By Noel Murray
March 1, 2009
20th Century Fox, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99
Baz Luhrmann's epic "Australia" is at once a western, a war film, a Harlequin romance, a magical-realist fable and a tongue-clucking piece of social history, wrapped up in a decidedly Luhrmann-esque package. The individual elements are too flat to work on their own, but when the pieces are all jumbled together -- and topped with winkingly broad performances by Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman -- Luhrmann's tale of the fateful love between a prim land-owner and a ruddy cattle-driver gains a substantial amount of kick. The extras on the DVD are limited, but the Blu-ray adds an hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Ashes of Time Redux
After wowing critics with his early street-level romances, Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai spent a year in the desert making his version of a martial arts epic, 1994's "Ashes of Time." The visually stunning film bombed commercially, but it inspired such other "art-fu" films as "Hero" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Last year, Wong released a more linear version of "Ashes of Time," with a new score created in collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma. Though still poetic, the update puts Wong's dreamy action sequences (choreographed by Sammo Hung) in a clearer context. The DVD helps a lot too, thanks to its 15-minute making-of featurette and an in-depth interview between Wong and critic J. Hoberman.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Disney, $29.99; Blu-ray, $34.99
When a pampered dog (voiced by Drew Barrymore) gets lost while accompanying a self-centered heiress to Mexico, she has to rely on the heroism of a street-smart gardener's dog (voiced by George Lopez). The release of "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" was preceded by some hand-wringing about perceived racial insensitivities, but the movie became a hit anyway, and for good reason. Though the plot's nonsensical, "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" is bright, cute and good-natured. The DVD adds a commentary track by director Raja Gosnell, deleted scenes, bloopers and an animated short.
I've Loved You So Long
Sony, $28.96; Blu-ray, $39.95
British actress Kristin Scott Thomas gets perhaps the best role of her career in writer-director Philippe Claudel's French drama "I've Loved You So Long," in which she plays a recent prison parolee trying to reconnect with everyday life. Claudel suffers from the bad indie-film habit of stringing together blunt dialogue and delayed back-story reveals, but Thomas plays her part masterfully, moving gradually from guarded sorrow to tentative warmth. Thomas pitched in on the DVD and Blu-ray, dubbing her own voice for an optional English audio track.
some hand-wringing about perceived racial insensitivities
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