Drama Drama Drama

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As you’ve surely seen from the DVDs rolling into the shops, all the high-end drama that made Oscar night so blah is now available in all its shrink-wrapped glory. While it certainly represents some of the best stories and performances of the year, it wouldn’t be too far off the mark to call it the Debbie Downer collection. Here are some of the highlights to watch fireside during the last bleak nights of winter.
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augustrush.jpgAugust Rush
Warner Home Video

For those of us who are waiting with baited breath for season two of ‘The Tudors,’ we will have to settle for Jonathan Rhys Myers in this uber-inspirational picture. Freddie Highmore is the kid, Keri Russell and Myers are the folks, and then Terrence Howard and Robin Williams are in there as well. It lost out on the Oscar for Best Original Song to “Once,” but hey, there’s still plenty to get razzed about in this film, even if it’s a bit heavy in the “truly moving” department.
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beowulf.jpgBeowulf: Director’s Cut
Paramount Home Entertainment

As the little sticker on the front pronounces, this edition of the film has “Unrated footage too intense for theaters!” It is, indeed, the unrated version, which allows for plenty of CGI scandal. We really don’t remember such attention to nipples in the poem, but whatever. As for special features, you’ll find: deleted scenes, ‘The Making of Beowulf,’ a special on designing the creatures and the art of Beowulf. For true fans, there’s also a cool book called “The Art of Beowulf” out from Chronicle Books, and W.W. Norton’s newest translation of the poem.
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elizabeth.jpgElizabeth: The Golden Age
Universal Home Entertainment

In one of the EW Oscar issues this past month, there was some snarky comment about how this just wasn’t a great film. Well, okay, so it wasn’t as good as the first – but then again, when are they ever? It’s still got Ms. Cate and all the gorgeous-ness that a period film can dream of. In this respect, it did okay at the ceremony, nabbing the statue for Best Costume Design. And as you surely know from the trailers and the history books, those are some fierce threds.
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dayzero.jpgDay Zero
First Look Studios

The Tribeca Film Festival has hosted more than its share of 9/11 and modern war films. “Day Zero” was there last year – an independent feature about three young men who have all been called to serve their country, and what they choose to do in their last weeks at home. Our boys are Elijah Wood, Chris Klein and Jon Bernthal, with Ginnifer Goodwin rounding out the cast. Sure, it’s heavy stuff, but it’s also oddly refreshing to see these guys in a new light.
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gonebabygone.jpgGone Baby Gone
Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Amy Ryan was all over that red carpet, but didn’t get the statue this year. It’s cool though, because she’s a great one to keep watching in these character roles and some past TV work (season two of ‘The Wire’). This disc has an extended ending on the film (although if you didn’t catch it in the cinema, how do you pick up on those subtle changes?). There’s also deleted scenes with commentary from Ben Affleck and his co-writer, Aaron Stockard, a Behind-the-Scenes feature (again, with Jimmy Kimmel’s boyfriend), audio commentary on the film, and a bit on casting, which is always cool.
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inthevalley.jpgIn the Valley of Elah
Warner Home Video

Despite the extraordinary cast and high praise from America’s favorite critics, “In the Valley of Elah” just whimpered quietly off into the night. You’ve got Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon, music by Mark Isham, and it’s written and directed by Paul Haggis. I mean seriously. Throw the movie a friggin’ bone and at least rent it to see these guys at work. Subject matter is heavy, sure, what with the after-effects of war and whatnot, and maybe is isn’t quite geared towards the young’uns as “Stop Loss,” which comes out soon, but still…
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intothewild.jpgInto the Wild
Paramount Home Entertainment

Okay so you’ve got two options with this one. There’s your regular DVD, and then there’s your 2-Disc Collector’s Edition. Here’s the kicker. The single-disc edition is basically just the film. Apparently some DVDs still roll out sans special features. It’s a mystery to us, too. On the double-disc-er, the features are the story, the characters and the experience. Considering that this IS such a great story, that’s the best kind of stuff we can hope for on a DVD. This wasn’t quite up to Mandy’s hopes and dreams considering she’s been in love with the book since the moment it came out, but it comes pretty close to brilliance where it counts.
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janeaustin1.jpgThe Jane Austen Book Club
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

If you think this is the chick-flick to end all chick-flicks, you’re not that far off the mark. Not that we’re judging! Calm down, ladies! As girl-friendly films go, this one is worth a watch. It’s got a clever concept (a group of gals and Hugh Dancy gather to read all six of Austen’s books), a great cast (Kathy Baker, Maria Bello, Marc Blucas, Emily Blunt, Amy Brenneman, Dancy, Maggie Grace, Jimmy Smiths, Kevin Zegers and Lynn Redgrave), and it’s got all the calming effects of a movie that makes you want to fall in love, make lists, and read more books. The one wonk factor is Blucas’ character, a lousy husband to one of the ladies, who does a total 180 in the period of a commercial break. Other than that, it’s smooth sailing.
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kiterunner.jpgThe Kite Runner
DreamWorks Home Entertainment

Mandy thought this film was a bit too “commercial” when she reviewed it a few months back. While I may not agree, living on separate coasts now prevents us from throwing martinis in one another’s faces. Marc Forster is one of the most beloved directors working today, and his films (even the fantastical “Finding Neverland”) still carry the air of truth in the world we all know, not some celluloid contrivance. On this DVD, the special features are not so much, but the story (still adored on the F Train, we hear), is what we’re here for. Isn’t that always the case?
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tellme.jpgTell Me You Love Me: The Complete First Season
HBO Video

A lot of TV shows get hailed as “groundbreaking” when they first hit the air, but it’s rarely the case. As for this one, it most certainly is. The sex is as graphic as stuff we saw on “Queer as Folk” and the writing of these fragile characters has got more brutal honesty than anything we’ve ever seen. It’s like creator, Cynthia Mort just plopped little tape recorders under the pillows of American couples and caught all those late-night whispers, confessions and doubts. Like many a cable series, it taking some gentle wading to get into the world of these characters, but once you’re in there, it’s a voyeuristic experience that you can’t step away from.
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thingswelost.jpgThings We Lost In The Fire
DreamWorks Home Entertainment

Oscar, Oscar. You’ve got two Academy Award Winners in this one: Halle Berry and Benicio del Toro. Theme music is by Gustavo Santaolalla (who did the music for “Babel,” “The Motorcycle Diaries” and the upcoming adaptation of Kerouac’s “On the Road”), Sam Mendes is one of the producers, and its written and produced by Allan Loeb. Loeb is the big excitement here, as he is one of the two creators of our new favorite series, FOX’s ‘New Amsterdam.’ In short, this film has all the great elements, but made a small splash for all the talent involved. According to IMDB, it grossed less than $3 million. Could that be true?
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Well, anyway, those are some high drama pics for you. Pretty soon, the action and comedy of summer will be upon us. Please standby.