OnVideo MAY Video Reviews
In the sprawling, privileged neighborhoods around L.A., bored teenagers with too much time and too much money string one hazy day into another, looking for the next thrill -- doing suburban imitations of the thug life they idolize from rap music, video games and movies. When you're living without any consequences, anything can happen. And in the hot California summer six years ago, something did. Cocky and headstrong Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) is a mid-level drug dealer with a wad of cash, a beautiful girl on each arm, a thriving business and plenty of weed to keep all his friends stoned. When raging hothead Jake (Ben Foster) fails to come up with deal money he owes Truelove, the situation escalates into a battle for dominance that culminates with Johnny and his gang impulsively kidnapping Jake's little brother, Zack (Anton Yelchin). En route to Palm Springs, the group decides to keep the kid as a marker and slowly begins including him in their schedule, alternating between parties and slack time. With no parents in sight, they grow used to having him around. Under the temporary care of Johnny's charismatic friend Frankie (Justin Timberlake), Zack now enjoys an illicit summer fantasy of drinking, girls and new experiences. Out in the desert, everyone soon begins to lose sight that Zack is a hostage, a "stolen boy," and he can't just be simply returned. As the hours turn into days, solutions to the Zack problem begin to dwindle. Bad decisions are followed by worse ones. For Johnny, the line between playing a thug and becoming one soon blurs, and very real, very adult and very dire consequences result for everyone involved. Based on real events (the infamous Jesse James Hollywood).
Director: Nick Cassavetes. Stars: Ben Foster, Shawn Hatosy, Emile Hirsch, Christopher Marquette, Sharon Stone, Justin Timberlake, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Willis. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: R, 122 min., Drama, Box office gross: $15.229 million, Universal. Available: 5/1.
Mythic action-adventure set against the turbulent end times of the once-great Mayan civilization. Powerful Maya kingdoms ruled in the Americas for more than 1,000 years, forging expansive cities, constructing sky-piercing pyramids and building an impressively advanced society of extraordinary cultural and scientific achievement. Then, in a flash of history, this world collapsed. All that was left behind were a few jungle-covered pyramids and a tantalizing mystery. The story: When his idyllic existence is brutally disrupted by a violent invading force, a man is taken on a perilous journey to a world ruled by fear and oppression where a harrowing end awaits him. Through a twist of fate and spurred by the power of his love for his woman and his family, he will make a desperate break to return home and to ultimately save his way of life. Shot on location in Catemaco -- in one of the last remaining tracts of rainforests left in Mexico -- and in Veracruz, with a cast made up entirely of indigenous peoples from the Americas.
Director: Mel Gibson. Stars: Rudy Youngblood, Dalia Hernandez, Jonathan Brewer, Morris Birdyellowhead, Carlos Emilio Baez, Ramirez Amilcar, Israel Contreras, Israel Rios, María Isabel Díaz, Espiridion Acosta Cache, Iazua Larios. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: 139, R min., Action, Box office gross: $50.859 million, Buena Vista. Available: 5/22.
ARTHUR AND THE INVISIBLES
A magical tale of a young boy's courageous journey to save his grandfather's home from demolition. Ten-year-old Arthur has a lot on his plate: a real estate developer is about to snap up his grandfather's home ... and there's no way Arthur's going to hang around for his parents or grandparents to sort out the problem. Maybe the solution lies in his grandpa's treasure, which is hidden somewhere on the "other side" in the land of the Minimoys. The creatures that inhabit this world are just a tenth of an inch tall and live in perfect harmony with their environment. Arthur ventures into this world of the Minimoys, where he meets Princess Selenia and her brother Betameche. Together they set off to look for the treasure that will save his grandma. An action-packed adventure ensues, full of pitfalls and intrigues, all the way up to the forbidden city ruled by the evil M the Malicious. Arthur's journey in the Minimoys universe reveals that sometimes the smallest heroes make the biggest difference. Combination of live-action and 3-D-CG animation.
Director: Luc Besson. Stars: Freddie Highmore, Mia Farrow, Penny Balfour, Doug Rand and the voices of Madonna, David Bowie, Snoop Dogg, Robert De Niro, Jimmy Fallon, Harvey Keitel, Emilio Estevez. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 94 min., Family, Box office gross: $ 14.118 million, The Weinstein Company/Genius Products. Available: 5/15.
