New to DVD for the week of January 3, 2006

Broken Flowers , The Cave , The Gospel , Hustle & Flow , and Wedding Crashers
By  |  January 13, 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

THE CAVE | Sony | Derivative of Alien and Pitch Black, Bruce Hunt’s non-too-exciting thriller pits a team of cave divers (those adept at surviving in perilous conditions and able to squeeze through a wafer-thin crevice 100 feet below the ocean surface, and on a single gulp of air to boot) against giant bat ghouls who long ago, when the title Carpathian maw was open to the surface world, battled Templar Knights — or some such hooey. Now that it’s open again, tempting curiosity and boasting a 90-mile underground river, the divers descend into the hell (fire, ice, and demons, oh my!) hole and are promptly sealed in. Hunt puts the hunky crew (led by Cole Hauser with effective sangfroid) through the motions; the sets impress, as do the stunts, but the creature FX leave a lot to be desired. Given a largely unknown cast, about the most enthralling aspect of The Cave is guessing which of the landing party will get plucked next. | 97m

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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