"War Horse" (PG-13) Format: DVD and Blu-ray
Men on opposing sides of war find their shared humanity in their love of animals in "War Horse," Steven Spielberg's sentimental epic about a country thoroughbred who travels from the fields of Devonshire to the trenches of the Somme in World War I.
The film — based on a play that was based on Michael Morpurgo's children's book — is a tale told on a vast canvas, with a wide array of characters — each of whom develops a connection to "Joey," one of the prettiest equines ever to grace the silver screen. But that crowded hodgepodge of characters fritters away the potential poignancy as we're taken away from the story's heart and soul — a boy and his horse.
Albert, played by newcomer Jeremy Irvine, has been in love with this horse since he was a foal. The animal is of little use in farm country in pre-World War I Britain. He's a racing stallion in a hardscrabble land where draft horses are all anyone wants. But Albert's drunken, proud and war-hobbled dad (Peter Mullan) buys the colt at an auction and Albert gets to train him.
But war is declared and Dad has to sell the horse to an Army cavalry officer to pay the rent.
Horse is wrenched from boy, and vice versa.
What follows after this 40 minute prologue is a magnificent and misguided cavalry charge that leads Joey on an odyssey that puts him first in German hands, then in the care of a French teen and her grandpa, a pawn of war hauling ambulances and artillery and experiencing the horrors of no man's land and the world's first tanks.
Spielberg, known for taking his visual cues from earlier classics, pays homage to "Dr. Zhivago," "The Black Stallion" and especially "Gone With the Wind" here — wordless scenes showing the horse's point of view, battles choreographed David Leanstyle and spot-on re-creations of "GWTW" shots that capture the vast fields of carnage and a sunset homecoming.
But despite borrowing from the best, despite a horse that has as much personality as any animal actor we've ever seen on the screen, "War Horse" never achieves the pathos, awe and lump-in-the-throat emotion that director, composer and screenwriters were aiming for. Still, it is a vividly detailed depiction of a time, a place and a conflict. The naivete of a horse-drawn age faced with the reality of mechanized war is perfectly captured.
— Roger Moore, The Orlando Sentinel
"We Bought a Zoo" (PG) Format: DVD and Blu-ray
A father (Matt Damon) in Southern California moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo. Scarlett Johansson and Thomas Haden Church also star.
"The Walton Legacy" (Unrated) Format: DVD
As seen on public television, this special looks at the iconic television series. Go to Schuyler, Va., to tour the actual place and meet the real people who inspired the series, which aired on CBS for nine seasons and earned 11 Emmy awards. Writer Earl Hamner, the creator of The Waltons, reveals the stories about his real parents, and his seven brothers and sisters, whom the series was based on.
Other releases: "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey," "Chinatown" (Blu-ray), "Madonna: Truth or Dare" (DVD, Blu-ray), "Titanic: The 100th Anniversary Collection," "Masterpiece Classic: Great Expectations" (DVD, Blu-ray), "Chasing Madoff" (DVD, Blu-ray)