Get your hot patty of 1950s Americana this Friday with The Founder, starring Michael Keaton as the entrepreneur who transformed McDonald’s from a San Bernardino local joint into the global food megalith during the baby boomer decade. Founder inspires this week’s completely cool, multi-purpose gallery: true stories (all Fresh!) enlightening our values, fears, and triumphs of the ’50s.

Home video enthusiasts, prepare yourself for what may be the best week ever! This week you’ll have to choose between Academy Award flicks Rachel Getting Married (Best Actress Nominee, Anne Hathaway) and Milk (Best Actor, Sean Penn), plus a few films that should have been honored at this year’s Oscars (Happy-Go-Lucky, Let the Right One In). Next, consider a Certified Fresh comedy (Role Models), a Charlie Kaufman original (Synecdoche, New York), and a pair of period pics (Cadillac Records, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas). We won’t judge if you give Jason Statham’s latest a spin (Transporter 3), but we do insist that Blu-ray viewers pay attention to a few key re-mastered releases (Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Edition, The Batman Anthology). Dig in to RT on DVD for more!

Rachel Getting Married — 87%


Anne Hathaway put those Princess Diaries days behind her with an excellent (and Oscar-nominated) performance as Kym, a recovering drug addict who powers her way through her sister’s wedding like a locomotive in Jonathan Demme‘s Rachel Getting Married. Director Demme, best known for making films like The Silence of the Lambs (and in recent years, the acclaimed documentaries Neil Young: Heart of Gold and Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains), lends the proceedings the feel of a verité film, his viewer another guest at the weekend nuptials; the script from Jenny Lumet (Sidney’s daughter) stings and warms in equal measure.

One notable DVD featurette examines the film’s eclectic soundtrack, which includes songs from Robyn Hitchcock (who performs on-screen during the wedding), and TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adembimpe (who in a key role, plays Rachel’s fiancé). Deleted scenes, a cast and crew Q&A, and two commentary tracks highlight the remainder of the bonus menu. Watch an exclusive clip below.

Next: Watch Sean Penn’s Oscar-winning performance in Milk

Milk — 93%

Two weeks ago on Oscar night, a pair of acceptance speeches reminded us that sometimes movies are about more than just entertainment. Both Sean Penn (who won the Academy Award for Best Actor) and Dustin Lance Black (who won for Best Original Screenplay) honored slain San Francisco politician and gay rights advocate Harvey Milk, whose life and work became the basis for Gus Van Sant’s moving biopic, Milk. Penn, no stranger to politics, and Black, a Mormon-raised gay writer who thanked Milk for helping him overcome his own struggles, are just two reasons to pick up the triumphant, bittersweet period drama this week. (Need another reason? It’s among the best-reviewed films of 2008.)

Bonus features include deleted scenes and three featurettes on the real-life Harvey Milk and the intersection of Hollywood and gay rights.

Next: The best movie you didn’t see in 2008, Let the Right One In

A piece of future advice for 2010: don’t get caught buying a ticket to the American remake of Let the Right One In without having seen the original. This Swedish vampire tale, adapted by writer John Ajvide Lindqvist from his own novel and directed by Tomas Alfredson, is a quiet miracle of a film that, in this writer’s opinion, deserved a shot at the Foreign Oscar race (it went un-nominated by its home country). Part fang horror, part coming-of-age romance, Let the Right One In tells the story of young, bullied Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) and his new neighbor, Eli (Lina Leandersson), a girl who appears to be Oskar’s age but in fact is a blood-drinking vampire who must keep her secret from the public eye; when her older human caretaker leaves (was he once, like Oskar, young and in love with Eli?) the pair turn to one another for help and companionship, captured poetically by Alfredson. It’s one of the most beautiful — and dark, and darkly humorous — films of last year, and a much-needed jumpstart to a genre that’s become reliant on mediocrity and gore.

Deleted scenes and a making-of documentary comprise a disappointingly light special features menu, but if sales do well don’t be surprised to get a commentary track on an eventual double dip.

Next: Catch Sally Hawkins’ infectious cheer in Happy-Go-Lucky!

Should British actress Sally Hawkins have earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of a supremely cheerful school teacher in Mike Leigh‘s Happy-Go-Lucky? We say yes, but judge for yourself this week as the intimate, infectious film makes its way to home video. Through a series of real-life trials that might test the patience of any normal person, the effervescent Poppy (Hawkins, who workshopped the role with Leigh) maintains a smile no matter how rough life gets — to the consternation of her grumpy driving instructor, Scott (a hilariously on-edge Eddie Marsan), and perhaps, also to viewers. Only a few extra features are to be found here, including a commentary track by director Leigh, although one behind-the-scenes featurette in particular provides insight into the creation of the film and of the Poppy character, whose bliss is anything but ignorant.

