OnVideo DECEMBER Video Reviews
BAD NEWS BEARS
Grizzled former professional baseball player Morris Buttermaker (Billy Bob Thornton) is bribed by a straitlaced lawyer (Marcia Gay Harden) to coach the Bears, a woefully inept youth baseball team. Buttermaker's got to find a way to drive this gang of 12 misfits to a championship against their hated rivals: the Yankees and their overbearing coach (Greg Kinnear). From the director who brought you "The School of Rock" with the writing team behind "Bad Santa" comes a 2005 homage to an irreverent 1976 comedy (starring the great Walter Matthau). Not a bad outing.
Director: Richard Linklater. Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Greg Kinnear, Marcia Gay Harden, Sammi Kane Kraft, Ridge Canipe, Brandon Craggs, Jeffrey Davies. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 113 min.), Comedy, 2005, Box office gross: $32.781 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/13.
BROTHERS GRIMM, THE
Matt Damon and Heath Ledger star as Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, the legendary brothers who gave us our favorite fairy tales. The film follows them on an enchanted adventure set in a world of heroes and villains, witches and trolls, undying evil and true love -- a realm the two storytellers thought was just make believe ... until it came into their world to get them. The pair travel around the Napoleonic countryside vanquishing fake monsters and demons in exchange for cash. When the French government figures out what they're up to, they force the brothers to deal with the real thing -- a number of young maidens have disappeared under mysterious circumstances in an "enchanted" forest in the northern woods between Germany and France. It is there that they have to try and discover what's really happening and deal with it before more people are lost or their lack of success leads to the guillotine. Many of their renowned fairy tales -- Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretel -- are woven into the story as the brothers are forced to confront all that their imaginations have brought to life in this epic battle between fantasy and reality, good and evil. Exciting, bizarre take on fairy tales by modern master Terry Gilliam.
Director: Terry Gilliam. Stars: Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Peter Stormare, Jonathan Pryce, Monica Bellucci, Lena Headey, Laura Greenwood, Julian Bleach, Bruce MacEwen. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 118 min.), Fantasy thriller, 2005, Box office gross: $37.899 million, (Buena Vista), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/20.
In the middle of the Great Depression, when an America in the grips of a devastating economic downturn was nearly brought to its knees, there came along a most unlikely hero who had crowds cheering on their feet -- as he proved just how hard a man would fight to win a second chance for his family and himself. That common-man hero was James J. Braddock -- a.k.a. the "Cinderella Man" -- who was to become one of the most surprising and inspirational sports legends in history. By the early 1930s, the impoverished ex- prizefighter was seemingly as broken-down, beaten-up and out-of-luck as much of the rest of the American populace. Like so many others, Braddock had hit rock bottom. His career appeared to be finished, he was unable to pay the bills, the only thing that really mattered to him -- his family -- was in danger, and he was even forced to go on Public Relief. But deep inside, Jim Braddock never relinquished his determination. Driven by love, honor and an incredible dose of grit, he willed an impossible dream to come true. In a last-chance bid to help his family, Braddock returned to the ring. In bout after bout, the talk was that poor Jim Braddock was criminally outmatched and perilously in over his head. Except that Braddock, fueled by something beyond mere competition, kept winning. Suddenly, the ordinary working man became the mythic athlete who could not lose. Carrying the hopes and dreams of the disenfranchised on his shoulders, Braddock rocketed through the ranks, until he chose to do the unthinkable: take on the heavyweight champ of the world, the unstoppable Max Baer, renowned for having killed two men in the ring.
Director: Ron Howard. Stars: Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 144 min.), Drama, 2005, Box office gross: $60.317 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/6.
Eight high school students spin a terrifying tale of murder and mayhem that comes back to haunt them when an imaginary -- or not? -- serial killer arrives on campus. A teen Internet prank turns deadly when troubled Owen Matthews (Julian Morris) transfers to a posh private school where he befriends seven equally rebellious high school seniors. Following the brutal murder of a young woman, they begin an online e-mail game of lies and rumors that will ultimately bring them face-to-face with the blood-curdling terror they thought that they had merely invented.
