Going the Distance

Going the Distance

Starring Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, and Christine Applegate
Directed by Nanette Burstein (American Teen)
Rated R for sexual content including dialogue, language throughout, some drug use and brief nudity
Appropriate for ages 17+

    When Erin (Barrymore) and Garrett (Long) meet and fall for each other in New York City, they wind up in a long distance relationship when she has to return home to San Francisco to complete school.  Over the course of many back and forth trips, the two of them must decide what is best for them – their careers or each other. 

    Right away this film shows problems due to its horrific title.  Going the Distance sounds like a bad Hilary Duff film rather than a raunchy adult comedy.  So knowing that the film doesn’t know what it is enough to pick an appropriate title is a huge warning flag. 

    And then you get into the picture and realize that while the language is dirty as can be and the cast thinks they are funny, the lack of energy keeps the film from ever getting off the ground. 

    I can’t fault this very talented cast for the lack of energy because while the premise isn’t bad, the script is full of some of the unfunniest material I’ve seen in years.  From the mustache to dry humping, the jokes just don’t work for the most part.  Of course there are the few chuckles that slip by which I can only assume are riffed by the actors, but to be considered a comedy the film needs a bit more than what this picture offers. 

    Another problem here is a bad choice of director in Nanette Burstein who has made some excellent documentaries (if you haven’t seen The Kid Stays in the Picture – put it in your Netflix queue tonight), but whose filmmaking style doesn’t translate well at all in this medium.  Maybe a more experienced comedy director could have come in and picked up the pace a bit and not had me looking at my watch every third second wondering when this ordeal would end. 

    And thus the romantic comedy slump continues.  C-

New on DVD

New on DVD

Red Riding Trilogy
Not Rated but contains strong violence, sexual content and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

This set of three crime dramas based on the novels written by David Peace focuses on three sets of heinous crimes committed by serial killers and the corrupt police department running the investigations.  Each one takes place in a different year.  In 1974, a young reporter, played by the future Spiderman Andrew Garfield, attempts to put the pieces together when a string of young girls show up dead with swan wings sown to their backs.  In 1980, In America’s Paddy Considine is a detective in the same town trying to solve the notorious Yorkshire Ripper murders.  And in 1983, David Morrissey is a senior detective that attempts to solve the 1974 murders when a young girl is kidnapped with the original killer’s M.O. in spite of the killer supposedly being locked away.  While you can possibly watch the first film without having to see the others – I’m not sure why you would.  This trilogy was made to be watched in its 308 minute entirety.  And it is so rewarding when you do.  By the the end of 1983 I could hardly catch my breath I was so overwhelmed.  Yes its dark and gritty and pretty darn hopeless, but taken all in together I would have to say this is one of my favorite films of the year so far.  A

Harry Brown
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, drug use and sexual content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Michael Caine is Harry Brown, a retired Royal Marine living on a pension in a part of town being run down by dangerous kids.  When his best friend is killed by a gang of thugs and let go by the police, he goes after them, Death Wish style, to not only get revenge, but to make the streets safer for people like him to live.  This is a very upsetting, uncomfortable film with one heck of an actor at the lead.  Regardless of decisions of the writer and director, it’s hard not to find yourself cheering for this underdog vigilante and you want everything to happen to these kids that’s coming to them.  At Michael Caine’s age, it’s hard to get leading roles – especially for action films.  To see him knock one out of the park like this in his late 70’s is pretty fantastic.  B+

Anchorman: The “Rich Mahogany” Edition
Rated PG-13 for sexual humor, language and comic violence
Available on Blu-ray

If you are a big fan of the mustache-toting San Diegan from the 70s, then you might like this very, very complete Will Ferrell blu-ray set.  While I couldn’t find anything new on it, the collection of old from several sources is huge.  Most notably is a special movie that must have been filmed on the side called “Wake Up, Ron Burgundy” which follows the further adventures of Ron and gang with an entirely new plot.  Just like in the movie, many of the jokes don’t hit, but many of them do and it’s hard not to find yourself laughing throughout.  Also included in the set is Ron’s 32 page diary and a set of 12 trading cards.  B

The Evil Dead: Limited Edition
Not Rated
Available on Blu-ray

Many of the the most famous directors in Hollywood started out with low budget horror films but one of the most famous cases is Spiderman director Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead.  Following the chronicles of Sam Ash, played by the iconic Bruce Campbell, Evil Dead sounds a whole lot scarier than it really is.  In fact, many consider it to be quite the comedy.  This new blu-ray received the royal treatment with an all-new commentary by Raimi and Campbell as well as tons of other great special features.  A-

