OnVideo: MARCH's Top Movies
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUELWhen a concert mishap lands David Seville in the hospital, the Chipmunks (Alvin, Simon and Theodore) take a break from superstardom and enroll in school to fit in with kids their age. But they soon face some stiff competition when they meet the Chipettes, a beautiful, talented trio of chipmunks discovered by Ian, the boys' evil ex-manager.
Director: Betty Thomas. Stars: Jason Lee, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate, Amy Poehler. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 88 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $209.515 million, Fox. Available: 3/30.
ARMOREDA crew of officers at an armored transport security firm risk their lives when they embark on the ultimate heist... against their own company. Armed with a seemingly fool-proof plan, the men plan on making off with a fortune with harm to none. But when an unexpected witness interferes, the plan quickly unravels and hell breaks loose; all bets are off and each man must fight to survive on a dog-eat-dog battleground made of steel.
Director: Nimrod Antal. Stars: Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne, Skeet Ulrich, Amaury Nolasco, Andre Jamal Kinney, Milo Ventimiglia, Fred Ward, Columbus Short. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 88 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $15.988 million, Sony. Available: 3/16.
ASTRO BOYSet in futuristic Metro City, "Astro Boy" is about a young robot with incredible powers created by a brilliant scientist. Powered by positive "blue" energy, Astro Boy is endowed with super strength, x-ray vision, unbelievable speed and the ability to fly. Embarking on a journey in search of acceptance, Astro Boy learns the joys and emotions of being human, and gains the strength to embrace his destiny. Ultimately learning his friends and family are in danger, Astro Boy marshals his awesome super powers and returns to Metro City in a valiant effort to save everything he cares about and to understand what it takes to be a hero. Based on the incredibly popular Japanese Manga and TV series.
Director: David Bowers. Stars: Voices of Nicolas Cage, Charlize Theron, Donald Sutherland, Bill Nighy, Nathan Lane, Eugene Levy, Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell, Matt Lucas. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 94 min., Animated Action, Box office gross: $19.515 million, Summit Entertainment. Available: 3/16.
BLIND SIDE, THEThe story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family. Teenager Michael Oher is a poor, undereducated 344-pound African-American teenager in Memphis, whose father was murdered and whose mother was a crack addict. He survives on his own, virtually homeless, until he's spotted on the street by Leigh Anne Tuohy, a wealthy upper-middle-class white woman whose husband owns a chain of restaurants. Learning that the young man is one of her daughter's classmates, Leigh Anne insists that Michael -- wearing shorts and a T-shirt in the dead of winter -- come out of the cold. Without a moment's hesitation, she invites him to stay at the Tuohy home for the night. What starts out as a gesture of kindness turns into something more as Michael becomes part of the Tuohy family despite the differences in their backgrounds. Michael has been shuffled through the public school system, despite his low grade-point average and absenteeism, but his tremendous size and quickness gives Leigh Anne the idea that he can be academically and athletically groomed to excel in school and on the football field. Living in his new environment, the teen faces a completely different set of challenges to overcome. As the family helps Michael fulfill his potential, his presence in the Tuohy's lives leads them to some insightful self-discoveries of their own. And, eventually, Michael goes on to become one of the most highly paid athletes in the National Football League. An incredibly inspirational film -- and one for which Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for Best Actress and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture -- Drama.
Director: John Lee Hancock. Stars: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Jae Head, Lily Collins, Ray McKinnon, Kim Dickens, Adriane Lenox, Kathy Bates. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 128 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $218.978 million, Warner. Available: 3/23.
THE BOONDOCK SAINTS II: ALL SAINTS DAYFrom Troy Duffy, writer and director of cult hit "The Boondock Saints," comes the much-anticipated sequel to the tough, stylized cutting edge saga of the MacManus brothers (Norman Reedus, Sean Patrick Flanery). The two have been in deep hiding with their father, Il Duce (Billy Connolly), in the quiet valleys of Ireland, far removed from their former vigilante lives. When word comes that a beloved priest has been killed by sinister forces from deep within the mob, the brothers return to Boston to mount a violent and bloody crusade to bring justice to those responsible. A disappointing follow-up.
Director: Troy Duffy. Stars: Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, David Della Rocco, Billy Connolly, Clifton Collins Jr., Julie Benz, Peter Fonda, Judd Nelson. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 117 min., Action, Box office gross: $10.082 million, Sony. Available: 3/9.
