Movie Reviews – May 2009

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American Dad!: Volume 4
20th Century Fox
Street: 04.28
My hat goes off to Seth MacFarlane and his global domination of the animated sitcom market. After successfully capturing millions of viewers with the pop culture saturated cartoon, Family Guy, MacFarlane cleverly decided to exploit the universal hatred for the Bush administration and developed a new batch of characters lead by eerily realistic Republican CIA agent Stan Smith. While the program initially launched with substandard ratings and weak humor, it appears the staff continually recognized its defects and consistently reshaped their delivery making for a better show as time moved forward. The fourth volume, which incorporates episodes from the third and fourth seasons, represents this tenacious progression with priceless storylines including reversing the effects of puberty, the secret lives of fursuiters, and a spot on James Bond parody. If the writers and staff maintain the show’s current direction, they may soon find themselves ferociously combating with MacFarlane’s original creation. If the end result is two hysterical programs, let the games begin! –Jimmy Martin

American Originals: Box Set
History Channel
Street: 05.26
Jumping into the world of reality shows galore, leave it to the History Channel to make the majority of males feel like giant pussies. Their lineup of original programs including Ice Road Truckers, Ax Men, The Dangerous Missions Collection and Tougher in Alaska has been randomly crammed into a 14-disc megaset that’ll put you and your so-called masculinity in check. From overturned fuel tankers, to life threatening logging careers, to the harsh realities of making a living in America’s 50th state, you’ll never complain about your cozy office job again. Kudos to the History Channel for selecting shows that don’t involve drunken fraternity douchebags hooking up with the future residents of Los Angeles’ corner of Sunset and La Brea. Instead, they present footage that’s raw, powerful, and inspiring. So, cozy up in your La-Z-Boy recliner with a diet soda, a tofu dinner and witness over 37 hours of brutal badass roughnecks grabbing life by the throat and ripping out its jugular all for a paycheck.–Jimmy Martin

Australia
Twentieth Century Fox
Street: 03.03
A truly talented director can anonymously present a movie, and the audience will unconsciously recognize who created it. The acknowledgment of an artist’s signature brush stroke reveals the genius that lies within its creator. In the case of Baz Luhrmann, watch Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet, or Moulin Rouge!, and you’ll instinctively identify his trademarks. However, this is not the case with his outback epic, Australia. Nicole Kidman (a Luhrmann veteran) plays Lady Sarah Ashley as she ventures to the rugged landscape in search of her adulterous husband on their desolate cattle station, Far Away Downs. After discovering his death, it’s up to the pretentious socialite to save the failing family business. With the help of the burly cattle driver, Drover (Hugh Jackman), and a handful of Aborigines, the group must embark on a demanding cattle drive across the parilous terrain to deliver their livestock on time. That sounds like a full story arch, and it could be. However, Luhrmann desired an approximate 3-hour epic tale, so rather than wrapping it up there, he moved onward. Instead of securing one intricate storyline, Australia contains four mini ones. There’s the journey mentioned above, an obvious love story, a civil rights fight for Aborigines, and a World War II attack on the Land Down Under’s shores. You could cut out the latter two plots and still have a somewhat respectable film. In many scenes, the film feels lost and misguided as though it were too large for the native Australian’s command. On the positive side, the acting is creditable and the cinematography is outstanding, but there are too many distractions in this saga to place it amongst Luhrmann’s previous successes.–Jimmy Martin

Black Label Society: Skullage
Eagle Vision
Street: 04.21
Skullage is a nice little career retrospective of Black Label Society’s roughly eleven-year career, and thankfully it does the band and fans (both hardcore and fair-weather) justice. It’s not too long and it showcases a variety and wealth of material. For the most part, BLS is the brainchild and musical outlet of modern guitar god and solid vocalist Zakk Wylde, playing his brand of southern inspired metal/rock with some nice sludge and bottom heavy riffing. The main reason the DVD/CD retrospective played out extremely well for me is, I’ll admit it, I’m a fair-weather fan of the band. The key here is that the DVD sparked my interest to pick up some of BLS’s full-lengths. Basically, after watching the DVD and listening to the CD a few times, I was left satisfied, but I still wanted more. Many music DVDs fail in this realm by giving way too much material and becoming overkill. Skullage is a great starting point for newcomers to BLS or just a nifty addition to hardcore fans’ collections. Check BLS playing at The Depot on May 5.–Bryer Wharton

Californication
Showtime Entertainment
Street: 06.17.08
David Duchovny embodies the alcoholic, sex-crazed writer Hank Moody so well, I honestly question whether he’s even aware of the show being filmed around him. From the moment he extinguishes a cigarette in a church’s holy water and defiles a nun in the first five minutes of the pilot, you instantaneously fall in love with his devious methods for life. As the one-hit-wonder novelist whose best seller was just adapted into a bastardized film version of his work, a bitter Moody stumbles through the streets of Los Angeles sticking his prick in any hole he can find. Surrounded and supported by his agent and the mother of his daughter, whom he still adores and longs for, Moody explores various writing career paths and catastrophic one-night-stands. Once again, Showtime thrusts another cock punch to their rival HBO as they add another impressive program to their already strong lineup, proving they’re still in the game for the title of the superior prime cable network. The cynical writing dominates this dramedy, while Duchovny is transcendent as he permanently sheds off the remaining science fiction skin left from The X-Files’ Fox Mulder.¬–Jimmy Martin

Cardio for Indie Rockers
Halo-8 Entertainment
Street: 2009
Twenty years ago I swear I saw the exact same video, Glam-Rockers Aerobics with Blackie Lawless.  The women were almost exactly the same: ripped fishnets, leg warmers, hot for Brett Michaels, but they did have bigger hair.  Indie Rocker is just an easy way of explaining that you like shitty music and you almost turned town Girls Gone Wild.  This exercise DVD was made to combat the horrible music of Richards Simmons’ billion dollar Sweatin’ to the Oldies franchise with even worse music.  Three channels of music are available: Heavy, Indie, and Punky, or you can just turn the music off (recommended).  No need to mention the tools that lent their music to this project.   Be forewarned, this workout is going to be hell on your ears and confusing to your body.–Cinnamon Brown

