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DVDs In Brief: November 2, 2011


DVD round-up

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One of the greatest winning streaks in pop culture came to an abrupt halt when the previously unimpeachable Pixar finally released a clunker in Cars 2 (Buena Vista). The sequel to the gearhead smash deals with the death of Cars voiceover star Paul Newman in the worst conceivable fashion, by shifting the focus onto the hillbilly comedy stylings of Larry The Cable Guy, who voices tow truck/fan favorite Mater and dominates the film with his cornpone antics. Oh well, at least it all still looks mighty purty…

In this summer’s better-than-average romantic comedies, the transcendent chemistry of young stars mostly overwhelmed the standard rom-com phoniness. First, there was Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake in Friends With Benefits, and then a week later came Crazy, Stupid, Love (Warner Bros.), a preciously orchestrated ensemble comedy that told love stories across three generations. Steve Carell and Julianne Moore are reliably good as a long-married couple that suddenly separates, but the real electricity comes from Ryan Gosling as the lothario who takes the newly single Carell under his wing, and Emma Stone as the would-be one-night-stand who teaches him how to love…

Adapted from Sara Gruen’s bestselling novel, Water For Elephants (Fox) feels more like a visualization of the book than a genuine cinematic entity in its own right, designed more to satisfy readers with its fidelity than to interpret the material distinctively. Reese Witherspoon and especially Robert Pattinson are dishwater-bland as the star attraction of a Depression-era circus and the handsome new circus trainer, respectively, but Christoph Waltz, in full Inglourious Basterds snarl, does lively work as Witherspoon’s husband and the circus’ pitiless ringmaster…

Director Wayne Wang has spent a career reconciling both sides of his Chinese-American identity, and he struck gold commercially with The Joy Luck Club, his femme-centered 1993 adaptation of Amy Tan’s sprawling novel about Chinese-American immigrants in San Francisco. Wang returns to the well with Snow Flower And The Secret Fan (Fox), adapting Lisa See’s book about two female friendships separated by centuries, but it’s sorely lacking the same crossover appeal…

The hilariously overheated hostage drama Trespass (Millennium) slipped into theaters in October, in spite of direction by Joel Schumacher and a cast led by two Academy Award winners (Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman) and one Cam Gigandet (Cam Gigandet). The thriller slipped out of theaters just as quietly, but camp aficionados should definitely seek it out, as it features both a wonderfully crazed turn by Cage and dialogue like “Your filthy lust invited them in!” Good times, good times.