DVD & Blu-ray dvd pick

DVD Pick: Fanny and Alexander

Fanny and Alexander DVD
Click on the image to buy the DVD from Amazon UK

Fanny and Alexander is widely regarded as director Ingmar Bergman‘s swansong, even though he went on to write several scripts and direct TV films.

Originally conceived as TV mini-series, it is the story of 10-year-old Alexander Ekdahl (Bertil Guve), his younger sister, Fanny (Pernilla Alwin) and and their well-to-do family in Uppsala, Sweden.

In some ways it was a love letter to Bergman’s own childhood with several set pieces paying homage to his youth: a joyous Christmas gathering of relatives and servants; the emotional wrench when their recently-widowed mother (Ewa Froling) marries an austere minister; their warm relationship with a grandmother (Gunn Wallgren) who ‘kidnaps’ Fanny and Alexander in order to show them love and affection; and many others.

It still ranks as one of his finest films (which is no mean feat given his body of work) and one of the best of the 1980s. One of the most striking aspects is the way in which it goes against the grain of his work in the 1970s with its celebration of the joys amidst the hardships of family life.

A marvellous evocation of childhood, it is still an exquisite film to watch and was deservedly rewarded with Oscars for best foreign film, cinematography (by the incomparable Sven Nykvist), costumes and art direction/set decoration.

This is the 3-hour theatrical cut, which has been digitally restored from the original negative and soundtrack.

For that reason alone it is worth buying but true Bergman fans should also get the 5 hour TV version which is available on Artificial Eye and Criterion, which have more extras.

Fanny and Alexander is out now from Palisades Tartan

> Buy Fanny and Alexander at Amazon UK
> Fanny and Alexander at the IMDb
> Find out more about Ingmar Bergman at Wikipedia

DVD & Blu-ray dvd pick dvd releases

UK DVD Releases: Monday 20th October 2008


Vertigo (50th Anniversary Edition) (Universal): Alfred Hitchcock‘s classic tale of a private investigator (James Stewart) who becomes obsessed with a blonde woman (Kim Novak) returns to DVD, celebrating its 50th anniversary with a two-disc set boasting new extra features.

These include: 

  • Feature Commentary with Associate Producer Herbert Coleman, Restoration Team Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz
  • ‘Obsessed with Vertigo’ – A making of documentary
  • ‘Partners in Crime: Hitchcock’s Collaborators’ – New documentary
  • ‘Hitchcock and the Art of Pure Cinema’ – New featurette
  • The Vertigo Archives
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interviews

Although it isn’t quite the masterpiece some critics have claimed, it still is one of Hitchcock’s most interesting films. Not only is it a deceptively dark tale of desire and obsession but it also appears to reflect a lot of Hitchcock’s own personal concerns. The slow pace and haunting tone to the film along with some beautiful production design make it one of his most unusual and durable films. [Cert 15]

Reservoir Dogs (2-Disc Collector’s Edition) (Lionsgate): The stunning debut film of writer-director Quentin Tarantino became an instant cult favourite in 1992 and established him as one of the hottest directors of the 1990s. It followed a group of gangsters, who all refer to one other by colour-coded pseudonyms, and the aftermath of a heist gone wrong. Previously released in the UK by Momentum, Lionsgate have taken over distribution duties and this 2-disc edition appears to match their 2006 15th Anniversary Edition Region 1 release.