Director: Jeff Wadlow. Stars: Julian Morris, Lindy Booth, Jared Padalecki, Jon Bon Jovi, Sandra McCoy, Kristy Wu, Jane Beard, Gary Cole. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 91 min.), Horror thriller, 2005, Box office gross: $10.042 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/20.
Walter Salles ("Central Station," "The Motorcycle Diaries") directed this psychological thriller based on a film by the creators of the Japanese version of "The Ring." The haunting, chilling film revolves around a young mother who goes to extreme lengths to solve a mystery and protect her daughter. Dahlia Williams (Jennifer Connelly) is starting a new life; newly separated with a new job and a new apartment, she s determined to put her relationship with her estranged husband behind her and devote herself to raising her daughter, Ceci. But when the strained separation disintegrates into a bitter custody battle, her situation takes a turn for the worse. Her new apartment -- dilapidated, cramped, and worn -- seems to take on a life of its own. Mysterious noises, persistent leaks of dark water, and strange happenings cause her imagination to run wild, sending her on a puzzling and mystifying pursuit to find out who is behind the endless mind games. As Dahlia frantically searches for the links between the riddles, the dark water seems to close around her. But one thing trumps all others in Dahlia's world: no matter what it is that s out there, she'll stop at nothing to find it.
Director: Walter Salles. Stars: Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Tim Roth, Dougray Scott, Pete Postlethwaite, Camryn Manheim, Ariel Gade, Perla Haney-Jardine, Debra Monk. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 105 min.), Horror, 2005, Box office gross: $25.029 million, (Buena Vista), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/26.
DUKES OF HAZZARD, THE
Fun-lovin', fast-drivin', good ol' boy cousins Bo (Seann William Scott) and Luke (Johnny Knoxville) Duke are back on the road and up to no good, along with their cousin Daisy Duke (Jessica Simpson), proud owner of the shortest shorts in the South. The Duke family's business is moonshine, and the boys' Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson) concocts the tastiest brew in Dixie. More often than not, the boys find themselves on the wrong side of the law as they race to make their deliveries, leading the sheriff's department on some truly wild goose chases in their infamous orange Dodge Charger named the General Lee. But it's not all moonshine and farm girls -- when Bo and Luke discover evidence that their neighbors' properties are being unlawfully seized by crooked commissioner Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds), their only chance to protect their hometown is to put the pedal to the metal in a scheme to save Hazzard County. Silly remake of a silly TV series.
Director: Jay Chandrasekhar. Stars: Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, Jessica Simpson, Wiilie Nelson, Burt Reynolds. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 106 min.), Comedy, 2005, Box office gross: $79.101 million, (Warner), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/6.
EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, THE
In 1999, the Vatican revised the official rite of exorcism text for the first time in over 400 years. The number of Catholic exorcists in Italy increased from 30 to 300 over the last decade. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago recently appointed the first full-time official exorcist in its 160-year history. In New York, four Catholic priests have officially investigated over 40 cases of possession since 1995. In an extremely rare decision, the Catholic Church officially recognized the demonic possession of a 19-year-old college freshman. Told in terrifying flashbacks, "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" chronicles the haunting trial of the priest accused of negligence resulting in the death of the young girl believed to be possessed. Inspired by true events, the film stars Laura Linney as Erin Bruner, the lawyer defending Father Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson), the priest who performed the controversial exorcism. Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) leaves her sheltered rural home to attend college with no possible inkling of what awaits her. Alone in the dorm one night, she has her first terrifying "hallucination" and blackout. As her attacks become ever more frequent and severe, Emily, a devout Catholic, chooses to undergo an exorcism conducted by her parish priest, Father Richard Moore. When the young girl dies during the terrifying exorcism, the priest is charged with negligent homicide.
Director: Scott Derrickson. Stars: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, Jennifer Carpenter, Colm Feore, Joshua Close, Kenneth Welsh, Duncan Fraser, JR Bourne, Mary Beth Hurt, Henry Czerny, Shohreh Aghdashloo. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 119 min.), Horror thriller, 2005, Box office gross: $74.456 million, (Sony), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/20.
