DVDs In Brief: March 14, 2012
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DVDs In Brief: March 14, 2012

Writer-director Alexander Payne, along with his co-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Descendants (Fox), based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, but the adaptation is one of this gentle comedy-drama’s worst qualities. Once it gets past the lumpy exposition, its story of a Hawaiian (George Clooney) dealing with the death of his unfaithful wife and the fate of the family’s estate has more subtle pleasures, like its evocation of everyday life in paradise and the complicated emotions of mourning someone who betrays you… 

Let the post-Oscars recrimination of the Oscars continue: It’s baffling that Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures Of Tintin (Paramount) was overlooked for Best Animated Feature in favor of the much less ambitious Puss In Boots and Kung Fu Panda 2. Presumably that has more to do with the use of motion-capture than with the film’s contents, which are a rip-roaring, sometimes ridiculous, but at least visually stunning around-the-world adventure…

And while we’re at it, can we take a moment to gripe about My Week With Marilyn (Weinstein Company) star Michelle Williams losing Best Actress to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady? Both stars were essentially doing impressions of historical figures, but while Streep’s is a grating caricature in a humdrum film, Williams is luminescent, turning a sentimental, programmatic film into a tender portrait of a superstar struggling with her image and relationships…

Happy Feet Two (Warner Bros.) is significantly less cheesy fun than the original Happy Feet, and its box office reflected its weaker word of mouth: It made significantly less than half of what its predecessor brought in. (Granted, it still grossed $150 million.) Maybe that’s because it’s a more thematically complicated film, with a bunch of embedded ideas about community and responsibility thrown in, instead of a joyous, simple chosen-one-saves-the-day story. Or maybe that’s because the novelty had worn off, while the grating Robin Williams factor hadn’t. Essentially, Happy Feet Two is a smarter film, but all the best parts (singing, dancing, cute penguins, gorgeous animation) are familiar from the first one, and the new things it brings to the table are more for adults than kids…

Staging an existential drama in the face of imminent apocalypse, Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia (Magnolia) is neither mysterious nor terribly complex, and it doesn’t engage in philosophy beyond the blunt implications of Earth’s possible demise. Yet it’s nonetheless eerie and restrained (by Von Trier’s standards, anyway), and bracingly personal: Von Trier suffers from bouts of depression, and few films have more accurately captured both its paralyzing effects and the immense frustration of those who care for the afflicted. 

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