DVDs In Brief: May 25, 2011

DVDs In Brief: May 25, 2011

If ever there was a movie that didn’t justify the $50 three-disc deluxe-box-set treatment, it’s Gnomeo & Juliet (Buena Vista), a lazy, smug rewrite of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy, now set among animated pottery garden gnomes who run around making pop-culture references and engaging in forbidden romance when their owners aren’t looking. Elton John co-produced, and his songs are laced throughout the film, which just makes it feel more instantly dated…

I Am Number Four (Buena Vista), the first film to result from James Frey’s creepy “fiction factory,” didn’t do too badly worldwide, with a $144 million take from an $80 million budget. Still, that apparently isn’t enough to make this painfully generic science-fiction actioner into the Twilight-esque franchise-starter Frey had in mind, in spite of extensive, transparent thefts from the most au courant popular teen franchises of the past decade. Co-screenwriter Marti Noxon recently said plans for the sequel obviously set up by Number Four’s ending have been shelved for now…

Back in 2001, Israel’s Dover Koshashvili debuted with the brilliant domestic melodrama Late Marriage, but not much has been heard from him since. Now he’s returned in fine form with Anton Chekhov’s The Duel (Music Box), another marital drama that stages a Chekhov short story in settings resembling still-life paintings. Andrew Scott stars as a bitter, self-loathing bachelor who convinces a married woman to live with him, but plots to get rid of her before she finds out about her husband’s death and thinks about remarriage. The Duel never develops its behavioral observations into a thesis, but it’s a pleasure to spend time with these characters all the same… 

Anybody got 20 billion bucks on them? According to the dubious advocacy doc The End Of Poverty? (Cinema Libre), that’s all it would take to cut global poverty in half. Assertions like that throw the film’s credibility into question even before it’s ground down by simplistic solutions and the enervating earnestness that undermines many documentaries of its ilk.