Crusoe: The Complete Series
Universal
Street: 05.05
Attempting to cash-in on the deserted island scenario already lucratively established by ABC’s series Lost, NBC adapted Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel, Robinson Crusoe, yet failed to duplicate their competitor’s success. After being marooned on a desolate island for over six years, Robin Crusoe (Philip Winchester) and his native sidekick, Friday (Tongai Arnold Chirisa) can’t seem to catch a break as ship after ship arrive on their isle, however never seeming to want to provide the stranded Englishman with left home. Bummer. As the dynamic duo battles against savage pirates and flesh-hungry cannibals, Crusoe’s history is revealed through flashbacks to expose the truth behind his unfortunate predicament. The production struggles to determine whether it’s a chintzy comedy or a tragic drama, which creates awkward structural undertones. It’s no surprise that the program was canceled after only twelve episodes, especially after the drastic decline in script quality following the captivating two-hour pilot. Even though the acting was the primary characteristic keeping this ship afloat, it looks as though Winchester, along with fellow talented cast mates Sam Neill, Sean Bean, and Joaquim de Almeida will have to direct their gifted craftsmanship somewhere else. –Jimmy Martin

The Day the Earth Stood Still (Blu-ray)
20th Century Fox
Street: 04.07
It’s interesting to think about intergalactic civilizations convening together and looking down at Earth, thinking we’re a bunch of sadistic douchebags with nuclear missiles. What’s not fun is listening to the robotic Keanu Reeves deliver the judgmental message and having to endure the relentless sobbing of a disapproving Jaden Smith. The underlying shape-up-or-ship-out theme flatlines from beginning to end, leaving the viewer with nothing but a void of entertainment and 103 minutes stripped from their lives. While the clichéd special effects look impressive, how does one blow $80 million on a film with minimal action sequences and an extraterrestrial globe that does nothing but shimmer in the center of Central Park? Reeves’ lack of refined acting skills makes him the perfect candidate to portray the reserved alien Klaatu, while Jennifer Connelly should have taken one look at the script and walked away laughing––we all make mistakes. Do yourself a favor, save your time and watch Robert Wise’s 1951 original classic, which just so happens to be included with the 3-disc special edition! It’s a shame when the special features, which include a Build Your Own Gort, a simulation and documentary focusing on the renovation of the original, are more entertaining than the feature itself. –Jimmy Martin

Dexter: Seasons 1 & 2 (Blu-ray)
Showtime Entertainment
Street: 05.05
The city of Miami has a serial killer lurking through its neon-glistening streets, but it shouldn’t be too difficult for police officer Dexter Morgan to solve…since he’s the one increasing the body count. Masking his true nature with the position of a blood splatter expert for the Miami P.D., Dexter sanitizes the world by taking control where the justice system strays. Wrongfully acquitted pedophiles, rapists, and murderers all find their true judgment via Dexter’s artistry. However, when slain prostitutes begin surfacing without a trace of blood, Dexter becomes obsessed and intrigued by the unknown killer’s talents. Where CSI and every other monotonous crime drama on television reveal how to catch the criminal with fingerprints, DNA, and semen samples (which always seem to be everywhere), Showtime’s original series exposes the delightfully sinister methods of how to get away with murder. Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under) shines as the damaged monster perplexed by society’s norms, while publicly adhering to them in order to maintain his alternative lifestyle. Standing as one of the best shows on television, the intensifying accusatory glares of coworkers mixed with the thrill of rooting for the “bad guy” makes each escalating episode better than the last.–Jimmy Martin

Doctor Who: First Series
BBC Video
Street: 07.04.06
The Doctor Who phenomenon has been the heart and soul of England’s cult science fiction universe for over four decades. The trademarked chintzy special effects and outlandish alien invasion plots are what make the show memorable and easy to fall into its welcoming clutches. After a 26-year run that ended in 1989 and a failed revamp in 1996, the BBC successfully revived the show in 2005 with the charismatic Christopher Eccleston (Gone in Sixty Seconds) portraying the daffy time and space traveling extraterrestrial hero only known as “The Doctor.” After rescuing Rose (Billie Piper) from murdering plastic mannequins (I told you these stories were outrageous), the two join forces and journey together to visit Charles Dickens in 1869 (those Brits sure do love their Dickens) in order to save everyone from intergalactic species in the year 5,000,000,000 AD. Its imaginative writing, carefree acting methods, and distinctively simplistic art direction are what make this program eternally entertaining, and who can deny its dominance with over 750 episodes in the can. It is clearly one of the greatest achievements in the space odyssey genre.–Jimmy Martin

Doubt
Miramax
Street: 04.07
It’s amazing that after writing and directing the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan romantic catastrophe Joe Versus the Volcano, John Patrick Shanley returns to filmmaking almost two decades later and delivers one of the most brilliantly acted films of the year. Adapted from Shanley’s 2004 Tony Award-winning Broadway play, Doubt chronicles the unnerving events at St. Nicholas Church School when a young and naïve Sister James (Amy Adams) suspects Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of having an inappropriate relationship with an altar boy. Once the issue is brought to the callously dour Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), the destructive accusations and wary denials fill the holy hallways. Once again, Streep and Hoffman can do no wrong. The powerful rapid-fire dialogue between the two leaves the audience absolutely breathless. While Adams provides another worthy feat, the surprisingly magnificent performance from Viola Davis as the altar boy’s mother left incessant chills down my spine. It’s a rarity for a story’s action to fall behind the words, but when an ingenious cast is capable of captivating the audience solely with language, it becomes a true work of art. For the Blu-ray release, Shanley provides an in-depth look into the process of transforming his Broadway hit into a cinematic accomplishment, a history lesson with actual members from the Sisters of Charity, and a feature-length audio commentary that reflects his everlasting passion for the story of St. Nicholas Church School’s tragedy.–Jimmy Martin

The Fast and the Furious Trilogy (Blu-ray)
Universal
Street: 03.24
In preparation for the fourth installment’s arrival, Universal has re-released the series that has given acne-ridden teenagers a hobby that doesn’t involve having a girlfriend and sent Japanese car companies’ stocks sky high. The film that started it all nine years ago told the story of FBI agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and his attempt to embed himself within an alleged underground crime syndicate obsessed with adrenaline rushes. After successfully gaining access into their illegal operations and falling for the leader’s loved one, O’Conner soon questions his alliance to the justice system and eventually must decide which side of the law he will stand beside. Basically, the story is a complete rip off of the 1991 Keanu Reeves action flick Point Break. However, instead of surfboards and Patrick Swayze, there’s street racing and Vin Diesel. Two years later, director John Singleton made the mistake of continuing the saga of O’Conner, now an ex-cop, who is forced by his former employer to take on a Miami drug warlord. By far the worst chapter of the series, nothing positive emerges with its meaningless storyline and appalling acting. Once again, anything Eva Mendes touches turns to stank butt mud, and what’s with all the guys trying to act tough by screaming only inches from each other’s faces? I’m surprised Larry H. Miller didn’t ban it from his theaters for being too homoerotic. In reality, the third episode doesn’t belong in the series. Except for a completely unnecessary and forced 30-second cameo from Diesel, Justin Lin’s glimpse of an American’s journey into the seedy underworld of Tokyo drift racing lacks any form of connection. Besides Singleton’s agony inducing nightmare, the films provide an adequate amount of intensity to conceal their duller moments.–Jimmy Martin

