short circuits

New and noteworthy experiences among home video, games, gadgets and the Web.


It's 'War' out there

Man's inhumanity to man is examined through a boy's mystical connection to a horse in "War Horse," Steven Spielberg's stirring, expertly manipulative adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's 1982 novel.

The plucky steed is named Joey, a spirited colt admired from a distance by an English farm boy named Albert. When Albert's father, Ted, unexpectedly buys Joey, at first the boy is overjoyed. When Ted's landlord demands funds he's due, it looks as if the family will have to sell Joey -- until Albert coaxes him to plow an entire rocky field. When World War I dawns, Ted sells the horse, this time to the British forces, a stint that will send the steed on a punishing odyssey through the war's bloodiest battlefields.

With its bucolic vistas, soaring music, high-keyed lighting and magical plot convergences, "War Horse" would be too grandiose and simplistically fablelike to take were it not for Spielberg's masterfully constructed set pieces and the consistently steady human performances. More crucially, Joey proves to be a thoroughly charismatic protagonist.

The DVD (Disney, $30) includes two featurettes, while the Blu-ray ($40) adds two more and a four-disc set ($46) even more.


Also out Tuesday:

Movies: "Being Elmo," "A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures," "We Bought a Zoo."

TV: "Bob" (full series), "Designing Women" (Season 6), "Eagleheart" (Season 1), "Great Expectations" (Masterpiece Classic), "Regular Show: The Slack Pack," "3rd Rock From the Sun" (Seasons 3 & 4), "Torchwood: Miracle Day."

Blu-ray debuts: "Chinatown," "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," "Madonna: Truth or Dare," "Zorba the Greek."


Play to a driving beat

The iTunes Store isn't hurting for apps that allow even the most hopeless wannabe musician to compose something tuneful. But you'd be hard-pressed to find one that does it quite like "Isle of Tune" ($1 for Apple devices; rated 4+) which combines music composition and city building into one hypnotically fun trip.

Using the design palette, you can lay out roads and place decorative pieces in whatever arrangement you like. But only after placing up to eight cars on those roads and pressing the Play button does "Tune" truly come to life.

As the cars drive by each piece on the roadside, the piece plays a note from the instrument it represents. Because each piece is configurable, there's no end to how complex the resulting composition can be. Creating intersections allows your song to take random turns as the cars on the roads do. You can place stoplights and adjust the speeds of cars to complicate things even further.

The app's charming and accessible interface belies its incredible capacity for creating surprisingly rich music. If you don't believe it, the app's Game Center-powered sharing tool provides shining proof of the possibilities from other players.