OnVideo APRIL Video Reviews
As a handyman at the hotel his father used to own, Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler) spends his days changing light bulbs and competing with the hotel's smarmy manager (Guy Pearce) for the attention of the new owner's beautiful, hard-partying daughter Violet (Theresa Palmer). When his sister Wendy (Courteney Cox) asks Skeeter to babysit her kids for a week, he entertains his niece and nephew with elaborate, original bedtime stories that transport them to exotic locales, including ancient Greece, the Wild West and outer space. But suddenly the stories mysteriously come true, turning everyone's life upside-down..
Director: Adam Shankman. Stars: Adam Sandler, Guy Pearce, Russell Brand, Teresa Palmer, Richard Griffiths, Lucy Lawless, Courteney Cox, Keri Russell, Aisha Tyler, Jonathan Pryce. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 99 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $109.993 million, Disney. Available: 4/5 (Blu-ray) and 4/7 (DVD).
Liv (Kate Hudson) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) are best friends who, since childhood, have planned every detail of their respective weddings. At the top of their bridal "must have" list: a ceremony at New York's ultimate bridal destination, the Plaza Hotel. Now, at age 26, they're both about to get married; they're about to realize their dreams; and they're about to live happily ever after. But all that changes when a clerical error causes a clash in wedding dates -- they're now to be married on the same date. Now Liv, Emma and their lifelong friendship are put to the ultimate test. Liv, a successful lawyer who is used to getting what she wants, including the perfect job and the perfect man, won't settle for anything less than the perfect wedding she has dreamed of for years. Emma, a schoolteacher who has always been good at taking care of others, but not so much in looking after herself, discovers her inner Bridezilla and comes out swinging when her own dream wedding is imperiled. Now, the two best friends who'd do anything for each other, find themselves in a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners struggle that threatens to erupt into all-out war.
Director: Gary Winick. Stars: Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson, Candice Bergen, Kristen Johnston, Bryan Greenberg, Steve Howey, Chris Pratt, Michael Arden, John Pankow, Paul Scheer. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 90 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $58.134 million, Fox. Available: 4/28.
DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE
Contemporary reinvention of the 1951 classic. Keanu Reeves stars as Klaatu, an alien whose arrival on Earth triggers a global upheaval. Accompanied by an indestructible, heavily armed robot, he delivers a warning to world leaders that their continued aggression will lead to annihilation by species watching from afar. As governments and scientists race to unravel the mystery behind the visitor's appearance, a woman (Jennifer Connelly) and her young stepson get caught up in his mission -- and come to understand the ramifications of his being a self-described "friend to the Earth."
Director: Scott Derrickson. Stars: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith, John Cleese. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 105 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $78.980 million, Fox. Available: 4/7.
Set in 1964 at St. Nicholas Church in the Bronx, Fr. Brendan Flynn's (Philip Seymour Hoffman)progressive views and charismatic presence have won him the respect and admiration of the congregation. At the parish school, principal Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) keeps her students in line with old-fashioned fear and intimidation. When young Sister James (Amy Adams) shares with Sister Aloysius her concern that Father Flynn has "taken an interest" in 12-year-old Donald Miller (Joseph Foster), the school's "first Negro student," the older nun launches her own investigation. Determined to protect every one of her charges, Sister Aloysius attempts to use the evidence she discovers to have Flynn removed from the school. John Patrick Shanley's finely shaded script -- based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play -- takes audiences through a spectrum of truth, emotion and belief, and asks if any decision is ever free from doubt.
Director: John Patrick Shanley. Stars: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 104 min., Drama, Box office gross: $32.440 million, Miramax. Available: 4/7.