BROKEN EMBRACESA man writes, lives and loves in darkness in Madrid. Fourteen years before, the man -- a famous and successful film writer and director -- was in a brutal car crash on the island of Lanzarote. In the accident, he not only lost his sight, he also lost Lena, the love of his life. The man used two names: Harry Caine, a playful pseudonym with which he signed his literary works, stories and scripts; and Mateo Blanco, his real name, with which he lived and signed the films he directed. After the accident, Mateo Blanco reduces himself to his pseudonym, Harry Caine. If he can't direct films, he can only survive with the idea that Mateo Blanco died on Lanzarote with his beloved Lena. Now, in the present day, Harry Caine lives thanks to the scripts he writes and to the help he gets from his faithful former production manager, Judit Garcia, and from Diego, her son, his secretary, typist and guide. Since he decided to live and tell stories, Harry is an active, attractive blind man who has developed all his other senses in order to enjoy life, on a basis of irony and self-induced amnesia. He has erased from his biography any trace of his first identity. But the past comes back to haunt him when he finds out that a rich and powerful business man has died -- a man who holds the key to Caine/Blanco's present. The businessman -- Ernesto Martel -- had bankrolled Blanco's last film, starring Lena, Martel's wife. But Lena -- whose marriage to Martel is loveless -- falls for Blanco, and the pair embark on a dangerous affair. Finally, Lena leaves Martel and, as the film wraps shooting, the pair escape to Lanzarote where they hope that they can escape Martel's developing wrath. But their sojourn ends in the fatal car accident that comes to represent, for Mateo, Lena, Judit and Martel, fatality, jealousy, the abuse of power, treachery, and a guilt complex. Pedro Almodovar's brilliant, involving and heart-breaking film bounces back and forth from the past to the present, revealing it's story in a kind of Hitchcockian unfolding of love, deceit, and tragedy. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Director: Pedro Almodovar. Stars: Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Blanco Portillo, Jose Luis Gomez, Ruben Ochandiano, Tamar Novas. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 128 min., Drama, Box office gross: $4.069 million, Sony. Available: 3/16.
CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORYOn the 20-year anniversary of his groundbreaking masterpiece "Roger & Me," Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story" comes home to the issue he's been examining throughout his career: the disastrous impact of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans (and by default, the rest of the world). But this time the culprit is much bigger than General Motors, and the crime scene far wider than Flint, Michigan. From Middle America, to the halls of power in Washington, to the global financial epicenter in Manhattan, Moore once again takes filmgoers into uncharted territory. "Capitalism: A Love Story" explores a taboo question: What is the price that America pays for its love of capitalism? Years ago, that love seemed so innocent. Today, however, the American dream is looking more like a nightmare as families pay the price with their jobs, their homes and their savings. Moore takes us into the homes of ordinary people whose lives have been turned upside down; and he goes looking for explanations in Washington and elsewhere. What he finds are the all-too-familiar symptoms of a love affair gone astray: lies, abuse, betrayal ... and 14,000 jobs being lost every day. "Capitalism: A Love Story" is both a culmination of Moore's previous works and a look into what a more hopeful future could look like. It is Moore's ultimate quest to answer the question he's posed throughout his filmmaking career: Who are we and why do we behave the way that we do?
COLD SOULSPaul Giamatti plays himself, an actor agonizing over his interpretation of Chekov's "Uncle Vanya." He finds his soul growing so heavy under the weight of the material that his whole life begins to suffer. Paralyzed with anxiety, he finds a solution when he reads a New Yorker article about a high-tech company that promises to alleviate suffering by deep-freezing souls. Giamatti uses their services, intending to reinstate his soul once he survives the performance, but things go awry when his soul is hijacked and placed in the body of a Russian soap opera actress, whose husband has been dealing in the illegal shipment of Russian souls to America. Wonderful idea for a story hampered by ponderous pacing and direction and some sloppy editing in the film's set up of the Russian black market for souls. Would have made a great short film.
Director: Sophie Barthes. Stars: Paul Giamatti, Emily Watson, David Strathairn. Four-week rental window before sell-through. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 101 min., Black Comedy, Box office gross: $.903 million, Fox. Available: 3/2.
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS?Two successful New Yorkers, Paul (Hugh Grant) and Meryl (Sarah Jessica Parker), are at their wits' ends on how to solve their strained marriage. But when they become the only witnesses to a brutal murder, the police hide them away in Wyoming -- together. Now these diehard city dwellers will have to survive the weather, bears, fresh air, and forced time with one another if they want to make it out alive. Could a peaceful life away from the city be just the thing to bring them back together, or will the deafening silence of nature only serve to amplify the bickering couple's painful peccadillos and drive them further apart than ever before?
