New on DVD

New on DVD

The Wrestler
Rated R for violence, sexuality/nudity, language and some drug use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Mickey Rourke is Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a professional wrestler who was once on top of the world, but is now down and out and barely scraping by.  He lives in a beat up old trailer home that he can’t afford, has a daughter that hates him, and to make matters worse – has a serious heart condition.  How director Darren Aronofsky turned those depressing story elements into a work of inspirational art is a testament to his talent as a director, as well as the abilities of his three main stars: Rourke, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood.  There is so much more than 80’s metal, steroids, strippers, and wrestling in this film.  It’s about hope and love and loneliness and a man’s journey to redeem himself and live in glory again.  The special features include a great making-of doc as well as a round-table with several ex-wrestlers discussing the film, their lives, and the similarities between the two.  Missing is a director’s commentary.  I would have really enjoyed that with this film.  A

Nothing but the Truth
Rated R for language, some sexual material, and a scene of violence
Available on DVD

Writer/director Rod Lurie (The Contender) brings us this political drama about a reporter that outs a CIA agent and refuses to reveal her source, even though it may take her to prison.  The cast, including Kate Beckinsale, David Schwimmer, Matt Dillon, Alan Alda, and Vera Farmiga, is top notch and each turns in great performances.  It feels a little movie-of-the-week at times, which is probably why it didn’t see much of theatrical release.  It should do much better on DVD and cable though.  B

The Uninvited
Rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing images, thematic material, sexual content, language and teen drinking
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

After losing her dying mother in a fire, a disturbed young girl is put away in a mental hospital for attempting suicide.  Upon release, she goes home to her sister, father and her father’s new girlfriend who used to be her mother’s nurse.  Convinced that the girlfriend started the fire to get to her father, she sets out to prove her guilt.  Along the way she starts to see scary images of murdered children telling her to watch out.  I have to say that this film is more silly than scary, until you get to the ending.  There is a nice twist that I didn’t see coming that might make a second viewing more interesting (not that I’m in a hurry to watch it again).  C+

Rated R for pervasive language, some strong sexuality including dialogue, nudity, and for drug content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Notorious follows the life of Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace, from his drug-dealing days on the streets of New York, to his super stardom in the hip hop world, to his death at the young age of 24.  The film plays like a reenactment of pop-culture history with huge production values.  First-time actor Jamal Woolard is phenomenal as B.I.G., bringing both empathy and disappointment upon a character I knew very little about till now.  The film could have shown how great the life was, but instead it showed how great it could have been – a message that I’m sure he wish he had gotten earlier.  B+

Sin City
Rated R for sustained strong stylized violence, nudity and sexual content including dialogue
Available on Blu-ray

This series of uber-violent vignettes from Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller finally gets the Blu-ray treatment with this two-disc set that includes both the theatrical and recut, extended, unrated version.  Of course the films look terrific in HD, but it’s the special features I love the most in this set.  Check out the ten-minute-long green screen version of the film as well as Robert’s cooking school where he teaches you how to make an amazingly tasty-looking breakfast taco from scratch.  A-

Battle for Terra

Battle for Terra

Starring the voice talent of Evan Rachel Wood, Justin Long, and Luke Wilson
Directed by Aristomenis Tsirbas
Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and some thematic elements
Appropriate for ages 8+

    The native intelligent life forms of the planet Terra are peaceful beings with only the desire to learn and create.  When humans in search of a suitable planet show up, they bring war to the Terrians and the natives must learn to fight back against these aliens or be annihilated. When a rebellious teenager named Mala befriends one of the human soldiers, the two become the last hope for her species. 

    Being the sci-fi junkie that I am, I have to give this movie points for guts and originality.  The filmmakers here created a beautiful, strange world with eye-popping visual effects.  I found the life on the planet to be fascinating, although I would have liked to have seen more of the world than the few species and locales shown here.  Story-wise though, the premise was well-conceived and the tale well-executed.  Having humans as the villains in an alien invasion flick (and no, I don’t count The Day the Earth Stood Still) is a brilliant touch.  Not only does it send an eco-friendly message to the audience, but it is very believable as well, at least in regard to human nature. 

    I highly recommend that you watch this film in its 3D version rather than the 2D due to the immersive experience.  The 3D isn’t as stunning as Bolt, but works as well or better than Monsters Vs. Aliens.

    What doesn’t work for the film is its simplicity.  The film is roughly eighty minutes and while it packs a lot of story, it could have been a tad more complex.  The only Terrian you get to know well is Mala, and I am certain that more time with her world would have been a wise investment. 

