OnVideo DECEMBER Video Reviews
BURN AFTER READING
Very funny and sly comedy thriller about what happens when a disc filled with some of the CIA's most irrelevant secrets gets in the hands of two determined, but dim-witted, gym employees. The duo are intent on exploiting their find, but since blackmail is a trade better left for the experts, events soon spiral out of everyone's and anyone's control. At the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Arlington, Va., analyst Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) arrives for a top-secret meeting. Unfortunately for Cox, the secret is soon out: he is being ousted. Cox does not take the news particularly well and returns to his Georgetown home to work on his memoirs and his drinking, not necessarily in that order. His wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) is dismayed, though not particularly surprised; she is already well into an illicit affair with Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), a married federal marshal, and sets about making plans to leave Cox for Harry. Elsewhere in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, and seemingly worlds apart, Hardbodies Fitness Centers employee Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) can barely concentrate on her work. She is consumed with her life plan for extensive cosmetic surgery, and confides her mission to can-do colleague Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt). Linda is all but oblivious to the fact that the gym's manager Ted Treffon (Richard Jenkins) pines for her even as she arranges dates via the Internet with other men. When a computer disc containing material for the CIA analyst's memoirs accidentally falls into the hands of Linda and Chad, the duo are intent on exploiting their find. As Ted frets, "No good can come of this."
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen. Stars: George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, J.K. Simmons. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 96 min., Spy Comedy, Box office gross: $58.976 million, Universal. Available: 12/21.
CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, THE: PRINCE CASPIAN
The enchanted characters of C.S. Lewis's timeless fantasy come to dazzling life again in this second installment of the seven book series, in which the Pevensie siblings -- Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy -- are magically and mysteriously transported back from World War II England to Narnia, where a thrilling, perilous new adventure and an even greater test of their faith and courage awaits them. One year after the incredible events of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," the Kings and Queens of Narnia find themselves back in that faraway wondrous realm, only to discover that more than 1,300 years have passed in Narnian time. During their absence, the Golden Age of Narnia has become extinct, Narnia has been conquered by the Telmarines and is now under the control of the evil King Miraz, who rules the land without mercy.
Director: Andrew Adamson. Stars: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Ben Barnes, Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis, Vincent Grass, Ken Stott, Pierfrancesco Favino, Sergio Castellitto, Liam Neeson, Eddie Izzard. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 144 min., Fantasy Adventure, Box office gross: $141.614 million, Disney. Available: 12/2.
DARK KNIGHT, THE
The second-highest grossing film of all time (behind "Titanic") the follow-up to the action hit "Batman Begins" reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in his continuing war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves to be effective, but they soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as the Joker, who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces the Dark Knight ever closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante.
Director: Christopher Nolan. Stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Eric Roberts, Anthony Michael Hall, Nestor Carbonell, Melinda McGraw, Nathan Gamble, Michael Jai White. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 152 min., Action, Box office gross: $521.890 million, Warner. Available: 12/9.
Jason Statham leads the cast of this action-thriller set in the post-industrial wasteland of tomorrow, with the world's most brutal sporting event as its backdrop. A penitentiary full of felons has inspired the jailers to create a grisly pastime ripe for lucrative kickbacks. Now, adrenalized inmates, a global audience hungry for televised violence and a spectacular arena come together to form the "Death Race." Three-time speedway champion Jensen Ames (Statham) is an expert at survival in the harsh landscape that has become our country. Just as he thinks he has turned his life around, the ex-con is framed for a gruesome murder he didn't commit. Forced to don the mask of the mythical driver Frankenstein -- a crowd favorite who seems impossible to kill -- Ames is given an easy choice by Terminal Island's warden (Joan Allen): suit up or rot away in a cell. Ames must survive a gauntlet of the most vicious criminals in the country's toughest prison to claim the prize of freedom. Remake of sorts of 1975's "Death Race 2000."
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson. Stars: Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Joan Allen, Ian McShane, Natalie Martinez, Jason Clarke. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 105 min., Action, Box office gross: $36.064 million, Universal. Available: 12/21.
DR. SEUSS' HORTON HEARS A WHO!
