Tuesday, February 22, 2011;
The following is a list of recently released DVDs. All capsule reviews have been taken from The Washington Post's Weekend section.
"Due Date" (R, 95 minutes): With "Due Date," director Todd Phillips perfects the particular brand of comic alchemy. Like "The Hangover," this film features mismatched guys who don't know each other very well on a road trip punctuated by ever-more-outrageous and physically painful mishaps. Of course, the main thing the film has in common with "The Hangover" is Zach Galifianakis, the portly comedian who betrays uncommon grace despite his heavy frame. He's an unself-conscious man-child, unfettered by the laws that govern the rest of us. That pretty much sums up Ethan Tremblay, Galifianakis's character who meets architect Peter Highman (Robert Downey, Jr.) at the Atlanta airport. The two embark on a cross-country car trip so that Peter can attend the birth of his first child. It's a concept that was no doubt pitched to studio executives in one elevator ride, and most likely that's why it works so efficiently. Contains profanity, drug use and sexual content.
"Get Low" (PG-13, 102 minutes): A recluse living in the woods outside a small Southern town during the Depression, Robert Duvall's character, Felix Bush, has the long gray beard of someone plucked straight from the pages of the Old Testament; a man of mystery and menace, he's something of a local legend in town, where people whisper about Felix's past sins, which may or may not include murder. Fed up with the gossip, Felix decides to throw his own funeral, just to hear what people say about him. He enlists the help of the local undertakers, one a sober, sincere apprentice named Buddy (Lucas Black) and Buddy's boss, a sardonic sharpie named Frank Quinn (Bill Murray). Burnished with the amber glow of nostalgia and period detail, the movie offers welcome respite from the shiny, cacophonous fare usually offered during the summer. Contains thematic material and brief violent content.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray Feb. 22: "Fish Tank"; "Megamind" (Feb. 25); "Mesirine: Killer Instinct"; "The Sweet Smell of Success: Criterion."
"Waiting for Superman" (PG, 111 minutes): In filmmaker Davis Guggenheim's movie, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee comes across as a heroic, if polarizing, reformer. If there's a villain in the piece, it's Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. Her union, and its historical institutional resistance to teacher evaluations, merit pay and the elimination of automatic tenure, are here seen as self-serving. But there are others in the film with greater emotional pull, such as Geoffrey Canada. The founder of the Harlem Success Academy, a much-sought-after charter school in New York, gives the film its title when he tells the story of his childhood disappointment upon learning that TV's Superman wasn't real and would never be coming to save him. In the end, this film argues, it isn't the adults who matter in this fight, but the millions of children.Contains references to drug abuse and troubled families.
"You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger" (R, 98 minutes): Woody Allen's film opens with the paraphrase of a quote from "Macbeth." Life, as narrator Zak Orth tells us in the incongruously chirpy voice-over, is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury but ultimately signifying nothing. In terms of fatalism, Shakespeare's doomed Scotsman has nothing on Allen. This film is filled with people stuck in, on the way out of or about to enter into unhappy and/or unwise relationships. Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) has left his wife of 40 years, Helena (Gemma Jones). She "allowed herself to become old," he tells his much younger new flame, Charmaine (Lucy Punch), a blowsy prostitute. Helena, after an attempted suicide, has found solace in the counsel of a clairvoyant (Pauline Collins). Contains obscenity, sexual themes and references to an attempted suicide.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray Feb. 15: "Moonstruck: Blu-ray"; "Unstoppable"; "Top Gear: 14 and 15."
"It's Kind of a Funny Story" (PG-13, 115 minutes): There's very little that's even kind of funny in "It's Kind of a Funny Story," which can't accurately be described as a comedy but isn't a true drama, either. Keir Gilchrist stars as a Brooklyn high school student named Craig, who, pronouncing himself overwhelmed by "grades, girls, two wars, impending environmental catastrophe and an imploding economy," commits himself to psychiatric care at a hospital. The youth ward is full, so Craig spends five days in the adult ward, where he learns lessons about life and growing up from its motley clientele. Gilchrist delivers an unobjectionable but undistinguished performance as a teenager whose journey ultimately feels frivolously low-stakes. And Emma Roberts has been woefully miscast as a patient named Noelle, whose character needs more ballast than Roberts's decidedly non-edgy persona. Contains obscenity, drug use, sensuality and poop humor.
"Life as We Know It" (PG-13, 115 minutes): After watching this silly, cliche-ridden romantic comedy, you might feel an urge to disavow membership in the club suggested by its all-embracing title. Whose life are we talking about, exactly? There's really only one tiny group of people on the planet for whom the "life" as depicted in this film will feel the least bit recognizable: Hollywood movie producers. I can almost hear the pitch meeting: There's this married couple with a baby, see? And then the couple dies in a tragic car accident, leaving their orphaned, 1-year-old daughter in the care of her hot, single godparents. The beauty part? They hate each other's guts! Conveniently enough, there are no blood relatives who can take in the kid. That leaves Holly Berenson (Katherine Heigl) and Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel) to move in together and try to make the best of a stupid situation. Contains obscenity, drug use, sensuality and poop humor.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray Feb. 8: "Amarcord: Criterion Collection," "Doctor Who: The Movie," "For Colored Girls," "I Spit on Your Grave," "Paranormal Activity 2," "You Again."
"Let Me In" (R, 115 minutes): Something is lost in the translation in "Let Me In," the English-language adaptation of the acclaimed 2008 Swedish vampire film "Let the Right One In." The problem isn't a lack of respect for John Ajvide Lindqvist's moody screenplay, based on his 2004 novel; the rendition feels off key. Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a 12-year-old loner. He strikes up a tentative friendship with Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), a girl who appears to be about his age, when she moves into the apartment next door with her weary-looking father (Richard Jenkins). Except that he may or may not be her father. At times, Abby treats the man more like a servant. And he obliges, making midnight runs to the convenience store parking for blood, drained from a high-school jocks. Owen, meanwhile, has been getting picked on. Abby, who has by now befriended Owen, doesn't like this. Contains strong gore and violence, obscenity, brief sensuality and a flash of nudity.
"Never Let Me Go" (R, 103 minutes): Director Mark Romanek's film epitomizes the kind of somber, aesthetically refined and morally engaged film that commands deep respect without inspiring much affection. Adapted from the highly regarded novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, this ambitiously restrained film will most likely please fans of the book's dire speculative vision. The movie offers filmgoers a haunting reminder of life's most enduring questions but only after putting them through an imaginative journey that borders on the cruel. The story is narrated by Kathy (Carey Mulligan), who, as the movie opens, explains that she started her young life in the 1970s, at a well-tended British boarding school called Hailsham. There, she befriended Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield), who along with Kathy live in a world that, while in many ways sequestered and pampered, has a castoff quality to it. Contains sexuality and nudity.
"The Tillman Story" (R, 94 minutes): When Pat Tillman enlisted in the Army in 2002, he gave up a lucrative contract with the NFL, an act that was celebrated at the time for its selflessness and courage. Two years later, as an Army Ranger, he was killed in Afghanistan in an episode initially described as a Taliban ambush; the former Arizona Cardinals player was awarded a posthumous Silver Star, and his funeral drew thousands. Weeks later, the Army revealed that Tillman's death was "probably" the result of a fratricide. But by that time, the military and Bush administration's narrative of Tillman's life and death had taken on a life of its own, its mythology increasingly at odds with the truth known by his closest family and friends. Filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev spins a fascinating, shattering and finally appalling story of his own as he deconstructs the official story and leads viewers on an absorbing search for the truth. Contains profanity.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray: "Conviction," "A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop."
