Blu-rays of the Week
Beauty and the Beast (Disney)
Sumptuously designed and stuffed with ostentatious visuals that compete with the glorious 1991 animated film, this live-action Disney remake is certainly enjoyable, even if it goes on too long and the last 15 minutes are a series of anticlimaxes short-circuiting the happy ending. Still, director Bill Condon’s flamboyant production includes some beloved songs (and a few new ones), a winning Belle in the form of Emma Watson, and spectacular singing by Audra McDonald as an opera diva turned into a large wardrobe. The Blu-ray looks splendid; extras include on-set interviews, featurettes, music video and deleted scenes.
What might be Disney’s most beloved film—among close contenders Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia and Dumbo—this 1942 classic returns in a new Anniversary edition (although why isn’t it the 75th Anniversary Edition?) that has, as its best extra feature, a beautiful hi-def transfer of the original 70-minute gem itself. Sure, there are many extras—including deleted scenes, a deleted song, featurettes, etc.—but it’s Bambi the movie that’s the main reason for anyone to pick up another stellar Disney Blu-ray release.
Evil Ed (Arrow)
Arrow manages to unearth films both worthy and unworthy: the latest unworthy entry is this intentionally ludicrous 1995 splatter-movie parody about an editor who goes murderously bonkers after rewatching too many graphic slasher-flick images. It might have worked handily as a short, but stretching it out to an ungainly 85 minutes is its death knell, despite a few hilariously bloody moments and a hospital room finale so inept it has to be a joke—but an unfunny one. The film—which includes the original cut and the Special “Ed”-ition (get it?)—looks decent in hi-def; extras include filmmakers’ intro, new making-of documentary, deleted scenes and bloopers.
Fist Fight (Warner Bros)
I’ve seen a lot of movies over the years that stretch their thin premise way past where it should but this ridiculously self-indulgent would-be comedy pitting two teachers against each other on Senior Prank Day—nerdy Charlie Day and tough Ice Cube—takes its five-minute premise and pads it mercilessly with infantile attempts at humor for another 85 minutes. Both actors deserve better, as does Tracy Morgan, who manages to get laughs despite the paucity of good material. The movie looks fine on Blu; extras include deleted scenes.
Rolling Stones—Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America (Eagle Rock)
The Stones’ recent Central and South American tour was a huge undertaking, since they played places they hadn’t before—notably Cuba—and even if some of this was covered in a previous release, Havana Moon, about the historic Cuba concert, Olé has the added benefit of backstage and behind-the-scenes access to the band’s inner circle and the Stones themselves. Both hi-def video and audio are first-rate on Blu; extras are seven additional full song performances, including a mesmerizing “Sympathy for the Devil.”
Pelle the Conqueror (Film Movement Classics)
Despite winning the Cannes Palme d’Or and the Best Foreign Film Oscar, Bille August’s intensely epic 1987 exploration of the harsh conditions a young Swedish boy and his elderly father go through after emigrating to Denmark in the early 20th century is a rare film that deserves such accolades. The 150-minute drama is often harrowing, but August displays rich sympathy toward his protagonists, embodied with starkly emotional power by 11-year-old Pelle Hvenegaard and the legendary Max von Sydow (who should have won the Best Actor Oscar that year, not Dustin Hoffman for Rainman). The new hi-def transfer has much authentic film grain, illuminating Jörgen Persson’s photography; lone extra is Peter Cowie’s commentary.
Spotlight on a Murderer (Arrow Academy)
Georges Franju’s 1961 Agatha Christie-ish mystery, shot in luminous black and white by cinematographer Marcel Fradetal, stumbles badly at the end, but for much of its 90-minute length it’s deliciously nasty fare. There’s a solidly dramatic score by Maurice Jarre, and the exceptional cast is led by Pierre Brasseur, Pascale Audret, Marianne Koch, Dany Saval and a young Jean-Louis Trintignant. The hi-def transfer is excellent; lone extra is a half-hour French TV episode with on-set cast interviews.
The Who—Live at Isle at Wight 2004 (Eagle Rock)
This concert appearance at the famed Isle of Wight Festival was the first for remaining Who members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend after bassist John Entwistle’s death: Roger is in strong voice and Pete is his usual cantankerous self. The excellent set list balances earlier classics from Tommy and Quadrophenia with a nice mix of latter-day tunes like “You Better You Bet” and “Eminence Front,” along with a couple of then-new songs. But why did it take 13 years for this hybrid Blu-ray/two CD version to be released? The hi-def visuals and audio are quite good.