Based on one of the greatest and best-selling children's books of all time (published in 1954). An imaginative elephant named Horton (Jim Carrey) hears a faint cry for help coming from a tiny speck of dust floating through the air. Although Horton doesn't know it yet, that speck houses an entire city named Who-ville, inhabited by the microscopic Whos, led by the Mayor (Steve Carell). Despite being ridiculed and threatened by his neighbors who think he has lost his mind, Horton is determined to save the particle ... because "a person's a person no matter how small."
Director:. Voices of Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell, Carol Burnett, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Isla Fisher, Dan Fogler, Amy Poehler, Dane Cook, Jaime Pressly, Jonah Hill.. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: G, 87 min., Family, Box office gross: $154.3 million, Fox. Available: 12/9.
A young noblewoman marries into one of Britain's most powerful families and becomes Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, the toast of London. One of history's most beguiling leading ladies, Georgiana Spencer (Keira Knightley) was married at 17 to the wealthy and influential William Cavendish (Ralph Fiennes), the fifth Duke of Devonshire -- and into a lavish world filled with shocking deceptions, decadent scandals and stifling demands of duty. As Duchess of Devonshire, she first indulged her considerable energy in high society -- outshining most of the aristocratic men around her with her incredible wit -- only to become one of the most impassioned political voices in all of 18th century Britain. Beloved by a nation but betrayed by her husband, Georgiana's charisma, political savvy and distinct flair for fashion would make her the "It Girl" of her era ... but a chance for personal happiness would remain elusive until she dared to discover love on her own terms.
High-tech, race-against-time thriller. A copy shop clerk (Shia LaBeouf) and a single mom (Michelle Monaghan) meet after receiving phone calls from an anonymous woman instructing them to do exactly as she says, or else. The two strangers face dire consequences and are forced into a series of heart-stopping situations by someone who seems to see every move they make. Using cell phones, LED signs, television screens and other commonplace technology to pass on instructions, the mystery woman ensnares the unwitting pair in a vast and unthinkable plot. As the situation escalates and they become the nation's most wanted fugitives, these two ordinary people must work together to discover who is manipulating them and why. By the time they discover her frightening identity, they have become her unwitting accomplices in a diabolical assassination plot.
Director: D.J. Caruso. Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 117 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $99.740 million, Paramount. Available: 12/27.
FLY ME TO THE MOON
In this 3-D animated adventure, three young flies set off on a courageous mission to become the first insects on the moon by hitching a ride on the historic Apollo 11 space flight. Based on the actual transcripts and the original blueprints from NASA, the film's visuals and meticulous attention to detail introduce a whole new generation to the awe-inspiring achievements of the space program's most momentous mission. The year is 1969 and like everyone else in the world, Nat (Trevor Gagnon) and his pals IQ (Philip Daniel Bolden) and Scooter (David Gore) are abuzz over the upcoming launch of the first manned mission to the moon. Inspired by his Grandpa's (Christopher Lloyd) oft-told tale of hiding aboard Amelia Earhart's plane during her famed solo cross-Atlantic flight, Nat hatches a secret plan for the three young flies to stow away on the Apollo 11 rocket. Thinking the trip will be over in a matter of minutes, the fly boys-and their earthbound families-are shocked to learn they will be in space for closer to a week. When a N.A.S.A. Ground Control official catches sight of the three winged stowaways, he instructs the astronauts to store them in a test tube for later study. But after an electrical short causes the ship's engine to malfunction, the three intrepid insects manage to escape from their glass mini-brig just in time to discover the wiring problem and fix it.
Director: Ben Stassen. Voices of Trevor Gagnon, Philip Daniel Bolden, David Gore, Christopher Lloyd, Kelly Ripa, Nicollette Sheridan, Ed Begley, Jr., Adrienne Barbeau, Tim Curry, Robert Patrick, Buzz Aldrin. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: G, 84 min., Family, Box office gross: $12.085 million, Summit Entertainment. Available: 12/2.
Ricky Gervais is Bertram Pincus, a New York City dentist with the people skills of a barracuda. When a routine surgery goes awry, Pincus is pronounced dead, but miraculously revived seven minutes later. The ill-mannered Manhattanite suffers only one lasting after-effect: the ability to see and speak with the dead. When word gets out in the spirit community, Pincus is irritated to discover he's the go-to-guy for every phantom with unfinished business in the city. At the forefront of the ghostly mob is recently deceased Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), who is determined to stop the remarriage of his widow, Gwen (Tea Leoni). Things get sticky when the prickly and romantically inexperienced Pincus becomes smitten with Gwen and tries to woo her away from her dead betrothed.
