Film & TV

“J. Edgar,” “Tower Heist” Arrive on DVD, Blu-ray

Forrest Hartman

Much of director Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar Hoover biopic is speculative and thus runs the risk of coming under attack from historical purists. But for those willing to view it for what it is – a movie – there is much to enjoy. Clearly, Eastwood has taken liberties in his storytelling, but that’s not a bad thing. In so doing, he has crafted a fascinating vision of a well-known personality. 

Foreign Films That Didn't Make the 2012 Oscars Cut

Peter Schurmann

This year's favorite for the Best Foreign Language Oscar depicts a couple battling an emotional separation and the theocracy that governs them. Set in Tehran, the film's warm reception in the United States says more about us -- and our unease with the wider world - than it does about Iran. Asghar Farhadi's “A Separation” vindicates our view of Iranians on some level, which is likely why it resonates with the Academy. But what about the films that don't? The past year saw a slew of movies that made waves with audiences in their home countries for reasons that have nothing to do with us.

“Take Shelter,” “The Rum Diary” Arrive on DVD, Blu-ray

Forrest Hartman

Although writer-director Jeff Nichols’ “Take Shelter” was shut out when Oscar nominations were announced, it received a fair amount of critical acclaim thanks to awards from the Cannes and Hollywood film festivals and a spot on the National Board of Review’s list of the top 10 independent films of 2011. Of course, none of those accolades matter unless the movie holds up under scrutiny. Fortunately, it does.

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn,” “Downton Abbey” Arrive on DVD, Blu-ray

Forrest Hartman

The massive popularity of Stephenie Meyers’ “Twilight” book series is difficult to explain, but there are harder tasks. Try, for instance, unearthing solid rationale for the success of the movie adaptations. The first “Twilight” film was bad, but it introduced enough interesting elements to inspire hope for the franchise’s future. Four movies in, that promise has faded into an increasingly inane love triangle.

Hollywood and the Fundamentalist

Christopher Karr

With very few exceptions, the fundamentalist doesn’t appear flattering on film. Some are avaricious conmen like Steve Martin in Leap of Faith, some are dogmatically judgmental like Piper Laurie in Carrie, and others are violent savages like Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter or, more recently, Michael Parks, who plays a penetrating parody of extremist Fred Phelps in the latest Kevin Smith film, Red State

Director Tran Anh Hung Brings Haruki Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood” to U.S. Theaters

Nalea J. Ko

Japanese is a foreign language to him, but Vietnamese filmmaker Tran Anh Hung was able to surpass all cultural and language barriers to bring the Japanese novel “Norwegian Wood” to the big screen. In 1994, Hung first read the popular novel by Japan’s Haruki Murakami in its French translation and felt and intimate connection with the love story.

Video Verdict: “Drive,” “The Big Year” Arrive on DVD, Blu-ray

Forrest Hartman

It’s been a great couple of years for Ryan Gosling who has turned in outstanding performances in projects ranging from the dark drama “Blue Valentine” to the comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” In “Drive,” he’s again touring the dark side, playing a Hollywood stuntman and mechanic who makes extra cash as a getaway-car driver.   

“Declaration of War” Depicts Misfortune Culminating in Unexpected Triumph

Elizabeth Pyjov

Declaration of War” (La guerre est déclarée), France's foreign-language film submission for the Oscars, has the merits of lightness and inventiveness. The director, ValérieDonzelli, freely expresses herself through whichever tool she finds most useful in each particular moment, whether it is comedy in a tragic situation, magical realism, insertion of a song she wrote herself, or a cut to abstract images outside of the scene.

Video Verdict: “50/50,” “Paranormal Activity 3” Arrive on DVD, Blu-ray

Forrest Hartman

Since “50/50” was released into theaters in September, it has racked up an impressive string of accolades, including a Golden Globe nomination for best motion picture (comedy or musical) and a National Board of Review award for best original screenplay. Written by Will Reiser and directed by Jonathan Levine, the movie walks a fine line between drama and comedy, creating a truly moving viewing experience.

Video Verdict: “Ides of March,” “Abduction” Arrive on DVD, Blu-ray

Forrest Hartman

George Clooney is a great actor, but he’s even more impressive as a director. Each of his previous directorial efforts – “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Leatherheads” – has been outstanding, and “The Ides of March” is just as solid.

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