OnVideo JANUARY Video Reviews
Two friends -- a lawman and his deputy -- are hired to protect a lawless town suffering at the hands of a renegade rancher. The arrival of an attractive widow disrupts their plans.
Director: Ed Harris. Stars: Renee Zellweger, Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger, Timothy V. Murphy, Daniel T. Parker. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 114 min., Western, Box office gross: $19.991 million, New Line. Available: 1/13.
In a darkly futuristic world, the rules are simple: kill or be killed. Vin Diesel stars as Toorop, a ruthless mercenary hired to smuggle a mysterious young woman from the post-apocalyptic confines of Eastern Europe to the glittering megalopolis of New York City. Hunted at every turn, Toorop spirits his charge across a nightmarish wasteland only to uncover a shocking secret that will bring the entire world to its knees.
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz. Stars: Vin Diesel, Gerard Depardieu, Michelle Yeoh, Charlotte Rampling, Mark Strong, Radek Bruna, Melanie Thierry, Lambert Wilson. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 90 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $22.510 million, Fox. Available: 1/6.
The life of an anonymous assassin takes an unexpected turn when he travels to Thailand to complete a series of contract killings. Joe (Nicolas Cage), a remorseless hitman, is in Bangkok to execute four enemies of a ruthless crime boss named Surat. He hires Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm), a street punk and pickpocket, to run errands for him with the intention of covering his tracks by killing him at the end of the assignment. Strangely, Joe, the ultimate lone wolf, instead finds himself mentoring the young man while simultaneously being drawn into a tentative romance with a local shop girl. As he falls further under the sway of Bangkok's intoxicating beauty, Joe begins to question his isolated existence and let down his guard ... just as Surat decides it's time to clean house. Remake of the Pang Brothers' wildly popular 1999 Hong Kong action film of the same name.
Director: Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang. Stars: Nicolas Cage, Shahkrit Yamnarm, Charlie Yeung, Panward Hemmanee, Nirattisai Kaljaruek, Dom Hetrakul. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 99 min., Action, Box office gross: $15.232 million, Lionsgate. Available: 1/6.
The memoirs of Captain Charles Ryder, stationed at Brideshead Castle during WWII; an evocative story of forbidden love and the loss of innocence. Ryder (Matthew Goode) becomes entranced with the noble Marchmain family, first through the charming and provocative Sebastian Flyte and then his sophisticated sister, Julia. The rise and fall of Charles' infatuations reflect the decline of a decadent era in England between the wars. Academy Award-winner Emma Thompson co-stars as Lady Marchmain. Based on Evelyn Waugh's acclaimed novel.
Director: Julian Jarrold. Stars: Matthew Goode, Ben Whishaw, Hayley Atwell, Emma Thompson, Michael Gambon, Greta Scacchi. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 133 min., Drama, Box office gross: $6.414 million, Miramax. Available: 1/13 .
CHILDREN OF HUANG SHI, THE
Based on real events, "The Children of Huang Shi" is set against war-torn China in the 1930s, revolving around a young English journalist (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an American nurse (Radha Mitchell) and the leader of a Chinese partisan group (Chow Yun Fat) who meet in desperate and unexpected circumstances. Together they rescue 60 orphaned children, leading them on an extraordinary journey across hundreds of miles of treacherous terrain, through snow-covered mountains and an unforgiving desert. Along the way, they discover the true meaning of love, responsibility and courage.
Director: Roger Spottiswoode. Stars: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Radha Mitchell, Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 114 min., Drama, Box office gross: $1.027 million, Sony. Available: 1/20.
CITY OF EMBER
To save the human race, an underground city was built to last 200 years. For generations, the people of the City of Ember have thrived in an amazing underground world of flickering lights. Built as a refuge for humanity and powered by a massive generator, the city's time is almost up and now Ember is falling into darkness as the generator fails. In a race against time, it's up to two brave teenagers to unravel the mystery behind the city's existence, maneuver around corrupt politicians and save world.
Director: Gil Kenan. Stars: Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Saoirse Ronan, Harry Treadaway, Martin Landau, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Toby Jones, Mary Kay Place. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 123 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $7.658 million, Fox. Available: 1/20.
Puerile teen farce. Three high school friends visit a local college campus as prospective freshmen anticipating the best weekend of their lives. Once there, the rowdiest fraternity on campus, headed by a womanizing jock, decides to recruit the boys as pledges, subjecting them to endless humiliations in return for granting them access to the no-holds-barred college party scene.