    As for the kids, it’s a darker film than most of them are used to, but should be fine for most.  The thing I like about it is that the adults will enjoy this movie with or without the children.  If it weren’t an independent film, I’d predict it to be a contender for the animation Oscar at the end of the year, but we’ll see how much money Lionsgate puts behind it.  B+

New on DVD

New on DVD

Rated R for some language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

In 1977, three years after leaving office, President Richard Nixon agreed to sit down and air it out with little-known British TV personality David Frost.  Nixon thought that Frost would be an easy interview.  History shows he was was wrong.  Ron Howard’s Oscar-nominated film tells the fascinating story of this historic event.  With amazing acting, writing, and production, this is a film that is a must watch now that it is hitting DVD.  The history buffs out there will appreciate the hours of historical extras on the Blu-ray version, including archival interview footage not found on the DVD release.  A

Unrated but intended for adults
Available on DVD

Now that the epic television series Battlestar Galactica is over with (and my how impressive it was), the folks responsible decided to make a prequel movie of sorts for the Sci-Fi Channel that looks at life on the planet Caprica more than 50 years before the events of the series.  This movie, starring Eric Stoltz, follows a scientist that tries to communicate with his daughter after she has been killed by a terrorist attack.  When he discovers that she still exists in a cyber world of her creation, he attempts to do anything he can to bring her back.  If you are fan of the show, you will most likely love this spin-off story.  It is well-written, well-acted, and the production values make it look much more expensive than it could have been.  While this is only the kick-off for a future series on the sci-fi channel, it plays well enough by itself in this format.  B

State of Play

State of Play

Starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, and Helen Mirren
Directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland)
Rated PG-13 for some violence, language including sexual references, and brief drug content
Appropriate for ages 15+

    Upon the death of his mistress, congressman Stephen Collins (Affleck) is scrutinized in Washington for his affair.  When Washington Globe reporter and Collins best friend Cal McAaffrey (Crowe) discovers a connection between the dead girl and one a defense contract Collins is overseeing, he must decide to either ignore his integrity and protect his friend or get to the truth of the matter and tell the world. 

    I really liked most of this film.  For about the first 3/4 of the movie, I was really into it.  I found it to be exciting, relevant, and thought-provoking.  Covering issues such as corrupt politicians, defense and private security contracts, journalistic integrity as well as the shrinking newspaper industry and growing blog universe all provide for much talked about interest items.  Crowe and Affleck both turn in solid performances here and create believable characters.  The rest of the case is pretty decent also, although I felt that Mirren’s character was over-the-top.  In addition, the directing is fast-paced and the story is well-told.   

    But then comes the final act.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I like twisty endings.  Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, and Tell No One had wonderfully twisted endings that caught me off guard.  The difference between these other films and State of Play, though, is that I was not caught off guard here.  Instead I was merely annoyed and a little confused.  It’s all in the screenwriting, and this script couldn’t quite pull it off.  B+

New on DVD

New on DVD

The Reader
Rated R for sexual content and nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Many found it to be a huge surprise when the Oscar nominations were released this year and The Reader made the top five for best picture, not to mention that Kate Winslet would walk away with the acting trophy weeks later.  It’s not that the film wasn’t worthy, but merely for the fact that hardly anyone saw it.  After all, it’s a tough, depressing drama that is hard for many folks to stomach.  The film is told in three time periods.  The first part tells the story of a German teenager in the 1950s that has an affair with an older woman (Winslet).  He reads her classic after classic before and after they make love.   The second part takes place years later as this teenager is now a law student watching his past lover being tried for war crimes in Auschwitz.  The third act shows the aftermath.  It’s a beautiful and sad story that is both moving and disturbing.  A-

Pride and Prejudice
Unrated – Suitable for all ages
Available on Blu-ray

Before this 1995 BBC six-part mini-series, classics were filmed like stage plays instead of theatrical releases.  It might not seem ground-breaking in this day and age, but 14 years ago it certainly was.  Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth star as Elizabeth and Darcy, one of the most famous couples in all of literature.  The performances, writing, directing, and overall production are incredible, but the real winner here is the new high definition restoration from the film negative rather than the print.  While the show was not shot in HD, the restoration was able to bring out the colors and overall life of the series to an unbelievable degree.  While I liked the newer Joe Wright P&P a little better, this slightly older version is still a wonderful piece of family entertainment that should give the videophiles something to smile at.  A

Observe and Report

Observe and Report

Starring Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, and Ray Liotta
Directed by Jody Hill (The Foot Fist Way)
Rated R for pervasive language, graphic nudity, drug use, sexual content, and violence
Appropriate for ages 18+

    Seth Rogen is Ronnie Barnhardt a delusional mall cop that thinks he is the baddest security officer to ever hold a night stick.  When a flasher in the mall parking lot sets his sights on Ronnie’s dream girl (Faris), he turns into a sick vigilante that will do anything to find and kill the sexual predator.

