With Fool's Gold, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins and — save us, please, from damnation! — Paris Hilton's The Hottie & the Nottie opening this weekend, you'll need to stockpile a few of today's new DVD releases.
DON'T GO NEAR
Elizabeth: The Golden Age — I don't care that Cate Blanchett snagged a Best Actress Oscar nomination for returning to her role as the virgin queen. This sequel to 1998's much better Elizabeth is full of hot air and overacting! Sorry, Cate, loved you as Dylan in I'm Not There, but that DVD is not out till May.
RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS (i.e. you can use the remote to skip the crap parts)
Across the Universe — Julie Taymor's trippy take on the Beatles songbook, wedded to Vietnam-era student war protests and psychedelia, looks and sounds gorgeous. In spots. "Girl," the opener sung by a Liverpool dockworker (Jim Sturgess) is meltingly tender. And "I Want You," staged at an army recruitment office, is a showstopper. You can skip "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," sung by Salma Hayek as not one, but five dancing nurses, and, well, you decide the biggest irritants. It's a fun movie to browse.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford — Casey Affleck as the dirty rotten fanboy who shoots Brad Pitt's megastar Jesse in the back deserves his Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor. And cheers to Best Cinematography nominee Roger Deakins for turning this 160-minute Western into an art-house tone poem. One caveat: You should have seen this beauty on the big screen — know how I know you didn't? the film's piddlysquat box office — and unless you've got a Rolls Royce of a home theater, you're missing the full impact.
DISCOVERY OF THE WEEK
Great World of Sound — This dark and darkly funny look at our American Idol culture is co-written and directed by promising first-timer Craig Zobel and stars no one you ever heard of. I couldn't have liked it more. White boy Martin (Pat Healy) and black dude Clarence (a great Kene Holliday, where's his Oscar nomination?) are job-desperate enough to sign up as talent execs at a sham record company, Great World of Sound. Unlike Idol, the movie doesn't sneer at the talents and no-talents being scammed. It sees all of us as delusional. Don't expect this low-budget indie flick to look like much — you can watch it on an iPod with no loss in quality — but does it ever stick with you.