Director: Marc Lawrence. Stars: Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mary Steenburgen, Elisabeth Moss, Natalia Klimas, Sam Elliot, Michael Kelly, Kim Shaw, Wilford Brimley. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 103 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $29.580 million, Sony. Available: 3/16.
AN EDUCATIONWell-written, well-acted story of a teenage girl's coming-of-age set in 1961 London, a city caught between the drab, post-war 1950s and the glamorous, more liberated decade to come. Jenny (Carey Mulligan) stands on the brink of becoming a woman: A brilliantly witty and attractive 16-year-old whose suburban life is about to be blown apart by the utterly unsuitable 30-something David (Peter Sarsgaard). Urbane and witty, David manages to charm her conservative parents Jack (Alfred Molina) and Marjorie (Cara Seymour). David introduces Jenny to a glittering new world of classical concerts and late-night suppers with his attractive friend and business partner, Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Danny's girlfriend, the beautiful but vacuous Helen (Rosamund Pike). Just as Jenny's family's long-held dream of getting their brilliant daughter into Oxford seems within reach, Jenny is tempted by another kind of life. The film has received three Oscar nominations, for Best Picture, Best Actress (Carey Mulligan) and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Director: Lone Scherfig. Stars: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Cara Seymour. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 100 min., Drama, Box office gross: $9.622 million, Sony. Available: 3/30.
FANTASTIC MR. FOX"Fantastic Mr. Fox" is visionary director Wes Anderson's first animated film, using classic handmade stop-motion techniques to translate to the big screen the best-selling children's book by Roald Dahl (author of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach"). Having given up their chicken-stealing ways, Mr. and Mrs. Fox (George Clooney and Meryl Streep) live an idyllic home life with their son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) and visiting young nephew Kristopherson (Eric Anderson). But after 12 years, the bucolic existence proves too much for Mr. Fox's wild animal instincts. Soon he slips back into his old ways and in doing so, endangers not only his beloved family, but the whole animal community. Trapped underground and with not enough food to go around, the animals band together to fight against the evil Farmers -- Boggis, Bunce and Bean -- who are determined to capture the audacious, fantastic Mr. Fox at any cost.
Director: Wes Anderson. Stars: Voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Wally Wolodarsky, Eric Anderson, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Jarvis Cocker. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 97 min., Stop-Motion Animation, Box office gross: $19.900 million, Fox. Available: 3/23.
FOURTH KIND, THEIn 1972, a scale of measurement was established for alien encounters. When a UFO is sighted, it is called an encounter of the first kind. When evidence is collected, it is known as an encounter of the second kind. When contact is made with extraterrestrials, it is the third kind. The next level, abduction, is the fourth kind. This encounter has been the most difficult to document ... until now. This thriller is set in modern-day Nome, Alaska, where -- mysteriously since the 1960s -- a disproportionate number of the population has been reported missing every year. Despite multiple FBI investigations of the region, the truth has never been discovered. Here in this remote region, psychologist Dr. Abigail Tyler (Milla Jovovich) began videotaping sessions with traumatized patients and unwittingly discovered some of the most disturbing evidence of alien abduction ever documented. Using never-before-seen archival footage that is integrated into the film, "The Fourth Kind" exposes the terrified revelations of multiple witnesses. Their accounts of being visited by alien figures all share disturbingly identical details, the validity of which is investigated throughout the film.
Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi. Stars: Milla Jovovich, Corey Johnson, Alisha Seaton, Daphne Alexander. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 98 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $25.464 million, Universal. Available: 3/16.
MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS, THEReporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is in search of his next big story when he encounters Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a shadowy figure who claims to be part of an experimental U.S. military unit. According to Cassady, the New Earth Army is changing the way wars are fought; they are a legion of "Warrior Monks" -- created during the aftermath of the War in Vietnam -- with psychic powers who can read the enemy's thoughts, pass through walls, and even kill a goat simply by staring at it. When the program's founder, Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), goes missing, Bob decides to tag along on Cassady's mission to find him. The pair track Django to a clandestine training camp run by renegade psychic Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) and the reporter becomes trapped in a grudge match between Django's New Earth Army and Hooper's personal militia of super soldiers. Based on real-life events that are almost too bizarre to believe; "The Men Who Stare at Goats" was inspired by Jon Ronson's non-fiction bestseller of the same name, an eye-opening and often hilarious exploration of the government's attempts to harness paranormal abilities to combat its enemies. A very funny and sinister black comedy.