9th Company
Rated R for sequences of strong bloody warfare, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Russian with English subtitles

When this film about the Russian/Afghan war was released a few years back it was the top grossing film in Russian history.  That doesn’t mean it’s good though.  It starts off with promise as you think you might get a Russian Full Metal Jacket, and the director sure does know his Kubrick, but once the half-way point hits, it almost becomes laughable.  And if you like to research your films to check out the trueness of their “true stories” this one will shock you.  Almost all of the final battle was not only silly, but completely fabricated.  Granted, the set pieces were impressive but if you are only satisfied with quality war films, you will find this one not able to offer much.  If you do check it out though, make sure you turn on the English language dub which makes all of the characters go from thick Russian to Gomer Pyle.  D

Flight of the Conchords: The Complete Collection
Available on DVD

I was bummed when HBO’s show about “New Zealand’s 4th most popular folk parody duo” ended at two seasons, but hey – at least I had two seasons.  Each episode of the hysterical comedy followed Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie as they tried to make it with their two-man band in New York with one rabid fan and the world’s worst manager.  But these are no ordinary musicians.  They sing and dance in every genre possible with some of the most creative music, lyrics and directing you’ve ever seen or heard.  In their own words they “rap about reality – like me and grandma drinking a cup of tea – there ain’t no party like my nana’s tea party – hey – ho.”  While I’m sure this won’t be the last set you’ll see released, since a blu-ray is yet to see the light of day, this “Born To Folk” edition contains both seasons and their One Night Stand live concert and is enough to put a big cheesy grin on your face that will last quite a while.  A

Piranha 3D

Piranha 3D

Starring Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, and Jerry O’Connell
Directed by Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes)
Rated R for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use
Appropriate for ages 18+

    When an earthquake opens up an underwater cavern that has been sealed for millions of years, scores of prehistoric piranhas are unleashed upon unsuspecting teenagers as they party it up during spring break. 

    There is no disguising a movie like this.  It is designed to be a b movie from start to finish.  Every bit of it is completely tongue in cheek, complete with tons of senseless, silly violence, truckloads of fake blood, and oodles of naked and half-naked teenagers doing nothing but drinking, dancing and getting killed in terrible ways.  It is heaven for the right audience and hell for those looking for a real horror film.

    That being said it works really well as a comedy.  I laughed harder here than at many of the other real comedies that have graced our screens this year.  While I did find it a bit gross, I found it to be more entertaining due to the sheer ridiculousness of it and I’m certain this was planned by the filmmakers.  While many are trying to compare it to Jaws, its only similarities are killer fish and Richard Dreyfus.  There is very little in the way of suspense, great writing, fine acting, or true scares here.  There could have been if they wanted, but the choice was made to make it into a carnival side show complete with 3D glasses which were there more for the nudity than for the pisces. 

    If this pic contained all of those great ingredients could it have been something more?  Maybe.  The backstory isn’t horrible and the right elements are there, but for pure entertainment value and dollar-making potential I think they made the right choice, even if it comes across as extremely crude and perverse. 

    Then again, it ha
s the potential to be another Snakes on a Plane, relying more on a gimmick than a real moving narrative.  C

New on DVD

New on DVD

Lost: The Complete Sixth and Final Season
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

While there were a few folks out there that didn’t like the direction taken for the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815,  most, like myself, found the journey to be breathtaking and the end to be everything hoped for.  The parallel story lines were a bit confusing at first, but watching them a second time on this set along with some great special features including “The New Men In Charge,” a documentary that answers even more questions about the island including my biggest one about the polar bears, you can see the real genius in the writing and the beautiful ending of a truly special television event.  Very few shows have been able to leave like this and none so eloquently.  Noticeably missing is a commentary on the last episode, which I was really looking forward to listening to.  A

Pawn Stars: Season Two
Available on DVD

Back for another season are the family of pawnbrokers from Las Vegas trying to figure out the good deals from the bad as folks dream of big cash that they’ll later be losing in the casinos down the street.  Regardless of the clientele though, it’s always interesting to see what’s valuable and what’s not and how these guys try to pay bottom dollar for what they want.  In thirty-minute increments, the show is just fast-paced enough to make for a nice little guilty pleasure TV snack.  B-

The Backup Plan
Rated PG-13 for sexual content including references, some crude material and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

