OnVideo: FEBRUARY's Top Movies
Director: Max Mayer. Stars: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, Frankie Faison. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 99 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $2.277 million, Paramount. Available: 2/2.
Director: Mira Nair. Stars: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Mia Wasikowska. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 111 min., Bio-drama, Box office gross: $14.133 million, Fox. Available: 2/2.
BOX, THEWhat if someone gave you a box containing a button that, if pushed, would bring you a million dollars ... but simultaneously take the life of someone you don't know? Would you do it? And what would be the consequences? The year is 1976. Norma Lewis is a teacher at a private high school and her husband, Arthur, is an engineer working at NASA. They are, by all accounts, an average couple living a normal life in the suburbs with their young son ... until a mysterious man with a horribly disfigured face appears on their doorstep and presents Norma with a life-altering proposition: the box. With only 24 hours to make their choice, Norma and Arthur face an impossible moral dilemma. What they don't realize is that no matter what they decide, terrifying consequences will have already been set in motion. They soon discover that the ramifications of this decision are beyond their control and extend far beyond their own fortune and fate. Based on the short story by Richard Matheson ("I Am Legend").
CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANTTale of a boy who unknowingly breaks a 200-year-old truce between two warring factions of vampires. Fourteen-year-old Darren (Chris Massoglia) was like most kids in his suburban neighborhood. He hung out with his best friend, got decent grades and usually stayed out of trouble. But when he and his buddy stumble upon a traveling freak show, things begin to change inside Darren. That's the exact moment when a vampire named Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly) turns him into something, well, bloodthirsty. Newly undead, he joins the "Cirque Du Freak," a touring sideshow filled with monstrous creatures, from a snakeboy and a wolfman to a bearded lady (Salma Hayek) and a gigantic barker (Ken Watanabe). As Darren flexes his newfound powers in this dark world, he becomes a pawn between the vampires and their deadlier counterparts and must struggle to keep their brewing war from devouring what's left of his humanity.
Director: Paul Weitz. Stars: John C. Reilly, Ken Watanabe, Chris Massoglia, Josh Hutcherson, Patrick Fugit, Ray Stevenson, Michael Cerveris, Frankie Faison, Jane Krakowski, Orlando Jones, Kristen Schaal, Salma Hayek, Willem Dafoe. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 109 min., Horror, Box office gross: $13.838 million, (Universal). Available: 2/23.
COCO BEFORE CHANELUnforgettable true story of a young woman who overcame her impoverished childhood and defied societal convention to become the most famous fashion designer of the 20th century. Audrey Tautou shines in this intriguing portrait of the early life of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, the orphan who would build a fashion empire and be known universally by her nickname, Coco. She journeys from a mundane seamstress job to boisterous cabarets to the opulent French countryside, possessing little more than her unwavering determination, unique style and visionary talent.
Director: Anne Fontaine. Stars: Audrey Tautou, Alessandro Nivola, Marie Gillain, Benoit Poelvoorde, Emmanuelle Devos, Roch Leibovici. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 105 min., Bio-drama, Box office gross: $5.884 million, Sony. Available: 2/16.
COUPLES RETREATFollows four Midwestern couples at a tropical island resort. While one of the couples is there to work on their marriage, the other three set out to jet ski, spa and enjoy some fun in the sun. They soon discover that participation in the resort's couples therapy is not optional. Suddenly, their group-rate vacation comes at a price. What follows is a comedic look at real world problems faced by all couples.
Director: Peter Billingsley. Stars: Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis, Malin Akerman, Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Faizon Love, Jean Reno, Peter Serafinowicz, Kali Hawk, Tasha Smith. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 114 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $108.134 million, Universal. Available: 2/9.
EVERYBODY'S FINEThis remake of Giuseppe Tornatore's "Stanno Tutti Bene" follows a widower (Robert De Niro) who embarks on an impromptu road trip to reconnect with each of his grown children only to discover that their lives are far from picture perfect. This undrerrated family comedy-drama got a bum rap from the reviewers, with many criticizng the film for being sterotypical and sentimental. We found it to be uplifting and full of warmth and love for its characters, a rarity in some of today's films that take an all-too ironic punch at its protagonists. And De Niro is wonderfully understated as a man trying to put his family back together. And what's so bad about being sentimental?
