New on DVD

New on DVD

Tell No One
Not Rated but intended for ages 17+
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
French language with English subtitles (contains English-dubbed version as well)

This French thriller, based on the novel by Harlan Coben, tells the story of a Pediatrician that is haunted by the death of his wife.  Eight years after the murder, however, he discovers that she might still be alive.  This is a twisty, fast-paced pic that even for all its clues, you still won’t be able to figure things out.  I loved everything about this film.  The directing is first-rate and the acting is award-worthy.  And even though the story is a bit trippy, it was my one of my favorites of last year.  While Slumdog will be getting the most attention this week, you owe it to yourself to check out this equally entertaining film.  A

Slumdog Millionaire
Rated R for some violence, disturbing images and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

I’m sure that when they picked the DVD release date for this Oscar-winning blockbuster, they didn’t expect it to still be making tons of money at the box office.  Sure enough, it will be on DVD this week, while it is still making millions in its theatrical run.  For those of you that haven’t seen or heard about this film, Slumdog follows Jamal, a young man from Mumbai that makes it to the final question on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.  While he doesn’t know much, it just so happens that every question asked tells a relevant part of his life’s story, which we get to watch unfold over two hours.  It really is everything people say it is, and it deserves all of the attention it has gotten over the awards season.  A+

Marley and Me
Rated PG for thematic material, some suggestive content and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

When Jennifer Grogan (Jennifer Anniston) wants a baby, her husband John (Owen Wilson) gets her a puppy instead, hoping that this might curb her maternal appetite for at least a few years.  This movie tells the life-story of a dog, Marley, and the lasting effect he had on his family.  You can’t tell, but I am tearing up just writing this.  Yes I’m a dog person.  I married a Vet, so we are both dog people.  The theater I saw this film in was hard to hear the movie at times due to the sniffles.  There were people audibly sobbing.  This is a well-made film and the best performance to date by Owen Wilson.  Once you get past all the comedic trailer moments, you find a painfully honest film that will stay with you forever, if you should be fond of man’s best friend.  A-

Seven Pounds
Rated PG for thematic material, some disturbing content and a scene of sensuality
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Will Smith stars in this film about an IRS agent that takes a special interest in the lives of seven strangers.  That’s all I can tell you without giving too much away.  Sure there is a twist here that you can figure out fairly early in the film, but that doesn’t make it any less poignant.  It’s not entertaining in the least, but it does provide food for thought.  Will Smith and the rest of the experienced cast turn in solid performances, although the directing could have used a pick-me-up at times.  B

Vampire Secrets
Available on DVD

With the onslaught of Vampire flicks lately, the History Channel decided to try to uncover the source of all of the vampire legends in this television special.  I was very surprised to hear that Vlad Dracul was not where the legends started, bur rather with some other true tales that will bring you chills.  As usual, the reenactments are pretty lame, but the stories are nevertheless spine-tingling.  B-

The IT Crowd
Unrated – made for television
Available on DVD

From the creator of BBC’s Father Ted comes this over-the-top, yet very funny comedy about a women put in charge of a corporation’s IT department that doesn’t even know how to turn on a computer.  British comedy is not for everyone, but I find the subject matter scarily relevant and extremely witty, in spite of it apparently trying not to be.  B+

Monsters vs. Aliens

Monsters vs. Aliens

Starring the voice talent of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, and Rainn Wilson
Rated PG for sci-fi action, crude humor and mild language
Appropriate for all ages

    When the Earth falls under the threat of an alien attack, the American military turns its secret weapon, a group of monsters that have been hidden away since the 1950s, to save it.

    This is one of those films that has a fun title, and the premise couldn’t have been hard to put together.  Since everyone loves monster movies and alien flicks, then all DreamWorks Animation would have to do is throw in some 3-D, a funny trailer, and a Super Bowl ad, and it should be a home run.  Reviews from folks like me won’t even matter.  But I’ll give my opinion anyways.