J-Lo wants a baby so bad and doesn’t want to have to wait for the man to give it to her so she decides to have an artificial insemination.  Unfortunately she meets the man of her dreams on the same day.  He doesn’t mind that she’s having a baby, or in this case two, so they start off on a relationship doing things slightly out of order.  While the premise here is not bad, everything else is.  The jokes bomb due to being horribly written and terribly acted.  J-lo is pretty and all, but just not a movie star and while her love interest carries his weight pretty well, he just can’t make it work.  Then there is the Jerry McGuire wannabe women’s support group that just plain stinks up the place.  Maybe if they hadn’t tried to make this a comedy and left it at a romance with complications it might have had a chance, but J-lo and most of the rest of the cast lack the timing to pull it off.  D

City Island
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, smoking and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies head up an extremely dysfunctional family in the New York City area that could very easily be functional if they’d only communicate a little better with one another.  In this comedy of errors, the mistakes the characters make build upon one another, some organically and some not, until the hilarious finale when things come to a head and have no choice but to pop.  The film has a small, indie feel to it, but it does deliver big laughs and has a nice quirkiness that many will appreciate.  B

The Simpsons: The Thirteenth Season

Available on DVD and Blu-ray

While not the best of the Simpson’s Seasons, this 2001-2002 airing still had the show pulling off some pretty funny material that gave South Park and Family Guy tons of ideas to steal from.  Still considered on the cutting edge at this time, the Simpsons covered a number of hot topics including medicinal marijuana, spirituality, reality television executions and obesity.  Among the best this season were “The Blunder Years” where Homer takes a flashback to his younger days with young Moe, Lenny, and Carl, as well as the episode “Sweets and Sour Marge” where Springfield is named World’s fattest town and Homer becomes a sugar smuggler when sweets are banned.  B+

The Instant Expert Series from The History Channel
Available on DVD

The History Channel has taken some of its most popular titles on some of its most interesting subjects and added a school-like approach with a small booklet in the case and quiz on the disc.  If you’ve ever wanted to know more about subjects such as Benjamin Franklin, Oil, Egypt, The Mayflower, The French Revolution or Beowulf, these discs are a great resource and very affordable.  

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ellen Wong
Directed by Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz)
Rated PG-13 for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references
Appropriate for ages 13+

    Scott Pilgrim (Cera) is a 22-year-old cruising through life in Canada with a cute high school girl friend and a loud rock band to distract him – until he discovers Ramona Flowers (Winstead), an eclectic American that fascinates him to the point of obsession.  When she agrees to go out on a date with him, he gets more than he bargained for as he discovers that he must destroy each of her seven exes to get a chance with her.  Each one tougher than the next, he really likes her but wonders how much he can handle before he is destroyed himself. 

    Edgar Wright’s previous outings have taken genres and bended them with an imaginative spin, but this time he creates something truly original.  I can honestly tell you that you have never seen, and will never see anything like this movie.  It’s part musical, video game, romance, sci-fi, and teen comedy all rolled into one. 

    While I’m not sure if the music will stand up on its own – it sounds really good in the theater.  It’s loud, in your face, and fun to watch as Michael Cera’s awkward bass guitar playing rocks pretty hard.  And the added special effects that zip in and out only make the tunes more fun as you are experiencing them.

    While most of the big names in the film are in smaller roles, everyone is so perfectly cast and does such a great job.  While the film is certainly about Pilgrim and Flowers, its the ensemble that brings it all together so well and this movie is full of future stars.   

    The music, the strange fighting sequences, and practically everything else though exists almost in a sort of dream state.  Scott actually dreams of Ramona before he sees her which only makes him want her more.  But nothing in the film seems real.  Yet you have to assume that it all is and this altered reality makes anything possible including wacky real-life fight scenes where the loser dies and turns to coins, music that turns to monsters and comic-like images, and most importantly – the Vegan Police.  Saying it’s creative is an understatement.  Being able to put this kind of vision on film is nothing short of genius and also very brave on the part of Universal for funding it. 

