OnVideo: APRIL's Top Movies
CASINO JACKKevin Spacey stars as Jack Abramoff, the real-life Washington power player who resorted to jaw-dropping levels of fraud and corruption to support his lobbying efforts on behalf of corporate clients and special interests. Megalomaniacal lobbyist Abramoff used his power and influence to create an extravagant lifestyle that included private jets, exotic cars, and even an offshore gambling business. High-rolling excess and outrageous escapades were all in a day's work for Abramoff, as he went to outrageous lengths to promote the Indian gambling industry, earning him the nickname "Casino Jack." But when Jack and his womanizing protege Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper) enlist a dimwitted mob-connected buddy (Jon Lovitz) for an illegal scheme, they find themselves ensnared in a web of greed and murder that explodes into a worldwide scandal.
Director: George Hickenlooper. Stars: Kevin Spacey, Barry Pepper, Kelly Preston, Jon Lovitz, Ruth Marshall, Graham Greene, Rachelle Lefevre. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: R, 108 min., Drama, Box office gross: $.894 million, Fox. Available: 4/5.
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADERThird installment of the beloved "The Chronicles of Narnia" fantasy-adventure series by C.S. Lewis. Precocious siblings Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Heynes), along with their cousin Eustace (Will Poulter), are swallowed into a painting and transported back to Narnia. They join King Caspian (Ben Barnes) and a noble mouse named Reepicheep in a quest to rescue noble lords who had been lost fighting evil on another island. Aboard the magnificent ship The Dawn Treader, the courageous voyagers face magical Dufflepuds, sinister slave traders, roaring dragons and enchanted merfolk. Only an entirely uncharted journey to Aslan's Country -- a voyage of destiny and transformation for each of those aboard the Dawn Treader -- can save Narnia, and all the astonishing creatures in it, from an unfathomable fate.
Director: Michael Apted. Stars: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes, Will Poulter, Gary Sweet, voices of Liam Neeson and Simon Pegg. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 112 min., Action, Box office gross: $101.814 million, Fox. Available: 4/8.
COUNTRY STRONGSoon after a rising young singer-songwriter (Garrett Hedlund) gets involved with a fallen, emotionally unstable country star (Gwyneth Paltrow), the pair embarks on a career resurrection tour helmed by her husband/manager (Tim McGraw ) and featuring a beauty-queen-turned-singer (Leighton Meester). Between concerts, romantic entanglements and old demons threaten to derail them all. The toe-tapping hit soundtrack includes the Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated song "Coming Home," performed by Paltrow, as well as the new single, "Me and Tennessee," sung by McGraw and Paltrow, and music by country superstars including Ronnie Dunn, Sara Evans, Faith Hill, Hank Williams, Jr. and Lee Ann Womack.
GULLIVER'S TRAVELSJack Black brings his irreverent humor to this adventure-comedy based on the classic tale. To impress a pretty newspaper travel editor (Amanda Peet), an underachieving mail room clerk named Gulliver (Black) takes a writing assignment to travel to Bermuda. When a shipwreck lands him on the fantastical island of Lilliput, he transforms into a giant in size and ego. Gulliver's tall tales and heroic deeds win the hearts of the tiny Lilliputians, but when he loses it all and puts his newfound friends in peril, Gulliver must find a way to undo the damage. Through it all, Gulliver may just learn that it's how big you are on the inside that counts.
Director: Rob Letterman. Stars: Jack Black, Amanda Peet, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris O'Dowd, Billy Connolly. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 85 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $42.174 million, Fox. Available: 4/19.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS -- PART 1The final chapter of the "Harry Potter" film series begins as Harry, Ron and Hermione leave Hogwarts behind and set out to find and destroy the Horcruxes -- the secret to Voldemort's power and immortality. Meanwhile, Voldemort's Death Eaters seize control of the Ministry of Magic and even Hogwarts, terrorizing and arresting anyone who might oppose them. But the one prize they still seek is the one most valuable to Voldemort: Harry Potter. Harry's only hope is to find the Horcruxes before Voldemort finds him. As he searches for clues, he uncovers the legend of the Deathly Hallows. And if the legend turns out to be true, it could give Voldemort the ultimate power he seeks. No longer just a boy, Harry Potter is drawing ever closer to the ultimate battle with Voldemort
Director: David Yates. Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Griffiths, John Hurt, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, David Thewlis, Julie Walters. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 147 min., Fantasy Action, Box office gross: $292.223 million, Warner. Available: 4/15.
