OnVideo: DECEMBER's Top Movies
ARBITRAGERobert Miller (Richard Gere) is a New York hedge-fund magnate who appears to have it all: money, power, a loving wife (Susan Sarandon), and a devoted daughter (Brit Marling) working by his side. But behind the gilded wall of his mansion, Miller is running on borrowed time, trying to unload his crippled trading company before his frauds are revealed. A deadly error throws Miller's "perfect life" into a tailspin, raising the suspicions of a detective (Tim Roth) and threatening the future of his financial empire. As the line blurs between what is right and wrong, legal and criminal, Miller is driven to desperate measures to protect the only thing more precious than his considerable fortune: his family.
Director: Nicholas Jarecki. Stars: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marlin, Laetitia Casta, Nate Parker. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: R, 107 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $5.110 million, Lionsgate. Available: 12/21.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILDNewcomer Quvenzhane Wallis plays Hushpuppy, the six-year-old force of nature in an isolated bayou community. When her tough but loving father Wink (Dwight Henry) succumbs to a mysterious malady, the fierce and determined girl bravely sets out on a journey to the outside world. But Hushpuppy's quest is hindered by a "busted" universe that melts the ice caps and unleashes an army of prehistoric beasts.
Director: Benh Zeitlin. Stars: Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly, Lowell Landes, Pamela Harper. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 93 min., Fantasy, Box office gross: $11.029 million, Fox. Available: 12/4.
THE BOURNE LEGACYThis third sequel in the incredible "Bourne" franchise pulls back the curtain on a government secret even darker than Jason Bourne. When Bourne exposed Operation Treadstone at the end of "The Bourne Ultimatum," he sparked a bonfire that threatened to burn down decades of research and development into the building of better spies and warriors. But there were actually a variety of covert intelligence programs -- all of which now feel the threat of exposure. On the verge of having their conspiracy revealed, members of the government's intelligence community will stop at nothing to erase all evidence of their top secret programs. With his life in jeopardy, agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) must use his genetically-engineered skills to survive the ultimate game of cat-and-mouse and finish what Jason Bourne started.
Director: Tony Gilroy. Stars: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach, Dennis Boutsikaris, Oscar Isaac, Joan Allen, Albert Finney, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 135 min., Action Thriller, Box office gross: $112.275 million, Universal. Available: 12/11.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISESThe epic conclusion to filmmaker Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. After eight years of struggling with his new status as a wanted vigilante, Batman must contend with newcomers Catwoman and the brutal and villainous Bane. It's been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything changes with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane. Though most critics fee l that "Rises" fell short of the standard set by "The Dark Knight," "Rises" has a depth of pathos and emotion that "Dark Knight" only hints at; it offers us love and redemption, resurrection and resolution; it's almost biblical, certainly operatic in its scope and volume. Nolan gives us everything a heroic saga needs to suck us into the screen and draw us into the story -- well-drawn characters, truly merciless villains, fast-paced action, unexpected plot turns, an internal mythology, and, by gosh and golly, a happy ending. It's truly American in its sensibility -- Mark Twain would have loved it. "The Dark Knight Rises" beyond expectations.
Director: Christopher Nolan. Stars: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Josh Pence, Nestor Carbonell, Alon Aboutboul, Matthew Modine. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 165 min., Action Thriller, Box office gross: $443.124 million, Warner. Available: 12/4.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYSEverybody's favorite wimp, Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), is back in the latest film based on the popular book series. When Greg's dad (Steve Zahn) threatens to send him to military school during his summer vacation if he doesn't stay out of trouble, Greg finds all-new ways to land himself in the doghouse. For starters, Greg's in over his head when he pretends to work at the swanky country club where Rowley's family has a membership. Things don't go much better on a father-son camping trip with the Wilderness Explorers, and then there's the Heffley's new dog, Sweetie, who fetches even more trouble for Greg.
Director: David Bowers. Stars: Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris, Robert Capron, Connor Fielding, Owen Fielding. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 94 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $48.252 million, Fox. Available: 12/18.
HOPE SPRINGSKay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) are a devoted couple, but decades of marriage have left Kay wanting to spice things up and reconnect with her husband. When she hears of a renowned couple's specialist (Steve Carell) in the small town of Great Hope Springs, she attempts to persuade her skeptical husband, a steadfast man of routine, to get on a plane for a week of marriage therapy. Just convincing the stubborn Arnold to go on the retreat is hard enough -- the real challenge for both of them comes as they shed their bedroom hang-ups and try to re-ignite the spark that caused them to fall for each other in the first place. It's predictable -- but fun to watch Streep and Jones chew the scenery while Carell is rock solid calm.
Director: David Frankel. Stars: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell, Jean Smart, Elisabeth Shue, Marin Ireland, Ben Rappaport, Patch Darragh, Brett Rice. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 100 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $63.327 million, Sony. Available: 12/4.
ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFTManny, Diego, and Sid embark upon their greatest adventure after cataclysm sets an entire continent adrift. Separated from the rest of the herd, they use an iceberg as a makeshift ship, which launches them on an epic seafaring quest. Manny and the gang are challenged like never before to become heroes and do the impossible, as they encounter exotic sea creatures, explore a brave new world, and battle ruthless pirates. Scrat's reunion with his beloved but cursed acorn catapults him to places no prehistoric squirrel has gone before.
Director: Steve Martino, Mike Thurmeier. Stars: Voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Peter Dinklage, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Wedge, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Aziz Ansari, Alain Chabat, Jason Fricchione, Nick Frost. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 88 min., Animated, Box office gross: $159.080 million, Fox. Available: 12/11.
KILLER JOEWhen 22-year-old drug dealer Chris (Emile Hirsch) has his stash stolen, he has to come up with six thousand dollars quick or he's dead. When he finds out that his mother's life insurance policy is worth $50,000, he turns to "Killer Joe" (Matthew McConaughey), a Dallas police detective with the charm of a southern gentleman who doubles as a hit man. Although Joe usually demands cash up front, he finds himself willing to bend the rules in exchange for Chris' attractive younger sister, Dottie (Juno Temple), who will serve as sexual collateral until the money comes in ... if it ever does. A very nasty (in the best sense of that word) black comedy that pushes the envelope of low-down thrillers and the white trailer trash sleaze cinema genre. Fun, fun and more fun. But be forewarned -- it is very down and dirty -- and violent.
Director: William Friedkin. Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, Scott A. Martin, Gralen Bryant Banks, Carol Sutton, Danny Epper, Jeff Galpin, Marc Macaulay, Gregory C. Bachaud. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: NC-17, 101 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $.220 million, Lionsgate. Available: 12/21.
LOOPERIn this futuristic action thriller set in 2072, time travel has been invented -- but it's illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they send their target 30 years into the past, where a "looper" -- a hired gun, like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) -- is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good ... until the day the mob decides to "close the loop," sending back Joe's future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination. But he recognizes the victim as himself and when he hesitates, his older self escapes, setting up the action for more time travel and even paranormal hijinks. Vitals: Director: Rian Johnson. Stars: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: R, 118 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $65.117 million, Sony. Available: 12/31.
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREENImaginative story about a happily married couple who can't wait to start a family but can only dream about what their child would be like -- and they go as far as to bury a box in their backyard, containing all of their wishes for an infant. Then one stormy night young Timothy shows up on their doorstep. Soon they and the small town in which they live learn that sometimes the unexpected can bring some of life's greatest gifts. It's a parable about parenting and family that would play better on the Hallmark Channel. Writer-director Peter Hedges adapted his first novel "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" into the film starring Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio and Juliette Lewis. Since then, Hedges has written and directed two of his own films, "Pieces of April," starring Katie Holmes, and "Dan in Real Life," starring Steve Carell. He also adapted of Nick Hornby's novel "About a Boy" in 2002.
Director: Peter Hedges. Stars: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, Dianne Wiest, CJ Adams, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ron Livingston, M. Emmet Walsh, Odeya Rush, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lois Smith, David Morse, Common. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 100 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $50.199, million, Disney. Available: 12/4.
PITCH PERFECTBeca is that girl who'd rather listen to what's coming out of her headphones than what's coming out of you. Arriving at her new college, she finds herself not right for any clique but somehow is muscled into one that she never would have picked on her own: alongside mean girls, sweet girls and weird girls whose only thing in common is how good they sound when they sing together. When Beca takes this acoustic singing group out of their world of traditional arrangements and perfect harmonies into all-new mash-ups, they fight to climb their way to the top of the cutthroat world of college a cappella. This could wind up either the coolest thing they'll ever do or the most insane, and it will probably be a little of both.
Director: Jason Moore. Stars: Anna Kendrick, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Skylar Astin, Ben Platt. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 112 min., Music Comedy, Box office gross: $61.084 million, Universal. Available: 12/18.
PREMIUM RUSHDodging speeding cars, crazed cabbies, open doors, and 8 million cranky pedestrians is all in a day's work for Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the best of New York's agile and aggressive bicycle messengers. It takes a special breed to ride the fixie -- super lightweight, single-gear bikes with no brakes and riders who are equal part skilled cyclists and suicidal nutcases who risk becoming a smear on the pavement every time they head into traffic. But a guy who's used to putting his life on the line is about to get more than even he is used to when a routine delivery turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan. When Wilee picks up his last envelope of the day on a premium rush run, he discovers this package is different. This time, someone is actually trying to kill him.
Director: David Koepp. Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dania Ramirez, Jamie Chung, Aasif Mandvi, Michael Shannon, Wole Parks, Heather Lindell, Aaron Tveit. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 91 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $20.013 million, Sony. Available: 12/21.
RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTIONThe Umbrella Corporation's deadly T-virus continues to ravage the Earth, transforming the global population into legions of the flesh eating Undead. The human race's last and only hope, Alice (Milla Jovovich), awakens in the heart of Umbrella's most clandestine operations facility and unveils more of her mysterious past as she delves further into the complex. Without a safe haven, Alice continues to hunt those responsible for the outbreak; a chase that takes her from Tokyo to New York, Washington, D.C. and Moscow, culminating in a mind-blowing revelation that will force her to rethink everything that she once thought to be true. Aided by newfound allies and familiar friends, Alice must fight to survive long enough to escape a hostile world on the brink of oblivion. The countdown has begun. Weakest entry in the ongoing saga: too much CGI and not enough new plot.