    Watching it for the first time I couldn’t help but think that this is just so neat – kind of like the first time I played with an iPhone.  I just hope it has better reception.  A   

New on DVD

New on DVD

The Good, The Bad, The Weird
Rated R for nonstop violence and some drug use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Korean, Mandarin, and Japanese with English subtitles

Writer/director Ji-woon Kim (The Uninvited) tells the story of three Korean outlaws in 1940s Manchuria that are all out to possess a secret map that will lead them to a treasure beyond their imaginations in this creative and highly stylized recrafting of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  While the original can never be surpassed, this new take is so full of life and color and jam-packed with action that its hard to imagine not having fun watching it.  The Ugly is replaced here by The Weird, played by Kang-ho Song, and actor that is really turning in some great work lately with The Host and last year’s Thirst.  He adds a sense of comedy relief that provides an interesting element to the drama.  The rest of the cast and the production are also excellent and very big might I add.  This film has an epic feel to it with its huge set pieces and over-the-top action sequences.  I had a smile on my face for two straight hours.  A-

Cemetery Junction
Rated R for language and some sexual material
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

When I saw that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the team behind series “The Office,” wrote and directed a film I immediately assumed funny and uncomfortable with bits of slapstick.  I assumed wrong.  Cemetery Junction is a town in England where three young friends burn time drinking, fighting and chasing girls while trying to figure out how to get out of their 1970s blue-collar town.  It’s a very thoughtful coming-of-age dramady with an excellent cast including Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson, and Matthew Goode as the adults and Christian Cooke, Felicity Jones, Tom Hughes, and Jack Doolan as four very promising newcomers Gervais and Merchant brought in for the leads.  While certainly not a blockbuster, it’s a deeper piece of work than most will have thought possible from its creators and definitely worth the rental.  B

The Joneses
Rated R for language, some sexual content, teen drinking and drug use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

When David Duchovny, Demi Moore and their two kids move into their new neighborhood, they seem like the perfect family with the latest and greatest fashions and toys, but behind their flashy exteriors lies a hidden agenda that has the potential to destroy the very neighbors’ lives they are befriending.  The first act of this film is very eye-opening.  In fact it had me pressing pause and researching the very subject matter the film was actually covering.  So at the very least, I think you will find this movie about the evils of consumerism and sheepish buying behavior enlightening.  It is also quite simplistic after the midpoint which is a little annoying.  Where the filmmakers had a chance to really make a strong statement, they went in the obvious directions and chose to sensationalize the characters’ actions for drama sake.  So while I liked the film, a different pathway would have been much more preferable.  B-

The Other Guys

The Other Guys

Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, and Michael Keaton
Directed by Adam McKay (Talladega Nights)
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, violence and some drug material
Appropriate for ages 13+

    When the two most famous cops in New York City accidentally die in one of the most hysterical death sequences I can remember, a mismatched pair of detectives attempt step up and take their place.  Both cops seem to be bad at their jobs but together they try to take down one of the largest financial schemes the city has ever seen. 

    Recently Kevin Smith attempted the buddy cop comedy with Cop Out and it misfired completely.  One of the reasons that was such a dud was that not only were the cops completely aloof, so was the case.  What helps this buddy film to top the other is that while the cops are both idiots, the case is at least real, although complicated enough that you know that they are getting lucky more than they are intelligently solving it. 

    Unlike many of Adam McKay’s previous films, where I felt that much of the comedy came from improvisation on set, this one actually felt like it came from the page, largely because Ferrell is the only actor capable of bringing the big time improv.  Wahlberg’s character is a little dry and they could have had so much more fun with his troubling backstory, but Ferrell once again creates another memorable, quotable character whose jokes hit most of the time.   The rest of the cast is hit and miss although the opening bit with Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson is a laugh riot.  Still without Farrell – this film would have been nothing.  He is irreplaceable and owns every bit of screen time he has. 

    The biggest problems I had with the picture were all of the inconsistencies and lame jokes taken too far throughout.  For instance, I liked that hot women everywhere are attracted to Ferrell, but in one scene he has to visit an ex-girlfriend, yet in a back story he explains he met his wife while in a situation that would kill any chance of having that ex-girlfriend.  There are many more of those little annoyances that I guess I shouldn’t let bother me, but I like my pieces of the puzzle to fit.  Also, there are many jokes such as the captain quoting TLC songs without knowing it, Ferrell carrying a wooden gun and Wahlberg lusting after Ferrell’s wife that are funny one, maybe two times, and misses the next ten.  These jokes might have made them laugh on set quite a bit, but as a member of the audience I felt they were a huge stretch. 

