OnVideo: DECEMBER's Top Movies
APOLLO 18Officially, Apollo 17, launched December 17, 1972, was the last manned mission to the moon. But a year later, in December of 1973, two American astronauts were sent on a secret mission to the moon funded by the US Department of Defense. Decades-old "found footage" from the abandoned mission reveals the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon.
Director: Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego. Stars: Warren Christie, Ryan Robbins, Ali Liebert, Andrew Airlie, Lloyd Owen, Michael Kopsa, Kurt Max Runte. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 86 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $17.486 million, The Weinstein Company. Available: 12/27.
COLOMBIANAZoe Saldana plays a young woman who has become an assassin after witnessing the murder of her parents as a child. Turning herself into a professional killer, she remains focused on her ultimate goal: to hunt down and get revenge on the mobster responsible for her parents' deaths.
Director: Olivier Megaton. Stars: Zoe Saldana, Jordi Molla, Lennie James, Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 112 min., Action, Box office gross: $35.120 million, Sony. Available: 12/20.
COWBOYS & ALIENSIt's 1873 when gunslinger Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) awakens in the Arizona desert with no memory of his past and a mysterious metal shackle encircling his wrist. Stumbling into the nearby town of Absolution, Lonergan discovers a tightly closed community that takes its orders from the iron-fisted Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) ... and Dolarhyde has a bone to pick with Lonergan. But the colonelís influence wanes when the desolate city is attacked by monsters that drop from the sky with blinding force and abduct the helpless townsfolk one by one. As Lonergan's memory slowly returns, he realizes he holds a secret that could give the town a fighting chance against the alien force. With the help of mysterious beauty Ella (Olivia Wilde), he assembles a posse comprised of former opponents: townsfolk, Dolarhyde and his boys, outlaws and Apache warriors. United against a common enemy, they prepare for an epic showdown for survival. Based on the Malibu Comics graphic novel.
Director: Jon Favreau. Stars: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Ana de la Reguera, Adam Beach, Paul Dano, Clancy Brown , Keith Carradine, Noah Ringer. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 119 min., Sci-Fi Western, Box office gross: $99.552 million, Universal. Available: 12/6.
THE DEBTThe powerful story of Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren), a former Mossad agent who, along with two other agents (Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson), endeavored to capture and bring to trial a notorious Nazi war criminal -- the Surgeon of Birkenau -- in a secret Israeli mission in 1966 that ended with his death on the streets of East Berlin. Now, 30 years later, a man claiming to be the doctor has surfaced, and Rachel must go back to Eastern Europe to uncover the truth. Overwhelmed by haunting memories of her younger self and her two fellow agents (played by Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas), the still-celebrated heroine must relive the trauma of those events and confront the debt she has incurred.
Director: John Madden. Stars: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson, Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, Jesper Christensen, Romi Aboulafia. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 113 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $30.073 million, Universal. Available: 12/6.
DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAMEAction-packed, visually breathtaking Sherlock Holmes-style mystery choreographed by master Sammo Hung, set in an exquisitely realized steampunk version of ancient China. On the eve of her coronation as Empress (Carina Lau), China's most powerful woman is haunted by a chilling murder mystery: Two men in charge of building a gigantic monument to her have burst into flames, leaving behind only black ash and skeletal bones. Recognizing this threat to her power, she turns to the infamous Dee Renjie (Andy Lau), a man whose unparalleled wisdom is matched only by his martial arts skills. As he battles a series of bizarre dangers, he unveils a chilling truth that places his life, and the future of an entire dynasty, in peril.
Director: Tsui Hark. Stars: Andy Lau, Bingbing Li, Carina Lau, Tony Leung Ka-fai. 2011 -- Hong Kong, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 122 min., Action, Box office gross: $.459 million, Indomina Releasing. Available: 12/13.