HOUSE BUNNY, THE
When Shelly (Anna Faris), a Playboy bunny, is tossed out of the Playboy mansion, she has nowhere to go until she flands a job as "house mother" to the girls from the lamest sorority on campus, Zeta Tau Zeta. The members of the sorority -- who also have got to be the seven most socially clueless women on the planet -- are about to lose their house unless they can come up with more pledges. They need a dose of what only the eternally bubbly Shelley can provide ... sexy hipness. Shelly ends of remaking the girls and the sorority -- but in the end the girls will each have to learn on their own to stop pretending to be what others want them to be and start being themselves.
Director: Fred Wolf. Stars: Anna Faris, Emma Stone, Rumer Willis, Kat Dennings, Sarah Wright, Dana Goodman, Katharine McPhee, Colin Hanks, Christopher McDonald, Beverly D'Angelo. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 97 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $48.237 million, Sony. Available: 12/19.
Heartwarming story of the first and only girl quarterback in Pop Warner football history. Curtis Plummer (Ice Cube) -- a down-on-his-luck former high school football star -- turns his niece, Jasmine (Keke Palmer), into the quarterback of the local team, the Minden Browns, and gets his stride back when he becomes the team coach. With Curtis as their new leader and their pigtail-wearing star player, this team of misfits wins its way to the Pop Warner Super Bowl and the small city of Minden, Illinois, is ignited with team spirit and town pride.
Director: Fred Durst. Stars: Ice Cube, Tasha Smith, Keke Palmer, Jill Marie Jones, Earthquake. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 95 min., Family, Box office gross: $11.434 million, The Weinstein Company/Genius Products. Available: 12/2.
MAMMA MIA! THE MOVIE
Meryl Streep leads an all-star cast in the feature-film adaptation of the musical that has been seen by more than 30 million people in 160 cities and 8 languages around the world. An independent, single mother who owns a small hotel on an idyllic Greek island, Donna (Streep) is about to let go of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), the spirited daughter she's raised alone. For Sophie's wedding, Donna has invited her two lifelong best girlfriends --practical and no-nonsense Rosie (Julie Walters) and wealthy, multi-divorcee Tanya (Christine Baranski) -- from her one-time backing band, Donna and the Dynamos. But Sophie has secretly invited three guests of her own. On a quest to find the identity of her father to walk her down the aisle, she brings back three men from Donna's past to the Mediterranean paradise they visited 20 years earlier. Over 24 chaotic, magical hours, new love will bloom and old romances will be rekindled. Inspired by the storytelling magic of ABBA's songs from "Dancing Queen" and "S.O.S." to "Money, Money, Money" and "Take a Chance on Me," Mamma Mia! is a celebration of mothers and daughters, old friends and new family found.
Director: Phyllida Lloyd. Stars: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 109 min., Musical, Box office gross: $143.704 million, Company. Available: 12/16.
MUMMY, THE: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR
Brendan Fraser returns in this second sequel as explorer Rick O'Connell to combat the resurrected Han Emperor (Jet Li) in an adventure that races from the catacombs of ancient China high into the frigid Himalayas. Doomed by a double-crossing sorceress (Michelle Yeoh) to spend eternity in suspended animation, China's ruthless Dragon Emperor and his 10,000 warriors have lain forgotten for eons, entombed in clay as a vast, silent terra cotta army. But when dashing adventurer Alex O'Connell (Rick's son) is tricked into awakening the ruler from eternal slumber, the reckless young archaeologist must seek the help of the only people who know more than he does about taking down the undead: his parents. As the monarch roars back to life, his quest for world domination has only intensified over the millennia. Striding the Far East with unimaginable supernatural powers, the Emperor Mummy will rouse his legion as an unstoppable, otherworldly force ... unless the O'Connells can stop him first.
Director: Rob Cohen. Stars: Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, Jet Li, John Hannah, Michelle Yeoh, Anthony Wong, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 112 min., Action Adventure, Box office gross: $102.176 million, Universal. Available: 12/16.
Brennan (Will Ferrell) and Dale (John C. Reilly) are two middle-aged loafers who are forced to live together when their parents get married. When the narcissistic reluctant step-siblings' immature antics over TV privileges and personal property take their toll on the marriage, the devious duo hatch an insane, elaborate scheme to reunite the couple.