I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRISThe improbable but true story of a spectacularly charismatic con man's journey from small-town businessman to flamboyant white-collar criminal, who repeatedly finds himself in trouble with the law and on the lam. Based on a book by Houston Chronicle crime reporter Steve McVicker, the fact-based film casts Jim Carrey as Steven Russell, a married father whose exploits landed him in the Texas criminal justice system. He fell madly in love with his cellmate, who eventually was set free, which led Russell to escape from Texas prisons four times.
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa. Stars: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Antoni Corone. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: R, 102 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $1.881 million, Lionsgate. Available: 4/5.
THE KING'S SPEECHAfter the death of his father King George V (Michael Gambon) and the scandalous abdication of his brother King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), Bertie (Colin Firth) -- who has suffered from a debilitating speech impediment all his life -- is suddenly crowned King George VI of England. With his country on the brink of war and in desperate need of a leader, his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), the future Queen Mother, arranges for her husband to see an eccentric speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). After a rough start, the two delve into an unorthodox course of treatment and eventually forge a genuine friendship. With the support of Logue, his family, his government and Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall), the King will overcome his stammer and deliver a radio-address that inspires his people and unites them in battle. Based on the true story of King George VI, "The King's Speech" follows the Royal Monarch's quest to find his voice, inspire his people, and rally the world.
Director: Tom Hooper. Stars: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi, Timothy Spall, Michael Gambon. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: R, 118 min., Drama, Box office gross: $72.217 million, The Weinstein Company. Available: 4/19.
LITTLE FOCKERSThe test of wills between Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) and Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) escalates to new heights in the third installment of the Fockers series. It's taken 10 years, two little Fockers with wife Pam (Teri Polo) and countless hurdles for Greg to finally get "in" with his tightly wound, ex-CIA father-in-law, Jack. But after the cash-strapped Greg takes a job moonlighting for a drug company, however, Jack's suspicions about his favorite male nurse come roaring back. When Greg and Pam's entire clan -- including Pam's lovelorn ex, Kevin (Owen Wilson) -- descends for the twins' birthday party, Greg must prove to the skeptical Jack that he's fully capable as the man of the house. But with all the misunderstandings, spying and covert missions, will Greg pass Jack's final test and become the family's next patriarch?
Director: Paul Weitz. Stars: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Owen Wilson, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, Jessica Alba, Laura Dern, Harvey Keitel. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 98 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $147.233 million, Universal. Available: 4/5.
RABBIT HOLEBecca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) are returning to their everyday existence in the wake of a shocking, sudden loss. Just eight months ago, they were a happy suburban family with everything they wanted. Now, they are caught in a maze of memory, longing, guilt, recrimination, sarcasm and tightly controlled rage from which they cannot escape. While Becca finds pain in the familiar, Howie finds comfort. The shifts come in abrupt, unforeseen moments. Becca hesitantly opens up to her opinionated, loving mother (Dianne Wiest) and secretly reaches out to the teenager involved in the accident that changed everything (Miles Teller); while Howie lashes out and imagines solace with another woman (Sandra Oh). Yet, as off track as they are, the couple keeps trying to find their way back to a life that still holds the potential for beauty, laughter and happiness. The resulting journey is an intimate glimpse into two people learning to re-engage with each other and a world that has been tilted off its axis.
Director: John Cameron Mitchell. Stars: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Tammy Blanchard, Sandra Oh, Giancarlo Esposito, Jon Tenney, Miles Teller. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 92 min., Drama, Box office gross: $1.7 million, Lionsgate. Available: 4/19.
