ALL ABOUT STEVE
Comedy about a blind date gone wrong. When eccentric, but lovable, crossword puzzle constructor Mary gets set up with Steve, a news channel cameraman, she falls hard but he doesn't. Mary decides to follow Steve on a cross-country hunt for breaking news and soon finds herself entangled in the story. But despite the media storm surrounding her, Mary may just discover her true place in the world ... and the man of her dreams.
Director: Phil Traill. Stars: Sandra Bullock, Thomas Haden Church, Bradley Cooper, Ken Jeong, DJ Qualls, Katy Mixon, Howard Hesseman.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 99 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $33.368 million, Fox.
Medium-budget science fiction film about an extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth took the boxoffice by storm this past summer. It's an intelligent use of sci-fi motifs to explore racism, colonialism and exploitation in South Africa (and the world). Story line: Twenty-eight years ago, aliens made first contact with Earth. Humans waited for the hostile attack, or the giant advances in technology. Neither came. Instead, the aliens were refugees, the last survivors of their home world. The beings were set up in a makeshift home in South Africa's "District 9" as the world's nations argued over what to do with them. Now, patience over the alien situation has run out. Control over the aliens has been contracted out to Multi-National United (MNU), a private company uninterested in the aliens' welfare -- they are only interested in the tremendous profits they'll get if they can make the aliens' awesome weaponry work. So far, they have failed; activation of the weaponry requires alien DNA, and with the sanction of the government, they decide to evict the aliens and move them to another camp further way from the city. The tension between the aliens and the humans comes to a head when an MNU field operative, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), contracts a mysterious virus that begins changing his DNA. Wikus quickly becomes the most hunted man in the world, as well as the most valuable -- he is the key to unlocking the secrets of alien technology. Ostracized and friendless, there is only one place left for him to hide: "District 9." The filmmakers chose to make the film using hand-held cameras and cinema verite interviewing techniques to add to the realism. Successfully, we might add.
Director: Neill Blomkamp. Stars: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt, Sylvaine Strike, John Sumner, William Allen Young, Vanessa Haywood, Marian Hooman.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 112 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $114.873 million, Sony.
Joel Reynolds (Jason Bateman) is sitting pretty. With a beautiful wife, a comfortable home and the almost finalized acquisition by General Mills of the culinary extracts business he has built with his loyal lieutenant Brian (J.K. Simmons), Joel seems to have it all. Except his wife is about as interested in him as she is in her career (supermarket coupon design), his employees want a piece of the pie and the sweet young thing with designs on him (Mila Kunis) is really a wily con-artist. On the advice of a drug-addled confidante (Ben Affleck), Joel cooks up a scheme to cheat with impunity by hiring a gigolo to seduce his wife -- only to discover the young object of his affection is behind a lawsuit by long-time employee Step (Clifton Collins, Jr.) that will scotch the General Mills deal and leave Joel penniless. The best-laid plans unravel with unsuspected results in this off-the wall comedy about life in the not-so-fast lane.
Director: Mike Judge. Stars: Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons, Clifton Collins Jr., Gene Simmons.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 92 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $10.814 million, Miramax.
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER
An offbeat romantic comedy about a woman (Zooey Deschanel) who doesn't believe true love exists, and the young man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who falls for her. This postmodern love story is never what we expect it to be -- it's thorny yet exhilarating, funny and sad, a twisted journey of highs and lows that doesn't quite go where we think it will. When Tom (Gordon-Levitt), a hapless greeting card copywriter and hopeless romantic, is blindsided after his girlfriend Summer (Deschanel) dumps him, he shifts back and forth through various periods of their 500 days "together" to try to figure out where things went wrong. His reflections ultimately lead him to finally rediscover his true passions in life.
Director: Marc Webb. Stars: Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Clark Gregg, Minka Kelly, Rachel Boston, Matthew Gray Gubler, Chloe Moretz.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 05 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $31.969 million, Fox.
Animated comedy adventure about a top-secret, highly trained trio of guinea pig super spies assigned to stop a dastardly plot to take over the world. The latest evolution of a covert government program to train animals to work in espionage, highly trained guinea pigs armed with the latest high-tech spy equipment discover that the fate of the world is in their paws. Tapped for the G-Force are guinea pigs Darwin (voice of Sam Rockwell), the squad leader determined to succeed at all costs; Blaster (voice of Tracy Morgan), an outrageous weapons expert with tons of attitude and a love for all things extreme; and Juarez (voice of Penelope Cruz), a sexy martial arts pro; plus the literal fly-on-the-wall reconnaissance expert, Mooch, and a star-nosed mole, Speckles (voice of Nicolas Cage), the computer and information specialist.
