Video Picks & Passes

World Trade Center: PICK


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: PICK


Animaniacs: Vol 2: PICK


Pinky & The Brain: Vol 2: PICK


Content advisory:

World Trade Center: Sometimes bloody disaster violence; brief crude and obscene language. Teens and up. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Recurring fantasy action and violence and some menace to children, including a basically bloodless but intense battle sequence. Older kids and up. Animaniacs and Pinky: Much slapstick violence; occasional crude humor and innuendo. Okay for most kids.

New this week on DVD, World Trade Center is so doggedly decent and uplifting that some critics have suggested that it feels less like Oliver Stone than Ron Howard. Also like a Ron Howard film, World Trade Center has its share of melodrama and cliché. Characters have lines like “I finally figured out the only thing I’m good at is helping people” and talk about “people taking care of each other, for no other reason than it was the right thing to do.” Sometimes this kind of writing can evoke unaffected sincerity; other times, it seems merely trite.

Based on a true story of police officers John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno (Nicholas Cage and Michael Peña), the film tells the story of two first responders who became almost the last survivors to be pulled from the smoking rubble of the Twin Towers. Where the brilliant United 93 crafted a documentary-like anatomy of events without presuming to get inside people’s heads or explain actions or motivations, World Trade Center is a more conventional Hollywood film, with dramatic dialogue, characters following clearly plotted arcs and a swelling soundtrack to reinforce the mood.

It’s also worth noting that United 93 focused on the one subplot from that day of infamy that was in any way a victory against the terrorists. Every passenger on that flight died, yes — but their actions prevented the hijackers from reaching their intended target in Washington, D.C. World Trade Center tells a story with more traditionally heroic protagonists and a formally happier ending, but it is also arguably less inspirational. Still, in its own way it works well enough.

Also new this week, the four-disc extended edition of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe offers a new cut of the film adding about 10 minutes to the theatrical version as well as two discs worth of new extras, including documentaries and a feature on C.S. Lewis. For fans of the film who haven’t bought it on DVD, this is probably the version to get, but for those who already have the original version on DVD the new footage probably doesn’t warrant upgrading. New sequences include coverage of the children’s journey to Aslan’s camp as spring comes to Narnia — sadly missed in the original version — and a longer journey to the Beavers’ house.

For those who’ve never read the books, or who remember them only dimly, the taste of Lewis’ story and themes afforded by the film may well be a revelation, and they may wish to seek out the books after seeing the film. Viewers who know the books, too, will return to them after seeing the film, grateful to the film for what it adds to them — and grateful to the books for what the film leaves out.

The long-awaited DVD releases of producer Steven Spielberg’s Animaniacs and Pinky & the Brain continues with the second volumes in both series. Pinky & The Brain only ran two years, so Vol. 2 should complete the series, but Animaniacs was still hitting its stride and will continue offering demented cartoon fun for volumes to come.