    With the exception of the first two Shrek films and Kung Fu Panda (and possibly Madagascar 2), DreamWorks Animation keeps churning out pretty movies with poor story-telling and writing.  Sure there are some good jokes here, and the voice talent is stellar, but the words coming out of their mouths and the combination of all of the ridiculous elements make for a very forgettable experience that will do nothing more than serve as a 90-minute babysitter. 

    Don’t get me wrong, complete believability is not important in a film like this, but some things are just too silly.  Like a house-sized meteor crashing into a woman and her only having a slightly tarnished dress.  Or that same dress actually stretching to fit her when she increases her size by a hundred times.  OK – I realize it’s a kids film, but they could’ve created a better device for this, like maybe her wearing the church or a tree for covering her bits and pieces.  After all, if I gained just 20 lbs I could use my pants button as a weapon.  Or maybe when the blob Bob declares that the Jello mold gave him a fake phone number.  Couldn’t they have come up with a better joke than that?  DreamWorks needs to spend the time with a more rigorous and thorough story-telling process that fixes this and many other stupid issues throughout.  C-

New on DVD

New on DVD

Rated PG for some mild action and peril
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Walt Disney Animation proved that it can contend with Pixar with this Oscar-nominated animated film about a dog that thinks he’s a super hero because he plays one on TV.  The animation is spectacular, especially on blu-ray, and the story is very much fun for the whole family.  Rhino the hamster actually steals the show and turns out to be one of the best animated sidekicks I can remember.  His short film on the DVD extras isn’t great, but his performance in the film more than makes up for it.  A

Quantum of Solace
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Daniel Craig is back as Bond, but this time the story and directing aren’t nearly to the quality of the last film Casino Royale.  Director Marc Forster (The Kite Runner) seemed more interested in recreating the Bourne Identity than continuing the twisty, edgy plot line from Bond’s last adventure.  The opera scene shows real promise for the script, but that one set piece alone isn’t enough to save the rest of the film.  C+

The Odd Couple: Paramount Centennial Collection
Rated G
Available on DVD

This newly restored version of the classic film about two divorcees living together has finally gotten the high definition treatment.  The print looks great, and you can’t help but miss Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon as they constantly bicker and fight with one another.  And for the fans, there are tons of special features included on the two-disc set.  A-

Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter
Rated R for violent and grisly images
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Due to a lack of time, the theatrical release of Watchmen left out the entire Black Freighter comic-within-a-comic from the original graphic novel.  In order to not upset the fans, the film makers opted to create an animated version of this tale, voiced by 300‘s Gerard Butler, that will probably be mixed in with the Watchmen when it is released on DVD.  It’s an interesting story, and actually plays better by itself than I thought it did in the novel.  Personally, I would wait and get it when the final product is released in a few months.  B-

The Fast and the Furious Trilogy
Contains The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and Tokyo Drift
All three are PG-13 for violence, language, sexual content, and racing
Available on Blu-ray

Just in time for the new fourth install of the franchise, Universal is releasing this three blu-ray set including the “trilogy.”  I’m not sure if it’s really a trilogy since the first two films are only loosely related and the third has nothing to do with the first two other than the inclusion of cars.  Nevertheless, if you are a fan of the series, or just of fast cars, mindless action, and a great look and sound, this might be up your alley.  There are tons of special features and the set even allows you to upload the three films onto your iPod.  The Fast and the Furious B, 2 Fast 2 Furious C, Tokyo Drift C+

I Love You, Man

I Love You, Man

Starring Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, and Rashida Jones
Directed by John Hamburg (Along Came Polly)
Rated R for pervasive language, including crude and sexual references
Appropriate for ages 17+

    Peter Klaven (Rudd) has always been a girlfriend kind of guy and has never had any close friends.  When he discovers that his fiance has an issue with this, he goes on a mission to find a best friend in order to make his future wife happy.  In his journey to find the proper bromance, he meets Sydney Fife (Segel), a fun-loving trouble-maker that gives him a new perspective on life.

