Sunday, January 20, 2008

Strike Got You Down? Try these DVDs

Has your TV gone dark? As we approach the third month of the writers strike it may seem more like summer with big hit shows already in repeats.

Networks are scrambling to find programming, airing the few episodes written and made before the strike. Some midseason replacements include "Cashmere Mafia" and "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles."

Award ceremonies are suffering too; The Golden Globes became a press conference and the fate of the Academy Awards is still in limbo.

There seems to be no quick resolution or end in sight for the strike. New digital technology has led to new contract problems. The strike began because of unfair treatment to the writers with little or no residuals for internet streaming downloads.

You ask what's left on TV? Reality shows. As "American Idol" begins, we also get a mega-dose of dating shows: "Rock of Love 2," "Flavor of Love 3" and another round of MTV's "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila."

The umpteenth seasons of "Survivor" and "Big Brother" are in order, plus revivals of semi-hit shows "American Gladiators" and "The Mole." But the award for the most desperate attempt goes to the CW network for the upcoming reality series "Farmer Wants a Wife."

So, what are TV viewers to do? Stay in the comfort of your home and check out DVDs of some great movies you may have missed in the theaters. Whether you add them on your Netflix queue or pick them up at your local Blockbuster here are some suggestions for great viewing:

"Away from Her" (PG-13) -- Stars Gordon Pinsent, Julie Christie, Michael Murphy and Olympia Dukakis. "Away from Her" is one of the saddest films of the year. Grant (Pinsent), an elderly man, deals with the fact his wife, Fiona (Christie), is now in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer's disease. When Grant comes back to the home he finds that Fiona has forgotten him and is now affectionate with another patient, Aubrey (Murphy). With Oscar talk around Christie's performance, this is one not to miss.

"Breach" (PG-13) -- Stars Ryan Phillippe, Chris Cooper and Laura Linney. "Breach" is the thrilling true story of an FBI recruit (Phillippe) who gets caught up in a dangerous game of espionage with his boss (Cooper), who is selling secrets to the Soviet Union.

"Eastern Promises" (R) -- Stars Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel. "Promises" is a crime-drama mystery that follows Nikolai (Mortensen), a ruthless London gangster. He must retrieve incriminating evidence to protect his "family" from a midwife (Watts) who crosses paths with him. This is one to watch out for come Oscar time.

"Freedom Writers" (PG-13) -- Stars Hilary Swank, Patrick Dempsey, April L. Hernandez, Mario and Imelda Staunton. One of the most inspirational and faithful book adaptations of the year, "Freedom Writers" tells the true story of a young English teacher, Erin Gruwell (Swank), whose first job is at a racially divided school in Long Beach, Calif. There she teaches her students tolerance and to educate themselves in this moving drama.

"Grindhouse" (R) -- Stars Josh Brolin, Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Marley Shelton, Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. "Grindhouse" blends B-movie action with sci-fi, horror and exploitation flicks in two films by directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodrgiuez. "Planet Terror," Rodriguez's film, is about a zombie outbreak and a rag-tag team of survivors trying to stay alive. Tarantino's film "Death Proof" is a slasher flick about a killer (Russell) whose favorite weapon is his car. Including one of the best car chases ever caught on film, this is an experience not to miss.

"Joshua" (R) -- Stars Jacob Kogan, Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga. "Joshua" is the psychological horror story of a young piano prodigy, Joshua (Kogan). When the attention is taken away from him by his new baby sister, he has a sinister plan for her and his parents (Rockwell and Farmiga).

"A Mighty Heart" (R) -- Stars Angelina Jolie and Dan Futterman. Angelina Jolie gives a powerhouse performance as Marianne Pearl, the wife of slain journalist Daniel Pearl (Futterman), in this true story recounting the tragic events. With Jolie in consideration for a best actress Oscar, this is one to watch.

"Rescue Dawn" (PG-13) -- Stars Christian Bale and Steve Zahn. "Rescue" is another film that tells a real-life story. U.S. fighter pilot (Bale) is shot down and captured in Laos during the Vietnam War. This is the story of an amazing escape with a group of POWs.

"Talk to Me" (R) -- Stars Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofer, Taraji P. Henson and Martin Sheen. "Talk" is the biopic of Washington, D.C., radio personality Ralph "Petey" Greene, an ex-con whose popular radio show rocketed him to fame. With laughs-a-plenty and a great story, this is one to "talk" about.

Let's hope these offerings are enough to get us through the strike before "Farmer Gets a Wife 2" makes it to TV sets.

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