One of the best films of last year comes to DVD this week (Gone Baby Gone, written and directed by Ben Affleck, starring brother Casey Affleck), but there are tons more to pick from — a NASA documentary, praised by critics (In the Shadow of the Moon), a crime thriller about cops and family (We Own the Night), and (sigh) a new Tyler Perry movie (Why Did I Get Married?). You be the judge!


Gone Baby Gone

Tomatometer: 93%

Casey Affleck stars as Patrick Kenzie, a private investigator hired to search Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood for clues in the abduction of a young girl. Based on Dennis Lehane’s novel and adapted by Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard, Gone Baby Gone has been hailed by critics for its noirish tension, complex questions of morality, and its realistic immersion into the culture of working class Boston. In his directorial debut, Ben Affleck has crafted one of 2007’s best films; more impressively, he’s done what more established directors before him could not — he’s transformed younger brother Casey Affleck into a leading man. Amy Ryan’s mesmerizing turn as the missing girl’s deadbeat mother is nominated for an Oscar — how do you like them apples? Insightful featurettes and a commentary track with Affleck and Stockard round out this excellent release.

 

In the Shadow of the Moon

Tomatometer: 94%

One intimate, wondrous documentary about NASA’s Apollo program is one giant leap for DVD this week for the Discovery Channel set. If you find yourself flipping through the television for science programs, you’ll marvel at the sight of rockets blasting off in close-up and other archival footage used to poignant effect. Former lunar astronauts like Buzz Aldrin offer their own warm recollections of space travel which remind us of the enormous impact made when man first stepped foot on the moon.

 

Kurt Cobain About a Son

Tomatometer: 74%

Documentarian AJ Schnack crafts a haunting portrait of late Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain — his childhood, his discovery of music, and his tragic rise to fame — without relying on footage or photographs of the grunge legend. Culling from over 25 hours of interviews taped by music journalist Michael Azerrad for his book Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, the film employs the disembodied voice of Cobain himself to paint a picture of the man within the poster boy for Gen-X anomie. Instead of supplementing his film with songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Schnack offers a soundtrack of Cobain influences like The Melvins, Half Japanese, Iggy Pop and Leadbelly.


 

We Own the Night


Tomatometer: 54%

Nightclub manager Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) is torn between loyalties when his policeman brother (Mark Wahlberg) and father (Robert Duvall) get involved in a deadly anti-crime crusade in 1980s New York. Writer-director James Gray sprinkles in car chases and shoot-outs, but keeps his eyes trained on character drama in this gritty, violent crime thriller. A handful of behind-the-scenes featurettes flesh out the bonus menu, and Eva Mendes also steams up the screen as Green’s hot-blooded girlfriend, Amada.

Romance & Cigarettes


Tomatometer: 52%

If you’ve been waiting for years for John Turturro‘s Romance & Cigarettes (which was originally supposed to hit theaters back in 2005), wait no longer! The star-studded musical — a romantic comedy about iron worker Nick Murder (James Gandolfini) choosing between his wife (Susan Sarandon) and his mistress (Kate Winslet) — is written and directed by the kooky character actor, who came up with the idea while shooting the Coen brothers’ Barton Fink. Along for the ride are thesps Steve Buscemi, Mandy Moore, Eddie Izzard, Mary-Louise Parker, and Christopher Walken, who hoof their way through genre-spanning tunes from Cyndi Lauper to Engelbert Humperdinck.

Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?


Tomatometer: 48%

Even if you’re not a fan of actor/director/playwright Tyler Perry‘s work, you may take some solace knowing one thing: his latest comedy-drama is completely devoid of his iconic family matriarch, Madea. Tackling the topics of marriage and fidelity, Perry directs himself and a cast of stars (Sharon Leal! Janet Jackson! Jill Scott!) in a tale of a group of married friends confronting each other while on a Colorado getaway.

No Reservations


Tomatometer: 39%

Mix one part no-nonsense master chef (Catherine Zeta-Jones) with a dash of a newly orphaned niece (resident cutie pie Abigail Breslin); toss in a rascally brash, easygoing sous chef (Aaron Eckhart) and let stand. Serve well chilled to unimpressed film critics.

The Martian Child


Tomatometer: 28%

Continuing a series of roles as widowed father figures dealing with children (see: Grace is Gone), John Cusack stars as a science-fiction writer with creative block who takes in a young boy who thinks he is an alien. Adapted from the autobiographical novel by David Gerrold (the man who wrote the classic Star Trek episode The Trouble with Tribbles, for what it’s worth), The Martian Child nevertheless garnered mostly scorn from critics for being call-your-dentist saccharine and unbearably sentimental.