Frost/Nixon
Universal
Street: 04.21
After participating in one of the greatest Washington DC scandals ever, which lead to his disgraceful resignation, former President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) slithered away into hiding to avoid the public’s condemning eye. Across the pond, British tabloid reporter David Frost (Michael Sheen) desperately craved respect from fellow journalists, but realized its impossibility within his current occupation. Thus, an idea was formed: If Frost could convince the reclusive Nixon to partake in an interview discussing the various aspects of his presidency, including Watergate, he could receive his admiration, but he’d have to persuade Tricky Dick that he’d attain emancipation as well (which he wouldn’t). Easier said than done. Ron Howard scores as he directs this vicious battle of words between two men desperately seeking to alter the public’s perception of their outspoken demeanors. Purposefully set up to mirror a boxing epic with three rounds of brawling and three strategic intermissions in between, what results is a cage match of masculinity at its finest without anyone’s shirt being ripped off. Langella showers the screen with perfection as the commander in chief the world loved to hate. As the two quarrel back and forth to Peter Morgan’s elegantly written words of destruction, what’s left is the personification of dramatic filmmaking.–Jimmy Martin

A Galaxy Far, Far Away
Cinevolve Studios
Street: 03.24
On May 19th, 1999, George Lucas idiotically decided to continue the saga of his life’s work and reveal the origins of his Star Wars universe. Mass hysteria ensued with fans lining up 42 days before its worldwide premiere, mobs bombarding toy stores nationwide, and thousands of nerds declaring, “Our day has finally arrived!” Then, The Phantom Menace was released and it was all down hill from there. Director Tariq Jalil witnessed the chaos, grabbed a camera, and documented the celebrated event by embedding himself with the radicals camping outside Grahams Chinese Theater and interviewing super-fans from across the planet. Without any surprises, the majority of interviewees are the kids who most likely ate glue sandwiches in 3rd grade, but always seemed to entertain us. However, you can’t help but wince as individuals showcase their “talent” whether it’s from a bounty hunter DJ or a delusional Jedi guitarist. The key dilemma with the film is Jalil’s lack of excitement for the subject matter. His catatonic narration delivery strips away at the modest amusement level, leaving little for the audience to enjoy. If you’re a Star Wars junkie, you’ll find solace in its saturation of the film’s content (obviously), but anyone else will be jaded within minutes. –Jimmy Martin

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
New Line Cinema
In Theaters: 05.01
The concept of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has been passed around more times than a ham sandwich at a gathering of anorexics. Four years after Bill Murray added his comedic take on the holiday tale in Scrooged, Jim Henson’s Muppets presented their furry adaptation with Michael Caine as the one declaring, “Bah! Humbug!” Needless to say, the story’s been around the block quite a few times. Now, in another affirmation that Hollywood’s idea drills have run dry, Matthew McConaughey trades the role of an overbearing workaholic for a womanizing nymphomaniac, and swaps the top hat and cane for a botched fake bake and an inability to act. Connor Mead (McCon-a-Tan) is a successful photographer who was taught by his Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) to treat women like dirt (“and not that fancy store-bought dirt”) and to remain a dick swinging bachelor to the end of his days. When Connor unsupportively arrives at his brother’s wedding to stand as the Best Man, he soon discovers his lifelong love, Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner) is the Maid of Honor. In order to deal with the uncomfortable scenario, Connor chugs tumbler after tumbler only to become so liquored up he’s confronted by his deceased uncle who informs him of three forthcoming apparitions … and you get the gist from there. The only peek of originality comes from Emma Stone’s whimsical performance as The Ghost of Girlfriends Past decked out in 1980s sand-blasted denim, scrunchies, permed hair, and a mouth full of metal, but since her presence only lasts approximately a third of the film, there’s an additional 70 minutes of monotonous cheese to sift through. With the likelihood that this sexy/holiday revitalization trend will continue (because like Lay’s potato chips, one is never enough), I’m eagerly anticipating the rejuvenated release of the Jewish classic, Diddler on the Roof. –Jimmy Martin

The Great Kat: Beethoven’s Guitar Shred
TPR Music
Street: 04.14
Damn, I need to pop a couple Klonipin (it’s my anti-anxiety medication). Watching, and more so listening to, Beethoven’s Guitar Shred is like the visual/audio equivalent of snorting a few lines of coke, drinking five cups of coffee, and pounding a bunch of energy drinks¬––you get my point. With this DVD, one could say good things come in small packages––it only takes about 20 minutes to watch every vid/feature contained on the DVD, but it’s worth it. The Great Kat is known as one of the fastest shredders of all time. The DVD mostly consists of music videos that are insanely short but speedy as sin and full of tongue-in-cheek metal cheesiness. The biggest wealth that you don’t get by just listening to Kat’s hyper-speed metal is seeing her play it. The original songs are fun, but I’ve always been a fan of Kat’s interpretation of classical music (the coupling of shred guitar, violins, etc. are phenomenal, albeit short). My only real complaint aside from the length of the DVD is the fact that the package just seems like it got tossed together hastily with no direction.–Bryer Wharton

Knowing
Summit Entertainment
In Theaters: 03.20
When Dr. John Koestler’s (Nicolas Cage) son is given an odd document from his school’s time capsule, it is soon discovered that the random series of numbers it contains have been predicting catastrophic disasters for the past 50 years. Think it’s been warning us about Cage’s ridiculous toupee? With only three sequences remaining and a band of mysterious strangers after John’s son, only time will tell what the parchment has in store for humanity. While director Alex Proyas attempts to stick with his traditional gloomy atmosphere as he’s done so effectively with The Crow and Dark City, he fails to convince the audience of its validity, creating yet another reason to find his newest project objectionable. From the previews, it’s obvious the biggest attraction of this film is the disaster sequences. It’s just too bad the majority of the film appears cheap and focuses too much on the corny gross-out factor of burning corpses and crushed cadavers. However, I’ll admit the pivotal event is horrifically stunning. The story is initially appealing, but once the 90-minute mark hits (and there’s 30 minutes to go), the plot reaches a level of trite absurdity I haven’t seen since Teen Wolf Too. The film sporadically displays signs of a well-crafted piece of cinema, but with the decent of Cage’s acting skills into the International Airport of Forced Retirement (there’s something wrong when an entire audience laughs at you trying to be tough) and too many lopsided structural undertones, Proyas’ sci-fi thriller sinks deeper into the abyss of forgotten Cage movies right along side Windtalkers and Snake Eyes.–Jimmy Martin

