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Discs of the year: DVDs Eye Candy 

Our team of film critics brave vitamin D deficiency, popcorn gut and hours of remake comedies to bring you the very best DVDs of the year. Plus, filmmaker Jay Dahl weighs in with is choices.

Carsten Knox's high fives

Fugitive Pieces (Cinegram)

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Jeremy Podeswa's solemn adaptation of Anne Michaels' novel is a very moving story of how a grip on the past can cradle our present. The story follows Jakob, a Jewish boy spirited away by an archeologist from his home in Poland to Greece and eventually to Canada. In adulthood he becomes a writer, but can't exorcise the ghosts that haunt him. With great performances from Stephen Dillane, Rosamund Pike and Rade Serbedzija.

The Bank Job (Maple Pictures) A surprisingly rousing heist movie starring action bullethead Jason Statham, taking care to deliver a great sense of period (early '70s London), along with a light touch in suspense and criminal logistics.

Mad Men: Season One (American Movie Classics)

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With the end of The Wire, the best hour-long entertainment on TV this year was this series about New York ad executives in the early 1960s.

My Blueberry Nights (Block 2 Pictures)

Kar Wai Wong's poem to love, American-style, is a mood piece, like most of his work in Asia, starring Norah Jones, Jude Law and Natalie Portman. It'll envelop you if you let it.

Starting Out In The Evening (Cinetic Media) A delicate ode to the process of writing, it's also an unconventional romance, featuring great acting from Six Feet Under veterans Lili Taylor and Lauren Ambrose, and a career-best turn from Frank Langella.

Carsten Knox is the Special Issues Editor at The Coast, and host of The Love & Hate Movie Show on CKDU 88.1 FM.

Lindsay McCarney's high fives

The Wire: The Complete Fifth Season (HBO Home Video)

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Raise your glasses and cue up "The Body of an American." It's time to salute the excellent final season of The Wire---a show where even seemingly throwaway lines have meaning, every action has consequence and all bureaucratic institutions (the schools, the police department, the newspaper) are flawed. It's thoroughly depressing---and amazing. Go watch.

The Grand (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

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Zak Penn's winning (ha!) poker comedy brings together five of my favourite things: David Cross, Michael McKean, Christopher-Guest-style improv comedy, bizarre non-sequiturs and Werner Herzog at his extra-creepiest.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (New Line Home Video) This nifty doc about the surprisingly engrossing battle between two gamers for the high score on arcade-style Donkey Kong incorporates my other five favourite things: Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows," geeky subculture, awe-inspiring mullets, plucky underdogs and shifty hot-sauce moguls.

This American Life: The First Season (Showtime) Radio show This American Life's time-tested formula (each episode centres around a theme and features narrative journalism and essays that speak to that theme) adapts remarkably well to TV---as does its host/creator, sexily reassuring nerd Ira Glass.

Mon Oncle Antoine (Criterion) DVD superheroes Criterion showed the true-north-strong-and-free some love by restoring and re-releasing this Canadian classic---a coming-of-age yarn about sex, death, thwarted dreams and asbestos---in a glorious features-packed edition.

Lindsay McCarney used to review movies in her high-school newspaper; She's less pretentious now.



Jay Dahl, Director of There Are Monsters, recommends

Gone Baby Gone (Miramax)

➤I cannot believe Ben Affleck can direct. And not just “the same-ol’-shit” direct...but “blow-your-fareaking-mind” direct. You gotta give him credit.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Miramax)

➤Julian Schnabel has the biggest balls in the universe, he takes loads of risks and they all seem to work.

The Mist (Genius Products)

➤Mixing Stephen King and Frank Darabont is like dipping chocolate into peanut butter---they’re at their maximum deliciousness when served together.

There Will Be Blood (Paramount)

➤Love it or hate it, you’ll find yourself riveted---it’s an uber-tense piece that will haunt you for days.



Mark Palermo's high fives

Touch of Evil: 50th Anniversary Edition (Universal)

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Touch of Evil was recut by the studio against Orson Welles' will, meaning there's never been a definitive director-stamped version. Apocalypse Now editor Walter Murch's 1998 edit tried following Welles' memo instructions, but controversially diluted the famous long-take title sequence. The new DVD collection restores all the options, bringing together the Murch cut, the preview version and, at last, the original 1958 theatrical version. In any incarnation, it's definitively great.

Dark City: The Director's Cut (New Line) Alex Proyas' sci-fi noir sleeper gets a director's cut that's a realization of his original intent rather than a revisionist cash grab. The Godfather Collection: The Coppola Restoration (Paramount) On DVD again, with all three chapters, but cleaned up for the best appreciation of the defining pop artwork of the contemporary era.

Be Kind Rewind (New Line) The comedy only played dumb; it understood movies' communal power and home video gives its good vibes a needed second chance.

Sleeping Beauty: 50th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray and DVD) (Buena Vista) The Blu-ray release includes the DVD, so you can enjoy it now and then when you're richer have the option to see Sleeping Beauty's stained-glass majesty in the sharpest home-video images yet.

Mark Palermo is a film critic and filmmaker and has written TV spots and/or music videos for Rihanna, Jerry Seinfeld and Vanessa Hudgens. He also has a blog, but is too Canadian to feel comfortable promoting it.

Hillary Titley's high fives

Spaced: The Complete Series (BBC Warner)

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A gem of the usually tedious, self-aware, pop-culture-soaked comedy genre, Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes' series about living life by communicating through a code of Star Wars, long nights of "big-titted bitch" Lara Croft, outrunning finger-gun toting frat-punks and Darth Maul-voicing girlfriend stealers is finally on DVD in North America, with testimonials to its awesomeness from Quentin Tarantino and Diablo Cody, no less. Family Guy, Robot Chicken and Kevin Smith don't hold a candle to Spaced.

The Deal (Miriam Collection) Though he may never live down Basic Instinct 2, David Morrissey is an actor of broad skill and range and here he imbues pre-Downing Street Gordon Brown with a streak of insecurity and vulnerability, to Michael Sheen's ruthlessly charming Tony Blair.

Miami Vice: The Theatrical Cut (Universal) Though this year's Blu-ray is the "Unrated Director's Edition" and includes a Mann commentary, purists will want to know that the superior theatrical edit is still available on a bare-bones DVD (and is far cheaper).

Recount (HBO Home Video) Star turns from the entire cast---not just Laura Dern's garish Katherine Harris---portray the 2000 election fiasco as much as a clash of personality as it was a question of electoral procedure.

Tootsie: 25th Anniversary Edition (Columbia TriStar) Twenty-five years dates Tootsie's aesthetic considerably, but the Oscar-nominated script keeps the film fresh, perennially entertaining and a marked contrast to the usually lugubrious "comedies" that saturate the market.

Hillary Titley is a regular contributor of film articles and reviews to The Coast and is an occasional guest-host on Carsten Knox's Love & Hate Movie Show.

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