OnVideo MARCH Video Reviews
Set in Australia on the brink of World War II, Lady Sarah Ashley, an English Aristocrat (Nicole Kidman), travels to the faraway continent where she has inherited a cattle ranch, owned by her late husband. When Australian cattle barons plot to take her land, she reluctantly joins forces with a rough-hewn local known as The Drover (Hugh Jackman) to drive 2,000 head of cattle across hundreds of miles of the country's most unforgiving land, only to still face the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese forces that had attacked Pearl Harbor. When tragedy strikes and Lady Sarah becomes unofficial guardian to a "half-caste" boy, the unlikely couple must come to terms with a prejudiced society, dishonorable business associates and the impending arrival of the Japanese.
BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA
Chloe (voice of Drew Barrymore), a diamond-clad, bootie wearing Beverly Hills Chihuahua, enjoys her luxurious lifestyle so much, she hardly notices Papi (voice of George Lopez), a tough looking Chihuahua who happens to be head-over-paws for the pampered pooch. But when Chloe gets lost in the rough streets of Mexico with only a street-wise German Shepherd (voice of Andy Garcia) to help her find her way home, Papi heads south of the border -- joining forces with a motley crew: two humans (Piper Perabo, Manolo Cardona), a sly rat (voice of Cheech Marin) and a nervous iguana (voice of Paul Rodriguez) -- to rescue his true love.
Director: Raja Gosnell. Stars: Piper Perabo, Manolo Cardona, Jamie Lee Curtis, Andy Garcia, Placido Domingo, George Lopez, Edward James Olmos, Paul Rodriguez, Cheech Marin, Piolin, Drew Barrymore, Eugenio Derbez, Luis Guzman. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 91 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $92.338 million, Disney. Available: 3/3.
For super-dog Bolt (voice of John Travolta), every day is filled with adventure, danger and intrigue -- at least until the cameras stop rolling. When the star of a hit TV show is accidentally shipped from his Hollywood soundstage to New York City, he begins his biggest adventure yet -- a cross-country journey through the real world. Armed only with the delusions that all his amazing feats and powers are real, and with the help of two unlikely traveling companions -- a jaded, abandoned housecat named Mittens (voice of Susie Essman) and a TV-obsessed hamster in a plastic ball named Rhino -- Bolt discovers he doesn't need superpowers to be a hero.
Directors: Chris Williams, Byron Howard. Stars: Voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell, James Lipton. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 96 min., Animated, Box office gross: $112.581 million, Disney. Available: Blu-ray: 3/22; standard DVD: 3/24.
BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS, THE
When his father (David Thewlis,) a high-ranking Nazi officer, is assigned to oversee a farm in the countryside, eight-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield) misses the excitement and camaraderie he knew in his hometown of Berlin. Lonely and bored, Bruno secretly explores his new surroundings and discovers the farm is surrounded by barbed wire. When he sees Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a boy his own age, working behind the fence, he strikes up a tentative friendship, playing checkers and catch through the barbed wire. As Bruno slowly realizes that his new friend is Jewish, he becomes confused by the Nazi doctrines his tutor espouses and suspicious of the real purpose of the farm. When Shmuel needs his help, the boys form an outrageous plan that comes to a devastating conclusion. Intelligent, thoughtful and haunting, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" is an unforgettable portrait of a child trying to navigate in an increasingly complex and shadowy adult world.
Chronicles the rise of Chess Records and its recording artists. In this tale of sex, violence, race and rock and roll in Chicago of the 1950s and 60s, the film follows the exciting but turbulent lives of some of America's greatest musical legends. The story of how the blues became popular and gave birth to rock 'n' roll begins at a dingy bar on the rough South Side of Chicago in 1947, where an ambitious young Polish emigre bar owner Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody) hires a talented but undisciplined blues combo that includes quiet and thoughtful guitar prodigy Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright) and impulsive and colorful harmonica player Little Walter (Columbus Short). Fascinated by the sound of the music -- and eager to cash in on the burgeoning record business -- Chess arranges a recording session for Waters. Waters' early recordings start moving up the R+B charts and receiving heavy play. Chess treats his musicians like family -- he buys them a Cadillac when they record their first hit record -- although the line between business and personal sometimes causes conflict with his increasingly talented and successful stable of artists. But it's not until 1955 when a Chess artist finally "crosses over" into the realm of mainstream ("white") America -- a skinny guy from St. Louis named Chuck Berry (Mos Def), whose dynamic "duck walk" and catchy, country-tinged tunes mark the birth of rock 'n' roll. When Berry is arrested and jailed at the height of his career, Chess finds another talented performer to cross over -- singer Etta James (Beyonce Knowles), an emotionally scarred young woman whose vulnerability tempts Chess' loyalty and concern in unexpected ways. As rock 'n' roll grows more popular, the Chess artists find themselves revered by a new generation of musicians, but they have also each earned and lost a small fortune on booze, women and the high life, and their addictions begin to take their toll. Even as tragedy befalls, their music and their spirit remain strong: as the sixties wind down and Leonard Chess gets out of the record business, the blues live on.
