OnVideo FEBRUARY Video Reviews
When a sudden plague of blindness devastates a city, a small group of the afflicted band together to triumphantly overcome the horrific conditions of their imposed quarantine.
Director: Fernando Meirelles. Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, Gael Garcia Bernal, Danny Glover, Alice Braga. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 120 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $3.073 million, Miramax. Available: 2/10.
BODY OF LIES
Based on Washington Post columnist David Ignatius' 2007 novel about a CIA operative, Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio), who uncovers a lead on a major terrorist leader suspected to be operating out of Jordan. When Ferris devises a plan to infiltrate his network, he must first win the backing of cunning CIA veteran Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) and the collegial, but perhaps suspect, head of Jordanian intelligence. Although ostensibly his allies, Ferris questions how far he can really trust these men without putting his entire operation -- and his life -- on the line.
Director: Ridley Scott. Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani, Oscar Isaac, Simon McBurney. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 128 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $39.015 million, (Warner). Available: 2/17.
Comedy follows novice vintner Jim Barrett who, against all odds and expectations, defeated the heavily favored French varietals at the 1976 blind taste challenge called "The Judgment of Paris." For connoisseur Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), there's no finer art than French wine, despite rumors that the new California wine country holds the future of the vine. Positive the small Napa wineries are no match for established French vintages, Spurrier challenges the Americans to a blind tasting. But when he finds the valley full of ambitious -- and talented -- novice vintners like Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) and his son Bo (Chris Pine), he realizes his publicity stunt may change the history of wine forever. The unforeseen victory by any standards, this central event established California and Napa Valley's reputation as one of the world's top wine producing regions. Shot on location in the breathtakingly beautiful Northern California wine country and using the real-life Chateau Montelena winery in many scenes, "Bottle Shock" celebrates the splendor of California wine country which forever changed the face of the winemaking industry.
irector: Randall Miller. Stars: Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Freddy Rodriguez, Chris Pine, Rachael Taylor, Eliza Dushku, Dennis Farina. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 108 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $4.016 million, Fox. Available: 2/3 .
Clint Eastwood directs Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich in a provocative thriller based on actual events. Los Angeles, 1928: On a Saturday morning in a working-class suburb, Christine (Jolie) said goodbye to her son, Walter, and left for work. When she came home, she discovered he had vanished. A fruitless search ensues, and months later, a boy claiming to be the 9-year-old is returned. Dazed by the swirl of cops, reporters and her conflicted emotions, Christine allows him to stay overnight. But in her heart, she knows he is not Walter. As she pushes authorities to keep looking, she learns that in Prohibition-era L.A., women don't challenge the system and live to tell their story. Slandered as delusional and unfit, Christine finds an ally in activist Reverend Briegleb (Malkovich), who helps her fight the city to look for her missing boy. Based on the actual incident that rocked California's legal system, "Changeling" tells the shocking tale of a mother's quest to find her son, and those who won't stop until they silence her.
Director: Clint Eastwood. Stars: Angelina Jolie, Jeffrey Donovan, Colm Feore, John Malkovich, Amy Ryan, Michael Kelly. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 141 min., Drama, Box office gross: $35.707 million, Universal. Available: 2/17.
Based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk ("Fight Club"), "Choke" is a dark joyride that explores the scams and sexual compulsion of a modern young man. Beside working at a colonial reenactment theme park and trying to hook up with everything on two legs, sex addict Victor Mancini courts the love and money of complete strangers via a demented con that might just kill him: he fakes choking on food in restaurants and preys on his "rescuers." But first, Victor must save his dying, delusional mother by seducing and impregnating her comely physician, a task easier said than done, in this twisted tale of dysfunction, salvation, love, and libido.
Director: Clark Gregg. Stars: Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly MacDonald, Bijou Phillips, Brad William Henke. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 89 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $2.926 million, Fox. Available: 2/17.
