DVDs for 03/23/10 – Fantastic Mr. Fox, Blindsided by Bullock and After Dark Horrors

I resist the temptation to call this a “historic” week for DVD releases, but the simple fact is that three historic and essential American films all debut on DVD this week (two of them simultaneously on Blu-ray). Elsewhere on my blog I review The African Queen (Paramount), one of the most beloved films of all time, Nicholas Ray’s Bigger Than Life (Criterion), an often overlooked masterpiece of American cinema making its belated debut on any home video format, and The T.A.M.I. Show: Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory), the original rock and roll concert film.

The Fox family welcomes you

While that will keep cineastes and movie buffs busy, the big money—and the big attention—is still focused on what we still call the New Releases, the big Hollywood films making their expected and inevitable home video release in the second tier of the traditional release pattern. You can’t dismiss them and I wouldn’t want to, not with one of my favorite films of 2009 coming out.

Wes Anderson, director of offbeat tales of dysfunctional families, absent fathers and characters lost in ambition and obsession, turns to stop motion animation for Fantastic Mr. Fox (Fox), his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book, and it’s a delight, a playful storybook comedy filled with fabulous characters and a classic Anderson tale of family anxiety and eccentric personalities. I reviewed the film for The Stranger in 2009 here. The DVD has a light “From Script to Screen” featurette (see Wes Anderson act out the characters for the animators) and a piece on the stop-motion animation process (did you know that an overnight rain or a change in the barometric pressure can affect the relationship between the camera and the models?), plus the whimsical “Beginner’s Guide to Whack Bat.” The Blu-ray has more featurettes on the production and the cast, plus a bonus DVD copy and a digital copy. I reviewed the film for The Stranger here.

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Fantastic Mr. Fox at The Stranger

My review of Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is now featured in The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative weekly.

Stop-motion animation proves to be a perfect fit with Anderson’s sensibility. A filmmaker of tableau imagery packed with defining detail and quirky humor, he’s the Joseph Cornell of American cinema, creating colorful cinematic boxes around stories of dysfunctional families, absent fathers, and characters lost in ambition and obsession and the need for affirmation and parental approval.

The combination of elaborately designed sets and minimalist animation looks downright quaint next to the expressiveness of Henry Selick or the Aardman folks, but it evokes storybook illustrations by way of 1950s-era puppet animation. Anderson’s animal dolls could have stepped right out of museum dioramas and into their vintage-store wardrobes, and the mix of stillness and sudden action (from discreetly ruffled fur to a sudden acrobatic leap) is an animated analogue to the deadpan performances of his human casts.

Read the rest here.

The Family Fox
The Family Fox