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Naomi Then and Now 

Ellie's a Hollywood failure; Naomi, not so much.
  • Ellie's a Hollywood failure; Naomi, not so much.
Ellie Parker (Strand)
This extremely raw portrait of an actress trying -- and failing -- to make it in Hollywood showcases Naomi Watts in a wrenching and sympathetic performance. Writer-director Scott Coffey shot the movie over nearly six years, beginning in 1999, before Watts was a household name. Though they filmed only between other projects, Ellie maintains its claustrophobic continuity. The story is simple: Ellie suffers through countless auditions, getting her heart ripped open and never getting called back. Her boyfriend's a jerk, and her best friend routinely undermines her. Among the bonus features, a behind-the-scenes bit offers a fun glimpse of co-star Chevy Chase at work. -- Melissa Levine

Little Fish (First Look)
Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving are a dream team of geekdom: One or the other -- or both -- has appeared in seemingly every sci-fi/fantasy blockbuster since The Matrix. You've heard them with the accents of killer computer programs, elves, masked anarchists, and ice queens, but you may have never heard them with their native Aussie lilts -- which is one of the small joys of this homegrown crime drama. Blanchett and Weaving are top-notch as heroin addicts in various states of recovery, but their talents are so extraordinary that they render the rest of the proceedings ordinary. Unfortunately, this is one of those artsy thrillers that mistakes boring beginnings with psychological depth. Maybe you'd need an hour of setup in the hands of other actors, but Blanchett can tell you everything you need to know about her character merely by walking down the street. -- Jordan Harper

The Laurel and Hardy Collection (Fox)
This three-disc set features Great Guns (1941), Jitterbug ('43), and The Big Noise ('44) -- in other words, Laurel and Hardy's post-RKO features, made just about the time the boys called it quits. You can see the look of resignation in their eyes and hear the give-up in their voices; they deliver the jokes as though they were eulogies. Just as Harpo Marx morphed from manic imp to sad clown in the 1940s, Laurel and Hardy devolved into a freakishly oddball odd couple defined only by their sizes. The saddest reminder of all comes in the bland, ancient doc "The Revenge of the Sons of the Desert," about a group of middle-aged men who worship the pair's 1933 classic Sons of the Desert, from which we're treated to quick glimpses that surpass the entirety of the three movies contained here. -- Robert Wilonsky

Fun With Dick and Jane (Sony)
This remake of the George Segal-Jane Fonda, er, classic arrived in theaters at Christmastime smelling of a regifted moldy oldie, with Jim Carrey once more doing his crazy-man dance in the suburbs. But Dick and Jane, a satire sold too middlebrow to matter, deserves a second look (the deleted scenes, though, not even a first): With the Enron trials in full swing, this retrofitted comedy about an emasculated exec husband (Carrey) and outta-work wife (Tea Leoni) breaking the law to make ends meet bears the bitter taste of real-life drama; the scene in the backyard hole -- the pool they could no longer afford to finish -- belongs in Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, which would make a swell chaser to this grim slapstick gem. -- Wilonsky

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