Director: Darnell Martin. Stars: Adrien Brody, Beyonce Knowles, Jeffrey Wright, Columbus Short, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Cedric the Entertainer, Tammy Blanchard, Norman Reedus, Gabrielle Union, Mos Def. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 109 min., Musical Biodrama, Box office gross: $8.134 million, Sony. Available: 3/10.
Respected cultural critic and author david kepesh (Ben Kingsley) is a middle-aged college professor who, for years, has lived in a state of "emancipated manhood." His romantic conquests are many; his lasting commitments few. But when a stunning young student (Penelope Cruz) enters his life, her otherworldly beauty captivates him to the point of obsession. She has a strong sense of herself and an emotional intensity that challenges his preconceptions. Kepesh's need for Consuela drives her away. Shattered, Kepesh faces up to the ravages of time, immersing himself in work and confronting the loss of old friends. Then, two years later, Consuela comes back into his life with an urgent, desperate request that will change everything.
Director: Isobel Coixet. Stars: Penelope Cruz, Ben Kingsley, Patricia Clarkson, Peter Sarsgaard, Dennis Hopper, Deborah Harry. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 113 min., Drama, Box office gross: $3.577 million, Sony. Available: 3/17.
HAPPY GO LUCKY
Lighthearted comedy from the usually dour Mike Leigh about an eternally optimistic teacher living and working in North London. Thirty year-old Poppy (Sally Hawkins) always has a smile on her face and does her best to brighten the days of those around her by making small talk and cracking jokes. For the past 10 years Poppy has lived with her best friend Zoe (Alexis Zegerman), a fellow teacher whose wry outlook on life serves as the perfect counterbalance to Poppy's effervescent charm. One day, after her bike is stolen, Poppy decides that it's time to take driving lessons and enrolls in the Axle School of Motoring. Almost instantly, Poppy and her stressed-out instructor Scott (Eddie Marsan) clash. Still, it seems that there's more to this relationship than surface appearances would suggest. After accompanying her colleague Heather (Sylvestra le Touzel) to a tango class taught by a particularly passionate instructor (Karina Fernandaz), Poppy connects with kindly school social worker Tim (Samuel Roukin). Of course Tim can't help but falling for a woman of such boundless compassion, but how will Poppy's increasingly jealous driving instructor react to the news of her most recent romance?
Director: Mike Leigh. Stars: Sally Hawkins, Alexis Zegerman, Andrea Riseborough, Samuel Roukin, Sinead Matthews, Kate O'Flynn, Sarah Niles, Eddie Marsan, Joseph Kloska, Sylvestra Le Touzel. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 119 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $3.494 million, Disney. Available: 3/10.
I'VE LOVED YOU SO LONG
Juliette Fontaine (Kristin Scott Thomas) is a frail, haunted woman, an ex-doctor who’s a shell of her former self. Having served 15 years in prison for an unspeakable crime, she’s back on the "outside." With nowhere else to go, she comes to live with her loving but estranged sister Lea (Elsa Zylberstein). Together the pair embark on a painful but redemptive journey back from life's darkest edge in a gripping drama of struggle and salvation. In French with English subtitles.
Director: Philippe Claudel. Stars: Kristin Scott Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein, Serge Hazanavicius, Laurent Grévill, Frederic Pierrot. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 117 min., Drama, Box office gross: $2.355 million, Sony. Available: 3/3.
MARLEY & ME
When newlyweds John and Jenny Grogan (Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston) leave the snow of Michigan for the beaches of Miami, they decide to adopt a yellow Labrador retriever named Marley in order to give them a taste of parenthood. However, things get "ruff" when the adorable 12-pound puppy transforms into a highly-strung, boisterous and uncontrollable 100-pound steamroller of unbridled energy that always finds trouble. From flunking obedience school, chewing off dry wall, taking a bite out of the sofa, stealing a Thanksgiving turkey and chasing the UPS guy, Marley causes absolute chaos. Despite the mayhem he generates over the years, Marley sees the Grogans through the ups and downs of life and the countless challenges that come with it. The family soon discovers that Marley, "the world’s worst dog," somehow brings out the best in them.