The filmmaking team behind "Scary Movie," "Date Movie," "Epic Movie" and "Meet the Spartans" this time puts its unique, inimitable stamp on one of the biggest and most bloated movie genres of all time -- the disaster film. "Disaster Movie" follows the comic misadventures of a group of twentysomethings during one fateful night as they try to make their way to safety while every known natural disaster and catastrophic event -- asteroids, twisters, earthquakes, the works -- hits the city and their path as they try to solve a series of mysteries to end the rampant destruction. Takes aim at everything and everyone, from "Indiana Jones" and "Iron Man" to Amy Winehouse and "High School Musical."
Director: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer. Stars: Carmen Electra, Kimberly Kardashian, Matt Lanter, Vanessa Minnillo, Crista Flanagan, Nicole Parker, Ike Barinholtz. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 90 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $14.109 million, Lionsgate. Available: 1/6.
Based on a true story. Follows the extraordinary life of college football hero Ernie Davis (Rob Brown), the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Raised in poverty in Pennsylvania coal-mining country, Davis hurdled social and economic obstacles to become one of the greatest running backs in college football history. Under the guidance of legendary Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid), he became a hero who superseded Jim Brown's achievements and set records that stand to this day. Decorated veteran Schwartzwalder was a Southerner with a single vision of a national championship and hardened ideas about how the world worked. But though he and Davis clashed mightily, he taught the player everything he knew about football, just as Davis helped him learn the true meaning of victory. As the growing civil rights movement divided the country in the '60s, Davis became a symbol for achievement that transcended race. Refusing to flinch from others' prejudices, he achieved all his goals -- until his career was cut short by leukemia.
Director: Gary Fleder. Stars: Dennis Quaid, Rob Brown, Omar Benson Miller, Clancy Brown, Charles S. Dutton. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 129 min., Melodrama, Box office gross: $9.589 million, Universal. Available: 1/20.
FAMILY THAT PREYS, THE
Kathy Bates and Alfre Woodard star as the matriarchs of two very different families that become inextricably linked by greed and scandal. Wealthy socialite Charlotte Cartwright (Kathy Bates) and her dear friend Alice Pratt (Alfre Woodard), a working class woman of high ideals, have enjoyed a lasting friendship throughout many years. Suddenly, their lives become mired in turmoil as their adult children's extramarital affairs, unethical business practices and a dark paternity secret threaten to derail family fortunes and unravel the lives of all involved. Alice's self-centered newlywed daughter Andrea (Sanaa Lathan) is betraying her trusting husband Chris (Rockmond Dunbar) by engaging in a torrid affair with her boss and mother's best friend's son William (Cole Hauser). While cheating on his wife Jillian (Kadee Strickland) with a string of ongoing dalliances with his mistress Andrea, William's true focus is to replace the COO of his mother's lucrative construction corporation. Meanwhile, Alice's other daughter Pam (Taraji Henson), a kind but no nonsense woman married to a hard working construction worker (Tyler Perry), tries to steer the family in a more positive direction.
Director: Tyler Perry. Stars: Tyler Perry, Jennifer Hudson, Sanaa Lathan, Kathy Bates, Alfre Woodard, Rockmond Dunbar, Taraji P. Henson, Robin Givens, Cole Hauser, Kadee Strickland. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 111 min., Drama, Box office gross: $36.405 million, Lionsgate. Available: 1/13.
Lt. Caleb Holt lives by the old firefighter's adage: Never leave your partner behind. Inside burning buildings, it's his natural instinct. In the cooling embers of his marriage, it's another story. After a decade of marriage, Caleb and Catherine Holt have drifted so far apart that they are ready to move on without each other. Yet as they prepare to enter divorce proceedings, Caleb's dad asks his son to try an experiment: The Love Dare. While hoping The Love Dare has nothing to do with his parents' newfound faith, Caleb commits to the challenge. But can he attempt to love his wife while avoiding God's love for him? Will he be able to demonstrate love over and over again to a person that's no longer receptive to his love? Or is this just another marriage destined to go up in smoke?
Director: Alex Kendrick. Stars: Kirk Cameron, Erin Bethea, Alex Kendrick, Bailey Cave, Jim McBride, Tommy McBride, Janet Lee Dapper. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 122 min., Action, Box office gross: $32.9 million, Sony. Available: 1/20.
