Three family-friendly films are top entertainment picks

Rick's Reviews

Lin-Manuel Miranda has a small role in the film version of his “In the Heights.” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.)

Three feature films that will entertain young and old now available on DVD and Blu-ray top this week’s new entertainment options.

“In the Heights” Grade 3 ½ stars: The majority of the stories unfold through song and dance. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical numbers range from the whimsical to the poignant. All of his music is presented with great power whether it is just replicating the musical heartbeat of the community or talking about the frustrating feeling of having no power.

Director Jon M. Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”) could have gone for the same approach as used when making the on-screen version of “Hamilton.” That Miranda production was shot on stage to save the integrity of the original show.

Chu opted to take “In the Heights” to new heights. He has blown away the confines of the stage to fill city streets with music, story and people. His staging of massive musical numbers and the use of unorthodox camera work and graphics makes “In the Heights” so powerful you can almost smell the mofongo cooking.

“Spirit Untamed” Grade 3 stars: The new DVD release doesn’t do a lot to move the franchise ahead but it also doesn’t hurt it. There’s nothing wrong with a film that features a strong female character, a subtle story about appreciating the animal world and embracing diversity.

Lucky Prescott (Isabela Merced) is a young girl who has grown up without her mother because of a tragedy. Lucky ends up going to a small town on the edge of the wide-open frontier to live with her father. She’s a wild spirit who immediately connects with a wild Mustang she calls Spirit. They form an immediate bond.

That friendship is threatened by a heartless horse wrangler who rounds up Spirit and his herd to sell them. Lucky must count on her friends to help her save the horses.

The film – under the direction of Elaine Bogan – is both simplistic in design and beautiful in its grandeur. There are some very small moments between friends that then give away to the beauty of wide-open spaces.

“12 Mighty Orphans” Grade 3 1/2 stars: The film – as directed by Ty Roberts – is based on the true story of the Mighty Mites, a football team from a Fort Worth orphanage. Under the guidance of legendary coach Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson), the ragtag group goes from not having any shoes to playing for the Texas state championships during the Great Depression.

Russell manages to mold the few players he has into a winning team despite having to battle local coaches, school boards and the law. He also manages to introduce changes to the way the game of football is played.

There’s no escaping the melodrama that comes from this kind of story. And, the script based on Jim Dent’s novel doesn’t make any unexpected turns. It’s the way Wilson and Martin Sheen (who takes on the kind of role Dennis Hopper played in “Hoosiers”) so deeply engage their roles that lift the story to a higher level.

Also new on DVD and Blu-ray as of Aug. 31

“Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms”: Warriors and heroes of Earthrealm return home after a tough tournament to find their land filled with terror and destruction.

“NCIS: New Orleans: Final Season”: The Scott Bakula CBS crime procedural wraps up investigative work in the Big Easy.

“Steel Song”: Documentary that follows the lives of three women who fight in the extreme and full contact sport of Medieval Armored Combat. 

Available through digital platforms

“We Need to do Something”: Two women face the harsh realities of being trapped for days by a storm. Look for it through Video On Demand.

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