After exposure to a radioactive cosmic storm, four astronauts become the most remarkable, albeit dysfunctional, super heroes of all time: the Fantastic 4. Unfortunately, the mission's sponsor has also been transformed -- into a lethal, iron-fisted super-villain -- setting the stage for an explosive confrontation of epic proportions. Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffud), whose idealistic ambition manifests itself with uncharted flexibility and stretching capabilities; Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba), a strong female in a man's world who gains the ability to disappear and project powerful force fields; Johnny Storm/The Human Torch (Chris Evans), whose hot-headedness gives him the power to encompass his own body in flames; and Ben Grimm/The Thing (Michael Chiklis), whose strength of character transforms him into a super-strong rock-man. Together, they must come to terms with their newfound fame and save the world from the evil machinations of the diabolical Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon).
Director: Tim Story. Stars: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Hamish Linklater, Kerry Washington. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 106 min.), Fantasy action, 2005, Box office gross: $56.061 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/6.
After their adoptive mother is murdered during a grocery store holdup, the Mercer brothers -- hotheaded Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), ladies' man Angel (Tyrese Gibson), family man and businessman Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin), and hard rocking Jack (Garrett Hedlund) -- reunite to take the matter of her death into their own hands. As they track down her killer, they quickly realize that their old ways of doing business have new consequences. In this character-driven action-drama from director John Singleton ("Boyz N the Hood," "2 Fast 2 Furious"), four brothers come together to discover that they are bound by ties thicker than blood.
Director: John Singleton. Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund, Terrence Howard, Josh Charles, Sofia Vergara, Fionnula Flanagan. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 109 min.), Action thriller, 2005, Box office gross: $68.271 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/20.
40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, THE
Forty-year-old Andy Stitzer (Steve Carrell) has done quite a few things in his life. He's got a cushy job stamping invoices at an electronics superstore, a nice apartment with a proud collection of action figures and comic books, good friends, a nice attitude. But there's just one little thing he hasn't quite gotten around to doing yet -- something most people have done by his age: Andy's never, ever had sex. For Andy it's not a big deal. But for Andy's buds at the store, it sure is. They consider it their duty to help Andy out of his dire situation and go to great lengths to help him. But nothing proves effective enough to lure their friend out of lifelong chastity until he meets Trish (Catherine Keener), a 40-year-old mother of three. Andy's friends are psyched by the possibility that "it" may finally happen ... until they hear that Andy and Trish have begun their relationship based on a mutual no-sex policy.
Director: Judd Apatow. Stars: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Leslie Mann, Jane Lynch. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 116 min.), Comedy, 2005, Box office gross: $100.000 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/13.
GREAT RAID, THE
Gritty and stirring reality-based story of one of the most spectacular rescue missions ever to take place in American history: "the great raid on Cabanatuan," the daring exploit that would liberate more than 500 U.S. prisoners of war in the face of overwhelming odds. The year is 1945 and hundreds of U.S. soldiers held captive in the brutal Japanese war camp at Cabanatuan in the Philippines are under imminent threat of death. These are the only soldiers who remain alive in the Philippines of the 70,000 American and Allied forces surrendered to the Japanese Imperial Army at Bataan in 1942, following the departure of General MacArthur. Forced to walk through the sweltering, mosquito-infested jungles on what would become known as the Bataan Death March, the survivors were then held captive in remote and deadly camps. Now, three years later, with MacArthur back as he promised in the Philippines, the Japanese War Ministry has issued a "Kill All Policy" to annihilate their war camps -- and every single U.S. prisoner in them. In nearby Luzon, Lieutenant Colonel Henry A. Mucci (Benjamin Bratt), the tough, ambitious but charismatic leader known for inspiring devoted loyalty among his men, has been assigned to find a way to penetrate behind enemy lines and free the U.S. prisoners before it's too late.
Director: John Dahl. Stars: Benjamin Bratt, James Franco, Robert Mammone. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 132 min.), War drama, 2005, Box office gross: $10.074 million, (Buena Vista), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/20.