HENRY POOLE IS HERE
His life turned upside down by circumstances beyond his control, Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) offers full price on a cookie cutter house in a drab, middle-class L.A. neighborhood. But just as he settles in to his indulgent isolation with a case of vodka and all the junk food he can eat, his neighbor, a well-meaning busybody named Esperanza, drops by with a plate of homemade tamales and a whole lot of questions. Despite his desire for solitude, Henry can't help noticing Dawn, the beautiful young divorcee next door and her daughter Millie, an 8-year-old amateur spy who hasn't spoken a word since her parents' break-up. Henry's self-imposed exile is shattered when Esperanza discovers a mysterious stain on Henry's stucco wall that is seen to have miraculous powers. She begins leading pilgrimages to the "holy site" and invites church officials, including her pastor, Father Salizar, to inspect the apparition. Although Henry remains skeptical, he finds himself gradually drawn back towards life, especially after his silent friendship with Millie brings him closer to Dawn. As news of the apparition spreads throughout the neighborhood and his feelings for Dawn grow, Henry realizes his plan to live out his days in quiet desperation is going to be much harder than he ever imagined.
Director: Mark Pellington. Stars: Luke Wilson, Radha Mitchell, Adriana Barraza, George Lopez, Cheryl Hines, Richard Benjamin, Morgan Lily, Rachel Seiferth, Beth Grant. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 99 min., Comedy Drama, Box office gross: $1.829 million, Anchor Bay. Available: 1/20.
Animated twist on classic monster movies. Determined to prove he can create his own diabolical invention, a mad scientist's (John Cleese) nice-guy assistant, Igor (John Cusack), creates a female Franken-monster. But his creation, Eva (Molly Shannon), is sweet and sings show tunes. That is, until she falls into the clutches of Dr. Schadenfreude (Eddie Izzard) and his shape-shifting girlfriend (Jennifer Coolidge). Now it's up to Igor and his sidekicks (Steve Buscemi, Sean Hayes) to save Eva -- and their country -- from real evildoers, including sneaky Prince Malpert (Jay Leno).
Director: Anthony Leondis. Voices of John Cusack, Eddie Izzard, Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Coolidge, John Cleese, Sean Hayes, Molly Shannon, Jay Leno, Arsenio Hall. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 87 min., Animated, Box office gross: $19.098 million, MGM. Available: 1/20.
What could be safer than living next to a cop? A young couple (Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington) has just moved into their California dream home when they become the target of their next-door neighbor, who disapproves of their interracial relationship. A stern, single father, the tightly wound LAPD officer (Samuel L. Jackson) has appointed himself the watchdog of the neighborhood. His nightly foot patrols and overly watchful eyes bring comfort to some, but he becomes increasingly harassing to the newlyweds. His persistent intrusions into their lives ultimately turn tragic when the couple decides to fight back.
Director: Neil LaBute. Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington, Eva La Rue, Bitsie Tulloch. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 110 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $39.263 million, Sony. Available: 1/27.
Stylized adaptation of the hugely popular fan-favorite video game. Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) is a maverick cop with little regard for rules and nothing left to lose. Hell-bent on revenge, he's determined to track down those responsible for the brutal murder of his family, but his obsessive investigation takes him on a nightmarish journey where dark fantasy collides with stark reality. As the mystery deepens, Max is forced to battle enemies beyond the natural world...and face an unthinkable betrayal that will drive him to the edge of his own sanity.
Director: John Moore. Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Chris O'Donnell, Amaury Nolasco, Olga Kurylenko. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 100 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $40.300 million, Fox. Available: 1/20.
An ex-cop and his family are the target of an evil force that is using mirrors as a gateway into their home. After leaving the police force after accidentally shooting an undercover cop, Ben Carson takes a job as a security guard, patrolling the eerie, charred remains of the Mayflower department store. While there he begins to notice something sinister about the ornate mirrors that adorn the Mayflower walls. Reflected in the gigantic shimmering glass are horrific images that stun him. Beyond projecting gruesome images of the past, the mirrors appear to be manipulating reality as well. When Carson sees his own reflection being tortured, he suffers the physical effects of his fractured visions. Suddenly the troubled ex-cop finds himself battling his personal demons and the ones that have hijacked his reflection, tormenting him with convulsions, spontaneous bleeding and near suffocation. His sympathetic but skeptical sister Angela dismisses the bizarre "nightmares" as a consequence of his stress and guilt over the accidental shooting, but Carson's estranged wife Amy, a no-nonsense NYPD medical examiner, is less forgiving. Her husband's increasingly erratic behavior frightens her, pushing his family farther away -- and, she fears, putting their children in danger. But a much deadlier threat looms, trapped within the mirrors and reflective surfaces that pervade their everyday life. As Carson investigates the mysterious disappearance of a Mayflower security guard and its possible connection to his ghastly visions, he realizes that a malevolent, otherworldly force is using reflections as a gateway to terrorize him and his family.
