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Cinema Scoop

New out on DVD/Blu-ray this week

New out on DVD/Blu-ray for Tuesday January 15.

     Taken 2

First they took his daughter. Now they're coming for him. Liam Neeson reprises his role as Bryan Mills, the retired CIA agent who stopped at nothing to save his daughter Kim from Albanian kidnappers. Now the father of one of the kidnappers has sworn revenge and takes Bryan and his ex-wife hostage during their family vacation in Istanbul. It's now up to Bryan's daughter to help them escape, but not without some expertise from her father of course.

The bottom line is that if you saw the first film and enjoyed it, then you are going to want to check out this one as well. It follows the same basic formula as its predecessor and has plenty of chasing, shooting, exploding, running, and car crashing to fulfill the typical action movie quota. Sure it's ridiculously implausible and even somewhat stupid at times, but Liam Neeson is his usual dependable self, and he kicks a ton of butt as the agent with a "particular set of skills."

If you want some fun, mindless action then you could do a whole lot worse than renting Taken 2.

     The Possession

Based on a true story, The Possession is the terrifying account of how one family must unite in order to survive the wrath of an unspeakable evil. Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie Brenek (Kyra Sedgwick) see little cause for alarm when their youngest daughter Em becomes oddly obsessed with an antique wooden box she purchased at a yard sale. But as Em's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic, the couple fears the presence of a malevolent force in their midst, only to discover that the box was built to contain a dybbuk, a dislocated spirit that inhabits and ultimately devours its human host.

Basically what we have here is a Jewish themed version of The Exorcist. There have been dozens of these types of films that have come out over the years, so there is nothing overly original about it. That being said, The Possession is still a fairly slickly produced horror thriller that is actually pretty creepy and frightening in parts, and it will surely provide viewers with enough jump scares to keep you entertained.

It isn't perfect by any means, but I think that there is enough here to satisfy horror movie fans.

     To Rome with Love

Woody Allen's latest comedy is set in the romantic city of Rome and deals with the intertwining stories of a worker who wakes up to find himself a celebrity, an architect who takes a trip back to the street he lived on as a student, a young couple on their honeymoon, and a frustrated opera director who has a talent for discovering talented singers.

While this light, amusing farcical comedy is one of Woody's lesser efforts in recent years, it's still not that bad. There are some pretty funny moments throughout and I was fairly entertained by most of it.

Once again he assembles an all-star cast which includes Roberto Benigni, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Penelope Cruz, Judy Davis and Alison Pill.

If you are a big fan of Woody Allen's films and you're in the mood for a light romantic comedy, then you might want to check out To Rome with Love.

Also out this week is the education reform drama Won't Back Down starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, the documentary Samsara which is from the filmmakers who brought us Baraka and features absolutely gorgeous and stunning visuals from all around the world, the latest Nicolas Cage action thriller called Stolen, the late 18th century French drama Farewell, My Queen, and the Spanish mystery chiller Sleep Tight.

     Blast From the Past

Continuing on with my lists, here are my top ten films of 2010.

10. Temple Grandin - Even though this was a made-for-television film from HBO it was still one of the year's best. This fabulously well done biopic tells the true story of an autistic woman who revolutionized practices for the humane handling of livestock on cattle ranches and slaughterhouses. Clare Danes gives arguably her best performance ever as Temple Grandin. This is just a superb film that is well worth seeking out.

9. The Square - This excellent Australian thriller flew under the radar as not too many people have heard of it. If you are any kind of fan of good film noir then you need to discover this gem. A couple who are having a secret affair hatch a plot to steal some money from a local gangster and then things spiral out of control from there. It is full of twists that will leave you gasping, and I will say no more about that. The only star you may recognize is Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Zero Dark Thirty), who happened to write the film while his brother Nash directed it. Keep an eye out for The Square.

8. The Fighter - Director David O. Russell's powerful drama is the true story of boxer Micky Ward and the tumultuous relationship he had with his half-brother Dicky Eklund. Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo all give stellar performances in this multiple Academy Award winning film. There is a lot of depth in this gritty and inspirational film and it is definitely one of the best of the year.

