DVD Tuesday: ‘Curious Case Of Benjamin Button’ & ‘Last Chance Harvey’

by W. Andrew Powell

Taraji P. Henson and Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Taraji P. Henson and Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Coming to home video this week, Brad Pitt goes through the aging process for the epic drama, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. Also out now, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson star in the drama Last Chance Harvey; Michelle Williams and Ewan McGregor try to survive London’s terrible future in Incendiary; and in the Hindi film Chandni Chowk to China, a lowly cook has to become a kung fu hero.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Hollywood is a curious place, especially when you consider that a director like David Fincher can go from making dark films like Se7en and Fight Club, to making a drama like The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.

At once sweet, charming, clever and emotional, the film lives on the perpetual green screen of Fincher’s mind, which happens to be built with layers of digital effects. Although this could have been a recipe for disaster, Fincher’s vision and direction keep the film from getting sidetracked in simple visual trickery, using the effects instead to complement F. Scott Fitzgerald’s impressive story.

Brad Pitt stars as Benjamin Button, a man born 80 years old, who ages backwards. On his path through life, which is of course marked by strange and unusual circumstances, Benjamin falls for a beautiful dancer named Daisy, played by Cate Blanchett. It’s a romance that will of course be complicated by the simple problem that they are two souls going through life in different directions.

With the many comparisons to Forrest Gump aside, Fincher’s latest film is a wonderful achievement by the talented director. Although it didn’t win any of the acting Oscars it was nominated for, the film deserved every nod it received thanks to its wonderful cast. Even through the swath of special effects and makeup, Pitt works his unusual magic on this oddly charming character.

Forrest Gump scribe Eric Roth wrote the screenplay for the film, which is certainly not without its flaws, but Pitt and Blanchett make the few issues forgettable. It’s also yet another example of Blanchett taking on a beautifully imagined character and breathing life into the role in ways that transcend the story. She simply inhabits this role with every fibre of her being.

Given a chance, I would have, perhaps, suggested that the film needed a few cuts, and some of the digital effects could have been cleaned up or removed, but The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button is memorable because of Fincher’s uncompromised vision. Whether you caught the film in theatres or not, I highly recommend it now as a chance to step into a curious story that will sweep you through the decades of Benjamin’s backwards life.

Last Chance Harvey
In this romantic drama, Dustin Hoffman is Harvey Shine, a jingle-writer at the end of his rope, running off to his daughter’s wedding to make amends for never being there as she grew up. When he misses a flight home, however, Harvey is fired, and seeks solace in the airport bar where he meets Kate, played by Emma Thompson.

Sharing their life-long sob stories, the two hit it off and look for a way to get beyond their own issues and find something new with each other.

While the film has received very positive reviews, many were quick to note that the film is enjoyable, but not particularly groundbreaking.

Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times is still one of many who loved the film, saying in her review: “Just about everything works in this small and surprisingly hopeful film, with beautifully attenuated performances by Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, who slip into the characters Hopkins has sewn for them like an old sweater.”

Michelle Williams and Ewan McGregor star in Incendiary, a dramatic thriller about a young woman who loses her husband and son in a terrorist attack. Set in the not-too-distant future, where London is constantly being attacked, Williams plays the young woman who can’t bear the guilt of knowing that she was having an affair with McGregor’s character when her family died.

From the director of Bridget Jone’s Diary, Sharon Maguire, Incendiary debuted at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, but failed to get much attention. Now, with a quiet release on DVD this week, the film also seems to have failed to gain a foothold among critics.

As Tom Charity wrote for the Times Online last year, “There’s so much in this ambitious/opportunistic effort that misses the mark, from the one-dimensional characters to the craven plotting and sentimental tone… Maguire is playing with fire, and it blows up in her face.”

Chandni Chowk to China
And finally, Akshay Kumar and Deepika Padukone star in this Hindi film, which was incidentally co-produced by Warner Bros., about a cook who become a kung fu master on a mistaken journey to rid a village of an evil tyrant.

This is a notable release if only because it is the third time a major U.S. studio has backed a Bollywood production, but the result, unfortunately, did not impress critics. Only a few writers were willing to give the film praise-worthy reviews.

“If Chandni Chowk To China is not exactly original, it steals wisely,” Jim Slotek wrote for Jam! Movies, “resulting in a movie that moves and entertains (even if it’s too long by at least a half-hour).”

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