BECAUSE I SAID SO
Diane Keaton stars as Daphne Wilder, a mother whose love knows no bounds or boundaries. She is the proud mom of three daughters: stable psychologist Maggie (Lauren Graham), sexy and irreverent Mae (Piper Perabo) and insecure, adorable Milly (Manfy Moore)--who, when it comes to men, is like psychotic flypaper. In order to prevent her youngest from making the same mistakes she did, Daphne decides to set Milly up with the perfect man. Little does Milly know, however, that her mom placed an ad in the online personals to find him. Mayhem unfolds as Daphne continues to do the wrong thing for the right reasons ... all in the name of love. In a battle of strong wills, the mother-daughter dynamic is tested in all its fierce, wacky complexity.
Director: Michael Lehmann. Stars: Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore, Lauren Graham, Piper Perabo, Stephen Collins, Tom Everett Scott, Gabriel Macht. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 102 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $42.304 million, Universal. Available: 5/8.
CATCH & RELEASE
After the sudden death of her fiance, Gray Wheeler (Jennifer Garner) finds comfort in the company of his friends: lighthearted and comic Sam (Kevin Smith), hyper-responsible Dennis (Sam Jaeger), and, oddly enough, his old childhood buddy Fritz (Timothy Olyphant), an irresponsible playboy whom she'd previously pegged as one of the least reliable people in the world. As secrets about her supposedly perfect fiance emerge, Gray comes to see new sides of the man she thought she knew, and at the same time, finds herself drawn to the last man she ever expected to fall for.
Director: Susannah Grant. Stars: Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant, Sam Jaeger, Kevin Smith, Juliette Lewis. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 112 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $15.269 million, Sony. Available: 5/8.
In 1960s Detroit, a good night onstage can get you noticed but it won't get your song played on the radio. Here, a new kind of music is on the cusp of being born -- a sound with roots buried deep in the soul of Detroit itself, where songs are about more than what's on the surface, and everyone is bound together by a shared dream. Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx) is a car salesman aching to make his mark in the music business -- to form his own record label and get its sound heard on mainstream radio at a time when civil rights are still only a whisper in the streets. He just needs the angle, the right talent, the right product to sell. Late for their stint in a local talent show, The Dreamettes -- Deena Jones (Beyonce Knowles), Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose), and lead singer Effie White (Jennifer Hudson) -- show up in their cheap wigs and homemade dresses, rehearsing songs and steps by Effie's brother, C.C. (Keith Robinson), with hopes that talent and sheer desire will break them out of the only life that seems available to them. They're young. They're beautiful. They're just what Curtis is looking for. All they have to do is trust him. James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy) is a pioneer of the new Detroit sound, spellbinding audiences all along the "Chitlin' Circuit" with his electrifying blend of soul and rock 'n' roll. Curtis finesses The Dreamettes a gig singing backup for Early, and suddenly, for all of them, the gulf between what they want and what they can have draws closer for the first time. Curtis launches the girls as a solo act, rechristening them The Dreams, knowing in his gut that success lies not with the soulful voice of Effie, but with the demure beauty and malleable style of Deena - despite their history ... and Curtis' promises. Deena is ready to step into the spotlight, even as Effie fades away. As a new musical age dawns, Curtis' driving ambition pushes this one-time family to the forefront of an industry in the throes of music revolution. But when the lights come up and the curtains part, they hardly recognize who they've become. Their dreams are finally there for the taking, but at a price that may be too heavy for their hearts to bear.
Director: Bill Condon. Stars: Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Jennifer Hudson, Keith Robinson, Bobby Slayton. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 131 min., Musical, Box office gross: $ 101.233 million, Paramount. Available: 5/1.
Favorite characters from Hollywood's biggest blockbuster films are skewered in this outrageous comedy of "epic" proportions. When four troubled orphans (from four different movies) become trapped in a bizarre chocolate factory, they escape to a magical world of fake snow and genuine sorcery. But in order to survive, they must join forces with pirates, wizards and even a wise-but-horny lion in order to defeat the evil White Bitch! Filled with sight gags and eye-popping special effects.
