OnVideo: AUGUST's Top Movies
THE CONSPIRATORIn the wake of the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865, a country mourns its leader, and eight people are charged with conspiring to kill the president, vice president and Secretary of State. The lone woman accused, Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), owns the boarding house where the attack was planned. Faced with a certain death, Surratt's only hope comes in the form of a newly minted lawyer and Union war hero, Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy), who reluctantly agrees to defend Surratt before a military tribunal. As the courtroom trial unfolds, Aiken realizes his client may be innocent and that she is being used as bait in order to capture the only conspirator to have escaped a massive manhunt, her son (Johnny Simmons).
Director: Robert Redford. Stars: James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, Evan Rachel Wood, Danny Huston, Justin Long, Colm Meaney, Tom Wilkinson, Alexis Bledel, Johnny Simmons. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 122 min., Drama, Box office gross: $11.521 million, Lionsgate. Available: 8/16.
EXPORTING RAYMONDPhil Rosenthal, the Emmy Award-winning creator of "Everybody Loves Raymond," takes a journey halfway around the world to detail his struggle to make one of America's favorite sitcoms a successful Russian TV series. Rosenthal, who created one of the most successful sitcoms of all time, was a bona-fide expert in his craft. And then ... the Russians called. In "Exporting Raymond," a very funny comedy that could only exist in real life, Rosenthal travels to Russia to help adapt his beloved sitcom for Russian television. The Russians don't share his tastes. They don't seem to share his sense of humor. But what Rosenthal does discover is a real comedy, filled with unique characters and situations that have to be seen to be believed. An audience award winner at festivals all across the country, the film proves that even if you've never seen "Everybody Loves Raymond," you'll still enjoy this wildly entertaining film.
HOODWINKED TOO! HOOD VS. EVILMore fractured fairy tales and pop culture comic riffs in this sequel to "Hoodwinked," which was based on "Red Riding Hood." "Hoodwinked Too!" finds heroine Red (Hayden Panettiere), training with a mysterious covert group called the Sisters of the Hood. But Red is forced to cut her training short when she gets an urgent call from Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers), the head of the super secret Happily Ever After Agency, aka the HEA. A wicked witch (Joan Cusack) has abducted two innocent children, Hansel (Bill Hader) and Gretel (Amy Poehler), and Nicky needs the whole Hoodwinked gang -- Red, Granny (Glenn Close), the ever-clueless Wolf (Patrick Warburton) and his over-caffeinated little partner, Twitchy (Cory Edwards) -- for the search and rescue mission.
Director: Mike Disa. Stars: Voices of Hayden Panettiere, Glenn Close, Joan Cusack, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Patrick Warburton, David Alan Grier, Andy Dick, Brad Garrett, Martin Short, Heidi Klum, Wayne Newton, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 87 min., Animated, Box office gross: $8.562 million, The Weinstein Co./Anchor Bay. Available: 8/16.
IN A BETTER WORLDAnton is a doctor who commutes between his home in an idyllic town in Denmark, and his work at an African refugee camp. In these two very different worlds, he and his family are faced with conflicts that lead them to difficult choices between revenge and forgiveness. Anton and his wife Marianne, who have two young sons, are separated and struggling with the possibility of divorce. Their older, 10-year-old son Elias is being bullied at school, until he is defended by Christian, a new boy who has just moved from London with his father, Claus. Christian's mother recently lost her battle with cancer, and Christian is greatly troubled by her death. Elias and Christian quickly form a strong bond, but when Christian involves Elias in a dangerous act of revenge with potentially tragic consequences, their friendship is tested and lives are put in danger. Ultimately, it is their parents who are left to help them come to terms with the complexity of human emotions, pain and empathy. Winner of this year's Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Foreign-language Film. In Danish with English subtitles.
Director: Susanne Bier. Stars: Mikael Persbrandt, Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen, Markus Rygaard, William Johnk Nielsen. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: R, 116 min., Drama, Box office gross: $.882 million, Sony. Available: 8/30.
JANE EYREThe classic 1847 novel jumps off the screen in this delightful version that is at once scary and sweet. Told in flashback form, this Jane Eyre follows the orphan's travails as, despised by her aunt and eventually sent off to a charity girl's school, she puts up with horrible conditions, finally leaving to procure a job as a governess for wealthy Edward Rochester. But complications arise as she falls in love with her master, only to be devastated when her marriage to him is prevented by a horrible secret, forcing her to act decisively to secure her own future and come to terms with her own past. Mia Wasikowska is a perfect Jane Eyre -- not overly pretty but still striking in her looks and demeanor; she pulls you into her character as you feel her pain and discomfort -- and stoicness. And Michael Fassbender scores well as the troubled Rochester. An auspciouis outing for director Cary Fukunaga. If you thought there were already two many 'Jane Eyres' out there, you'd be wrong.
