OnVideo JULY Video Reviews
THE ASTRONAUT FARMER
From the time he was a child, Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) had only one goal: to be an astronaut. Earning his degree in aerospace engineering and joining the Air Force as a pilot, Farmer was a natural for NASA's astronaut training program and was well on his way when a family situation forced him to drop out and return home -- effectively ending his career. But Farmer was not a man to let anything stand in the way of a dream. He spent the next decade and every cent he had building his own rocket in a barn on his ranch in Story, Texas, working toward the day when he could triumphantly launch it into space. By himself. Sharing his vision are his wife Audie (Virginia Madsen), their children and Audie's father, Hal (Bruce Dern). On the eve of the long-anticipated launch, an unexpected problem arises. Farmer's efforts to secure 10,000 pounds of high-grade fuel catch the attention of the FBI ... and subsequently the media, who encamp in droves outside his gate, speculating wildly about this "space cowboy" and his homemade rocket. Farmer finds himself depicted on TV screens worldwide as a renegade hero, inspiring an outpouring of popular support, while simultaneously drawing heavy scrutiny and surveillance from the FBI, CIA, FAA and the U.S. military -- all of which see Farmer as a potential risk to civilian safety and will take the necessary steps to shut down his operation. But Farmer knows this is his only chance, not only to reach his goal of breaking through the Earth's atmosphere but to instill in his children the courage to pursue their own ideals and never give up ... no matter the odds. He will not let himself be grounded again.
Director: Michael Polish. Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Dern, Jon Gries, Kiersten Warren, Mark Polish, Sal Lopez, Tim Blake Nelson, Virginia Madsen, Max Thieriot, Jasper Polish, Logan Polish, J.K. Simmons. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 104 min., Drama, Box office gross: $10.996 million, Warner. Available: 7/10.
Delicious film centers around Jessica (Cecile de France) a beautiful young woman from the provinces who comes to Paris and lands a job waiting tables at a chic bistro on fabled Avenue Montaigne, the city's nexus for art, music, theater and fashion. Jessica's customers include a popular TV actress (Valerie Lemercier) who is courting a major Hollywood director (Sydney Pollack) for her first serious film role; a wealthy art collector (Claude Brasseur) who is about to liquidate a lifetime's worth of treasures at auction; and an illustrious classical pianist (Albert Dupontel) who is at odds with his manager/wife (Laura Morante) as to where his career is headed. Precisely because Jessica doesn't know how celebrated these people are, her guileless and completely unintimidated engagement in their lives has a transforming effect on them -- and ultimately her.. In French with English subtitles.
Director: Daniele Thompson. Stars: Cecile de France, Valerie Lemercier, Claude Brasseur, Albert Dupontel, Laura Morante, Sydney Pollack. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 101 min., Comedy Drama, Box office gross: $1.535 million, ThinkFilm. Available: 7/17.
"Factory Girl" imaginatively unfolds the comet-like rise and fall of 60s "it girl" Edie Sedgwick, the blazing superstar who came to define both the glamour and the tragedy of our celebrity-obsessed culture. Sedgwick appeared to be the quintessential American princess, with her blue blood, her trust fund and her Harvard education, not to mention her ethereal beauty and vivacious charisma. But she was also a lost and fragile little girl; and when she met up with counter-culture anti-hero Andy Warhol, everything changed. Suddenly, Edie found herself at the center of a Pop Art universe bursting with sex, drugs, style and rock 'n' roll -- and a mad rush for fame and fabulousness that was destined to spin out of control. Arriving into the chaos of mid-60s New York, Edie (Sienna Miller) meets Andy (Guy Pearce) who sees in her an untamed vulnerability and the makings of an irresistible muse. He invites her into the wild world of the Factory, a bohemian, creative paradise where a rag-tag mix of musicians, poets, artists, actors and misfits gather to create art and make underground movies during the day and throw glam parties all night long. Edie quickly ascends to become the star of Warhol's movies, an idol at the Factory and a media darling. When she falls in love with a larger-than-life rock star, Edie becomes caught between Warhol's artistic revolution and her new love.
Director: George Hickenlooper. Stars: Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce, Hayden Christensen, Jimmy Fallon, Jack Huston, Armin Amiri, Tara Summers, Mena Suvari, Shawn Hatosy, Beth Grant, James Naughton, Edward Herrmann, Illeana Douglas. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: R, 90 min., Drama, Box office gross: $1.661 million, The Weinstein Co.. Available: 7/17.
HILLS HAVE EYES II, THE
As part of a routine mission, a unit of National Guard soldiers stop at a New Mexico outpost in order to deliver equipment to a group of atomic scientists. When they arrive at the isolated research camp they find it is mysteriously deserted. After spotting a distress signal in a distant mountain range, the team decides to embark on a search and rescue mission into the hills in order to locate the missing scientists. Little do they know that these are the very hills that the ill-fated Carter family once visited, and that a tribe of cannibalistic mutants lies in wait. And this time, there is an even larger force of evil at work that is intent on the soldiers' very destruction: the worst of the worst -- the family patriarch Papa Hades -- plans to keep the women as breeders in order to ensure the survival of the mutant clan. Urgh!
