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Cinema Scoop

New out on DVD/Blu-ray this week

New out on DVD/Blu-ray for Tuesday December 4.

     The Dark Knight Rises

It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce Wayne out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.

The Dark Knight Rises is a massive spectacle of epic proportions, and a very fitting end to this amazing trilogy. It's full of great propulsive action and enormous set pieces that boggle the mind and dazzle you with their technical proficiency. If you want eye candy, then this film delivers it in spades.

The cast is tremendous as usual, but I would like to single out the amazing performance by Tom Hardy. He is absolutely frightening as the brutal Bane. He exudes an air of superiority and strength that makes everyone quake in their boots, and he is always a very scary presence whenever he's on the screen.

I think that Christopher Nolan knocked this one out of the park. It's fabulous!

I'd also like to note that for anyone who had issues with the sound mixing in the theatre, you'll be happy to know that the sound quality on the blu-ray is superb and Bane's vocals have really been enhanced and cleaned up.

A must purchase!

     Hope Springs

Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) are a devoted couple, but decades of marriage have left Kay wanting to spice things up and reconnect with her husband. When she hears of a renowned couple's specialist (Steve Carell) in the small town of Great Hope Springs, she attempts to persuade her skeptical husband, a steadfast man of routine, to get on a plane for a week of marriage therapy. Just convincing the stubborn Arnold to go on the retreat is hard enough - the real challenge for both of them comes as they shed their bedroom hang-ups and try to re-ignite the spark that caused them to fall for each other in the first place.

Hope Springs is a charming and heartwarming comedy drama that is likely going to appeal mainly to the more mature segment of the population. The main reason to see it though is clearly for the superb acting talents of Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones who are both quite good in this.

Personally speaking though, I didn't really connect with this film a whole lot and found it all to be too cute and light, but I'm not saying that it's a bad film or anything. It just wasn't exactly my cup of tea. Perhaps in 20 years or so I might want to revisit it and find more to my liking.

This will likely make for a nice rental evening for older couples who have been together for many years.

     The Odd Life of Timothy Green

A childless couple (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) bury a box in their backyard, containing all of their wishes for an infant. Soon, a child arrives, though Timothy Green (CJ Adams) is not all that he appears to be.

The latest family film from Walt Disney is written and directed by Peter Hedges (Dan in Real Life). It's a light hearted fantasy tale obviously intended to tug at one's heart strings.

It didn't work for me though. I found it to be too sentimental and safe and it never really evoked any authentic emotion at all. Sure it's suitable for the whole family, but there are far better family films out there than this gentle trifle.

Also out this week is the documentary about the internationally renowned artist and activist Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, the eight-part miniseries Ken Follett's World Without End starring Ben Chaplin, the hilarious 3rd season of HBO's Eastbound and Down, HBO's Angry Boys, and for the first time on Blu-ray you can now purchase Pixar's Finding Nemo.

     Blast From the Past

Continuing on with my lists, here are my top ten films of 2006.

10. Letters from Iwo Jima - Clint Eastwood's fabulous WW 2 film that depicted the Battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers rather than the American side which is what Hollywood always tended to do. He also released Flags of Our Fathers which did showcase the American side of the battle, but I didn't enjoy that one as much. This is definitely the better of the two. Great film!

9. Apocalypto - Mel Gibson directed this amazing action film set during the decline of the Mayan civilization. It's about a tribesman who escapes human sacrifice and must rescue his family after the capture and destruction of his village. This is a visceral, adrenaline-fueled chase film filled with stunning visuals and excitement. Mel Gibson did a tremendous job with Apocalypto.

8. The Lives of Others - This German film about the secret police in East Berlin known as the Stasi was the Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film that year. It's a powerful, yet understated film that really takes its time allowing the story to unfold, and in doing so creates a palpable sense of tension and suspense throughout. This is a top notch production.

7. Babel - This highly acclaimed and powerful drama was directed by Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu and it received 7 Academy Awards nominations. Featuring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal and Rinko Kikuchi, the film tells 3 interlocking stories that are set in Morocco, Japan, and Mexico and the U.S. It's a character driven film about heartache and loss that is told in a non linear fashion. Babel is a film that truly rewards the patient viewer that chooses to stick with it. I thought it was excellent.

6. Deliver Us from Evil/ Jesus Camp - I chose both of these documentaries for this spot because I loved them both equally and they happen to both involve controversial subject matter involving religion. Deliver Us from Evil tells the story of Oliver O'Grady, a Catholic priest who admitted to having raped and molested at least 25 children in Northern California and how the Church officials chose to conceal the truth. The testimonials from the family members of the victims are absolutely heartbreaking and gut-wrenching to watch, and it's simply astounding that this was allowed to go on for as long as it did. So powerful!
Jesus Camp may have been a documentary, but it was the scariest film I saw that year and put all horror films to shame. It showcases the evangelical indoctrination of children at a charismatic Christian summer camp, where they learn to essentially become radical Christian fundamentalists. It's absolutely infuriating to watch and it made my blood boil to think that there can still be so many people this out of touch with reality. An incredible and truly frightening film that should be seen by as many people as possible.

5. United 93 - This film recounts the events aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked during the September 11 attacks. Director Paul Greengrass does a fabulous job of recreating this horrific tragedy with as much accuracy as is possible given the circumstances. It is a gripping, suspense filled film that has so much tension in it that my knuckles were literally turning whiter as I watched it. It is just so well done. Amazing film!

4. The Departed - Martin Scorsese is one of the most prolific and revered American filmmakers out there and I find it mind boggling that it took him this long to finally get some love from the Academy Awards. And for a remake no less. Granted this is one heck of a remake of the Hong Kong action film Infernal Affairs, and it's arguably one of the best crime thrillers of the past decade. It has a tremendous cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg, and it's filled with plenty of plot twists to keep you on your toes. This is an awesome movie and my favourite Scorsese picture since 1990's Goodfellas.

3. Casino Royale - I am a huge James Bond aficionado and this particular adventure of Agent 007 ranks as the second best Bond film ever, behind only 1964's Goldfinger. Daniel Craig took over the role and really injected some much needed life into this franchise. I love the fact that he portrays Bond as a more flawed and human individual with emotional scars rather than a wisecracking super spy that never feels anything. Casino Royale has spectacular action sequences, but it also contains an intricate and intriguing plot that always holds your attention. This film really set the standard for where this franchise and character need to go in order to maintain popularity for decades to come. Casino Royale rules!

2. Little Miss Sunshine - I loved everything about this quirky, character driven comedy-drama. The tone, the writing, the offbeat characters, and some of the outrageous moments are all note perfect. The cast is terrific and includes Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, Steve Carell, Abigail Breslin, Toni Collette and Paul Dano. I laughed often and hard at many of the situations these people get themselves into. This is a true gem of a picture that demands repeated viewings. So good!

1. Pan's Labyrinth - Guillermo del Toro's beautiful fantasy film is a dark and magical journey into his fabulous imagination. I loved how he blended a World War 2 drama with a fantasy world that is created by a young girl who is trying to cope with the horrific circumstances surrounding her. It features such creative and fantastic creatures and sets that I both marveled at and was creeped out by at the same time. It has a heartbreaking and compelling story to it combined with the fairy tale element that is endlessly fascinating and somewhat visionary. Pan's Labyrinth is Del Toro's masterpiece and easily one of my favourite films of the past decade.

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