Next: Raunchy laughs with Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott in Role Models

Role Models — 76%

Director David Wain has had a hit-or-miss career with his comedies (I blame that Stella sense of humor) but his latest flick, Role Models, is a solid combination of crass humor, strong characterizations, and dorkiness of the RPG-playing kind. Which is to say, I was sold. The Certified Fresh comedy — a rarity these days, unless your name is Judd Apatow — follows energy drink-selling buddies Danny and Wheeler (Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott) sentenced to mentor a pair of troubled kids as community service: sword-wielding LARP devotee (that’s Live Action Role Playing game to you non-nerds), Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, AKA Superbad‘s McLovin’) and foul-mouthed troublemaker Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson, who steals the show).

The DVD includes both the theatrical cut and an uncut version that runs three minutes longer, as well as a host of featurettes/deleted scenes/alternate takes. Look for Knocked Up OB-GYN Ken Jeong in a scene-stealing role as the king of Augie’s role-playing realm.

Next: Charlie Kaufman’s challenging Synecdoche, New York

If you’re a fan of Charlie Kaufman, chances are you’re enamored of the signature complexities of his screenplays for films like Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Well, if you like those Kaufman flicks, just try to wrap your mind around his latest, which also marks his directorial debut. Synecdoche, New York tells the story of a struggling playwright (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who decides to mount his life’s greatest work — an autobiographical play with no ending — in a giant warehouse, casting actors to play himself and his loved ones until the whole thing takes on a meta-quality that will have you scratching your head well past the end credits. It’s impressive stuff, if fairly impenetrable; as Roger Ebert advises, see it twice. Four DVD featurettes, including a Blogger’s Roundtable discussion of the film with Glenn Kenny, Walter Chaw, Andrew Grant, Karina Longworth, and Chris Beaubien, should help you filter Kaufman’s opus.

Next: Transporter 3 the worst of the franchise, but hey — it’s Jason Statham!

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who actually want to see Transporter 3, and those who wouldn’t do it for a million bucks. (There’s also my kind — people who had to see it and wish they didn’t.) While the first Transporter (53%) is a straight-up pleasure, and the second (51%) is more of a guilty one, this third flick — directed by Olivier Megaton, who named himself after Hiroshima — is a slim imitation of a Transporter movie, and features the worst actress of the entire franchise (newcomer Natalya Rudakova, who was apparently discovered by Luc Besson on the street). But if you like the idea of watching Jason Statham fight baddies using a dress shirt as a weapon (all the while getting increasingly unclothed), then Transporter 3 might not feel like a complete waste of time.

Next: Beyonce, Mos Def sing the blues in Cadillac Records

If soul music is your bag, then Cadillac Records should be worth a rental; the biographical tale of Chess Records, the studio that brought musicians like Etta James (Beyonce Knowles) and Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright) to the masses in the 1960s, earned decent enough reviews but critics agreed the light drama coasted on the strength of its music. Adrien Brody stars as Leonard Chess, the R&B-loving businessman who made it all happen; Beyonce, Wright, and Mos Def (as Chuck Berry) hit all the right notes in performing their own songs. Featurettes, deleted scenes, and a commentary by director Darnell Martin supplement the disc.

Next: Holocaust dramatics in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

A German boy befriends a Jewish prisoner and begins to question the Nazi way of life in this Holocaust drama, which drew mixed reviews from critics. While some thought it among the best films of the year, others criticized its execution and the decision to turn an event as horrific as the Holocaust into a parable. Deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, and a commentary track by writer/director Mark Herman and author John Boyne, who wrote the original book of the same name.

Next: Pinocchio celebrates his 70th birthday on Blu-ray

Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray — 100%

It’s hard to believe that Disney’s classic adventure Pinocchio is already celebrating its 70th birthday, but what’s even more incredible is how good a job the Mouse House has done with this Blu-ray release; every single scene is a dazzling work of art. Disney’s remastering process has burnished the film with an amazing clarity and richness, so much so that watching Pinocchio again this way is like watching it for the first time. You’ll be swept away by the painterly details that the Blu-ray cut reveals — the way something as simple as an ocean wave laps against another in the background, or how the camera turns to follow Pinocchio walk up and down a street despite the medium’s two-dimensional constraints.

