DVDs In Brief: May 2, 2012
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DVDs In Brief: May 2, 2012

Director Steven Soderbergh decided to make Haywire after seeing MMA champion (and American Gladiator) Gina Carano in action while channel-flipping. The idea is simple enough: Build a female-centered action movie around a star who can actually do some damage. Teaming with his frequent collaborator Lem Dobbs (The Limey), Soderbergh has retooled the Bourne-style international spy picture into a sophisticated delivery system for ass-kickings…  

New Year’s Eve (Warner Bros.) is cut from the same cloth as Valentine’s Day, Garry Marshall’s star-studded tribute to romance and the comforting, soothing familiarity of formula filmmaking at its most pandering and shameless. In a rare case of a film going broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, it turns out that people remembered that Valentine’s Day was terrible (despite the presence of eminently relatable subplots like Jessica Biel as a chocoaholic worried she’ll never get a man) and stayed away from its spin-off/quasi-sequel/knockoff New Year’s Eve in droves, despite the film possessing more stars than there are in the heavens… 

The toxic response Swept Away received back in 2002 seems to have scared Madonna off acting indefinitely, but it didn’t keep her from hopping behind the camera for the hilariously awful W.E. (Weinstein), a glorified dress-up party of a historical drama about the notorious love affair of commoner Wallis Simpson and royal King Edward III. The lifeless film suggests history by way of Red Shoe Diaries but was nevertheless nominated for Best Costume Design at the Academy Awards. For those keeping track at home, that means Madonna’s widely maligned folly was officially nominated for more Oscars than the slightly better received likes of Martha Marcy May Marlene

Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton lend their outsized voices and personalities to Joyful Noise (Warner Bros.), a wholesome musical about a small-town choir trying to win a gospel sing-off, but they can’t steer it away from the clichés director Todd Graff (Camp, Bandslam) embraces so eagerly. Like a typical episode of Glee, a few of the song sequences are a pleasure, but nothing of interest happens in the long stretches between them… 

Martin Scorsese’s three-and-a-half-hour documentary George Harrison: Living In The Material World (HBO) is as comprehensive as his Bob Dylan doc No Direction Home, and no less intriguing. What keeps it from being just another piece of Beatles hagiography is the focus on Harrison’s warring impulses between being the caring person who tried to make others feel loved and being a self-centered bloke who hoarded money and succumbed to carnality.

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