DOLPHIN TALEInspired by the amazing true story of a brave dolphin called Winter and the compassionate people who banded together to save her life. Swimming free, a young dolphin is caught in a crab trap off the Florida coast, severely damaging her tail. She is rescued and transported to the Clearwater Marine Hospital, where she is named Winter. But her fight for survival has just begun. Losing her tail may cost Winter her life. It will take the expertise of a dedicated marine biologist, the ingenuity of a brilliant prosthetics doctor, and the unwavering devotion of a young boy to bring about a ground-breaking miracle -- a miracle that might not only save Winter but could also help thousands of people around the world: The marine mammal's strong survival instincts become an inspiration to people with special needs throughout the world. The real Winter plays herself.
Director: Charles Martin Smith. Stars: Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Kris Kristofferson, Morgan Freeman. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 113 min., Family, Box office gross: $70.017 million, Warner. Available: 12/20.
FINAL DESTINATION 5In this fourth sequel, Death is just as omnipresent as ever, and is unleashed after one man's premonition saves a group of co-workers from a terrifying suspension bridge collapse. But this group of unsuspecting souls was never supposed to survive, and, in a terrifying race against time, the ill-fated group frantically tries to discover a way to escape Death's sinister agenda.
Director: Steven Quale. Stars: Nicholas D'Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Ellen Wroe, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, P.J. Byrne, Arlen Escarpeta, David Koechner, Courtney B. Vance. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 92 min., Horror, Box office gross: $42.520 million, Warner. Available: 12/27.
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITSDylan (Justin Timberlake) is done with relationships. Jamie (Mila Kunis) decides to stop buying into the Hollywood cliches of true love. When the two become friends, they decide to try something new and take advantage of their mutual attraction -- but without any emotional attachment. Physical pleasure without the entanglements sounds easy enough for two logical adults, but they soon realize romantic comedy stereotypes might exist for a reason.
Director: Will Gluck. Stars: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Bryan Greenberg, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Andy Samberg, Shaun White. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 109 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $55.802 million, Sony. Available: 12/2.
FRIGHT NIGHTRemake of the 1985 gothic horror cult classic. Charley (Anton Yelchin) is a high school senior who's on top of the world -- ≠he's running with the popular crowd and dating Amy (Imogen Poots), the most coveted girl in school. But trouble arrives when Jerry (Colin Farrell) moves in next door. He seems like a nice guy -- at first. But there's something not quite right, and no one else, including Charley's mom (Toni Collette) seems to notice. After his classmates start to mysteriously disappear without a trace, Charlie discovers that there is more to his new neighbor than meets the eye. Now he must do all he can to protect his mom and Amy from meeting the same fate as his schoolmates.
Director: Craig Gillepsie. Stars: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Christopher Mintz-Plasse. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 106 min., Horror, Box office gross: $18.114 million, DreamWorks. Available: 12/13.
GLEE: THE CONCERT MOVIEEnables fans who were unable to obtain tickets to the soldout shows, or who live in markets not included in the tour, or who just want to see it again, to experience the concert. Starring 14 members of the Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning television show's cast and shot live during the summer concerts, the movie captures the unique concert experience along with special moments involving the characters themselves.
Director: Kevin Tancharoen. Stars: Cory Monteith, Dianna Agron, Lea Michele, Darren Criss, Chord Overstreet, Chris Colfer, Heather Morris, Kevin McHale, Naya Rivera, Harry Shum Jr., Amber Riley, Ashley Fink. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 84 min., Music, Box office gross: $11.9 million, Fox. Available: 12/20.
THE HANGOVER PART IIPhil, Stu, Alan and Doug travel to exotic Thailand for Stu's wedding. After the unforgettable bachelor party in Las Vegas, Stu is taking no chances and has opted for a safe, subdued pre-wedding brunch with pancakes, coffee ... and no alcohol. However, things don't always go as planned. Two nights before the big day, at a fabulous resort in Thailand, Stu relents. One beer each. In sealed bottles. What could go wrong? What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in Bangkok can't even be imagined.
Director: Todd Phillips. Stars: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Jeffrey Tambor, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Jamie Chung, Sasha Barrese, Gillian Vigman, Paul Giamatti. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 102 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $254.455 million, Warner. Available: 12/6.