Director: Adam McKay. Stars: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen, Richard Jenkins, Adam Scott. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 98 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $100.125 million, Fox. Available: 12/2.
Taut international thriller set against a puzzle of covert counter-espionage operations. When straight-arrow FBI agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) investigates a dangerous international conspiracy responsible for a prison break in Yemen, a bombing in Nice and a raid in London, all clues seem to lead back to former U.S. Special Operations officer, Samir Horn (Don Cheadle). But a tangle of contradictory evidence emerges, forcing Clayton to question whether his suspect is a disaffected former military operative -- or something far more complicated. Obsessed with discovering the truth, Clayton tracks Horn across the globe as the elusive ex-soldier burrows deeper and deeper into a world of shadows and intrigue.
Director: Jeffrey Nachmanoff. Stars: Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Said Taghmaoui, Neal McDonough, Jeff Daniels. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 114 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $23.332 million, Overture Films/Anchor Bay. Available: 12/19.
Based upon Mark Millar's explosive graphic novel series and helmed by stunning visualist director Timur Bekmambetov -- creator of the most successful Russian film franchise in history, the "Night Watch" series - "Wanted" tells the tale of one apathetic nobody's transformation into an unparalleled enforcer of justice. Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is the most disaffected, cube-dwelling drone the planet has ever known. His boss chews him out hourly, his girlfriend ignores him routinely and his life plodsd on interminably. Everyone is certain this disengaged slacker will amount to nothing. Until he meets Fox (Angelina Jolie). After Gibson's estranged father is murdered, the deadly sexy Fox recruits Wes into the Fraternity, a secret society that trains him to avenge the death by unlocking his dormant powers. As she teaches him how to develop lightning-quick reflexes and phenomenal agility, Wes discovers this team lives by an ancient, unbreakable code: carry out the death orders given by fate itself. With wickedly brilliant tutors -- including the Fraternity's enigmatic leader, Sloan (Morgan Freeman) -- Wes grows to enjoy all the strength he ever wanted. But, slowly, he begins to realize there is more to his dangerous associates than meets the eye. And as he wavers between newfound heroism and vengeance, he will come to learn what no one could ever teach him: that he alone controls his destiny.
Director: Timur Bekmambetov. Stars: Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Common. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 110 min., Thirller, Box office gross: $134.294 million, Universal. Available: 12/2.
Adaptation of Clare Boothe Luce's play of the same name, first made famous by director George Cukor's iconic 1939 film. Set in New York City's modern whirl of fashion and publishing, "The Women" tells the story of Mary Haines (Meg Ryan), a clothing designer who seems to have it all -- a beautiful country home, a rich financier husband, an adorable 11-year-old daughter and a part-time career creating designs for her father's venerable clothing company. Her best friend, Sylvie Fowler (Annette Bening), leads another enviable life -- a happily single editor of a prominent fashion magazine, a possessor of a huge closet of designer clothes and a revered arbiter of taste and style poised on New York's cutting edge. But when Mary's husband enters into an affair with Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes), a sultry "spritzer girl" lurking behind the Saks Fifth Avenue perfume counter, all hell breaks loose. Mary and Sylvie's relationship is tested to the breaking point while their tight-knit circle of friends, including mega-mommy Edie Cohen (Debra Messing) and author Alex Fisher (Jada Pinkett-Smith), all start to question their own friendships and romantic relationships as well.
Director: Diane English. Stars: Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett Smith, Debra Messing, Candice Bergen, Bette Midler, Cloris Leachman, Carrie Fisher, Lynn Whitfield, Joanna Gleason, Ana Gasteyer, Debi Mazar. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 114 min., Drama, Box office gross: $26.739 million, Warner. Available: 12/21.
X-FILES, THE: I WANT TO BELIEVE
When a terrorist bomb destroys a building in Dallas, FBI Agents Fox Mulder (Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Anderson) are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy surpassing anything they've ever encountered. With the dubious assistance of a paranoid doctor (Martin Landau), Mulder and Scully risk their careers and their lives to hunt down a deadly virus which may be extraterrestrial in origin - and could destroy all life on earth. Their pursuit of truth pits them against the mysterious Syndicate, powerful men who will stop at nothing to keep their secrets safe, leading the agents from the cave in Texas, to the halls of the FBI, and finally to a secret installation in Antarctica which holds the greatest secret of all.
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, 2008