Tommy Lee Jones directed and co-stars with Samuel L. Jackson in “The Sunset Limited,” an HBO movie based on the play by Cormac McCarthy (“The Road,” “No Country for Old Men”). Jones is a professor who struggles with despair so deep that he tries to commit suicide by jumping in front of the train in the movie’s title. Jackson is the janitor, a man of profound and committed faith, who rescues him and brings him back to his apartment for a conversation about God, purpose, meaning, and what we can know about life.
This is a rare production that is willing to engage on issues of faith. Whether you think of it as a literal conversation between two men or as a metaphor of a Jacob-like character wrestling with an angel, it is a moving experience — and a chance to see two of our greatest actors at their best.
Have you seen Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never” 3D concert film? Would you like to see more? Just three weeks after its release, Paramount is sending out a revised “fans” version so all the Be-liebers out there can see even more Beiber, and even a glimpse of themselves — this edition has more of Justin Bieber’s friends and hometown life, new songs and performances, and special footage shot at fan premieres across the country. Tickets for the new version, with 40 minutes of new scenes, go on sale today at 5pm PST/8pm EST for shows beginning this Friday and for a limited time only.
Let’s get it out of the way first thing. “Megamind” would be a much more enjoyable experience if it wasn’t so close to one of this year’s brightest family pleasures, Despicable Me. Both are stories of the clash of two mega-villains that turn an anti-hero into a lovable guy. Both lead characters suffer because they were not loved and made to feel a source of pride as children. The sidekicks even have the same name. Megamind has to battle “Despicable Me’s” Gru for the affection of audiences.
It isn’t as good — and it owes a little bit to the incomparable “The Incredibles,” too. But on its own terms it is still a lot of fun and one of the best in a year of spectacular animated features.
Megamind (voice of Will Ferrell) came to earth as a little baby with a big, blue head sent here by rocket before his planet exploded. But at the same time, another set of parents was shooting off their baby towards earth. Megamind’s rocket landed in a prison and he had a childhood of abuse, bullying, and deprivation while his rival was the handsome, charming, popular kid in school who would grow up to be a superhero known as Metro Man (the very manly voice of Brad Pitt). Megamind decided that if he couldn’t be the best at being good, he’d be the best at being bad.
All goes pretty well until Metro Man is suddenly out of the picture. Without a worthy adversary, Megamind has something of an existential crisis. His brilliant solution is to create a new hero so he have someone to compete with. But that doesn’t go according to plan and Megamind finds himself having to save the day.
Those who are familiar with superhero lore will appreciate the tributes to the Superman origin story and Lois Lane-style intrepid female reporter. There are some references to Cyrano de Bergerac as well; it’s not a coincidence that the female lead is named Roxanne (voice of Tina Fey). It is clever without being snarky, and avoids over-doing the usual pop culture references and air quotes. I especially like the way that the emotions and reactions of the main characters, Megamind, Roxanne, and the new nemesis are very relatable for elementary school kids while giving them something to stretch for with references to Tesla coils and existential discussions and a plot with a couple of extra twists. And Roxanne is far from the usual damsel in distress. “Can someone stamp my frequent kidnapping card?” she asks dryly. “You of all people should know we discontinued that promotion,” Megamind replies. She likes him, not because he’s dangerous, but because she can see how much he really wants to be good. And when he’s bad, he’s very, very bad, but when he’s good, he’s even better.
Another one from my favorite series that arrives in time for Black History Month — Duke Ellington… and more stories to celebrate great figures in African American history from Scholastic Storybook Treasures.
The DVD includes gently animated and beautifully narrated versions of four books about important figures in black history.
Duke Ellington Forest Whitaker reads this tribute to one of the 20th century’s most celebrated and influential musicians.
Ellington Was Not a Street Phylicia Rashad reads Ntozake Shange’s story about growing up amidst many of the great figures of African-American history.
Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa She had an exquisite voice and unsurpassed musicianship to use it like a jazz instrument. Billy Dee Williams tells the story of how she got her sound.
John Henry Samuel L. Jackson reads the story based on the famous legend and folk ballad about the hammer-driving man who could beat anyone, even the machine.