    But the litmus test of “did I laugh a lot” passed with flying colors, mostly due to the genius that is Will Ferrell.  When he picks the right project, and for him this was the right project, he proves why he is considered to be one of the funniest men alive.  B+

New on DVD

New on DVD   

Date Night
Rated PG-13 for sexual and crude content throughout, language, some violence and a drug reference
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Steve Carell and Tina Fey are just your average boring married couple with average married problems when they spontaneously go out on a date in New York City.  When two killers mistake them for another couple, they find themselves on the run, in severe danger, and on the most exciting night of their lives.  This romantic comedy take on North by Northwest is actually a fairly clever little picture that waivers here and there, but serves up a pretty entertaining experience.  The guest appearances are some of the best things about this film including a great scene where they interact with James Franco and Mila Kunis playing the couple they are being mistaken for.  This scene alone is worth watching the film.  While many women will like the Mark Wahlberg moments where he is shirtless in almost every scene he is in, the joke does get a little old, or maybe its me getting a little jealous.  I’m not above admitting that.  B

A Prophet
Rated R for strong violence, sexual content, nudity, language and drug material
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
French with English Subtitles

A Prophet tells the story of Malik, a 19-year-old Arab that is sentenced to a French prison and is forced to carry out missions for a Corsican gang leader in exchange for protection until his release.  Having missed the film while it only spent a couple of weeks in theaters, I am now surprised that it only took home a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars this past year.  This is one of the most original, gritty, well-acted, and well-written crime dramas I’ve scene in years.  Evolving way past the prison drama genre, this feels like an epic, as powerful as The Godfather, where you grow with Malik as the scared kid in prison who must not only survive, but out-smart his fellow prisoners and eventually end up a potentially monstrous crime lord.  If this script were around 30 years ago, and in English, Robert De Niro would have been the only actor capable of performing this role.  That being said, Tahar Rahim has turned in what I can only sum up as a brilliant performance that you must see to believe.  A

Multiple Sarcasms
Rated R for sexual references and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Timothy Hutton is a whiny man having a midlife crisis that decides that the best way to cope with said crisis is to write an autobiographical play about his life.  The cast, which also includes Mira Sorvino, Dana Delany, Mario Van Peebles, and Stockard Channing sounds impressive at first for an indie until you see it and then you can’t figure out why they would have possibly signed on for such a script that wastes all of their talents.  It’s pretentious, overbearing, and the exact opposite of entertaining – almost like a version of Californication that has been edited for the airlines.  There is a moment where Hutton is talking about the play and exclaims “I don’t even care if anybody sees it.”  You could tell that this was the screenwriter’s philosophy and a self-fulfilling prophecy.  D  

Dinner for Schmucks

Dinner for Schmucks

Starring Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and Zach Galifianakis
Directed by Jay Roach (Austin Powers)
Rated PG-13 for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language
Appropriate for ages 15+

    Tim (Rudd) is trying to get ahead at work and his lucky break comes when he is invited to a secret annual dinner with the executive team where each member must bring the biggest idiot thy can find.  There they each compete to see who can discover the most impressive buffoon.  Tim, being a nice person, is not interested but knows he must compete in order to move ahead and thus finds Barry (Carell), an IRS agent that creates art out of dead mice.  When Barry is so excited about the dinner that he shows up to Tim’s apartment on the wrong night, he finds a way to ruin Tim’s life in one mishap after another. 

    Based on the French film “Le Diner de Cons,” Schmucks takes some similar approaches to its source, but finds ways to not only bring more humanity to the part of the hero, Tim, but also to make the part of Barry ten times more uncomfortable to watch.  Of course this is done through the brilliance of the two leading men, Rudd and Carell.  In the French film, the hero is a complete jerk, but here it is so hard to hate Rudd, that even though you know he is doing something completely awful and creepy, you can’t help but think that he will somehow redeem himself.  He’s just too nice.  That plays in his favor when you can see his inner demons fighting as he struggles with the concept of the dinner.  And then there is Carell who turns in one of my favorite performances of the year so far in 2010.  Sure he is over-the-top, but there are moments of gravity that remind you that he really is a smart, albeit aloof, character with a weird but great artistic ability.  The parts were perfectly cast and perfectly performed.  For a film like this it is was also important to have a great supporting cast, and they really went all out, gathering some of the best names in comedy to be both the idiots and the idiots bringing the idiots.