FLASH OF GENIUS
Based on the true story of college professor and part-time inventor Robert Kearns' (Greg Kinnear) long battle with the U.S. automobile industry, "Flash of Genius" tells the tale of one man whose fight to receive recognition for his ingenuity would come at a heavy price. But this determined engineer refused to be silenced, and he took on the corporate titans in a battle that nobody thought he could win. The Kearns were a typical 1960s Detroit family, trying to live their version of the American Dream. Local university professor Bob married teacher Phyllis (Lauren Graham) and, by their mid-thirties, had six kids who brought them a hectic but satisfying Midwestern existence. When Bob invents the intermittent windshield wiper, the Kearns think they have struck gold. But their aspirations are dashed after the auto giants who embraced Bob's creation unceremoniously shunned the man who invented it. Ignored, threatened and then buried in years of litigation, Bob is haunted by what was done to his family and their future. He becomes a man obsessed with justice and the conviction that his life's work -- or for that matter, anyone's work -- be acknowledged by those who stood to benefit. And while paying the toll for refusing to compromise his dignity, this everyday David will try the unthinkable: to bring Goliath to his knees.
Director: Marc Abraham. Stars: Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Dermot Mulroney, Alan Alda, Bill Smitrovich, Tim Kelleher, Jake Abel. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 119 min., Drama, Box office gross: $3.744 million, Universal. Available: 2/17.
Story of two single mothers who team up to smuggle immigrants across the Canadian border in order to provide for their families. Life in Massena, New York, is as harsh and barren as the frigid landscape. In this bleak terrain, two hardened single mothers are trying to make a life for their children. Lila is a widowed Mohawk whose mother-in-law "stole" her newborn son a year ago. Ray is a mother of two whose gambling-addicted husband just left town with the down payment for their new trailer home. Faced with little opportunity to make ends meet, Ray and Lila embark on an illegal venture transporting immigrants into the U.S. across Mohawk territory. With the money for the down payment within Ray's grasp, the women are determined to make one last run. When circumstances spiral out of control, the two women must make life or death decisions based on their friendship and love for their children. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.
Director: Courtney Hunt. Stars: Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott, Mark Boone Junior. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 97 min., Drama, Box office gross: $2.275 million, Sony.Into the Wild Green Yonder Available: 2/10.
HAUNTING OF MOLLY HARTLEY, THE
Molly Hartley hopes that with her mother locked away in a mental ward, she can forget the violence of her family's past and start over. She has found a new life, a new school and a new boyfriend. But when her secret past and haunting nightmares continue, Molly fears she has inherited her mother's psychosis. What she doesn't know is that she's inherited something else -- a secret far more horrifying than any fate she can imagine and a destiny she can't avoid.
Director: Mickey Liddell. Stars: Chace Crawford, Haley Bennett, AnnaLynne McCord, Jake Weber, Josh Stewart, Nina Siemaszko, Randy Wayne, Jessica Lowndes, Shannon Marie Woodward, Marin Hinkle. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 87 min., Horror, Box office gross: $13.350 million, Fox. Available: 2/24.
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: SENIOR YEAR -- EXTENDED EDITION
Disney's "High School Musical" phenomenon leaps onto the big screen with the fav high school students hitting senior year. Amidst a basketball championship, prom and a big spring musical featuring all of the Wildcats, Troy and Gabriella vow to make every moment last as their lifelong college dreams put the future of their relationship in question. A crew of sophomore Wildcats joins in the fun.
Director: Kenny Ortega. Stars: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, Lucas Grabeel, Monique Coleman. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: G, 112 min., Musical, Box office gross: $89.302 million, Disney. Available: 2/17.
HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE
Sidney Young is a disillusioned intellectual who both adores and despises the world of celebrity, fame and glamour. His alternative magazine, Post Modern Review, pokes fun at the media obsessed stars and bucks trends, and so when Young is offered a job at the diametrically opposed conservative New York based Sharps magazine its something of a shock. It seems Sharps editor Clayton Harding is amused by Young's disruption of a post-BAFTA party with a pig posing as Babe. Thus begins Sidney's descent into success -- his gradual move from derided outsider to confidante of starlet Sophie Maes -- and a love affair with colleague Alison Olsen, that will either make him or break him. The film is based on Toby Young's memoir of the same name
Director: Robert B. Weide. Stars: Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Danny Huston, Gillian Anderson, Megan Fox, Max Minghella, Jeff Bridges. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 110 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $2.775 million, MGM. Available: 2/17.
MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA
The four zany zoo denizens of the original blockbuster comedy prepare to head home to Manhattan in a rickety aircraft piloted by the ever-inventive penguin cadre. But when they crash land in the African savannah, it's time for a crash course in survival. Now the four friends far from home must answer a question of the heart when Alex finds his long lost parents, Marty joins a herd of his wild brethren, Gloria finds romance with a hippo Casanova who appreciates her curves and Melman has one last chance at his truest desire.
