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Cinema Scoop

New out on DVD/Blu-ray this week

New out on DVD/Blu-ray for Tuesday January 8.

     Dredd

The future America is an irradiated wasteland. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington DC, lies Mega City One - a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called "Judges" who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner. Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge - a dangerous drug epidemic that has users of "Slo-Mo" experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed.

Hardcore action movie fans should be very pleased with Dredd as it's a high-octane, unrelenting action thriller filled with plenty of excessive and brutal violence. The visuals are quite well done as well, especially the sequences of super-cool slow-motion photography which are utilized to great effect in order to demonstrate the affects of the "Slo-Mo" drug.

Karl Urban does a fine job portraying Dredd with a gruff demeanor, and his constant scowl sufficiently showcases his menacing side. He kicks plenty of ass and doesn't mess around. A heavily scarred and almost unrecognizable Lena Headey is also excellent as the ruthless villain Ma-Ma.

If you are in the mood for an intense, hard boiled film with plenty of gunplay, carnage and a particularly high body count, then I think that Dredd will satisfy your needs. This was actually quite fun and much better than I expected it to be.

Check it out!

     Frankenweenie

This latest stop-motion animated film from the creative mind of Tim Burton is a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life - with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor's fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new "leash on life" can be monstrous.

I love the majority of the stop-motion animation films that have been released over the last 20 years or so, and I think that Tim Burton is at his best when working on gems like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. Frankenweenie is a remake of his own 1984 live action short film of the same name, and like that version, it's both a parody and homage to the 1931 film Frankenstein.

Featured in the voice cast are Charlie Tahan, Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short and Martin Landau.

I really enjoyed everything about this fun little film. Tim Burton is totally in his wheel house with this charming and macabre tale and the black and white animation looks fabulous. Frankenweenie was completely overlooked at the box office this year so now is your chance to rectify that and catch up with it on Blu-ray.

It is well worth it.

     Compliance

When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no one is left unharmed.

This compelling, yet disturbing drama is inspired by true events, although I had a hard time believing that anyone could actually be gullible and stupid enough to allow something like this to occur in the first place, not to mention how far out of control things get. You would think that at some point someone would be rational enough to put a stop to this. Apparently several incidents like this have actually occurred though and this film does an excellent job of thrusting the viewer into this uncomfortable and horrific situation.

Compliance is directed by independent filmmaker Craig Zobel and it features excellent performances from Ann Dowd, Pat Healy and Dreama Walker.

Compliance won't be for everyone as it is an uncomfortable film to sit through at times due to the subject matter, but it has a lot of tension and suspense and it's a very effective psychological thriller.

I would definitely recommend this film to open-minded viewers.

Also out this week is the action comedy Hit and Run starring Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell and Bradley Cooper, the excellent French Canadian film Rebelle (War Witch) about a 12-year-old girl in Africa who is abducted and forced into a rebel army life, the horror thriller House at the End of the Street with Jennifer Lawrence, the HBO drama Game Change starring Ed Harris and Julianne Moore as John McCain and Sarah Palin, and the first season of the HBO series Enlightened starring Laura Dern.

     Blast From the Past

Picking up where I left off last week, here are my top ten films of 2009.

10. A Single Man - Colin Firth delivers one of the finest performances of his career as a depressed university professor trying to cope with the unbearable grief of having lost his gay lover and not being able to grieve openly because it's 1962 and that sort of thing was seriously frowned upon. The film is beautifully directed by first time filmmaker and fashion designer Tom Ford. This is a heartbreakingly sad film but also one with a tremendous amount of depth to it. It's superb!

9. (500) Days of Summer - Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are wonderful in this delightful comedy about the highs and lows of a relationship that spans over 500 days. It employs the use of a nonlinear narrative jumping around to various moments of their relationship and this keeps things fresh and non formulaic. This film is just so offbeat, funny and charming and I loved every moment of it. Really fun stuff!