Director: Grant Heslov. Stars: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Rebecca Mader, Terry Serpico. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 94 min., Black Comedy, Box office gross: $32.296 million, Anchor Bay Entertainment. Available: 3/23.
NINJA ASSASSINRaizo is one of the deadliest assassins in the world. Taken from the streets as a child, he was transformed into a trained killer by the Ozunu Clan, a secret society whose very existence is considered a myth. But haunted by the merciless execution of his friend by the Clan, Raizo breaks free from them...and vanishes. Now he waits, preparing to exact his revenge. Meanwhile, in Berlin, Europol agent Mika Coretti has stumbled upon a money trail linking several political murders to an underground network of untraceable assassins from the Far East. Defying the orders of her superior, Ryan Maslow, Mika digs into top secret agency files to learn the truth behind the murders. Her investigation makes her a target, and the Ozunu Clan sends a team of killers led by the lethal Takeshi, to silence her forever. Raizo saves Mika from her attackers, but he knows that the Clan will not rest until they are both eliminated. Now, entangled in a deadly game of cat and mouse through the streets of Berlin, Raizo and Mika must trust one another if they hope to survive ... and finally bring down the elusive Ozunu Clan.
OLD DOGSDan (Robin Williams) and his best friend and business partner Charlie (John Travolta) are on the verge of the biggest deal in the history of their sports marketing firm when their lives are turned upside down by a surprise visit from Dan's ex-wife Vicki (Kelly Preston). Vicki has big news for Dan -- their ever-so-brief liaison produced twins Zach and Emily, now 7-years-old and in need of a dad to keep an eye on them for two weeks. With only high-living playboy Charlie for support, Dan's bumbling attempts at "on the job training" in fatherhood result in a series of disastrously funny exploits that lead him to a new understanding of what really matters in life.
Director: Walt Becker. Stars: John Travolta, Robin Williams, Kelly Preston, Conner Rayburn, Seth Green, Matt Dillon, Ella Bleu Travolta. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 88 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $48.283 million, Disney. Available: 3/9.
PARISA seriously ill young man faces an uncertain future but learns that hope comes in the most unlikely forms in this Cesar-nominated box-office hit from acclaimed director Cedric Klapisch. Pierre is a dancer with the famed Moulin Rouge in Paris, but his career has been put on indefinite hold: he has heart disease and is on the waiting list for a transplant. His sister, Elise, a social worker and single mother of three, moves into to Pierre's apartment, ostensibly to help care for him. The depressed dancer, while slowly gaining a new appreciation for his struggling sister, spends his days on his balcony observing the dance of life unfolding in the street below and the apartments across the way -- and learns that laughter and love hide within every balcony, apartment window, street corner and market stall. In French with English subtitles.
Director: Cedric Klapisch. Stars: Juliette Binoche, Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini, Albert Dupontel, Melanie Laurent, Francois Cluzet, Karin Viard. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 130 min., Drama, Box office gross: $1.005 million, IFC Films Available: 3/16.
PLANET 51Animated alien adventure comedy revolving around American astronaut Captain Charles "Chuck" Baker, who lands on Planet 51 thinking he's the first person to step foot on it. To his surprise, he finds that this planet is inhabited by little green people who are happily living in a white picket fence world reminiscent of a cheerfully innocent 1950s America, and whose only fear is that it will be overrun by alien invaders ... like Chuck! With the help of his robot companion "Rover" and his new friend Lem, Chuck must navigate his way through the dazzling, but bewildering, landscape of Planet 51 in order to escape becoming a permanent part of the Planet 51 Alien Invaders Space Museum.
Director: Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad, Marcos Martinez. Stars: Voices of Dwayne Johnson, Jessica Biel, Justin Long, Seann William Scott, Gary Oldman, John Cleese. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 91 min., Animated, Box office gross: $39.968 million, Sony. Available: 3/9.
