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New to DVD for the week of January 6, 2006
By  |  January 7, 2006

BROKEN FLOWERS | Universal | Jim Jarmusch’s film has old roué Don Johnston (Bill Murray) receiving an unsigned letter from, it would seem, an old flame informing him that he has a 19-year-old son and that the boy is searching for his father. Noting the pink envelope, neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright) sends him off with a bouquet of pink flowers for each ex, and in short order Don has dropped in on Laura (Sharon Stone), Dora (Frances Conroy), Carmen (Jessica Lange), and Penny (Tilda Swinton). What does he find? A few clues, such as a pink typewriter and a cat named Winston, and several opportunities for Jarmusch to parody the garishness of America. But Don doesn’t reconcile himself with the past, he kisses it goodbye. Hell for this Don Juan is not punishment for his excesses but a reminder that in the end they come to nothing. | 107m

WEDDING CRASHERS | New Line | John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn) are friends whose specialty is crashing nuptials and bedding the bridesmaids, and after David Dobkin’s opening montage of the pair at their worst, they wind up at the wedding of Christina Cleary (Jennifer Alden), daughter of Treasury Secretary John Cleary (Christopher Walken, with few lines but a devastating stare). But though Jeremy quickly seduces Christina’s sister Gloria (Isla Fisher), she’s a wildcat who proves more than he can handle. And after John exchanges glances with the other sister, Claire (Rachel McAdams), she turns out to be the property of a boorish fiancé. Nothing daunted, John persuades Jeremy to come with him when they’re invited to the Clearys’ beachfront estate. The pair are spirited ciphers inventing themselves as they go along, the descendants of Jay Gatsby. Even without the film’s heavy-handed homo-erotic suggestions, it’s obvious that theirs is the perfect marriage. | 119m

THE GOSPEL | Sony | There’s a fair bit of music in this film from writer/director Rob Hardy, and it’s the only thing that’s likely to hold your attention. The overwrought and underdeveloped plot has a successful R&B musician (Boris Kodjoe) returning home to his ailing father’s Atlanta parish, where he must save the church to find himself and get back to his roots. It’s poorly written, and the many supporting characters (including Tamyra Gray of American Idol) act from unclear motivations and speak in dubious clichés. Hardy has had some grassroots success, but that speaks more to the desires of his underserved demographic to see themselves represented on screen than to the quality of his films. | 103m

HUSTLE & FLOW | Paramount | This indie 8 Mile begins with a few nods to Quentin Tarantino: a winding monologue, a Jackie Brown credits sequences, and Isaac Hayes popping up in an unexpected place. Terrence Dashon Howard’s DJay is a bored Memphis pimp looking for a fresh career direction. Inspired by the fame of home-town boy and rap sensation Skinny Black (Ludacris), DJay enlists the help of his harem and a former schoolmate (Anthony Anderson) to record a demo tape to play for his idol. The film’s gritty Memphis portrays a hidden America that Hollywood doesn’t deign to acknowledge, and the film does generate some genuine moments and performances, especially Howard’s. But remove the appeal of hip-hop and hookers and you’re left with a formulaic success story. Craig Brewster’s earnest script and direction lack his influence’s video-store-clerk mischievousness, and Hustle & Flow gets bogged down in clichés. | 114m

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