8. Watchmen - I know that this film divided audiences due to its overblown length and because of the fact that it was not a conventional superhero film, but I for one thought that Zack Snyder did a fabulous job adapting a story that many thought would be unfilmable. I'm a huge fan of Alan Moore's original graphic novel so being really familiar with the source material definitely helped with my enjoyment of this film. It is epic in scope and filled with wondrous visuals and interesting, flawed characters. This is more of a thinking man's comic book film and certainly not for the kids. I thought that Watchmen was an awesome ride.

7. The Cove - This amazing Oscar winning documentary is sure to enrage you, especially if you are any kind of animal lover at all. The film is told from an ocean conservationist's point of view and follows former dolphin trainer and activist Ric O'Barry's quest to document the dolphin hunting operations in Taiji, Wakayama, Japan. It unfolds like a spy thriller as they try to secretly film the ongoing practices of these Japanese fishermen. What we are shown will both astonish you and repulse you. This is an important and unforgettable film. Seek it out!

6. Sin Nombre - This powerful Mexican film is like a punch to the gut. It is a harrowing and suspense filled tale about warring gang members and a young man who interacts with a Honduran family of illegal immigrants as they ride atop the trains attempting to gain passage to the United States. It is violent, harsh and full of tension and twists along the way. This is a must watch for any fan of international cinema.

5. Fantastic Mr. Fox - I love Wes Anderson films, and this brilliant stop-motion animated film is nothing but a pure delight from start to finish. Based on the Roald Dahl children's novel this quirky and whimsical tale is the story of a fox who steals food from three mean farmers and how he must outwit them when they plot their revenge. It features some great voice work from George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe and Owen Wilson. I smiled throughout the duration of this joyous little gem. It's great!

4. Avatar - I doubt that there is anyone left out there that hasn't already seen this towering achievement of cinema. It is, after all, the highest grossing film of all time amassing over $2 billion. This epic science fiction adventure from director James Cameron was quite the event movie when it came out and it still remains the best use of 3D technology ever put on the big screen. It was a totally immersive experience and really transported the viewer into another world. This is a fine example of the magic of cinema and what can be achieved when the right people are involved. Avatar is groundbreaking stuff. Incredible film!

3. Star Trek - I wouldn't consider myself a hardcore Trekkie since I've only really ever been interested in the original series from the sixties and those particular characters. I grew tired of the later films since they only dealt with the Next Generation cast which I had little interest in, so it was nice to see J.J. Abrams decide to reboot this franchise with the characters that I loved. And man did he ever do a bang up job. This was the perfect summer popcorn film filled with incredible action, adventure and excitement, not to mention loads of humour and nods to the original series that made fans smile in delight. I suppose some stick in the mud types complained that he altered some of the canon of the series, but I say stop being stuck in the past and just enjoy the entertainment. Star Trek provided plenty of that. This movie was a blast!

2. Up - I've stated many times before about what a huge fan of Pixar I am and this may very well be my favourite one of all. It's not often that a film has me in tears within the first ten minutes but Up managed to do just that. This is a wonderful tale of an elderly widower who along with a young boy scout sets off on an adventure to South America by tying thousands of balloons to his house and flying away in it. I know it sounds ridiculous but it works because it is full of so much heart and charm. I love how the crotchety old man was inspired by, and even looks somewhat like, Spencer Tracy, who happens to be one of my favourite actors of all time. The visuals are simply beautiful in Up and it really is a stunning achievement in animation. This is a spectacular film that can be enjoyed by all ages. I love it dearly!

1. Inglourious Basterds - Once again Mr. Quentin Tarantino finds himself atop my list - big surprise right? This really was a fabulous film though and something completely different for QT. It's a revisionist history World War II film starring Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz and Mélanie Laurent and it might just be the best film that Tarantino has ever made from a technical standpoint. My favourite moments in the film usually involve characters just sitting around and talking, that's how good the writing is. There is a standout scene that lasts at least 20 minutes where certain characters are drinking at a tavern and trying to impersonate Nazi soldiers that is so rife with tension and suspense that I was glued to the screen. There are many moments like this as well as some well placed action sequences that make Inglourious Basterds a tremendous visceral ride. I would have picked this to win Best Picture over The Hurt Locker at the Oscars that year but oh well. I think Inglourious Basterds is a bona fide masterpiece.

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