DVD 2/26/08: The Darjeeling Limited, Death at a Funeral, Margot at the Wedding, Great World of Sound, Beowulf

The Darjeeling Limited (R, 2007, Fox)
Three estranged brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman) have decided to rediscover themselves and become un-estranged through, of all things, a train ride across India. It works … until it doesn’t. What happens next is highly unconventional, but then, what film born from the pen of Wes Anderson isn’t? Like Anderson’s previous work (“The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” “Rushmore”), “The Darjeeling Limited” plays liberally with one’s threshold of narrative credibility in order to tell a great story about the characters caught in the storm. It isn’t a statement film, nor is it a metaphor for something grander than itself, even as the writing style suggests it must be one or both of those things. Those who don’t jive with Anderson’s brand of humor may even wonder what the point of the whole thing is. But therein, arguably, lies “Limited’s” appeal: It’s a movie that starts and ends with its characters, and as such, it’s far more accessible than it originally purports to be. Those who cherish good characters over good plotlines almost certainly will find something — and probably someone — to love. Amara Karan, Waris Ahluwalia and Anjelica Huston also star.
Extras: “Hotel Chevalier” short film, behind-the-scenes feature.

Death at a Funeral (R, 2007, MGM)
The patriarch of a seemingly functional British family has passed on, and as “Death at a Funeral” opens and somewhat implies, the not-quite festivities are about to begin. As one might surmise before the opening scene even starts, things aren’t quite as functional as they first seem, and sure enough, everything begins to unravel before most of the attendees are in their seats. If that sounds like a generic premise, that’s because it is. But “Funeral,” to its credit, milks it skillfully, able to change gears uncommonly well and bounce between light comedy, drama, dark comedy and even gross-out comedy without ever exposing any seams. The turn of events that takes place in “Funeral” is, of course, highly unbelievable, but it’s consistently entertaining and funny enough to make that a non-issue. And while 99 percent of the film takes place within the confines of the funeral, it feels like we’ve known these people for much longer than that by the time it’s over. Saying a movie feels longer than it is rarely is a compliment, but this is one of those exceptions to the rule. Matthew Macfadyen, Alan Tudyk, Jane Asher and Peter Dinklage, among others, star.
Extras: Director commentary, writer/cast commentary, bloopers.

Margot at the Wedding (R, 2007, Paramount)
Sisters Margot (Nicole Kidman) and Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) haven’t been on speaking terms for a while, but Margot is ready to bury the hatchet in order to be a part of her sister’s upcoming wedding. All that’s left to do is talk it out — and in “Margot at the Wedding,” talk it out they most certainly do. Though classified as one, “Wedding” isn’t really a comedy. But it isn’t really a drama, either. Instead, it constantly performs a tightrope act between two moods, more concerned with filling out its characters and letting them air out their grievances than pandering to or even entertaining its audience. In a weird way — but only if you truly enjoy indie filmmaking at its most indie — it succeeds at doing the latter by focusing so heavily on the former. “Wedding” is a strange little film whose mood is hard to properly encapsulate without having seen it, but it certainly has the chops to keep a captive audience during its 90 minutes. If nothing else, it allows Jack Black (as Pauline’s husband-to-be) to play completely, and impressively, against type.
Extra: Interviews.

Great World of Sound (R, 2007, Magnolia)
Martin (Pat Healy) has dreams of hitting it big in the music industry. And while he’d prefer to do that as a songwriter with his girlfriend Pam (Rebecca Mader), taking a job as a traveling talent scout for an independent record label seems like a good step in the door. Unfortunately … well, you’ll see. Maybe. “Great World of Sound” sets out to be a certain kind of film, and it does an exceptional job of completing its objective. In fact, “Sound” is so good at being what it wants to be, it’s almost difficult to universally recommend. Martin’s adventures on the road with sidekick Clarence (Kene Holliday) provide plenty of comedic fodder throughout the film, but they also provoke some honest, raw and increasingly depressing observations about the futility of chasing dreams down dead-end roads. If you can handle it — and if you’re not searching for the kind of feel-good romp “Sound’s” cover art implies it might be — then by all means, give it a look. Feeling blue? Put it on your list and wait for a sunnier day.
Extras: Crew commentary, deleted scenes.

Beowulf: Director’s Cut (NR, 2007, Paramount)
The legend of Beowulf — the warrior tasked with killing a terrorizing monster named Grendel — finally gets the overblown-budget treatment we all knew was coming. In this case, while a real live cast shows up to act out the parts, the finished product is dipped in a coat of CGI, which creates a strange hybrid of live action and animation. That means “Beowulf” is full of the same dead-eye stares that made “The Polar Express” so unintentionally unsettling. But it also allows the movie to deliver the kind of action that typically is reserved for video game cut-scenes. Unfortunately, that mostly is all “Beowulf’ is. A full hour passes before the title character (Ray Winstone) is portrayed as anything beyond a generic action hero with a big mouth, and the remaining hour doesn’t do a whole lot with these modest gains. Instead, we get more epically epic action that’s so persistent as to numb the senses and induce viewer fatigue long before the end credits. Video game cut-scenes typically last a few minutes before giving way to some level of user engagement. Without those breaks, “Beowulf” just seems to go on forever, full of cool flash but never able to find a heart. Angelina Jolie, Robin Wright Penn and Anthony Hopkins also star.
Extras: Deleted scenes, four behind-the-scenes features.