"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" (R, 148 minutes): The final, deeply satisfying conclusion to the trilogy of Swedish thrillers based on Stieg Larsson's bestselling novels follows Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the series's computer-hacker heroine and titular hornet's nest kicker, after movie No. 2 left her shot in three places and barely breathing. Lisbeth spends the entire first half of "Hornet's Nest" merely recuperating from her injuries and preparing to face a charge of attempted murder in the axing of her father (Georgi Staykov). Yes, he's a bad man. He has also been protected by many other bad men - members of what's known as the Section, a secret government cabal that will resort to threats and murder to protect Lisbeth's daddy, who has been involved in sex trafficking and other nasty business. This is the nest referred to in the title, and the wasps that Lisbeth has stirred up are now very, very angry. Contains violence, obscenity and sexual themes.
"Nowhere Boy" (R, 98 minutes): Photographer Sam Taylor-Wood has played it safe and made an utterly conventional biopic in her feature debut about the early life of John Lennon. Although Aaron Johnson ("Kick-Ass") delivers an affecting performance as a confused Liverpool teenager torn between two mother figures and nurturing creative impulses, the movie succumbs to maudlin sentiment and melodrama that Lennon himself might have dismissed with one of his signature cutting remarks. The film opens as a 15-year-old Lennon and a chum run the Liverpool streets in 1955. At home, the mood is a bit more dour, as Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) rules the roost with postwar stiff-upper-lipism and Uncle George (David Threlfall) offers shots of mordant humor. Within these cozy if austere confines, Lennon is carrying a torch: He longs for the distant Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), his fiery redheaded mother who abandoned him at 5 and who lives just blocks away.Contains a scene of sexuality and profanity.
"Red" (PG-13, 111 minutes): "Red" joins a long line of recent movies whose upper-middle-aged stars play AARP members who refuse to go gently into genteel cinematic dotage. But this adaptation of a graphic novel series gets into a cool, sophisticated swing. The one-liners zing right along with the bullets in a playful pas de deux of mayhem. Bruce Willis plays Frank, a former black ops agent now living in quiet desperation in Cleveland and enjoying a long-distance phone flirtation with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), the woman who mails his retirement check. When Frank is unexpectedly visited by a lethal "wet team," he realizes his life is in danger, and he seeks to reassemble his old cohort of covert assassins: Joe (Morgan Freeman), whom Frank busts out of a nursing home in New Orleans; Marvin (John Malkovich), who's living in flashback-induced paranoia somewhere in the Gulf Coast swamplands; and Victoria (Helen Mirren), who arranges roses and bakes tea cakes but longs to get back into the life of ordnance and kill shots. Contains intense sequences of action violence and brief strong profanity.
"Secretariat" (PG, 116 minutes): Director Randall Wallace has achieved the next to impossible, injecting genuine suspense into a narrative we all know the ending to. Wallace's secret is that he makes "Secretariat" about characters, not races, and he has found irresistible protagonists in both his equine and human subjects. Coming from behind with a heart as big as a house is Secretariat, known to his owners and intimates as Big Red, who at first is so slow "he couldn't beat a fat man encased in cement being dragged backwards by a freight train," according to his trainer (played with quirky, crusty gusto by John Malkovich). But his owner believes in him: Penny Chenery Tweedy, a Denver homemaker who inherits her father's Virginia horse farm and battles the sexist forces of her own family and the horse racing establishment to champion Big Red and change the face of the sport. Contains brief mild profanity.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray January 25: "Broadcast News: Criterion Collection"; "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer"; "Enter the Void"; "Glee: Season 2, Volume 1"; and "Saw: The Final Chapter."
"Animal Kingdom" (R, 112 minutes): This dark Australian drama wastes no time shocking its audience with the breezy way it handles bleak material. A woman, overdosed on heroin, sits crumpled on a couch as paramedics try to revive her. But her teenage son can't seem to peel himself away from the television. When his mother dies, J (James Frecheville) moves in with his estranged grandmother and meets the rest of his fearsome relatives: four uncles, who demonstrate varying degrees of depravity. J finds the group in crisis, as vigilante police officers have begun murdering suspected criminals. The dirty cops have his new family in their sights. The story emphasizing on banal, everyday life. In one scene, Uncle Baz (Joel Edgerton) teaches his nephew the proper technique for washing his hands after a bathroom visit, while in another, a dirty cop talks about taking his kids to soccer practice. This is business as usual. Contains violence, strong language and drug use.
"Buried" (R, 95 minutes): With "Buried," director Rodrigo Cortes and actor Ryan Reynolds engage in the kind of extreme real-time filmmaking, setting up an experiment in limitation that, at least until the movie's deflating final payoff, manages to tap into our deepest anxieties. From its very first moments, "Buried" lets viewers know they're in for something different -- and disturbing. With the screen in complete darkness, we initially hear only bumping, then a man panting and groaning. Finally, the flick of a lighter: It's Paul Conroy (Reynolds), an American contractor in Iraq who has been kidnapped, buried and held for ransom, with air for only 90 minutes. With the screen often blanking out into unsettling black and the sound of sifting sand and other unwelcome intrusions ramping up the anxiety level, "Buried" delivers the kind of immediate experience too often missing in movies. Contains profanity and some violence.
"Freakonomics" (PG-13, 93 minutes): Why does the new documentary based on Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's 2005 bestseller "Freakonomics" feel so familiar, even to those who haven't read it? Maybe it's because of all those cocktail-party conversations the book inspired. At this point, who in Washington doesn't feel like they've read it? Maybe it's because the movie isn't freakin' freaky enough. It certainly comes with a pedigree. The omnibus documentary is a compendium of four "chapters," each based on a section of the book and directed by a different hotshot documentarian, including Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me"), Alex Gibney ("Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"), Eugene Jarecki ("Why We Fight") and Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing ("Jesus Camp"). There's a certain obviousness to the movie that blunts some points made by Levitt and Dubner, who appear between segments in lively interviews. In English and some Japanese with English subtitles. Contains obscenity and scenes in a strip club.
"Stone" (R, 105 minutes): Say this about "Stone": When it's good, it's very good. And this twisty, atmospheric drama is at its best when Edward Norton takes center screen as Stone, a convicted arsonist trying to wheedle an early release from a parole officer named Jack, played by Robert De Niro. Admittedly, the two stars have their share of electrifying duets, as when Stone sits across from Jack's desk, trying to get into his head. But ultimately "Stone" sags under its own overblown philosophical weight, smothering what could have been a simple, effective psychological thriller. Norton is next to unrecognizable as Stone, who, when he meets Jack, has his hair in tight cornrows and possesses a clear command of street vernacular. As Stone tries to convince Jack that he's a changed man - with the help of his wife, Lucetta (Milla Jovovich) - it's difficult to tell whether his professions of newfound faith are on the level. Contains sexuality, violence and pervasive profanity.
