Walker nearly solo in 'Hours'
Owls Head — Hours (Lionsgate DVD, PG-13, 97 min.). In one of his final films, Paul Walker plays Nolan Hayes, a father struggling to keep his five-week premature, newly-born daughter alive at a New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. For much of the film's running time, it is a solo performance by Walker, and an effective one by the journeyman actor. However, there is an overhanging sadness that affects the viewer, knowing that Walker died late last year in an auto accident.
The film begins with Hayes rushing his wife (Genesis Rodriguez as Abigail) to the hospital. While he is waiting for word from the doctor, Hurricane Katrina hits with all its 175-mph fury. (Note that the fact it is Katrina hardly matters to the plot, other than an excuse to use some of the actual television footage of the disaster. It really could have been any nasty storm.) Abigail bleeds out, but their infant daughter survives -- only she needs to be on a ventilator for about 48 hours until she starts breathing on her own. Hayes is tested when everyone else is evacuated from the hospital and then the power is lost. He finds a generator, but the ventilator has a bad battery that will only charge for three minutes at a time. This means Hayes must crank the generator every three minutes, severely limiting what he can do outside of the infant's room.
Hayes spends some of the time talking to the baby, to a dog that shows up and to images of his dead wife. There are outside threats to deal with too, such as the flooding caused when the levees break. Walker is fine, in a sensitive performance, but there really is not much suspense. After all, would writer-director Eric Heisserer really kill off the baby after everything Hayes goes through? The only DVD extra is a music video. Grade: film 3 stars
Pulling Strings (Lionsgate DVD, PG, 118 min.). This nice romantic comedy is lifted by its Mexico City location and the infusion of songs sung in Spanish. The songs fit in because one of the main characters is a singer-songwriter in a mariachi band. He is Alejandro "Alex," played by Jaimie Camil.
Alejandro is a single parent, his wife having died two years earlier. He put his daughter, Maria, into a Catholic school he cannot afford -- he borrowed money from a shady character who figures in the plot -- but she is not doing well. He decides to bring his daughter to her grandparents in Arizona, but is denied a visa because he has no proof of income and owns no property. The embassy worker who turns him down is Rachel Simmons (Laura Ramsey), who has just received word of her promotion to the London embassy. (Tom Arnold plays her boss, Art.) Alejandro's best friend and fellow band member, Canicas (Omar Chaparro), however, gives a handout about their mariachi band to one of Rachel's co-workers, who hires them to play at Rachel's farewell party.
Rachel, who usually does not drink, gets hammered at the restaurant, and afterwards, Alejandro finds her passed out on a bus stop bench. Not knowing what else to do, he takes her home. The next morning she complains about having lost her boss's computer. Thus, is born a plan: Alejandro will get back her computer in hopes she will grant him the visas. He plans things along the way to impress her; I particularly liked the mobbing by faux fans.
I always feel queasy about a relationship that is developed around a lie. How can one party really forgive the other? However, the several songs performed in the film are quite good, helping the long running time pass pleasantly. Some of the dialogue is in Spanish with English subtitles. There are no DVD extras. Grade: film 3 stars
The Jungle Book (Disney Blu-ray, G, 79 min.). This new diamond edition, with more than two hours of bonus features, marks the beloved animated film's Blu-ray debut. The Disney classic film, inspired by the classic "Mowgli Stories" by Rudyard Kipling, follows Mowgli as he journeys deep into jungle, where he learns "The Bare Necessities" of life from Baloo the Bear (voiced by Phil Harris). Mowgli is voiced by Bruce Reitherman. The other characters are Bagheera the Panther (Sebastian Cabot), Shere Khan the Tiger (George Sanders), Kaa the Snake (Sterling Halloway), Col. Hathi the Elephant (J. Pat O'Malley) and King Louie of the Apes (musician Louis Prima). The music is by George Bruns and the songs by brothers Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, with "The Bare Necessities" by Terry Gilkyson.
New Blu-ray features include introductions by Diane Disney Miller and Richard M. Sherman; an alternate ending with Mowgli and The Hunter; a look at Disney Animation; a conversation on the music and memories by Miller, Sherman and Floyd Norman; an intermission with Bear-E-Oke hosted by Baloo; and hanging out at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The alternate ending was recently discovered. There also are all the bonus material from the previous DVD release. Grade: film 5 stars; extras 4 stars