Superb screen adaptation of Peter Morgan's play about the electrifying battle between Richard Nixon, the disgraced president with a legacy to save, and David Frost, a jet-setting television personality with a name to make, in the story of the historic encounter that changed both. Reprising their roles from Morgan's stageplay are Frank Langella, who won a Tony for his portrayal of Nixon, and Michael Sheen, who fully inhabited the part of Frost onstage in London and New York. For three years after being forced from office, Nixon remained silent. But in summer 1977, the steely, cunning former commander-in-chief agreed to sit for one all-inclusive interview to confront the questions of his time in office and the Watergate scandal that ended his presidency. Nixon surprised everyone in selecting Frost as his televised confessor, intending to easily outfox the breezy British showman and secure a place in the hearts and minds of Americans. Likewise, Frost's team harbored doubts about their boss' ability to hold his own. But as cameras rolled, a charged battle of wits resulted. Would Nixon evade questions of his role in one of the nation's greatest disgraces? Or would Frost confound critics and bravely demand accountability from the man who'd built a career out of stonewalling? Over the course of their encounter, each man would reveal his own insecurities, ego and reserves of dignity -- ultimately setting aside posturing in a stunning display of unvarnished truth. "Frost/Nixon" not only re-creates the on-air interview, but the weeks of around-the-world, behind-the-scenes maneuvering between the two men and their camps as negotiations were struck, deals were made and secrets revealed ... all leading to the moment when they would sit facing one another in the court of public opinion.
Director: Ron Howard. Stars: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt, Toby Jones, Matthew Macfadyen, Jim Meskimen, Patty McCormack. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 122 min., Drama, Box office gross: $15.7 million, Universal. Available: 4/21.
HOTEL FOR DOGS
When their new guardians forbid 16-year old Andi and her younger brother Bruce to have a pet, Andi has to use her quick wit to help find a new home for their dog, Friday. The resourceful kids stumble upon an abandoned hotel and using Bruce's talents as a mechanical genius, transform it into a magical dog-paradise for Friday -- and eventually for all Friday's friends. When barking dogs make the neighbors suspicious, Andi and Bruce use every invention they have to avoid anyone discovering "who let the dogs in."
Director: Thor Freudenthal. Stars: Don Cheadle, Emma Roberts, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon, Johnny Simmons, Troy Gentile, Robinne Lee. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 100 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $71,353 million, DreamWorks/Paramount. Available: 4/28.
NOT EASILY BROKEN
After many years of marriage, a couple's affection for each other is severely tested by life. After a car accident temporarily sidelines Clarice, the pair must come to grips with physical temptations, financial pressures and emotional challenges that threaten their love for each other. Ultimately they must determine whether or not their vows are easily broken. Based on the inspirational best-selling novel by T.D. Jakes.
Director: Bill Duke. Stars: Morris Chestnut, Taraji P. Henson, Maeve Quinlan, Cannon Jay, Kevin Hart, Jenifer Lewis.. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 90 min., Drama, Box office gross: $10.572 million, Sony. Available: 4/7.
The life and death of one of hip-hop's most powerful and iconic MCs is captured in this biodrama. Chronicles the life of Christopher "The Notorious B.I.G." Wallace, following the young rapper from the tough streets of Brooklyn to the heights of superstardom as he juggles the increasing demands of fatherhood, marriage and a music career. Amid chaos and controversy, Biggie?s remarkable talent and fierce determination help to solidify his legacy as one of hip-hop?s greatest MCs. Wallace went from Brooklyn street hustler to one of the greatest rappers of all time, refusing to succumb to expectations and redefining the notion of "The American Dream." Twelve years since the rapper?s unfortunate death, the film follows his meteoric rise to fame and provides a rare glimpse at a different side of the acclaimed artist -- from his surprising youth as a Catholic school honor student, to an imprisoned drug dealer, to hip-hop sensation. Also uncovers the complicated relationships in the rapper?s life, including protege Kimberly "Lil' Kim" Jones, wife-and-R&B singer Faith Evans and long-time friend-turned-rival Tupac Shakur.
Director: George Tillman Jr.. Stars: Jamal Woolard, Angela Bassett, Derek Luke, Anthony Mackie, Antonique Smith, Naturi Naughton, Dennis White, Julia Pace Mitchell. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 122 min., Biodrama, Box office gross: $36.827 million, Fox. Available:4/21.