Late Bloomer
Shima Films
Street: 07.25.08
The heartbroken, non-verbal, wheelchair-bound handicapped man is the rampaging bloody killer?  Sounds like a rockin good time. Yet, as is often the fate of artistic films that happen to contain violence and revenge, Osoi Hito’s marketing as a thriller/horror is cover-deep. The movie is a subtle character-driven portrait of a severely disabled man with some serious demons to confront––it’s slow, sparse, and moody.  It is capably, if a bit erratically, directed by Go Shibata in fuzzy black-and-white.  The lead actor Masakiyo Sumida (who is actually handicapped) buoys the whole concept with his authenticity.  Japanese horror fans might get a bit bored, and it’s probably not for your average moviegoer, but it gets points for originality, I guess.–Jesse Hawlish

The Matrix: 10th Anniversary (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros.
Street: 03.31
A decade ago, the Wachowski Brothers revolutionized the sci-fi action genre by teaching Keanu Reeves kung fu and filming gunfights in “bullet time,” but it’s been all downhill ever since. So, instead of wasting time on their failed adaptation of the Japanese anime Speed Racer or reliving the disappointments that were the Matrix sequels, squeeze into your couch’s ass groove and prepare yourself for the hours upon hours of entertaining bonus materials offered with the 10th anniversary Blu-ray of the franchise’s original. The “ In-Movie Experience” supplies the most ingenious form of delivering behind-the-scenes material I’ve ever come across. As the film progresses, pop-up boxes display interviews, concept art, and exclusive footage revealing the arduous labor it took to create this mind-blowing epic. Once completed, you have a well-rounded idea of everything there is to know about the production, and feel as though you’ve watched the film’s entirety. Talk about multitasking. With four full-length audio commentaries, a feature-length documentary, 16 featurettes, approximately three hours of audio tracks, a 37-page informational booklet, and various promotional advertisements (shit, the movie’s only 136 minutes long), you’ll be cursing the day you ever heard the names Neo and Morpheus. However, when all is said and done, you’ll be able to stand proud, puff your chest out, and sufficiently answer that infuriating question once and for all: What is the matrix? –Jimmy Martin

Mean Girls (Blu-ray)
Paramount
Street: 04.14
Before Lindsay Lohan decided to alter her appearance to resemble an anorexic Ethiopian, she had a promising and prosperous career ahead over her. Man, times they are a changin’. In 2004, the redheaded mess presented an authentic performance in the wildly funny teenage comedy that exaggerated the mischievousness escapades of adolescents. Director Mark Waters (Freaky Friday, The Spiderwick Chronicles), along with Tina Fey’s screenplay, efficiently captured the loss of innocence with Cady (Lohan) as she leaves her African wildlife home-schooling environment for the real dangerous territory of American public high school. After discovering the Plastics, the trendiest/bitchiest clan in school, the newcomer deceptively infiltrates the elitist regime, meets the gang’s leader, Regina (Rachel McAdams), and attempts to break down the ruthless social structure. That’s when the estrogen and tampons start to fly. Filmed in a comparable fashion to Fey’s 30 Rock with comedic cutaways, flashbacks and actors breaking the fourth wall, the film provides plenty of laughs along with a meaningful message that juveniles can and should absorb. –Jimmy Martin

Milk
Universal
Street: 03.10
 If the majority of people had the determination and passion that Harvey Milk had for justice and human rights, the world would be a much better place. Gus Van Sant’s authentic examination of the 1970s civil rights movement in San Francisco reveals the struggles, defeats, and eventual triumphs the residents of the Castro District faced against a conservative opposition. To witness an individual’s unfaltering willpower after being beaten, both physically and mentally, time and time again, only to reemerge to fight another day is stunning. Sean Penn is remarkable as the first openly gay American to be elected into political office whose life was horrifically taken away much too early. Supported by an awe-inspiring ensemble with Josh Brolin, James Franco, and Emile Hirsch, Sant has composed a piece of art that not only educates but also inspires. –Jimmy Martin

Mission Impossible: Season Six
CBS Video
Street: 04.28
International espionage was so much easier during the days of disco. Forget billion-dollar state-of-the-art technology, all you needed was a horsehair mustache and an artificial nose and you could deceive the entire planet. Before Tom Cruise groped his L. Ron Hubbard loving hands all over the franchise and modernized it to today’s standards, Peter Graves, Greg Morris, and newcomer Lynda Day George led the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) in double-crossing organized crime members, narcotics suppliers, and corrupted money launderers, all operated by the Syndicate. The sixth season returns to the series’ superior roots with its grittier undertone and welcomes back the greatest characteristic of the show … the original theme music. No matter how many times I hear Lalo Schifrin’s mischievous score, it always makes me want prowl around my surroundings like a 1930s bandit. The six-disc set allows you to fight crime 1970s style complete with plaid bellbottoms, quaffed hairdos, and overblown acting skills. –Jimmy Martin

Monsters vs. Aliens
Paramount
In Theaters: 03.27
Fourteen years ago, Pixar Animation Studios arrived on the feature film circuit with Toy Story and have been untouchable ever since. While DreamWorks may not be quite ready to surpass the Disney conglomerate, Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon’s homage to 1950s sci-fi monster films proves they’re not going down without a fight. Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) literally has a big day ahead of her. While preparing to walk down the aisle to marry her aspiring meteorologist fiancé, a radioactive meteorite pulverizes her transforming her into a 5-story tall giantess. Captured and quarantined by the government, Susan (renamed Ginormica) is forced into a ragtag troop of fighting monsters that include a mad scientist cockroach, a muscular walking amphibian, and a dimwitted gelatinous blob. When Gallaxhar, an alien life form with a Napoleon complex, threatens to destroy Earth, it’s up to the segregated outcasts to save the human race. Crammed with numerous hilarious nods at its genre’s predecessors, the film admirably harmonizes action with comedy creating an exciting voyage for viewers of all ages. Along with the narrative, the flawless casting selections only enhance the entertainment value, especially in the case of Hollywood’s favorite pothead, Seth Rogen, as he voices B.O.B., the idiotic glob with never-ending munchies (I wonder how he won that part?), and Stephen Colbert as the President of the United States. While DreamWorks may not be ready to lead the animated film industry, it’ll be a fun battle to watch as time progresses. –Jimmy Martin