SOMEWHERESofia Coppola's witty and moving story about the special bond between a father and his daughter. Actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is leading the fast-paced lifestyle of a tabloid celebrity. He lives at the legendary Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood; he drives a Ferrari and numbs his life with a constant stream of girls and pills. Then, his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) from his failed marriage arrives unexpectedly at the Chateau. Their encounters encourage Johnny to face up to where he is in life and confront the question that we all must: which path in life will you take? Filmed entirely on location.
Director: Sofia Coppola. Stars: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius, Benicio Del Toro, Michelle Monaghan, Laura Ramsey. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: R, 97 min., Drama, Box office gross: $1.768 million, Universal. Available: 4/19.
3 IDIOTSThis Bollywood comedy somehow got overlooked by the mainstream film review press in the states and it's a real shame. There's an infectious, devil-may-care boyishness about this story that follows the college antics of three young men working their way through one of India's most prestigious engineering universities. Led by the rambunctious outsider, free-thinking rebel and super brain Rancho (Aamir Khan), Frahan (Madhavan) and Raju (Sharman Joshi) proceed to turn things upside down for the other students -- and the arch-conservative dean, dubbed "Virus" by the students -- as they play prank after prank and continually test the limits of the strict Indian social system. The film begins with Frahan and Raju going on a quest to find their missing friend 10 years after graduation, and the film is told in flashbacks. Throw in some colorful singing and dancing routines and here's one delightful, enjoyable outing. On the surface '3 Idiots' plays out as a college comedy about three undergrads getting into trouble with a stoic, conservative administration. But the laughs go deeper, striking at the conformity of the Indian social system that forces students to go into fields of learning not for that which suits them but because that is what their parents expect of them -- kind of the educational/employment version of an arranged marriage. Rancho's attacks on rote memorization can only remind one of the some U.S. films in the 60 and 70s that cast a jaundiced eye at America's educational system. We have only two gripes with the film: It's title makes it seem like it's an Indian version of 'Dumb and Dumber' but that is so far from the truth it's painful that it's title -- and poster art --n may have scared off viewers. The other: its two-and-a-half-plus running time needed to be shortened. Otherwise, this definitely is a gold-star outing. Aamir Khan has been a superstar in India for more than two decades -- he's in his mid-forties -- and '3 Idiots' -- 'Ghajini' -- became the highest grossing Indian comedy of all time.
Director: Rajkumar Hirani. Stars: Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Madhavan, Boman Irani, Sharman Joshi. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 164 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $6.296 million, Fox. Available: 4/26.
TRON: LEGACYSam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), a rebellious 27-year-old, is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his father Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a man once known as the world’s leading video-game developer. When Sam investigates a strange signal sent from the old Flynn's Arcade -- a signal that could only come from his father -- he finds himself pulled into a digital world where Flynn has been trapped for 20 years. With the help of the fearless warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde), father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe -- a universe created by Kevin himself that has become far more advanced with never-before-imagined vehicles, weapons, landscapes and a ruthless villain who will stop at nothing to prevent their escape.
Director: Joseph Kosinski. Stars: Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde, Garrett Hedlund, Michael Sheen, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 125 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $168.758 million, Disney. Available: 4/5.
THE WAY BACKThe year is 1940, and seven prisoners have daringly escaped from a brutal Siberian gulag. But they find that having escaped one prison they are now surrounded by another: the brutal, unforgiving Siberian landscape. But freedom is tempting and the men begin a treacherous 4,500-mile trek, with little food and supplies. Their trust in each other is even less, but in order to withstand nature at its most terrifying extremes, they must learn to rely on each other and overcome their suspicions. Their compassion is further tested when they meet a teenage runaway who begs to join them on their quest. Based on the book "The Long Walk" by Slavomir Rawicz.
Director: Peter Weir. Stars: Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Jim Sturgess, Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong, Dragos Bucur. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 132 min., Drama, Box office gross: $2.636 million, Image Entertainment. Available: 4/19.
All DVDs and Blu-rays are screened on a reference system consisting of an Oppo BDP-83 Universal Blu-ray Player, a Rotel RSX-972 Surround Sound Receiver, and Phase Technology 1.1 (front), 33.1 (center), and 50 (rear) speakers and Power 10 subwoofer.
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April 1, 2011