PONYOInspired by the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale "The Little Mermaid." Walking on the beach near his home, a five-year old boy named Sosuke finds a beautiful goldfish trapped in a bottle. He releases the tiny creature and, sure that she is no ordinary fish, names his new friend Ponyo. As Ponyo and Sosuke grow closer, she reveals to him that she is the daughter of a powerful wizard and a sea goddess, and magically transforms herself into a real human girl. But by crossing from her watery world onto land, Ponyo has created a dangerous imbalance in nature. As the moon begins to draw closer to the earth, sea levels rise and a giant tsunami threatens to destroy Sosuke's home. Ponyo's father marshals all his might to find his missing daughter, as the two children embark on an adventure of a lifetime to try and save the world. No one in the world can do animation like the Japanese Studio Ghibli and director Hayao Miyazaki. This outing -- though a tad watered down in it's story line than the best of their previous works -- 'My Neighbor Totoro,' 'Kiki's Delivery Service' and 'Spirited Away' -- is still a visual and visceral delight. Watch it with someone you love.
Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Stars: Voices of Cate Blanchet, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Lily Tomlin, Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Frankie Jonas. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: G, 103 min., Animated, Box office gross: $15.050 million, Disney. Available: 3/2.
PRECIOUSSet in Harlem in 1987, "Precious" is the story of Claireece "Precious" Jones (Gabourey Sidibe), a 16-year-old black girl born into a life no one would want. She's pregnant for the second time by her absent father; at home, she must wait hand and foot on her mother (Mo'Nique), a poisonously angry woman who abuses her emotionally and physically. School is a place of chaos, and Precious has reached the ninth grade with good marks and an awful secret: she can neither read nor write. She may sometimes be down, but she is never out. Beneath her impassive expression is a watchful, curious young woman with an inchoate but unshakeable sense that other possibilities exist for her. Threatened with expulsion, Precious is offered the chance to transfer to an alternative school, Each One/Teach One. Precious doesn't know the meaning of "alternative," but her instincts tell her this is the chance she has been waiting for. In the literacy workshop taught by the patient yet firm Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), Precious begins a journey that will lead her from darkness, pain and powerlessness to light, love and self-determination. Based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire.
Director: Lee Daniels. Stars: Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, Paula Patton, Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 110 min., Drama, Box office gross: $41.778 million, Lionsgate. Available: 3/9.
PRINCESS AND THE FROG, THEWalt Disney Animation Studios and the creators of "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin" marks a return to hand-drawn animation for the studio. This animated comedy set in the great city of New Orleans is a modern twist on the classic tale, featuring a beautiful girl named Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again, and a fateful kiss that leads them both on a hilarious adventure through the mystical bayous of Louisiana. With music by Oscar-winning composer Randy Newman.
Director: John Musker, Ron Clements. Stars: Voices of Anika Noni Rose, Terrence Howard, John Goodman, Keith David, Jim Cummings, Jenifer Lewis, Oprah Winfrey. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: G, 97 min., Animated, Box office gross: $97.504 million, Disney. Available: 3/16.
SHERLOCK HOLMESIn a dynamic and exciting new portrayal of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous character, Robert Downey Jr. plays the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law his faithful ally, Dr. Watson. Revealing fighting skills as powerful as his famous intellect, Holmes employs his own unique methods to get to the heart of a case, traveling where no one else would think to go to find what others cannot see. But now a storm is gathering over London, a threat unlike anything that Holmes has ever confronted…and just the challenge he's looking for. After a string of brutal, ritualistic murders, Holmes and Watson arrive just in time to save the latest victim and uncover the killer: the unrepentant Lord Blackwood. As he approaches his scheduled hanging, Blackwood -- who has terrorized inmates and jailers alike with his seeming connection to dark and powerful forces -- warns Holmes that death has no power over him and, in fact, his execution plays right into Blackwood's own plans. And when, by all indications, Blackwood makes good on his promise, his apparent resurrection panics London and confounds Scotland Yard. But to Holmes, the game is afoot. Racing to stop Blackwood's deadly plot, Holmes and Watson plunge into a world of the dark arts and startling new technologies, where logic is sometimes the best crime-fighting weapon ... but where a good right hook will often do the job.
Director: Guy Ritchie. Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Kelly Reilly, Eddie Marsan. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 128 min., Action-Thriller, Box office gross: $198.086 million, Warner. Available: 3/30.
2012A global cataclysm brings an end to the world while only a hand full survive to carry on the human race. Breathtaking visuals of the destruction of Los Angeles and the rest of the world overshadows a weak story line about a writer who discovers that solar storms have caused the earth's core to heat up, unbalancing the planet and causing massive earthquakes and tidal waves. Much of the running time is given over to his attempt to save his family and get to China, where the world governments have prepared several Arks to save select people to restart civilization. Don't think about logic here -- four stars for great fun.
