(KGET) — This is a very busy week for new releases on DVD and through digital platforms. The list is topped by two animated films hitting DVDs that are aimed at family entertainment.
“Raya and the Last Dragon” Grade 3 ½ stars: In the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons once lived together. That ended 500 years ago when an evil force threatened to wipe out everyone. All that saved the world was the sacrifice made by the dragons. When the world returned to normal, the dragons did not return and Kumandra eventually split into five warring factions. Their conflicts result in the breaking of the magic sphere that was protecting the world and it being scattered to the five regions.
The only chance of defeating the evil again is for the five pieces to be reunited. Raya – voiced by Kelly Marie Tran (“Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker”) – goes on a six-year quest to find the last living dragon who can help her collect the five pieces of the orb to save humanity again.
It’s an odd group of heroes topped by the dragon Sisu – voiced by comic actress Awkwafina. Her role – like the work Robin Williams did with the Genie in “Aladdin” is to be a spiritual guide while supplying comic relief.
Having a misfit group of heroes collecting the five pieces of the sphere feels a little like the Avengers tracking down Infinity Stones. That’s OK as “Raya” is just as heavy on action scenes as those comic book-inspired films.
The real star is the stunning animation especially with the five distinct lands. The combination of simple story with dazzling visuals results in a movie designed to entertain one and all.
“Tom & Jerry” Grade 2 ½ stars: The long-running battle between Tom and Jerry moves to a fancy hotel in New York that is on the verge of hosting the wedding of the century.
The blend of animation and live action to continue the story of Tom the Cat and Jerry the Mouse is half good. All of the animated elements harken back to the heyday of the animated series where destruction and disruption are major elements. That half is enough to entertain the younger viewers who can ignore the bad half.
Where the film flops is with the live-action elements. Not every performer can make it look like they are interacting with animated characters. Chloë Grace Moretz fails to make a single scene where her character is dealing with animated elements that come across as real.
“Tom & Jerry” is fun on a very juvenile level. Just ignore all those flesh-an-blood characters as they are way too two-dimensional.
“The Dark Divide” Grade 3 stars: The Dark Divide – that will be available through Video on demand starting May 21 – is based on the true story of renowned butterfly expert Dr. Robert Pyle – played by David Cross – who sets out in 1995 on a dangerous journey across one of America’s largest undeveloped wildlands – Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Pyle makes the trek at the urging of his dying wife Thea – played with great power by Debra Messing. Pyle immediately discovers he is not ready for the life-changing expedition in search of new species of butterflies.
Cross might not be the first actor who comes to mind to handle a heavy dramatic role but he handles the dramatic moments while still being able to add a few lighter touches despite this being a demanding film to shoot. It’s that blend that makes this movie so entertaining.
Director Tom Putnam has created a movie that on the surface looks like a one-man show about a long walk. Go just a little deeper and it is obvious “The Dark Divide” is a tale of testing a person’s limits that has a universal feel.
Also new on DVD and Blu-ray
“The Alienist: Angel of Darkness”: Pleas of the distraught wife of a Spanish diplomat reunites the 19th Century forensic team to help find her kidnapped infant daughter.
“The Father”: A man (Anthony Hopkins) refuses all assistance from his daughter (Olivia Colman) as he ages.
“Minari”: Korean-American family moves to an Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream.
“Nina Wu”: Landing a big acting job puts psychological pressure on the actress. Wu Ke-Xi stars.
“The Prince’s Voyage”: Animated tale of a 12-year-old boy who helps an old monkey prince find a monkey civilization.
“3 Tickets to Paradise”: Man must stay alive while looking for a treasure of gold.
“2149: The Aftermath”: Sad and lonely man goes looking for human contact in a future world where everyone’s only friend is their computer.
“Peace Piece: The Immersive Poems of Many Kahn”: An introduction to poet Mandy Kahn and the process behind her unique style of bringing poetry to life.
Being released through digital platforms
“Boogie”: Story about basketball, love, families and pursuing big dreams against all odds. It will be available on Blu-ray starting June 1.