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XIV
Shout! Factory
Street: 02.03
Joel Hodgson’s hysterical creation of a lonely servant banished to space and forced to watch terrible movies from all over the cinema spectrum with his self-made robot friends has dominated the cult circuit for over twenty years. In the fourteenth installment of random episodes, the gang is enslaved to watch werewolf mayhem in Mad Monster, a space pirate exploration from Manhunt in Space, teenage horror escapades in Soul Taker, and a Western nightmare entitled Final Justice. It’s the perfect lineup for an onslaught of verbal abuse and pop culture references. This series provided anti-social kids and brain-dead stoners with a set of friends to hangout with at 2:00am, and a sound reason to laugh at Hollywood’s forgotten misfortunes. MST3K offered the only environment where talking during the movie is 100% tolerable and 100% encouraged. Can you imagine if the general public’s audible theater comments were this humorous? There would be no more international wars. Along with the presentation of failed features, the 4-disc set includes uncomfortably entertaining interviews with the films’ original cast members. Awkward! –Jimmy Martin

No Country for Old Men (Blu-ray)
Miramax
Street: 04.07
It’s an age-old question: If you found a bag of cash, would you return it to its rightful owner or buy the first plane ticket to Mexico? This is the question faced by Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) when he discovers $2 million at the gruesome scene of a drug deal gone bad. Figuring anyone who would care about its contents was lying lifeless before him, Moss takes the case and never looks back. Before sunrise, psychopathic hit man, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), is hot on his trail, and the internationally engrossing chase ensues. To say that Joel and Ethan Coen nailed Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is an understatement. Winner of the 2007 Academy Award for Best Picture, every element of this monumental achievement screams excellence. From the spine chilling performance delivered by Bardem to the back-to-basics style of filmmaking, the Coens prove traditional storytelling is alive and well. Every nerve-racking, suspenseful second will leave your heart racing. The two-disc special edition comes stocked with a variety of extras including a Q&A with the Coen Brothers, television interviews with cast members, and a featurette entitled “The Diary of a County Sheriff.” –Jimmy Martin

NOFX: Backstage Passport
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 03.17
For a punk rock band, NOFX has it pretty fucking easy: they only play about three months a year, they can sell out pretty much any venue in the western world, and people are more than willing to pay twenty bucks a night to see them play wasted. Of course, NOFX’s cushy existence is totally antithetical to their punk rock roots, so to make things exciting, they booked a sketchy tour hitting spots such as Peru, Brazil, China, Singapore, Israel and South Africa and invited Fuse to film the whole thing for an eight episode reality TV show. That’s kinda punk, right? While this two-disc set is pretty short on actual musical content, it’s still totally entertaining. There’s a nice mix of funny bits (Fat Mike having a bad drug experience in Singapore, El Hefe getting lost in China while looking for a Kenny Rogers’ Roasters), sentimental bits (the band calling their families from atop the Great Wall of China) and tense bits (the band’s crew being held hostage by the cops in Peru) that keep each episode fresh and interesting. If they wanted to, the members of NOFX could live comfortably without ever playing another single show, but this series proves that they’re still willing to pursue the unknown, and be pretty damn entertaining while doing it. –Ricky Vigil

Notorious
20th Century Fox
Street: 04.21
The life of Christopher Wallace (a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.) was not an easy one. Born in the ghetto of New York in 1972 and selling drugs by the age of 16, the underdog rapper overcame obstacle after obstacle to prove that even the most unlikely of individuals can leave an everlasting imprint after one’s death. The film captures Wallace’s life from his meager childhood, to his lucrative relationship with aspiring record producer, Puff Daddy, to his untimely demise on March 7th, 1997 as the east coast / west coast war reached an unparalleled level of devastation. While the majority of cast members present generic impersonations rather than altering their appearance or mannerisms to resemble their characters, rookie actor Jamal Woolard embodies The King of New York perfectly and projects a remarkable feat. The script is a typical rise to power tale with nothing new and an abundance of general life-lesson dialogue, but picks up the pace after the one-hour mark once the conflict with rival artist Tupac Shakur becomes evident. The story itself is distinctive and encouraging, but the overall production comes across chintzy and resembles a made for television endeavor. –Jimmy Martin

Observe and Report
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 04.10
If there’s one thing director Jody Hill has accomplished in his filmmaking, it’s the ability to hysterically spotlight the delusions of grandeur embodied by the lowest common denominator of this country. While many believe everything is possible in this free nation of ours, in reality there are millions of unfortunate individuals who were dealt a shitty hand since birth and probably won’t amount to much. They’re called Idahoans. Such is the case with Forest Ridge Mall’s head of security, Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen), who aspires to become the finest officer on the local police force. When Ronnie’s not wasting his day with dreams of trading in his taser for a Glock 9MM, he’s obsessing about the slutty cosmetic salesgirl, Brandi (Amanda Faris), or attempting to crack the unsolved perverted-mall-flasher case. What this dark comedy lacks in story structure it makes up with hardcore humor that doesn’t pull any punches. It’s brutal, offensive, and undeniably entertaining. As much as you want the underdog to succeed, it’s also a pleasant treat to see his social arrogance brutally betray him. From sex with unconscious pill-poppers to aggravated assaults upon minors, no stone is left unturned in this exaggerated depiction of the fucked up lives of the psychologically challenged. However, one question will definitely be answered before you exit the theater … just how comfortable are you with male nudity? I hope the answer is “very.” –Jimmy Martin

Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band
Alternative Tentacles
Street: 03.31
I’ve always been a fan of Pansy Division.  I don’t think that they are a very good band, but their lyrical content sure does give me a chuckle.  In case you don’t know about them,  they are a very gay pop-punk band.  And all of their songs are about gay boners and whatnot.  So they made a DVD, and it’s a documentary called Life in a Gay Rock and Roll Band.  I thought the DVD would be as kitschy as their lyrics, but instead it was kind of serious.  Talking about the band’s gay history and origins and whatnot.  A little boring to watch, if I have to be fagishly honest about it. I won’t ruin the DVD in case you wanna actually watch it.  But I thought the best part was the footage of them playing while on tour with Green Day.  The camera pans the crowd and there’s all these kids there with their moms and dads with their jaws on the floor in disgust.  I started laughing so hard. –Mike Brown

