By Harley Lond - 04/24/12 at 02:39 PM CT
We like Mark Wahlberg. We like Kate Beckinsale. And one of our guilty pleasures is the criminals-turned-good-sucked-in-to-do-one-more-job movies. But for some reason the combination of the three didn't click here. The plot revolves around Wahlberg's Chris Farraday, an ace smuggler who gave up his life of crime to head up his own security firm. When his brother-in-law botches a drug deal for his nasty, ruthless boss (a very over-the-top Giovanni Ribisi), Farraday must jump into the fray and set up a Contraband deal to settle the score. Naturally everything possible goes wrong, and Farraday must tap all his resources to save the day. Oh, did we mention that Ribisi threatens Wahlberg's family, in particular physically assaulting his wife (Beckinsale)? And that there's dirty cops, shoot-outs, car chases, boat chases, and a lot of violence? And that the situations become so dumb that even Wahlberg's likeable persona can't save the day for us? Disappointing.
Of all the cinematic New Waves that broke over the world in the 1960s, the one in Czechoslovakia was among the most fruitful, fascinating, and radical. With a wicked sense of humor and a healthy streak of surrealism, a group of fearless directors -- including eventual Oscar winners Milos Forman and Jan Kadar -- began to use film to speak out about the hypocrisy and absurdity of the Communist state. A defining work was the 1966 omnibus five-part anthology film "Pearls of the Deep," which introduced five of the movement's greatest voices: Vera Chytilova, Jaromil Jires, Jiri Menzel, Jan Nemec and Evald Schorm. Criterion's "Eclipse Series 32: Pearls of the Czech New Wave" presents that title, along with five other crucial works that followed close on its heels, one from each of those filmmakers: Chytilova's "Daisies" (1966), Jires' "The Joke," (1969), (Menzel's "Capricious Summer" (1968), (Nemec's "A Report on the Party and Guests" (1966), (Schorm's "Return of the Prodigal Son" (1967) -- some dazzlingly experimental, some arrestingly realistic, all singular expressions from a remarkable time and place.
There's two other classics this week:
A restored version of "The Red House," (1947), directed by Delmer Daves and starring Edward G. Robinson, Lon McCallister, Judith Anderson, Rory Calhoun, Allene Roberts and Julie London. Based on the popular 1943 novel serialized in the Saturday Evening Post. Disabled farmer Pete (Robinson) and his sister Ellen (Anderson) have raised young Meg (Roberts) from infancy on their reclusive homestead. Now a teen, Meg persuades her friend
Nath (McCallister) to come by each day to help with her chores. When Nath insists on using a backwoods shortcut home one day, Pete cautions him against doing so, speaking of ominous screams in the night and terrors that lie within a mysterious, abandoned red house on the outskirts of his property. Curious, Nath and Meg -- who has growing feelings for Nath much to the chagrin of his girlfriend, Tibby (London) -- ignore Pete's warning and explore the dark secret of the red house. Features an eerie original score by Miklo Rozsa. From Film Chest/HD Cinema Classics label ... Criterion also offers "The Organizer" (1963): In turn-of-the-20th-century Turin, an accident in a textile factory incites workers to stage a walkout. But it's not until they receive unexpected aid from a traveling professor (Marcello Mastroianni) that they find a voice, unite, and stand up for themselves. This historical drama by Mario Monicelli ("Big Deal on Madonna Street") is a beautiful and moving ode to the power of the people, brimming with humor and honesty. "The Organizer (I compagni)" features engaging, naturalistic performances; cinematography by the great Giuseppe Rotunno; and a multilayered, Oscar-nominated screenplay, by Monicelli, Agenore Incrocci ("The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)", and Furio Scarpelli ("Il postino"). In a new high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition.\
And Wait, There's More:
"Stony Island" (1977), starring Richie Davis, Edward "Stoney" Robinson and Gene "Daddy G" Barge, was director Andrew ("The Fugitive," "Under Siege") Davis' first film. Shot on the gritty streets of Chicago's south side, the film tells the story of Richie Bloom, the only white kid on the block, as he forms an R&B band with his best friend, Kevin. With the help of their mentor, aging sax legend Percy, they pull together a funky supergroup, stealing practice time at night in the local funeral home. Despite few resources and heavy losses, the resilient group of dedicated musicians -- armed only with wit, sleight of hand and outrageous Chicago bravado -- come together to finally make their smash debut. A tribute to Chicago's South Side with: saxophone legend Gene Barge, George Englund, Ronnie Barron, Rae Dawn Chong, Oscar Brown Jr. and many more of Chicago's finest musicians and actors. Original score by David Matthews featuring David Sanborn. From Cinema Libre Studio.