Director: Alexandre Aja. Stars: Amy Smart, Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Jason Flemyng, Julian Glover, Ezra Buzzington, John Shrapnel. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: R, 110 min., Horror, Box office gross: $30.691 million, Fox. Available: 1/13.
MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL
Smart, beautiful and headstrong, Alexis (Kate Hudson) is the girl of Dustin's (Jason Biggs) dreams. After only five weeks of dating, the love-struck Dustin is coming on so strong that Alexis is forced to slow things down -- permanently. Devastated and desperate to get her back, Dustin turns to his best friend, Tank (Dane Cook), a rebound specialist. A master at seducing, and offending women, Tank gets hired by freshly dumped guys to take their ex-girlfriends out on the worst date of their lives, an experience so horrible it sends them running gratefully back to their beaus. However, when Tank works his magic on Alexis, he ends up meeting the challenge of a lifetime. Alexis is the first girl who knows how to call his bluff, and Tank soon finds himself torn between his loyalty to Dustin and a strange new attraction to his best friend's girl.
Director: Howard Deutch. Stars: Dane Cook, Kate Hudson, Jason Biggs, Alec Baldwin, Lizzy Caplan. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: R, 101 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $18.748 million, Lionsgate. Available: 1/13.
Follows a pair of druggie losers as they reach the top of the hit-list when one witnesses a mob murder and drags his buddy into a crazy flight from mobsters bent on silencing both of them permanently.
Director: David Gordon Green. Stars: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny R. McBride, Gary Cole, Rosie Perez, Amber Heard, James Remar. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 112 min., Drama, Box office gross: $87.341 million, Sony. Available: 1/6.
PRIDE AND GLORY
A saga centered on a multi-generational family of New York City Police officers. The family's moral codes are tested when Ray Tierney (Edward Norton) investigates a case that reveals an incendiary police corruption scandal involving his own brother-in-law (Colin Farrell). For Ray, the truth is revelatory, a Pandora's Box that threatens to upend not only the Tierney legacy but the entire NYPD.
Director: Gavin O'Connor. Stars: Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, Noah Emmerich, Samantha Morton, Lake Bell, Jennifer Ehle, John Voight. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 130 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $15.709 million, Warner. Available: 1/27.
After 30 years as partners in the pressure cooker environment of the NYPD, highly decorated Detectives David Fisk (Al Pacino) and Thomas Cowan (Robert De Niro) should be ready for retirement, but aren't. Before they can hang up their badges, they are called in to investigate the murder of a notorious pimp, which appears to have ties to a case they solved years before. Like the original murder, the victim is a suspected criminal whose body is found accompanied by a four-line poem justifying the killing. When additional crimes take place, it becomes clear the detectives are looking for a serial killer, one who targets criminals that have fallen through the cracks of the judicial system. His mission is to do what the cops can't do on their own -- take the culprits off the streets for good. The similarities between the recent killings and their earlier case raise a nagging question: Did they put the wrong man behind bars?
Director: Jon Avnet. Stars: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, 50 Cent, Carla Gugino, John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg, Brian Dennehy. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 103 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $39.705 million, Anchor Bay. Available: 1/6.
Rainn Wilson stars as Robert "Fish" Fishman, a man living in a rock 'n' roll dream but waking up in a midlife crisis. After being kicked out of '80s metal band Vesuvius just before they hit superstardom, Fish spends the next 20 years in relative obscurity, stuck in a humdrum office work life, constantly daydreaming of what might have been. When his teenage nephew's band is in desperate need for a new drummer to play at a senior prom, he reluctantly steps in and picks up right where he left off. With a second chance to relive his rock fantasies, Fish and his new band mates quickly skyrocket to fame -- and rock will never be the same.