Directors: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath. Stars: Voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter, Alec Baldwin, will.i.am, Bernie Mac, Sherri Shepherd. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 89 min., Animated, Box office gross: $169.937 million, DreamWorks Animation. Available: 2/6.
MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA
Chronicles the story of four black soldiers who are members of the U.S. Army as part of the all-black 92nd Buffalo Soldier Division stationed in Tuscany, Italy, during World War II. They experience the tragedy and triumph of the war as they find themselves trapped behind enemy lines and separated from their unit after one of them risks his life to save an Italian boy.
Director: Spike Lee. Stars: Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller, Matteo Sciabordi, Valentina Cervi, Pierfrancesco Favino, John Leguizamo, Joseph Gordon Levitt. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 160 min., Drama, Box office gross: $7.916 million, Disney. Available: 2/10.
NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST
Comedy about two people thrust together for one hilarious, sleepless night of adventure in a world of mix tapes, late-night living, and, live, loud music. Nick (Michael Cera) frequents New York's indie rock scene nursing a broken heart and a vague ability to play the bass. Norah (Kat Dennings) is questioning pretty much all of her assumptions about the world. Though they have nothing in common except for their taste in music, their chance encounter leads to an all-night quest to find a legendary band's secret show and ends up becoming the first date in a romance that could change both their lives.
NIGHTS IN RODANTHE
Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane), a woman with her life in chaos, retreats to the tiny coastal town of Rodanthe, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, to tend to a friend's inn for the weekend. Here she hopes to find the tranquility she so desperately needs to rethink the conflicts surrounding her -- a wayward husband who has asked to come home, and a teenaged daughter who resents her every decision. Almost as soon as Adrienne gets to Rodanthe, a major storm is forecast and Dr. Paul Flanner (Richard Gere) arrives. The only guest at the inn, Flanner is not on a weekend escape but rather is there to face his own crisis of conscience. Now, with the storm closing in, the two turn to each other for comfort and, in one magical weekend, set in motion a life-changing romance that will resonate throughout the rest of their lives.
Director: George C. Wolfe. Stars: Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Scott Glenn, James Franco, Christopher Meloni, Viola Davis, Mae Whitman, Pablo Schreiber. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: 90, PG-13 min., Romantic Drama, Box office gross: $41.573 million, Warner. Available: 2/10.
A television reporter and her cameraman are trapped inside a building quarantined by the CDC after the outbreak of a mysterious virus which turns humans into bloodthirsty killers. Television reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman (Steve Harris) are assigned to spend the night shift with a Los Angeles Fire Station. After a routine 911 call takes them to a small apartment building, they find police officers already on the scene in response to blood curdling screams coming from one of the apartment units. They soon learn that a woman living in the building has been infected by something unknown. After a few of the residents are viciously attacked, they try to escape with the news crew in tow, only to find that the CDC has quarantined the building. Phones, internet, televisions and cell phone access have been cut-off, and officials are not relaying information to those locked inside. When the quarantine is finally lifted, the only evidence of what took place is the news crew's videotape.
Capsule Here: "Religulous" follows Bill Maher as he travels around the globe interviewing people about God and religion. Known for his astute analytical skills, irreverent wit and commitment to never pulling a punch, Maher brings his characteristic honesty to an unusual spiritual journey.
SECRET LIFE OF BEES, THE
Based on the acclaimed best-selling novel. To escape her cruel, angry father -- and discover the truth about her late mother's past -- 14-year old Lily Owens flees with her caregiver and friend Rosaleen to a South Carolina town where she's taken in by the bee-keeping Boatwright sisters. Surrounded by the unexpected love, grace and spirituality she encounters there, Lily forms a bond with each of these uniquely gifted women and discovers that sometimes you must leave home in order to find it.
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood. Stars: Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo, Paul Bettany. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 109 min., Drama, Box office gross: $37.208 million, Fox. Available: 2/3.
Teen comedy. Ian Lafferty (Josh Zuckerman) is taunted by his cocksure older brother Rex (James Marsden), shown up in the romance department by his 14-year-old younger brother and humiliated by his job at a mall donut shop. But Ian's biggest problem is that he's about to start college as a virgin. Getting nowhere with the girl of his dreams and longtime "best friend" Felicia (Amanda Crew), Ian resorts to the Internet for dates. He soon hooks up with Ms. Tasty, a flaming hot blonde who can't wait to get busy. The only catch: Ian has to drive 500 miles from Chicago to Knoxville to consummate the deal. Egged on by his devil-may-care pal Lance (Clark Duke), Ian risks life and limb by appropriating "The Judge," Rex's prized vintage Pontiac GTO. With Lance and Felicia in tow, he hits the road for a one-time rendezvous and on-the-road misadventures.