From TV to Video:
"Billy the Exterminator: The Complete Season Four" (2011) is a two-disc set with 12 episodes, $19.95 from A&E ... "Cinema Verite" (2011), starring Diane Lane, Tim Robbins and James Gandolfini, is the compelling behind-the-scenes story of the revolutionary 1973 PBS documentary series "An American Family," which catapulted an ordinary family to notoriety and captivated audiences with the launch of a new television genre - reality TV. Believing that the lives of an everyday family would be relatable to Americans in a way that existing TV shows were not, filmmakers set out to chronicle the life of the Louds, a seemingly "perfect family." Once filming began though, the strain in the Loud's marriage, the ups and downs of raising five children, as well as the criticism Pat Loud received for asking for a divorce and openly supporting her gay son, came sharply into focus. A complete departure from television shows of the time, "An American Family" gripped the nation, making the Louds a television sensation while leaving them unprepared for the consequences. From HBO ... In "Masterpiece Classic: Birdsong" (2011), Eddie Redmayne and Clemence Poesy star as two lovers whose fiery affair precedes World War I in this adaptation by screenwriter Abi Morgan of Sebastian Faulks' impassioned novel. Dreamlike, the film weaves together the stories of the past and present -- each tempestuous in its own way and fated to intersect. From PBS Distribution.
Buzzin' the 'B's:
In "11-11-11: The Prophecy" (2011), starring Timothy Gibbs, Michael Landes and Wendy Glenn, American author Joseph Crone travels from the United States to Barcelona, Spain, to reunite with his estranged brother, and dying father, but fate has a different plan for Joseph as his life becomes plagued with strange happenings and the constant sightings of the number 11 -- a that number holds a horrific meaning not only to himself but possibly to all of religion. From Big Air Studios ... "The Wicker Tree" (2011), starring Graham McTavish, Brittania Nicol and Henry Garrett, is a sequel of sorts to 1973's "The Wicker Man," directed by Robin Hardy, who also helmed this outing (And the original's Christopher Lee makes a cameo appearance). Charmed by the residents of Tressock, Scotland, two young born-again Christian missionaries accept the invitation to participate in a local festival, fully unaware of the consequences of their decision. From Anchor Bay ... In "Dark Tide" (2012), starring Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez, a professional diver -- nine years after a near fatal encounter with a shark -- confronts her fears when she takes a thrill-seeking millionaire on a journey to the dangerous South African waters known as Shark Alley. From Lionsgate ... There's six stories of ancient evil, love, obsession, addiction, gluttony, sexual nightmares, pain, brutality and of course, death in "The Theatre Bizarre" (2012). A young woman enters a seedy theater in which an odd marionette-like man introduces her to six tales of the bizarre. From Image Entertainment ... In "The Fields" (2011), starring Cloris Leachman, Tara Reid, Joshua Ormond and Faust Checho, a young boy -- fascinated with the notorious Manson Family and their gruesome killing spree -- discovers a terrifying secret lurking in the fields outside his Pennsylvania countryside home. From Fabrication Films ... In "Let the Bullets Fly" (2010 -- China), starring Chow Yun-Fan, Ge You and Jiang Wen, notorious bandit chief Zhang (Jiang Wen) descends on a remote 1920s town in China, posing as its new mayor, an identity that he hijacked. Hell-bent on making a fast buck, he soon meets his match, the tyrannical crazy local Huang (Chow Yun-Fat) as a deadly battle of wit and brutality ensues. From Well Go USA ... In "Death and Cremation" (2011), starring Brad Dourif, Jeremy Sumpter, Scott Elrod and Debbon Ayer, a 59-year-old recluse who offers cremation services from the basement of his funeral home is in fact a deranged sociopath who eliminates anyone he perceives to be a bully. When he takes a fatherless, 17-year-old high school outcast under his wing, thee pair develop a demented relationship. From Green Apple Entertainment ... A Brooklyn teenager juggles conflicting identities and risks friendship, heartbreak, and family in a desperate search for sexual expression in "Pariah" (2011), starring Kim Wayans, Adepero Oduye, Aasha Davis and Charles Parnell. From Universal ... During the final days at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, two employees determined to reveal the hotel's haunted past begin to experience disturbing events as old guests check in for a "last" stay in "The Innkeepers" (2011), starring Sara Paxton and Pat Healy. From Dark Sky Films/MPI Media Group ... On a long-postponed trip back home, a young woman's family is visited by a terrifying creature in "Night Wolf" (2012), starring Isabella Calthorp, Tom Felton, Joshua Bowman and Gemma Atkinson. From Lionsgate.