Deeply moving film opens in post-WWII Germany, when teenager Michael Berg becomes ill and is helped home by Hanna, a stranger twice his age. Michael recovers from scarlet fever and seeks out Hanna to thank her. The two are quickly drawn into a passionate but secretive affair. Michael discovers that Hanna loves being read to and their physical relationship deepens. Hanna is enthralled as Michael reads to her from "The Odyssey," "Huck Finn" and "The Lady With the Little Dog."? Despite their intense bond, Hanna mysteriously disappears one day and Michael is left confused and heartbroken. Eight years later, while Michael is a law student observing the Nazi war crime trials, he is stunned to find Hanna back in his life -- this time as a defendant in the courtroom. As Hanna?s past is revealed, Michael uncovers a deep secret that will impact both of their lives. "The Reader" is a haunting story about truth and reconciliation, about how one generation comes to terms with the crimes of another.
Director: Stephen Daldry. Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Kate Winslet, Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Linda Bassett, David Kross, Karoline Herfurth, Jeanette Hain. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 123 min., Drama, Box office gross: $19.0 million, The Weinstein Co. Available: 4/14.
Adapted from the legendary comic strip. Classic story of a former rookie cop who returns mysteriously from the dead as the "Spirit" (Gabriel Macht) to fight crime from the shadows of Central City. His arch-enemy, the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) has a different mission: he's going to wipe out Spirit's beloved city as he pursues his own version of immortality. The Spirit tracks this cold-hearted killer from Central City's rundown warehouses, to the damp catacombs, to the windswept waterfront ... all the while facing a bevy of beautiful women who either want to seduce, love or kill the masked crusader. Surrounding him at every turn are Ellen Dolan (Sarah Paulson), the whip-smart girl-next-door; Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson), a punk secretary and frigid vixen; Plaster of Paris (Paz Vega), a murderous French nightclub dancer; Lorelei (Jaime King), a phantom siren; and Morgenstern (Stana Katic), a sexy young cop. Then of course, there's Sand Saref (Eva Mendes), the jewel thief with dangerous curves. She's the love of his life turned bad. Will he save her or will she kill him?
Director: Frank Miller. Stars: Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendes, Paz Vega, Jaime King, Sarah Paulson, Stana Katic, Johnny Simmons. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 108 min., Action Adventure, Box office gross: $10.8 million, Lionsgate. Available: 4/14.
TALE OF DESPEREAUX, THE
Once upon a time ... in the far away kingdom of Dor ... lived a brave and virtuous mouse with comically oversized ears who dreamt of becoming a knight. Banished from his home for having such lofty ambitions, Despereaux sets off on an amazing adventure with his good-hearted rat friend, Roscuro, who leads him, at long last, on a very noble quest to rescue an endangered princess and save an entire kingdom from darkness. Based on Kate DiCamillo's 2003 book, which spent 96 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
Director: Sam Fell, Rob Stevenhagen. Stars: Voices of Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson, Tracey Ullman, Kevin Kline, William H. Macy, Stanley Tucci, Ciaran Hinds, Robbie Coltrane, Tony Hale, Frances Conroy, Frank Langella, Richard Jenkins, Christopher Lloyd, Sigourney Weaver. 2008, CC, MPAA rating:G, 94 min., Animated, Box office gross: $50.818 million, Universal. Available: 4/7.
Filmmaking duo Thomas and Charles Guard make their feature directorial debuts as the co-directors of this remake of Kim Jee-woon's 2003 Korean film "A Tale of Two Sisters." "The Uninvited" tells the story of a young girl named Anna (Emily Browning), who was admitted into a mental hospital following the death of her biological mother. Returning home some time later, Anna is shocked to discover that her father (David Strathairn) has recently gotten engaged to Rachel (Elisabeth Banks), her mother's former nurse. Anna's suspicions about Rachel are soon confirmed when her mother reaches out from the beyond to deliver a stark warning, prompting the young girl and her sister (Arielle Kebbel) to try and convince their father that Rachel is not who she appears to be. As the situation in the once-peaceful household rapidly begins to deteriorate, Rachel's true colors finally begin boiling to the surface.
Director: Thomas Guard, Charles Guard. Stars: Elizabeth Banks, David Strathairn, Arielle Kebbel, Emily Browning. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 87 min., Horror, Box office gross: $25.990 million, Paramount. Available: 4/28.