Director: Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Stars: Kal Penn, Adam Campbel, Crispin Glover, Kevin MacDonald, David Carradine, Darrell Hammond, Carmen Electra, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 85 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $39.208 million, Fox. Available: 5/22.
"The Fountain" is an odyssey about one man's eternal struggle to save the woman he loves. His epic journey begins in 16th-century Spain, where conquistador Tomas (Hugh Jackman) commences his search for the Fountain of Youth, the legendary entity believed to grant immortality. As modern-day scientist Tommy Creo, he desperately struggles to find a cure for the cancer that is killing his beloved wife, Isabel (Rachel Weisz). Traveling through deep space as a 26th-century astronaut, Tom begins to grasp the mysteries that have consumed him for a millennium. The three stories converge into one truth, as the Thomas of all periods -- warrior, scientist, and explorer -- comes to terms with life, love, death and rebirth.
Director: Darren Aronofsky. Stars: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, Sean Gullette, Sean Patrick Thomas, Donna Murphy. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 96 min., Sci Fi Fantasy, Box office gross: $10.139 million, Warner. Available: 5/15.
GOOD GERMAN, THE
Based on the novel by Joseph Kanon, "The Good German" takes place in the ruins of post-WWII Berlin, where U.S. Army war correspondent Jake Geismar (George Clooney) becomes embroiled with Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett), a former lover whose missing husband is the object of a manhunt by both the American and Russian armies. Intrigue mounts as Jake tries to uncover the secrets Lena may be hiding in her desperation to get herself and her husband out of Berlin. Tully (Tobey Maguire), a soldier in the American army motor pool assigned to drive Jake around Berlin, has black market connections that may be Lena's way out -- or lead them all into even darker territory. In black and white.
Director: Steven Soderbergh. Stars: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, Beau Bridges, Tony Curran. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: R, 105 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $1.290 million, Warner. Available: 5/22.
HAPPILY N'EVER AFTER
Once upon a time will n'ever be the same again. The world of fairy tales has always been a place where good prevails over evil. Cinderella, for all of her suffering at the hands of her Stepmother, finds herself marrying the Prince; and Sleeping Beauty, following days of slumber brought on by an evil fairy, is awakened with a kiss by her true love. But what would happen if these familiar tales ended differently and happy endings weren't guaranteed? Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Jack from the Beanstalk are all about to live happily ever after when the balance between good and evil gets thrown out of whack. It's up to Cinderella - aka Ella (Sarah Michelle Gellar) - to save the day by taking on her power hungry stepmother, Frieda (Sigourney Weaver). But this time, Ella will have to do it without her Prince Charming (Patrick Warburton) as she joins forces with an unlikely army of dwarves, fairies, and the wizard's bumbling assistants, Mambo (Andy Dick) and Munk (Wallace Shawn). Your favorite fairy tales are turned upside down in this funny, fast-paced adventure that teaches the lesson that - no matter who you are - you have the power to affect how your story turns out!
Director: Paul J. Bolger. Stars: Voices of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Andy Dick, Wallace Shawn, Patrick Warburton, George Carlin, Sigourney Weaver. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 87 min., Animated family, Box office gross: $15.519 million, Lionsgate. Available: 5/1.
Never pick up strangers. This remake of the 1986 film of the same name tracks the terrifying trajectory of Grace Andrews (Sophia Bush) and Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton), a collegiate couple who are tormented by the mysterious hitchhiker John Ryder, a.k.a. The Hitcher (Sean Bean). The young couple hit the road in a 1970 Oldsmobile 442, en route to spring break. But their pleasure trip soon turns into a waking nightmare. The initial encounters with Ryder are increasingly off-putting for Grace and Jim, and they bravely fight back when he ambushes them. But they are truly blindsided when he implicates them in a horrific slaying and continues to shadow them. The open road becomes a suspenseful, action-packed battleground of blood and metal as, in trying to elude not only Ryder but also New Mexico State Police officers, Grace and Jim must fight for their lives and face their fears head-on.
Director: Dave Myers. Stars: Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton, Kyle Davis, Neal McDonough. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: 83, R min., Thriller, Box office gross: $16.366 million, Universal. Available: 5/1.
