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DVD Update for week of Fri., May 17

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.

DVD Update for week of May 10

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.

DVD Update for week of Fri., May 3

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.

DVD Update for week of Fri., April 26

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.

 

DVD Upate for week of Fri., April 19

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.

DVD Update for week of April 12

Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., April 12:

 

    On a remote island with a secret past, six ambitious forensic undergrads are pitted against one another on a scientific expedition, vying for an esteemed trainee position with the FBI in “13 Eeerie.”  Unbeknownst to everyone, the site was formerly used as an illegal biological testing ground for life-term criminals who were left for dead and are now zombies.

    Luke Perry returns to the lawless frontier in the third installment of Hallmark Movie Channel’s highest rated film “Goodnight For Justice: Queen of Hearts” as Judge Goodnight rescues beautiful Lucy Truffaut (Katherine Isabelle) from a stagecoach attack but then begins to suspect that she’s not who she seems to be.

    Clifton Powell, Jackee Harry and Marla Gibbs star in the urban drama “Forbidden Woman,” as an ambitious attorney reaches a pivotal point in his life and career when he falls in love with the wife of his boss.

    Funnyman Craig Shoemaker sets the record straight on parenthood in “Daditude,” a stand-up special  that originally aired on Showtime last November.

    For youngsters, there’s “Thomas & Friends: Railway Mischief” on the island of Sodor, “Bob the Builder” Building Buddies” and “Awesome Adventures: Preschool Party Surprise.”  Plus, Wubbzy’s good friend and Wuzzleburg’s top thinker Walden is on his own in “Best of Walden!”

    PICK OF THE WEEK: Bill Murray delivers a formidable performance as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in “Hyde Park on Hudson” with Laura Linney as his cousin/confidante, Daisy Suckley. The story takes place during an intrigue-filled weekend when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visit the Presidential bucolic retreat in Hyde Park, New York, to engage isolationist America’s support against Hitler’s Germany.

DVD Update for week of April 5

Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., April 5:

 

    One might call Sheldon Candis’ sensitively realized “Luv” an urban partner to “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” as Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.), a timid Baltimore 11 year-old, spends a day with his redemption-seeking ex-con uncle (Common) and faces a harsh world where predators come in all shapes.

    Billy Bob Thornton and Eva Longoria team up in “The Baytown Outlaws” as a small rescue mission turns into a boisterous Southern action comedy, as they shoot their way through federal agents, female assassins and Native American hunters.

    Set in London, “The Sweeney is an action thriller, featuring Ray Winstone and Damian Lewis and proving sometimes you have to act like a criminal to catch a criminal. And British standup comedian Ross Noble plays a degenerate, murderous kids’ birthday party clown in “Stitches.”

    In German, Hebrew and English with English subtitles, the Israeli documentary “Hitler’s Children” examines the descendants of top Nazi officials as they struggle against the reality of their ancestors’ pasts.

    In Spanish with English subtitles, “White Elephant” follows two priests (Ricardo Darin, Jeremie Renier) who try to help the poverty-stricken in the slums of Buenos Aires when work on the construction of a hospital is halted by a ministerial decree, testing the faith of the entire community.

    For family viewing, “Charlie: A Toy Story” is a live-action feature revolving around 10 year-old Caden and his best friend Charlie, a golden retriever, who set out to thwart the evil plans of bumbling bullies determined to break into Caden’s dad’s toy shop to steal his one-of-a-kind invention.

    And for pre-schoolers, there’s “Fireman Sam: Mighty Mountain Heroes,” containing six action-paced adventures.

    PICK OF THE WEEK: The documentary “Knuckleball” analyzes the most mocked and frustrating pitch in baseball, delving into the legendary brotherhood of men who share the drive, imagination and humility to throw the slowest, most disrespected and mysterious pitches. Filmed throughout the 2011 season, it follows R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets and Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox, exploring the bond between them and retired knuckleballers like Charlie Hough, Wilbur Wood, Jim Bouton, Tom Candiotti and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro.

DVD Update for week of March 29

Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., March 29:

 

Billy Crystal and Bette Midler team up in “Parental Guidance,” an amusing comedy, revolving around a generational culture clash that’s fun for the whole family.

Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, Andrew Dominik’s “Killing Them Softly” is a cynical gangsta tale, starring Brad Pitt as a cool enforcer, wreaking revenge when thugs rob a Mob-protected card game.

Elizabeth McGovern (“Downtown Abbey”) stars in the bittersweet British dramedy “CheerfuL Weather for the Wedding,” a barbed comic satire, destined to delight Anglophiles, while New York City’s “Union Square” is the setting for an unexpected reunion between two estranged sisters (Mira Sorvino, Tammy Blanchard), one on the verge of getting married and the other on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Narrated by Meryl Streep with music by Paul McCartney, “To the Arctic,” a journey to the top of the world, is one of the coolest, most compelling nature films, involving love, family and survival.

“The Collection” is a suspense horror introducing a traumatized man forced to help rescue a woman who has become the latest obsession of a crazed killer in a booby-trapped house of horrors.