"Takers" (PG-13, 107 minutes): "Takers" assembles a group of dysfunctional criminals who join forces to make a big killing. It begins with one crime - a bank robbery - and builds up to another - the seizing of an armored car carrying $30 million. In between, the movie puts its cops and robbers in parallel motion toward a cataclysmic collision. Everybody has personal problems. Gang leader Gordon Crosier (the supremely charismatic Idris Elba) has to choreograph the big score while trying to keep his sister in rehab. He's also trying to dismiss doubts about Ghost (rapper T.I.), a former member of the gang who served six years in prison and is now back, carrying an outsize chip on his shoulder. On the other side of the aisle, Detective Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) neglects his daughter while trying to piece together a mosaic of clues that don't quite seem to connect. Contains adult content, violence and vulgarity.
"The Virginity Hit" (R, 89 minutes): Shot to look as if the whole movie had been cobbled together from camcorder footage taken by a bunch of randy, YouTube-obsessed kids, the film uses that concept to sell the audience on the gimmick: that the film is somehow real "found" footage. The movie purports to be the actual story of four actual high-school-age friends: Zack (Zack Pearlman), Justin (Justin Kline); Jacob (Jacob Davich) and Matt (Matt Bennett). One of the film's few likable characters, Matt is also the lone virgin among them. He's on a quest to lose his virginity to his girlfriend of two years, Nicole (Nicole Weaver). Early in the film, Matt and Nicole break up. That sets the stage for further misadventures in his effort to "do it." Contains pervasive crude language and sexual humor, shoplifting, under-age drinking, nudity and drug use.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray January 18: "Death Race 2"; "Jack Goes Boating"; "Justified: The Complete First Season"; "Lebanon"; "The Nakes Kiss: Criterion Collection"; "Shock Corridor: Criterion Collection."
"Alpha and Omega" (G, 88 minutes): This film is an unambitious 3-D animation about young wolves in love, isn't so much howlingly bad as it is howlingly boring. The story concerns Kate (voice of Hayden Panettiere), a rising alpha female in a Canadian wolf pack who's destined to be paired off with Garth (Chris Carmack), the rising alpha male of a rival pack. The food source is becoming scarce, and the two packs' elders, Winston (Danny Glover) and Tony (the late Dennis Hopper), have agreed to unite their kingdoms. But Humphrey (Justin Long), an omega wolf at the other end of the social hierarchy, likes Kate. He's a goofball, and she's a queen in the making. Then Humphrey and Kate are captured by humans, who truck them off to Idaho to repopulate a park there. While struggling to get back home with the assistance of a couple of friendly waterfowl, Humphrey and Kate get to know each other. Contains some gluteocentric humor, the threat of violence and roundabout discussion of wolf reproduction.
"The Social Network" (PG-13, 122 minutes): When a talky movie's talk has been written by Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing"), and those words have been animated by the visual brio of director David Fincher, what looks on paper like a static series of dead-end conversations comes to life as a vital, engaging, even urgent parable for our age. As the dramatized story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who invented the site in 2003 as a Harvard sophomore, the film can't be taken as the literal record of events - which involved Zuckerberg being sued by his partners and competitors. Clearly Sorkin and Fincher had higher aspirations for their film. With surgical precision, exhilarating insight and storytelling flair, Sorkin and Fincher bring viewers along on an infectiously giddy journey of discovery and invention, and also manage to infuse Zuckerberg's story with meaning beyond his own achievements, struggles and flaws. Contains sexual content, drug and alcohol use and profanity.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray January 11: "Army of Shadows: Criterion Collection"; "Dances With Wolves: 20th Anniversary Edition"; "Hot in Cleveland: Season One"; "Piranha"; "Raging Bull: 30th Anniversary Edition."
"Catfish" (PG, 86 minutes): An often jarringly intimate film about a young man's odyssey through virtual life and love on the Internet, this documentary morphs into a mystery in which technology plays a crucial role. The whole story is captured with a digital video camera, constantly filming main character Nev Schulman, a handsome 24-year-old dance photographer. Schulman's story seems almost too good to be true. In 2007, when one of Schulman's photographs was published in a New York newspaper, he received a Facebook message from an 8-year-old girl asking permission to re-create the image in a painting. When she sent him the picture, Schulman was impressed and began a correspondence with the prodigy, eventually "friending" her entire family - including her attractive older sister, Megan. What begins as a movie about an unlikely intergenerational friendship becomes the story of Web-based romance. Contains some sexual references.
"Dinner for Schmucks" (PG-13, 109 minutes): This comedy of humiliation, starring Paul Rudd and Steve Carell, isn't nearly as off-putting as it might have been. Rudd plays Tim, an ambitious young executive desperate to impress his art-dealer girlfriend (the fetching Stephanie Szostak), who is invited by his icy boss (Bruce Greenwood) to attend one of his regular "dinners for idiots." Each guest is supposed to bring the most pathetic idiot he can find. When Tim literally collides with Barry (Carell), the game is afoot. Buck-toothed and goggle-eyed, Barry makes neurotically detailed tableaux with stuffed dead mice. When he meets the blandly affable Tim, he becomes as creepily, bromantically inclined as Jim Carrey in "The Cable Guy." But the film keeps it breezy, with Barry embroiling Tim in a series of ever-more-mortifying mishaps, including a debilitated back, a sundered romance, a reunion with a stalker and an IRS audit. Contains sequences of crude and sexual content, partial nudity and profanity.
"Last Exorcism" (PG-13, 87 minutes): The exorcism that ignites Daniel Stamm's unnerving new chiller is supposed to be a simple hoax performed by a dishonest Protestant preacher who hopes to expose the church's ancient practice as fraud. The Rev. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) has misplaced his faith. Yet the cocky reverend still bristles when someone asks if he's a fraud. Marcus sees value in the service he provides his Deep South community -- that is, until a news story crosses his desk regarding a young boy who is suffocated to death by an amateur exorcist. He invites a camera crew to rural Louisiana where Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) fears his timid teenage daughter, Nell (Ashley Bell), is possessed. Marcus intends to fake Nell's exorcism for the camera's benefit, poking a hole through the ancient religious task. Needless to say, things don't go as planned. Contains disturbing violent content and terror, sexual references and thematic material.
"Machete" (R, 104 minutes): As capital-m Machete, Danny Trejo makes a ferocious first impression as a Mexican cop. In the film's opening minutes, he and his small-m friend are shown severing the heads of three drug-cartel goons with a single sweeping stroke. The event sets the tone for the rest of the movie, whose violence is so absurdly over the top as to be comical. The movie, co-directed by Robert Rodriguez and his longtime editor, Ethan Maniquis, is one big, fat comic book. It's better all around if you can laugh at it, assuming you're able to see humor in such sequences as the one in which Machete disembowels a man and uses his intestines to rappel down a building. Other bits that get a giggle are the casting of action-icon Steven Seagal as a Mexican drug lord and Robert De Niro as a xenophobic U.S. senator whose assassination Machete is framed for, setting the bloody, ridiculous plot in motion. In English and some Spanish with subtitles. Contains lavish violence, obscenity, nudity, sensuality and drug content.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray on January 4: "Big Love: The Complete Fourth Season"; "Case 39"; "Howl"; "The Ricky Gervais Show: The Complete First Season"; "Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends: The Complete Series"; "Top Chef D.C.: The Complete Season Seven."