The extras include: 

  • Limited edition petrol can steel case with matchbox inlay
  • Collector’s art cards
  • Newly remastered/6.1 DTS-ES audio/5.1 Digital Surround EX audio
  • Pulp Factoid Viewer
  • Playing It Fast and Loose
  • Tipping Guide
  • Commentary with Quentin Tarantino, cast and crew
  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Critics’ Commentary
  • Profiling the Reservoir Dogs
  • Class of ’92 – Sundance interviews
  • Tarantino’s Sundance Institute Film-makers Lab
  • An Introduction to Film Noir – Writers and Film-makers feature
  • Reservoir Dolls
  • Securing the Shot – Location Scouting with Billy Fox
  • Reservoir Dogs style guide
  • Dedications – Tarantino on his influences
  • Interviews with Quentin Tarantino and others
  • K-Billy Super Sounds of the ‘70s

If you don’t already own this seminal film then this is a very solid package. [Cert 18]  

Eraserhead (Scanbox): Director David Lynch made his feature length debut with this surreal story of a retired printer (Jack Nance) stuck in dark, urban landscape. Lynch has supervised a brand new transfer, overseeing the painstaking process of cleaning, restoring and remastering the film frame-by-frame. It still remains a classic cult film and as Lynch once said, a ‘dream of dark and troubling things’. The extras include an interview with David Lynch about the making of the film. [Cert 18]



Anaconda 3: Offspring (Sony)
Casino Royale (3-Disc Deluxe Edition) (Sony)
CBeebies: Bedtime (BBC)
Dear Ladies – Series 2 (Acorn Media)
Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! (Fox)
Killer Of Sheep (BFI)
My Brother’s Wedding (BFI)
Orphee (BFI)
Family Guy – Peter Griffin – Best Bits Exposed (Fox)
Shaun The Sheep – Abracadabra (2 Entertain)
Sisters (Sony)
Solstice (Icon)
That Mitchell And Webb Look – Series 2 (Fremantle)
The Benny Goodman Story (Eureka)
The Clouded Yellow (Eureka)
The Horses Mouth (Eureka)
The Short Films of David Lynch (Scanbox)
The Unit – Season 3 (Fox)
Tortured (Sony)
Triangle (Manga)
Vanessa (Severin Films)
Wanted (Universal)


If you have any questions about this week’s DVD releases or any upcoming titles then just email me or leave a comment below.

> Buy VertigoReservoir Dogs or Eraserhead on DVD at Amazon UK
> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 17th October)

DVD & Blu-ray dvd pick

DVD Pick: Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone is the highly accomplished adaptation of Dennis Lehane‘s novel about the investigation into the disappearance of a young girl in Boston.

The film’s UK release was postponed due to the (entirely coincidental) similarities with the Madeleine McCann case and despite critical acclaim and some award nominations it probably didn’t get the recognition or box office it deserved.

It marks the directorial debut of Ben Affleck, a high profile actor who’s career had become recently mired in less-than-successful work like GigliPaycheck and Surviving Christmas.

However, here he shows considerable promise as a director, not only through the intelligent script he co-wrote Aaron Stockard, but in how he has put together many different elements to create a serious and absorbing crime drama.

He has had the sense to hire a slew of accomplished actors (Ed HarrisMorgan FreemanAmy Madigan) in key supporting roles but also entrusted the two key roles to younger actors with their careers now firmly on the rise.

Amy Ryan deservedly received an Oscar nomination as the mother of the missing girl, whilst Casey Affleck is highly assured in the lead role as the investigator hired to assist the police in the case.

The technical contributions are all excellent with the cinematography of John Toll and music by Harry Gregson-Williams being particular stand outs.  

Perhaps what is most impressive about the film is the way Affleck has refused to romanticise his hometown – he doesn’t flinch from showing the dark complexities of a modern American city, a place where morals and motivations can get easily blurred. 

The extras on the disc are solid without being spectacular and include the following:

  • Going Home: Behind the Scenes with Ben Affleck (7:05): A 6 minuted EPK-style featurette with on set interviews with cast and crew, intercut with scenes from the film.
  • Capturing Authenticity: Casting Gone Baby Gone (8:56): A featurette on the casting, which is one of the major strengths of the film. 
  • Audio Commentary: Ben Affleck and co-writer Aaron Stockard make an informative and engaging duo as they discuss various aspects of the film and production. One sound point they note early on is that given the nature of the plot, it is a film that repays repeated viewings in order to see the how it unfolds. As a first time director Affleck points out a lot of the technical apsects of how certain scenes worked, describing certain shots, reshoots and various other things of note. One nice touch was the use of non-actors who were recruited from the surrounding areas of Dorchester – it is a credit to the main cast that they blend in so well.
  • Deleted Scenes (with audio commentary): Affleck and Stockard also provide commentary on six deleted scenes, all letter boxed, including extended opening and closing scenes. The longer opening (8:20) shows Kenzie working a case and the “eye-opening extended ending” (3:44) is really basically the same thing we see in the film except with an added voice over from Kenzie to match his narration at the beginning and middle of the movie. Four more deleted scenes are included, all lasting less than 2 minutes, so are relatively minor. The decisions Affleck ultimately made regarding what went in the movie and what didn’t are representative of the keen judgment he showed as director.

Overall, although the extras are good, this is worth getting for the film itself – one of the best dramas to be released this year.

Gone Baby Gone is out now on DVD from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment [Cert 15]

* Listen to our intervew with Ben Affleck and Casey Affleck about the film *

> Buy the DVD from Amazon UK or get the Blu-ray version
> Gone Baby Gone at the IMDb 
Official UK site for the film
Check out the trailer for the film
Read reviews of the film at Metacritic
Q&A with author Dennis Lehane at his official website

DVD & Blu-ray dvd pick Film of the Week

DVD Pick: In Bruges

In Bruges is the tale of two Irish hit men named Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) who have been sent to lie low in the Belgian city of Bruges.

There they have arguments with one another and upset all manner of people from the locals, US tourists and even the crime boss (Ralph Fiennes) who sent them there.

Written and directed by the playwright Martin McDonagh, who won an Oscar in 2006 for his short film Six Shooter, this is one of the most impressive debut features in recent memory.

Not only does it contain several memorable sequences, but it contains the sort of ballsy, politically incorrect humour absent from a lot of mainstream comedy movies.

It also features some excellent performances, most notably from the two leads. Gleeson is his usual dependable self whilst Farrell shows what a good actor he can be when released from the constraints of big budget Hollywood productions.

Ralph Fiennes also makes a startling impression in a menacing supporting role that owes more to his turn in Schindler’s List than some of his more recent performances.

If you are familiar with the sensibility of McDonagh’s plays, such as The Lieutenant of Inishmore, you will find much to feast on here – it feels like Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter remade by Quentin Tarantino.

It opened the Sundance Film Festival back in January and got a wider US release in February, with a UK opening following in April.

Although it had a relatively low budget, it still didn’t really get the attention it deserved, which may have been down to bad marketing (the US one sheet poster was horrible, with the UK one not much better) or maybe the title confused people.

But the DVD is an essential purchase as this is easily one of the best films to come put this year – smart, funny and superbly made.

The extras include:

  • Deleted and extended scenes: There is a generous amount of unused footage (11 deleted and 2 extended scenes), some of which are very funny, the highlight being the scene with Ralph Fiennes’ character on the train.
  • Gag reel: Perhaps less impressive is this gag reel which consists of the actors cracking up on set.
  • When in Bruges: A solid 13 minute making-of featurette featuring interviews with director Martin McDonagh and the main cast, exploring the ideas behind the film and the experience of making it.
  • Strange Bruges: This is a 7 minute feature the cast and director discussing the Belgian town where the film was set and made.
  • A Boat Trip Around Bruges: A 5 minute film about the history of Bruges filled with some nuggets of information and trivia.
  • F**king Bruges: A short feature in which the most prominent word in the script is repeated over and over again.

Watch the trailer here:

In Bruges is out now on DVD from Universal

> Buy the DVD from Amazon UK
> Listen to our review on our podcast back in April
> In Bruges at the IMDb
> Read other reviews of the film at Metacritic
> Find out more about Martin McDonagh at Wikipedia
> The Guardian profile Martin McDonagh
> The Times interview Colin Farrell and Martin McDonagh about the film