One of the big Oscar winners this year was Gus Van Sant's (Good Will Hunting, Paranoid Park) Milk, which won for best screenplay and for Sean Penn's (21 Grams, We're No Angels) performance as gay rights activist Harvey Milk. Recounting the life of Harvey Milk from his moving to California in the 1970 with his partner (James Franco: Spider Man, Pineapple Express), and beginning to form a predominantly gay neighborhood called The Castro. Tired of neighborhood and police persecution, Milk assembles a team of friends (including Emile Hirsch: Speed Racer, The Air I Breathe and Alison Pill: Dan in Real Life, Dear Wendy) and, after several campaigns, eventually becomes the first openly gay man to hold pubic office... but his success and notoriety don't please everyone, including conservative boardmember Dan White (Josh Brolin: W., American Gangster).
The story of Chess Records and the rock'n'roll records made from the 40's to the 60's, Cadillac Records follows Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody: The Darjeeling Limited, King Kong) as he opens his first club and discovers Muddy Waters (Jeffery Wright: Casino Royale, W.). The record company takes off as Chess records Little Walter (Columbus Short: This Christmas, Stomp the Yard), Howlin Wolf (Eamonn Walker: Unbreakable, Lord of War), Chuck Barry (Mos Def: Be Kind Rewind, The Italian Job), Willie Dixon (Cedric the Entertainer: Street Kings, Intolerable Cruelty), and Etta James (Beyonce Knowles: The Pink Panther, Dreamgirls). But the lives of blues and rock musicians in Chicago in the 50s and 60s were turbulent, and Chess records was destined to have a short, exciting life. On DVD and Blu-Ray.
The first directorial effort by actor Stuart Townsend (Queen of the Damned, Chaos Theory), Battle in Seattle is an ensemble picture that places fictionalized characters within the 1999 WTO riots in Seattle. The movie tells a multi-angled story, sharing time between protesters, organizers, police, government, press, and members of the World Trade Organization, and features Martin Henderson (Smokin Aces, Bride & Prejudice), Michelle Rodriguez (Bloodrayne, Blue Crush), Woody Harrelson (Natural Born Killers, No Country for Old Men), Charlize Theron (Monster, Hancock), Andre Benjamin (Four Brothers, Idlewild), Ray Liotta (Wild Hogs, Goodfellas), and Connie Nielsen (The Ice Harvest, Gladiator).
Acclaimed screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich) directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York stars Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, Charlie Wilson's War) as a theater director who, after his wife (Catherine Keener: What Just Happened, The Interpreter) leaves, devotes himself to producing a play about life... all of it. As his life progresses, the scope of the piece encompass him, requiring him to cast someone as himself (Tom Noonan: The Alphabet Killer, Manhunter), and even the women in his life (Michelle Williams: The Station Agent, Brokeback Mountain, Samantha Morton: Enduring Love, Emma, and Hope Davis: Mumford, Charlie Bartlett). As the years pass by and the piece continues to evolve, lines blur between the characters, actors, and their duplicates, and eventually tell the story of decades of one man's life in what may be the most "meta" film ever made. On DVD and Blu-Ray.
Anne Hathaway (Get Smart, The Devil Wears Prada) was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her role in Jonathan Demme's (Stop Making Sense, The Manchurian Candidate) Rachel Getting Married. Hathaway plays the black sheep member of a family, let out of rehab for her sister's (Rosemarie DeWitt: Mad Men, Cinderella Man) wedding, but her spotted past and indelible personality cause unpredictable results the best man (Mather Zickel: The Ten, Diggers), her father (Bill Irwin: Across the Universe, Lady in the Water) and step-mother (Anna Deavere Smith: The Kingdom, Cry_Wolf), and her estranged mother (Debra Winger: Eulogy, Urban Cowboy). On DVD and Blu-Ray.
A tribute to the Bollywood musicals of the 1970s, Om, Shanti, Om is the story of a young man who dies nobly in the 70s only to be immediately resurrected in the present day... as a musical superstar. The epic contains all the hallmarks of its predecessors (romance, mystery, action) with stunning production values and modern flair, and is touted as "the highest grossing film of Bollywood ever."
Sally Hawkins (Cassandra's Dream, Persuasion) was nominated for a Best Actress Golden Globe in Mike Leigh's (Secrets & Lies, Topsy Turvy) Happy-Go-Lucky as an irrepressible free spirit. She bounds through life with irrepressible optimism, though not everyone shares her enthusiasm, she lives her live being nice to everyone she meets, and trying to cheer up anyone who appears to be unhappy... which may or may not be good for her.
The Swedish film Let the Right One In is the story of 12-year-old Oskar who befriends Eli, the strange new girl in his building. Oskar's life begins to change as he pursues his crush on Eli... who only comes out at night, and never seems to be effected by the freezing weather. Reviewed by the Washington Examiner as the "best vampire movie ever," and winning the Best Narrative Film award at New York's Tribeca Film Festival, Let the Right One In is simultaneously a coming-of-age movie, a love story, a twist on the Peter Pan tales, and a respectful treatment of the vampire mythos, which landed it on several critical "Top 10" lists for 2008, and several awards at film festivals all over the world.
Mark Herman's (Hope Springs, Brassed Off!) The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is the story of a young boy in Nazi Germany who has to move when his father (David Thewlis: The Inner Life of Martin Frost, Dragonheart) receives an important promotion. Their new yard is bordered by a fence, and on the other side of the fence is a boy his own age, wearing striped pajamas... but the boy doesn't know that the fenced in area is the concentration camp his father runs, or what becomes of people in striped pajamas.
Also new this week is the 70th anniversary DVD release of Disney's classic Pinocchio, as the little wooden boy learns about honesty and selflessness.
The new comedy by Stella alumnus David Wain (The State, Wet Hot American Summer), Role Models stars Paul Rudd (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Baxter) as the uptight spokesman for an energy drink company, and Sean William Scott (Mr. Woodcock, Old School) as his hard-partying best friend... but when he breaks up with his girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks: Meet Dave, Zack and Miri Make a Porno), the repercussions of one bad day can either land them both in jail... or into a "big brother" program. Rudd gets teamed up with a role-playing obsessed teenager (Christopher Mintz-Plasse: McLovin from Superbad), and William Scott is paired with a foul-mouthed 11-year-old (Bobb'e J. Thompson: Human Giant, Fred Claus) who is obsessed with breasts... and if the men can survive 150 hours of community service with these kids, they can stay out of jail and reclaim their lives.
Building on the franchise, Transporter 3 brings back the professional, rule-obsessed Driver (Jason Statham: Death Race, Ghosts of Mars), once again a reluctant hero. Stuck with a device on his wrist that will explode if he moves 75 feet from his car, and transporting a beautiful and mysterious passenger, he has to find out why he's driving, stop the bad guys, and save the girl... which will take a lot of fancy driving and hand-to-hand combat. On DVD and Blu-Ray.
Red Sands stars Shane West (A Walk to Remember, What We Do Is Secret) as a US soldier in Afghanistan who finds himself and his unit terrorized by an ancient djinn, released when one of his men destroys the statue containing the evil spirit. As the men are haunted by the djinn's visions of war and their fallen friends, they begin to fall, one by one, until the remaining men have to confront the truth of what haunts them.
New this week to Reckless Video's TV New Releases are the first season of Starter Wife and a new disc of Shaun the Sheep episodes: Back in the Baa.