"The American" (R, 103 minutes): George Clooney brings his most somber, furrowed game face to the role of a hit man named Jack, who as the movie opens finds himself ambushed on an isolated, ice-covered Swedish lake. The odd gunshot notwithstanding, the scene transpires in almost complete silence. It turns out that both the setting and the soundtrack anticipate the chilly study in solitude and emptiness that proceeds to unfolds. Once Jack dispatches his would-be foes in Scandinavia, he departs for Italy, where his boss (Johan Leysen) suggests he lie low for a while in one of Abruzzo's medieval hill towns and await further orders. When Jack starts to work on a high-test rifle for a gorgeous client named Mathilde (Thekla Reuten), he also begins to visit a nearby brothel, strikes up a carnal friendship with Clara (Violante Placido), a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold character. Contains violence, sexual content and nudity.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray on December 28: "Resident Evil: Afterlife"; "Twelve"; "United States of Tara: The Second Season."
"Easy A" (PG-13, 92 minutes): Enhanced by a wicked sense of humor, Will Gluck's movie showcases characters with personality who make you wish you had them on speed dial. In this case, the charming lead is Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone), a girl so clever that even when she's preparing for her first kiss, her chosen boy marvels at how she "talks like a grown-up." The film opens with Olive broadcasting a confession over the Internet, recounting the sordid episodes that caused her current predicament of friendlessness with a side of bad reputation. It all started with a small lie to get out of camping with her best friend's hippie parents. But her excuse spirals into a tale of "sexy Glade candles" and lost virginity. After that piece of gossip blankets the school, guys she doesn't even know are suddenly bombarding Olive with attention. But when she agrees to help a bullied gay friend by pretending to sleep with him, she learns that there's a thin line between sexy and slutty. Contains mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and drug material.
"Salt" (PG-13, 90 minutes): "Salt," a ludicrous but somehow credible spy thriller starring Angelina Jolie, delivers a swift, super-charged kick in the pants. Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, who may or may not be a Russian mole in the CIA. When a defector blows her cover -- or does he? -- Salt takes it on the move, leading her fellow agents (played by Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor) on a breakneck chase from Washington to New York and finally down to the White House, where she blows through squads of Secret Service. With its plot involving Russian sleeper spies and assassinations, it has all the makings of a sleek, even au courant political thriller on par with such greats as "Three Days of the Condor" and "The Manchurian Candidate." But all the preposterous demolition-derby action puts it squarely in the "Die Hard" camp: It's popcorn pulp that collided with a far more sober and crafty grown-up movie. Contains intense sequences of violence and action.
"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" (PG-13, 113 minutes): Michael Douglas makes a triumphant return to form as Gordon Gekko, one of American cinema's great villains in the 23-years-later sequel to the movie that captured the go-go '80s. In its own way, this film evinces just as strong a hold on its times, when terms like "subprime" and "credit default swaps" -- which would have been meaningless two decades ago -- are the lingua franca of the financial realm. The crimes that Gekko went to jail for in Oliver Stone's original film now seem like child's play compared with the shady deals his spiritual heirs have been confecting during his years in prison. Now released, Gekko has renounced his past and published a book called "Is Greed Good?," a clever turnabout on his famous line from the first film. With style, wry humor and a healthy dose of cautionary polemic, Stone has made some of our troubling recent history great fun to watch. Contains brief strong profanity and thematic elements.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray December 21: "Devil"; "Family Guy: It's a Trap!"; "Soul Kitchen"; "Step Up 3."
"Legend of the Guardian: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" (PG, 90 minutes): "Through our gizzards, the voices of the ages whisper to us, and tell us what's right," intones a dignified owl in the sepulchral inflections of Hugo Weaving. How you respond to this bit of feathery hokum will determine how you'll feel about this film, which combines very old-fashioned storytelling with an of-the-moment 3-D ticket price. Does its majesty send a shiver up your spine? Or does the very idea of an animated owl delivering this line induce -- pardon me -- hoots of laughter? The animated film follows two owlet brothers whose destinies come into conflict. Owlnapped by a clan of evil owls, the brothers are pulled into a plot to enslave all of owlkind. Kludd (voiced by Ryan Kwanten) eagerly signs on as a soldier in the Pure Ones' army, while Soren (Jim Sturgess) escapes to seek out a legendary flock of warrior owls who protect owlkind from owl evil. Contains scenes of scary owl action.
"The Town" (R, 130 minutes): A big, ambitious action crime thriller directed by Ben Affleck, this film is a smart, bold genre exercise that's enormous fun to watch, harking back to gritty urban thrillers of the 1970s with an assured sense of tone and style. Affleck has cast himself in "The Town's" lead role of Doug MacRay, a native of Boston's tough Irish Charlestown neighborhood, which as an opening title card informs us, has produced more bank and armored car robberies than any place in the United States. Doug and his best friend, Jem (Jeremy Renner), are lifelong members of one of Charlestown's most notorious and successful crews. When the guys rob a bank and take a manager hostage, the episode sparks a series of events that leads Doug to question whether he's ready to leave Charlestown's tribal life of murder and mayhem while being pursued by an FBI agent (Jon Hamm). Contains strong violence, pervasive profanity, sexuality and drug use.
"The A-Team" (PG-13, 117 minutes): Co-starring Bradley Cooper, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Sharlto Copley, this film engages in the same blurry, incoherent close-up action to which young filmgoers have now become accustomed. During a preamble set in the Mexican desert, we meet the guys: the unflappable Hannibal Smith; Face, the ladies' man; Murdock, the crazy-like-a-fox pilot; and Bosco "B.A." Baracus, the Mohawked muscleman. The movie proceeds to ever-more-risible lengths to up the action ante. In case watching a guy machine-gun his enemies from atop a tank isn't enough, the filmmakers treat viewers to an elaborately staged climax at the Los Angeles piers. Jessica Biel also appears as one of Face's love interests. Between the electric baby-blues of Cooper, men worshipfully assessing one another's Ranger tattoos, and a final-act cameo from a male heartthrob, this film might be selling itself as an action flick, it's really just a hopeless bromantic. Contains intense sequences of action and violence throughout, profanity and smoking.
"Cyrus" (R, 92 minutes): This movie announces its confrontational intentions from the get-go, when in the opening scene the film's hero, John (John C. Reilly), is interrupted in an intimate moment by his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener), who has stopped by to tell him she's getting remarried. Later, John meets Molly (Marisa Tomei), a knockout who thinks his penchant for drunken confessions and public urination is kind of cute. The future looks bright for John and Molly, until he discovers that she has been hiding something. That would be her 21-year-old son Cyrus, played by Jonah Hill. He lives in a deeply enmeshed relationship with his devoted mother, who has home-schooled him and encourages his techno-emo noodlings on synthesizer keyboards. When John meets Cyrus, his face reflects the very questions come up for the audience: Is this kid gifted? Or is there something darker at the core of his devotion to his mom? Contains profanity and sexual material.
