New out on DVD/Blu-ray for Tuesday November 27.
Lawless is the true story of the infamous Bondurant Brothers: bootlegging siblings who made a run for the American Dream in Prohibition-era Virginia. In this epic gangster tale, inspired by true-life tales of author Matt Bondurant's family in his novel "The Wettest County in the World", the loyalty of three brothers is put to the test against the backdrop of the nation's most notorious crime wave.
Shot beautifully by director John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road), Lawless is an extremely hard boiled drama that truly captures the authenticity of the era in which it is set, and depicts the violence at that time as both unflinching and very brutal.
The performances are superb all around, led by Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke as the three brothers. Also outstanding are Guy Pearce, Dane DeHaan, Jessica Chastain, Wia Wasikowska and Gary Oldman.
I found Lawless to be a compelling and worthy entry into the gangster genre. It showcases flawed and interesting individuals who engage in hard hitting violence, but also have the capacity for emotional depth and humanity. There is some real style and substance to this picture and I would recommend it to anyone who likes their dramas to be gritty and hard hitting.
Seek this one out folks!
In ParaNorman, a small town comes under siege by zombies. Who can it call? Only misunderstood local boy Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is able to speak with the dead. In addition to the zombies, he'll have to take on ghosts, witches and, worst of all, grown-ups, to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.
This excellent new stop motion animated film comes to us from the makers of the quirky and creepy Coraline. It's a wonderful blend of humour and the macabre, and it is highly entertaining and suitable for the whole family, although it may be a tad too scary for really young children.
I thought ParaNorman was exceptional and I would highly recommend it to fans of this style of animation or just horror movie fans in general, as there are plenty of homages to older films of the genre.
This is fun stuff!
Men in Black III (released Nov. 30)
15 years after the original Men in Black hit theatres, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return as Agents J and K. When K's life and the fate of the planet are put at stake, Agent J will have to travel back in time to 1969 in order to put things right. J discovers that there are secrets to the universe that K never told him - secrets that will reveal themselves as he teams up with the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save his partner, the agency, and the future of humankind.
To be perfectly honest, I was completely underwhelmed by this movie. I enjoyed the original 15 years ago, but there just wasn't anything to get excited about with this one. I suppose if you are a die-hard fan of this series then you will want to check it out, but I'm still not entirely sure why they even bothered to make this.
Just wasn't my thing!
Sparkle (released Nov. 30)
Musical prodigy Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) struggles to become a star while overcoming issues that are tearing her family apart. From an affluent Detroit area, and daughter to a single mother (Whitney Houston), she tries to balance a new romance with music manager Stix (Derek Luke), while dealing with the unexpected challenges her new life will bring as she and her two sisters (Carmen Ejogo and Tika Sumpter) strive to become a dynamic singing group during the Motown-era.
I'm likely going to receive some ribbing from those that know me well because I have to publicly admit that Sparkle is actually a good movie. Sure it's a bit melodramatic at times, and it has plenty of clichés in it, but gosh-darnit if it didn't win me over with its toe-tapping, Motown inspired music numbers, slick production values and really solid performances all around. It was kind of sad watching Whitney Houston's strong performance and knowing that she died only three months after this film was completed.
I can't believe I'm recommending Sparkle, but it's a solid piece of entertainment which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Also out this week is the hip-hop flavoured dance flick, Step Up Revolution, the horror thriller The Apparition, and the post-apocalyptic action thriller called The Day.
Blast From the Past
Picking up where I left off last week, here are my top ten films of 2005.
10. Dear Frankie - When I worked at Rogers Video I recommended this particular film to a countless number of customers and it almost always received rave reviews upon return. It's a heartwarming and bittersweet tale set in Scotland, about a mother who goes to great lengths to protect her deaf son from learning the truth about his real father. It stars Emily Mortimer and Gerard Butler. This is a wonderful little film!
9. Munich - Steven Spielberg's powerful drama about the Israeli government's secret retaliation against the Black September terrorist group after the Munich massacre during the 1972 Olympics. It stars Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciarán Hinds and Geoffrey Rush. This expertly crafted and fascinating film gives us a peek behind the curtain of the Mossad and the secret mission they engaged in during a tumultuous time in history. I found it really interesting and riveting.
8. Oldboy - This Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook is the second film in his amazing Vengeance Trilogy. It is a crazy and super violent film about a man that is locked in a hotel room for 15 years without knowing why. When he is finally released he goes on a quest for vengeance in order to get to the truth behind his ordeal. Oldboy is an intense and insane film, not for the squeamish or weak of heart. The inevitable American remake is due out next year directed by Spike Lee. Watch this one first!
7. March of the Penguins - This wonderful documentary, narrated by Morgan Freeman, showcases the yearly journey of the emperor penguins of Antarctica. You'd have to have ice water running through your veins not to smile and be touched by the plight of these adorable and hearty birds. This is something people of all ages can sit down and enjoy watching. Great show!
6. Downfall - This amazing German film depicts the final days of Adolf Hitler's reign of Nazi Germany in 1945. Bruno Ganz gives a searing performance as the Führer and this is without a doubt the best film I've ever seen about the man. The topic certainly won't appeal to everyone, but WW 2 buffs need to see this incredible film. It's definitely a compelling piece of history.
5. Walk the Line - I'm a big Johnny Cash fan, so I was very pleased to see that they got this bio-pic right about him. Joaquin Phoenix nailed the performance, and Reese Witherspoon was great as well, even winning an Oscar for her efforts. Great drama, great music, great entertainment. What more do you need?
4. Match Point - One of my favourite Woody Allen films ever and definitely the best thing he's done in quite some time. You wouldn't even know you are watching a Woody Allen film if no one told you, it's that different from his usual fare. It's a dramatic thriller about class and infidelity with a wonderful twist in it, and it features great performances from Scarlett Johansson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Emily Mortimer and Matthew Goode. Match Point serves up nothing but aces.
3. Brokeback Mountain - Ang Lee is a tremendous filmmaker, and one just has to look at this beautiful and heartbreaking movie for proof of that. This is a tragic love story about two cowboys who fall in love and the hardships they face because of it. I'm still amazed by how many seemingly intelligent and evolved people refused to watch this film when it came out simply because of the subject matter. Oh well, their loss. This is a magnificent piece of artistry that clearly got robbed of the Best Picture Oscar by Crash. A wonderful film and further proof of the great talent that we have lost in Heath Ledger.
2. Sin City - I've stated many times before that I am a comic book geek and Frank Miller has always rated high on my list of cool writers in the medium. When he and director Robert Rodriguez finally decided to bring this neo-noir masterpiece to the big screen I was excited to say the least. Let's just say they nailed it bang on. I love the look, I love the characters, basically I just love everything about Sin City. It may be way too violent for some people but I think that this film is brilliant. I just want to know what is taking so long for the sequel though. C'mon guys!
1. Batman Begins - One of the best superhero films ever made up to that point. After the abomination that was 1997's Batman and Robin, this film completely reenergized the franchise and made people care about Batman again. Christopher Nolan's first film of the trilogy was a darker and far more realistic depiction of the character than had ever been done before, and the incredible cast that he assembled gave it even more gravitas. This was definitely the Batman film that I had always been waiting for and I loved every minute of it. Awesome show!
New out on DVD/Blu-ray is brought to you by Leo's Video's, 2680 Pandosy St. (250)861-8437