It's the summer of 1987, and James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), an uptight college grad, can't wait to embark on his dream tour of Europe. But when his parents (Wendie Malick, Jack Gilpin) announce they can no longer subsidize his trip, James has little choice but to take a lowly job at a local amusement park. Forget about German beer, world-famous museums and cute French girls -- James' summer will now be populated by belligerent dads, stuffed pandas, and screaming kids high on cotton candy. Lucky for James, what should have been his worst summer ever turns into quite an adventure as he discovers love in the most unlikely place with his captivating co-worker Em (Kristen Stewart), and learns to loosen up. Features a vintage soundtrack with great '80s pop songs by iconic music acts of the era, including The Cure, David Bowie, Crowded House, INXS, Lou Reed and more.
Director: Greg Mottola. Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Wendie Malick, Jack Gilpin, Martin Starr, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Reynolds. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 107 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $16.025 million, Miramax. Available: 8/25.
Remarkable docu-drama that focuses on a multi-ethnic, inner city middle school in Paris and tackles universal themes such as race, truth, individual relations and social problems. "The Class" follows the year in the life of a French schoolteacher (Francois Begaudeau, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Laurent Cantet from Begaudeau's best-selling novel) working at a high school in a tough neighborhood in Paris. Cultures and attitudes often clash in the classroom. As amusing and inspiring as the teenage students can be, their difficult behavior can still jeopardize any teacher's enthusiasm for the low-paying job, although Francois insists on an atmosphere of respect and diligence. Neither stuffy nor severe, his frankness often takes the students by surprise. But his classroom ethics are put to the test when his students begin to challenge his methods.
Director: Laurent Cantet. Stars: Francois Begaudeau, Nassim Amrabt, Laura Baquela, Cherif Bounadja Rachedi. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 128 min., Drama, Box office gross: $3.758 million, Sony. Available: 8/4.
Julia Roberts and Clive Owen star as spies-turned-corporate operatives who are having a clandestine love affair. When they find themselves embroiled in a high-stakes espionage game, they discover the toughest part of the job is deciding how much to trust the one you love. CIA officer Claire Stenwick (Roberts) and MI6 agent Ray Koval (Owen) have left the world of government intelligence to cash in on the highly profitable cold war raging between two rival multinational corporations. Their mission? Secure the formula for a product that will bring a fortune to the company that patents it first. For their employers -- industry Titan Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson) and buccaneer CEO Dick Garsik (Paul Giamatti) -- nothing is out of bounds. But as the stakes rise, the mystery deepens and the tactics get dirtier, the trickiest secret for Claire and Ray is their growing attraction. And as they each try to stay one double-cross ahead, two career loners find their schemes endangered by the only thing they can't cheat their way out of: love. Ultimately uninvolving outing despite (or because of) plot twists and turns and weak acting; not nearly up to director Tony Gilroy's 2007 "Michael Clayton."
Director: Tony Gilroy. Stars: Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Billy Bob Thornton, Tom Wilkinson, Paul Giamatti. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 125 min., Romantic Thriller, Box office gross: $40.559 million, Universal. Available: 8/25.
Gritty story of a small town boy who becomes a street fighting star in New York City's underground circuit. Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum) knows firsthand that every day in New York City is a struggle to survive. So when scam artist Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard) gives him a chance to be something more in the brutal underground world of bare-knuckle street-fighting, Shawn decides that he has something worth fighting for and puts everything on the line to win. Every knockout brings him closer to the life he's always wanted, but also traps him in a dangerous web he can't escape.
Director: Dito Montiel. Stars: Channing Tatum, Terrance Howard, Zulay Henao, Luis Guzman. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 105 min., Action, Box office gross: $23.036 million, Universal. Available: 8/25.
