Eight French Christian monks live in harmony with their Muslim brothers in a monastery perched in the mountains of North Africa in the 1990s. When a crew of foreign workers is massacred by an Islamic fundamentalist group, fear sweeps through the region. The army offers them protection, but the monks refuse. Should they leave? Despite the growing menace in their midst, they slowly realize that they have no choice but to stay ... come what may. This film is loosely based on the life of the Cistercian monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996.
Vitals: Director: Xavier Beauvois. Stars: Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale.
2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 120 min., Drama, Box office gross: $3.556 million, Sony.
Legendary cult director Takashi Miike ('Ichi the Killer,' 'Audition') delivers a bravado action film set at the end of Japan's feudal era in which a brave group of elite samurai are enlisted to bring down a sadistic lord and his army to prevent him from ascending to the throne and plunging the country into a war-torn future. In the era of the Shogun, an evil young lord rapes and kills, assured of immunity by law. But he doesn't count on the Thirteen Assassins. A feared secret force, each with their own deadly skill, the Assassins undertake a suicide mission to wipe out the Lord. As the Lord embarks on a perilous journey, the Assassins close off his escape route and ambush him in a village of death. But little do they know that they are outnumbered four to one by the Lord's crack team of bodyguards.
Vitals: Director: Takashi Miike. Stars: Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya, Goro Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura.
2010, CC, MPAA rating: R, 141 min., Action, Box office gross: $.301 million, Magnolia Home Entertainment.
Hobo With a Shotgun
The winner of the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez SXSW Grindhouse Trailer Competition, "Hobo With a Shotgun" was transformed into a full-length horror thriller that won accolades as a double-barrelled killer of a film; it's the explosive tale of one man pushed to his bloody breaking point by the surrounding chaos and violence of the grotesque urban hell in which he lives. Synopsis: A train pulls into the station -- it's the end of the line. A Hobo (Rutget Hauer) jumps from a freight car, hoping for a fresh start in a new city. Instead, he finds himself trapped in an urban hell. This is a world where criminals rule the streets and Drake, the city's crime boss, reigns supreme alongside his sadistic murderous sons, Slick and Ivan. Amidst the chaos, the Hobo comes across a pawnshop window displaying a second hand lawn mower. He dreams of making the city a beautiful place and starting a new life for himself. But as the brutality continues to rage around him, he notices a shotgun hanging above the lawn mower. Quickly, he realizes the only way to make a difference in this town is with that gun in his hand and two shells in its chamber.
Vitals: Director: Jason Eisener. Stars: Rutger Hauer, Brian Downey, Molly Dunsworth, Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman, Jeremy Akerman.
2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 86 min., Horror-Thriller, Box office gross: $.672 million, Magnolia Home Entertainment.
The Lincoln Lawyer
Matthew McConaughey stars as Michael "Mick" Haller, a slick, charismatic Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who operates out of the back of his Lincoln Continental sedan. Having spent most of his career defending petty, gutter-variety criminals, Mick unexpectedly lands the case of a lifetime: Defending a rich Beverly Hills playboy (Ryan Phillippe) who is accused of attempted murder. What initially appears to be a straightforward case with a big money pay-off swiftly develops into a deadly match between two masters of manipulation and a crisis of conscience for Haller.
Vitals: Director: Brad Furman. Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Pena, Bob Gunton, Frances Fisher, Bryan Cranston, William H. Macy.
2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 119 min., Drama, Box office gross: $56.1 million, Lionsgate.
Terrifying story of a family who, shortly after moving, discover that dark spirits have possessed their home and that their son has inexplicably fallen into a coma. Trying to escape the haunting and save their son, they move again only to discover that it was not their house that was haunted.
Vitals: Director: James Wan. Stars: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Andrew Astor, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Ruben Pla, Heather Tocquigny, John Henry Binder.
2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 103 min., Horror, Box office gross: $52.4 million, Sony.
Story of a Palestinian girl coming of age amidst the war zone of the Israeli-Arab conflict -- unflinchingly told through the perspective of Miral (Pinto) herself. Following the death of her troubled mother, Miral's father is forced to entrust her to the orphanage of Hind Husseini. Hind's commitment to peace through education has a profound impact on the maturing young woman, and Miral's epic journey to self-esteem and social consciousness proves both harrowing and hopeful as she's torn between resistance and education as separate paths to political change.
Vitals: Director: Julian Schnabel. Stars: Freida Pinto, Hiam Abbass, Willem Dafoe, Vanessa Redgrave.
2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 112 min., Drama, Box office gross: $.371 million, The Weinstein Co./Anchor Bay.
An original animated comedy-adventure that takes moviegoers for a hilarious and heartfelt walk in the Wild West. The story follows the comical, transformative journey of Rango (Johhny Depp), a sheltered chameleon living as an ordinary family pet who accidentally gets separated from his owners and winds up in the gritty, gun-slinging town of Dirt -- a lawless outpost populated by the desert's most wily and whimsical creatures. The less-than-courageous lizard suddenly finds he stands out and is welcomed as the last hope the town has been waiting for: a new Sheriff to fend off the bad guys terrorizing the town. Rango is forced to play his new role to the hilt as he uncovers a nefarious scheme by a greedy landowner to control the town's water supply. In a blaze of action-packed situations and encounters with outrageous characters, Rango starts to become the hero he once only pretended to be. It'd kind of like 'Chinatown' meets 'The Lion King.' There's so many homages to Westerns that we don't even know how to begin to list them: "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," "High Plains Drifter," "High Noon" and "Cat Ballou" as well as nods to the aforementioned "Chinatown," "Apocalypse Now" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." And Hans Zimmer's score is a definite nod to Ennio Morricone.