"Despicable Me" (PG, 95 minutes): The nasty streak that animates its protagonist, a hollow-eyed supervillain named Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), is so deep and wide as to seem insurmountable. But the film turns into an improbably heartwarming, not to mention visually delightful, diversion. After another evildoer impresses the world by stealing the Great Pyramid of Giza, Gru looks for his big comeback and hits on the idea of stealing the moon. He adopts three sweet girls from an orphanage run by a sadistic Southern belle (Kristen Wiig), and, along with an army of tiny yellow "minions," begins to bring his plan into action. Carell's expert timing is in full force as his character tries mightily to resist the parental tug of his three young charges. The film features some ace voice talent, including Russell Brand as Gru's elderly henchman, Dr. Nefario, Jason Segel as Gru rival Vector and Will Arnett as the president of the Bank of Evil. Contains rude humor and mild action.
"Exit Through the Gift Shop" (R, 87 minutes): A celebration of pranksterism and perhaps a superb prank in its own right, this documentary captures the outlaw, monkey-wrenching glee of the graffiti artists who became art stars at the turn of this century. It purports to be directed by Banksy, the shadowy British street artist whose stencils of rats and puckish acts of mischief have made him a huge international success. Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman living in Los Angeles, turns out to be the real star here, even though the film features Banksy and the equally famous Shepard Fairey. The film offers an absorbing glimpse of a bracingly subversive slice of the culture, as well as some tantalizing images of Banksy at work. It may raise a lot of questions, but they're all the right ones. Contains profanity.
"Micmacs" (R, 105 minutes): Fate, revenge and imagination at its most extravagant propel "Micmacs," Jean-Pierre Jeunet's whimsical story of a man named Bazil (Dany Boon), who embarks on a labyrinthine mission to destroy two Paris arms manufacturers. After his father is killed in North Africa by a land mine and, later, when he's seriously wounded himself by an errant bullet, Bazil vows revenge on the arms dealers who ruined his life, joining ranks with a rag-tag underground community of gleaners, tinkerers and urban castaways. Infused with an eccentric, wildly imaginative visual design, a stealthily dynamic camera and a sensibility inspired by Charlie Chaplin, Jacques Tati, Rube Goldberg and Tex Avery, this film brings an infectious note of caprice to the old-fashioned caper film, sending Bazil and viewers alike on an increasingly loopy journey through a Paris that is both modern and nostalgically timeless. Contains some sexuality and brief violence. In French with subtitles.
"Mother and Child" (R, 125 minutes): Rodrigo García brings his finely calibrated sense of drama to the subject of adoption in this film with characteristic restraint and insight. Annette Bening plays Karen, who gave her baby up for adoption at 15. Naomi Watts plays Elizabeth, Karen's biological daughter, now a successful lawyer. In a parallel story line, Lucy (Kerry Washington) decides to adopt and meets a potential birth mother named Ray (Shareeka Epps). In a series of spiky, highly charged encounters, the filmmaker creates intimate, refreshingly frank portraits of women coming to grips with the joy, grief, unresolved longing and ineffable mystery that make the adoption narrative such an abiding cinematic fascination. García examines Karen's guilt, Elizabeth's abandonment issues, the eternal question of nature vs. nurture, but too often plays into tired stereotypes about adoption. Contains sexuality, brief nudity and profanity.
"Nanny McPhee Returns" (PG, 108 minutes): Emma Thompson reprises her 2005 role as the title character, a strict old bag, who looks more Roald Dahl than Mary Poppins. Her appearance is startling: Along with some spectacularly hairy moles, Nanny McPhee touts a bulbous nose, a unibrow and one colossal front tooth. But her physical disarray is balanced by her supernatural ability to clean up a chaotic scene. Such is the plight of Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a quirky, loving mother who tries to protect her children from the horrors of World War II. To complicate matters, her scheming brother-in-law wants her to sell her half of the family farm so he can pay off gambling debts, and her hoity-toity niece and nephew are visiting from London. As expected, the Green children are at odds with their spoiled big-city counterparts. One slam of Nanny McPhee's cane and the kids are abusing themselves instead of one another. Contains rude humor, some language and mild thematic elements.
"The Other Guys" (PG-13, 107 minutes): Steve Coogan brings a squirrelly charm to the role of David Ershon, a Bernie Madoff-style bad guy whose financial chicanery is the focus of the investigation in this comedy about a pair of wildly mismatched cops, played by Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell. As Allen Gamble, an embarrassingly nebbishy police accountant, Ferrell is the geeky yin to Wahlberg's hyper-macho yang, represented by Terry Hoitz, a disgraced former hot shot who has been exiled to desk duty after an accidental shooting. Gamble is Hoitz's punishment. And we're the ones who reap the rewards. The title itself presents Gamble and Hoitz as alternatives to even bigger jerks, played by Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson. As supercops Danson and Highsmith, they're what Gamble and Hoitz aspire to become, even after the film dispenses with the flashy, high-wire duo in a gloriously ignominious -- and hilarious -- end. Contains pervasive crude language, sexual humor, brief sensuality, gunplay, vehicular mayhem and assorted comedic violence.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray Dec. 14: "24: The Complete Eighth Season"; "Army Wives: Complete Fourth Season"; "Gasland"; "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work"; "True Grit: Blu-ray."
"Inception" (PG-13, 148 minutes): This highly anticipated science-fiction thriller by writer-director Christopher Nolan opens with a dramatic shot of huge waves breaking on a nameless shore. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) makes his living navigating the minds of other people, sharing their dreams and stealing ideas in an elaborate psychological gambit known as "extraction." Cobb has worked mostly with businesses engaged in super-complicated corporate espionage. But rather than steal an idea, a client named Saito (Ken Watanabe) hires Cobb to plant one in the mind of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), the would-be heir to an energy conglomerate, in a process called "inception." It's a tough job, and Cobb proceeds to assemble a crack team of dream-weavers to help him pull it off, including a wily forger named Eames (Tom Hardy), a chemist named Yusuf (Dileep Rao) and a young architect named Ariadne (Ellen Page). Contains sequences of violence and action.
"Shrek Forever After" (PG, 98 minutes): The Shrek we meet at the start of this film is a shell of an ogre: mean and green on the outside, but all mellow yellow inside. In an attempt to get back some of his mojo, Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) for 24 hours in his old life. In return, Rumpelstiltskin gets to take a day from Shrek's life. Rumpelstiltskin picks the day Shrek was born, meaning that, while Shrek now finds himself in a world of responsibility, it's also a world in which all the good he's done has had no effect. He didn't rescue his wife, Fiona (Cameron Diaz). Rumpelstiltskin is now king and the kingdom a police state run by witches who hunt down ogres. Fiona is the leader of the ogre resistance movement. Fortunately, there's an escape clause: If he and Fiona share "true love's kiss," Shrek gets his life back. All he has to do is make Fiona fall in love with him -- all over again. If he doesn't, he'll evaporate come sunrise. Contains slapsticky action and bathroom humor.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray Dec. 7: "The Bob Hope Collection"; "Cronos: Criterion Collection"; "A Dog Year."
"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" (PG-13, 121 minutes): In this installment of the "Twilight" series, 17-year-old heroine Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) inches ever closer to becoming a vampire and joining her forbidden love, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Bella is also being pursued by Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is amassing an army of "newborn" vampires to wreak vengeance on Bella and the Cullen clan. With all the talk about the Big Change to come and Bella longing for physical intimacy with Edward and Edward valiantly resisting, the cardinal "Twilight" themes of longing, chastity and protection are stronger than ever. More deeply psychological than the first two, "Eclipse" goes further not just in advancing the story but also illuminating the tension that Bella embodies -- between autonomy and surrender -- and clarifying her desire to become a bloodless being with no human connections. Contains intense sequences of action and violence, and sensuality.