    The first thing that strikes me about this film is how brilliant the premise is.  It’s so simple that I find it surprising that it has never been done before.  The movie follows the traditional romantic comedy formula in a perfectly heterosexual manner.  From his man-dates to his bromantic awakening, you enjoy watching Peter each step of the way. 

    Rudd and Segel both give stand-out performances here that show why they are both so hot in the comedy world right now.  What I especially loved about Rudd’s performance was how imperfect he made his character.  His nervous tongue-twisting seemed too natural.  Most films of this sort are so witty that while they are still enjoyable, they seem a little unbelievable.  Rudd, on the other hand, is lovably aloof and the performance shows how awkward his character really is when taken out of his element. 

    Overall, the comedy here is very well written and performed and most of the jokes hit like they are supposed to.  The story comes with no surprises, which almost feels refreshing since most film makers would have thrown more conflict in just for the sake of having more conflict.  I, for one, am glad they kept things so basic.  A-

New on DVD

New on DVD

South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season
Unrated, but meant for adults
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Twelve seasons down and still going strong, South Park is still as funny and relevant as ever.  This season saw the boys from South Park, Colorado causing trouble for Britney Spears, being held hostage by Die Hard-like terrorists, remaking High School Musical in a way that only they could, exploring the truth behind election night, and imagining unthinkable evils upon Harrison Ford.  It was yet another hysterical season that a sick mind could enjoy over and over again.  Aside from the Britney episode, the social commentary wasn’t as strong in this season, but we don’t always need to be taught a lesson to enjoy.  This is the first season available on Blu-ray and I have to admit that it looks very different.  Not necessarily better, but different.  You can really make out the different textures in the animation that you couldn’t see before and frankly, I haven’t made up my mind if the crystal clear high def version is better than the 480i TV version.  A-

The Robe: Special Edition
Not rated, but family friendly
Available on Blu-ray disc

The Robe follows a Roman centurion that wins Christ’s cloak gambling at the foot of the cross.  The powers of the cloak manage to change his life forever.  Richard Burton stars in this 1953 sword and sandals biblical epic from Twentieth Century Fox.  While the acting is pretty bad by today’s standards, and the directing lacks the intensity and power of such classics as Ben Hur and Spartacus, this film is important for one reason: it was the first film shown in theaters in a wide screen format.  Cinemascope was launched by Fox in order to bring people out of their home, away from their TVs, and into theaters. And it worked.  The movie was a huge success at the box office and even won two Oscars.  While you kind of have to watch the movie, the real treasures here are the documentaries of the picture’s rich historical significance.  One of my favorite features is the ability to watch the movie with just the score by nine-time Oscar winning composer Alfred Newman and no dialogue or sound effects.  B



Rated R
Appropriate for ages 17+
Italian with English Subtitles

For centuries, organized crime has run rampant throughout Italy.  This film focuses on five contemporary stories about the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia, and its connections with every level of life in Italy and the rest of the world.  From high fashion to toxic waste dumping, this organization has its fingers in every pie available to them.

Author/screenwriter Roberto Saviano has been put on permanent police protection from the Camorra for his book and film.  In this regard, I have no doubt of the film’s authenticity.  There are moments when the movie feels more like a docudrama rather than a piece of fiction.  This most definitely doesn’t feel like an Italian tourism promotion.

Normally I would not care too much for a movie with so many stories that are not interconnected, but I found most of the pic to be very intriguing and always enlightening.  What similar films like Babel and Amores Perros bring to the table are characters that the audience can associate with.  Conversely, Gomorrah only provides possible empathy with a master dress maker being heavily controlled by the mob and an assistant to a politician that is responsible for illegal toxic dumping.  The other stories are engrossing, but don’t be prepared to feel anything. 

