Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of June 21:
“Jack the Giant Slayer” is a family-friendly reworking of the familiar fairy tale, set in the medieval kingdom of Cloister, where earnest Jack (Nicholas Hoult) befriends an adventurous princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) whom he rescues from Giants in therealm of Gantua floating high above the clouds.
Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode star in Korean director Park Chan-Wook’s “Stoker,” a sinister black comedy about a mournful teen who becomes infatuated with her uncle.
Reflecting our materialistic culture’s worst instincts, “The Brass Teapot” is a modestly amusing fable about a young suburban couple who buy a mysterious antique that could relieve all their financial angst.
“The Last Exorcism, Part II” is another tale of demonic possession, bringing back Ashley Bell as a
deeply religious Bayou farm girl who tries to put the pieces of her life back together in New Orleans, while “American Mary” is a feminist-themed horror/medical thriller about a demented medical student (Katharine Isabelle) who takes bizarre revenge on the doctor who drugged and raped her.
“21 and Over” is a crude, misogynistic comedy bacchanal by writers/directors Jon Lucas and Scott
Moore, who collaborated on “The Hangover.” It’s only slightly better than the dismal, witless “Movie 43,” the worst picture I’ve seen in many years, despite its star-studded cast of Halle Berry, Richard Gere, Hugh Jackman, Dennis Quaid, Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts and Kate Winslet, among others, who are probably embarrassed.
New documentaries include “Save the Farm” about the need to protect urban green spaces and “The First 70: California’s State Parks Under Threat,” exploring the closing of historic and natural treasures.
Film buffs: TCM’s Greatest Classic Films Legends series now includes Gene Kelly, John Wayne and
Paul Newman, along with Romantic Affairs, featuring Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn.
Kids may enjoy Season 2, Part 2 of “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated,” the final 13 episodes
of the hit Cartoon Network series.
PICK OF THE WEEK: Astutely directed by Dustin Hoffman, “Quartet” is an endearing, deliciously tart comedy, set in an elegant retirement home for musicians, starring Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon and Pauline Collins. It’s a classy, uplifting crowd-pleaser.
Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., June 14:
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson uses brains, not brawn to protect his son in “Snitch,” playing a
trucking company owner who cuts a deal with an ambitious D.A. (Susan Sarandon) to go undercover as an informant and help the DEA catch a drug kingpin in exchange for his son’s freedom.
In “A Bullet to the Head,” Sylvester Stallon plays a gritty, grizzled New Orleans hitman teaming up with a young, techno-savvy detective (Sung Kang) to bring down a hulking killer (Jason Momoa from “Game of Thrones”), sleazy lawyer (Christian Slater) and real estate developer (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).
“Knife Fight” is a savvy contemporary thriller, starring Rob Lowe as a manipulative political strategist, delivering a satirical message about the end justifying the means.
“Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” is a preposterous, blood-splattering, campy horror/action/comedy with Jeremy Renner and Gemma Atherton as revenge-seeking vigilantes.
Michael Landon Jr. directs “Beverly Lewis’ The Confession,” a heartwarming, inspirational drama
about a young Amish woman (Katie Leclerc) searching for her identity.
But don’t bother with “Wrong,” in which writer/director Quentin Duplex strings together a surrealist litany of episodic absurdities centered around a man trying to find his lost dog.
Jerry Aronson’s “The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg” documents American activist counterculture, as epitomized by the iconic poet, visionary and outspoken champion of human rights, while “Honor Flight” follows four elderly Wisconsin veterans who visit the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. And “Hellbound” is Vancouver-based Kevin Miller’s thought-provoking debate about the Christian doctrine of hell.
Foreign film aficionados: French superstar Vincent Cassel plays a 17th century Capuchin preacher who struggles with temptation in Domink Moll’s sexy French thriller “The Monk,” adapted from Matthew Lewis’ cult classic gothic novel.
PICK OF THE WEEK: “Oz the Great and Powerful” is a spirited, family-friendly prequel to “The Wizard of Oz,” delving into the charlatan-behind-the-curtain’s origin story. James Franco stars as
Oscar “Oz” Diggs, a conniving carnival magician who’s transported to a fantastic realm, where he meets a trio of Witches (Mila Kunis, Rachel Weitz, Michelle Williams) and is befriended by a wisecracking, winged monkey and a tiny China Doll.
Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of June 7:
As a Florida con artist, Melissa McCarthy scams a Denver accountant, played by Jason Bateman, in
“Identity Thief,” maxing out his credit cards and tainting his good name,
turning cyber-crime into cinematic chaos.
Bruce Willis is back for the fifth time as durable New York detective John McLane, traveling to Moscow to help is estranged son in the dumbed-down, heavy-handed “A Good Day to Die Hard.”
Suburbanites, including Julia Stiles, America Ferrera and David Cross, get together to gossip
and fight in Todd Berger’s broadly drawn, dark comedy “It’s a Disaster,” facing the apocalypse in the form of nerve-gas attack on Los Angeles, while Keanu Reeves plays a mopey driver for a New York escort service in the forgettable, low-budget “Generation Um…”
“Mental” is a hyperkinetic farce that reunites Australian director P.J. Hogan with Toni Collette, who plays a dope-smoking, knife-carrying nanny hired by the Mayor (Anthony LaPaglia) of Dolphin Heads, a coastal town in Queensland, to care for his five teenage daughters – all of whom think they have mental illness.
“The Last Ride” imagines Hank Williams’ final days with Henry Thomas (who played the child in
“E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial”) as the iconic country music superstar who became a cynical addict. And Deborah Anderson’s “Aroused” gets up close and personal with 16 of the most successful women in the adult film industry.
For family viewing, there’s the animated “Escape from Planet Earth,” a serviceable, sci-fi, escapist diversion, teaching teamwork and preaching family loyalty and love.
For film buffs, “Perfect Understanding” is a rediscovered 1933 Ealing Studios comedy, starring
Gloria Swanson and Laurence Olivier with a screenplay by Michael Powell. There are two, new comprehensive Clint Eastwood collections, along with Mel Gibson’s “Max Max Trilogy’ on Blu-Ray.
For foreign film aficionados, “2+2” in Spanish with English subtitles is the most successful
comedy of all time in Argentina, revolving around swinging suburban couples.
PICK OF THE WEEK: Strangely sentimental, “Warm Bodies” adapts Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” with a zombie twist. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, it’s a paranormal romantic comedy in which heart, humor and the human connection conquer everything, even death.
Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of May 31:
“Dark Skies” is a dire, unsettling alien abduction thriller, starring Keri Russell (TV’s “The Americans”) and Josh Hamilton as suburban parents whose younger son has been having nightmares about a mysterious ‘sandman’ apparition by his bedside at night.
Joe Taslim (“Fast & Furious 6”) stars in “Dead Mine,” the legend of Yasmashita’s Gold, as a treasure hunter who gets trapped in an abandoned Japanese bunker deep in the Indonesian Jungle.
Set Suffolk, England, “The Numbers Station” is about a disgraced CIA Agent (John Cusack) given one last chance: guarding a code operator (Malin Akerman) who receives/sends secret, encrypted messages.
“Battle Earth” is an action-packed sci-fi thriller about a young paramedic who enlists to fight for his planet when extraterrestrials invade the Earth’s atmosphere on a crash course into the Atlantic Ocean.
Inspired by a true ghost story/murder mystery, “A Haunting at Silver Falls” follows teenagers who discover the tormented spirits of twin sisters whose father was condemned to death for their murders. And “Picture Day” follows a teenager learning the difference between sex, intimacy and friendship.
“Dorfman in Love,” revolving around Deb Dorfman (Sara Rue), a Valley girl who’s always taken care of others, like her widower father (Elliot Gould) and stingy brother (Jonathan Chase), is an amiable romantic comedy about how she transforms her life and finds true love.
“Of Two Minds” is Doug Blush and Lisa Klein’s award-winning documentary that explores the struggles and successes of a few of the over five million Americans living with bipolar disorder. And “The Loving Story” is the definitive account of the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage: Loving v. Virginia.
PICK OF THE WEEK: Set in the Bavarian countryside just after Germany surrendered in W.W. II, “Lore” is the coming-of-age/survival story of a German teenager (Saskia Rosendhal) who’s left in charge of her younger siblings when her parents are taken into custody for war crimes. As they traipse thru the Black Forest, it becomes a chronicle of the triumph of the human spirit – in a class with Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon.” In German with English subtitles, it’s directed with stunning detachment and restraint by Australian director Cate Shortland.
Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., May 24
Back in 1964, British director Michael Apted began to create a series of documentaries that profiled seven year-old children from diverse socio-economic backgrounds in order to evaluate how class structure affects their lives. Since then, he’s questioned them again every seven years. In “56 Up,” they’re coping with the global financial crisis.
Steven Soderbergh’s “Side Effects” is a far-fetched psycho-thriller about an ex-con (Channing Tatum), his depressive wife (Rooney Mara) and two psychiatrists (Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones) who become involved in their lives; unfortunately, what could have been a cautionary fable or social commentary strains credulity, becoming a lurid murder mystery.
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin are criminal cronies in “Stand Up Guys,” a flimsy, contrived caper that’s filled with formulaic Viagra jokes and sleazy sexual innuendos.
When mystery writer Donald Westlake was alive, he fiercely guarded his hardboiled, highly principled antihero “Parker,” but Westlake died in 2008 and his estate has allowed muscled Jason Statham to become the master criminal who righteously operates within a specific code of honor.
“The First 70” is an awe-inspiring journey through California’s budget-threatened state parks, as young documentary filmmakers highlight the need to keep them open for future generations.
For family viewing, “Adventures of Bailey: A Night in Cowtown” features dogdom’s latest star in the third installment of the popular series. And based on the popular video game, there’s ”Lego Batman: The Movie DC Super Heroes Unite.”
To get youngsters moving, “Dance With Barney” gets their groove on by building confidence learning new steps dino-style, along with “Twinkle Toes Music Video Collection.”
PICKS OF THE WEEK: For adolescents, Richard LaGravanese’s supernatural Southern Gothic love story “Beautiful Creatures,” based on the best-selling series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, explores forbidden romance with Alice Englert, as a teenage ‘spell caster,’ and Alden Ehrenreich, as Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons fear for their future. And for hardcore action fans, “The Last Stand” stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the mild-mannered sheriff of a small Arizona border town who must capture a diabolical Mexican drug cartel kingpin.
Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., May 17:
Set in a stylized Los Angeles, Roman Coppola’s “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” revolves around Charles (Charlie Seen), a successful graphic designer with fame, money and charm. When his girl-friend (Katheryn Winnick) breaks up with him, he spirals into doubt and confusion, relying on his friends and family (Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette).
Based on true events, a Vegas-style 21st birthday bash goes terribly wrong in the horrifying thriller “Stripped,” when the guys discover that the strippers they’re hooking up with actually work for an organ trafficker.
Andrew Marcus’s documentary “Hating Breitbart” explores the life and impact of the late media provocateur Andrew Breitbart, a passionate whistleblower that people either loved or loathed. Along the same lines, Robert Greenwald’s “War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State” highlights four cases where whistleblowers noticed government wrong-doing and exposed the fraud and abuse.
David Alexanian’s “Marley Africa Road Trip” catches up with Bob Marley’s sons Ziggy, Rohan and Robie, travelling to South Africa to continue their father’s legacy and embark on their own journey.
And Andy Mikita’s “Mr. Hockey” focuses on hockey great Gordie Howe, who retired after 25 winning seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, only to go back onto the ice when his sons were drafted by the Houston Aeros.
If you missed Lindsay Lohan’s impersonation of Elizabeth Taylor on Lifetime TV’s Original “Liz & Dick,” you can now judge for yourself whether she captured the essence of one of Hollywood’s greats.
Foreign film aficionados: if you’re a “Game of Thrones” fan, you might enjoy the Swedish action/adventure “Escape,” set in 1363, a decade after the Black Plague has ravaged the land.
PICK OF THE WEEK: Based on David Miller’s best-seller, the Wachowski siblings’ and Tom Tywker’s awe-inspiring “Cloud Atlas” is an unconventional, epic fantasy, a multi-layered narrative filled with flashbacks and flash-forwards, which are meticulously cross-cut with the same actors – Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving – playing a variety of roles in multiple stories, set in different time periods, spanning 500 years.
Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., May 10:
Creepy scares abound in “Mama,” a spooky, supernatural creature feature, starring Jessica Chastain and Nikolj Coster-Waldau, about two feral children who were abandoned in the woods and cared for by an evil, vengeful presence known as Mama.
The screen adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ “Safe Haven” follows a distraught young woman (Julianne Hough) who flees from a suburban crime scene and seeks refuge in a small, sleepy community on the picturesque North Carolina coastline, where she’s wooed by a recent widower (Josh Duhamel).
Actor/writer/director Martin Papazian’s “Least Among Saints” is a touching, true-to-life drama about a combat veteran’s journey to redemption through his service to his troubled 10 year-old neighbor.
Julian Farino’s “The Oranges” is a relationship dramedy in which Leighton Meester plays a free-spirited twentysomething who reluctantly moves back in with her suburban New Jersey parents (Alison Janney, Oliver Platt) and begins an affair with her dad’s best friend (Hugh Laurie).
In “Starlet,” newcomer Dree Hemingway (great granddaughter of Ernest and daughter of Mariel) is an aspiring actress who befriends an elderly woman (Besedka Johnson) in California’s San Fernando Valley.
In Spanish with English subtitles, “The Condemned” is a chilling psychological thriller about the dark and terrible secrets hidden in an old mansion that stir back to life when the original owner returns.
Based on Joann Sfar’s best-selling graphic novel, “The Rabbi’s Cat” – in French with English subtitles – tells the story of a rabbi and his talking cat, a sharp-tongued feline philosopher brimming with scathing humor.
“Superman: Unbound” is the new entry in the ongoing series of DV Universe Animated Original movies with a stellar vocal cast led by Matt Bomer, John Noble, Stana Katic and Molly Quinn.
For tiny tots, “Elmo The Musical” contains Sesame Street’s newest imaginative and math skill-enhancing lessons.
PICK OF THE WEEK: Tom Cruise plays Lee Child’s cool, quirky character in “Jack Reacher,” a fast-paced, action-packed thriller about the search for a sniper who shoots what appears to be five random pedestrians on a Pittsburgh waterfront promenade. Reacher, a former military policeman, suspects there’s more to the mysterious murders.
Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., May 3:
In “The Guilt Trip,” Barbra Streisand plays the widowed mother of an organic chemist/inventor (Seth Rogen) who has a new product he’s trying to pitch to manufacturers/distributors. Sensitive to his mother’s loneliness, he invites her to join him on a road trip while he secretly schemes to reunite her with a lost love, a man she adored before she met and married his father.
Tobey Maguire is a self-effacing, suburban doctor in Jacob Estes’ dark, existential comedy, “The Details,” setting off a chain of events that puts him at odds with his wife (Elizabeth Banks), gets him involved with nosy neighbors (Laura Linney, Ray Liotta) and tangled in a bizarre mess of extortion, infidelity and organ donation.
Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg become adversaries in “Broken City,” a mundane melodrama that unravels the dense web of criminal conspiracies in New York City Mayoral politics.
Having achieved remarkable success creating HBO’s “The Sopranos,” David Chase makes his writing/directing debut with the nostalgic, coming-of-age drama “Not Fade Away” about a garage band caught the rock ’n’ roll shift that took place during the 1960s.
A bright, ecologically concerned 13 year-old (Perla Haney-Jardine) in rural Illinois tries to spread the word about global warming in Jenny Deller’s powerful, heart-wrenching drama “Future Weather,” featuring supporting performances by Amy Madigan, Lily Taylor, Marin Ireland and William Sadler.
In Hebrew with English subtitles, Eytan Fox’s “Yossi” is a follow-up to “Yossi and Jagger,” the poignant love affair between two officers in the Israeli army; it revolves around a dedicated cardiologist whose solitary existence as a closeted gay man in Tel Aviv is shaken by the arrival of a middle-aged woman (Orly Silbertsatz)from his past.
In Spanish with English subtitles, “The Queen of the People” is a political documentary about an unlikely beauty pageant in Caracas in 1944 that became the first universal election in Venezuela.
PICK OF THE WEEK: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro star in “Silver Linings Playbook,” a quirky, off-beat, romantic dramedy, set in Philadelphia, which explores engaging, if dysfunctional relationships between unstable, psychologically damaged people.
Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., April 26:
Sean Penn plays notorious Los Angeles mobster Mickey Cohen in “Gangster Squad” as a team of cops, led by Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling, are determined to bring him down – by any means necessary; extras include deleted scenes, gangland files, stylish tough guys and director Ruben Fleischer’s commentary.
Corruption is pervasive, particularly when it comes to energy concerns. Gus Van Sant’s “The Promised Land” stars Matt Damon as a farm boy-turned-corporate salesman dispatched to rural Pennsylvania to acquire natural gas drilling rights. He’s joined by Frances McDormand and John Krasinksi and opposed by Hal Holbrook, a high-school science teacher who challenges the benefits of fracking. It should be noted, however, that part of this film’s funding came from Image Nation Abu Dhabi, implying, perhaps, that the United Arab Emirates, the world’s third largest oil exporter, may have a vested interest in suppressing U.S. natural gas production.
Out of circulation for years, Aviva Kempner’s Peabody Award-winning “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg” is a humorous, nostalgic documentary about an extraordinary baseball player who transcended religious prejudice to become an American icon; the DVD is brimming with two hours of extras about fielding and hitting in the Golden Age of Baseball.
Werner Herzog’s “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga” is an unforgettable journey to the edge of civilization, where a remote culture thrives in Siberia in some of the harshest conditions on Earth.
In “Thale,” two crime-scene cleaners discover a mythical, tailed female creature in a concealed cellar; never uttering a word, she’s been held captive for decades for reasons that eventually surface.
“K-11” is a riveting jail drama about the plight of a man (Goran Visnjic) who winds up in the Los Angeles County Jail’s transgender unit; filmmaker Jules Stewart is the mother of “Twilight” star Kristen.
PICK OF THE WEEK: Oscar-nominated Naomi Watts stars in “The Impossible,” the harrowing, true story of a British family spending their Christmas holiday on Khao Lak in Thailand when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami hits, sweeping them in different directions; the viscerally vigorous depiction of the tidal wave devastation is staggering. It’s a grim, gritty, graphic chronicle of disaster.
Susan Granger’s DVD update for week of Fri., April 19:
Celebrating the upcoming Earth Day, April 23, “One Day on Earth” is a video time-capsule, a global diary captured during the 24-hour period of October 10, 2010. The breathtaking visual feast includes different cultures, customs and languages while underscoring humanity’s essential connectedness.
Shot over three eventful years, Ben Moses’s documentary “A Whisper to a Roar” focuses on the recent and ongoing struggles for democracy in Egypt, Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Josh Aronson’s meticulously researched and crafted “Orchestra of Exiles” tells the compelling story of Bronislaw Huberman, the world-renown Jewish violinist who fled from Nazi Germany and created the Palestine Symphony Orchestra with Arturo Toscanini as its first conductor.
For a year, Gotham Chopra followed his father, New Age spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, around the world and chronicles his travels in “Decoding Deepak.”
And James Howell’s “Pedal-Driven: A Bikeumentary” delves into the escalating conflict between passionate mountain bikers and the federal managers charged with protecting public lands.
“Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War,” written by Pulitzer Prize-winning CNN correspondent Peter Arnett and narrated by Richard Basehart, is the real story behind the longest, most controversial war in modern history and winner of a National Education Award for Best Documentary.
For an easygoing romance, there’s “Save the Date” in which two sisters (Lizzy Caplan, Alison Brie) view relationships differently.
“A Bottle in the Gaza Sea” is a French drama about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as seen through the long-distance friendship between two teenagers, while in the Czechoslovakian film “4 Some,” two ostensibly ordinary middle-aged couples indulge in wife-swapping on an almost uninhabited Caribbean island.
For family viewing, India’s animated “Delhi Safari” introduces a ragtag crew of animals who take on the human race to protest the destruction of their jungle – with voices supplied by Jane Lynch, Christopher Lloyd, Vanessa Williams, Cary Elwes, Brad Garrett and Jason Alexander.
PICK OF THE WEEK: Violence-obsessed writer/director Quentin Tarantino plays tribute to the Spaghetti Western genre with “Django Unchained,” an indulgent, action-packed, Blaxploitation/revenge fantasy, starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio.