By AMY NICHOLSON
By ALAN SCHERSTUHL
By CAROLINA DEL BUSTO
By AMY NICHOLSON
By STEPHANIE ZACHAREK
By R. Scott Moxley
Justice League: The New Frontier(Warner Bros.)
Based on Darwyn Cooke's comic-book mini-series, a masterpiece starring all of DC Comics' major-leaguers at the dawn of their immortality during the Cold War, this animated adaptation plays stronger, faster and further than any direct-to-DVD in recent memory. It's a grown-up superhero's story, with scenes of startling violence (early and often) punctuated by bursts of curse words drawn to Cooke's retro-specific specs—don't watch with the kids, however tempting. Superman's a government lackey; Wonder Woman's a liberated, pissed-off warrior; Batman's a paranoid father; and the Flash and Green Lantern are minor figures with starring roles. Also included: a long Justic League doc dating back to the Justice Society '40s and other teasers, but the movie leaps tall buildings in a single viewing. (RW)
The Darjeeling Limited(Fox)
With the exception of his debut—Bottle Rocket, still his most human film—all of Wes Anderson's movies have received the Criterion Collection treatment: fancy and full-blown, the show-off's how-to turned celebratory autopsy. Not so this shrug of a self-parody, in which Anderson takes the set-in-a-house Royal Tenenbaumsand set-on-a-ship Life Aquaticand sets it on an Indian train downbound for familiar familial smash-ups and make-ups, starring a heavily bandaged Owen Wilson (playing suicidal, err . . . ) and his big-screen bros Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman, who also co-wrote (and proves that Anderson, not Noah Baumbach, deserves the blame for the lifeless Life). The only bonuses: the too-long short Hotel Chevalier(infamous for naked-ish Natalie Portman) and a randomly assembled making-of featurette that's more a production-design piece, perfect for a filmmaker who fetishizes the details. Not that Darjeeling deserves much more. (RW)
Death at a Funeral(Fox)
Director Frank Oz is not the genius of cinema that he is of puppetry, and this isn't his funniest film (that would be Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), but it's a worthwhile if workmanlike farce. Take one dead guy, gather all his family and friends and their corresponding neuroses and baggage, and: hijinks, ho! The biggest laughs come from Alan Tudyk as a man beset by nerves who takes the wrong pill and spends the funeral tripping balls. Also good is Peter Dinklage as a mysterious stranger; less convincing is Matthew Macfadyen as the mopey straight man at the center of the story. It's a 90-minute film that would've been too long at 91; two commentary tracks bestow an unnecessary air of dignity. (JH)
Beowulf: Director's Cut (Paramount)
Robert Zemeckis' gaudy telling of the immortal hero story is pure kitsch, Heavy Metalby way of lit class. John Malkovich, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, and—good God—Crispin Glover chomp and gnash their way through the story, reconfigured by comic-book Jesus Neil Gaiman and Pulp Fiction co-scribe Roger Avary just like you'd imagine, which is to say: That's cool. It's perfect casting, then re-casting, as Zemeckis shot the actors and turned them into characters who look like they live between chapters of a video game. And the unrated cut's even loopier than the theatrical release; hard to tell whether to be grossed-out or tickled pink by all the blood-red. But far better than the movie is the making-of, featuring the actors packed into Spandex on a soundstage, their sausage-casing bodies covered in computer-reading cotton balls. They're all living their own real-life Extrasepisode. (RW)
Our top DVD picks scheduled for release this week: Barbie: Mariposa and Her Butterfly Friends (Universal); Comanche Moon(Sony); Day Zero (First Look); Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale (HBO); Family Affair: Season Five (MPI); The Fugitive: Season One, Volume Two (Paramount); Goya's Ghosts (Sony); Highlander: The Source (Lionsgate); Jesse Stone: Sea Change (Sony); The Last Emperor: The Criterion Collection (Criterion); Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same Collector's Edition (Warner Bros.); Life After Tomorrow (Hart Sharp); Newhart: The Complete First Season (Fox); Scholastic Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics (New Video Group); Silk (New Line); The Smurfs: Season One, Volume One (Turner); Super Bowl XLII Champions: New York Giants (Warner Bros.); Takashi Miike Collection 2 (Tokyo Shock); 30 Days of Night (Sony); To Kill a King (Anchor Bay).
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