OnVideo NOVEMBER Video Reviews
Inspiring story of how one man's passion and perseverance changed the world. Based on the true-life story of William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd), a leader of the British abolition movement, the film chronicles his epic struggle to pass a law to end the slave trade in the late 18th century. Along the way, Wilberforce meets intense opposition from members of Parliament who feel the slave trade is tied to the stability of the British Empire. Several friends, including Wilberforce's minister, John Newton (Albert Finney), a reformed slave ship captain who penned the beloved hymn Amazing Grace, urge him to see the cause through.
Vitals herDirector: Michael Apted. Stars: Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Rufus Sewell, Youssou N'Dour, Ciaran Hinds. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 111 min., Drama, Box office gross: $21.208 million, Fox. Available: 11/13.
Down-on-his-luck petty criminal Andre (Jamel Debbouze) has reached the end of his rope. Irreversibly in debt to a local gangster, with no one to turn to, his only solution is to plunge himself into the Seine. Just as he is perched to do so, a fellow bridge-jumper beats him to the water. Diving in, he saves Angela (Rie Rasmussen), a beautiful, statuesque and mysterious woman. As they pull themselves out the water, the two form a bond and venture into the streets of Paris determined to get Andre out of the hole he has found himself in. Filled with renewed passion for life, they set out to settle Andre's scores as they wander the City of Lights. Along the way, Andre finds himself, but he still has some questions about his leggy, lovely companion -- can she really be as heavenly as she seems? Is Angela simply repaying Andre for his kindness, or are there other forces at work beyond his comprehension? Director Luc Besson and cinematographer Thierry Arbogust have crafted a dream-like Paris as the backdrop for their film, filling it with wit, warmth and eye-popping visuals. In French with English subtitles.
DECK THE HALLS
Family comedy about one-upmanship, jealousy, clashing neighbors, home decoration ... and the true spirit of the holidays. For Cloverdale, Massachusetts optometrist Steve Finch (Matthew Broderick), no time of the year can compare to the glory of the Christmas season. And, for many years now, he's carried on a series of heartfelt but hokey Yuletide traditions that his family -- wife Kelly (Kristin Davis), daughter Madison (Alia Shawkat), and son Carter (Dylan Blue) -- at this point, can barely tolerate. Despite his family's exhausted protests, super-organized Steve has the December calendar chock full with everything from shooting the Finch's annual Christmas card photo, to their ritual tree harvesting and neighborhood caroling night. There's also scheduled time for shopping, "personal reflection," and the town's yearly Winterfest carnival, which Steve joyously oversees. But Steve's Christmas bliss is suddenly destroyed when slippery car salesman Buddy Hall (Danny DeVito) moves in next door and Steve finds himself going toe-to-toe with his new neighbor. Buddy quickly begins to undermine Steve's dominance as the local "King of Christmas" when he sets out to festoon his new house with enough glowing holiday lights so that it will be visible from outer space. But why stop at lights? Motivated by the celebrity he's achieving with his dazzling, megawatt decorations, Buddy adds a live manger scene complete with donkeys, cows, sheep, and an imported camel, while continuing to wreak havoc on an infuriated Steve in a host of creatively twisted ways. Though Steve is in meltdown mode over Buddy's holiday shenanigans (never mind that Buddy's tapping into the Finches' electricity to power his decor), wife Kelly has bonded with Buddy's brassy better-half Tia (Kristin Chenoweth). Kelly and Tia and the kids become increasingly impatient, though, with Steve and Buddy's escalating rivalry and eventually threaten to pull the plug on the guys' entire Christmas season.
Director: John Whitesell. Stars: Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick, Kristin Davis, Kristin Chenoweth, Dylan Blue, Alia Shawkat. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 93 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $35.092 million, Fox. Available: 11/6.
Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, has only one passion - dancing. Her dream is to appear on "The Corny Collins Show," Baltimore's hippest dance party on TV. Tracy (Nikki Blonsky) seems a natural fit for the show except for one not-so-little problem -- she doesn't fit in. Her plus-sized figure has always set her apart from the cool crowd, which she is reminded of by her loving but overly protective plus-sized mother, Edna (John Travolta). That doesn't stop Tracy because if there is one thing that this girl knows, it's that she was born to dance. As her father Wilbur (Christopher Walken) tells her, "Go for it! You've got to think big to be big." After wowing Corny Collins (James Marsden) at her high school dance, Tracy wins a spot on his show and becomes an instant on-air sensation, much to the chagrin of the show's reigning princess, Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow), and her scheming mother, Velma (Michelle Pfeiffer), who runs television station WYZT. Even worse for Amber is the fact that it's not just the audience who loves the new girl in town; Amber's sweetheart, Link Larkin (Zac Efron), seems to be smitten with Tracy's charms as well. This dance party gets personal as a bitter feud erupts between the girls as they compete for the coveted "Miss Teenage Hairspray" crown. At school, however, a short stint in detention and raised-eyebrows caused by the budding relationship between her best friend Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes) and Seaweed (Elijah Kelley) opens Tracy's eyes to a bigger issue than the latest dance craze or the coolest hairdo -- racial inequality. Throwing caution to the wind, she leads a march with Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah) to fight for integration and winds up with an arrest warrant instead. Tracy is on the lam now and goes underground -- literally -- to her best friend Penny's basement. Has Tracy's luck finally run out? Will she miss the final dance-off against Amber and forfeit the title of "Miss Hairspray," or will she sing and dance her way out of trouble again? Based on the 1988 John Waters cult classic film and the critically-acclaimed, Tony Award-winning Broadway hit musical.
Director: Adam Shankman. Stars: John Travolta, Nikki Blonsky, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, James Marsden, Queen Latifah, Brittany Snow, Zac Efron, Allison Janney, Paul Dooley, Jerry Stiller. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 117 min., Musical, Box office gross: $120.00 million, New Line. Available: 11/20.
I KNOW WHO KILLED ME
Aubrey Fleming (Lindsay Lohan) is a regular high school student with friends and family. One night, she unexpectedly disappears. Two weeks later, she is found unconscious in the middle of the woods. When spoken to, her loved ones realize she has forgotten her identity and the personality living in her body is Dakota Moss, a character that Aubrey created in one of her stories for an English assignment. Dakota denies ever being Aubrey, despite an identical appearance. Now, Dakota must try to unravel the mystery of how she and Aubrey co-exist and find out who abducted Aubrey that night.
Director: Chris Sivertson. Stars: Lindsay Lohan, Julia Ormond, Neal McDonough, Brian Geraghty, Garcelle Beauvais, Spencer Garrett, Gregory Itzin. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: R, 105 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $7.233 million, Sony. Available: 11/27.
I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY
Adam Sandler and Kevin James play two straight guys who stumble down the aisle with the best of intentions. The pride of their Brooklyn fire station, Chuck Levine (Sandler) and Larry Valentine (James) are two guys' guys -- always side-by-side and willing to do anything for each other. Salt-of-the-earth widower Larry wants just one thing: to protect his family. His buddy Chuck also wants one thing: to enjoy the single life. Grateful Chuck owes Larry for saving his life on the job, and Larry calls in that favor big time when civic red tape prevents him from naming his own two kids as his life insurance beneficiaries. All that Chuck has to do is claim to be Larry's domestic partner on some city forms. Easy. Nobody will ever know. But when an overzealous, spot-checking bureaucrat becomes suspicious, the new couple's arrangement becomes a citywide issue and goes from confidential to front-page news. Forced to improvise as love-struck newlyweds, Chuck and Larry must now fumble through a charade of domestic bliss under one roof. And after surviving their mandatory honeymoon and dodging the threat of exposure, the well-intentioned con men discover that sticking together in your time of need is what truly makes a family. Embarrassing, but made a lot of money.
Director: Dennis Dugan. Stars: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, Dan Aykroyd. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13,110 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $118.501 million, Universal. Available: 11/6.
LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD
On the Fourth of July weekend, an attack on the United States infrastructure begins to shut down the entire nation. The mysterious figure behind the scheme has figured out every modern angle ... but he never figured on John McClane -- the oldschool "analog" fly in the "digital" ointment. It's the beginning of the holiday, but New York City Detective McClane isn't celebrating. He's had yet another argument with his college-age daughter Lucy, and received a crushingly routine assignment to bring in a young hacker, Matt Farrell, for questioning by the FBI. But for McClane, the ordinary has a habit of exploding into the extraordinary -- abruptly hurtling him into the wrong place at the wrong time. An internet terrorist organization intends to systematically demolish or seize our technological infrastructure via a three-day plan, gradually stepping up malfunctions starting with traffic control systems, working towards economic markets, and finally shutting down key utilities like power and water, to send the U.S. essentially into a modern Dark Ages. With Farrell's help, McClane slowly begins to understand the increasing chaos surrounding him. The mysterious figure behind the scheme, Thomas Gabriel, stays several moves ahead of McClane as he implements his incredible plans, known to uber-geeks like Farrell as a "fire sale" (as in, everything must go!). And despite all the digital -- and analog -- firepower that Gabriel throws at McClane, the detective is the proverbial bulldog that just wo't let go or be stopped til the bad guys feel his bite -- "Yippie-ki-yay, ..." By the way, all the stunts are done in real time -- no CGI here. And they're spectacular.
Director: Len Wiseman. Stars: Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Long, Maggie Q, Jonathan Sadowski, Kevin Smith , Mary Elizabeth Winstead. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 130 min., Drama, Box office gross: $132.649 million, Fox. Available: 11/20.
MR. BEAN'S HOLIDAY
The sequel to the 1997 hit "Bean" finds the hapless Mr. Bean traveling to the South of France on holiday, causing his usual brand of mayhem and ending with an unscheduled screening (and success) of his video diary at the Cannes Film Festival.
Director: Steve Bendelack. Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Willem Dafoe, Emma de Caunes, Jean Rochefort. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: G, 90 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $32.294 million, Universal. Available: 11/27.
An enduring story of love, courage and the struggles faced by American immigrants. Follows two generations of the Ganguli family as they immigrate to the U.S. from India to experience a world of limitless opportunities, only to be challenged to find the links between the world they left behind and the new world that lies in front of them. Kal Penn stars as Gogol Ganguli, a suburban teenager caught between his Indian roots and his American birthright. His non-American, yet non-Indian name finds him estranged from his heritage in the midst of American culture; and he learns to tread a razor-thin line between his Bengali roots and his American birthright as he tries in vain to convince his parents - played by award winning Bollywood star Irrfan Khan and Tabu -- to support his desire to change his name to Nikhil. Genuinely believing there could be no name more fitting for their son, they must find a way to remain faithful to their cultural traditions while coming to terms with their son's Western outlook resulting in both comical and revelatory consequences. Gogol and his Indian-born parents must somehow strike a balance between age-old traditions and modern-day sensibilities as they search for a patch of common ground.
The sequel to "Ocean's Eleven" (2001) and "Ocean's Twelve" (2004). Ruthless casino owner Willy Bank (Al Pacino) never imagined that the odds were against him when he double-crossed Danny Ocean's (George Clooney) friend and mentor Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), putting the distraught Reuben in a hospital bed in critical condition. But Bank miscalculated ... badly. He may have taken down one of the original Ocean's eleven, but he left the others standing and, worse for him, gave them a shared purpose: to take Bank down on the night of what should be his greatest triumph -- the grand opening of his new casino, appropriately named The Bank. Their strategy is twofold. First they will ruin him financially by turning the tables on the precept that the house always wins. But that's just money. The knockout punch will be to Bank's personal pride and joy: his reputation as the only hotelier who has earned the Royal Review Board's Five Diamond Award on every single one of his hotels. The plan is elaborate, dangerous and damn near impossible ... but there are no limits when it comes to saving one of Ocean's crew.
Director: Steven Soderbergh. Stars: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Elliott Gould, Bernie Mac, Al Pacino, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner, Eddie Izzard, Ellen Barkin, Andy Garcia. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 122 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $117.096 million, Warner. Available: 11/13.