So there you have it. Choose wisely, and ’til next week, happy renting!

This week at the movies, we’ve got honeymooners (The
Heartbreak Kid
, starring
Ben Stiller
and
Michelle Monaghan
), teenage heroes (The
Seeker
, starring

Alexander Ludwig
), bookworms in love (The
Jane Austen Book Club
, starring
Maria Bello
and Emily
Blunt
), and fledgling rappers (Feel
the Noise
, starring

Zulay Henao
). What do the critics have to say?

For Rhode Islanders, the work of
Bobby and
Peter Farrelly has long been a source
of regional pride; their best work (There’s Something About Mary,
Dumb
and Dumber
) deftly combined taboo-busting, gross-out yucks with an
undeniable sweetness. So it breaks the heart of this Ocean State native to
report that their latest,
The Heartbreak Kid
, isn’t generating all that
much warmth with the critics. Based upon
Elaine May‘s 1972 semi-classic, Kid
stars Ben Stiller as a recently-married guy who quickly learns his new bride has
much more baggage than he bargained for; on his honeymoon, he meets Miranda
(Michelle Monhagan), who just might be the right gal for him. The pundits say
that while the film does contain a smattering of raunchy laughs, they seemed
shoehorned into the film, undercutting character development and any kind of
message. At 48 percent on the Tomatometer, this Kid isn’t alright. It’s
certainly a cut below the original (at 89 percent).




The Village People recruits its seventh member.


If a compelling, magical fantasy world is something you’re actively seeking,
critics say you may want to avoid
The Seeker
. Based upon the Newberry
Award-winning book series, The Seeker is the story of a 14-year-old who
discovers he’s the last in a long line of noble fighters dedicated to battling
an evil force called the Dark. (Uh, so was Thomas Edison, like, the greatest of
those warriors? Just asking.) Critics say The Seeker is several notches
below the
Harry Potter
films in terms of emotional resonance and
filmmaking quality, and underutilizes the talents of
Ian McShane and
Frances
Conroy
. At 25 percent on the Tomatometer, The Seeker may not be what
you’re looking for.




They seek him here, they seek him there, his clothes are loud but
never square.


If your sensibilities run toward action flicks, you are likely prejudiced
against light comedies about smart people and their relationship troubles. In
the case of
The Jane Austen Book Club
, the critics say you might want to
swallow your pride. The film tells the story of a group of six women whose book
club assignment is for each to read one of Austen’s novels; they soon find
events in their lives eerily paralleling the texts they’re reading. The critics
say that what could have been a bland exercise in chick-flick-dom is elevated by
an outstanding cast that includes Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, and
Kathy Baker;
each of the principals plays her part with intelligence and warmth. If you’re so
inclined, The Jane Austen Book Club‘s 72 percent Tomatometer should offer
ample persuasion to check this film out.




"Okay, so you take a left after Northanger Abbey, and a right at Mansfield Park…"



Critics weren’t allowed to come on and
Feel the Noise
, perhaps because
it’s either too wild, wild, wild for them to understand, or it isn’t all that
good. Either way, this tale of an aspiring rapper who finds love and redemption
in the Puerto Rican Reggaeton scene was not screened before hitting theaters.
You know the drill: Guess that Tomatometer!

Also opening this week in limited release:
Lake of Fire
,
Tony Kaye‘s
expressionist, evenhanded documentary about the abortion debate, is at 100
percent; Desert Bayou, a doc about the plight of African-American
Hurricane Katrina refugees in Utah, is at 100 percent;
My Kid Could Paint
That
, a portrait of an artist who’s a very young girl (and may not be solely
responsible for her highly-valued canvases), is at 100 percent;
For the Bible
Tells Me So
, a doc that explores the Good Book’s teachings on homosexuality,
is at 89 percent;
Kurt Cobain: About a Son
, an impressionistic look at
the life of the Nirvana frontman, is at 82 percent;
Michael Clayton
,
starring George Clooney as a corporate whistleblower, is at 81 percent (check
out our review from the Toronto Film Fest
here);
Finishing the Game, a
mockumentary about an attempt to complete
Bruce Lee‘s
Game of Death
after
his untimely demise, is at 50 percent; and
The Good Night
, starring
Gwyneth Paltrow in the tale of a romance that takes place in a man’s dreams, is
at 46 percent.




Trivia question: which of these men has been around the world, from London
to the Bay?

Recent Ben Stiller Movies:
——————————–
44% — Night at the Museum (2006)
52% —
Tenacious D In: The Pick of Destiny
(2006)
25% — School for Scoundrels (2006)
55% — Madagascar (2005)
69% —
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

(2004)

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