INTO THE BLUE
Thriller set in the deep, shark-infested waters of the Bahamas. When four young divers discover a legendary shipwreck rumored to contain millions in gold at the bottom of the sea, they believe their dream of buried treasure has come true. But nearby on the ocean floor, a sunken plane full of illegal cargo threatens their find. The friends make a pact to keep quiet about both discoveries so they can excavate the shipwreck before a rival treasure hunter uncovers their secret and beats them to the gold. But their plan goes awry when they realize dangerous smugglers are already closing in on the missing plane, and one of the friends makes a fatal decision that quickly turns the treasure hunters into the hunted.
Director: John Stockwell. Stars: Paul Walker, Jessica Alba, Scott Caan, Ashley Scott, Josh Brolin. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 110 min.), Thriller, 2005, Box office gross: $18.472 million, (Sony), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/26.
Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) is a resident of a seemingly utopian but contained facility in the mid-21st century. Like all of the inhabitants of this carefully controlled environment, Lincoln hopes to be chosen to go to the "The Island" -- reportedly the last uncontaminated spot on the planet. But Lincoln soon discovers that everything about his existence is a lie. He and all of the other inhabitants of the facility are actually human clones whose only purpose is to provide "spare parts" for their original human counterparts. Realizing it is only a matter of time before he's "harvested," Lincoln makes a daring escape with a beautiful fellow resident named Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson). Relentlessly pursued by the forces of the sinister institute that once housed them, Lincoln and Jordan engage in a race for their lives to literally meet their makers.
Director: Michael Bay. Stars: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 136 min.), Science Fiction, 2005, Box office gross: $35.799 million, (DreamWorks), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/13.
MUST LOVE DOGS
Thirty-something preschool teacher Sarah Nolan (Diane Lane) has been divorced for eight months, which is much too long for her family to bear. With the best of intentions and only her happiness in mind, they stage an intervention in an all-out effort to get her out of pajamas and back into the dating scene, one way or another. Leading the charge are Sarah's sisters, Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) and Christine (Ali Hillis), eager to line up potential suitors, and their widowed father Bill (Christopher Plummer), who sets a fine example with his own recent and very successful foray into the Internet dating realm. Eager to launch their sister's own cyber-dating debut, Carol and Christine pretend to be Sarah and post her profile on perfectmatch.com, with the enticing message, "Voluptuous, sensuous, alluring and fun. DWF seeks special man to share starlit nights. Must love dogs." And wait for the responses to pour in. Sarah soon endures a series of hilariously disastrous mismatches and first dates as the Web site offers up a stream of eager wannabes and one possible maybe - - awkward but intriguing boat builder Jake Anderson (John Cusack), an idealist who measures romance by a Dr. Zhivago standard. A little on the intense side, Jake might be looking for more than Sarah wants right now. Meanwhile, at work, there's a new distraction -- Bob Connor (Dermot Mulroney), the newly separated dad of one of her young students. Charming and relaxed, Bob seems made to order, the perfect guy -- but is he just too good to be true?
Director: Gary David Goldberg. Stars: Diane Lane, John Cusack, Elizabeth Perkins, Christopher Plummer, Stockard Channing, Ali Hillis, DermotT Mulroney. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 98 min.), Romantic comedy, 2005, Box office gross: $43.667 million, (Warner), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/20.
Coach Roy (Martin Lawrence) once was college basketball's top mastermind. But lately his attentions have been on his next endorsements, not on his next game. What's more, Roy's temper has run amuck, leading to his being banned from college ball until he can "demonstrate compliance" -- in other words, not explode every time he walks onto the court. Roy waits -- and waits -- for a suitable coaching offer, but he receives only one: a hastily scribbled fax from... members of the Mount Vernon Junior High School "Smelters" basketball squad. Roy reluctantly accepts the "offer," hoping that a few weeks at the school will prove his good intentions and restore him to his high-living ways as a celebrated college coach. But when "old school" meets "middle school," Coach Roy doesn't know what hit him. The boys are hapless, possessing little athletic skill and virtually no grasp of the fundamentals of basketball. Roy's first game as the Smelters' coach sees the team losing 0-109. And it looks like things are going only downhill from there. That is, until Roy decides to teach his young charges some new concepts and he finds something long thought lost: his love of the game. Haven't we seen this a million times before?