    If you couldn’t tell from the above description, Ronnie isn’t a wannabe Paul Blart.  This is a dark, offensive, and sometimes disturbing comedy that pulls no punches.  I have to admit that I found much of the film to be very funny, but some of the shock value moments were a bit too much.  The violence and drugs are not done for comedy sake here, but rather to take the audience down a twisted spiral that it might not fully appreciate.  You could almost describe this film as a heavy drama with lots of jokes, rather than a dark comedy.

    What I found really interesting here is that there is only one decent character in the film.  Everyone else is a despicable human being.  That being said, the cast did a great job telling the story by playing off of each others disgusting caricatures.  As for writer/director Jody Hill, he is really making a splash in Hollywood with his anti-hero comedies like this, Foot Fist Way, and HBO’s East Bound and Down.  There is obviously an audience for this brand of humor, but I’m not sure how long it will last.  B+

New on DVD

New on DVD

Rated PG-13 for thematic material
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Set in the 1960s, Doubt tells the story of a nun (Meryl Streep) who is suspicious of a priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) that she believes may have molested a boy in their school.  While the film plays better as the play it was based on, you can’t discount the terrific performances from the leading cast that make this film tick.  It may not be immensely entertaining, but it sure does make you think.  B

Bedtime Stories
Rated PG for some mild rude humor and mild language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Adam Sandler stars in this pic about a hotel handyman with big dreams that enjoys telling stupid bedtimes stories to his sister’s kids.  Watching this film I rolled my eyes back in my head so many times that I need to consult an ophthalmologist.  I don’t think that adults will like this much, but the real question is: will kids like it?  I sure hope not.  If I had kids that liked it, I would attempt to Clockwork-Orange it out of them.  F

The Tale of Despereaux
Rated G
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Despereaux the mouse is not afraid of anything, and to prove it he sets out on a mission to save the princess and her kingdom.  Not even spectacular animation and an all-star cast of voices could make this weird little mouse tale come to life.  The pic lacks the humor of most children’s films and tells a story that frankly proves to be more strange than entertaining.  C-

Cleopatra: 75th Anniversary Edition
Available on DVD

With a remastered print and a new transfer to DVD, Cecil B. DeMille’s classic story of the queen of the Nile starring screen legend Claudette Colbert, shows off its historical significance and splendor in this new special edition.  Since I had not actually seen this film in its entirety before, I was pleasantly surprised with its style.  The storytelling and acting are a bit dated, as would be expected, but the sets and costumes were extraordinary, even by today’s standards.  Also, I had no idea how racy the film could be.  The costumes left little to the imagination, which took me by surprise considering the time it was made.  As for the special features, I actually enjoyed watching the three short documentaries on the disc as much as I enjoyed the movie itself.  B+ 



Directed by Nikita Mikhalkov (Burnt by the Sun)
Rated PG-13 for violent images, disturbing content, thematic material, brief sexual and drug references, and smoking
Russian language with English subtitles

    12 is at its heart a remake of 12 Angry Men told in modern-day Russia.  Twelve jurors must decide the fate of a young Chechen teenager accused of killing his stepfather.  What appears at first to be an open and shut case turns to hours of discussion as one juror convinces the rest that perhaps they should discuss the case in full detail before they pass such a quick judgment.

    When I had heard that a remake of 12 Angry Men was one of the five Oscar-nominated films for best foreign film, I thought that the voters had lost their minds, especially considering the wonderful films that were left out.  But then I saw the film and I can see what the Academy was excited about.  The story is essentially the same, and that’s fine since it makes for a brilliant drama.  The changes in case and culture however are fascinating.  Learning of the similarities and differences in our countries told from the jury room makes for a compelling movie experience that feels fresh even though the story is familiar. 

    While the directing gets a little overly artistic at times, the acting by the twelve men is remarkable.  You get to each one in a very intimate way that makes you care about not only the case, but the impact it might have on them.  And the use of the story of the young prisoner creates an empathy that the original story lacked.  I found this movie to be not only entertaining, but though-provoking as well.  That’s a hard combo to get at the movies.  A-