Fans of the wooden hero (or of Disney animation history in general) should employ either the new pop up trivia track or the “Cine-Explore” track featuring film critic Leonard Maltin, animator Eric Goldberg, and J.B. Kaufman. In addition to behind-the-scenes documentary features that cover all things Pinocchio, Disney has included deleted scenes (told via storyboards), production galleries, archival trailers from every one of Pinocchio‘s theatrical releases, games, alternate viewing options (including the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio), and, as with Disney’s Blu-ray titles, a standard DVD of the film. Wish upon a star for this stellar (and limited edition!) Blu-ray release.

Next: Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology on Blu-ray

It’s that Bat-time, people: time to sit down with all four pre-Nolan Batman flicks and revisit the franchise before the franchise, from Batman (69%) to Batman Returns (77%) to Batman Forever (44%) to Batman & Robin (12%)! Warner Bros. is releasing all four films to DVD and Blu-ray (each in their own 2-disc Special Edition), and though the set does not include either Batman Begins (84%) or The Dark Knight (94%) (or the camp-tastic 1966 version), keep in mind that a double and triple dip is inevitable. That said, if you’re a Batman completist and love the high def format, you’ll find that these remastered flicks look and sound good even one to two decades after initial release. Just watch out for those Blu-ray-enhanced codpieces.

A host of commentary tracks, deleted scenes, featurettes, and even a four-film spanning “Shadows of the Bat” documentary come within the box set, though there are no added materials beyond what has already appeared in the anthology on standard DVD.

Until next week, happy renting!

This week at the movies, we’ve got red-hot rhythm and blues (Cadillac Records, starring Adrien Brody and Beyonce Knowles), vigilante justice (Punisher: War Zone, starring Ray Stevenson and Dominic West), and a kidnapping caper (Nobel Son, starring Alan Rickman and Eliza Dushku). What do the critics have to say?

The influence of Chess Records’ output on popular music is impossible to overstate, and it’s difficult to imagine any film about its seminal roster — which included Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Etta James, and Chuck Berry — doing it justice. The critics say while Cadillac Records falls a bit short of this noble goal, it’s still a well-acted, finely crafted piece of work. The movie stars Adrien Brody as Leonard Chess, a Polish immigrant whose enthusiasm for R&B and blues led him to record some of the best music of the 1950s and 1960s, an era during which the sounds of African American musicians began to reach the mainstream. Chess has a familial relationship with his artists, including James (Beyonce Knowles) and Waters (Jeffrey Wright), but their personal demons — and the huge success of Berry (Mos Def) — creates disharmony at the label. The pundits say much of Cadillac Records is the stuff of familiar biopics, and it tries to cover way too much ground. However, they also note the performances — particularly Mos Def and Wright — are outstanding, and the music is wild and powerful enough to overcome some of the bumpy spots. At 62 percent on the Tomatometer, Cadillac Records has got its mojo workin’ reasonably well. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down some of the most successful transitions by rappers to Hollywood.)

“It doesn’t work for me, Muddy. I gotta have more cowbell!”

 

Punisher: War Zone is the third cinematic try for the Marvel Comics vigilante; previous installments starring Dolph Lundgren and Thomas Jane failed to connect with audiences or critics. Nor is this one likely to, if the reviews are any indication. Ray Stevenson stars as Frank Castle (AKA The Punisher), a black-clad ex-marine turned one-man killing machine. He runs afoul of a mob boss, who adopts the nom de villain Jigsaw and sends an army of thugs to take the Punisher down. The pundits say War Zone is more brutal than most slasher flicks, but despite its hyperkinetic violence and flashes of sick humor, this is an over-the-top action flick with little of the emotional impact we’ve come to expect from comic book adaptations of late. At 19 percent on the Tomatometer, this one looks like punishment.

“I am not drinking any f—ing Merlot!”

 

It’s an intriguing premise: the son of a brilliant chemist is kidnapped on the eve of his father being awarded the Nobel Prize, but he hates the old man so much he agrees to go along with the scheme. Unfortunately, critics say Nobel Son, despite some sharp performances, doesn’t really work. Alan Rickman plays the father, a mean-spirited, pompous jerk who refuses to pay the ransom for Barkley (Bryan Greenberg), an aimless Ph.D student who just met a mysterious woman (Eliza Dushku). The pundits say Nobel Son is overplotted and too self-consciously weird to work, but the actors – particularly Rickman – are generally solid. At 27 percent on the Tomatometer, Nobel Son is no prize winner.

