Rating system: (4=Don't miss, 3=Good, 2=Worth a look, 1=Forget it)
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“44 Inch Chest” (R) (3) [Pervasive strong language, including sexual references, and some violence.] [DVD and VOD only] — After a devastated, distraught, and shocked British mobster (Ray Winstone) brutally beats his wife (Joanne Whalley) when he discovers that she is having an affair in this gritty, dark, violent, profanity-filled crime thriller, he and his gangster cronies (Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt, Ian McShane, and Stephen Dillane) commensurate about the affair and decide to kidnap her French lover (Melvil Poupaud).
“Babies” (PG) (2) [Cultural and maternal nudity throughout.] — A cute, smile-inducing, somewhat boring 90-minute Thomas Balmès documentary with no dialogue that follows four adorable babies, including Ponijao, Namibia; Bayarjargal, Mari, and Hatti, as they grow up with their devoted parents in diverse cultures and environments in Namibia, Mongolia, Japan, and the United States, respectively.
“Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove” (PG) (2) [Mild thematic elements.] [DVD and VOD only] — When her widowed father (Kevin Otto) is injured in this family-oriented, predictable 2010 sequel that preaches wildlife preservation, a bubbly Australian girl (Bindi Irwin) is sent to live with her grumpy, but kindhearted grandfather (Beau Bridges) at a dilapidated, seaside amusement park and ends up helping a stranded orca whale return to the open sea after it became separated from its pod.
“The Good Heart” (R) (3) [Language and a disturbing image.] [DVD and VOD only] — When a foul-mouthed, bitter, curmudgeonly owner (Brian Cox), with a chronic heart condition, of a rundown bar in New York City makes a kindhearted, suicidal, homeless man (Paul Dano) he meets in the hospital his protégé in this dark, engaging comedy, his plans get sidetracked after a penniless French woman (Isild Le Besco) takes a liking to his new assistant and Christmas dinner makes a run for freedom.
“Herself” (R) (3) [Language and some domestic violence.] [Available Dec. 30 on Amazon Prime Video.] — Superb acting dominates this compelling, dark, tension-filled, realistic, down-to-earth, 97-minute film in which a traumatized, desperate, hardworking, divorced Irish mother (Clare Dunne), who works three jobs to support her two young daughters (Molly McCann and Ruby Rose O’Hara), lives in a government-subsidized hotel room in Dublin after leaving her emotionally and physically abusive husband (Ian Lloyd Anderson) and with the selfless help of her generous and compassionate retired doctor boss (Harriet Walter), a kindhearted building contractor (Conleth Hill) who has a son with Down Syndrome, and the thoughtfulness of strangers she is able not only to build a small home for her family but start to rebuild her life.
“The Midnight Sky” (PG-13) (2.5) [Some bloody images and brief strong language.] [Netflix Only] — While a terminally-ill, emotionally-struggling astronomer (George Clooney) at a scientific research station in the Arctic Circle ends up caring for a young girl (Caoilinn Springall) who got separated from her parents after a devastating global calamity befalls Earth in 2049 and he tries desperately to contact astronauts returning to Earth from one of Jupiter’s moon in this disappointing, bleak, disconnected, thought-provoking, intense, convoluted, loophole-filled, love-it-or-hate-it, 122-minute post-apocalyptic, sci-fi thriller dotted with great special effects and based on Lily Brooks-Dalton’s novel “Good Morning, Midnight,” the astronauts (Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler Demián Bichir, and Tiffany Boone) cope with dangers onboard a spacestation after being bombarded with meteors and space junk and must determine whether to return to our once blue planet.
“Oceans” (NR) (4) [DVD and VOD only] — Pierce Brosnan narrates this powerful, educational documentary that is filled with phenomenal, gorgeous cinematography and celebrates Earth Day 2010 as it captures a multitude of sea life, including garden, ribbon, and moray eels; razor fish; hermit, Sally light foot, and spider crabs; humpback, blue, orca, and beluga whales; sunfish; mackerel; swordfish; blue, great white, sperm, hammerhead, and whale sharks; damsel fish; yellow and blue fin tuna; green turtles; sailfish; stone fish; angel fish; Asian sheep head wrasse; stingrays; sea otters; jellyfish; sea urchins; dolphins; sardines; blanket octopuses; starfish; Spanish lover sea slugs; manta shrimp; porcupine puffer fish; cuttlefish; clown fish; sweet lip fish; unicorn, South African fur, and leopard seals; sea lions; penguins; walruses; and winged sea dragons from Australia to the Antarctic.
“The Secret in Their Eyes” (R) (4) [A rape scene, violent images, some graphic nudity, and language.] [Subtitled] [DVD and VOD only] — A shocking ending punctuates this powerful, riveting, intricate, well-written, Oscar-winning, romantic crime thriller that is told in flashbacks in which a tenacious, retired, Argentinean chief justice court employee (Ricardo Darín), who has been smitten with his former comely boss (Soledad Villamil) for years, decides to write a suspenseful, factually based novel regarding a case that he and his lush office assistant (Guillermo Francella) tried to solve 25 years earlier after the schoolteacher wife (Carla Quevedo) of a bank employee (Pablo Rago) in Buenos Aires was viciously raped and murdered in 1974.
“The Secret of Kells” (NR) (3) [DVD and VOD only] — Striking, colorful visuals dominate this compelling, Oscar-nominated, animated film about an Irish abbot (voiceover by Brendan Gleeson) and his 12-year-old nephew (voiceover by Evan McGuire) in medieval Ireland who try to protect “The Book of Kells” from evil forces and Viking raids.
“The Warlords” (R) (3.5) [Sequences of strong violence.] [Subtitled] [DVD and VOD only] — After Ho army soldiers slaughter all of his men during the civil war in 1861 and a mysterious peasant woman (Jinglei Zu) befriends him in this factually based, violent, 2007 film, which is loosely based on the Shaw Bros. 1973 classic “The Blood Brothers” (aka “Chinese Vengeance”) and is filled with betrayal, gorgeous cinematography, and wonderfully choreographed battle sequences, an ambitious imperial general (Jet Li) eventually sacrifices honor and trust when he forms a blood bond with two Chinese bandits (Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro) and convinces them and their ragtag band of thieves to join forces with the army to defeat Taiping rebels in order to bring freedom and peace to the Chinese people.
Wendy Schadewald is a Burnsville resident.