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updated: 8/3/2014 10:23 PM

'Grand Budapest' director's films shine on Blu-ray

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  • Six of auteur Wes Anderson's eight films are available from the premium home video distributor, The Criterion Collection.

      Six of auteur Wes Anderson's eight films are available from the premium home video distributor, The Criterion Collection.
    Associated Press

  • Wes Anderson directs George Clooney (at least his voice) in the title role in the stop-motion animated "Fantastic Mr. Fox."

      Wes Anderson directs George Clooney (at least his voice) in the title role in the stop-motion animated "Fantastic Mr. Fox."

  • Video: "Fantastic Mr. Fox" trailer

 
 

Wes Anderson -- the Texas-born director of this week's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" -- brings distinctive humor and a colorful widescreen pallette to his tales of familial conflict. He has made eight films since his 1996 debut, "Bottle Rocket," and six of them have gotten the royal treatment on home video from The Criterion Collection.

The distributor, known for its high-quality, extras-laden presentations of classic films, got its start with Laserdiscs in the '80s and remains as relevant as ever in the era of Blu-ray and digital video. A huge chunk of its catalog is even available for streaming on HuluPlus, with titles ranging from Francois Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" to Stephen Soderbergh's "Schizopolis."

One of the latest additions to the Blu-ray Criterion Collection is Anderson's 2009 adaptation of Roald Dahl's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," a wonder of stop-motion animation that retains all of its director's style and wit even though the characters are talking animals.

George Clooney provides the voice of the titular fox, and is joined by Meryl Streep, Michael "Dumbledore" Gambon, and a host of Anderson's recurring collaborators: Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe and Owen Wilson. The story is, more or less, "Ocean's Eleven" + animals + daddy issues, but that takes a back seat to the dialogue, the film's handmade look and a playful score by Alexandre Desplat.

The Criterion presentation boasts the requisite commentaries, storyboards and interviews, but it also pays more than a small tribute to the story's author. An hourlong documentary about Roald Dahl is here, as is an audio recording of the iconic "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" author reading from his own book.

Anderson's essential film remains "Rushmore," the 1998 comedy that vaulted Anderson into the spotlight and signaled a new beginning for Murray, whose character improbably battles ambitious 10th-grader Max Fischer (Schwartzman) for the affections of a schoolteacher (Olivia Williams).

The Criterion release of "Rushmore" contains a whimsical map of Rushmore Academy drawn by Anderson's brother, Eric, and one of the best DVD extras you'll ever see: The cast performs high school stage versions of blockbusters like "Armageddon" and "The Truman Show" to hilarious effect.

Anderson's other Criterion releases are: "Bottle Rocket," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" and "The Darjeeling Limited." Here's hoping 2012's "Moonrise Kingdom" will soon join the Collection.

Sean Stangland is a Daily Herald copy editor and a tireless consumer of pop culture. You can follow him on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.

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