Punisher: War Zone
Lionsgate
Street: 03.17
Lets be honest, no one walks into a theater and expects a Punisher film to be a revolutionary experience. All we want are guns, explosions, gallons of blood, and maybe a decapitation here and there. That’s all. We’re not greedy. Well, director Lexi Alexander heard our demands and has delivered the death. No set up or origin story required, the film starts with a bang as the body count starts rising. After Frank Castle (a.k.a. The Punisher, a.k.a. Ray Stevenson) wipes out an entire mafia family, he unknowingly murders an undercover F.B.I. agent. This puts a damper on things. Questioning himself as to whether he’s bringing justice to New York City or making things worse, he ultimately decides to keep business as usual … and the body count continues to climb. While the comic villain Jigsaw is slipped in for good measure, his performance is so bland it could be any random character and it wouldn’t matter. Though War Zone horribly misfires on story and acting (it’s bad ... like really bad … like Dick Tracy bad), it makes up for that with some of the greatest deaths I’ve seen on screen in a long time and beautifully executed artistic direction. The crew proves you can use plenty of neon lights to illuminate your backdrop without making it look like Joel Schumacher’s douchetastic Batman films. So, sit back and watch the exploding corpses, severed appendages, and caved-in skulls. It’s all a part of the over-the-top movie magic! –Jimmy Martin

Quantum of Solace
MGM
Street: 03.24
Gone are the days of ghetto blaster rocket launchers, hairbrush walkie-talkies, explosive toothpaste, and Bond girls played by transsexuals. Continuing the tradition of successful franchise revamps, i.e. The Dark Knight, Daniel Craig’s second stab as 007 morphs the legendary super spy into a dark vengeful agent gone renegade in search of his lover’s killer. Forget karate chops to the throat and sleeping nerve pinches, this new Bond brutally beats ass, first, and leaves the questions for later. Director Marc Forster’s (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland) film is the first true sequel in the series, picking up exactly where Casino Royale left off. However, unlike it’s predecessor, this tale is all action with a miniscule plot squeezed in just so the characters have something to talk about. It was distressing to observe the talented Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) overshadowed by an absurd storyline involving a crooked environmental organization and worldwide droughts, but witnessing Craig manhandle one henchman after the other is worth the price of a rental. The two-disc special edition DVD contains Jack White and Alicia Keys’ “Another Way to Die” music video, featurettes discussing the exotic filming locations, and a behind-the-scenes analysis of the elaborate action sequences. –Jimmy Martin

Robin Hood: Season One
BBC Video
Street: 06.05.07
Returning from the harsh realities of the holy war, Robin of Locksley (Jonas Armstrong) discovers his village has been attacked by the Sheriff of Nottingham’s unjust laws and merciless punishments. There’s nothing like cutting out tongues and chopping off hands to establish order in the land. Yearning to free his people and win the love of the vivacious and voluptuous Marian, Robin battles authority as the peasants’ hero with his archery expertise and newfound forest friends. The BBC’s edition of Robin Hood fails to take the tired tale in any new directions. Attempting to attract a younger generation of followers, the program presents edgy editing and over-glorified stunts that only distract and lower the standard of quality. Armstrong leads the ensemble cast in providing respectable performances, and the art direction is quite pleasing. However, the shortage of action and lack of innovation with story structure forces viewers to question why they aren’t watching one of the five other productions that cover the same material.  –Jimmy Martin

Seven Pounds (Blu-ray)
Columbia Pictures
Street: 03.31
Reconnecting with The Pursuit of Happyness director Gabriele Muccino, Will Smith attempts to tug on heartstrings with another dramatic role in this glorified tale of redemption and sacrifice. Frequently hinting at the mystery that destroyed Ben Thomas’ (Smith) life, the story tracks Ben as he stalks, observes, and determines whether or not various underprivileged strangers are worthy of a life-altering gift (this coming from the guy who starred in Wild Wild West). After befriending a critically ill Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), Ben rediscovers the human spirit and decides it’s time to finalize his mission. What starts out strong as an enthralling and suspenseful story, soon dwindles into a strung out romantic saga that never seems to end. However, the Fresh Prince continues to prove his skills of successfully crossing genres, even with a script too fluffy for the Oxygen Network. The film’s underlying message isn’t underlying at all. Grant Nieporte’s screenplay is much too literal, and forces the viewer to question Nieporte’s perceptions on the audience’s intelligence. The special features include deleted scenes and a featurette focusing on the film’s worst character, the box jellyfish. The disc also offers “Seven Views on Seven Pounds,” a discussion of the production by seven members of the cast and crew¬¬––although, why would anyone consider the Location Manger’s views significant? –Jimmy Martin

Sin City (Blu-ray)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Street: 04.21
Robert Rodriguez didn’t just take Frank Miller’s graphic novels and adapt them for the silver screen. He created a completely authentic universe breathing perfected life into the illustrated pages. Since the April 2005 release, countless movies have attempted to capture the visual brilliance that Rodriguez produced with his accountings of three of the series’ installments including, The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and That Yellow Bastard, but all have failed miserably. He even defied the habitual tragedy that arrives with an ensemble cast consisted of trendy Hollywood names, but Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Josh Hartnett, Rosario Dawson, Elijah Wood … hell, even Jessica Alba, all shine is this cinematic tour de force. If you thought the theatrical release was stunning, you haven’t seen anything yet. In traditional Rodriguez fashion, the gifted director crams more extras into the Blu-ray release, revitalizing the film in a way only the medium can handle. Along with the standard distribution, the three episodes have been individually re-edited so viewers can watch each storyline separately. And if that wasn’t enough, you can spend endless amounts of time with the commentaries, alternative audio tracks, featurettes, and Rodriguez’s customary film school lessons. By the time you’re finished watching everything, you can jog on down to the theater to see Sin City 2 in 2010. –Jimmy Martin

Spin City: Season Two
Shout! Factory
Street: 04.28
The Deputy Mayor of New York City, Mike Flaherty (Michael J. Fox) and his bumbling governmental co-workers return to the office to reinforce the stereotypical conception of American politics. Along with the amusing sexual tensions and backstabbing gags, the second season takes a step outside the standard comedic sitcom box and tackles significant issues like sexism and racism without restricting its jocular theme. Fox continues to dominate as the shows lead, but is well assisted by his hilarious supporting cast of Alan Ruck, Jennifer Esposito, and Richard Kind. The four-disc box set comes with all 24 episodes that aired from 1997 to 1998, but lacks any type of special feature, which is a shame because commentaries from this team will definitely be entertaining. –Jimmy Martin