Director: Hoyt Yeatman. Stars: Voices of Nicolas Cage, Steve Buscemi, Tracy Morgan, Bill Nighy, Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Kelli Garner, Gabriel Casseus, Jack Conley, Penelope Cruz, Tyler Patrick Jones.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 88 min., Animated, Box office gross: $117.471 million, Disney.
Raunchy, crude, bathroom humor comedy told in flashbacks. Two days before his wedding, Doug and his three friends drive to Las Vegas for a blow-out bachelor party they'll never forget. But, in fact, when the three groomsmen wake up the next morning, they can't remember a thing. For some reason, they find a tiger in the bathroom and a six-month-old baby in the closet of their suite at Caesars Palace. The one thing they can't find is Doug. With no clue as to what transpired and little time to spare, the trio must retrace their hazy steps and all their bad decisions in order to figure out where things went wrong and hopefully get Doug back to L.A. in time to walk down the aisle.
Director: Todd Phillips. Stars: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham, Justin Bartha, Jeffrey Tambor.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 96 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $273.863 million, Warner.
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE
Emboldened by the return of Lord Voldemort, the Death Eaters are wreaking havoc in both the Muggle and wizarding worlds and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. Harry Potter suspects that new dangers may lie within the castle, but headmaster Dumbledore is more intent upon preparing him for the final battle that he knows is fast approaching. He needs Harry to help him uncover a vital key to unlocking Voldemort's defenses -- critical information known only to Hogwarts' former Potions Professor, Horace Slughorn. With that in mind, Dumbledore manipulates his old colleague into returning to his previous post with promises of more money, a bigger office ... and the chance to teach the famous Harry Potter. Meanwhile, the students are under attack from a very different adversary as teenage hormones rage across the ramparts. Harry's long friendship with Ginny Weasley is growing into something deeper, but standing in the way is Ginny's boyfriend, Dean Thomas, not to mention her big brother Ron. But Ron's got romantic entanglements of his own to worry about, with Lavender Brown lavishing her affections on him, leaving Hermione simmering with jealousy yet determined not to show her feelings. And then a box of love potion-laced chocolates ends up in the wrong hands and changes everything. As romance blossoms, one student remains aloof with far more important matters on his mind. He is determined to make his mark, albeit a dark one. Love is in the air, but tragedy lies ahead and Hogwarts may never be the same again.
Director: David Yates. Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, David Bradley, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Cave, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Frank Dillane, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Helen McCrory, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Natalia Tena, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Julie Walters, David Thewlis, Bonnie Wright.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 153 min., Fantasy, Box office gross: $298.844 million, Warner.
Quentin Tarantino's imaginative and comedic take on World War II has a group of Jewish soldiers getting revenge on the Nazi by relentlessly killing them all over German-occupied France. Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) organizes the group, whose targeted acts of brutal retribution -- and their scalping of dead soldiers -- wins them the name "The Basterds." The film, organized in Tarantino's trademarked chapter structure -- begins in German-occupied France, where Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) witnesses the execution of her family at the hands of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Shosanna narrowly escapes and flees to Paris, where she forges a new identity as the owner and operator of a cinema. Elsewhere in Europe, Raine's squad joins German actress and undercover agent Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) on a mission to take down the leaders of the Third Reich. Fates converge under a cinema marquee, where Shosanna is poised to carry out a revenge plan of her own. Tongue-in-check, violent and -- well, downright brilliant -- this is one of the best Tarantino film in years -- and one of the best films of 2009.
Director: Quentin Tarantino. Stars: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Daniel Bruhl, Eli Roth, Samm Levine, B.J. Novak, Til Schweiger, Gedeon Burkhard, Paul Rust, Michael Bacall, Omar Doom, Sylvester Groth, Julie Dreyfus, Jacky Ido, August Diehl, Martin Wuttke, Richard Sammel, Christian Berkel, Sonke Mohring, Michael Fassbender, Mike Myers, Rod Taylor, Denis Menochet, Cloris Leachman, Maggie Cheung, Samuel L. Jackson.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 152 min., Action, Box office gross: $118.297 million, Universal.
