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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

DVD In Brief

This looks like the best year to date for the Academy Awards' still-young Animated Film category, which features Tim Burton's Corpse Bride and Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle going head-to-head with Nick Park's latest claymation feature, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit (Dreamworks). They're all strong, craft-intensive contenders, but Wallace & Gromit wins hands-down on good-natured charm. That, and the Academy is so used to handing Oscars to Park for his lively short films about muddled dim-bulb inventor Wallace and his long-suffering dog Gromit that they may not even notice that this one is a full-length feature…

Cameron Crowe's much-slighted Elizabethtown (Paramount) has the dippy writer-director returning to the sprawling, open-hearted Americana of Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous, which he kind of smashes together for this story about a corporate failure reconnecting with his Kentucky family. It's too flighty (and even embarrassing at times), but it contains enough magical moments to rate a DVD rental at least. As on-the-nose as it seems, Elizabethtown does what Crowe has done throughout his career: fit the big gesture, the movie-ish dialogue, the implausible action, and the hit song into a deeply personal cosmology…

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The premise sounds worthy of Krzysztof Kieslowski or Wings Of Desire: The ghost of a recently deceased doctor haunts the sad-sack bachelor who occupies her vacated apartment. Unfortunately, Just Like Heaven (Dreamworks) takes a different tack: Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo have some touching moments, but the movie plays their relationship for broad laughs and generic rom-com situations, less Kieslowski than second-rate All Of Me

Featuring another charismatic performance by The Rock, Doom (Universal) may be one of the greatest videogame-to-movie adaptations ever made, which nonetheless places it firmly among last year's worst pictures. Oddly, the most impressive sequence exploits the game's groundbreaking first-person-shooter perspective to thrilling effect, which suggests that films based on games could stand to be more faithful to their source…

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It was brave, almost quixotic, for Miramax to give the six-hour Italian melodrama The Best Of Youth a theatrical run, but the film stands a better chance on DVD, where its engrossing sprawl can chew up a lazy afternoon on the couch. The story of two middle-class brothers bound for diverging destinies covers 37 years in Italian history, yet the time passes (for characters and viewers alike) in a blink of an eye.

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