Director: David Frankel. Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Alan Arkin, Eric Dane, Kathleen Turner. 2009, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 110 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $140.548 million, Fox. Available: 3/31.
In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man to be voted into public office in America. His victory was not just a victory for gay rights; he forged coalitions across the political spectrum. From senior citizens to union workers, Harvey Milk (Sean Penn)changed the very nature of what it means to be a fighter for human rights and became, before his untimely death in 1978, a hero for all Americans. "Milk" charts the last eight years of Milk’s life. While living in New York City, he turns 40. Looking for more purpose, Milk and his lover Scott Smith (James Franco) relocate to San Francisco, where they found a small business, Castro Camera, in the heart of a working-class neighborhood. With his beloved Castro neighborhood and beautiful city empowering him, Milk surprises Scott and himself by becoming an outspoken agent for change. With vitalizing support from Scott and from new friends like young activist Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch), Milk plunges headfirst into the choppy waters of politics. Bolstering his public profile with humor, Milk’s actions speak even louder than his gift-of-gab words. When Milk is elected supervisor for the newly zoned District 5, he tries to coordinate his efforts with those of another newly elected supervisor, Dan White (Josh Brolin). In 1978, Milk and the city's mayor, George Moscone, were shot to death by White.
Director: Gus Van Sant. Stars: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, James Franco, Victor Garber, Denis O'Hare, Stephen Spinella, Eric Stoltz. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 129 min., Biodrama, Box office gross: $23.464 million, Universal. Available: 3/10.
QUANTUM OF SOLACE
The 22nd film in the James Bond franchise. Beginning shortly after "Casino Royale" ends, Daniel Craig returns as James Bond, betrayed by the woman he loved and determined to find those responsible for her death. His pursuit and determination lead him deeper into the criminal organization known as "Quantum" and into the company of Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), an environmentalist using his wealth and power to help overthrow a government in exchange for a barren piece of desert land that will allow him to control the country's water supply. Forced to work without the help of MI6, Bond partners with Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a young woman on her own quest for justice, and together they travel across the globe in order to stop Greene and seek retribution.
Director: Marc Forster. Stars: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 106 min., Action Thriller, Box office gross: $166.820 million, MGM. Available: 3/24.
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
When Kym (Anne Hathaway), returns to the Buchman family home for the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt), she brings a long history of personal crises, family conflict and tragedy along with her. The wedding couple's abundant party of friends and relatives has gathered for a joyful weekend of feasting, music and love, but Kym -- with her biting one-liners and flair for bombshell drama -- is a catalyst for long-simmering tensions in the family dynamic. Filled with the rich and eclectic characters that remain a hallmark of Jonathan Demme's films.
Director: Jonathan Demme. Stars: Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin, Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger, Anna Deveare-Smith, Mather Zickel. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 113 min., Drama, Box office gross: $10.758 million, Sony. Available: 3/10.
Slacker-type comedy about two salesmen, Danny and Wheeler, who trash a company truck on an energy drink-fueled bender, are arrested, and given a choice by the court: do hard time or spend 150 service hours with a mentorship program. After one day with the kids, however, jail doesn't look half bad. Surrounded by annoying do-gooders, Danny struggles with his every neurotic impulse to guide Augie through the trials of becoming a man. Unfortunately, the guy just dumped by his girlfriend has only sarcasm to offer a bashful 16-year-old obsessed with medieval role play. Meanwhile, charming Wheeler tries to trade in an addiction to partying and women to assist a fifth-grader named Ronnie redirect his foul-mouthed ways. It would probably help if Ronnie's new mentor wasn't an overgrown adolescent whose idea of quality time includes keggers in Venice Beach. Once the center's ex-con director gives them an ultimatum, Danny and Wheeler are forced to tailor their
Director: David Wain. Stars: Seann William Scott, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jane Lynch, Elizabeth Banks, Nicole Randall Johnson. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 102 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $67.266 million, Universal. Available: 3/10.
Director: Gabriele Muccino. Stars: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy, Robinne Lee, Elpidia Carrillo, Barry Pepper. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 123 min., Drama, Box office gross: $69.961 million, Sony. Available: 3/31.
Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika (Freida Pinto), the girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show's questions. Each chapter of Jamal's increasingly layered story reveals where he learned the answers to the show's seemingly impossible questions. But one question remains a mystery: What is this young man with no apparent desire for riches really doing on the game show? When the new day dawns and Jamal returns to answer the final question, the Inspector and sixty million viewers are about to find out. At the heart of its exuberant storytelling lies the intriguing question of how anyone comes to know the things they know about life and love.