Director: Cary Fukunaga. Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench, Jamie Bell, Su Elliot, Imogen Poots, Sophie Ward. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 121 min., Drama, Box office gross: $10.867 million, Universal. Available: 8/16.
JUMPING THE BROOMThere's a collision of worlds when two African-American families from divergent socioeconomic backgrounds get together one weekend in Martha's Vineyard for a wedding. Will love be able to conquer all?
Director: Salim Akil. Stars: Angela Basset, Mike Epps, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, Loretta Devine, Julie Bowen. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 112 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $37.295 million, Sony. Available: 8/9.
MARS NEEDS MOMSTake out the trash, eat your broccoli -- who needs moms, anyway? Nine-year-old Milo (Seth Green) finds out just how much he needs his mom (Joan Cusack) when she's nabbed by Martians who plan to steal her mom-ness for their own young. Milo's quest to save his mom involves stowing away on a spaceship, navigating an elaborate, multi-level planet and taking on the alien nation and their leader (Mindy Sterling). With the help of a tech-savvy, underground Earthman named Gribble (Dan Fogler) and a rebel Martian girl called Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), Milo just might find his way back to his mom -- in more ways than one. Berkeley Breathed, a Pulitzer-Prize winner for his comic strip "Bloom County," is the author and illustrator of the book "Mars Needs Moms." The story was inspired by a particular moment of disagreement that took place between his son Milo and his wife. Producer-director Robert Zemeckis is a pioneer in performance-capture filmmaking. The process digitally captures the performances of the actors with computerized cameras in a full 360 degrees, allowing actors like Jim Carrey ("Disney's A Christmas Carol") and Tom Hanks to play several roles of varying ages ("Polar Express") in one film, and for 36-year-old Seth Green to portray a 9-year-old here.
Director: Simon Wells. Stars: Seth Green, Dan Fogler, Joan Cusack, Elisabeth Harnois, Mindy Sterling, Kevin Cahoon, Tom Everett Scott. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 88 min., Animated, Box office gross: $20.888 million, Disney. Available: 8/9.
MEET MONICA VELOURIn this irreverent comedy, awkward teenager Tobe (Dustin Ingram) sets off on a road trip to meet Monica Velour (Kim Cattrall), his favorite 80s porn star, at a rare live appearance hundreds of miles away. Instead of the glamorous sexpot portrayed on film, he finds a 49-year-old single mom living in a trailer in rural Indiana, performing at seedy strip clubs to make ends meet. But the starry-eyed Tobe, still captivated by his crush, befriends Monica, further complicating her difficult life in this offbeat love story that appeals to the dreamer -- and the nerd -- in all of us.
PAULTwo sci-fi geeks on a pilgrimage to America's UFO heartland accidentally encounter an alien who sends them on an insane road trip that alters their universe forever. For the past 60 years, an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) has been hanging out at a top-secret military base. For reasons unknown, the space-traveling smartass decides to escape the compound and hop on the first vehicle out of town -- a rented RV containing Earthlings Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost). Chased by federal agents and the fanatical father of a young woman they accidentally kidnap, Graeme and Clive hatch a fumbling escape plan to return Paul to his mother ship. As two nerds struggle to help, one little green man might just take his fellow outcasts from misfits to intergalactic heroes.
Director: Greg Mottola. Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen (the voice of Paul), Sigourney Weaver, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Jane Lynch, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio, Jeffrey Tambor, Blythe Danner. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: R, 104 min., Sci Fi Comedy, Box office gross: $37.371 million, Universal. Available: 8/9.
POM WONDERFUL PRESENTS: THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLDWe live in an age where it's tough even to walk down the street without someone trying to sell you something. It's at the point where practically the entire American experience is brought to us by some corporation. Using cutting-edge tools of comic exploration and total self exploitation, director-writer Morgan Spurlock dissects the world of advertising and marketing by using his personal integrity as currency to sell out to the highest bidder. Scathingly funny, subversive, and deceptively smart, "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" shines the definitive light on our branded future as Spurlock attempts to create the "Iron Man of documentaries," the first ever "docbuster."
PRIESTA post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller set in an alternate world -- one ravaged by centuries of war between man and vampires. The story revolves around a legendary Warrior Priest from the last Vampire War who now lives in obscurity among the other downtrodden human inhabitants in walled-in dystopian cities ruled by the Church. When his niece is abducted by a murderous pack of vampires, Priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out on a quest to find her before they turn her into one of them. He is joined on his crusade by his niece's boyfriend, a trigger-fingered young wasteland sheriff, and a former Warrior Priestess who possesses otherworldly fighting skills.