PARIS, JE T'AIME
Made by a team of contributors as cosmopolitan as the city itself, this portrait of the city is as diverse as its creators' backgrounds and nationalities. With each director telling the story of an unusual encounter in one of the city's neighborhoods, the vignettes go beyond the "postcard" view of Paris to portray aspects of the city rarely seen on the big screen. Racial tensions stand next to paranoid visions of the city seen from the perspective of an American tourist. A young foreign worker moves from her own domestic situation into her employer's bourgeois environs. An American starlet finds escape as she is shooting a movie. A man is torn between his wife and his lover. A young man working in a print shop sees and desires another young man. A father grapples with his complex relationship with his daughter. A couple tries to add spice to their sex life. In all, there's 18 stories by 21 directors. In French with Englsih subtitles.
Directors: Olivier Assayas, Frederic Auburtin & Gerard Depardieu, Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, The Coen brothers, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydes, Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Tom Tykwer, Gus Van Sant. Stars: Fanny Ardant, Julie Bataille, Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Willem Dafoe, Gerard Depardieu, Julie Depardieu, Marianne Faithfull, Ben Gazzara, Hippolyte Girardot, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bob Hoskins, Emily Mortimer, Nick Nolte, Alexander Payne, Natalie Portman, Miranda Richardson, Gena Rowlands, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Ludivine Sagnier, Barbet Schroeder, Rufus Sewell, Gaspar Ulliel, Leonor Watling, Elijah Wood. Available: 11/13.
Original comedy about one of the most unlikely friendship's imaginable. The film's protagonist is a rat named Remy who dares to dream the impossible dream of becoming a gourmet chef in a five-star French restaurant. Together with a down-and-out garbage boy named Linguini, the pair carve their own imaginative path to becoming the greatest chef in Paris. All his life, Remy, has had a gifted sense of smell and a most unusual dream for a rat: to cook in a gourmet restaurant. Undeterred by the obvious problem of trying to make it in the world's most rodent-phobic profession, not to mention his family's urgings to be satisfied with the usual trash-heap lifestyle, Remy's fantasies are filled with flambes and sautes. But when circumstances literally drop Remy into the Parisian restaurant made famous by his culinary hero, Auguste Gusteau -- whose mantra "anyone can cook" has been Remy's life-long inspiration -- he soon finds that being discovered in the kitchen can be alarmingly perilous if you've got whiskers and a tail. Just as Remy's dreams look like they will go up in smoke, he finds the one thing he needs, a friend to believe in him: the restaurant's shy, outcast garbage boy who is about to be fired from his job. Now, with nothing left to lose, Remy and Linguini form the most improbable partnership -- with Linguini's clumsy body channeling Remy's creative brains -- that will turn Paris upside down, leading them both on an incredible journey of comical twists, emotional turns and the most unlikely of triumphs, which they could never have imagined without each other.
Director: Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava. Voices of Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, Peter O'Toole, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, Will Arnett, Julius Callahan, James Remar, John Ratzenberger. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: G, 110 min., Animated, Box office gross: $196.620 million, Disney. Available: 11/6.
In 1965, an American pilot on a top-secret bombing mission was shot down over Laos and taken to a hellish prison camp deep in the impenetrable jungle of Vietnam. What followed was one of the most remarkable and harrowing experiences of the entire Vietnam War. Inspired by the true story of Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) and written and directed by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog, "Rescue Dawn" is an uncanny tale of camaraderie and betrayal, courage in the face of despair, and triumph over tragedy. It stands as a true testament to the impossible boundaries of the human condition and the invincibility of the American spirit.
SANTA CLAUSE 3: THE ESCAPE CLAUSE, THE
Tim Allen reprises his role of Scott Calvin -- AKA Santa -- as he juggles a full house of family and the mischievous Jack Frost (Martin Short), who is trying to take over the "big guy's" holiday. At the risk of giving away the secret location of the North Pole, Scott invites his in-laws (Ann-Margret and Alan Arkin) to share in the holiday festivities, and upcoming birth of baby Claus with expectant wife, Carol, -- AKA Mrs. Claus (Elizabeth Mitchell). Along for the adventure are Scott's extended family, son Charlie (Eric Lloyd), ex-wife Laura Miller (Wendy Crewson), her husband, Neil Miller (Judge Reinhold) and their daughter, Lucy (Liliana Mumy) who, together with head elf Curtis (Spencer Breslin), foil Jack Frost's crafty scheme to control the North Pole.