"Going the Distance" (R, 103 minutes): When record-company flunky Garrett (Justin Long) meets newspaper intern Erin (Drew Barrymore) one summer in New York, there's no expectation that the relationship will go anywhere. He's on the rebound, having just broken up with someone that night. And she's about to leave town to return to journalism school on the West Coast. Cue the marijuana-induced, millennial-generation bonding followed by a standard-issue falling-in-love montage featuring surf frolicking. Fast-forward to the airport, where they suddenly announce that they're crazy about each other. Neither makes enough money to visit more frequently than once every few months. So, between the occasional rutting-filled holiday weekend, they have to resort to phone sex, late-night Skype-ing and texting each other every five minutes, much to the annoyance of Garrett's friends. Contains graphic sexual humor, frequent obscenity, sensuality, brief nudity and drug use.
"Knight and Day" (PG-13, 109 minutes): Roy Miller (Tom Cruise) is, in his own words, good at what he does. A master of hand-to-hand combat who can put a bullet exactly where he wants it, he's also unfailingly polite. It's no wonder June Havens (Cameron Diaz) falls for him when they meet on a flight. He's cute, charming, smart and almost freakishly competent. Too bad that trouble, in the form of gun-toting government agents and an arms dealer's ruthless henchmen, is following him -- and now her -- all over the globe. The film follows Roy and June as they bounce from country to country, all while Roy is trying to protect a nebbishy inventor and keep his top-secret invention out of the wrong hands. As an ordinary woman caught up in a world of jet-setting espionage, Diaz makes a delicious comedic and romantic foil to Cruise's Roy. Yes, at first she's a little freaked out by the people dropping like flies all around him, but she soon shows herself to be a capable partner. Contains action violence, mild obscenity and brief suggestive humor.
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (PG, 109 minutes): This live-action film stars Nicolas Cage as Balthazar Blake, an ancient wizard at work in modern-day New York. Though it is based loosely on Disney's animated classic "Fantasia," the connection is tenuous. This, despite a sequence in the new movie that depicts out-of-control animated mops and buckets, as in the old one. The CGI upgrade, although visually impressive, lacks the charm of the hand-drawn original. It follows a geeky wizard-in-training named Dave (Jay Baruchel) and his grizzled mentor (Cage). Dave is a kind of chosen one -- a powerful yet unseasoned sorcerer known as the "Prime Merlinian" -- who, prophecy foretells, will one day rise up to defeat the forces of black magic, in the person of evil sorcerer Horvath (Alfred Molina) and his sidekick, a Vegas-style magician named Drake (Toby Kebbell). Contains fantasy action and violence, mildly crude language and brief bathroom humor.
"Vampires Suck" (PG-13, 82 minutes): "Vampires Suck," is a painfully unfunny "Twilight" spoof. Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have set their comedic crosshairs on the most obvious of targets: the hugely successful film franchise based on the equally successful novels by Stephenie Meyer. The plot is based on a pastiche of moments from the first two "Twilight" films, "Twilight" and "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." Becca (Jenn Proske) moves to a glum little town called Sporks. There she listens to teen-angst mixes on her iPod, engages in desperately awkward conversations with her single father (Diedrich Bader of "The Drew Carey Show") and eventually finds herself torn between Edward (Matt Lanter), a vampire who "looks like he's constipated" and sparkles improbably in the sunlight, and Jacob (Chris Riggi), a kindhearted werewolf who is contractually obliged to remove his shirt every 10 minutes. Contains sexual content, comic violence, language and teen partying.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray Nov. 30: "Fantasia and Fantasia 2000: Special Edition"; "Parks and Recreation: Season 2"; "The Special Relationship."
"Eat Pray Love" (PG-13, 133 minutes): Julia Roberts portrays author Elizabeth Gilbert as she recovers from a disastrous divorce, painful rebound relationship and general spiritual ennui on a year-long trip through Italy, India and Bali. The book's rabid fans are likely to feel well served by Ryan Murphy's adaptation, which hews pretty faithfully to Gilbert's memoir. And even newcomers, men included, can enjoy being swept up in the film's lavish third chapter, where Gilbert meets a seductive Brazilian named Felipe (Javier Bardem) and embarks on a luscious love affair. Her supporting characters get more time in India, where Gilbert meets "Richard from Texas," played here by Richard Jenkins as a broken man healing his scars through bravado and spiritual seeking. It's in India that Gilbert makes peace with her ex-husband, played by Billy Crudup in a thankless but accomplished performance. Contains brief strong profanity, some sexual references and male read nudity.
"The Expendables" (R, 103 minutes): This action thriller written and directed by Sylvester Stallone is designed to leave filmgoers feeling pummeled into submission. Just when the film threatens to sink under its own weight, Terry Crews blows a guy's brains out, silhouetted through a backlit doorway, and the entire groaning enterprise levitates on a ludicrous plume of pure camp. Stallone plays Barney Ross, leader of the titular gang of mercenaries with names like Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren); Crews himself plays Hale Caesar. Hired by a man named Mr. Church to unseat a despot in South America, Ross and the boys lay waste to everything they see: At one point Ross, after catching a seaplane, strafes and sets fire to a pier. Later, bullets, knives and bare hands fly as arms and body parts get thrown into the melee. Primarily, this movie is about bros and the bros who love them. Contains strong action and bloody violence throughout, and some profanity.
"I'm Still Here" (R, 108 minutes): The fascinating, frustrating new documentary -- by actor Casey Affleck, who is married to Phoenix's sister Summer and who seems to have been granted unfettered, round-the-clock access -- purports to chart Phoenix's bizarre career suicide since announcing he was quitting movies after his 2008 art-house film "Two Lovers." You'll find yourself wondering one thing as Phoenix snorts coke off the breast of a naked hooker; weeps openly; dives into an audience to assault a heckler during a rap performance and then vomits; and consistently berates his assistants so badly that one of them defecates on his face while he's sleeping. It's this: Why doesn't Affleck put the camera down and do something? Why doesn't Phoenix's manager say anything? Then come the film's closing credits, which include a "cast" list crediting such performers as Affleck's father, Tim, in the role of Phoenix's father. Contains prodigious obscenity, nudity, drug use and some fistfights.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray on Nov. 23: "Flipped," "The Family That Preys," "The Pillars of the Earth," "The Tudors: Complete Series."
"Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" (PG, 82 minutes): Plagued by cheap-looking special effects and a crummy 3-D conversion, this film leans heavily on its only real asset, the cuteness of its fuzzy stars. Kitty is a hairless feline with the voice of Bette Midler who is bent, natch, on world domination. Opposing her are a team of super-spies: a cat with the voice of Christina Applegate, and two dogs, Butch and Diggs (Nick Nolte and James Marsden, respectively). Butch is the old pro; Diggs is the unreliable rookie. The three are tasked with protecting a pigeon (voice of Katt Williams) who has gotten hold of secret blueprints that could endanger Kitty's plan. Yes, there are references to "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Lethal Weapon." Yes, there are fire hydrants. Yes, there's a ball of yarn that's actually a bomb. The only thing that might surprise you is the waterboarding joke, although the surprise is not a pleasant one. Contains animal action and humor.