Director: Scott Stewart. Stars: Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Lily Collins, Karl Urban, Christopher Plummer, Stephen Moyer. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 88 min., Sci Fi Horror, Box office gross: $28.707 million, Sony. Available: 8/16.
PROMAt the prom, every couple has a story and no two are exactly alike. Several intersecting stories unfold at one high school as the big dance approaches; the film portrays the precarious passage from high school to independence as some relationships unravel and others ignite. For Nova Prescott (Aimee Teegarden), it's a battle of wills as she finds herself drawn to the guy (Thomas McDonell) who gets in the way of her perfect prom. Fellow seniors Mei (Yin Chang) and Tyler (DeVaughn Nixon) harbor secrets, while others face all the insecurity and anticipation that surrounds one of high school's most seminal events. There are hundreds of nights in high school, but there's only one prom.
Director: Joe Nussbaum. Stars: Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell, DeVaughn Nixon, Danielle Campbell, Yin Chang. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 103 min., Teen Comedy, Box office gross: $10.019 million, Disney. Available: 8/30.
RIOCaptured as a young bird from the wild, Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) is a domesticated Spix Macaw living thousands of miles away from his homeland, Brazil. When his human owner Linda (Leslie Mann) discovers that he is the last male of his kind, they head south to Rio de Janeiro to meet the only other female. But it's far from love at first sight between the socially-awkward, flight-challenged Blu and the fiercely independent, high-flying female, Jewel (Anne Hathaway). Shortly after Blu's arrival, the two rare birds are captured by greedy animal smugglers and find themselves lost in the Brazilian rainforest. With the help of street smart Jewel, and a group of wise-cracking and smooth-talking city birds, Blu escapes. Now, with his new friends by his side, Blu will have to find the courage to learn to fly, thwart the kidnappers who are hot on their trail, and return to Linda, the best friend a bird ever had.
Director: Carlos Saldanha. Stars: Voices of Leslie Mann, Kelly Keaton, Jesse Eisenberg, Wanda Sykes, Jane Lynch, Jamie Foxx, will.i.am, Anne Hathaway. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: G, 95 min., Animated, Box office gross: $137.781 million, Fox. Available: 8/2.
SOMETHING BORROWEDRachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a talented attorney at a top New York law firm, a generous and loyal friend, and, unhappily, still single -- as her engaged best friend Darcy (Kate Hudson) is constantly reminding her. But after celebrating her 30th birthday, perpetual good girl Rachel unexpectedly ends up in the arms of the guy she's had a crush on since law school, Dex (Colin Egglesfield) ... who just happens to be Darcy's fiance. As one thing leads to another in the frantic weeks leading up to Darcy's wedding, Rachel finds herself in an impossible situation, caught between her treasured friendship with Darcy and the love of her life. Meanwhile, Ethan (John Krasinski), Rachel's constant confidante and sometimes conscience, is busy evading the affection of Darcy's hopelessly love-struck friend Claire (Ashley Williams) while harboring a secret crush of his own; and the charming and irrepressible Marcus (Steve Howey) has designs on Rachel that don't necessarily exclude any other woman who catches his eye.
Director: Luke Greenfield. Stars: Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin, John Krasinski, Colin Egglesfield, Steve Howey, Ashley Williams. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 103 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $38.438 million, Warner. Available: 8/16.
SOUL SURFERThe incredible true story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb), who lost her arm in a shark attack and courageously overcame all odds to become a champion again, through her sheer determination and unwavering faith. In the wake of this life-changing event that took her arm and nearly her life, Bethany's feisty determination and steadfast beliefs spur her toward an adventurous comeback that gives her the grit to turn her loss into a gift for others. Bethany Hamilton was born to surf. A natural talent who took to the waves at a young age, she was leading an idyllic, sun-drenched, surfer girl's life on the Kauai Coast, competing in national competitions with her best friend Alana (Lorraine Nicholson), when everything changed in a heartbeat. On Halloween morning, Bethany was on a typical ocean outing when a 14-foot tiger shark came out of nowhere and seemed to shatter all her dreams. Strengthened by the love of her parents, Tom (Dennis Quaid) and Cheri (Helen Hunt), she refused to give in or give up, and began a bold return to the water.
Director: Sean McNamara. Stars: AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Carrie Underwood, Kevin Sorbo, Lorraine Nicholson. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 106 min., Drama, Box office gross: $40.610 million, Sony. Available: 8/2 .
