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DVDs In Brief: May 6, 2009


If his name weren’t in the credits, it would take a lifetime to guess that David Fincher, the director of Se7en, Fight Club, and Zodiac, was also the man responsible for The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (Criterion), a decades-spanning, Oscar-trolling melodrama about a man (Brad Pitt) who ages backwards. Though Fincher and screenwriter Eric Roth paint in awfully broad strokes—and the framing device at a New Orleans hospital during Katrina is a big mistake—the film’s central gimmick pays off in the final third, when an innocent, helpless baby houses a mature conscience…

With shades of Vittorio De Sica’s neo-realist Umberto D., Kelly Reichardt’s moving Wendy And Lucy (Oscilloscope) uses the simple relationship between a destitute young woman (Michelle Williams) and her dog to illuminate social ills. Stranded in small-town Oregon after her car breaks down, the woman gets caught shoplifting food from a grocery store—a mistake that reverberates to a devastating degree. Animal-lovers are hereby advised to break out the Kleenex… 

It’s always refreshing to see Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson in lead roles, just as it’s neat to see a romance acknowledge that love exists for people beyond the drinking age. Yet the middle-aged and Hoffman and Thompson all deserve better than Last Chance Harvey (Anchor Bay), a maudlin, sentimental comedy-drama about Hoffman and Thompson finding l’amour not so fou late in the game. It doesn’t help that Hoffman is in twinkly Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium mode throughout this middlebrow snoozer… 

On paper, Chandni Chowk To China (Warner Bros.) must have seemed like the perfect chance for a major studio to introduce Americans to the wonders of Bollywood: It has high production values, an epic story that crosses over into China and features kung-fu, and includes plenty of slapstick and musical numbers. (And at 140 minutes, it’s relatively short by Bollywood standards.) What the studio failed to take into consideration? It’s awful...