Director: Martin Weisz. Stars: Jessica Stroup, Reshad Strik, Michael McMillian, Daniella Alonso, Lee Thompson Young, Ben Crowley, Eric Edelstein, Michael Bailey Smith, David Reynolds, Derek Mears, Tyrell Kemlo, Javier Nieto, Gaspar Szabo, Jeff Kober, Jay Acovone, Archie Kao, Philip Pavel. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: 89, R min., Horror, Box office gross: $20.584 million, Fox. Available: 7/17.
HOST, THE (Gwoemul)
The talk of the 2006 Festival des Cannes, this latest film from critically acclaimed visionary director Bong Joon-ho, has already garnered a substantial amount of international buzz. Using state-of-the-art special effects courtesy of a creative partnership between Weta Workshop ("King Kong," "The Lord of the Rings") and The Orphanage ("Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," "Sin City"), "The Host" is equal parts creature-feature thrill ride and poignant human drama. Gang-du works at a food-stand on the banks of the Han River. Dozing on the job, he is awakened by his daughter, Hyun-seo, who is angry with him for missing a teacher-parent meeting at school. As Gang-du walks out to the riverbank with a delivery, he notices that a large crowd of people has gathered, taking pictures and talking about something hanging from the Han River Bridge. The otherwise idyllic landscape turns suddenly to bedlam when a terrifying creature climbs up onto the riverbank and begins to crush and eat people. Gang-du and his daughter run for their lives but suddenly the thing grabs Hyun-seo and disappears back into the river. The government announces that the thing apparently is the Host of an unidentified virus. Having feared the worst, Gang-du receives a phone call from his daughter who is frightened, but very much alive. Gang-du makes plans to infiltrate the forbidden zone near the Han River to rescue his daughter from the clutches of the horrifying Host. In Korean and English with English subtitles.
Director: Joon-ho Bong. Stars: Kang-ho Song, Hie-bong Byeon, Hae-il Park, Du-na Bae, Ah-sung Ko. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: R, 119 min., Horror, Box office gross: $2.01 million, Magnolia Home Entertainment. Available: 7/24.
Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is the finest cop London has to offer. With an arrest record 400% higher than any other officer on the force, he's so good that he makes everyone else look bad. As a result, Angel's superiors ship him off to the sleepy and seemingly crime-free village of Sandford. Once there, he is partnered with the well-meaning but over-eager police officer Danny Butterman (Nick Frost). The son of amiable Police Chief Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent), Danny is a huge action-movie fan and believes his new big-city partner might just be a real-life "bad boy," giving him a chance to experience the life of gunfights and car chases he so longs for. As a series of grisly accidents rocks the village, Angel is convinced that Sandford is not what it seems. With the intrigue deepening, Danny's dreams of explosive, high-octane, car-chasing, gun fighting, all-out action seem more and more like a reality. It's time for these small-town cops to break out some big-city justice.
Director: Edgar Wright. Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Timothy Dalton, Anne Reid, Rafe Spall, Billie Whitelaw, Edward Woodward. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: R, 121 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $22.311 million, Universal. Available: 7/31.
LAST MIMZY, THE
Based on the acclaimed sci-fi short story by Lewis Padgett, "The Last Mimzy" tells the story of two children on vacation who discover a mysterious box that contains some strange devices they think are toys. As the children play with these "toys," they begin to display higher and higher intelligence levels. Back at school, their teacher reports to their parents that they seem to be growing beyond genius. Emma, the younger of the two, tells her confused mother that one of the toys, a stuffed toy rabbit, is called Mimzy and that "she teaches me things." Emma's mom becomes increasingly concerned, when suddenly a blackout shuts down the city. The government traces the source of the power surge to the family's house. Things quickly spin wildly out of control. The children are focused on these strange objects, Mimzy, and the important mission on which they seem to have been sent. When the little girl says that Mimzy contains a most serious message from the future, a scientific scan shows that Mimzy is part extremely high level electronics, and part organic! Everyone realizes that they are involved in something incredible ... but exactly what?
Director: Bob Shaye. Stars: Joely Richardson, Timothy Hutton, Michael Clark Duncan, Rhiannon Leigh, Chris O'Neil, Rainn Wilson. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 90 min., Fantasy, Box office gross: $20.520 million, New Line. Available: 7/10.
NUMBER 23, THE
Psychological thriller stars Jim Carrey as a man whose life unravels after he comes into contact with an obscure book titled "The Number 23." As he reads the book, he becomes increasingly convinced that it is based on his own life. His obsession with the number 23 starts to consume him, and he begins to realize the book forecasts far graver consequences for his life than he could have ever imagined.
Director: Joel Schumacher. Stars: Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen, Danny Huston, Logan Lerman, Rhona Mitra, Maile Flanagan, Patricia Belcher, Lynn Collins, Mark Pellegrino, Tara Karsian. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: R, 95 min., Psychological Thriller, Box office gross: $33.917 million, New Line. Available: 7/24.
An action-adventure set in the time when Vikings tried to conquer North America, the film tells the heroic story of a young Norse boy left behind after his clan shipwrecks on the Eastern shores. Despite his lineage, the boy is raised by the very Indians his kinsmen set out to destroy. Now, as the Vikings return to stage another barbaric raid on his village, the 25 year-old Norse warrior (Karl Urban) wages a personal war to stop the Vikings' trail of death and destruction.
Director: Marcus Nispel. Stars: Karl Urban, Moon Bloodgood, Russell Means, Clancy Brown, Jay Tavare, Nathaniel Arcand, Ralf Moeller. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: R, 99 min., Action, Box office gross: $9.959, million, Fox. Available: 7/31.
PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER
Based on the best-selling novel by Patrick S_skind, "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" is a story of a deadly obsession set in 18th-century France. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, orphaned as a newborn in the streets of Paris, is alone in the world. A peculiar child who rarely speaks, Grenouille is alienated from others but blessed with a remarkable gift. His sense of smell is so refined, so attuned to every blade of grass and blossoming flower, that it's tragic when he's sold into servitude to a tannery at the age of 13 and surrounded by the foul odors that accompany his labor. But there comes a day when Grenouille does an errand in town and discovers the object that will transform his life: perfume. Eager to learn the art of creating sophisticated fragrance, he apprentices himself to a once-renowned perfumer, and proves to be a savant whose almost mystical knowledge of scent surpasses anything that can be taught to him by masters of the craft. Ironically, he was born with no scent of his own, a distinction which colors his undistinguished life. But Grenouille is fearless when it comes to the pursuit of a perfect perfume. When he discovers the most intoxicating scent he has ever experienced -- the natural fragrance of a beautiful young girl -- he learns that the only method to preserve her innocence and fresh beauty will require murder. Plaguing the countryside with a series of gruesome killings, Grenouille must stay one step ahead of the authorities until he captures the final ingredient for his greatest perfume -- the essence of a beautiful redheaded girl whose wealthy father earnestly protects her. Only then, he believes, will he earn the attention and adulation that his extraordinary talent deserves.
Director: Tom Tykwer. Stars: Ben Whishaw, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Dustin Hoffman. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: R, 147 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $2.208 million, DreamWorks/Paramount. Available: 7/24.
Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock) has a beautiful house, a loving husband and two adorable daughters. Her life is perfect, until the day she receives the devastating news that her husband Jim has died in a car accident. For this devoted wife and mother, it's the worst she could imagine. But did she imagine it? When Linda wakes up the following morning her husband is very much alive. At first, Linda believes the accident must have been a nightmare. Then it happens again; some days Linda awakens to find Jim is next to her alive and well, while on others she awakens a widow. Inexplicably, she is living the days of her life out of order. Linda's traumatizing premonition sets off a series of puzzling, time-altering events. Her world is turned upside down as the surreal circumstances lead her to discover that her perfect life may not have been all that it appeared. Desperate to save her family, Linda begins a furious race against time and fate to try and preserve everything she and Jim have built together.
Director: Mennan Yapo. Stars: Sandra Bullock, Julian McMahon, Jeff Galpin, Nia Long, Amber Valletta, Marcus Lyle Brown, Mark Famiglietti. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 110 min., Supernatural Thriller, Box office gross: $47.852 million, Sony. Available: 7/17.
Inge is a feisty young German woman who has come to Minnesota to marry Olaf, a young Norwegian immigrant farmer of few words. But in a post-WWII, anti-German climate, the local minister openly forbids the marriage. Inge and Olaf fall in love despite the town's disapproval. But when the town banker attempts to foreclose on the farm of his friend Frandsen, Olaf takes a stand ... and the community unites around the young couple, finally accepting Inge as one of their own.
Director: Ali Selim. Stars: Alan Cumming, Ned Beatty, Lois Smith, Alex Kingson, John Heard, Elizabeth Reaser, Tim Guinee. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 110 min., Drama, Box office gross: $1.624 million, Fox. Available: 7/10.
Based on the epic graphic novel by Frank Miller, "300" is a ferocious retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army. Facing insurmountable odds, their valor and sacrifice inspire all of Greece to unite against their Persian enemy, drawing a line in the sand for democracy. The blockbuster brings Miller's ("Sin City") acclaimed graphic novel to life by combining live action with virtual backgrounds that capture his distinct vision of this ancient historic tale.
Director: Zack Snyder. Stars: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, Rodrigo Santoro. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: R, 117 min., Action, Box office gross: $207.871 million, Warner. Available: 7/31.
Based on the actual case files of one of the most intriguing unsolved crimes in the nation's history As a serial killer terrifies the San Francisco Bay Area and taunts police with his ciphers and letters, investigators in four jurisdictions search for the murderer. The case will become an obsession for four men as their lives and careers are built and destroyed by the endless trail of clues.
Director: David Fincher. Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, Elias Koteas, Donal Logue, John Carroll Lynch, Dermot Mulroney. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: R, 158 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $33.048 million, Paramount. Available: 7/24.
All DVDs are screened on a reference system consisting of a Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player w/SACD & DVD-Audio, 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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July 1, 2007