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DVDs In Brief: April 21, 2010

The angry, angry folks on the Internet are essentially arguing that the initial DVD release of James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar (Fox) should be labeled Avatar: The Total Sucker Edition. This bare-bones release comes without special features—even the two-disc Blu-ray edition is just the film plus an extra copy on DVD. A more standard edition is due out before Christmas, with features and at least 20 minutes of additional footage, but even so, fanatics will have to wait ’til next year for a 3D home version. In short, if you care about big blue noble-savage cat-people so much that you have to have the film on DVD right freakin’ now, someone is also expecting you to care so much that you’ll buy it at least three times…

Of all the “troubled production” indicators swirling around Peter Jackson’s expensive adaptation of Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones (Paramount), the most troubling of all was the news that Jackson had delayed shooting to get the look of heaven (or in-between world, really) right. To that end, mission accomplished: The limbo from which a murdered girl observes the living has the splendor of a unicorn-obsessed pre-teen’s Trapper Keeper. What Jackson misses is the heartbreaking intimacy of Sebold’s story—which is to say, he misses everything important…

Crazy Heart (Fox) isn’t much of a breathless drama; it hints at horrors that never really manifest, and keeps viewers waiting for that first shoe to drop, all while it ambles along with more good-natured humility than tension. But it rightly earned this year’s Best Actor for Jeff Bridges, whose performance as a shaggy, deteriorating country star is both deep and memorable. (It also won Best Song for one of the least interesting of its catchy country tunes.) It doesn’t leave much of an impact, but it’s an amiable, well-made character study, and it’s sweeter than it looks without being sappy…

Generations overlap as they make way for one another in Summer Hours (Criterion), Olivier Assayas’ beautifully understated film about the difficulty faced by three siblings charged with dividing the estate of their mother, the niece and heir of an acclaimed painter. The film examines how national identities shift, what culture means when removed from the context that created it, and more, with subtlety, insistence, and in its final moments, a well-earned sense of grace and resignation…

Though at heart a perfectly polite costume drama, The Young Victoria (Sony) gets a minor charge simply by portraying Queen Victoria in the years leading up to and after her coronation at age 18. And Emily Blunt plays her as a bright, vivacious monarch-in-the-making, too. It’s the movie around her that’s disappointingly bland.