Director: Danny Boyle. Stars: Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, Saurabh Shukla, Rajendranath Zutshi, Jeneva Talwar, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal, Irrfan Khan, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 120 min., Drama, Box office gross: $100 million, Fox. Available: 3/31.
SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays theater director Caden Cotard's who views his life in Schenectady, New York as bleak. His wife Adele (Catherine Keener) has left him to pursue her painting in Berlin, taking their young daughter Olive with her. A new relationship with the alluringly candid Hazel (Samantha Morton) has prematurely run aground. In addition he must struggle with the problems of aging and a mysteriously degenerative medical condition. He develops all this into a monumental theater piece: Building a full-scale replica of New York City inside an impossibly large warehouse and populating it with thousands of actors, Cotard spends the remainder of his life creating a piece so personal and epic in scope, that the line between reality and art collide, and the universe that he has created swallows up everything within it. A very black comedy.
Director: Charlie Kaufman. Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Hope Davis and Tom Noonan. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: R, 124 min., Comedy Drama, Box office gross: $2.780 million, Sony. Available: 3/10.
TELL NO ONE
Based on Harlan Coben's International best-selling thriller, "Tell No One" tells the story of pediatrician Alexandre Beck who still grieves the murder of his beloved wife, Margot, eight years earlier. When two bodies are uncovered near where Margot's body was found, the police reopen the case and Alex becomes a suspect in his wife's disappearance. The mystery deepens when Alex receives an anonymous e-mail with a message to "Tell No One" and a link to a video clip that seems to suggest Margot is somehow still alive.
Director: Guillaume Canet. Stars: Kristin Scott-Thomas, Francois Cluzet, Marie-Josee Croze, Andre Dussollier, Francois Berleand, Nathalie Baye, Jean Rochefort, Marina Hands. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: NR, 125 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $6.125 million, Music Box Films/MPI Home Video. Available: 3/31.
Jason Statham is back as the cult hero The Transporetr in this third entry in the action-packed series. Frank Martin has been pressured into transporting Valentina, the kidnapped daughter of Leonid Vasilev, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency for the Ukraine, from Marseilles through Stuttgart and Budapest until he ends up in Odessa on the Black Sea. Along the way, with the help of Inspector Tarconi, Frank has to contend with the people who strong armed him to take the job, agents sent by Vasilev to intercept him, and the general non-cooperation of his passenger. Despite Valentina's cynical disposition and his resistance to get involved, Frank and Valentina fall for each other, while escaping from one life-threatening situation after another.
Director: Olivier Megaton. Stars: Jason Statham, Robert Knepper, Francois Berleand, Natalya Rudakova, Jeroen Krabbe, Alex Kobold, David Atrakchi, Eriq Ebouaney. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 200 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $31.316 million, Lionsgate. Available: 3/10.
Pop culture and worldwide literary phenomenon "Twilight," a postmodern supernatural "Romeo and Juliet" for the tween and teen set, took in an estimated $181 million domestically and about $300 million worldwide at the theatrical boxoffice, setting the stage for hotly-anticipated film adaptations of the rest of best-selling author Stephenie Meyer’s four-part vampire saga. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) has always been a little bit different, never caring about fitting in with the trendy girls at her Phoenix high school. When her mother re-marries and sends Bella to live with her father in the rainy little town of Forks, Washington, she doesn’t expect much of anything to change. Then she meets the mysterious and dazzlingly beautiful Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a boy unlike any she’s ever met: Edward is a vampire. But he doesn’t have fangs (that's only in the movies, after all) and his family is unique in that they choose not to drink human blood. Intelligent and witty, Edward sees straight into Bella’s soul. Soon, they are swept up in a passionate, thrilling and unorthodox romance. To Edward, Bella is what he has waited 90 years for -- a soul mate. But the closer they get, the more Edward must struggle to resist the primal pull of her scent, which could send him into an uncontrollable frenzy. And what will they do when Laurent and James, the Cullens' mortal vampire enemies, come to town, looking for trouble?
Director: Catherine Hardwicke. Stars: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Nikki Reed, Ashley Greene), Jackson Rathbone), Kellan Lutz, Cam Gigandet, Edi Gathegi, Rachelle Lefevre. 2008, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 122 min., Romantic thriller, Box office gross: $181.448 million, Summit Entertainment. Available: 3/21.
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, 2009