IT MIGHT GET LOUD
Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White come together to play, compare notes and talk about music and their mutual love of the electric guitar. Directed by Davis Guggenheim and conceived by producer Thomas Tull, the film, through the words and music of three generations of musicians, celebrates the love affair these men and countless others have with the electric guitar, perhaps the most innovative and challenging instrument ever created. Filmed through the eyes of three virtuosos from three different generations, audiences get up close and personal, discovering how a furniture upholsterer from Detroit, a studio musician and a painter from London and a seventeen-year-old Dublin schoolboy, each used the electric guitar to develop their unique sound and rise to the pantheon of superstar. Rare discussions are provoked as we travel with Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White to influential locations of their pasts. Born from the experience is intimate access to the creative genesis of each legend, such as Link Wray's "Rumble's" searing impression upon Jimmy Page, who surprises audiences with an impromptu air guitar performance.
Director: Davis Guggenheim. Stars: Jimmy Page, The Edge, Jack White.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 98 min., Documentary, Box office gross: $1.486 million, Sony.
Small town high school cheerleader Jennifer (Megan Fox) gets possessed by a hungry demon and transitions from being "high school evil" -- gorgeous, stuck up and ultra-attitudinal -- to the real deal: evil/evil. When she begins feeding off the boys in the school her lifelong best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried), long relegated to living in Jennifer's shadow, must step-up to protect the town's young men, including her nerdy boyfriend.
Director: Karyn Kusama. Stars: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Brody, J.K. Simmons, Johnny Simmons, Kyle Gallner, Josh Emerson, Lance Henriksen, Diablo Cody.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 92 min., Horror, Box office gross: $16.140 million, Fox.
JULIE & JULIA
Based on Julie Powell's book "Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen." Julie Powell recounts how she conquered every recipe in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and saved her soul. Julie Powell is 30-years-old, living in a rundown apartment in Queens and working at a soul-sucking secretarial job that's going nowhere. She needs something to break the monotony of her life, and she invents a deranged assignment. She will take her mother's dog-eared copy of Julia Child's 1961 classic and she will cook all 524 recipes, blogging as she goes. In the span of one year. At first she thinks it will be easy. But as she moves from the simple Potage Parmentier (potato soup) into the more complicated realm of aspics and crepes, she realizes there's more to "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" than meets the eye. Meanwhile, the film juxtaposes Julia Child's (Meryl Streep) life in France as the wife of a post-World War II diplomat as she moves from bored housewife to grand chef (at a time when women were not accepted as chefs) and her struggles to write and publish the ultimate cookbook of French recipes. With Julia's stern warble always in her ear, Julie haunts the local butcher, buying kidneys and sweetbreads. She sends her husband on late-night runs for yet more butter and rarely serves dinner before midnight. She discovers how to mold the perfect Orange Bavarian, the trick to extracting marrow from bone, and the intense pleasure of eating liver. And somewhere along the line she realizes she has turned her kitchen into a miracle of creation and cuisine. She has eclipsed her life's ordinariness through spectacular humor, hysteria, and perseverance. Tour-de-force performance by Streep and the sequences in France keep the film together.
Director: Nora Ephron. Stars: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Jane Lynch, Dave Annable, Mary Lynn Rajskub.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 123 min., Biodrama-Comedy, Box office gross: $90.600 million, Sony.
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF the Smithsonian
In this bland sequel, the Museum of Natural History is closed down for upgrading and the exhibits are put into storage at the Federal Archives in Washington, D.C. Security guard Larry (Ben Stiller), now a successful businessman, must help the exhibits-come-to-life fend off a takeover by an evil spirit.
Director: Shawn Levy. Stars: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Christopher Guest, Jon Bernthal, Bill Hader, Alain Chabat, Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 100 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $176.924 million, Fox.
Part-documentary, part-scripted comedy about the real-life relationship between Michael Cera and his girlfriend, Charlyne Yi. Yi doesn't believe in love. Or so she says ... at the very least, she doesn't believe in fairy-tale love or the Hollywood mythology of love, and her own experiences have turned her into yet another modern-day skeptic. "Paper Heart" follows Yi as she embarks on a quest across America to make a documentary about the one subject she doesn't fully understand. As she and her good friend (and director) Nicholas search for answers and advice about love, Yi talks with friends and strangers, scientists, bikers, romance novelists and children. They each offer diverse views on modern romance, as well as various answers to the age-old question: does true love really exist? Then, shortly after filming begins, Yi meets a boy after her own heart: Michael Cera. As their relationship develops on camera, her pursuit to discover the nature of love takes on a fresh new urgency.
Director: Nicholas Jasenovec. Stars: Michael Cera, Charlyne Yi, Jake M. Johnson, Seth Rogen, Paul Rust, Demetri Martin, Lydia Yi, Martin Starr.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 88 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $1.257 million, Overture Films.
