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DVD RELEASES – 2010/3/23

This week, a new slate of funky-fresh home video releases are here to give you the go ahead to curl up on the couch, shirk more pressing responsibilities, and soak up some yummy movie magic:

Fantastic Mr. Fox (20th Century Fox) — I remember going to see Wes Anderson’s old-school animated adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic this past winter at a theater in middle Maryland. Mind you, this was opening night. The 7:30 screening of The Blind Side (which, ironically enough, is also dropping on DVD and Blu-ray today) was sold out in the biggest theater. As we walked to the far end of the hallway and stepped into our tiny theater, the realization that we were the only ones who appeared to even know Fantastic Mr. Fox existed reminded me just great the divide is between more artistically inclined big studio fare and that which is… how shall we say this?… broader. Anyway, aside from the growing feeling that Anderson is perhaps relying on classic pop music too routinely (full confession: homeboy is stealing all of the songs I have fantasized about using myself one day), Fantastic Mr. Fox is the type of sumptuous pleasure that should appeal to kids, even if they have no idea what the characters are talking about. Hopefully this charmer will find a much, much bigger audience on home video. We desperately need more clever, adventurous movies like this one in our multiplexes. Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.

Mad Men: Season 3 (Lionsgate) — Matthew Weiner’s celebrated drama about America’s progress—or should I say progressive unraveling—in the 1960s launches itself into greatness in the concluding episodes of the AMC series’ third season. Don Draper (an iconic Jon Hamm) continues to block out his scarred past, but his way of doing that is increasingly unhealthy and inappropriate. His wife Betty (January Jones) struggles to come to terms with her own general dissatisfaction. As do the rest of the characters in Draper’s Madison Avenue advertising agency (most memorably, Christina Hendricks’s Joan). This season’s twelfth episode, “The Grown Ups,” is one of those achievements that brings the previous 30-something hours into crushing focus. I’ll never listen to Skeeter Davis’s “End of the World” the same way again. Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.

Ciao (E1 Entertainment) — There is a strong Asian sensibility in Ciao, from the static, symmetrical imagery to the suppressed emotions hiding just beneath the surface. While Tan is Malaysian, the film is a predominantly English-language drama starring Caucasian men. This tone might be too jarring for some viewers, who will find the dialogue and delivery to be stilted and artificial. While I can see where they’re coming from, I also can’t deny the genuine emotion I felt as the film unfolded. By the end, I had succumbed to it completely. Read the rest of my review here, then buy it on DVD.

Seraphine (Music Box Films) — The performance of Yolande Moreau makes this otherwise strong biopic even stronger. Moreau portrays Seraphine Louis, a housemaid living in France in the early 1900s who paints compulsively in her off hours. When a wealthy art lover stumbles onto her work by accident, he rewards her in ways she couldn’t have ever imagined. Think of it as a classy rendition of the more recent Susan Boyle rise-to-riches tale! Buy it on DVD.

Have Not Seen But Plan To Do Just That

The T.A.M.I. Show Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory) — I missed a chance to see this legendary 1964 concert film at Light Industry last summer, but now everyone has a chance to catch up with it on good ol’ DVD. If the mere mention of these names doesn’t widen your eyes, I don’t know what to tell ya: Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Beach Boys, James Brown and The Flames, and The Rolling Stones. Widely regarded as one of the best concert films of all-time, even if it doesn’t deliver completely on its promise—though I’m not sure how that’s possible—this is a must-must-see. Buy it on DVD.

Red Cliff International Version: Part I & Part II (Magnolia) — The edited US theatrical version of John Woo’s epic is also being released this week, but why settle for less when you can watch Woo’s spectacle in its full-length glory? Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.

New To Blu-ray Pick of the Week

Days of Heaven (Criterion) — There appear to be a whole bunch of new Criterion Blu-rays dropping this week, but I must follow my heart with what I’ve declared for years is my favorite movie ever. In revamping the film for its Criterion release a year or so ago, Terrence Malick drained much of the golden Magic Hour light from the images, but he couldn’t drain a drop of the sweeping power of this breathtaking epic, all the more impressive for being so economically told. Buy it on Blu-ray.

Wild Card of the Week

The Blind Side (Everyone swears the movie isn’t as bad—i.e., racist—as this trailer makes it seem, but, man, this trailer looks like a super disturbing Zucker Brothers parody.)

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Michael Tully is an award-winning writer/director whose films have garnered widespread critical acclaim, his projects having premiered at some of the most renowned film festivals across the globe. He is also the former (and founding) editor of this site. In 2006, Michael's first feature, COCAINE ANGEL, chronicling a tragic week in the life of a young drug addict, world premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film immediately solidified the director as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s "25 New Faces of Independent Film,” a reputation that was reinforced a year later when his follow-up feature, SILVER JEW, a documentary capturing the late David Berman's rare musical performances in Tel Aviv, world-premiered at SXSW and landed distribution with cult indie-music label Drag City. In 2011, Michael wrote, directed, and starred in his third feature, SEPTIEN, which debuted at the 27th annual Sundance Film Festival before being acquired by IFC Films' Sundance Selects banner. A few years later, in 2014, Michael returned to Sundance with the world premiere of his fourth feature, PING PONG SUMMER, an ‘80s set coming-of-age tale that was quickly picked up for theatrical distribution by Gravitas Ventures. In 2018, Michael wrote and directed the dread-inducing genre film DON'T LEAVE HOME, which has been described as "Get Out with Catholic guilt in the Irish countryside" (IndieWire). The film premiered at SXSW and was subsequently acquired by Cranked Up Films and Shudder.

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