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Move Along, Kids 

Wednesday, Feb 27 2008
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Justice League: The New Frontier
(Warner Bros.)

Based on Darwyn Cooke's comic-book miniseries — a masterpiece starring all of DC Comics' major-leaguers at the dawn of their immortality during the Cold War — this animated adaptation plays stronger, faster, and further than any direct-to-DVD in recent memory. It's a grown-up superheroes story, with scenes of startling violence (early and often) punctuated by bursts of curse words drawn to Cooke's retro-specific specs — don't watch with the kids, however tempting. Superman's a government lackey; Wonder Woman's a liberated, pissed-off warrior; Batman's a paranoid father; and the Flash and Green Lantern are minor figures with starring roles. Also included: a long JL doc dating back to the Justice Society '40s, as well as other teasers, but the movie leaps tall buildings in a single viewing. — Robert Wilonsky

The Darjeeling Limited
(Fox)

With the exception of his debut — Bottle Rocket, still his most human film — all of Wes Anderson's movies have received the Criterion Collection treatment: fancy and full-blown, the show-off's how-to turned celebratory autopsy. Not so this shrug of a self-parody, in which Anderson takes the set-in-a-house Royal Tenenbaums and set-on-a-ship Life Aquatic, and sets it on an Indian train downbound for familiar familial smashups and makeups. It stars a heavily bandaged Owen Wilson (playing suicidal, er . . .) and his big-screen bros Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman, who also co-wrote (and proves that Anderson, not Noah Baumbach, deserves the blame for the lifeless Life). The only bonuses: the too-long short Hotel Chevalier (infamous for naked-ish Natalie Portman) and a randomly assembled making-of featurette that's more a production-design piece, perfect for a filmmaker who fetishizes the details. Not that Darjeeling deserves much more. — Wilonsky

Death at a Funeral
(Fox)

Director Frank Oz is not the genius of cinema that he is of puppetry, and this isn't his funniest film (that would be Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), but it's a worthwhile if workmanlike farce. Take one dead guy, gather all his family and friends, and their corresponding neuroses and baggage, and: high jinks ho! The biggest laughs come from Alan Tudyk as a man beset by nerves who takes the wrong pill and spends the funeral tripping balls. Also good is Peter Dinklage as a mysterious stranger; less convincing is Matthew Macfadyen as the mopey straight man at the center of the story. It's a 90-minute film that would've been too long at 91; two commentary tracks bestow an unnecessary air of dignity. — Jordan Harper

Beowulf: Director's Cut
(Paramount)

Robert Zemeckis' gaudy telling of the immortal hero story is pure kitsch, Heavy Metal by way of lit class. John Malkovich, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, and — good God, Crispin Glover — chomp and gnash their way through the story, reconfigured by comic-book-Jesus Neil Gaiman and Pulp Fiction co-scribe Roger Avary just as you'd imagine, which is to say: That's cool. It's perfect casting, then recasting, as Zemeckis shot the actors and turned them into characters who look like they live between chapters of a video game. And the unrated cut's even loopier than the theatrical release; hard to tell whether to be grossed out or tickled pink by all the bloodred. But far better than the movie is the making-of, featuring the actors packed into spandex on a soundstage, their sausage-casing bodies covered in computer-reading cotton balls. They're all living their own real-life Extras episode. — Wilonsky

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