"Disney's A Christmas Carol" (PG, 96 minutes): The umpteenth iteration of the holiday classic -- about the miserly, miserable Ebenezer Scrooge and his Christmas Eve redemption at the hands of a trio of ghosts -- gets a manic makeover under the direction of Robert Zemeckis, who applies the same motion-capture animation he used to mixed effect in "The Polar Express" to create a fable that is by turns antic, scary, sweet and, in the end, slightly soulless. This, despite the Herculean efforts of the voice cast, which includes Jim Carrey as Scrooge and the ghosts that visit him, and Gary Oldman as Scrooge's dead partner, Jacob Marley, Scrooge's clerk, Bob Cratchit, and Cratchit's son Tiny Tim. Just because something can be done with computers doesn't mean it should be. Make no mistake. Dickens's story has good bones. And its lesson -- that it's never too late to make a difference in someone else's life -- more than carries the day. Contains creepiness.
"The Kids Are All Right" (R, 106 minutes): This is the perfect midsummer movie, a comedy about a flawed-but-functional family that captures the drama of growth and separation in all its exhilaration and heartache. Eighteen-year-old Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and her little brother, Laser (Josh Hutcherson), are pretty typical teens growing up in Southern California today: They're good kids, even if they roll their eyes at their overprotective mother. Actually, make that mothers: Joni and Laser have two moms, one a doctor named Nic (Annette Bening), the other a dreamer named Jules (Julianne Moore). They've clearly formed a close, healthy family, which makes it all the more disruptive when Laser persuades Joni to find their biological father, Paul, a bedroom-eyed underachiever. Paul is the last guy anyone would consider a threat, but when Joni and Laser undertake to find out about him, his presence shakes the family. Contains strong sexual content, nudity, profanity and teen drug and alcohol use.
"The Last Airbender" (PG, 95 minutes): Noah Ringer plays the title role of Aang, a messianic child with the power to manipulate all four elements. Meant to be something akin to the young Dalai Lama, Aang is still an avatar in training. Having run away from the monastery where he was being groomed for his role, Aang left before he had mastered control of water, earth and fire. His only real expertise is in the "bending" of air. That means he can stir up mini-tornadoes with his hands, and blast people with puffs of strong wind. Katara and Sokka (Nicola Peltz and Jackson Rathbone), a teenage earthbender and her brother, team up with Aang to do battle with firebender Zuko. Zuko is hoping to capture Aang so that his people, known as the Fire Nation, can suppress the Earth, Air and Water tribes. He has been banished by his father, the Fire Lord Ozai (Cliff Curtis), until he returns with the prize. Contains martial arts and mildly violent action.
"Lottery Ticket" (PG-13, 95 minutes): A long Fourth of July weekend is all that stands between recent high school graduate Kevin (played by rapper Bow Wow) and a $370 million dollar jackpot. Owner of the winning ticket, Kevin can claim his prize once the next workday begins, but until then he has to contend with the other inhabitants of his housing project, including a gold digger, a muscley ex-con and a wealth of questionably intentioned friends. Most people in such a quandary would, perhaps, hide in a closet at a friend's house. But co-writers Erik White (who also directs) and Abdul Williams have the young man make decisions far beyond the potential for suspended disbelief. Disclosing his new wealth to the whole neighborhood? Check. Taking money from a loan shark with a brigade of Bentleys in a dark warehouse? Check. Getting busy with an unabashed gold digger who wants to be his "baby mama"? Yes, check. Contains sexual content, language including a drug reference, violence and brief underage drinking.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray Nov. 16: "Avatar: Three-Disc Extended Collection," "Best Worst Movie," "The Extra Man," "The Complete Metropolis," "Modern Times: Criterion Collection," "The Night of the Hunter: Criterion Collection."
"Antichrist" (NR, 104 minutes): A horror film tricked out in the trappings of psycho-sexual dynamics and exegetical musings, this latest provocation from Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier qualifies as torture porn for art-house fans. Von Trier has made a specialty of female martyrdom and putting his actresses through hell. Here, Charlotte Gainsbourg plays an unnamed woman grieving the loss of her young son. When she and her therapist husband (Willem Dafoe) repair to their cabin in the woods, they plunge into a battle between irrational, "female" nature and logical, "male" reason, a fight that culminates in the film's shocking final moments featuring graphic scenes of sexual mutilation and torture. The film finally embodies the contradiction of von Trier: He's a gifted, even visionary, artist mired in his own pulp pretentiousness. Contains brief scenes of graphic sexuality, as well as torture, mutilation, bloody violence, nudity and disturbing images and thematic material.
"Charlie St. Cloud" (PG-13, 99 minutes): Zac Efron plays the titular Charlie, a young man whose guilt and grief over his 11-year-old brother's death -- in a car Charlie was driving -- has paralyzed him emotionally. The scenes in which he plays catch with dead brother Sam (Charlie Tahan), with whom Charlie has a daily play date in the woods, are particularly touching. And when Tess (Amanda Crew), a former high school classmate of Charlie's, tries to reconnect with him, Charlie's reluctance to allow himself real-world pleasure is almost palpable. A promising high school sailor with an athletic scholarship to Stanford, Charlie has put his plans -- and his life -- on hold after Sam dies, taking on a job as cemetery caretaker so that he can be near his brother. Five years after the accident, when Charlie and Tess start falling for each other, Charlie's connection to Sam, or Sam's spirit, is threatened. Contains brief crude language, mild sensuality, a bar fight and a frightening car accident.
"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" (PG, 108 minutes): Based on a graphic novel, this hyper-kinetic pop-culture pastiche stars Michael Cera as the title character, a 22-year-old Lothario and would-be rocker who meets the girl of his dreams, then sets out to defeat her seven exes to gain her love. Love, actually, has little to do with it in a story populated by progressively snarkier, self-involved characters. Stripped of his doe-eyed looks and indie-nerd style, Pilgrim is actually a selfish jerk; Ramona V. Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) isn't much warmer, looking on with a blase shrug as her suitor risks life and limb on in her behalf. The two are surrounded by a posse of equally snarly, eye-rolling hipsters. The story and characters of the film are negligible. But fans of the novel aren't likely to care, reserving their most passionate interest for how director Edgar Wright has brought their precious antihero to the screen. Contains stylized violence, sexual content, profanity and drug references.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray: "Elia Kazan Film Collection," "The Golden Girls 25th Anniversary Collection," "Grown-Ups," "Love Ranch," "Ramona and Beezus," and "Sherlock Holmes."
"Toy Story 3" (G, 103 minutes): Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack) and their toy-box friends return to the screen in a film set during the week before Andy goes to college. Buzz and Jessie and the gang are sent to a day-care center that winds up being, as one survivor puts it, a place of squalor and despair, "run by an evil bear who smells of strawberries." The toys' break-out from the day-care center winds up being the ballast of the film. Woody meets a new group of toys, including a hedgehog who approaches pretend tea parties with the thespian seriousness of Daniel Day-Lewis. Ultimately, every "Toy Story" movie is not just about the film's plot or narrative, but the stories the characters want to be in when Andy plays with them. It's just this deep sense of longing that will bring adult viewers to that Disney-approved point of smiling even as they weep openly. Contains some themes that may be frightening for the youngest viewers.