HANNAH MONTANA THE MOVIE
Teen superstar Miley Cyrus brings her popular Disney Channel character to the big screen. Being a superstar as well as a normal teenager is getting even more complicated for Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus). Her crazy double life as pop sensation Hannah Montana is taking its toll on the teen and her family. So Miley's dad, Robby Ray Stewart (Miley's real-life father, Billy Ray Cyrus) decides a visit to the family farm in Tennessee to celebrate Grandma Ruby's (Margo Martindale) birthday will bring his little girl back down to earth. Far away from the bright lights and the big city, Miley reconnects with childhood friend Travis (Lucas Till). Their budding romance, along with the love of her family and friends, gives Miley some much-needed perspective on life. But when her pushy publicist (Vanessa Williams) comes calling and a smarmy reporter tries to dig up the dirt on Hannah, Miley is forced to make the hardest decision of her life.
Director:. Stars: Miley Cyrus, Lucas Till, Emily Osment, Moises Arias, Mitchel Musso, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jason Earles, Vanessa Williams. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: G, 102 min., Family, Box office gross: $78.158 million, Disney. Available: 8/18.
I LOVE YOU, MAN
Successful real estate agent Peter (Paul Rudd), upon getting engaged to the woman of his dreams, Zooey (Rashida Jones), discovers, to his dismay that he has no male friend close enough to serve as his best man. He immediately sets out to rectify the situation, embarking on a series of bizarre and awkward "man-dates," before meeting Sydney Fife (Jason Segel), a charming, opinionated man with whom he instantly bonds. But the closer the two men get, the more Peter's relationship with Zooey suffers, ultimately forcing him to choose between his fiancee and his new found "bro"
LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT
Legendary masters of horror Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham (here as producers) revisit the landmark film that launched Craven's directing career and influenced decades of horror films to follow. Bringing one of the most notorious thrillers of all time to a new generation, they've re-imagined the story that explores how far two ordinary people will go to exact revenge on the sociopaths who harmed their child. After kidnapping and ruthlessly assaulting two teen girls, a sadistic killer and his gang unknowingly find shelter from a storm at the home of one of the victim's parents -- two ordinary people who will go to increasingly gruesome extremes to get revenge.
Director: Dennis Iliadis. Stars: Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Sara Paxton, Garret Dillahunt, Martha MacIsaac, Riki Lindhome. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 110 min., Horror, Box office gross: $32.721 million, Universal. Available: 8/18.
Derek Charles (Idris Elba), a successful asset manager who has just received a huge promotion, is blissfully happy in his career and in his marriage to the beautiful Sharon (Beyonce Knowles). But when Lisa (Ali Larter), a temp worker, starts stalking Derek, all the things he's worked so hard for are placed in jeopardy.
Director: Steve Shill. Stars: Idris Elba, Beyonce Knowles, Ali Larter, Bruce McGill, Jerry O'Connell, Christine Lahti. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 91 min., Drama, Box office gross: $67.637 million, Sony. Available: 8/4.
One of the best films of the year -- a romantic, intelligent gem of an outing. And it sings and dances!!! Set in a suburb of northeast Paris between December 1935 and July 1936 during the "revolutionary" period of the Popular Front (which introduced the first paid holidays and a shorter working week), "Paris 36" follows three unemployed performers -- Pigoil the veteran stage hand (Gerard Jugnot), Milou the hot-tempered electrician (Clovis Cornillac) and Jacky the man of many talents (Kad Merad) -- who decide to reestablish their beloved music hall to its former glory. Business is slow until they hire a beautiful young singer with a remarkable voice named Douce (Nora Arnezeder) who holds the key to their success. Inspired by Busby Berekeley musicals, vaudevilles and cabarets, "Paris 36" is a true musical treat. In French with English subtitles.
Director: Christophe Barratier. Stars: Gerard Jugnot, Nora Arnezeder, Clovis Cornillac, Kad Merad. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 120 min., Musical, Box office gross: $xx.xx million, Sony. Available: 8/11.
RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN
Walt Disney Pictures resurrects one of their time-honored franchises with "Race to Witch Mountain," a family film that tells the story of two children with psychic abilities just trying to get back home. When a Las Vegas cab driver (Dwayne Johnson) finds two teens (AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig) in his cab, he doesn't believe their claim that they're aliens from another planet ... until they use their fantastic powers. They need to get back to their crashed spaceship at Witch Mountain to save the world from an alien invasion. So the race begins, as the government, mobsters and extraterrestrials try to stop them. The original 1975 "Escape to Witch Mountain" was followed by the sequel "Return From Witch Mountain" as well as a 1995 made-for-TV remake.
Director: Andy Fickman. Stars: Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Carla Gugino, Ciaran Hinds, Alexander Ludwig, Tom Everett Scott, Christopher Marquette, Cheech Marin and Garry Marshall. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 99 min., Action, Box office gross: $65.814 million, Disney. Available: 8/4.
What would you do if you got a second shot at life? Mike O'Donnell, class of 1989, is a star on his high school basketball court with a college scout in the stands and a bright future in his grasp. But instead, he decides to throw it all away to share his life with his girlfriend Scarlett and the baby he just learned they are expecting. Almost 20 years later, Mike's glory days are decidedly behind him. His marriage to Scarlett has fallen apart, he's been passed over for a promotion at work, his teenage kids think he's a loser, and he's been reduced to crashing with his high school nerd-turned-techno-billionaire best friend Ned. But Mike is given another chance when he is miraculously transformed back to the age of 17. Unfortunately, Mike may look 17 again, but his thirtysomething outlook is totally uncool in the class of 2009. High school presents a lot of new challenges for him, such as dressing cool, keeping up with the latest gadgets and making new friends. But nothing compares to being in high school with his own children. He discovers that his daughter is not nearly as innocent as he thought she was and his son is the brunt of the star athlete's jokes. Through his experiences, Mike realizes that he had chosen the perfect life -- he just never appreciated it. Now, he must figure out a way to transform back into his older self and won back his wife and kids.
Director: Burr Steers. Stars: Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Sterling Knight, Melora Hardin. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 102 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $61.605 million, New Line. Available: 8/11.
The true story of musical prodigy Nathaniel Ayers, who developed schizophrenia in his second year at Juilliard and ended up homeless on the streets of downtown L.A. Based on the best-selling book by Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez, the film is a moving and emotional story of the transformative power of friendship. When Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) discovers former classical music prodigy Nathaniel Anthony Ayers (Jamie Foxx) playing his violin on the streets of L.A., he endeavors to help the troubled genius find his way back. The film revolves around the unique bond that forms between the two men.
Director: Joe Wright. Stars: Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener, Tom Hollander, Lisa Gay Hamilton. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 116 min., Drama, Box office gross: $31.294 million, Paramount. Available: 8/4.
A single mom and her slacker sister find an unexpected way to turn their lives around in the off-beat dramatic comedy "Sunshine Cleaning." Once the high school cheerleading captain who dated the quarterback, Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) now finds herself a thirtysomething single mother working as a maid. Her sister Norah (Emily Blunt) is still living at home with their dad Joe (Alan Arkin), a salesman with a lifelong history of ill-fated get rich quick schemes. Desperate to get her son into a better school, Rose persuades Norah to go into the crime scene clean-up business with her to make some quick cash. In no time, the girls are up to their elbows in murders, suicides and other ... specialized situations. As they climb the ranks in a very dirty job, the sisters find a true respect for one another and the closeness they have always craved finally blossoms. By building their own improbable business, Rose and Norah open the door to the joys and challenges of being there for one another -- no matter what -- while creating a brighter future for the entire Lorkowski family.
Director: Christine Jeffs. Stars: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Steve Zahn, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Clifton Collins Jr., Jason Spevack. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 102 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $12.055 million, Overture Films/Anchor Bay Entertainment. Available: 8/25.
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, 2009