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
Shown from the vantage point of the Japanese military during World War II, the film chronicles the horrors of Iwo Jima and the struggles of General Tadamichi Kuribayashi and his troops as they prepare for and engage in the historic battle. As the powerful companion piece to "Flags of Our Fathers," Clint Eastwood's other acclaimed movie about Iwo Jima, "Letters from Iwo Jima" is an intensely gripping drama that humanizes the enemy with a grim and tragic realism. Sixty-one years ago, U.S. and Japanese armies met on Iwo Jima. Decades later, several hundred letters are unearthed from that stark island's soil. The letters give faces and voices to the men who fought there, as well as the extraordinary general who led them. The Japanese soldiers are sent to Iwo Jima knowing that in all probability they will not come back. Among them are Saigo, a baker who wants only to live to see the face of his newborn daughter; Baron Nishi, an Olympic equestrian champion known around the world for his skill and his honor; Shimizu, a young former military policeman whose idealism has not yet been tested by war; and Lieutenant Ito, a strict military man who would rather accept suicide than surrender. Leading the defense is Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, whose travels in America have revealed to him the hopeless nature of the war but also given him strategic insight into how to take on the vast American armada streaming in from across the Pacific. With little defense other than sheer will and the volcanic rock of the island itself, Gen. Kuribayashi's unprecedented tactics transform what was predicted to be a quick and bloody defeat into nearly 40 days of heroic and resourceful combat. Almost 7,000 American soldiers were killed on Iwo Jima; more than 20,000 Japanese troops perished. The black sands of Iwo Jima are stained with their blood, but their sacrifices, their struggles, their courage and their compassion live on in the letters they sent home. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Director: Clint Eastwood. Stars: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Shido Nakamura, Hiroshi Watanabe. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: R, 140 min., War Drama, Box office gross: $13.660 million, Warner. Available: 5/22.
Director: Todd Field. Stars: Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, Patrick Wilson, Noah Emmerich, Jackie Earle Haley. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: R, 130 min., Drama, Box office gross: $3.763 million, New Line. Available: 5/1.
MUSIC AND LYRICS
Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant) is a washed-up 80s pop star who's been reduced to working the nostalgia circuit at county fairs and amusement parks. The charismatic and talented musician gets a chance at a comeback when reigning diva Cora Corman invites him to write and record a duet with her, but there's a problem -- Alex hasn't written a song in years, he's never written lyrics, and he has to come up with a hit in a matter of days. Enter Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), Alex's beguilingly quirky plant lady, whose flair for words strikes a chord with the struggling songwriter. On the rebound from a bad relationship, Sophie is reluctant to collaborate with anyone, especially commitment-phobe Alex. As their chemistry heats up at the piano and under it, Alex and Sophie will have to face their fears -- and the music -- if they want to find the love and success they both deserve.
Director: Marc Lawrence. Stars: Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Brad Garrett, Kristen Johnston, Haley Bennett, Aasif Mandvi, Campbell Scott. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 96 min., Romantic Comedy, Box office gross: $49.731 million, Warner. Available: 5/8.
PAINTED VEIL, THE
Based on the classic novel by Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil is a love story set in the 1920s that tells the tale of a young English couple, Walter, a middle class doctor and Kitty, an upper-class woman, who get married for the wrong reasons and relocate to Shanghai, where she falls in love with someone else. When he uncovers her infidelity, in an act of vengeance, he accepts a job in a remote village in China ravaged by a deadly epidemic, and takes her along. Their journey brings meaning to their relationship and gives them purpose in one of the most remote and beautiful places on earth.