Director: Peter Cattaneo. Stars: Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Teddy Geiger, Josh Gad, Emma Stone, Jeff Garlin, Jane Lynch, Jason Sudeikis, Will Arnett, Howard Hesseman. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 103 min., Rock Comedy, Box office gross: $6.409 million, Fox. Available: 1/27.
When a Russian mobster orchestrates a crooked land deal, millions of dollars are up for grabs, and all of London's criminal underworld wants in on the action. Everyone from a dangerous crime lord to a sexy accountant, a corrupt politician and down-on-their-luck petty thieves conspire, collude and collide with one another in an effort to get rich quick. Gerard Butle stars as One Two, a street-smart mobster who has learned to play both sides of the fence. Tom Wilkinson stars as the lethal head mobster, Lenny Cole, part of London's old mob regime, which is quickly losing ground to the wealthier foreign mob.
Director: Guy Ritchie. Stars: Gerard Butler, Thandie Newton, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Jeremy Piven, Idris Elba, Tom Wilkinson. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 104 min., Thirller, Box office gross: $5.7 million, Warner. Available: 1/27.
In the fifth installment of the "Saw" franchise, Detective Hoffman is seemingly the last person alive to carry on the Jigsaw legacy. But when his secret is threatened, he must go on the hunt to eliminate all loose ends.
Director: David Hackl. Stars: Tobin Bell, Julie Benz, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Mark Rolston, Samantha Lemole, Meagan Good, Carlo Rota, Greg Bryk, Laura Gordon. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: R, 92 min., Horror, Box office gross: $56.729 million, Lionsgate. Available: 1/20.
Kevin Costner stars as Bud Johnson, an apathetic, beer slinging, lovable loser, who is coasting through a life that has passed him by, except for the one bright spot in his mundane existence, his precocious, over achieving 12-year old daughter, Molly. She takes care of them both, until one mischievous moment on Election Day, when she accidentally sets off a chain of events which culminates in the Presidential election coming down to one vote: her dad's. Suddenly, Bud Johnson, the nobody, becomes the voice for everybody when the world realizes that his vote will be the one that elects the next president. Politicians invade the small town of Texico, New Mexico and its unwitting inhabitants, waging war for Bud's vote.
Director: Joshua Michael Stern. Stars: Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Nathan Lane, Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci, George Lopez, Madeline Carroll, Paula Patton, Judge Reinhold, Willie Nelson, Mare Winningham, Richard Petty. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 120 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $16.284 million, Disney. Available: 1/13.
VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA
Two American women on a carefree Spanish holiday meet a charming local painter and become enamored by him, only to have his intensely passionate ex-wife reenter his life and stir up trouble. The stunning city of Barcelona is the setting for the romantic adventures of Vicky and Cristina, two young Americans spending a summer in Spain. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is straight-laced and about to be married, while Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) is a sexually adventurous free spirit. When they become amorously entangled with Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), the results are both funny and harrowing -- especially when Juan's ex-wife, Maria Elena, enters the picture.
Director: Woody Allen. Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Hall, Patricia Clarkson. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 97 min., Comedy Drama, Box office gross: $21.981 million, The Weinstein Co./Genius Products. Available: 1/27.
Luke Shapiro (Josh Drake) is a 17-year-old high school graduate spending his last summer in New York City before he goes off to college. He doesn't rate very high on the cool kid richter scale -- he's a bit lost and a bit lonely. He spends his days "working," which consists of selling weed from a rusty hand-wheeled ice cart, and in the process encounters a loyal customer in Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), an unorthodox psychiatrist who offers his services to Luke in exchange for pot. As an added bonus, the good doctor also happens to be stepfather to the girl Luke likes. When the motley pair of doctor and patient aren't tripping around the streets of New York -- doctor imparting pearls of '60s-inspired wisdom; Luke responding in early '90s slang -- Luke is spending his time falling in love with lovely stepdaughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby). Amidst the insufferable summer sun, between the graffiti, drug pushers and prostitutes of Times Square, Luke's life changes form. It builds up and breaks down as he slowly awakens to the man he is to become, and, ironically, in the process Dr. Squires does some growing up as well.
Director: Jonathan Levine. Stars: Ben Kingsley, Josh Peck, Olivia Thirlby, Famke Janssen, Mary-Kate Olsen, Method Man. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 95 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $2.074 million, Sony. Available: 1/6.
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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January 1, 2009