One of Disney's greatest animation achievements, which is returning to home video after being out of print for eight years, leads these movies that arrive on DVD this week.
"Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition" (Disney/Blu-ray, 1992, G, three discs, $39.99). After reinvigorating its animation brand with "The Little Mermaid" in 1989, Disney worked diligently to keep up the quality of its next effort, "Beauty and the Beast," and it paid off with a best-picture Oscar nomination — the first animated film to receive that honor. (It lost to "The Silence of the Lambs." Yikes!)
And today, "Beauty" stands as one of Disney's finest features, in company with too many others to name. Today, the ballroom sequence no longer feels fresh and new after so many recent computer-animated 3-D efforts, but that doesn't diminish the power of its gorgeous design, the humor embedded in its delightful characters and the romance aimed at a more adult audience. Not to mention those great songs.
And as you might expect, this Blu-ray reboot offers a knockout picture and excellent sound to complement this already classic effort. And all of the previous extras are on this disc, as well as a few new features.
Extras: widescreen, deleted scenes/alternate opening, audio commentary, featurettes, sing-along, interactive games, trailers; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions (two-disc DVD available Nov. 23, $29.99)
"The Last of the Mohicans: Director's Definitive Cut" (Fox/Blu-ray, 1992; R for violence; $34.99). This is yet another "director's cut" by filmmaker Michael Mann, who just can't resist tinkering with an already terrific movie when any reissue opportunity arises.
As you might expect, this hi-def remaster makes the outdoor locations even more lush and stunning in this fast-paced and wholly satisfying action thriller set in the really old West. And in truth, Mann hasn't really done that much tinkering. This version is about three minutes shorter than the last reissue, with a few moments he had previously deleted that are now replaced, and a few lines of dialogue snipped or restored. Hardly noticeable for the casual moviegoer. (Which begs the question, why bother?)
This is the kind of movie Blu-ray was made for, giving a knockout visual upgrade to Mann's version of the oft-filmed James Fenimore Cooper novel, with Daniel Day-Lewis in excellent form as Hawkeye and Madeleine Stowe at her strongest and most sensual as Cora, along with Wes Studi as a wonderfully evil Magua.
Extras: widescreen, audio commentary, featurettes, trailers
"Rust" (Sony, 2010, PG, R24.96). TV star Corbin Bernsen, who made his mark on "L.A. Law" and is currently co-starring in "Psych," wrote, produced, directed and has the lead role in this Canadian Christian film. And from the bonus features, one may conclude he also did a lot of the grunt work.
In what is obviously a very personal story (the film is dedicated to his late father), Bernsen plays a disillusioned pastor who abandons the cloth and, like the prodigal son, returns home to the small rural Canadian town of Kipling. There, he tries to reconnect with his divorced sister (who is warm and welcoming) and his aging father (who is cold and aloof), and then becomes embroiled in a murder mystery no one seems to want solved.
This is a low key and very low, low-budget character-driven melodrama with its heart in the right place, and veteran actor Bernsen brings some gravitas. He also gets points for casting roles with non-actors from the real-life town of Kipling, Saskatchewan, as everyone here seems like real country folk instead of the usual Hollywood pretty people stereotypes.
It's a bit raggedy around the edges, and some of the performances are better than others. And the film is perhaps a bit too leisurely paced, in genuine need of an energy boost at times. But it's also involving and gets better as it goes along.
Extras: widescreen, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, trailers
"The Law (La Loi)" (Oscilloscope, 1959, b/w, two discs, $34.99). Sixties Italian bombshell Gina Lollobrigida gets top billing in Jules Dassin's sexy melodrama, which is actually quite ripe for a movie released at the end of the 1950s. Although it stars "Lollo," as she is nicknamed in Italy, as well as Marcello Mastroianni, and is set in a small Italian fishing village, this is actually a French film, with stars-to-be Yves Montand and Melina Mercouri in support.
The story has Lollobrigida as a housekeeper lusted after by several men, chiefly a penniless engineer (Mastroianni) and a conniving crook (Montand) who challenges him to "The Law," a drinking game with the object being humiliation.
Extras: full frame, in French with English subtitles, alternate ending, audio commentary (by film critic David Fear), featurette, 1958 episode of "Cinepanorama" (with Dassin, Lollobrigida, Montand and Mercouri), 1957 episode of "Lectures Pour Tous" (with novelist Roger Vailland), trailer; essay on inside of DVD box
"The Oxford Murders" (Magnolia. 2008; R for language, sex, nudity, violence; $26.98). Elijah Wood is an Oxford grad student who joins forces with a math professor (John Hurt) to solve a string of murders involving mathematical symbols.
Here's a movie that wants desperately to be more highfalutin' than just a genre picture, so it inserts a lot of philosophical babble and a pointless romance that merely dilute the mystery.
Extras: widescreen, featurettes, trailers
"A Nightmare on Elm Street" (New Line/Blu-ray, 2010; R for violence, language, nudity, drugs; two discs, $35.99). When I reviewed the original "Elm Street" films in the 1980s, I thought they were gory, raunchy and over the top, and worst of all, made a playful game of rooting for the villain, Freddy Krueger, a confessed child molester. With this "reboot," Michael Bay signed on as a producer, so are there any doubts about what direction it takes?
Jackie Earl Haley is effective as Krueger, although he seems unsure about the character's direction: Wisecracking comical monster or horrifying creature of the worst nightmares? The movie itself is equally unsure of its tone as it knocks off teens in their dreams.
Horror movies just don't seem to be much fun anymore.
Extras: widescreen; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; deleted/alternate scenes, featurettes, trailers (also on single-disc DVD, $28.98)
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