On the Indie Front:
"Chasing Happiness" (2011), starring Elisa Donovan, Claude Duhamel, Kashmera Shah and Cerina Vincent, follows the decidedly deceptive lives of four young people trying desperately to make a living in Southern California -- all revolving around sex -- including a skilled sex surrogate, a sultry dancer who's making a living in disguise as a no-nonsense guru/yoga instructor and a poker hustler whose beauty can only take her so far, depending on how the cards are played. From Stonelock Media Group/Tripod Entertainment ... "Some Days Are Better Than Others" (2010) Carrie Brownstein, James Mercer, Renee Roman Nose. A sad valentine to the forgotten discards of a throwaway society, set in rainy Portland, Oregon, following several people as they deal with despair: Katrina is a twentysomething reality TV enthusiast, video diarist and animal shelter worker whose world falls apart when she finds that those important to her are often not what she hopes they would be. Eli is a mid-30s slacker trying to get over a recent heartbreak. And Camille is a socially handicapped thrift store attendant. From Palisades Tartan ... "A Mother's Love" (2011), starring Rolonda Watts and Vanessa A. Williams, is an inspirational drama about a strong, independent woman whose taste for the good life doesn't necessarily include her husband or her daughter, until "a mother's love" prays her down to earth. From Magnolia Home Entertainment ... When a bartender and a party girl, a group of girlfriends out on the town, and four buddies all end up at the same nightclub, their interwoven stories unfold, setting them on a collision course that changes their relationships forever in "Contradictions of the Heart" (2011), starring Vanessa Williams, Wendy Raquel Robinson, LisaRaye, Michael DeLorenzo and Cedric the Entertainer. From Entertainment One ... A devout young woman learns about faith, living, and love from a surprising source when she takes a job at the local health food store and her beliefs collide with her more bohemian co-workers' views in "Paradise Recovered" (2010), starring Heather Wallis, Dane Seth Hurlburt and Oliver Luke. From Monarch Home Entertainment ... In "Albatross" (2011), starring Jessica Brown Findlay, Felicity Jones, Julia Ormond and Sebastian Koch, Emelia Conan-Doyle, the 17-year-old heir to the legacy of Arthur Conan Doyle, pursues a writing career while working at a stuffy seaside hotel run by blocked novelist Jonathan, his bitter wife and their daughter. Emilia first befriends the bookish daughter and then begins an affair with her father, pulling the family apart. From IFC ... "Young Goethe in Love" (2010 -- Germany), starring Alexander Fehling, Miriam Stein, Moritz Bleibtreu, Volker Bruch, Burghart Klaussner, Henry Hubchen, is a beautifully innocent yet achingly insightful romantic drama about the 23-year-old Johann Goethe, his summer of self-discovery and unrequited love, and the birth of the first-ever literary superstar. From Music Box Films.
For the Family:
With the May 4 theatrical release of Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" (from Disney) fast approaching, Lionsgate is preparing fans with two DVD sets of animated Marvel heroes: Lionsgate is preparing fans with two DVD sets of animated Marvel heroes: "Ultimate Avengers Movie Collection 3-Movie Set" is a three-disc set with "Ultimate Avengers: The Movie," "Ultimate Avengers 2" and "Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow"; and "Marvel Animated Features 3-Movie Collection" is a three-disc set that includes "Planet Hulk," "The Invincible Iron Man" and "Doctor Strange"; $19.99 each ... In "Spot and His Grandparents Go to the Carnival" (2012), Spot, the star of Eric Hill's beloved children’s books, joins his grandparents on a trip to the carnival; $9.97 from BBC Home Entertainment.
"Crime After Crime" (2011), the award-winning documentary that has inspired an upcoming feature-length film adaptation, chronicles the dramatic legal battle to free Debbie Peagler, a woman sentenced to life behind bars for her connection to the murder of her abuser. The inspiring film received critical acclaim nationwide, and more importantly, sparked global attention to the broken legal system between domestic violence and criminal justice. With a special introduction by Oprah Winfrey and Rosie O'Donnell, extended scenes, "Crime After Crime in Context" featurette, Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival, film crew bios, musician bios, Debbie's Campaign, OWN Doc Club "Sizzle reel." From Virgil Films & Entertainment.