INFORMANT!, THEWhat was Mark Whitacre thinking? A rising star at agri-industry giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Whitacre suddenly turns whistleblower. Even as he exposes his company's multi-national price-fixing conspiracy to the FBI, Whitacre envisions himself being hailed as a hero of the common man and handed a promotion. But before all that can happen, the FBI needs evidence, so Whitacre eagerly agrees to wear a wire and carry a hidden tape recorder in his briefcase, imagining himself as a kind of de facto secret agent. Unfortunately for the FBI, their lead witness hasn't been quite so forthcoming about helping himself to the corporate coffers. Whitacre's ever-changing account frustrates the agents and threatens the case against ADM as it becomes almost impossible to decipher what is real and what is the product of Whitacre's rambling imagination. The film is based on the true story of the highest-ranking corporate whistleblower in U.S. history.
Director: Steven Soderbergh. Stars: Matt Damon, Joel McHale, Scott Bakula, Mike O'Malley, Andrew Daly, Adam Paul, Melanie Lynskey, Tom Wilson, Rick Overton, Tom Papa, Candy Clark. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 108 min., Comedy-Drama, Box office gross: $33.313 million, Warner. Available: 2/23.
LAW ABIDING CITIZENClyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is an upstanding family man whose wife and daughter are brutally murdered during a home invasion. When the killers are caught, Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), a hotshot young Philadelphia prosecutor, is assigned to the case. Over his objections, Nick is forced by his boss to offer one of the suspects a light sentence in exchange for testifying against his accomplice. Fast forward ten years. The man who got away with murder is found dead and Shelton coolly admits his guilt. Then he issues a warning to Rice: Either fix the flawed justice system that failed his family, or key players in the trial will die. The hook: the murders are orchestrated by Shelton from behind bars.
Director: F. Gary Gray. Stars: Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx, Viola Davis, Bruce McGill, Leslie Bibb, Colm Meaney, Regina Hall, Michael Irby. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 108 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $73.106 million, Anchor Bay. Available: 2/16.
LOVE HAPPENSWhen a self-help author arrives in Seattle to teach a sold-out seminar, he unexpectedly meets the one person who might finally be able to help him help himself. Dr. Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) is on the precipice of a major multimedia deal, but the therapist who asks his patients to openly confront their pain is secretly unable to take his own advice. Eloise Chandler (Jennifer Aniston) has sworn off men and decided to focus on her floral business. However, when she meets Burke at the hotel where he's speaking, there is an instant attraction. But will two people who have met the right person at exactly the wrong time be able to give love another chance? As each struggles with the hurt of love and loss, they realize that in order to move forward, they need to let go of the past. And if they can, they'll find that, sometimes, love happens when you least expect it.
Director: Brandon Camp. Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Aaron Eckhart, Dan Fogler, Judy Greer, Martin Sheen, Joe Anderson, John Carroll Lynch. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 109 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $22.927 million, Universal. Available: 2/2.
MOTHERHOODEliza Welch (Uma Thurman) is a former fiction writer-turned-mom-blogger with her own site, "The Bjorn Identity." Putting her deeper creative ambitions on hold to raise her two children, Eliza lives and works in two rent-stabilized apartments in a walk-up tenement building smack in the middle of an otherwise upscale Greenwich Village. Eliza's good-natured but absent-minded husband (Anthony Edwards) seems tuned out to his wife's conflicts, not to mention basic domestic reality, while her best friend Sheila (Minnie Driver) understands this -- and Eliza -- all too well. The story takes place in a single day that pushes to the tipping point Eliza's fundamental fear that she's lost herself. Starting at dawn, her to-do list is daunting: prepare for and throw her daughter's sixth birthday party, mind her toddler son, battle for a parking space during an epic alternate-side parking showdown, navigate playground politics with overbearing moms, and mend a rift after posting her best friend's confession on her blog. On top of it all, Eliza decides to enter a contest run by an upscale parenting magazine. All she has to do is write 500 words answering the deceptively simple question, "What Does Motherhood Mean to Me?" And it's in the process of trying to put these thoughts into words that she rediscovers her own voice and realizes what is truly valuable in her life.
Director: Katherine Dieckmann. Stars: Uma Thurman, Minnie Driver, Anthony Edwards.. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 90 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $.089 million, National Entertainment Media. Available: 2/23.
NEW YORK, I LOVE YOUA virtual who's who of Hollywood stars bring to life a collection of love stories set in one of the world's most revered and romantic cities. Ten directors, including Natalie Portman, Brett Ratner, Mira Nair, Shekhar Kapur and Allen Hughes, create 10 intertwined vignettes that weave a magical spell of love through the various boroughs and neighborhoods of the legendary city. A kaleidoscope of the spontaneous, surprising, electrifying human connections that pump the city's heartbeat. Sexy, funny, haunting and revealing encounters unfold beneath the Manhattan skyline, from Tribeca to Central Park to Brooklyn. From the producer of "Paris Je T'aime," which explored the City of Lights through a series of stories told by a host of directors and actors.
