New Blu-rays of 'Beauty and the Beast,' 'Iron Giant' on shelves this week
Posted September 18
The animated features “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Iron Giant” lead newly released vintage titles on Blu-ray and DVD this week.
“Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition” (Disney, 1991, G, featurettes; bonus material from earlier editions on digital and cloud-based “Disney Movies Anywhere”). It’s no secret that this Disney animated feature — the first to earn an Oscar nomination for best picture — is a timeless fairy tale with romance, songs and comedy for all ages, and that it holds up quite well 25 years later.
The romance is between the title characters, Belle and the Beast; the songs are by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who previously struck gold with “The Little Mermaid”; and the comedy is courtesy of the Beast’s servants, magically turned into various household items. The voice cast includes Paige O’Hara and Robby Benson as the title characters, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, and, of course, Angela Lansbury.
If you have the 2011 Blu-ray/DVD “Diamond Edition,” be aware that although there are new bonus features aplenty here (including new interviews with many of the principles), the material from previous editions is now accessible exclusively on the cloud-based “Disney Movies Anywhere” and digital versions. So if you like having that earlier material on your shelf, you might want to hold onto the earlier discs, whether or not you buy this one.
“The Iron Giant” (Warner, 1999, PG, theatrical version and “Signature Edition,” new documentary, deleted scenes/alternate opening, audio commentary, featurettes, motion gallery, trailers). This is the Blu-ray debut of this thoughtful adaptation of Ted Hughes’ 1968 sci-fi youth novel about a docile robot dropping from the sky into a small Maine town, circa 1957. There, the metal creature is befriended by a young boy and eventually reveals itself to be a weapon. Vivid hand-drawn animation, with some CGI elements, this cartoon feature is a clever treatise on the Cold War era, with a mix of wit and heart that should appeal to both young and older viewers.
A box-office flop in August 1999, the film gained an ever-growing fan base following a VHS and laser disc release later that year, making its DVD debut in 2005 with a three-minutes-longer “Signature Edition,” which is included here. (Co-writer/director Brad Bird went on to helm the Pixar films “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” before making his live-action debut with “Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol.”)
“FitzPatrick Traveltalks Shorts, Volume 2” (Warner Archive, 1934-45, three discs, 60 short films). More shorts produced by James A. FitzPatrick, which played in theaters along with the cartoons and newsreels that accompanied movies in those days. Gorgeous Technicolor footage enhances each eight-minute film, narrated with flourish and hokum by folksy FitzPatrick himself.
“Bill & Ted’s Most Excellent Collection” (Shout Select/MGM, 1989/1991, PG, three discs, new audio commentaries, two new hourlong documentaries, featurettes, trailers; guitar pick, two vinyl stickers). The lame-brained, time-traveling “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” comedies — starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter as “Valley Boys” whose vocabulary barely goes beyond “totally” and “dude” — are collected here (with “Bogus” making its Blu-ray debut). Both films have their amusing moments (aided by co-star George Carlin) and have amassed a huge fan base that will be delighted to chuckle along as the boys meet up with historical figures of the past.
“Aliens: 30th Anniversary Edition” (Fox, 1986, R for violence and language, theatrical and 1991 “Special Edition” versions, deleted/extended scenes, audio commentary, introduction, featurettes; 24-page booklet of images from Dark Horse comics’ “Aliens” series, 10 art cards). “Aliens” is, of course, James Cameron’s sequel to “Alien,” but while the first was a horror film onboard a space ship (directed by Ridley Scott), Cameron’s picture is a rip-roaring (but still scary) action flick, as Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and a group of Marines return to the alien planet to destroy the creatures. Co-stars include Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton.
“Man in the Wilderness” (Warner Archive, 1971, GP [the early PG rating], trailer). Richard Harris stars in this rugged Western as a mountain man who is mauled by a bear and left for dead by his companions. But he slowly heals and tracks down his former friends, motivated by a desire for revenge. If this sounds familiar it’s because the film is very loosely based on the story of Hugh Glass (here called Zachary Bass), who was also the subject of the 2015 Leonardo DiCaprio Oscar-winner “The Revenant.” John Huston co-stars. (This Blu-ray upgrade is available at warnerarchive.com.)
“Moby Dick” (Warner Archive, 1930, b/w, trailer). John Barrymore is great as the obsessed Capt. Ahab in this early sound adaptation of Herman Melville’s novel (running a scant 77 minutes), though not much of the book actually remains — and, as Hollywood would have it, a silly romance (with Joan Bennett) is added. Still, when the whaler is atop the whale toward the end, it’s stirring stuff. And check out the trailer, which dramatically sells the drama without using a single shot from the film! (Barrymore also starred just four years earlier in “The Sea Beast,” a silent version of Melville’s story.) (This manufacture-on-demand DVD-R is available at warnerarchive.com.)
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.