Star Trek: The Original Series: Season One (Blu-ray)
CBS Blu-Ray
Street: 04.28
I’ve never seen the attraction to the Star Trek universe. It’s probably because I always had Han Solo and Boba Fett action figures to entertain me … and always despised George Lucas’ nemesis. So, you can imagine my initial hesitation to view the original series that started the global sci-fi madness. Well, shockingly enough, I enjoyed it … very much so actually. Sure, the sets are cheap and the acting is horrendous, but that’s all part of the fun. The new Blu-ray release not only encompasses the first 29 episodes, but duel versions of each installment. While the first variation projects the series in its original 1960s format, the updated presentation includes enhanced visual effects and audio components. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer the primitive images rather than the polished designs. It’s the same scheme Lucas unveiled with the Star Wars Special Editions. I say leave the classics alone. But, at least this set allows the buyer to choose their own preference, unlike the countless versions of the holy trilogy that only include one option per collection. The set also contains trivia, interviews, and a slew of high definition special features. –Jimmy Martin

Taken
20th Century Fox
Street: 05.12
You know how nearly all movies end with the protagonist standing over the villain about to unleash the final blow, but they resist in order to be “the better man”? Well, Liam Neeson and I say fuck that. Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, a retired government spy/assassin whose daughter is kidnapped in Paris and is only hours away from being sold into the booming European sex slave industry. Breaking every bone, punching every kidney, and chopping every throat that stands in his way, Mills redefines the term “unconditional love” for one’s family as he increases the body count every 30 seconds. Move over James Bond, because a 57-year-old just made you look like a bitch. Director Pierre Morel (District B13) has literally created an intensifying rollercoaster that continually delivers the beat downs to the very last second, and once it’s over, I want to hop right back on and ride it again. Weeeeeeeeeee!!! –Jimmy Martin

The Tale of Despereaux (Blu-ray)
Universal
Street: 04.07
The trouble with Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen’s animated adaptation of the Newberry-Medal-winning novel isn’t a lack of vocal talent or visual magnificence, but rather a shortfall in direction for one central idea. Bouncing from one story to another, the film suggests no real protagonist and feels lost as it coasts in a holding pattern never seeming to advance forward. Starting with a 17-minute short story about a rat named Roscuro (Dustin Hoffman) and how his actions result in the end of happiness throughout the land with the cancellation of Soup Day, we don’t meet Despereaux (Matthew Broderick), the courageous and charming hero reluctant to conform to the fearful life of a mouse, until much later than expected. From the chronicle of a unique mouse, to the tragedy of a mourning king, to the corruption of a simple peasant, it’s difficult to figure out whom the story is meant to entertain. Children will find it too complex while adults will just be baffled. Yet, the soothing narration of Sigourney Weaver’s alluring voice compels me to continue watching. That lady could tell me that I was dying of lupus and I’d still have a smile on my face. She is the Gate Keeper, after all. –Jimmy Martin

Top Gear: Season 10
BBC Video
Street: 04.21
With an estimated audience of 350 million spectators, already, it’s only a matter of time before the United States vigorously rallies behind this gem of entertainment originating in the United Kingdom. Top Gear is an exceptional car enthusiast variety show presented by three mischievous middle-aged pranksters who never miss an opportunity to screw each other over. Along with conducting elaborate test-drives of some of the fastest cars on the planet, including an Audi R8, a Porsche 911, and an Aston Martin DBS, the hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, receive laughable challenges from the show’s producers in order to test their creative craftsmanship and overall vehicular knowledge. Whether they’re crossing Botswana’s desolate Makgadikgadi salt flats in dilapidated hoopties, or attempting to cross the English Channel in converted forms of amphibious transportation, something inevitably goes wrong, inducing laughter across the planet. The program is an educational version of MTV’s Jackass, yet targeted toward adults, forcing even the most sophisticated of individuals to crack a smile. It’s an inspiring message to see countries around the world unite in agreement that three friends enjoying life while driving 190 M.P.H. is universally acceptable. –Jimmy Martin

UFO Hunters: Season Two
History
Street: 04.28
I want to believe aliens exist. I really do. Think about how much more exciting life would be. When people admit stories of abductions, telepathy communication, and ass probings, I want to say, “I believe you!” but I can’t, and I blame programs like The History Channel’s UFO Hunters. The second season offers the same blurry, shaky camera images that countless previous productions have presented years earlier, and the same monotonous interviews with witnesses who most likely still live in their parents’ basement. The thirteen episodes include sighting inspections from triangular lights soaring above Phoenix, Arizona to multiple encounters at international airports. While each episode fails to significantly increase any level of curiosity, the season finale’s investigation of Area 51 separates itself from the masses and reveals some provocative visuals never before seen. Maybe season three will continue this alluring tradition and create something fresh. –Jimmy Martin

The Uninvited
Paramount Pictures
Street: 04.28
When the first round of American horror films adapted from the Asian market arrived on the shores, I didn’t mind. Of course the originals are far superior, but that’s obvious. Now since the movement has been ongoing for over seven years, the top of the line productions have all been exhausted, so their D-list cousins have begun to make themselves apparent in Hollywood. Thus is the case with The Uninvited, a remake of Ji-woon Kim’s Janghwa, Hongryeon (A Tale of Two Sisters). Anna (Emily Browning) has recently been released from a mental institution after a failed suicide attempt following the death of her ill mother. After returning home she discovers her father (David Strathairn) has become engaged to their mother’s former caretaker, Rachel (Elizabeth Banks), but all is not what it appears to be with her shifty future stepmom. With Nancy Drew-like skills, Anna and her sister, Alex (Arielle Kebbel) set out to uncover Rachel’s shocking past and expose the horrible truth to everyone before it’s too late. The Uninvited is a dull combination of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and The Grudge, but the only reason for its existence is to modernize a simplistic script that has been done time and time again. Before you incorporate entangled walking corpses and other demonic images, you need to have something of a plausible excuse … a haunted house, a gypsy spell, an Ouija board incident, something! You can’t just toss that stuff in willy-nilly. The family turmoil storyline would have been new and appealing back in 1993, but directors Charles and Thomas Guard may want to reconsider the location of the next market they decide to rip-off from in order to get first dibs on the fresh selection. –Jimmy Martin

