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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

new on DVD: ‘The Producers,’ ‘The White Countess,’ more

One of last year’s underrated gems, The White Countess (read my review/buy at Amazon) got lost in the awards-season madness last winter, but you can catch up now on DVD. The last movie from the production team of Merchant-Ivory (Ismail Merchant died in 2005), it’s full of the kind of sad melancholy we’ve come to expect from the brand — here, in the excellent actorly hands of Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson — so you’ll want to put yourself in the right mood before settling in with it: restorative chocolate should do it.

And if you’re still in the mood for dark and bitter, try Winter Passing (read my review/buy at Amazon), from earlier this year. It’s a bit cutesy in how it tries not to be cutesy, but Zooey Deschanel is spectacular as a messed-up wannabe actor visiting her messed-up has-been writer dad (Ed Harris). And for me, a movie is always something special when it features an actor — in this case, Will Ferrell — whom I usually can’t stand but really like in this instance.

Weirdly, Will Ferrell is also not-unbearable in The Producers (read my review/buy at Amazon). But there’s no need to qualify anything about the quality of this flick: it’s a wonderfully kitschy and deliciously old-fashioned movie musical, and it manages to graciously complement the 1968 film, not steal its thunder.

Skip the romantic comedy Something New (read my review/buy at Amazon) unless you’re seriously into Simon Baker, who gets to wear flannel shirts and work with his hands and hang around with a big goofy dog and wax all masculine about how wonderful women are. Or unless you’re seriously into tired will-they/won’t-they lovey-dovey sitcoms.

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