7. Kick-Ass - Famous film critic Roger Ebert may have found this film to be highly offensive and "morally reprehensible" but I thought that it was an absolute blast. Based on the Mark Millar comic book, Kick-Ass stars Aaron Johnson as an ordinary teenager who sets out to become a real-life superhero, calling himself "Kick-Ass". Also starring Nicholas Cage, Mark Strong, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and in her star making performance as "Hit-Girl", Chloë Grace Moretz, Kick-Ass is a jaw-droppingly violent and foul mouthed film that definitely should not be seen by children, but I thought it rocked. Director Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) did a bang up job with this one making it a highly entertaining thrill ride that is just so much fun. Talk about an apt title for a film.

6. The Town - A bank robber falls in love with a woman that was taken as a hostage during a heist and now wants to leave his life of crime behind. Ben Affleck scores a hat trick once again as writer, director and star of this tremendous crime drama. He returns to his Boston roots where he had success with the excellent film Gone Baby Gone, and creates a tension filled thriller that is riveting right until the end. Jeremy Renner is also great in a supporting role which earned him an Oscar nomination. The Town is an expertly crafted film that is simply superb.

5. The Millennium Trilogy - I chose to include all three films together since I saw them all in the same year and they are all interconnected. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest are a trio of fabulous Swedish thrillers based on the popular book series by Stieg Larsson, and they star Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist. The subject matter may be dark and brutal but I highly recommend people check out this fascinating mystery series. These are great films!

4. The Social Network - Beautifully directed by David Fincher and brilliantly written by Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network is a fascinating look at the rise of one of the world's most popular forms of communication nowadays, Facebook. Jesse Eisenberg is excellent as founder Mark Zuckerberg and Andrew Garfield gives a star making performance as co-creator Eduardo Saverin. You wouldn't think that a film about Facebook would be all that exciting, but I found The Social Network to be a compelling, insightful and flawlessly crafted piece of work. This is a tremendous film!

3. True Grit - Being a huge fan of the Coen Brothers I was very curious to see how they would manage to pull off remaking one of the most iconic westerns ever made in 1969's True Grit with John Wayne. I must say though that they did more than an admirable job fashioning a superb tale filled with glorious cinematography. This is one of the best westerns I've ever seen period. The wonderful cast includes Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld and Josh Brolin. Bridges particularly stands out as Rooster Cogburn. He's mean, crotchety and drunk most of the time, but there is a certain charm to the man. True Grit is one of the best films the Coens have ever made. I loved it!

2. Inception - This mind-blowing, visually groundbreaking epic is a science fiction masterpiece by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Dark Knight trilogy) that demands repeated viewings if for no other reason than to properly put all of the pieces to this intricate puzzle together. This is what filmmaking is all about, creating something so original and viscerally stimulating. The idea of entering other people's subconscious in order to steal their dreams and implant new thoughts is mind-boggling to say the least, and in the hands of Nolan it is so expertly done that he makes you believe it might be possible one day. This is such an intelligently done action thrill ride and a film that made me stare at the screen in amazement. Oh yeah, and how about the incredible cast he assembled including Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy and Michael Caine - not bad eh? Inception is an absolutely stunning achievement in film and one that I will surely revisit often. WOW!

1. Toy Story 3 - There is a reason that Toy Story 3 is the highest-grossing animated film of all time and that is that it is simply beautiful. The third installment in this wonderful series by Pixar is a film that has so much universal appeal because it deals with emotions that practically every human being experiences at some point in their life such as love, loss, melancholy and nostalgia. This is a film that is filled with adventure, laughs and dazzling visuals. It is an enchanting and magical piece of work that will literally move you to tears by the end. I'm amazed that the most emotionally rich and satisfying film experience I had that year was in the form of this animated masterpiece. This may very well be Pixar's greatest film yet. I just want to wrap my arms around Toy Story 3 and give it a big hug. What a wonderful film

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