“That Noam Chomsky is such a cutup!”

 

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • A revival of Federico Fellini‘s Amarcord, in which the master director takes a fond look back at his youth and his hometown, is at 100 percent.
  • The Aussie import The Black Balloon, a coming-of-age tale about an autistic teen who finds love, is at 100 percent.
  • Hunger, based on the true story of IRA member Bobby Sands’ hunger strike in prison, is at 93 percent.
  • Ron Howard‘s Frost/Nixon, about the former president’s series of interviews with an Australian television personality, is at 88 percent.
  • Dust, a documentary about the ever-present substance, is at 80 percent.

Recent Mos Def Movies:

Following the Thanksgiving holiday frame, the North American box office should hit the brakes and see sharp declines in ticket sales. The action offering Punisher: War Zone is the only major film going into true wide release which means most of the top five should look familiar. Also opening nationally but in a more limited run is the music industry pic Cadillac Records which will try to make its way into the top ten. Leftovers from turkey weekend like Four Christmases, Bolt, and Twilight should remain among the most popular titles at the multiplexes as the marketplace takes a breather before a new wave of holiday films hits next Friday.

Lionsgate unleashes an action sequel aimed at young men for the second time in as many weeks with Punisher: War Zone which follows up on The Punisher which was released in 2004 back when the distributor went by the name Lions Gate. That film starred Thomas Jane and John Travolta, opened to $13.8M, and found its way to a respectable $33.7M. This time, Ray Stevenson picks up the title role and fans will be asked to disregard the swapping of actors and to come out and buy a ticket because of the brand name.

The R rating may cut out those 14-year-old boys, but it will give young males some bang at a time when there are no R-rated actioners for this audience. Lionsgate’s PG-13 pic Transporter 3 should fall hard in its sophomore session, but it will still provide some direct competition. Ticket buyers haven’t exactly been craving a new vigilante flick from this punishing series so business may come from frequent moviegoers who just don’t have anything else to do or see. Debuting in 2,508 locations, Punisher: War Zone might gross about $9M this weekend.


Ray Stevenson in Punisher: War Zone

Sony quietly enters the marketplace with Cadillac Records, a drama revisiting the rise of the blues music scene. The R-rated film stars Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright, and Beyonce Knowles who also executive produces her first feature. The marketing push has not been strong, the subject matter is not too appealing, and the starpower is questionable for this type of project. The studio knows that it doesn’t have a hit on its hands so it may be cutting its losses. Reviews have been decent, but not compelling enough to mobilize large crowds. Landing in just 600 or so theaters, Cadillac Records may end up with a mere $2M this weekend.


Mos Def as Chuck Berry in Cadillac Records

Over the last three years, the Top 20 on the weekend after the Thanksgiving holiday frame fell by 43% to 48%. With moviegoers cutting back on spending after last weekend’s big feast, and a lack of interesting new releases, another sizable fall is likely this time. That could pave the way for a second win by the incumbent comedy hit Four Christmases. Yuletide-themed films often hold up well on the weekend after the turkey session so the sophomore drop for Warner Bros. could be about 50%. That would give the Vince VaughnReese Witherspoon film around $15.5M for the weekend and a ten-day tally of $67M.

Disney’s Bolt is still the only major kidpic out there and the 3D theaters continue to give families a unique experience not found at home. This one may also drop by half to roughly $13M putting the 17-day sum at $83M. A harsher fall may await the not-so-bloody vampire flick Twilight. Look for the Summit release to fall by 55% to around $12M which would up the cume to $136M after 17 days. Sony’s Quantum of Solace should remain in the top five and drop by 50% to $9.5M for a $154M total to date.

LAST YEAR: Nicole Kidman found her way into the number one spot with the fantasy adventure The Golden Compass which was the only new wide release of the frame. Bowing to $25.8M, the New Line film didn’t exactly blow away expectations however it was a monster hit in most other parts of the world. Compass went on to gross just $69.9M domestically but $372M worldwide with North America accounting for a slim 19% of the global tally. The rest of the top five included Enchanted with $10.7M, This Christmas with $5M, Fred Claus with $4.6M, and Beowulf with $4.5M. Debuting with sizzling results in limited release were Atonement with a $24,901 average from 32 theaters and Juno with a $59,124 average from just 7 sites. Both would go on to win Oscars.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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