Blu-ray and DVD Picks and Passes 07.17.11

Beauty and the Beast (1946)

The Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition (2001-2003)

Ratatouille (2007)

The Sacrifice (1986)

Up (2008)

Wall-E (2008)

What’s new and noteworthy on DVD new release shelves? Not much in the way of new releases, alas. (You did see last issue’s rave write-up on Of Gods and Men, didn’t you?)  

What you will find is a number of notable new Blu-ray releases of movies previously available on DVD. Even if you haven’t made the switch to Blu-ray, some of these may be of interest to you, since Blu-rays often come with a bonus DVD version. Buy enough of them, and someday when your DVD player goes the way of all things, you’ll be all set to check out a Blu-ray player.  

This week’s Blu-ray/DVD combo releases include three family-film gems from Pixar: Ratatouille, Wall-E and Up. Pixar’s earlier body of work was terrific, but with this audacious trifecta of films, the studio pushed the frontiers of what family films could do and be.  

Fans of Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings can now buy the “Extended Editions” for the whole trilogy on Blu-ray. Jackson’s spectacular opus honors Tolkien’s religious themes in many ways, and the “Extended Editions,” despite some missteps in the end, add a great deal, from the perfection of the bucolic Shire sequences to Aragorn’s dramatic self-revelation to Sauron.

Two Blu-ray editions of classic foreign films are worth noting. Adventurous families should definitely check out Jean Cocteau’s classic French film Beauty and the Beast, new on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection. With its quietly magical imagery and faithful rendition of the fairy tale as published by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, it’s probably the finest cinematic fairy-tale adaptation ever committed to film.

Finally, adventurous adult cinephiles may want to check out The Sacrifice from Andrei Tarkovsky, new on Blu-ray from Kino. One of the 45 honorees of the Vatican film list, The Sacrifice employs dream-like logic and poetic images to issue a warning to secularized modernity to rediscover the capacity for spirituality, in particular for self-sacrifice for the sake of others.

CONTENT ADVISORY: Beauty and the Beast: Fine family viewing. The Lord of the Rings: Intense, sometimes gory, battle violence; scenes of menace and monster grotesquerie. Teens and up. Ratatouille: References to out-of-wedlock parentage and other dodgy elements; slapstick violence; brief grisly images of dead rats in traps. Probably fine for older kids. The Sacrifice: A sequence involving nonmarital bedroom scene in a pagan-magical context (no nudity); murky philosophical musings. Adults. Up: Some scenes of menace and peril; an off-screen action death; sober depiction of mortality and grief. Fine family viewing. Wall-E: Mild animated menace. Fine family viewing.