Internet pioneer/filmmaker Tiffany Shlain’s “Connected: An Autobiography about Love, Death and Technology” is a personal, provocative documentary about modern life and our interconnected future.

Oscar-nominee as Best Foreign Film, “A Royal Affair” is an epic, intriguing cautionary tale about an 18th century physician who brought radical socio-political reforms to the court of Denmark while indulging an a dangerous affair with the Queen.

Just in time for Easter, bunnies and chicks abound in “Max’s Chocolate Chicken.”  And for fans of the Japanese retro series, “The Official Digimon Adventure Set: the Complete Second Season” and “Digimon Adventure, Vol. 2” are the English-language versions.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” a turbulent chronicle of the last months in the life of the 16th President of the United States, reflecting his determination to unite our divided nation and to convince Congress of the  necessity of passing the 13th Amendment to permanently abolish slavery.

 

DVD Update for week of March 22

Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., March 22:

 

Peter Jackson’s prequel,  “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” follows Bilbo Baggins and 13 Dwarves on an epic quest to reclaim the lost kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug; en route, Bilbo meets the Gollum, a creature who will change his life forever.

The concept of babies switched at birth isn’t original but, in “The Other Son,” French/Jewish filmmaker Lorraine Levy adds a new twist – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – making it emotionally compelling, exploring the many facets of self-identity. In the same vein, Romain Duris and Catherine Deneuve star in the French psychological thriller, “The Big Picture” about identity theft.

Marion Cotillard and Mathias Schoenaerts play a marine animal trainer and a brutish bouncer, damaged souls who develop a relationship of strength and emotional dependence in “Rust and Bone” – in French with English subtitles.  And in Dutch with English subtitles, there’s “The Time of My Life,” a true story about legalizing euthanasia in Belgium.

This week’s comedy crop is weak:  Judd Apatow’s forced, foul-mouthed “This is 40” is about a spoiled, selfish, stressed Los Angeles couple (Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann) facing their respective 40th birthdays quite differently. “Bachelorette” finds bridezilla Rebel Wilson and her frisky best friends (Kirsten Dunst, Isa Fisher, Lizzie Caplan) searching for a little fun but finding much more than they bargained for. And “Price Check” rips off “The Office” with Parker Posey as the gung-ho general manager of a WalMart-like grocery chain.

For kids, there’s “Sesame Street: Best of Friends,” a two-hour compilation of fan favorite clips. And “Rise of the Guardians” recounts how, more than 300 years ago, the Man in the Moon appointed Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman as protectors of innocence and now they’re joined by a lonely water sprite, Jack Frost, in a battle against The Boogeyman.

    PICKS OF THE WEEK: Based on Victor Hugo’s classic 1862 novel,  Tom Hooper’s “Les Miserables” is a musical extravaganza with Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as implacable Inspector Javert and Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway as Fantine. And Jessica Chastain stars as a determined CIA agent in Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” an uncompromising, intense drama about the hunt for Osama Bin Ladin.

DVD Update for week of March 15

Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Friday, March 15:

 

In “Hitchcock,” Anthony Hopkins captures the distinctive look and dry, doll manner of the eccentric film director with Helen Mirren as his conflicted wife, film editor Alma Reville, during the making of “Psycho” – with Scarlett Johansson as its star, Janet Leigh.

Sean Penn plays Cheyenne, a retired Goth rocker, in Italian director Paolo Sorrentino’s “This Must Be the Place” with Frances McDormand as his firefighter wife. They live in a castle in Dublin, Ireland, but much of the film takes place in the southwest, where Cheyenne hunts for an ex-Nazi war criminal who tormented his late father.

Alcohol abuse is a huge problem in American today and young people – ages 18-29 – have the highest rates of alcohol abuse and dependence. In that vein, “Smashed” is a heavy-weight drama about Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a hard-working Los Angeles elementary school teacher.

Do you only associate the Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem with the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”? I did until I saw “Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness,” a poignant, insightful documentary that explores how his cultural heritage evolved, elevating him to the stature of a “Jewish Mark Twain.”

In the documentary “Kumare,” filmmaker Vikram Ghandi becomes fascinated by the self-proclaimed leaders that people choose to follow, transforming himself into a phony guru named Kurmare in a “Borat”-style mission to expose religious hypocrisy.

Joshua Close and Selma Blair are terrorized in “In their Skin,” a home-invasion thriller while, in “Hellgate,” an American (Cary Elwes) faces tragedy in Bangkok when a spiritual advisor (William Hurt) explains that the souls of his recently deceased wife and son are trapped in a shadow world.

Uncle Jed, Jethro and Elly May Clampett are back in “The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies,” and the world’s favorite monkey reemerges in “Curious George Swings Into Spring.”

    PICK OF THE WEEK: Ang Lee won an Oscar for directing “Life of Pi,” the awesome, astounding screen adaptation of Yann Martel’s acclaimed novel that begins and ends in Montreal, where a writer (Rafe Spall) is interviewing middle-aged Picine Militor (Irfan Khan), who relates the incredible adventure of his life as a sensitive, coming-of-age fable and meditation on God.