DVD Picks 12.05.2010

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)

Fantasia/Fantasia 2000

Blu-ray/DVD Combo (1940/2000)

The Complete Metropolis (1927)

Exciting news for Vatican film-list fans: Two list honorees have new Blu-ray editions, and one has recently been restored to its most complete form yet.

Fritz Lang’s silent German expressionist sci-fi classic Metropolis — a surreal, sprawling, operatic pulp allegory drawing on biblical and medieval Christian imagery as well as Wells’ The Time Machine — was unfortunately edited after its German premiere, and key footage was lost.

The latest edition combines the best film elements with a newly rediscovered print from New Zealand, restoring 25 minutes of missing material. Unfortunately, the new footage is badly degraded, but it’s gratifyingly helpful in completing the story. Extras on the Kino Blu-ray include a nearly hour-long documentary on the film and restoration efforts. Must-see for cinephiles.

The other Vatican-list film is Disney’s masterpiece Fantasia, combining great music with what is still some of the best animation ever done. The Blu-ray/DVD combo set also includes Fantasia 2000, a post-Disney Renaissance sequel/homage that doesn’t approach the achievement of the original but has a few sequences worth noting.

Fantasia is one triumph after another: the abstract colors and shapes of “Toccata and Fugue”; the fairies, flowers and fish of the “Nutcracker Suite”; “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” perhaps Mickey’s finest moment; Greek mythology set to Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony”; and the demons of “Bald Mountain” succumbing to the light of the “Ave Maria.”

Fantasia 2000 is more pedestrian: A computer-animated take on “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” plays like an imitation Pixar short, and yo-yoing flamingoes feel like extras cut from the original’s “Dance of the Hours.”

There are a few powerful images, though, particularly the flying whales of “Pines of Rome.” The big finale, Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite,” is an anime-inflected, New Agey myth of the death and rebirth of Nature in the wake of an erupting volcano. Oh, and Mickey’s “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is here, too.

The four-disc set includes a number of audio commentaries, a historical look at the effects used in Fantasia, the Dali-inspired short Destino, and more.

Speaking of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mickey’s famous short is the inspiration for Disney’s live-action fantasy adventure of the same name starring Nic Cage and Jay Baruchel (How to Train Your Dragon). From producer Jerry Bruckheimer, this entertaining romp gets right almost everything that Bruckheimer’s Prince of Persia got wrong: likable characters, splendid effects, funny dialogue and a bigger part for Alfred Molina, the best thing in either film.

Content advisory: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Fantasy action violence and mildly frightening scenes, some mild rude humor and brief cursing. Fine for older kids. Fantasia 2000: Some unsettling images; a New-Agey mythic-type sequence. Okay family viewing. Fantasia: A few scenes of mild menace; a Halloween-esque spooky sequence depicting demons, monsters, and ghosts. Fine family viewing. Metropolis: Tense and menacing situations; some sensuality; stylized violence. Teens and up.