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THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Blu-ray)

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ThorDarkWorldcoverGrade:  B+
Entire family:  No
2013, 112 min., Color
Rated PG-13
Disney
Aspect ratio:  2.40:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HD MA 7.1
Bonus features: C+
Trailer

Thor: The Dark World is rated PG-13 for “sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence and some suggestive content.” I don’t know what suggestive content they’re suggesting, but this 2013 sequel is definitely more violent than the first Thor. Main characters die and there are plenty of first-act hack-and-slash battle sequences similar to ones from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, while spaceship battle action will remind you a bit of those in Star Wars: Episode I. Which is to say, Thor: The Dark World seems to owe a substantial debt for its production design, art direction, set decoration, costume design, and battle sequences and effects to those two fantasy franchises.

But I will say this:  at least the special effects and borrowed elements are quite good, and both my teenage son and I thought Thor: The Dark World superior to the 2011 original. There’s more action this time around, and less deliberate manipulation of the Marvel universe. The result is a film that flows better and gives the characters a little more room to be themselves. Despite the frenetic movement and pacing, we actually notice the performances more—and though minor characters and elves tend toward the wooden, the rest are more than good enough to sustain the illusion.    More

THE JUNGLE BOOK (Blu-ray combo)

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JungleBookcoverGrade:  B+
Entire family:  Yes
1967, 78 min., Color
Rated G
Disney
Aspect ratio:  1.75:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HD MA 7.1
Includes Blu-ray, DVD, DigitalHD copy
Bonus features:  A-
Trailer

Many people point to Sleeping Beauty (1959) as the last film in the Golden Age of Disney Animation and consider the seven full-length animated features that the House of Mouse made over the next three decades to be lesser accomplishments.

But I think you can build a pretty good case for The Jungle Book and 101 Dalmatians rising to the top of that second tier of Disney animated films. Both were directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, one of Disney’s Nine Old Men—the original animators who were with Disney from the very beginning—and film each has its positives. With 101 Dalmatians it was a terrific villain, 101 dogs, and an exciting narrative. With The Jungle Book it’s the great songbook, characters, and voice talents that elevate it above some of the other films made during this period.

An enchanting soundtrack from George Bruns and memorable songs by the Sherman brothers and Terry Gilkyson add pep to the narrative and even seem to give the animators a shot in the arm. The plot and pacing may be nearly as lazy as the sloth bear Baloo (Phil Harris), but animators use that to their advantage, developing the characters so that even minor ones seem majorly entertaining.  More