Directors: Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, Allen Hughes, Shunji Iwai, Wen Jiang, Joshua Marston, Mira Nair, Brett Ratner, Shekhar Kapur, Natalie Portman. Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Bradley Cooper, Natalie Portman, Blake Lively, Orlando Bloom, Robin Wright Penn, Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson, Drea de Matteo, Christina Ricci, Ethan Hawke, James Caan, Anton Yelchin, Justin Bartha, Chris Cooper, Andy Garcia, Julie Christie, Cloris Leachman, Eli Wallach, John Hurt, Olivia Thirlby, Eva Amurri, Maggie Q. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 110 min., Comedy Drama, Box office gross: $1.569, million, Vivendi Entertainment. Available: 2/2.
SERIOUS MAN, AAcademy Award-winning directors-writers Joel and Ethan Coen return to their comedy roots with this original and darkly humorous story about one ordinary man's journey through faith, family, delinquent behavior and mortality. "A Serious Man" is the story of an ordinary man's search for clarity in a universe where the Jefferson Airplane is on the radio and "F-Troop" is on TV. It's 1967 and Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor at a quiet Midwestern university, has just been informed by his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) that she is leaving him. She has fallen in love with one of his more pompous colleagues, Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed), who seems to her a more substantial person than the feckless Larry. Larry's unemployable brother Arthur (Richard Kind) is sleeping on the couch, his son Danny (Aaron Wolf) is a discipline problem and a shirker at Hebrew school, and his daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus) is filching money from his wallet in order to save up for a nose job. While his wife and Sy Ableman blithely make new domestic arrangements, and his brother becomes more and more of a burden, an anonymous hostile letter-writer is trying to sabotage Larry's chances for tenure at the university. In addition, a graduate student and his father seem to be trying to bribe Larry for a passing grade while at the same time threatening to sue him for defamation. Plus, the beautiful woman next door torments him by sunbathing nude. Struggling for equilibrium, Larry seeks advice from three different rabbis. Can anyone help him cope with his afflictions and become a righteous person -- a mensch -- a serious man? Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen. Stars: Michael Stuhlbarg, Fred Melamed, Richard Kind, Aaron Wolf, Sari Wagner, Jessica McManus, Adam Arkin. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 106 min., Black Comedy, Box office gross: $9.042 million, Universal. Available: 2/9.
SORORITY ROWWhen five sorority girls inadvertently cause the murder of one of their sisters in a prank gone wrong, they agree to keep the matter to themselves and never speak of it again, so they can get on with their lives. After graduation, however, a mysterious killer goes after the five of them and anyone who knows their secret. Typical slasher film.
> Director: Stewart Hendler. Stars: Briana Evigan, Rumer Willis, Audrina Patridge, Carrie Fisher, Julian Morris, Jamie Chung, Leah Pipes, Margo Harshman, Caroline D'Amore. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 101 min., Horror, Box office gross: $11.915 million, Summit Entertainment. Available: 2/23.
STEPFATHER, THEWhen Michael Harding returns home from military school, he finds his mom is madly in love with her charming live-in boyfriend David. At first, David appears to be the ultimate nice guy and an ideal future husband and stepfather. But when Michael and his girlfriend start delving into David's past, they begin to discover a dark and dangerous side to Michael's new "daddy." Remake of the 1987 film.
Director: Nelson McCormick. Stars: Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward, Penn Badgley, Amber Heard, Sherry Stringfield. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 104 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $29.062 million, Sony. Available: 2/9.
TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, THEBased on the best-selling book about a love that transcends time. Clare (Rachel McAdams) has been in love with Henry (Eric Bana) her entire life. She believes they are destined to be together, even though she never knows when they will be separated: Henry is a time traveler -- cursed with a rare genetic anomaly that causes him to live his life on a shifting timeline, skipping back and forth through his lifespan with no control. Despite the fact that Henry's travels force them apart with no warning, Clare desperately tries to build a life with her one true love.
Director: Robert Schwentke. Stars: Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams, Ron Livingston, Jane McLean. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 107 min., Romance Adventure, Box office gross: $63.214 million, New Line. Available: 2/9.
ZOMBIELANDNerdy college student Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has survived the plague that has turned mankind into flesh-devouring zombies because he’s scared of just about everything. Gun-toting, Twinkie-loving Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) has no fears. They join forces with Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who have also found unique ways to survive the zombie mayhem. Together, they have to stare down their most horrifying challenge yet: each other's company. Need we say this is a zombie comedy?
Director: Ruben Fleischer. Stars: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Amber Heard, Bill Murray. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 88 min., Zombie Comedy, Box office gross: $74.803 million, Sony.Available: 2/2.
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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February 1, 2010