THE HELPSet in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter (Emma Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends' lives -- and a Mississippi town -- upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. Aibileen (Viola Davis), Skeeter's best friend's housekeeper, is the first to open up -- to the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit black community. Despite Skeeter's life-long friendships hanging in the balance, she and Aibileen continue their collaboration and soon more women come forward to tell their stories -- and as it turns out, they have a lot to say. Along the way, unlikely friendships are forged and a new sisterhood emerges, but not before everyone in town has a thing or two to say themselves when they become unwittingly -- and unwillingly -- caught up in the changing times. Based on the best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett.
Director: Tate Taylor. Stars: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Ahna O'Reilly, Allison Janney, Anna Camp, Cicely Tyson, Sissy Spacek, Brian Kerwin, Mike Vogel. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 138 min., Drama, Box office gross: $159.373 million, DreamWorks. Available: 12/6.
KUNG FU PANDA 2Po is now living his dream as The Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, The Furious Five. But Po's new life of awesomeness is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret, unstoppable weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu. Po must look to his past and uncover the secrets of his mysterious origins; only then will he be able to unlock the strength he needs to succeed.
Director: Jennifer Yuh. Stars: Voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Michelle Yeoh, Danny McBride, Jean-Claude Van Damme, James Hong, Seth Rogen. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 91 min., Animated Family, Box office gross: $165.230 million, DreamWorks. Available: 12/13.
MARGIN CALLWhen Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) is laid off from his investment firm, he sneaks a flash drive to his young colleague Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) before being escorted from the building. Sullivan soon discovers that the information on the flash drive could change the fate of the company -- and perhaps even the entire country. As more executives learn of this sensitive news, they are thrust into a high-stakes moral debate: Do what's best for the company (and themselves)? Or what's best for millions of investors worldwide? Set in the 12 hours that launched the 2008 financial crisis.
Director: JC Chandor. Stars: Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Mary McDonnell, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, Zachary Quinto. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 109 min., Drama Thriller, Box office gross: $3.312 million, Lionsgate. Available: 12/20.
MIDNIGHT IN PARISWoody Allen's most accessible and enjoyable comedy in years. Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams play a Gil and Inez, a betrothed couple vacationing in Paris before their marriage; she's a spoiled, upwardly mobile young woman with wealthy parents, he's a dreamer of a screenwriter who falls in love with the city of lights. One night when she's off dancing with friends, Gil walks alone through the city and is magically transported to the Paris of the 1920s, where he meets up with the likes of Cole Porter, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Josephine Baker, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel. He's enamored with the idea that -- unlike the present -- the 1920s was a golden era, but as his midnight walks take him further away from Inez and her world, he discovers that the illusion people have that a life different from theirs would be much better might not be true after all.
Director: Woody Allen. Stars: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy, Michael Sheen, Nina Arianda, Carla Bruni, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Yves Heck, Alison Pill, Corey Stoll. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 94 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $55.600 million, Sony. Available: 12/20.
MR. POPPER'S PENGUINSMr. Popper (Jim Carrey), a driven businessman divorced from his wife and kids is clueless when it comes to the important things in life until he inherits six, "adorable" and mischievous penguins from his arctic explorer father. As Popper quickly gets acquainted with -- and increasingly attached to -- his winged roommates, his life quickly unravels: the deal he's long been working on with a formidable socialite, Mrs. Van Gundy, to take over valuable property, is derailed and Popper almost lands in jail. While Popper's penguins turn his swank New York apartment into a snowy winter wonderland, they also teach him valuable lessons about family. Very loosely based on the Newbery Medal award-winning novel, originally published in 1938, by the husband and wife team of Richard and Florence Atwater.
Director: Mark Waters. Stars: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury, Ophelia Lovibond, Madeline Carroll, Clark Gregg, Jeffrey Tambor, David Krumholtz, Philip Baker Hall. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 100 min., Family, Box office gross: $68.131 million, Fox. Available: 12/6.