Director: Sean Anders. Stars: James Marsden, Josh Zuckerman, Amanda Crew, Katrina Bowde, Seth Green, Clark Duke. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 109 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $8.396 million, Summit Entertainment. Available: 2/24.
Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac star as Louis and Floyd, estranged soul-singing legends from back in the day. Though the pair haven't spoken to each other in 20 years, they agree to do one more performance tohgether to honor their former bandleader, forcing them to reconnect on a cross-country road-trip to the Apollo Theatre.
Director: Malcom Lee. Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Bernie Mac, Sean Hayes, Sharon Leal, Jennifer Coolidge, Isaac Hayes, Affion Crockett, John Legend, Adam Herschman, Fatso Fasano, Jackie Long. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 98 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $11.966 million, The Weinstein Co. Available: 2/10.
Whether you love him or hate him, there is no question that George W. Bush is one of the most controversial public figures in recent memory. In an unprecedented undertaking, Oliver Stone brings the life of our 43rd President to the big screen as only he can. "W." takes viewers through Bush's eventful life -- his struggles and triumphs, how he found both his wife and his faith, and of course the critical days leading up to Bush's decision to invade Iraq.
Director: Oliver Stone. Stars: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, Ellen Burstyn, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Scott Glenn, Ioan Gruffudd, Richard Dreyfus, Jesse Bradford. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 129 min., Biodrama, Box office gross: $25.5 million, Lionsgate. Available: 2/10.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED
A sharp comedy about two nail-biting, back-stabbing, roller-coaster weeks in the world of a middle-aged Hollywood producer -- as he tries to juggle an actual life with an outrageous series of crises in his day job: a man besieged by people who want him to be all sorts of things -- a money maker, an ego buster, a bad news breaker, an artistic champion, a loyal husband, an all-knowing father, not to mention sexy, youthful and tuned-in - everything except for the one thing he and all the preposterously behaved people he's surrounded by really are: bumbling human beings just trying to survive by any means necessary. Ben (Robert De Niro) is already in over his head trying to balance the tug-of-war of having two ex-wives and two different families with his latest business venture --the boldly "visionary" movie "Fiercely," starring Sean Penn (Sean Penn) -- when everything that can go wrong goes completely screwy. "Fiercely" looks like an audience-offending flop that draws the ire of iron-gloved studio chief Lou (Catherine Keener), who forces Ben into tangling with the film's rebellious and drug-addled director Jeremy (Michael Wincott). Meanwhile, Ben's confused and bewitched by his ex, Kelly (Robin Wright Penn), who can't make up her mind about him; shocked by his daughter Zoe (Kristen Stewart), who seems to have grown up overnight; infuriated by his screenwriter friend Scott (Stanley Tucci) who's trying to make a deal with him while making moves on his former wife; horrified by a hirsute Bruce Willis (Bruce Willis) and flummoxed by Willis' nebbishy agent Dick (John Turturro), who's scared to death of his own clients. Somehow amidst all the madness, treachery, deceit, runaway egos, rampant commercialism, personal politics and atrocious behavior of America's dream-making machinery, Ben has to find a way not just to make it to Cannes with a finished film, but to cope. "What Just Happened" is based on the acclaimed, bestselling memoir by veteran Hollywood producer Art Linson.
Director: Barry Levinson. Stars: Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Bruce Willis, Catherine Keener, John Turturro, Stanley Tucci, Robin Wright Penn, Kristen Stewart, Michael Wincott. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 104 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $1.089 million, Magnolia Home Entertainment. Available: 2/24.
ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO
Lifelong platonic friends Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) look to solve their respective cashflow problems by making an adult film together. As the cameras roll, however, the duo begin to sense that they may have more feelings for each other than they previously thought.
Director: Kevin Smith. Stars: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Traci Lords, Jason Mewes, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Jeff Anderson, Tom Savini, Katie Morgan, Craig Robinson. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 101 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $31.047 million, The Weinstein Co./Genius Products. Available: 2/3.
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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February 1, 2009