|Recommended April DVD Releases|
Here's a selection of the best new movies for April 2008.
April 1, 2008
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Based on Stephen Sondheim's 1979 Broadway musical, this screen adaptation was directed by Tim Burton and stars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Set in Victorian London, the story is a macabre revenge tale centering on Sweeney Todd (Depp), a barber who was egregiously wronged by Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman). Todd sets out to kill the judge, and this turns out to require cutting many other throats along the way. The victims are used in the meat pies sold by Mrs. Lovett (Bonham Carter). Appearing in a supporting role as a rival barber is Sacha Baron Cohen.
There Will Be Blood
Daniel Day-Lewis won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in this drama, which was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. The story is based very loosely on Upton Sinclair's novel Oil! The film takes place in California from 1898 to 1927 and is a character study of Henry Plainview (Day-Lewis), an anti-social man of humble origin who becomes rich and powerful through petroleum. Along the way, he has strange relationships with a drifter claiming to be his half-brother and an adoptive son. His nemesis is a charismatic preacher (Paul Dano).
This comedy is a parody of biopics about musical artists and has a storyline quite similar to Walk the Line and Ray. Dewey Cox grows up poor in Springberry, Alabama, where he accidentally cuts his brother in half. But the grownup Dewey (John C. Reilly) forms a band and gets a record contract. His marriage to his first wife fails, and he falls in love with a good-looking backup singer (Jenna Fischer). Meanwhile, he has drug problems and keeps going in and out of rehab. Dewey performs songs in several different styles as pop music changes over the years.
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
This family-friendly film tells a fanciful tale about the Loch Ness monster and is set in Scotland during World War II. One day 12-year-old Angus (Alex Etel from Millions) finds a strange egg and takes it back to the country estate where he lives with his mom (Emily Watson). A little dinosaur-like creature hatches from the egg, and Angus calls it Crusoe. The creature is adorable, but it grows at an incredible rate. A complication is that British soldiers are stationed at the estate to watch for German submarines. Soon Angus must come up with a way to get Crusoe to water.
April 15, 2008
Nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Juno is a comedy with an Oscar-winning original screenplay. Juno (Ellen Page) is a high school student who finds herself pregnant by her friend Paulie (Michael Cera from Superbad). Fortunately, her dad (J.K. Simmons) and stepmom (Allison Janney) deal with the situation well. Juno eventually decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption to an upper-middle-class married couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) who put an ad in the PennySaver, but an unexpected problem arises.
Lars and the Real Girl
Ryan Gosling stars in this dramedy set in a small town somewhere in the northern Midwest. Gosling plays Lars Lindstrom, a socially awkward 27-year-old loner who lives in a garage apartment next to his brother (Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer). Over the Internet, Lars buys himself a life-size plastic doll that he calls Bianca. Although marketed as a sex toy, Lars treats her like a lady. Half Brazilian and half Danish, Bianca is a wheelchair-bound missionary. A psychologist (Patricia Clarkson) gets everyone in the community to treat Bianca as Lars' girlfriend.
April 22, 2008
Charlie Wilson's War
Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman star in this political comedy directed by Mike Nichols and written by Aaron Sorkin. Set in the 1980s during the Cold War, the movie is based on a true story. Hanks portrays Charlie Wilson, a playboy Democratic U.S. Congressman from Texas who hates the Communists. After the Soviets invade Afghanistan, Wilson teams up with a rightwing socialite (Roberts) in trying to help Afghan rebels. But Wilson's efforts really start to become effective when he allies with a maverick CIA operative (Hoffman).
The conceit of this monster movie is that it's unedited footage shot by an amateur using a camcorder. The content is similar to Godzilla, but the visual style is like The Blair Witch Project. In Cloverfield, half a dozen 20-somethings attend a going-away party in Lower Manhattan when a gigantic reptilian beast attacks the city. Skyscrapers topple, the head of the Statue of Liberty rolls in the streets and the Brooklyn Bridge is destroyed. The young adults set out on a perilous expedition to rescue a woman who is trapped high up in a tall building near Central Park.
Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman star in this tragicomedy about a sister and brother who must deal with a family crisis. Jon Savage (Hoffman) is a college professor in Buffalo, where he teaches theater and is writing a book on Brecht. His sister Wendy (Linney) is an aspiring playwright in Manhattan, and she works as a temp to make ends meet. But when their grumpy father (Philip Bosco), who resides in Sun City, Arizona, shows signs of advanced dementia, Jon and Wendy move him to an assisted-living facility in Buffalo, and they must come to terms with the situation.
April 29, 2008The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Directed by Julian Schnabel, this French-language film is adapted from the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, former editor of the fashion magazine Elle. Bauby had a stroke that left him completely paralyzed, except he could still blink his left eye, and the movie shows how he was able to author the memoir in that condition. An assistant would recite the letters of the alphabet ordered by the frequency of their occurrence in French, and Bauby would blink when she came to the letter he wanted. But Schnabel interweaves Bauby's memories and reveries, and the film is quite cinematic.