Award-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro delivers a unique, richly imagined epic with this gothic fairy tale set against the postwar repression of Franco's Spain. Del Toro's sixth and most ambitious film, "Pan's Labyrinth" combines the historic and moral themes of his acclaimed Spanish Civil War ghost story "The Devil's Backbone" with the protean visual creativity and gripping dynamics of such previous films as "Hellboy" and "Blade Ii." Harnessing the formal characteristics of classic folklore to a 20th Century landscape, del Toro delivers a timeless tale of good and evil, bravery and sacrifice, love and loss. The film unfolds through the eyes of Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a dreamy little girl who is uprooted to a rural military outpost commanded by her new stepfather. Powerless and lonely in a place of unfathomable cruelty, Ofelia lives out her own dark fable as she confronts monsters both otherworldly and human. Ofelia and her mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) are on their way to their new home. A bright and dreamy little girl, Ofelia keeps her precious books of fairy tales close at hand, despite Carmen's gentle admonition that it may be time for her to put away these childhood favorites. It is unlikely that such pastimes will meet the approval of Ofelia's new stepfather, Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez). And Carmen, who is pregnant with the captain's child, is anxious for her daughter to get along with the man to whom she has entrusted their future. But for Ofelia, fables of good and evil, magic and danger are more than simple entertainment. They are her window onto the world, awakening her to life's everyday possibilities and mysteries. When a dragonfly captures Ofelia's attention during a roadside stop, it is not a gangly insect that she follows into the woods but a glistening emerald ambassador, welcoming her to its domain. There is little sense of welcome, however, when Ofelia and her mother finally arrive at their destination, an abandoned mill in rural Spain that Vidal has converted into a military headquarters. Captain Vidal doesn't want to be a parent to Ofelia, whose own father died several years ago. What Vidal wants is the son that Carmen is carrying, not a family. On the grounds of the mill, armed soldiers are everywhere. Charged with rooting out resistance fighters in the nearby mountains, Vidal and his troops zealously pursue any and all signs of their opponents. Thus far, the rebels have managed elude capture, though fascists have solidified their power in the region. Those local people who clean and cook for the soldiers do their work quietly, speaking only when they are spoken to. Carmen, her condition already precarious, grows even sicker and is soon confined to her bed. In this tense and fearful environment, Ofelia finds a sympathetic presence in the housekeeper Mercedes (Maribel Verdu), who shows her a rambling, neglected old garden near the mill. With its winding paths, it is a lovely place to wander, though one can easily become lost there after nightfall. That garden labyrinth will become Ofelia's haven, a dark refuge from loneliness and sorrow. It is a place of fantastical creatures and powerful talismans, presided over by a teasing, inscrutable Faun (Doug Jones). Here, Ofelia will come to terms with the world as she now knows it -- and with the monsters that live not only in her imagination, but in her daily life.
Director: Guillermo del Toro. Stars: Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Sergi Lopez, Ariadna Gil, Maribel Verdu, Alex Angulo, Roger Casamajor, Sebastian Haro, Mina Lira, Federico Luppi, Ivan Massague, Chema Ruiz, Manolo Solo, Milo Taboada. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: R, 112 min., Fantasy Thriller, Box office gross: $34.224 million, New Line. Available: 5/15.
STOMP THE YARD
When DJ (Columbus Short), a troubled youth from Los Angeles, moves to Atlanta to attend Truth University, he discovers "stepping," the age-old style of dance traditionally done in African-American Fraternities, where teams demonstrate complex moves and create rhythmic sounds by using their bodies. DJ's raw talent and hip-hop inspired moves quickly place him at the center of a fierce rivalry between two fraternities, the winner of which will be determined in front of a sold-out arena at the annual stepping championships. But before he can help his teammates, he must battle his own demons and learn the true meaning of brotherhood.
Director: Sylvain White. Stars: Columbus Short, Meagan Good, Darrin DeWitt Henson, Ne-Yo, Brian J. White. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 116 min., Musical Drama, Box office gross: $61.356 million, Sony Available: 5/15.
"Venus" tells the story of Maurice and Ian, a pair of veteran actors (Peter O'Toole and Leslie Phillips), who never quite hit the big time. Now in their "golden years," they continue to work, though the jobs are far from glamorous. But their comfortable routine and witty banter over breakfast in a favorite cafe is disrupted by the arrival of Ian's grand-niece, Jessie (Jodie Whittaker). Jessie quickly tries her great-uncle's patience; but Maurice is absolutely taken with the young woman and proceeds to show her the cultural sights of London. As Maurice tries to give Jessie the benefit of his experience, he is surprised to discover how very little he actually knows about himself now that his life is drawing to a close. Jessie, who had arrived with an enormous chip on her shoulders, slowly learns from Maurice the value of respect -- for herself as well as others.
Director: Roger Michell. Stars: Peter O'Toole, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Griffiths, Leslie Phillips, Jodie Whittaker. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: R, 95 min., Drama, Box office gross: $3.331 million, Warner. Available: 5/22.
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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May 1, 2007