POINT BLANKSamuel (Gilles Lellouche) is a happily married nurse working in a Paris hospital who saves the life of a wounded criminal, Sartet (Roschdy Zem). When his very pregnant wife (Elena Anaya) is kidnapped before his helpless eyes, everything falls apart. After being knocked unconscious, he comes to and his cell phone rings: He has three hours to get Sartet, now under police surveillance, out of the hospital. Shot on location in wide lens, "Point Blank" is an exhilarating non-stop ride through Paris' streets, subways, hospitals, warehouses, and police stations, as Samuel quickly finds himself pitted against rival gangsters and trigger-happy police in a deadly race to save the lives of his wife and unborn child. In French with English subtitles.
Director: Fred Cavaye. Stars: Gilles Lellouche, Roschdy Zem, Gerard Lanvin, Elena Anaya, Mireille Perrier, Claire Perot, Moussa Maaskri, Pierre Benoist, Valerie Dashwood, Virgile Bramly, Nicky Naude, Adel Bencherif. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: NR, 84 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $.533 million, Magnolia. Available: 12/6.
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APESThe film is a new take on "The Planet of the Apes" franchise, acting as an origin story set in present day San Francisco where man's own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy. Oscar-winning visual effects house WETA Digital --employing groundbreaking technologies developed for "Avatar"-- have created photo-realistic apes rather than costumed actors. James Franco stars as Will Rodman, a neuroscientist trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer's disease by testing on chimpanzees, giving them a human level of intelligence. After a test subject's baby, Caesar, is orphaned, Will decides to raise him at home on his own with his Alzheimer-stricken father (John Lithgow). What begins simply as a continuation of his experiment quickly turns into a problem for Will, as Caesar is taken away from him and forced to live in a primate facility. As Caesar's intelligence continues to grow, he begins to stake his claim as the leader of his new primate counterparts, which will ultimately lead to the rise of the planet of the apes.
Director: Rupert Wyatt. Stars: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 110 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $175.306 million, Fox. Available: 12/13.
THE SMURFSWhen the evil wizard Gargamel chases the Smurfs out of their village, they're forced through a portal, out of their world and into ours, landing in the middle of New York's Central Park. Just three apples high and stuck in the Big Apple, the Smurfs must find a way to get back to their village before Gargamel tracks them down.
Director: Raja Gosnell. Stars: Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Hank Azaria, Sofia Vergara; voices of Jonathan Winters, George Lopez, Alan Cumming, Paul Reubens, Katy Perry, Kenan Thompson, Anton Yelchin and Fred Armisen. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 86 min., Live-Action Family Comedy, Box office gross: $139.4 million, Sony. Available: 12/2.
STRAW DOGSA young married couple, after being victimized by a gang of violent locals, decide to take the law into their own hands in this weak remake of Sam Peckinpah's classic drama. David and Amy Sumner (James Marsden and Kate Bosworth), a Hollywood screenwriter and his actress wife, return to her small hometown in the deep South so he can have the solitude necessary to work on his latest screenplay, a film about the siege of Stalingrad during WWII. Once there, tensions build in their marriage and old conflicts re-emerge with the locals, including Amy's ex-boyfriend Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard), leading to a violent confrontation.
Director: Rod Lurie. Stars: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgard, Dominic Purcell, Willa Holland,James Woods. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 110 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $10.324 million, Sony. Available: 12/20.
WARRIORTommy Riordan, an ex-Marine haunted by a tragic past, returns home and enlists his father, a recovering alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for an mixed martial arts tournament awarding the biggest purse in the history of the sport. Tommy's estranged brother Brendan, a former MMA fighter unable to provide for his family as a public school teacher, also enters the competition. Set on a collision course with each other, the two brothers must finally confront the forces that tore them apart, all the while waging the most intense winner-take-all battle of their lives.
Director: Gavin O'Connor. Stars: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 139 min., Action, Box office gross: $13.651 million, Lionsgate. Available: 12/20.
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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December 1, 2011