Also on DVD November 2: "The Bing Crosby Collection," "The Bridge on the River Kwai: Collector's Edition," "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "The Goonies 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition," "The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series," "The Sound of Music 45th Anniversary Edition."
"The Girl Who Played With Fire" (R, 129 minutes): In the second in a series of films based on Stieg Larsson's best-selling mysteries, we learn a bit more about Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the computer hacker and avenging angel introduced in the first film. "Fire" manages to reveal more of the old hurts that drive her. Having used her high-tech skills in to help her sometime lover, investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), solve an old murder, she has now fled Sweden, only to find that she has been implicated in a triple homicide, in which one of the victims is her parole officer. (The others are a journalist and his girlfriend, both of whom were working with Mikael on an exposé) This pulls Lisbeth back into Mikael's orbit. But for much of the film, the two remain apart, communicating only via e-mail while Mikael tries to clear Lisbeth's name and while Lisbeth tries to stay one step ahead of the law. Contains strong, violent imagery, sex, nudity, obscenity and smoking. In Swedish with English subtitles.
"Sex and the City 2" (R, 140 minutes): This movie picks up the story of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her friends Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) two years after the last film ended. Carrie, happily married to Mr. Big (Chris Noth), has been feathering their handsome Upper East Side nest, while the others navigate motherhood, careers and menopause. As the story takes them to a freebie junket in Abu Dhabi, the script visits one indignity after another upon "the girls," from Miranda's desperate whoops of fake glee to Samantha's compulsive penchant for dirty puns. Carrie & Co. run amok, dressed like the offspring of Barnum & Bailey and Alexis Carrington, making jokes about burqas and, in Samantha's case, engaging in exhibitionistic displays that border on the psychotic, making a mockery of the surface pleasures that the series could always be counted on to provide. Contains strong sexual content and profanity.
"Winter's Bone" (R, 100 minutes): Adapted from Daniel Woodrell's novel, this movie limns the impoverished backwoods culture of the Ozark Mountains in southern Missouri, a landscape of drug labs, rural detritus and foreclosed hopes. Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), 17, is trying to keep her fragile household together, taking care of her younger siblings, as well as her invalid mother. Her father, Jessup, has been away for weeks when a sheriff arrives to tell her that he was arrested for cooking meth and has put the family's house up as bond. He's due in court, and if Ree can't find him, she'll lose her home and her family will be torn apart. Co-written and directed by Debra Granik, "Winter's Bone" teeters uncomfortably between patronizing its hard-bitten characters and romanticizing their folkways, from the gorgeous musical interludes that punctuate the film to their terse rhetorical flourishes. Contains drug material, profanity and violence.
Also on DVD October 26: "Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy."
"Holy Rollers" (R, 89 minutes): Jesse Eisenberg plays Sam Gold, an innocent 20-year-old breaking away from his overbearing family. Older, wiser characters introduce him to girls, booze and nightclubs. He stutters through awkward romantic encounters, saying things like, "I think I should talk more -- or less, I can't tell." The film is based on the true story of a Hasidic drug ring in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the late 1990s. Sam is recruited to carry the "medicine" from Amsterdam to New York in his suitcase. The central conflict of the film is whether Sam will stay a drug mule or return to his traditional Jewish community. As Sam slides deeper into his role as a drug mule, the business skills he learned in his father's humble fabric shop on Delancey Street serve him well in his negotiations with kingpins. That's just about the only upside to this one-dimensional depiction of the Hasidic Judaism, and it's no match for a flood of serotonin. Contains drug content throughout and brief sexual material.
"Oceans" (G, 87 minutes): This French-made Disneynature movie that was released on Earth Day, is 87 minutes of gorgeous visuals of curious sea creatures set to soaring orchestral music. But for all it does to please the eyes and ears, it does nothing to engage the brain. The narrator, Pierce Brosnan, rarely tells viewers about the wildlife's mating rituals, hunting tricks or even which ocean they live in. Instead, he says such things as "Big fish eat little fish." Wow, thanks for clearing that up, 007! There's neither a narrative arc nor organizing principles of any kind. It's not like the film starts in the Pacific and travels to the Indian or starts in shallow water and plunges deeper as it goes on. Instead, it flits from creature to creature with no transitions in between. Contains wildlife violence.
"Predators" (R, 106 minutes): Adrien Brody plays the de facto leader of a bunch of terrestrial tough guys who have been transported to an alien game preserve, where they must use their survival skills to avoid being killed by the same bloodthirsty critters that first stalked Ah-nuld in the 1987 "Predator." Black-ops agent Royce is hurtling pell-mell through the sky after being air-dropped into an unfamiliar jungle. When his parachute opens, he lands with a thud next to seven other battle-hardened warriors, including: a Russian soldier (Oleg Taktarov); an enforcer for a Mexican drug cartel (Danny Trejo); a member of a Sierra Leone death squad (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali); a Japanese mobster (Louis Ozawa Changchien); a convicted murderer and rapist (Walton Goggins); and a token female G.I. (Alice Braga). There's also a doctor (Topher Grace). Stylishly directed by Nimród Antal ("Control"), "Predators" is good if gory grindhouse fun. Contains sexual humor, a drug reference, frequent obscenity and prodigious amounts of violence, gore and alien goo.
Also on DVD October 19: "Bionic Woman: Season One," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Ultimate Edition," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Ultimate Edition."
"How To Train You Dragon" (PG, 90 minutes): Our hero in this briskly paced computer-animated 3-D film, Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel), is a young Viking who has his hurdles cut out for him. Hiccup's father, a burly giant named Stoick (voice of Gerard Butler), sports a belt-length red beard and looks as if he begins each day by downing a dozen mead shooters on his way out to slay scaly adversaries. Hiccup develops his own approach to dealing with the dragon threat; he prefers communication and attempts to help all scaly creatures find their inner Puff (-the-Magic). With a school assignment hanging over him to slay a dragon, Hiccup instead befriends a potential victim, Toothless. Filmmakers Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders are best known for 2002's "Lilo & Stitch"; this one is better -- and even for those seeing it on a flat screen -- funnier. Contains sequences of intense action and scary images, plus brief mild language.
"I Am Love" (R, 120 minutes): The film opens on a snowy evening in Milan, where the wealthy Recchi family has gathered for the birthday of their elderly patriarch, Edoardo (Gabriele Ferzetti). At a dinner overseen with prim propriety by his daughter-in-law Emma (Tilda Swinton), the old man tells the assembled guests that he is handing over the family textile business to his son Tancredi (Pippo Delbono) and Emma and Tancredi's eldest son, Edo (Flavio Parenti). Is that a look of alarm that passes across Emma's face when Edo's grandfather makes his announcement? And just what events are set in motion when an acquaintance of her son stops by with an impromptu gift? Promising director Luca Guadagnino makes the most of a medium too often straitjacketed into shots of people talking to one another, using it to lead viewers to an entirely new realm of the senses, with unsettling, intoxicating results. Contains sexuality and nudity.
Also on DVD October 12: "The Darjeeling Limited," "The Extreme Hangover Edition," "Jonah Hex," "The Tudors: The Final Season."