    While there have been many films that have tried (Get Him to the Greek came close), very few have comedies have actually worked this year, and none have tickled the funny bone like Schmucks.  While its no Hangover, there is a good combination of discomfort and silliness here that got me laughing hard throughout.  I love the feeling I get after laughing like that for so long and I’m sure my body liked it too.  Some might not appreciate the slapstick, but to me this felt like a modern-day Monty Pythonesque picture with all of the absurdity and adult humor you could hope to discover from these great minds.  It’s an immensely entertaining low-brow film whose immaturity is completely excusable and even enjoyable.  A-

New on DVD

New on DVD

To Save a Life
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving teen suicide, teen drinking, some drug content, disturbing images and sexuality
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

This latest installment of theatrically-released Christian-themed films tells the story of Jake Taylor (Randy Wayne), a high schooler with a bright future including a basketball scholarship offer to Louisville, the hottest girlfriend in school, and intense popularity.  But when his best friend from childhood commits suicide, Jake examines his life and discovers that he is not happy with the path he has chosen.  No one is going to watch this film and say that this is the best film of the year, but for the one million dollar investment New Song Church in Oceanside, CA made (yes this film was made largely by a church, and then picked up by Sony for distribution), they sure did a heck of a job.  The production values look better than many of the big Hollywood films I see nowadays.  The acting was surprisingly good, especially by Wayne who I found to be very convincing in the leading role as a confused yet confident teen, and aside from an inorganic moment where the writer felt Jake needed to flip out and things needed to fall apart a bit, the cast acted like real teenagers.  I was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t water down the drunken parties where teens have unprotected sex.  It’s reality and refreshing that they took the guts to admit it.  Where they went wrong was a meandering subplot with Jake’s pregnant girlfriend that frankly took away from the very important theme of the film.  Sure To Save a Life can refer to a fetus also, but it shouldn’t have in this particular film – it just didn’t fit.  It also added a lot of extra time that desperately needed to be shaved off.  But overall, I can see this being a positive influence for many who watch it and for some it could possibly even make a huge difference, and you don’t get that from many movies these days.  A-  

The Ghost Writer
Rated PG-13 for language, brief nudity/sexuality, some violence and a drug reference
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

While in a Swiss prison waiting for word of his extradition to the United States, writer/director Roman Polanski oversaw the entire post-production for this subtle thriller about a writer (Ewan McGregor) hired to write the autobiography for the former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan).  While the ghost writer knew it wouldn’t be a simple job, what he couldn’t predict was the hate storm coming the Prime Minister’s way and the immediate danger he was in from all sides.  Part mystery, part thriller, the film is intriguing and most definitely intelligent, but almost too so to be entertaining.  It’s a movie I actually wanted to like, but could only merely appreciate.  C+

Road to Perdition
Rated R for violence and language
Available on Blu-ray

Road to Perdition, which is one of my favorite films from the last decade is making a very important blu-ray debut this week which many will consider to be a must-own for their libraries.  Based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner, Road follows Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), a hit man for a small-town crime boss played by Paul Newman.  When Michael’s oldest son sneaks along to follow his dad and Newman’s son (played by Daniel Craig) on a hit, Craig takes it upon himself to try to take out Michael and his family to cover up the evidence.  When he only ends up killing Michael’s wife and youngest son, the two take off on a mission of survival and revenge, all the while being chased by another hit man played by Jude Law.  Everything about this film is pure art including the acting, writing, directing, and music.  But what stands out most is the breathtaking cinematography by Oscar winner Conrad Hall, who died shortly before winning for this film.  Many consider it to be one of the most beautifully shot films ever and on blu-ray you can catch every single wonderful nuance.  The special features serve as love letter to the memory of Hall with a look back at his life and his work.  A+

The Breakfast Club
Rated R
Available on Blu-ray

It’s hard to believe 25 years have passed since the brat pack hit the screen for the first time in this iconic film by John Hughes.  Getting it’s blu-ray debut, the film looks brand new aside from the bad but trendy fashion.  Also included is a 12-part documentary looking back at all of the actors and their stories as well as the origin of the label “Brat Pack” which they weren’t exactly fond of at the time.  B+

James and Giant Peach
Rated PG for some frightening images
Available on Blu-ray/DVD Combo

One thing Roald Dahl (Fantastic Mr. Fox) is known for is telling imaginative and weird tales, and this story of a young boy who goes on a journey inside a giant peach with a cast of friendly insects is no different.  It’s a shame that Tim Burton and director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) couldn’t come up with a better artistic vision for the film.  While some of the animation is creative and beautiful, much of the movie is ugly and so unpleasing to look at that I wanted to turn the film off.  The story just could not carry me past the poor aesthetics of the lack of vision of the filmmakers.  I’m not sure if different minds could have made this better, but I’m certain that Disney should have chosen different artists for this creation.  C-