Disney's biggest moneymaking classic "The Lion King" is upgraded to Blu-ray, following its triumphant theatrical 3-D reissue.
"The Lion King: Diamond Edition" (Disney/Blu-ray, 1994, G, two discs, $39.99). One of the most beloved animated features in the Disney library is this funny, sentimental tale of the cub who would be king and the animals who support and attempt to dethrone him.
In my original 1994 review, I gave the film three stars and carped about several minor annoyances … things that still annoy me, actually. (I have a hard time warming up to most of the characters.)
But it's hard to deny how visually arresting it all is, how engaging some of the songs are, how witty (albeit aloof) the voice cast plays it and how cleverly the film as a whole comes together. And if you have a Blu-ray player, this one will really leap out at you.
Extras: widescreen, Blu-ray and DVD versions, deleted/extended scenes, deleted song, featurettes, sing-along, interactive gallery, trailers (also available in four-disc set with 3-D and digital versions, $49.99, and eight-disc set with all versions plus the straight-to-video sequels on Blu-ray and DVD, $100)
"Fast Five: Extended Edition" (Universal, 2011, PG-13, $29.98). Every once in awhile an action movie comes along that can be easily forgiven its faults just because it's so, if you'll pardon the expression, fast and furious — and fun. The cast, tone and story are generally the same for the fifth outing in this series but for some reason I enjoyed this one much more than any of the others.
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker recruit the usual suspects, head to Brazil and take on a drug lord, with FBI agent Dwayne Johnson in hot pursuit, in a picture framed by impossible but incredibly engaging stunt-filled car chases. Forget the dialogue and plot; this is all about the thrills, and on that level "Fast Five" certainly delivers.
Extras: widescreen, theatrical and extended versions, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers (also in Blu-ray combo, $34.98)
"Dust" (Icarus, 2007, $24.98). The title tells it all … and yet, there is so much more. German filmmaker Hartmut Bitomsky's film is about a subject that annoys all of us but is seldom thought about, and it's bright, funny and much more informative than you might expect.
Films like this are all about the talent of the filmmaker and Bitomsky proves to be talented and entertaining, even while analyzing something so common that it is most often overlooked.
Extras: widescreen, in German with English subtitles, trailers
"Nostalgia for the Light" (Icarus, 2010, $29.98). Veteran Chilean documentarian Patricio Guzman ("Battle of Chile") takes his cameras to the Atacama Desert — a place so dry that human remains become mummified. There he finds distraught families searching for the remains of loved ones killed in the 1970s under the Pinochet regime. Their stories are moving and the history of these deaths is confounding.
Guzman juxtaposes all of this with astronomers gathered on the desert's mountaintops gazing into distant galaxies. Both groups are searching for truths — and some of them find it. Beautifully photographed, delicately written, genuinely thought provoking.
Extras: widescreen, in Spanish with English subtitles, five short films, trailers (also on Blu-ray, $34.98)
"Buck" (Sundance Selects/MPI, 2011, PG, $24.98). The title character of this documentary was the real-life inspiration for Robert Redford's "The Horse Whisperer." The product of an abusive childhood (he was taken into foster care as a child), Buck Brannaman teaches horse owners to avoid violence and use patience and understanding instead. Fascinating stuff.
Extras: widescreen, deleted scenes, audio commentary, trailer
"African Cats" (Disney/Blu-ray, 2011, G, two discs, $39.99). Disneynature's latest Earth Day documentary (narrated by Samuel L. Jackson) follows a family of lions and a family of cheetahs as they strive to survive in Kenya. Blu-ray gives a boost to the beauty and scope of the visual images, some of which are quite startling. (Part of the proceeds benefit the African Wildlife Foundation.)
Extras: widescreen, Blu-ray and DVD versions, featurettes, interactive annotations, music video, trailersComment on this story
"Elvira's Haunted Hills" (eOne, 2001, PG-13, $19.98). Energetic comic actress Cassandra Peterson — in her Elvira, Mistress of the Dark persona — stars in this straight-to-video comedy set in 19th century Europe, spending the night in a creepy castle owned by an even creepier lord who notices her resemblance to his dead first wife.
Silly, campy, vaudeville-style comedy, with, as usual, lots of gags focusing on Elvira's ample cleavage.
Extras: widescreen, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers, photo gallery