Universal Soldier: The Return (Blu-ray)
TriStar
Street: 04.14
I have a confession to make. It’s something I’ve been hiding for the better part of my life. As I was growing up, I was a Jean-Claude Van Damme fanatic. Fuck Steven Seagal and his sissy-ass ponytail. I wanted Van Damage! Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Cyborg … you name it, I watched it. Shit, I even stood by that guy when he starred in that retarded hockey action flick in 1995. So, you can imagine the tears I shed when it was time to take the Muscles from Brussels to the vet and put him down after he attempted to revitalize the Universal Soldier franchise. Some things are just unforgivable. After Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) almost died during the original UNISOL project seven years prior, he decided it’d be a great career choice to stick around and be involved with the updated program. Sure enough, it turns out he’s an idiot. After SETH (Michael Jai White), an advanced supercomputer, overrides secret military operations, implants his chip into a muscular human host and threatens to start World War III, it’s up to Deveraux to save the day. There are so many mistakes in this movie that I lost count. First, never hire WWF wrestlers or Playboy playmates for speaking roles in your movie, no matter the circumstances. I don’t care what she or he promises you in return behind closed doors, it’s never worth it. Next, if your movie is one big setup for a fight between the two main actors, please have it last more than four minute, you cheap bastard. All in all, it was a sad day to see Mr. Van Damme leave this world a decade ago, but that lifelike robot that starred in JCVD last year seems to be hinting at a career comeback. I love technology. –Jimmy Martin

Valkyrie
MGM
Street: 05.19
You know something’s awry when a film’s release date wildly jumps around like a child who’s missed his dose of Ritalin. Reporting dates as early as June 2008 and as late as February 2009, Bryan Singer’s accounting of the final assassination attempt on Hitler raised more flags than ones baring swastikas. Tom Cruise helms his first leading role in two years as the one-eyed, one-hand, scheming, German, Hitler hater, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, as he concocts one of the most elaborate inner circle plots to overthrow the demented dictator. From the get go, Valkyrie states its purpose and never slows down, leaving anyone with inquiries behind. The acting, furnished commendably by an ensemble cast, is tarnished by the lack of authenticity in dialect. The film begins firmly with an impressive narration by Cruise, spoken in German, depicting his hatred for his country’s future, but the film gradually becomes artificial as the English language, and a dozen other accents, seep in creating nothing but distractions. Granted, the swift pacing and close-ups of Cruise’s eye patch entertains to a degree, but when everyone knows failure is inevitable, the question of "Why am I watching this?" arises more often than desired. The DVD release comes with commentaries from Cruise, Singer, and writer Christopher McQuarrie as well as two featurettes exploring this history of the Valkyrie legacy and the behind-the-scenes tale of the film’s initial conception. –Jimmy Martin

Wings: The Final Season
CBS Video
Street: 04.14
For seven years, the peacock station tracked the business operations of Joe (Tim Daly) and Brian (Steven Weber) Hackett’s Sandpiper Airlines in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Am I the only one who never saw one original airing of this show on television? You’d think with 172 episodes I would have caught one. The show’s ensemble cast is a simple, formulaic template typical of any basic sitcom. It’s got the handsome ladys’ man, the idiotic sidekick, the dimwitted dame, the foreign cab driver, and the lard-ass boss who’s a prick. Why does this setup sound exactly like the 1978 series Taxi? So much happens in the eighth and final season! The company gets bought out, the brothers discover their father’s treasure, and Joe buys a vacuum cleaner. That’s some exciting shit! The major problem with Wings is that, while it is funny, it’s not memorable. After watching hours of programming, I dare anyone to recall a single one-liner 24 hours later. The major nugget of entertainment comes directly from the saturation of 90s fashion. I’ve never seen so many denim shirts. It’s a mystery how a moderately humorous show can last years, yet countless comedic gems are incessantly short-changed. The world certainly works in mysterious (ok, bullshit) ways. –Jimmy Martin

The Wrestler
20th Century Fox
Street: 04.21
The WWF and the WCW were the shit back in the day. Remember Jake “the Snake” Roberts, the Legion of Doom, or Rowdy Roddy Piper? VH1 should produce an episode of Where Are They Now? on those guys, but I have a feeling it’d be much more depressing than I’d like it to be. Until then, we’ll have to settle for Darren Aronofsky’s poignant account of the post-stardom life of Randy “the Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke). In the 1980s, you couldn’t see a child’s lunchbox or an action figure without seeing The Ram’s mug nearby, but two decades later, and it’s not the same story. The Wrestler is a heartbreaking tale of a man who once sold-out stadiums with adoring fans screaming his name, but is now forced to work in a grocery store while taking humiliating wrestling gigs on the side. After surviving a near fatal heart attack, Randy attempts to put his life back together by pursuing a romantic relationship with a local stripper (Marisa Tomei) and rekindling his connection with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood). Mickey Rourke prevails as he reignites his wobbly career in a performance deserving of any and all awards, while Aronofsky flourishes as he undeniably proves he’s a multifaceted director capable of leading and capturing a vast spectrum of cinematic genres. –Jimmy Martin

X-Men Trilogy (Blu-ray)
20th Century Fox
Street: 04.28
In preparation for the fourth installment of Marvel’s mutant ragtag team franchise, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 20th Century Fox has released the original trilogy in high-definition with a score of extras and special features. Now, if you want to set Brett Ratner’s appalling third volume ablaze and pretend as though it was never included in the collection, I won’t say a word … I’ll even provide the gasoline. The primary motive for purchasing this set is to witness Wolverine’s adamantium claws puncturing bitches’ lungs and Cyclops’ energy blasts disintegrate buildings in 1080p and DTS HD audio in Bryan Singer’s badass features ... and a crystal clear Halle Berry doesn’t hurt either. Singer actually gained admittance into the “My Sequel is Better Than My Original” club with the brutally fantastic X2: X-Men United. It’s an exclusive social circle embodied by James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part II, and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Sorry Mr. Lucas, you’ll have to wait outside with your special edition copy of The Phantom Menace. Each X-Men feature includes audio commentaries, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes material, and portable digital copies. –Jimmy Martin

X-Men: Vol. 1 & 2
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Street: 04.28
From 1992 to 1997, the Fox Kids Saturday morning cartoon lineup included one of the greatest comic book animated adaptations with the chronicles of Professor X and his team of flamboyantly clad mutants. Before Hugh Jackman strutted around Hollywood refusing to remove his prosthetic adamantium claws or Halle Berry slipped into her boner-inducing skintight uniform, the series revolutionized standard programming for children by imitating prime time dramas with season-long storylines and embellished character developments. It’s the only production I remember as a kid that began with announcing, “Previously on X-Men” before each episode as it reminded the audience of the previous adventure. As I expose the toolness within me with this announcement, the show successfully produced celebrated comic plots including Days of Future Past, The Legacy Virus, and The Dark Phoenix Saga. Granted, the mediocre animation is dated, but the simultaneous release of the initial two volumes offers 33 chapters of the 76-episode saga. –Jimmy Martin