Director: Roland Emmerich. Stars: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oliver Plat, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Liam James. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 158 min., Sci Fi Thriller, Box office gross: $155.288 million, Sony. Available: 3/2.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOONIn the second installment of Stephenie Meyer's phenomenally successful "Twilight" series, the romance between mortal and vampire soars to a new level as Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) delves deeper into the mysteries of the supernatural world she yearns to become part of -- only to find herself in greater peril than ever before. Following Bella's ill-fated 18th birthday party, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and his family abandon the town of Forks, Washington, in an effort to protect her from the dangers inherent in their world. As the heartbroken Bella sleepwalks through her senior year of high school, numb and alone, she discovers Edward's image comes to her whenever she puts herself in jeopardy. Her desire to be with him at any cost leads her to take greater and greater risks. With the help of her childhood friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), Bella refurbishes an old motorbike to carry her on her adventures. Bella's frozen heart is gradually thawed by her budding relationship with Jacob, a member of the mysterious Quileute tribe, who has a supernatural secret of his own. When a chance encounter brings Bella face to face with a former nemesis, only the intervention of a pack of supernaturally large wolves saves her from a grisly fate, and the encounter makes it frighteningly clear that Bella is still in grave danger. In a race against the clock, Bella learns the secret of the Quileutes and Edward's true motivation for leaving her. She also faces the prospect of a potentially deadly reunion with her beloved that is a far cry from the one she'd hoped for. With more of the passion, action and suspense that made "Twilight" a worldwide phenomenon, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" is a worthy follow-up to the box office hit. In actuality, it's a good, old-fashioned melodramatic soap for the new generation.
Director: Chris Weitz. Stars: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Dakota Fanning, Michael Sheen, Anna Kendrick, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Nikki Reed, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 130 min., Melodrama, Box office gross: $291.949 million, Summit Entertainment. Available: 3/20.
UP IN THE AIRFrom Jason Reitman, the Oscar-nominated director of "Juno." Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a corporate downsizer and consummate modern business traveler (translation: he flies around the country from his home office in Omaha to fire employees for cowardly bosses) who, after years of staying happily airborne, suddenly finds himself ready to make a real connection. Ryan has long been content with his unencumbered lifestyle lived out across America in airports, hotels and rental cars. He can carry all he needs in one wheel-away case; he's a pampered, elite member of every travel loyalty program in existence; and he's close to attaining his lifetime goal of 10 million frequent flier miles -- and yet -- Ryan has nothing real to hold onto. After he finally lets his guard slip and he falls for a simpatico fellow traveler, Alex (Vera Farmiga), Ryan's boss (Jason Bateman), inspired by a young, upstart efficiency expert, Natalie (Anna Kendrick), threatens to permanently call him in from the road. It seems firing people by computer conferencing is more efficient than firing them person-to-person. Faced with the prospect of being grounded, Ryan fights back, taking Natalie on the road to show her the proper way to terminate employees. The computer program is scuttled, and Ryan is sent back into the air. Meanwhile, his romance with Alex forces him to contemplate what it might actually mean to have a home. Can Ryan find a happy medium between the tarmac and the air? Named by over 200 critics as one of the top 10 films of 2009; received six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor (George Clooney), Best Supporting Actress (Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick), Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Director: Jason Reitman. Stars: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Tamala Jones, Chris Lowell. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: R, 109 min., Comedy-Drama, Box office gross: $76.614 million, Paramount. Available: 3/9.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS AREMaurice Sendak's classic book comes to the big screen in an adventure tale for every generation. "Where the Wild Things Are" follows the adventure of Max (Max Records), a mischievous young boy who rebells against his mother (Catherine Keener) and runs away. Max's imagination is free to roam, and it soon transports him to a thriving forest bordering a vast sea. Delighted, he sets sail for the land of the Wild Things, where mischief reigns and Max rules. Although Sendak's 1963 children's book was only 37 pages long, it beautifully captured the innocence and imagination (and, yes, anger) of childhood. Jonze's adaptation expands on the story but doesn't really do it justice. Some things just need to remain on the printed page. (But the nine-foot creature costumes for the astounding Wild Things are amazing.)
Director: Spike Jonze. Stars: Max Records, Catherine Keener, Benicio Del Toro, Forest Whitaker, Lauren Ambrose, Catherine O'Hara, Tom Noonan, Michael Berry, James Gandolfini. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 94 min., Animated, Box office gross: $76.566 million, Warner. Available: 3/2.
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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March 1, 2010