Overall, the story is well-written and performed, although I think that the cultural differences might warrant some research before-hand or after in order to fully comprehend.  There were many aspects of the film that I really wanted to understand, but couldn’t get a grasp around, such as Don Ciro’s tale and the story of the young kid.  Most Italians probably get it right away, but that is only because they live it.  I found myself interested enough that I might actually have to buy the book in order to gain a more thorough knowledge of the subject.  Meanwhile, I must encourage those of you who enjoy either foreign movies or gangster films to head out to the Angelika and check this one out.  A-



Starring Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson, and Jackie Earle Haley
Directed by Zack Snyder (300)
Rated R for strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language
Appropriate for ages 18+

Based on the award-winning graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen follows a group of super heroes that are no longer wanted around by the citizens they are there to save.  With the world on the brink of nuclear war, the heroes must decide whether to try to help, or just let the planet burn. 

As expected, this is a visually stunning film filled that looks very much like the source material.  300 director Zack Snyder does a terrific job with the look and pace of the film.  The actors all took their roles seriously and did a great job bringing their characters to vivid life.  Stealing the show was Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach.  He turned in an inspired an inspired performance that actually brought the audience to cheers on more than one occasion. 

If you haven’t read the novel, you won’t miss the original ending, but I have, and I did.  I couldn’t wait to see the giant monster killing off New York City, and was sorely disappointed when it didn’t happen.  I can understand many of the changes made in the script, and what went in works logically, but that’s a massive difference that shifted the tone of the movie. 

I was also disappointed in the overall soundtrack of the film.  I thought it to be too playful and out of place.  It sounded more like the music from Forest Gump then what should be in an intense superhero movie such as this.  A more modern soundtrack could have elevated this film greatly.

I also want to put in an extra warning for parents.  This is a film meant for adults, not young children or even teens.  Not only is it incredibly violent, but very sexually graphic as well.  B

DVD Releases for March 10, 2009

DVD Releases for March 10, 2009

Let the Right One In
Rated R for some bloody violence including disturbing images, brief nudity and language
Swedish with English subtitles (English-dubbed version available also)
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

For those out there that felt Twilight has butchered the vampire genre, never fear (no pun intended), the Swedes are here with this horror masterpiece.  When a bullied twelve-year-old boy finds a new best friend that just happens to be a same-aged vampire, his life is changed forever.  Relying more on drama than easy scares, the chills are subtle and therefore much more effective.  This tale is compelling enough to have been a major contender for 2008 foreign film awards and achieved a 97% Fresh Tomato Meter on, making it officially one of the best reviewed films of the year.  This is absolutely one of the greatest horror films ever made and a must-see for those who are into that sort of thing.  A

Pinocchio (70th Anniversary Platinum Edition)
Rated G
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

This newly restored edition of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio really shows off why many believe this to be the most amazing animated feature ever made.  A Disney animator once told me that if you were to remake Pinocchio today the way it was made then, it might end up being the most expensive film in history.  Watching on blu-ray is a spectacle that everyone should experience.  The details are exhaustively intense and the art shines for all 88 minutes.  In addition, there are loads of special features that will not only educate, but keep you entertained for hours.  I highly advise watching the movie in Disney View, which adds a beautiful letterbox to the sides of the screen.  A+

Role Models
Unrated (Was Rated R for crude and sexual content, strong language and nudity)
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott are two pseudo-friends that are sentenced to a big brother program.  What could have been a tame and lame film turns out to be a really funny comedy filled with bad behavior.  While the story isn’t the best, the laughs are plenty and I found the movie to be very enjoyable.  B+

Synecdoche, New York
Rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Philip Seymore Hoffman is a playwright in New York that receives a genius grant in order to allow him to write and direct a play of great importance.  His play takes him decades to produce and, well, I’m really not sure what I just saw.  If you thought that writer Charlie Kaufman’s earlier works (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) were weird, you ain’t seen nothin yet.  This is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen, and I have not yet put in the time necessary to understand it, frankly because I think it can’t be understood.  Warning – do not do what I did and watch this film sober.  C

