- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

9 (Universal, $29.98 for DVD, $39.98 for Blu-ray) — So many animated and special-effects-driven films these days are style over substance — and the critics found “9” to be no exception. Shane Acker, who worked on the special effects for “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” directed this animated film, which is based on his Oscar-nominated short. Elijah Wood voices the title character, a doll-like humanoid creature created by a scientist shortly before some sort of apocalypse virtually destroys Earth. He ventures out into the world only to discover that a fleet of machines is intent on killing his kind. The burlap figures might have numbers on their backs, but the characters, voiced by Martin Landau, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer and Crispin Glover, all react to the dire situation in very different ways. Mr. Acker has a style as inventive as that of director Tim Burton, who is a producer of this film. Mr. Burton’s frequent collaborator, Danny Elfman, provides the score.

Extras include a commentary with Mr. Acker, two making-of featurettes and the 11-minute short on which the film is based.

Paranormal Activity (Paramount, $29.99 for DVD, $40.99 for Blu-ray) — “Paranormal Activity” was one of the biggest successes of the year — and some say it could be the most profitable film ever made. It’s strange, then, that Paramount has given the horror flick a bare-bones release on DVD and Blu-ray. The story of the supernatural in suburbia was shot on video for just $15,000 but made more than $100 million in domestic box office. The film, Israeli-born writer-director Oren Peli’s first, follows a couple, “Blair Witch Project”-style, who install a camera to record mysterious activity in the night. It provided critics and audiences alike with a lot of chills on a small budget.

The only extra on the DVD is an unrated version of the film with an alternate ending not seen in theaters. The Blu-ray has the theatrical and unrated versions of the film and a digital copy of the theatrical version.

Whale Wars: Season 2 (Gaiam, $19.98) — Sure, “South Park” had “Whale Wars” pegged when the satirical Comedy Central cartoon poked fun at the Animal Planet reality series in an episode titled “Whale Whores.” “South Park” portrayed the “Whale Wars” crew as a bunch of hippies who don’t get anything done. That might be true, but there’s plenty of drama in the show anyway. The reality show follows Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson — whose former colleagues have disowned him — and his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society crew as they try to disrupt Japanese whaling ships off the coast of Antarctica. “Try” is the operative word. One episode had the Steve Irwin, the conservation society’s ship, up next to a Japanese whaler, but the crew couldn’t seem to make a single hit. Many of the young people in the crew would be eaten alive by the crew of “Deadliest Catch,” another great ocean-based reality series. Watching these earnest people attempt to save those beautiful creatures is entertaining, not for what they accomplish, but how they try to accomplish it.

All 11 episodes of the second season are here on three discs.

Kelly Jane Torrance

Glee Season 1: The Road to Sectionals (Fox, $38.98) — The first 13 episodes of this quirky series feature the McKinley High School Glee Club, which, under the direction of idealistic new director Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), is trying to regain its past glory with an unlikely group of students.

“Glee” also stars Jane Lynch, Jessalyn Gilsig and newcomers Lea Michele, Cory Monteith and Chris Colfer. Special features on the DVDs include the director’s cut of the pilot episode; exclusive behind-the-scenes featurettes; audition videos from the talented cast; and the show’s signature music, including cast versions of Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” Heart’s “Alone,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Celine Dion’s “Taking Chances,” Rihanna’s “Take a Bow,” Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name,” Jazmine Sullivan’s “Bust Your Windows,” Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” and REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”

Karen Goldberg Goff

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