All you need is love to travel ‘Across the Universe’
Julie Taymor resurrects the Beatles and the ’60s in “Across the Universe” (out in a “2-Disc Deluxe Edition”), a visually splendid musical that gathers emotional steam as it rolls along.
Riddled with romance, riots, protests, hippies, Vietnam and civil-rights struggles, the semi-unwieldy, semi-psychedelic piece keys to Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood, in fine singing voice), an upper-class U.S. student, and Jude (a scruffy Jim Sturgess), a working-class Liverpool lad who jumps ship in New York.
Director Taymor’s (“The Lion King”) innovative saga reimagines the birth of some Beatles’ classics (dear Prudence comes in through the bathroom window) and acts as a time machine for ’60s vets and newbies.
Dana Fuchs and Martin Luther McCoy bring the heat as a couple representing Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
Wonder if I’ll still like it when I’m 64.
Extras: Alternate versions of Eddie Izzard hamming up “Mr. Kite”; fine commentary by Taymor; making-of docs; know-your-stars short; extended music scenes; deleted scene; photo gallery.
The mild West
Watching too much of “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is like standing in a long line on a hot day and waiting for fights to break up the monotony.
Director Andrew Dominik emulates Terrence “I make gorgeous but deathly slow movies” Malick with his look at James’ last years.
Brad Pitt turns in his best portrayal yet as the volatile outlaw.
And Casey Affleck, rightly up for a supporting Oscar, matches him as Ford, a weasel who yearns for James’ celebrity.
The supporting cast is also top-notch.
The epic becomes addictive in the home stretch, piling on tension as Ford schemes to bring down Jesse.
The end almost justifies the means.
Bloodshot eye for an eye
Jodie Foster channels Charles Bronson from “Death Wish” in “The Brave One,” an intense and violent revenge drama with the blue-eyed Foster convincing as a woman severely beaten during a attack that leaves her fiance dead.
Terrence Howard serves as the voice of reason as a lonely detective initially attracted to Foster’s enigmatic character because of the intimacy her voice conveys on her late-night radio show.
A questionable behavior by a key character near the end blunts the movie’s impact, but if you’re in the mood for “righteous revenge,” Foster and director Neil Jordan deliver.
Extras: An “I Walk the City” short (contains spoilers); deleted scenes.
No plain Janes
Speaking as a Jane Austen virgin, an expression borrowed from “The Jane Austen Book Club,” I am more intrigued by the author after having seen the film.
But not intrigued enough to read one of her 18th-century sagas, despite urgings from female friends over the years to do so – to better understand their affinity for the books, and, in theory, to better understand them.
So it goes.
Based on Karen J. Fowler’s episodic bestseller, the picture is fairly engaging despite dollops of melodramatic excess and an ending that’s like biting into ice cream with an exposed nerve.
Five women and one man meet monthly to discuss one of Austen’s six books.
The messed-up relationships of most reflect the loopy relationships and characters in the novels, though co-writer/director Robin Swicord admits to freely exercising her poetic license.
Emily Blunt and Hugh Dancy turn in the most layered portrayals.
The rest of the ensemble – Maria Bello, Amy Brenneman, Kathy Baker and Maggie Grace – have their moments, but their characters are more one-note.
Extras: Cast and crew commentary; bio piece on Austen (for Austen virgins); making-of and character-deconstruction docs; seven deleted scenes.
Also on DVD
“The Apartment Collector’s Edition”: An ambitious corporate exec (Jack Lemmon) lets his married superiors use his apartment for affairs, then falls for his boss’ girlfriend (Shirley MacLaine); Billy Wilder’s superb comedy/drama won an Oscar for best picture.
“The Aristocats Special Edition”: Digitally enhanced animated musical adventure about mismatched cats and pet-nappings; not wonderful but kids probably won’t mind.
“Blackout”: Lives go through upheavals when a two-day blackout wreaks havoc on a Brooklyn community ready to rumble; with Jeffrey Wright.
“Croc”: A lot of bite but no teeth – killer croc terrorizes Thailand areas where bland people talk too much; with Michael Madsen.
“Descent”: Rosario Dawson earned raves from the few critics who saw this violent and erotic (for some) film about a college student (Dawson) out to avenge her rape.
“Elizabeth _ The Golden Age”: Cate Blanchett again earns an Oscar nod for playing the British queen, only this sequel’s a dark and choppy mess; even Clive Owen can’t save it.
“Feast of Love”: In a small-town cafe, a bemused professor (Morgan Freeman) stirs up love among locals (Greg Kinnear, Radha Mitchell, Selma Blair).
“Fierce People”: A working-class, drug-dependent masseuse (Diane Lane) and her son move into a rich client’s (Donald Sutherland) guest house in a snooty suburb.
“Giuliani Time”: It’s apparently run out, although that’s not addressed in this documentary about Rudy G.’s time as mayor of New York.
“Imitation of Life Two-Movie Special Edition”: The 1934 Claudette Colbert drama about racism, romance and family is packaged with the 1959 Lana Turner revamp.
“9 Star Hotel”: Documentary about Palestinians who sneak across the border to work in occupied Israel territories.
“Raising Flagg”: A crochety handyman’s (Alan Arkin) loving wife and six argumentative children gather around him when, due to an identity crisis, he decides to stay in bed until he dies. (At least he avoids rush hour.)
“A Stranger’s Heart”: Romance about two people who need hearts and meet while awaiting donors; with Samantha Mathis.
“Tootsie: 25th Anniversary Edition”: A struggling actor (Dustin Hoffman) pretends to be a woman to win a role; a comedy with depth, the film was nominated for 10 Oscars (Hoffman lost to Ben Kingsley as the scantily clad Gandhi).
“2 Days in Paris”: Julie Delpy wrote, directed and stars in the romantic comedy about mismatched lovers visiting Paris; with Adam Goldberg. (Goldberg and Delpy? What were they thinking?).
“When Night Is Falling”‘: Woman falls for female circus performer.
“The Wiz 30th Anniversary Edition”: Remastered “Wizard of Oz” adaptation set in New York; with Diana Ross, Quincy Jones’ music, and Michael Jackson when he was still relatively normal.
TV on DVD
“Beauty and the Beast: The Third Season”
“The Best of Comedy Central Presents: Uncensored”
“Dresden” (German wartime miniseries)
“The Jewish Americans” (recently on PBS)
“Madeline: Meet Me In Paris”
“Newhart: The Complete First Season” (the worst season only because of an abrasive regular who doesn’t last beyond this season)
“Route 66: Season One, Vol. 2” (two guys and a cool Corvette)
“Rosemary & Thyme: The Complete Collection” (affable British crime show with middle-age female gardener/sleuths)
“Slings and Arrows: The Complete Collection” (antics of Canadian theater troupe putting on Shakespeare)
“Soul Food _ The Series: The Third Season”
“Wire in the Blood: The Complete Fourth Season”
Feb. 19: “Michael Clayton”