Rated R for language, some sexual content, and brief violence
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Sean Penn just won the Oscar for this portrayal of gay politician Harvey Milk.  While there is no doubt that Penn gives a worthy performance, I wasn’t sold on the story (which also won an Oscar for best screenplay).  I found the lack of character development of the villain, played by Oscar nominee Josh Brolin to be distracting, especially in light of how important he was to the overall story.  I will also freely admit that I wasn’t that comfortable with the overall subject material.  B

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Rated PG-13 for some mature thematic material involving the holocaust
Available on DVD

Set in Germany during the World War II, a young boy secretly makes friends with another young boy living in a concentration camp.  The biggest problem with this film is that it feels like it was made simply to win an Oscar.  The subject material is thought provoking, but starts to feel fake about half way through.  And the overly dramatic ending could have been more believable and better directed.  C

DVD Releases for March 3, 2009

DVD Releases for March 3, 2009

I’ve Loved You So Long
Starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein
Rated PG-13 for thematic material and smoking
French language with English subtitles (Includes English dubbed version also)
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Juliette (Thomas) has been in prison for 15 years and upon release goes to live with her younger sister (Zylberstein) and her family.  After being closed in for so long, Juliette must learn to open up and get her life back together in the hopes of not only developing a relationship with her sister, but forgiving herself for her crime.  What starts out feeling like a depressing and dark film, soon becomes a compelling drama that keeps you glued to your seat.  What helps this great script along is the terrific acting by everyone, especially Thomas.  You don’t know how to take her at first, but by the halfway point you just want to dive into her head just to see what’s in there.  This was one of 2008’s best dramas.  A

Starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman
Rated PG-13 for some violence, a scene of sensuality, and brief strong language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Set in Australia during the second world war, Jackman and Kidman meet and fall in love during a rough and tough cattle drive that nearly costs them their lives.  While the film has an epic feel to it, the strange script and spotty performances make it look like all style and little substance.  This film needed to be about 45 minutes shorter and could have used a real villain instead of the Snidely Whiplash bad guy seen here.  This is a disappointing pic, considering what director Baz Luhrmann has brought to the table before.  C

Beverly Hills Chihuahau
Starring the voice talent of Drew Barrymore, Andy Garcia, and George Lopez
Rated PG for some mild thematic elements
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

When a diamond-clad Chihuahua from Beverly Hills gets lost while on vacation in Mexico, she finds herself in need of assistance in order to get back home.  I thought this film was cute for about 5 minutes, but then the annoyance set in, and soon the 91-minute-long film couldn’t end fast enough.  I’m sure that kids and chihuahua owners will love the movie, but it’s safe to say that it’s not for me.  D

Wendy and Lucy

Wendy and Lucy

Starring Michelle Williams and William Patton
Directed by Kelly Reichhardt (Old Joy)
Rated R for language
Appropriate for ages 17+

    Young Wendy (Williams) is traveling with her dog Lucy from Muncie, Indiana to Alaska for a job, when her car breaks down in a small Oregon town.  With little money to her name, she ties her dog to the front of grocery store bike rack and attempts to shoplift some dog food to feed her.  After she is released from jail, she returns to the grocery store to find her dog is missing.  This leads her to a desperate attempt to find her dog without the use of money or resources.

    There is no doubt that Michelle Williams is a great actress.  Her portrayal of Wendy makes you want to break down the fourth wall and help her so bad that it hurts.  You want to reach out through the screen and hand her money, advice, or anything else that might be of assistance.  For this reason alone, her performance is commendable.

    Other than the great performance though, I did not like this film.  Wendy is so helpless and hopeless, and the tone is so dark that I could not help but get a little depressed.  The script could have used some tension breakers here and there rather than the constant downward spiral. 

    To make matters worse, the supporting cast was pretty weak, especially when compared to the film’s star.  I understand that there was probably very little budget for actors, but at many times this looked like a student film where the actors were paid in free pizza.  Even though this is a truly independent film, they could have done better.  C+