Director: Michael Lembeck. Stars: Tim Allen, Elizabeth Mitchell, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, Ann-Margret, Eric Lloyd, Spencer Breslin, Liliana Mumy, Alan Arkin, Martin Short. 2006, CC, MPAA rating: G, 98 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $84.987 million, Disney. Available: 11/20.
SHREK THE THIRD
Chronicles the continued adventures of Shrek, Fiona, Donkey and Puss in Boots, with new characters including a magical, misguided Merlin, an awkward Arthur, a powerful posse of Princesses and a bundle of unexpected arrivals. When Shrek married Princess Fiona, becoming the next King and Queen of Far, Far Away wasn't part of the plan. So when his father-in-law, King Harold, falls ill, it is up to Shrek to find a suitable heir or he will be forced to give up his beloved swamp for the throne. Recruiting Donkey and Puss In Boots for a new quest, Shrek sets out to bring back the rightful heir to the throne, Fiona's rebellious cousin Artie. As if Shrek didn't have enough on his plate, Princess Fiona has another little surprise on the way. Back in Far, Far Away, Fiona's jilted Prince Charming storms the city with an army of fairy tale villains to seize the throne. But they have a surprise in store because Fiona, together with her mother, Queen Lillian, has drafted her fellow fairy tale heroines to defend their "happily ever afters." As Shrek, Donkey and Puss work on changing Artie from a royal pain in the you-know-what into a future king, Fiona and her band of princesses must stop Prince Charming to ensure there will be a kingdom left to rule.
irector: Chris Miller, Raman Hui. Voices of: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Rupert Everett, Justin Timberlake, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Amy Sedaris, John Krasinski, Ian McShane. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 92 min., Animated comedy, Box office gross: $320.706 million, DreamWorks. Available: 11/13.
The words healthcare and comedy aren't usually found in the same sentence, but in Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore's latest film, they go together hand in (rubber) glove. Lauded as the third highest grossing documentary of all time, the entertaining yet disturbing and saddening yet inspiring documentary sheds light on a sickening issue. With almost 50 million Americans uninsured and those who are insured, often victims of unfair restrictions for care, Moore takes a gentler, bi-partisan approach to inform, inspire and touch the hearts of his audience to call for a systematic change of action. With heart-wrenching and empathy-provoking testimonies from both patients and former insurance company employees, "Sicko" depicts the frustrations and difficulties of the inability to obtain treatment and life-saving care when desperately needed due to the inevitabilities of a for-profit healthcare system.
A favorite of critics and audiences alike, "Waitress" is an irresistible film filled with delicious spunk. An audience hit at the Sundance Film Festival, "Waitress" serves up a sweet, sassy and delicious slice of life tale -- as it reveals the power of friendship, motherhood and the willingness to take a chance. The final film of actress-writer-director Adrienne Shelly (who was mudered by a handyman in her house), "Waitress" stars Keri Russell as Jenna, a simple diner waitress stuck in a lousy marriage whose only solace is baking scrumptious pies. Aptly naming her delectable desserts after her daily emotions, Jenna hopes to one day win the local pie-baking contest earning $25,000 and a fresh start. Concocting a recipe for a new life gets difficult though when she finds herself not only pregnant with her good-for-nothin' husband's child, but also in love with the town's awkwardly charming new OB-GYN. While Jenna's "I Don't Want Earl's Baby" pie might not secure her the grand prize, her "Kick In the Pants" pie may be just what she needs.
Director: Adrienne Shelly. Stars: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith, Adrienne Shelly, Eddie Jemison, Lew Temple, Darby Stanchfield. 2007, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 100 min., Romantic Comedy, Box office gross: $18.872 million, Company. Available: 11/271.
All DVDs are screened on a reference system consisting of a Rotel RDV-1080 DVD Audio/Video 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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October 31, 2007