Vitals: Director: Gore Verbinski. Stars: Voices of Johnny Depp, Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher, Alfred Molina, Ray Winstone, Harry Dean Stanton, Bill Nighy, Claudia Black, Alanna Ubach, Stephen Root, Beth Grant, Kym Whitley.
2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 107 min., Animated, Box office gross: $120.8 million, Paramount.
Lame re-imagining of the classic romantic comedy "Arthur." Irresponsible charmer Arthur Bach (Russell Brand) has always relied on two things to get by: his limitless fortune and the good sense of lifelong nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren) to keep him out of trouble. On the threshold of an arranged marriage with a simpering socialite whom he does not love, Arthur meets Naomi (Greta Gerwig) and falls head over heels. However, just as he begins to pursue a relationship with Linda, his father and iron-willed grandmother threaten to pull the plug on his huge inheritance if he doesn't honor his position in life and go through with his marriage. Now he faces his biggest challenge -- choosing between the arranged marriage that will ensure his lavish lifestyle or an uncertain future with the one thing money can't buy, the only woman he has ever loved. With Naomi's inspiration and some unconventional help from Hobson, Arthur will take the most expensive risk of his life and finally learn what it means to become a man.
Vitals: Director: Jason Winer. Stars: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, Jennifer Garner, Geraldine James, Luis Guzman, Nick Nolte.
2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 110 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $32.800 million, Warner.
Aspiring author Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is suffering from chronic writer's block, but his life changes instantly when an old friend introduces him to NZT, a revolutionary new pharmaceutical that allows him to tap his full potential. With every synapse crackling, Eddie can recall everything he has ever read, seen or heard, learn any language in a day, comprehend complex equations and beguile anyone he meets -- as long as he keeps taking the untested drug. Soon Eddie takes Wall Street by storm, parlaying a small stake into millions. His accomplishments catch the eye of mega-mogul Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), who invites him to help broker the largest merger in corporate history. But they also bring Eddie to the attention of people willing to do anything to get their hands on his stash of NZT. With his life in jeopardy and the drug's brutal side effects grinding him down, Eddie dodges mysterious stalkers, a vicious gangster and an intense police investigation as he attempts to hang on to his dwindling supply long enough to outwit his enemies.
Vitals: Director: Neil Burger. Stars: Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro.
2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 105 min., Sci-Fi Thriller, Box office gross: $77.563 million, Fox.
Set in 1977 in a provincial French town, "Potiche" is a witty and charming comedy starring Catherine Deneuve as Suzanne Pujol, a housebound "trophy housewife" (or "potiche") who steps in to manage the umbrella factory run by her tyrannical husband (Fabrice Luchini) after the workers go on strike and he gets ill. To everyone's surprise, Suzanne proves herself a competent and assertive woman of action. Gerard Depardieu plays a union leader and Suzanne's ex-beau who still holds a flame for her. A satirical and hilarious take on the war between the sexes and classes. In French with English subtitles.
Vitals: Director: Francois Ozon. Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard, Judith Godreche, Jeremie Renier, Sergi Lopez.
2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 103 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $1.611 million, Music Box Films.
Take Me Home Tonight
Recent MIT grad Matt Franklin should be working for a Fortune 500 company and starting his upward climb to full-fledged yuppie-hood. Instead, the directionless 23-year-old takes a part-time job behind the counter of a video store at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. But, Matt's silent protest against maturity comes to a screeching halt once his unrequited high school crush, Tori Frederking, walks into the store. When she invites him to an epic, end-of-summer party, Matt thinks he finally might have a chance with the girl of his dreams. With his cynical twin sister Wendy and best friend Barry, Matt embarks on a once-in-a-lifetime evening that will change the course of their lives on one unforgettable night in the Go-Go '80s. Vitals: Director: Michael Dowse. Stars: Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer, Chris Pratt, Michelle Trachtenberg, Michael Ian Black, Michael Biehn.
2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 98 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $6.7 million, Fox.
When soldier Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in the body of an unknown man, he discovers he's part of an experimental government program called the "Source Code" that enables him to cross over into another man's identity in the last eight minutes of his life. Armed with the task of identifying the bomber of a Chicago commuter train, Colter must re-live the incident over and over again, gathering clues until he can solve the mystery and prevent an even deadlier second terrorist attack.
Vitals: Director: Duncan Jones. Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Arden.
2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 93 min., Sci-Fi Thriller, Box office gross: $52.233 million, Summit Entertainment.
A suburban family is torn apart when 14-year-old Annie (Liana Liberato) meets her first boyfriend online. After months of communicating via online chat and phone, Annie discovers her friend is not who he originally claimed to be: he's a 41-year-old internet predator. Shocked into disbelief, her parents (Clive Owen and Catherine Keener) are shattered by their daughter's actions and struggle to support her as she comes to terms with what has happened to her once innocent life. While her father becomes obsessed with revenge fantasies, Annie enters therapy, where she refuses to admit she's been victimized.
Vitals: Director: David Schwimmer. Stars: Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Liana Liberato, Jason Clarke, Viola Davis, Chris Henry Coffey, Noah Emmerich.
2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 104 min., Drama, Box office gross: $.117 million, First Look.
All DVDs are screened on a reference system consisting of a
Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player w/SACD & DVD-Audio, a
Rotel RSX-972 Surround Sound Receiver, and Phase Technology 1.1 (front), 33.1 (center),
and 50 (rear) speakers and Power 10 subwoofer.