STAKE LANDAmerica is a lost nation. When an epidemic of vampirism strikes, humans find themselves on the run from vicious, feral beasts. Cities are tombs and survivors cling together in rural pockets, fearful of nightfall. When his family is slaughtered, young Martin ("Gossip Girl's" Connor Paolo) is taken under the wing of a grizzled survivalist (Nick Damici, who co-wrote the screenplay). Simply known as Mister, the vampire stalker takes Martin on a journey through the locked-down towns of America's heartland, searching for a better place (New Eden, in Canada) while taking down any bloodsuckers that cross their path. Along the way they recruit fellow travellers, including a nun (Kelly McGillis) who is caught in a crisis of faith when her followers turn into ravenous beasts, and a pregnant young woman (Danielle Harris). This ragtag family unit cautiously moves north, avoiding major thoroughfares that have been seized by The Brethren, a fundamentalist militia headed by Jebedia Loven (Michael Cerveris), that interprets the plague as the Lord's work. This is a vampire film with a heart and a soul: Despite its straight-ahead vampire killing action, there's plenty of time for characterization and the development of subthemes; director Jim Mickle and Damici work in thoughtful conversations and ideas about loneliness, teamwork, freedom and family. In fact, the film revolves around the nuclear family of sorts: the survivalist, who takes the young man under his wing and becomes his surrogate father, teaching him the ways of the world; the motherly nun; and the pregnant girl. It's a stylish, moody, trippy coming-of-age story with a stake in its hand.
Director: Jim Mickle. Stars: Connor Paolo, Nick Damici, Kelly McGillis, Michael Cerveris, Danielle Harris. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: R, 96 min., Horror Thriller, Box office gross: $.018 million, Dark Sky Films/MPI Media Group. Available: 8/2.
TYLER PERRY'S MADEA'S BIG HAPPY FAMILYWhen Madea's niece, Shirley, receives distressing news about her health, all she wants is to gather her three adult children around her and share the news as a family. But Tammy, Kimberly and Byron are too distracted by their own problems: Tammy can't manage her unruly children or her broken marriage; Kimberly is gripped with anger and takes it out on her husband; and Byron, after spending two years in jail, is under pressure to deal drugs again. It's up to Madea, with the help of the equally rambunctious Aunt Bam, to gather the clan together and make things right the only way she knows how: With a lot of tough love, laughter -- and the revelation of a long-buried family secret.
Director: Tyler Perry. Stars: Tyler Perry, Loretta Devine, Cassi Davis, Isaiah Mustafa, Bow Wow, Natalie Desselle, Rodney Perry, David Mann, Shannon Kane, Lauren London, Nicholas Milton. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 105 min., Comedy-Drama, Box office gross: $52.8 million, Lionsgate. Available: 8/30.
WIN WINStruggling attorney Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach, becomes the legal guardian of an elderly client in a shady attempt to help keep his practice afloat. When the client's teenage grandson -- a wrestling champ -- runs away from home and shows up on his grandfather's doorstep, Mike puts him on the wrestling team. Just as it looks like he will get a double payday, the boy's mother shows up fresh from rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything.
Director: Tom McCarthy. Stars: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor, Burt Young, Melanie Lynskey, Alex Shaffer. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 106 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $10.123 million, Fox. Available: 8/23.
YOUR HIGHNESSThroughout history, tales of chivalry have burnished the legends of brave, handsome knights who rescue fair damsels, slay dragons and conquer evil. But behind many a hero is a good-for-nothing younger brother trying just to stay out of the way of those dragons, evil and trouble in general. Thadeous (Danny McBride) has spent his life watching his perfect older brother Fabious (James Franco) embark upon valiant journeys and win the hearts of his people. Tired of being passed over for adventure, adoration and the throne, he's settled for a life of wizard's weed, hard booze and easy maidens. But when Fabious' bride-to-be, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), gets kidnapped by the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux), the king gives his deadbeat son an ultimatum: Man up and help rescue her or get cut off. Half-assedly embarking upon his first quest, Thadeous joins Fabious to trek across the perilous outlands and free the princess. Joined by Isabel (Natalie Portman -- an elusive warrior with a dangerous agenda of her own -- the brothers must vanquish horrific creatures and traitorous knights before they can reach Belladonna. If Thadeous can find his inner hero, he can help his brother prevent the destruction of his land. Stay a slacker, and not only does he die a coward, he gets front row seats to the dawn of an all-new Dark Ages.
Director: Gordon Green. Stars: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Justin Theroux, Zooey Deschanel. 2010, CC, MPAA rating: R, 93 min., Action-Comedy, Box office gross: $21.557 million, Universal. Available: 8/9.
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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August 1, 2011