Mickey Rourke gives the performance of a lifetime as pro wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a former superstar now paying the price for 20 years of grueling punishment in and out of the ring. Desperate to hold on to the fame and glory that once surrounded him, and despite himself and the odds stacked against him, "The Ram" begins to evaluate his state of life, attempting to reconnect with his estranged daughter and striking up a relationship with an exotic dancer with troubles of her own. Bruised and battered both inside and outside the ring, Randy slowly tries to piece together the life he still has; but the thrill of the show and the passion for his art threatens to take it all away from him once again. He decides to risk everything to prove he has one more match left in him: a re-staging of his famous Madison Square Garden bout against "The Ayatollah."
Director: Darren Aronofsky. Stars: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Mark Margolis, Todd Barry, Wass Stevens, Judah Friedlander, Ernest Miller. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 109 min., Drama, Box office gross: $21.578 million, Fox. Available: 4/21.
Jim Carrey stars as Carl Allen, a man who signs up for a self-help program based on one simple principle: say yes to everything .. .and anything. At first, unleashing the power of "yes" transforms Carl?s life in amazing and unexpected ways, but he soon discovers that opening up his life to endless possibilities can have its drawbacks.
TELL NO ONE
Based on Harlan Coben's International best-selling thriller, "Tell No One" tells the story of pediatrician Alexandre Beck who still grieves the murder of his beloved wife, Margot, eight years earlier. When two bodies are uncovered near where Margot's body was found, the police reopen the case and Alex becomes a suspect in his wife's disappearance. The mystery deepens when Alex receives an anonymous e-mail with a message to "Tell No One" and a link to a video clip that seems to suggest Margot is somehow still alive.
Director: Guillaume Canet. Stars: Kristin Scott-Thomas, Francois Cluzet, Marie-Josee Croze, Andre Dussollier, Francois Berleand, Nathalie Baye, Jean Rochefort, Marina Hands. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: NR, 125 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $6.125 million, Music Box Films/MPI Home Video. Available: 3/31.
Jason Statham is back as the cult hero The Transporetr in this third entry in the action-packed series. Frank Martin has been pressured into transporting Valentina, the kidnapped daughter of Leonid Vasilev, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency for the Ukraine, from Marseilles through Stuttgart and Budapest until he ends up in Odessa on the Black Sea. Along the way, with the help of Inspector Tarconi, Frank has to contend with the people who strong armed him to take the job, agents sent by Vasilev to intercept him, and the general non-cooperation of his passenger. Despite Valentina's cynical disposition and his resistance to get involved, Frank and Valentina fall for each other, while escaping from one life-threatening situation after another.
Director: Olivier Megaton. Stars: Jason Statham, Robert Knepper, Francois Berleand, Natalya Rudakova, Jeroen Krabbe, Alex Kobold, David Atrakchi, Eriq Ebouaney. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 200 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $31.316 million, Lionsgate. Available: 3/10.
Pop culture and worldwide literary phenomenon "Twilight," a postmodern supernatural "Romeo and Juliet" for the tween and teen set, took in an estimated $181 million domestically and about $300 million worldwide at the theatrical boxoffice, setting the stage for hotly-anticipated film adaptations of the rest of best-selling author Stephenie Meyer’s four-part vampire saga. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) has always been a little bit different, never caring about fitting in with the trendy girls at her Phoenix high school. When her mother re-marries and sends Bella to live with her father in the rainy little town of Forks, Washington, she doesn’t expect much of anything to change. Then she meets the mysterious and dazzlingly beautiful Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a boy unlike any she’s ever met: Edward is a vampire. But he doesn’t have fangs (that's only in the movies, after all) and his family is unique in that they choose not to drink human blood. Intelligent and witty, Edward sees straight into Bella’s soul. Soon, they are swept up in a passionate, thrilling and unorthodox romance. To Edward, Bella is what he has waited 90 years for -- a soul mate. But the closer they get, the more Edward must struggle to resist the primal pull of her scent, which could send him into an uncontrollable frenzy. And what will they do when Laurent and James, the Cullens' mortal vampire enemies, come to town, looking for trouble?
Director: Catherine Hardwicke. Stars: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Nikki Reed, Ashley Greene), Jackson Rathbone), Kellan Lutz, Cam Gigandet, Edi Gathegi, Rachelle Lefevre. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 122 min., Romantic thriller, Box office gross: $181.448 million, Summit Entertainment. Available: 3/21.
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, 2009