Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005)
The original Lilo & Stitch was one of the few bright spots in Disney animation's post-1990s floundering. For once, Disney offered an orphaned heroine — two, in fact — who didn't fit the usual girl-power model; instead, little Lilo was troubled, introverted and vulnerable. And Stitch, far from being a typically cuddly protagonist, was a pint-sized bully whose eventual redemption was fully earned.
The film spawned a TV series and an earlier direct-to-video sequel. This new direct-to-video sequel, set between the two previous films, covers much the same ground as the original: Stitch's “glitch” means that he begins regressing to his previous chaotic ways, and it's again up to Lilo (Dakota Fanning replacing Daveigh Chase) and the power of ohana (Hawaiian for “family”) to save him.
Though derivative, the film recaptures the quirky blend of Hawaiian culture, Elvis nostalgia, sci-fi goofiness and off-kilter humor that made the original so unique.
Content advisory: Some mild menace and intense sequences that could be unsettling to young children.
The Truman Show(1998)
Newly available in a special-edition DVD, Peter Weir's The Truman Show is a remarkably layered achievement: a deceptively simple fairy tale; a hilariously subversive satire of media excess and the erosion of privacy; a sly exploration of the paranoid fear that the world around one is somehow staged for one's benefit and everyone else is in on it; and finally an elegant parable about truth and happiness with evocative religious resonance.
An uncharacteristically low-key Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, a man who begins to question his seemingly idyllic but static life after a stage light crashes to earth in front of his house one morning. What Truman doesn't know is that he's both the victim and the star of an obsessively popular 24-hour TV show — a prescient blend of “Candid Camera” and the “reality TV” frenzy that hit about two years after the film. Truman's whole world is a giant sound stage, and everyone else — his wife, best friend, neighbors and co-workers — is acting. Only he is real.
The show is masterminded by TV impresario Christof (Ed Harris), who has a serious God complex (“Cue the sun”). Though the film has been interpreted as an anti-religious parable about rejecting God, a fleeting climactic prayer to the real God offered on Truman's behalf suggests that the real target is not God, but his presumptuous imitators.
Content advisory: Some profane language; a discreet sexual reference; mature themes. Teens and up.
Swing Time (1936)
Newly available on DVD, Swing Time is widely considered the best of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ 10 pictures together — a cinematic perfect storm of such grace, elegance and sophistication as could only have come from Hollywood during the Great Depression.
A typically half-baked plot — a thoughtless gambler fails to show up at his wedding after his dancing buddies steal his pants, then sets off to prove himself to his fiancée's father by making $25,000 — is a showcase for Astaire and Rogers’ effortless class and finesse in such immortal numbers as “Pick Yourself Up” and “Never Gonna Dance.” So unimpeachable is Astaire's class, even his lone blackface number, “Bojangles of Harlem,” is tasteful and dignified, a sincere tribute to tap-dancing great Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.
Content advisory: Romantic complications. Okay for older kids.