Intense and chilling story follows a young, middle-class couple who become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be demonic, but is certainly most active in the middle of the night ... especially while they sleep. Filmed as if it were a home video. Katie and Micah were enjoying a happy, carefree life until bizarre events began occurring at night. Katie was no stranger to paranormal phenomena -- she had been stalked by a malevolent entity since childhood and she feared that it had followed her to her new home. So the couple purchase a video camera to find out what is happening at night as they sleep; over the course of three weeks in September and October of 2006 they run nightly surveillance and capture indelible proof of "Paranormal Activity."
Director: Oren Peli. Stars: Micah Sloat, Katie Featherston, Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong, Tim Piper, Randy McDowell.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 99 min., Horror, Box office gross: $106.224 million, Paramount.
Disappointing Michael Mann crime thriller about legendary Depression-era outlaw John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) -- the charismatic bank robber whose lightning raids made him the number one target of J. Edgar Hoover's fledgling FBI and its top agent, Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), and a folk hero to much of the downtrodden public. No one could stop Dillinger and his gang. No jail could hold him. His charm and audacious jailbreaks endeared him to almost everyone -- from his girlfriend Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) to an American public who had no sympathy for the banks that had plunged the country into the Depression. But while the adventures of Dillinger's gang -- later including the sociopathic Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi) -- thrilled many, Hoover (Billy Crudup) hit on the idea of exploiting the outlaw's capture as a way to elevate his Bureau of Investigation into the national police force that became the FBI. He made Dillinger America's first Public Enemy Number One and sent in Purvis, the dashing "Clark Gable of the FBI." However, Dillinger and his gang outwitted and outgunned Purvis' men in wild chases and shootouts. Only after importing a crew of Western ex-lawmen (newly baptized as agents) and orchestrating epic betrayals -- from the infamous "Lady in Red" to the Chicago crime boss Frank Nitti -- were Purvis, the FBI and their new crew of gunfighters able to close in on Dillinger. Despite the bigger-than-life characters and acting talents of Depp, Bale et al, Mann doesn't give us anyone to care about in this fast-paced but uninvolving thriller.
Director: Michael Mann. Stars: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Jason Clarke, Rory Cochran, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Stephen Lang, John Ortiz, Giovanni Ribisi, David Wenham, Stephen Graham.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 143 min., Crime Thriller, Box office gross: $97.030 million, Universal.
The true story of Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) and his family, who inadvertently played a pivotal role in making the famed Woodstock Music and Arts Festival into the happening that it was. It's 1969, and Elliot Tiber, a down-on-his-luck interior designer in Greenwich Village, New York, has to move back upstate to help his parents run their dilapidated Catskills motel, The El Monaco. The bank's about to foreclose; his father wants to burn the place down, but hasn't paid the insurance; and Elliot is still figuring how to come out to his parents. When Elliot hears that a neighboring town has pulled the permit on a hippie music festival, he calls the producers, thinking he could drum up some much-needed business for the motel. Three weeks later, half a million people are on their way to his neighbor's farm in White Lake, N.Y., and Elliot finds himself swept up in a generation-defining experience that would change his life, and American culture, forever.
Director: Ang Lee. Stars: Demetri Martin, Emile Hirsch, Liev Schreiber, Imelda Staunton, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Henry Goodman, Eugene Levy, Paul Dano, Dan Fogler, Mamie Gummer.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 120 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $7.443 million, Universal.
The fourth installment of the Terminator series follows an adult John Connor (Christian Bale) as he attempts to organize a human resistance force which could prove to be humankind's last true hope for survival in the war against their intelligent robot overlords. Opening in the year 2018, Terminator Salvation finds John Connor's certainty about the future shaken by the sudden appearance of a mysterious stranger named Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), whose last memory is of sitting on death row and awaiting execution. Unable to determine whether Marcus was sent from the future or rescued from the past, Connor begins to wonder whether there is still any hope left for the human race as the robots grow more powerful and aggressive than ever before. It appears that Skynet is preparing a devastating final attack designed to eliminate the human resistance forces once and for all, leaving Connor and Marcus with no choice but to strike back at the cybernetic heart of Skynet's operations. Once there, the two battle-scarred soldiers discover a devastating secret regarding the potential annihilation of all humankind.
Director: McG. Stars: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Moon Bloodgood, Common, Jadagrace, Helena Bonham Carter.
2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 130 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $125.286 million, Warner.
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, 2009