional scenes, select scenes featuring discussions by the stars and an interview with Brashares.
UNLEASHED (2005). After being treated like a dog his entire life by a Glasgow mobster (Bob Hoskins), a henchman (Jet Li) finds comfort in his friendships with a blind piano tuner (Morgan Freeman) and his stepdaughter (Kerry Condon). "Poignant" and "touching" aren't words usually associated with a Jet Li flick, but this isn't your standard action yarn. That's not to say Li has gone the Sense and Sensibility route: Fans of martial arts mayhem will still be satisfied with the degree of bone crushing and rib cracking on display. But while the thrilling set pieces goose the proceedings, it's the acting that provides an advantage: Freeman packs his usual authority, Condon is an absolute delight, and Hoskins clearly relishes the return to the UK underground milieu of his career-making films The Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa. And then there's Jet Li, whose puppy dog demeanor as the domesticated Danny the Dog adds some tears to the expected blood and sweat. DVD extras include an interview with director Louis Leterrier, a behind-the-scenes featurette and music videos from Massive Attack and The RZA.
THE WARRIORS (1979). Director Walter Hill has long been known for directing unpretentious, red-meat fare, and The Warriors remains a fine representation of his output. Delegates from countless New York City street gangs gather in The Bronx to listen to a speech delivered by the magnetic leader of the most powerful outfit, but all hell breaks loose after he's shot and the members of the Warriors are falsely fingered for the murder. Determined to make it back to their Coney Island turf, they cautiously tread their way through an urban jungle in which every other gang is out for their blood. Highly controversial in its day — the poster stated that gang members "outnumber the cops five to one. They could run New York City," and a few screenings were disrupted by skirmishes between real gangs — this remains a rousing piece of pulp entertainment. Hill has always envisioned his film as a mix of comic book mayhem and Greek iconography; to accentuate that point, he's released this Ultimate Director's Cut which differs from the familiar version only in that it includes a prologue comparing the Warriors to Greek soldiers who had to fight their way home as well as some comic book panels that function as scene transitions. These additions neither enhance nor detract from the movie. DVD extras include an intro by Hill, four featurettes on the making of the film and the theatrical trailer.