With his good looks, Liev Schreiber (TV's Ray Donovan) seems born to play an astronaut. In Magnet Releasing's The Last Days on Mars, he finally gets the chance. As chief systems officer Vincent Campbell, he's part of Aurora's six-month mission on the red planet with only 19 hours left to go before heading home. What could go wrong?
According to The Slumber Party Massacre, young women love to have group sleepovers so fun that the girls don't have the good sense to leave the house when their party is crashed by the arrival of a drill-wielding serial killer.
We vilify people for bad behavior in real life, yet celebrate it in our entertainment, particularly on the small screen. When the results are as strong as the current crop, all new (or new-ish) to DVD and/or Blu-ray, why question the disconnect?
Prior to his Spider-Man trilogy, director Sam Raimi cut his superhero-movie teeth on 1990's Darkman, a character of his own creation. Although it's clearly not the most polished of his works, the summer sleeper plays even better as the years tick by. Look no further than Shout! Factory's colorful re-release on Blu-ray.
Someday, celebrity cyclist Lance Armstrong may regret hiring Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney to document his 2009 "comeback," but I doubt it. As The Armstrong Lie demonstrates time and again for two mostly gripping hours, the athlete is still unable to tell the whole truth and nothing but.
While this institution holds more championship chess titles than any other middle school in the nation (26), the film opens with them experiencing loss — well, second place, at least, among 862 teams. They win so often that not winning is a shock to the kids’ systems.
The bulk of Brooklyn Castle finds them prepping for the next trip to nationals, but facing a road more roughly paved than ever. Not only do these children — mostly African-American and highly disadvantaged financially — have their everyday pressures, but face an impending test that will determine which 600 students among 15,000 applicants will be allowed into a specialized — read: quality — high school.
And on top of that, the U.S. recession hits, and New York City’s billion-dollar deficit threatens to derail school enrichment programs, such as chess. And for these kids, chess is what they live for — more than a game, it’s an anchor attached to the straight-and-narrow, a beacon showing them a way toward a bright future.
On those nonfic-film levels of feel-good and good-for-you, Brooklyn Castle works. It’s like an offshoot of Waiting for “Superman," demonstrating the tangible value of extracurricular education beyond the three Rs that public schools can provide, when only someone cares to.
The film is too long, however; at some point, Dellamaggiore hits a repeat cycle before the final act kicks in. Stories of pint-sized chess champs aren’t new, and the best I’ve encountered were told in print, but this may inspire viewers mildly. It certainly won’t hurt. —Rod Lott