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.
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.