- - Sunday, July 17, 2011

New Releases


Fox Home Entertainment


We all know guys like Eddie Moran (Bradley Cooper). They’re clever and always seem to have a plan in mind to get rich without much effort. But for some reason (mostly their own shortcomings) they always fall short. In Eddie’s case, many days and lots of dollars short.

As “Limitless” begins, Eddie is down and nearly out - until his ex-brother-in-law shares some truly “mind expanding” news: an experimental drug called NZT that allows anyone taking it to remember any and everything they’ve ever read, experienced or been exposed to. Soon, Eddie is using his new brain power to become a wizard of Wall Street. He amasses a small fortune and wins back the affections of his former girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish).

He also begins attracting the attention of corporate titan Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), who wants to know the whiz kid’s secret, and a loan shark whom Eddie used to owe money. Things get even more dangerous when Eddie’s only contact for his wonder drug disappears - and unexpected side effects surface.

Director Neil Burger and screenwriter Leslie Dixon (“Hairspray,” “Pay It Forward”) have adapted Alan Glynn’s science fiction novel into an imaginative and fast-paced thriller, a journey into the power and dangers of the unlimited, unleashed mind. Mr. Cooper is quite good as the movie’s “every guy” hero, who’s just trying to make a slightly better life and gets in way over his head. Mr. De Niro slyly underplays Van Loon, which allows some of the plot’s concluding twists to play out quite nicely.

The DVD’s extras and features include a “making of” short, an alternative ending and an unrated version of the film. Blu-ray extras are a “how to” feature on viewing the digital copy and the digital copy itself.

“Limitless,” along with the recently released “Adjustment Bureau” and the soon-to be-released “Source Code,” proves Hollywood can turn out quality mainstream science fiction films. Perhaps the studio executives need to “expand” their minds a bit. Rating: PG-13 for profanity, violence, sexual and drug content.

Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

First Run Features


With this recent documentary, director and writer Mary McDonough Murphy has crafted a loving tribute to Harper Lee and her moving coming of age novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

As the reclusive author hasn’t given an interview since 1964, the filmmaker speaks instead with a variety of actors, writers and others about the novel, its beloved movie adaptation and the effect of each on their lives. Among those offering their thoughts are actress Mary Badham, journalists Anna Quindlen and Tom Brokaw, writers Scott Turow and James Patterson, talk show host Oprah Winfrey and former U.N. Ambassador Rev. Andrew Young.

“Hey Boo” quietly speaks volumes about the reasons why and how this 50-plus year old novel still resonates with readers of a new century. Seen in conjunction with the classic feature, it makes for an affecting experience. Rating: Unrated.

Back of the Rack

To Kill a Mockingbird

Universal Home Entertainment


The long and lazy days of summer and thoughts of childhood, along with the video release of “Hey, Boo” (see above), make this a good time to share the Oscar-winning film version of Harper Lee’s perennially popular novel with the younger folks in your family who’ve never seen it.

A beautifully calibrated tale of truth and honor in a world of compromise and deception set in the Depression-era South, “Mockingbird” centers on widowed attorney Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for his performance) and his children. Through the eyes and voice of his daughter Scout (Mary Badham), we follow the story of Atticus’ noble fight to save a black man falsely accused of rape and the reverberations of his stand for justice on the entire community.

The film’s honesty and humanity come across time after time in scenes that speak with a subtle grace. Director Robert Mulligan and screenwriter Horton Foote (“The Trip to Bountiful”) displayed great craftsmanship and sensitivity in transferring the story to the screen. No matter how many times you see it, it retains the power to move you as deeply as it did the first time. Watching it with children always makes for fascinating post-viewing conversations. MPAA Rating: Not rated, but does contain material that may disturb small children.

Loading Docs

The Curious Case of Curt Flood

HBO On Demand through Aug. 15


Finally, HBO On Demand is currently offering another of the cable network’s outstanding sports documentaries. “The Curious Case of Curt Flood” tells the fascinating story of the man who helped to change professional sports by suing baseball over its reserve clause in 1969.

As with all of HBO’s sports docs, the film observes and transcends the sporting elements of the story to look at the human drama of Flood’s life. He was a man of many contradictions, passionately involved in the civil rights movement, but emotionally and physically separated from his wife and children. Flood was a man who could light up the lives of others, but could never seem to get a firm grasp on his own affairs.

Local baseball fans will get a kick out of the portion of the story that involves Flood’s stint with the Washington Senators in 1971. Anyone looking for a story of glory, regret, loss and redemption will find all that and more in this excellent film. HBO’s production team here supplies fresh evidence that when it comes to sports documentaries, it stands head and shoulders above the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader,” ESPN.News & Notes

Joe Barber is the entertainment editor for WTOP-FM Radio and a critic for WETA-TV’s “Around Town.”

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