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DVDs in Brief

The Tyler Perry media machine took mainstream critics by surprise when Diary Of A Mad Black Woman proved that his devoted grassroots theatrical audience could pony up significant dough at the box office. The crazy tonal shifts in Perry's films—which can leap from overheated domestic melodrama to broad Big Momma's House shtick in a single cut—get smoothed over a little in Madea's Family Reunion (Lions Gate), but they still take some getting used to. Though Perry's work is difficult to defend on aesthetic grounds, it's also hard to begrudge his entertainment of an audience that's so woefully underserved…

Matthew McConaughey's laid-back Southern charm and well-defined, oft-displayed pectoral muscles helped make the romantic comedy Failure To Launch (Paramount) a surprise hit, but tart-tongued Zooey Deschanel steals the film as the deliciously jaded housemate to Sarah Jessica Parker's irritating "professional interventionist." If the film shared Deschanel's acidic wit, it might have amounted to something more than fluffy, wish-fulfillment nonsense…

Still a leading contender for 2006's worst movie, Ultraviolet (Sony) shows what happens when filmmakers ditch even the vaguest plot pretensions of films like Underworld and Aeon Flux, and just dial the special effects up to 11. Milla Jovovich stars as a "hemophage" (don't ask, no answer is forthcoming) whose motives change every few minutes in order to let her slaughter as many people as possible, mostly by sensibly ducking when crowds of them surround her and try to shoot her. Equilibrium director Kurt Wimmer even cuts corners on the fight sequences, usually the raison d'être of this kind of vapid exercise…

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Michael Haneke's Caché (Sony) stars Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche as a bourgeois Parisian couple tormented by a silent stalker who leaves them videotapes documenting their daily routine. The movie wowed critics because of its formal rigor—a lot of static shots that either pay off in a shock, or keep the audience waiting for nothing—and because the way Auteuil's investigation of his invisible tormentor plays out seems to hold a commentary on Western arrogance. In truth, Caché doesn't offer much real insight into men of privilege or their subtle modes of exploitation, but it works anyway, as an exercise in mounting anxiety…

If Errol Morris' The Fog Of War never existed, the sprawling documentary Why We Fight (Sony) might seem more accomplished; it's a prismatic take on how modern warfare arises from the military-industrial complex's need to feed itself. As is, Eugene Jarecki's ambitious and reasonably well-balanced film, inspired by a note of caution in Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address, lacks Morris' stylistic flair and too often takes its eyes off the ball.

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