DVD RELEASES 2009/9/1

In this humble writer’s opinion, this week brings two of the decade’s finest American films to home video. Interestingly enough, both of these dramas use the topic of immigration to shatter stereotypes and delivery unforgettable portraits of individuals struggling to find a place for themselves in this country. Those aren’t the only two new releases worth checking out, though. Let’s get to it:

Take Out (Kino) — As the decade winds to a close and technological advancements have enabled even the most micro-budget of filmmakers to capture images that have much less of a home video, handicam aesthetic, Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou’s Take Out becomes an even more startling achievement. Take Out isn’t just the finest tiny-scale effort of the early 21st century. It’s a modern day Neorealist classic. It’s been over one year—and several hundred movies—since I first saw Baker and Tsou’s day-in-the-life portrait of a Chinese immigrant in New York City, yet I still think about it all the time. Distributed theatrically by upstart Cavu Pictures, the film finally landed a much deserved DVD release with Kino. The disc is filled with a bunch of enlightening extras, including two deleted scenes, a 17-minute reflection piece from the cast and crew, a great photo reel, and a filmmakers’ commentary. Read my gushing review, then buy the DVD (and this one is a serious must-buy).

Sugar (Sony Classics) — Stylistically different than their debut feature Half Nelson, Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s follow-up to that Oscar-nominated drama offers yet more boundless proof that they are two of American cinema’s most promising new voices. Sugar is a baseball movie and an immigrant tale wrapped up into one. Read my review, then buy the DVD or Blu-ray.

The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) (HBO)— Like both Take Out and Sugar, Ellen Kuras’ directorial debut tells an immigrant tale, yet Kuras’ documentary follows Thavisouk “Thavi” Phrasavath over the course of several decades. Read my review, then experience Kuras’ lush celluloid imagery by buying the film on Blu-ray.

The Toe Tactic (Kino) — Acclaimed short filmmaker Emily Hubley’s graduation to feature filmmaking is an equally precocious, heartfelt, and inventive story about one woman’s attempt to conquer grief. Read my review, then buy it on DVD.

Good Dick (Phase 4 Films) — Marianna Palka writes, directs and stars as a porn-obsessed rich girl living in squalid isolation. When her local video store clerk (an affable Jason Ritter) develops an unlikely crush on her, the resulting relationship is hostile, vulgar and completely charming. Palka’s disarming screen presence and subtle-but-sure directorial hand push Good Dick up and out of the “quirky indie about an isolated awkward person lookin’ for love” quagmire, a genre that is getting real old, real fast. Buy it on DVD. (Lena Dunham)

M*A*S*H (Twentieth Century Fox) — Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H. Blu-ray. Good night.

— Michael Tully

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