This week’s releases include: the third instalment of a classic fantasy series; a tale of love and music; the story of a Cold War operation; and an unexpectedly intense narrative of a family in mourning.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on blu-rayThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Blu-ray and DVD combo pack)
Siblings Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Heynes), along with their cousin Eustace (Will Poulter), are swallowed into a painting and transported back to Narnia. They join King Caspian (Ben Barnes) and the noble mouse Reepicheep (Simon Pegg) in a quest to rescue seven lords who had been lost fighting evil on another island. Aboard the magnificent ship The Dawn Treader, the voyagers travel to mysterious islands, confront mystical creatures and reunite with the Great Lion Aslan (Liam Neeson) on a mission that tests their characters to determine the fate of Narnia.

This third film, though not quite as good as the first, is a vast improvement from the second. The story is solid, interesting and easy to follow from beginning to end. Their adventures are continuous with the narrative never going too long without some excitement, such as a sword fight, a treacherous storm or a kidnapping. Eustace is a wonderful character as he is endlessly and amusingly irritating; it’s only when he is forced to transform that he becomes endearing. The Dawn Treader is a wonderful, attractive film that doesn’t even feel like the nearly two hours it runs.

Special feature include: commentary by director Director Michael Apted and producer Mark Johnson; “The Untold Adventures of The Dawn Treader” animated short; “King Caspian’s Guide to the Dawn Treader: Legends and Lore of the Great Ship”; deleted scenes; five islands explorations; “Narnian Discoveries: Friends and Foes of Narnia” (seven featurettes); three behind-the-scenes featurettes, including “Battle on the Sea”; Sword Game; four “Fox Movie Channel Presents Behind The Scenes” featurettes; and a digital copy of the film. (Fox Home Entertainment)

Country Strong on blu-rayCountry Strong (Blu-ray)
Soon after a rising young singer (Garrett Hedlund) gets involved with a fallen country star (Gwyneth Paltrow), the pair embarks on a career resurrection tour helmed by her husband/manager (Tim McGraw) and featuring a beauty queen-turned-singer (Leighton Meester).

Special features include: the original ending; deleted scenes; “Shake that Thing,” extended performance with Paltrow; “Country Strong” music video featuring Paltrow; “A Little Bit Stronger” music video by Sara Evans; “Friends in High Places,” the cast of Country Strong; “Putting the Words in Their Mouths: The Songwriters”; “A Little Bit Country: The Costumes”; and movieIQ, featuring the Country Strong playlist. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Farewell on DVDFarewell (DVD)
The French intelligence service alerts the U.S. about a Soviet spy operation during the height of the Cold War, which sets off an unfortunate chain of events.

In the trailer, a wife tells her engineer husband he’s no James Bond – that’s also an accurate description of this espionage film. It’s definitely not packed with suave good-looking people trying to kill each other at every turn; rather, it’s an unhurried story of secret documents and every day men attempting to make a difference. The details of the events require quite a bit of attention, but it’s not overly complex. This is likely a more accurate depiction of how a lot of spy work was conducted – less gunfire, more paranoia.

There are no special features. (Entertainment One)

Summer in Genoa on DVDSummer in Genoa (DVD)
A man (Colin Firth) moves his two daughters (Willa Holland and Perla Haney-Jardine) to Italy after their mother dies in a car accident to revitalize their lives. Genova changes all three of them as the youngest daughter starts to see the ghost of her mother, while the older one discovers her sexuality.

This film is a family drama, but it often feels like a suspense thriller as the children spend much of their time in a foreign country unsupervised. The girls wander the city’s backstreets, often separately, and I constantly found myself bracing for the worst. When it finally does occur, it’s as heart-stopping as expected. Firth is solid as the father trying to show his daughters life goes on, but the girls carry the movie. Holland’s rebellious teen is indifferent to everyone and everything, experiencing the world to her own iPod soundtrack. Haney-Jardine is sweet and loving but struggling deeply with the guilt of her mother’s death, which manifests in frightening hallucinations and night terrors. Together, the siblings carry the movie about grief, forgiveness and growing up.

Special features include: cast and crew interviews; and behind-the-scenes footage. (Entertainment One)

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