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson. Stars: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Sienna Guillory, Kevin Durand, Shawn Roberts, Oded Fehr, Boris Kodjoe, Colin Salmon, Johann Urb, Li Bing Bing. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: R, 117 min., Science Fiction-Action-Thriller, Box office gross: $42.119 million, Sony. Available: 12/21.
SLEEPWALK WITH ME"I'm going to tell you a story, and it's true ... I always have to tell people that." So asserts comedian-turned-playwright-turned-filmmaker Mike Birbiglia directly to the viewer at the outset of his autobiographically inspired, fictional feature debut. Bartender and aspiring stand-up comic Matt (Birbiglia) is at an impasse in his career and relationship. Feeling pressure from his family and girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose) to get married after dating for eight years, Matt takes his modest act on the road to clear his head and jumpstart his career. He steadily improves his set, but the new material only increases his doubts about his future with Abby. Adding to his distress is a potentially dangerous sleep disorder that leads him to act out his dreams -- fleeing jackals, winning an Olympic medal for Dustbustering, avoiding a missile strike, the usual things.
Director: Mike Birbiglia, Seth Barrish. Stars: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose, James Rebhorn, Carol Kane, Cristin Milioti, Aya Cash. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: NR, 81 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $2.263 million, IFC Films. Available: 12/18.
TEDJohn Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is a grown man whose cherished teddy bear was brought to life as the result of a childhood wish ... and hasn't left his side since. The pair watch sports together, drink together and party together. John's relationship with longtime girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) is jeopardized when she wants to move forward -- into marriage -- but John has difficulty separating from Ted. Can John and Lori survive as a couple with John's lovably profane buddy on his couch? Seth MacFarlane ("Family Guy") takes his wild humor onto the big screen with gags and words that would never get by the small screen censors.
Director: Seth MacFarlane. Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane (voice of Ted), Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, Matt Walsh, Jessica Barth, Bill Smitrovich, Patrick Stewart, Norah Jones. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: R, 107 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $218.118 million, Universal. Available: 12/11.
TOTAL RECALLRedo of the film inspired by the famous short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick. Welcome to Rekall, the company that can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), even though he's got a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale) who he loves, the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life -- real memories of life as a super-spy might be just what he needs. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. Finding himself on the run from the police -- controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), the leader of the free world -- Quaid teams up with a rebel fighter (Jessica Biel) to find the head of the underground resistance (Bill Nighy) and stop Cohaagen. The line between fantasy and reality gets blurred and the fate of his world hangs in the balance as Quaid discovers his true identity, his true love, and his true fate.
Director: Len Wiseman. Stars: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy, Ethan Hawke, Bokeem Woodbine. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 118 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $58.462 million, Sony. Available: 12/18.
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVEGus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) has been one of the best scouts in baseball for decades, but, despite his efforts to hide it, age is starting to catch up with him. Nevertheless, Gus -- who can tell a pitch just by the crack of the bat -- refuses to be benched for what could be the final innings of his career. He may not have a choice. The front office of the Atlanta Braves is starting to question his judgment, especially with the country's hottest batting phenom on deck for the draft. The one person who might be able to help is also the one person Gus would never ask: his daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), an associate at a high-powered Atlanta law firm whose drive and ambition has put her on the fast track to becoming a partner. Mickey has never been close to her father, who was ill-equipped to be a single parent after the death of his wife. Even now, in the rare moments they share, he is too easily distracted by what Mickey assumes is his first love: the game. Against her better judgment, and over Gus's objections, Mickey joins him on his latest scouting trip to North Carolina, jeopardizing her own career to save his. Forced to spend time together for the first time in years, each makes new discoveries -- revealing long-held truths about their past and present that could change their future.
Director: Robert Lorenz. Stars: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, Matthew Lillard, John Goodman, Joe Massingill, Robert Patrick, Matt Bush, Ed Lauter. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 111 min., Drama, Box office gross: $34.084 million, Warner. Available: 12/18.
THE WORDSFollows young writer Rory Jansen who finally achieves long sought after literary success after publishing the next great American novel. There's only one catch -- he didn't write it. Bradley Cooper stars as Rory Jansen, a young literary hopeful who risks it all to become a success. While on their honeymoon in Paris, Rory and his wife Dora (Zoe Saldana) step inside an antique shop where they find a briefcase that will later reveal the key to the career he has always desired. As the past comes back to haunt him and his literary star continues to rise, Jansen is forced to confront the steep price that must be paid for stealing another man's work, and for placing ambition and success above honesty and love.
Director: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal. Stars: Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Ben Barnes, John Hannah, Michael McKean, Ron Rifkin. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 96 min., Drama, Box office gross: $11.434 million, Sony. Available: 12/24.
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, 2012