Award season armchair jockeys should check out a few notable Oscar and Golden Globe contenders this week, including David Fincher’s visionary epic film about a man who ages backwards (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and a romantic story for the older set (Last Chance Harvey). If your idea of an indie pixie dream girl is Michelle Williams, watch the remarkable actress in her latest (the micro-budgeted Wendy and Lucy, from the director of Old Joy). Smaller releases this week include a Bollywood kung fu pic (Chandni Chowk to China) and an urban comedy with a sci-fi twist (Frankenhood), though we’ve got our eye on Amazon’s fan-targeted exclusive Twilight Blu-ray set. (The official Twilight charm bracelet — sweet!)
David Fincher‘s epic film about love and life earned thirteen Oscar nominations, but only came away with three technical statuettes last February (for Art Direction, Makeup, and Visual Effects). Nevertheless, the story about a baby born old who ages backwards through the 1940s, 50s, and 60s captured something beautifully essential, and tragic, about the short time each of us has on earth — and more heartbreakingly, the little fleeting time we have with the ones we love. In a joint release with the Criterion Collection, Paramount Home Entertainment has given Benjamin Button the Criterion treatment, adding over three hours of bonus materials (including a director’s commentary, a four-part making-of documentary, cast interviews, a motion-capture technology featurette, stills and trailers, and more).
Next: Last Chance Harvey
Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman star in this romantic comedy about two middle-aged strangers who meet and fall in love one day in London, she a workaholic government employee, he a divorcee with baggage. Both leads earned Golden Globe nominations for their performances, though the film came and went in theaters in a blink. A making-of featurette and commentary with Thompson, Hoffman, and director Joel Hopkins accompany the film; will you give Harvey a last chance on DVD this week?
Next: Wendy and Lucy
Michelle Williams stars in this minimalist indie drama as Wendy, a poor woman living on the fringe of society who decides to drive to Alaska to seek a better life with her dog and best friend, Lucy. Director Kelly Reichardt co-scripted the film with Jonathan Raymond and enlisted musician Will Oldham (AKA Bonnie “Prince” Billy, who starred in Reichardt’s Old Joy) in a supporting role. Reichardt, who teaches at Bard College, includes four handpicked short films on the DVD. Catch this indie gem, named by some of the nation’s top critics among their favorites of 2008, this week.
Next: Chandni Chowk to China
Bollywood meets kung fu in this muddled international comedy, the first of a series of Indian-themed films Warner Bros. is hoping to release in the states in the near future. Unfortunately for WB, Chandni Chowk to China fared dismally with the critics, who found this bizarre cultural cross-over comedy — about a Delhi cook (Akshay Kumar) mistaken for an ancient Chinese hero who travels to China to battle Gordon Liu — to be as goofy as it sounds, culturally insensitive and tonally schizophrenic. What’s worse, the only special features to be found on this DVD are a handful of deleted scenes.
Dear Diane Keaton: When did you become the poster woman for shrill, annoying mother figures in increasingly worse and worse films? That’s a question we’d like to ask the one-time Annie Hall, who follows up her hyper turns in Because I Said So and Mad Money with this direct-to-video clunker. Keaton stars as Marilyn, an overly doting mother — some might call her suffocating –who moves in with her son (Dax Shepard) and daughter-in-law (Liv Tyler) and proceeds to make their lives a living hell. Ironically, it’s released just in time for Mother’s Day, so it might just be the perfect gift to send, for those whose moms didn’t quite ever let go.
Next: A Plumm Summer
Based on a real-life event, A Plumm Summer follows the adventures of two brothers who set out to find the kidnappers of a famous local celebrity: Froggy-Doo, the frog puppet star of a children’s television show. With the entire town under suspicion, even the FBI come to investigate; who is guilty of the frog-napping? (Better question: Where the heck has castmate Peter Scolari been all this time?) Audio commentary, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage and more are also included.
It’s the most brilliant premise we’ve heard in a while: two bumbling guys stumble upon a towering Frankenstein-like man… and recruit him to play on their 3-on-3 basketball team! Frankenhood stars comedians DeRay Davis (Semi-Pro), JB Smoove (Saturday Night Live, Curb Your Enthusiasm), and up-and-comer Jasper Redd in the surprisingly well-lensed flick. Tail chasing, basketballing, and crude urban laughs ensue, boosted by the always-funny presence of Charlie Murphy as a sort of hood mad scientist. Rent it, post-haste!
Next: Twilight Blu-ray Ultimate Collector’s Set
Twilight fans (who don’t already own the vampire flick) should take a very close look in the mirror and ask themselves, “Just how much do I love Twilight?” If the answer is, “Enough that I want to own everything Twilight-related on the face of the earth,” then this week’s Amazon-exclusive Twilight Blu-ray set is for you. In addition to owning Twilight on Blu-ray (which comes chock full of its own tasty bonus features), the set includes the soundtrack CD, a book mark, six glossy photo cards, an exclusive Twilight watch, a limited edition Twilight charm bracelet, and — are you ready for this? — a Twilight jewelry box! Order your set, stat, and prepare for this fall’s Twilight sequel, New Moon!
Until next week, happy renting!