Director: Steve Carr. Stars: Martin Lawrence, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Breckin Meyer, Horatio Sanz, Oren Williams, Patrick Warburton, Megan Mullally. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 103 min.), Comedy, 2005, Box office gross: $16.801 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/20.
Xavier Smith (Bow Wow), also known as X, is a young roller wiz who, along with his crew, once ruled supreme at their South Side of Chicago rink, the Palisades Gardens. But when the doors of their favorite hangout close, it marks the end of an era and the beginning of another that sees the boys venturing into completely foreign territory: the North Side's swanky Sweetwater Roller Rink, with its sleek, well-to-do roller-boys and gorgeous girls in short-shorts. For X and his friends, Sweetwater is a brave new world that gives way to an impossible dream: to win the rink's annual Roller Jam Skate-Off. It's more than just a chance to take home a trophy for X -- it's his opportunity to fulfill the potential his mother always saw in him and prove his own self-worth.
Director: Malcolm D. Lee. Stars: Bow Wow, Brandon T. Jackson, Marcus T. Paulk, Rick Gonzalez. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 112 min.), Comedy, 2005, Box office gross: $17.171 million, (Fox), $27.98 VHS SRP, Available: 12/13.
Joss Whedon -- the Oscar- and Emmy-nominated writer-director behind the worldwide television phenomena of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" -- now resurrects his critically acclaimed, short-lived TV series "Firefly" as a feature film about to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family -- squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal. When Mal takes on two new passengers -- a young doctor and his unstable, telepathic sister -- he gets much more than he bargained for. The pair are fugitives from the coalition dominating the universe, who will stop at nothing to reclaim the girl. The crew that was once used to skimming the outskirts of the galaxy unnoticed find themselves caught between the unstoppable military force of the Universal Alliance and the horrific, cannibalistic fury of the Reavers, savages who roam the very edge of space. Hunted by vastly different enemies, they begin to discover that the greatest danger to them may be on board Serenity herself.
Director: Joss Whedon. Stars: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass, David Krumholtz and Chiwetel Ejiofor. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 119 min.), Science Fiction, 2005, Box office gross: $24.485 million, (Universal), $29.98 VHS SRP, Available: 12/20.
A Hong Kong writer finds inspiration from the women he's encountered in his past in this futuristic story of love and memory from Wong Kar Wai, who continues the story he began in his acclaimed masterpiece "In the Mood for Love." Remembering back to the early 1960s, when he lived in the Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong, Chow (Tony Leung) writes an erotic story that begins with a mysterious woman who lived in room 2046. Chow moves into room 2047 and begins an affair with a beautiful prostitute who now rents the mysterious woman's room. As he writes his story, which he sets in the future year 2046, Chow tells of a place where people travel to recapture lost memories; he is the first one to return. Nominated for the Golden Palm Award at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.
Director: Wong Kar Wai. Stars: Tony Leung, Chiu Wai, Gong Li, Faye Wong, Takuya Kimura, Ziyi Zhang, Carina Lau Ka Ling, Chang Chen, Dong Jie, Maggie Cheung, Byrd, Thongchai McIntyre. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 128 min.), Romantic drama, 2005, Box office gross: $1.349 million, (Sony), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/26.
Delightful animated family film. During World War II, England communicated with the French Resistance and Allied troops in Europe using the Royal Pigeon Service -- carrier pigeons that went through a rigorous training regimen. This is the story of Valiant, a comically clumsy misfit of a pigeon, Valiant, who sneaks his way into the Royal Pigeon Service, eager to contribute his efforts to the needs of his country, even though he is vastly unqualified to do so. Immediately given an assignment, Valiant's job turns out to be one of the most important of the war ... carrying essential messages from the French to the Allied forces who are about to storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Filled with action, humor, emotion and memorable characters. Director: Gary Chapman.
Director: Gary Chapman. Stars: Voices of Ewan McGregor, Ricky Gervais, Tim Curry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, John Cleese, John Hurt. CC, (MPAA rating: G, 76 min.), Animated, 2005, Box office gross: $19.116 million, (Buena Vista), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 12/13.
All DVDs are screened on a reference system consisting of a Rotel RDV-1060 DVD Audio/Video 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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November 30, 2005