First, the giveaway. There are still 8 DVDs that I would really like to give away. A few have been claimed and mailed away. I'll mail anywhere in the world (in case that was the reason you didn't ask, but whether it works on your DVD player is up to you). These will be available until next Friday, January 20, then I'm giving them to the library. Take your pick and leave it in the comments.
1. Something's Gotta Give - Widescreen
2. Precious - Widescreen
3. America's Sweethearts - Both
4. Center Stage - Special Edition
5. Men in Black II - Widescreen Special Edition
6. X-Men 3: The Last Stand - Widescreen
7. Far From Heaven - Widescreen
8. Stepmom - Full screen
Second, a review of Larry Crowne, new on DVD not too long ago, but finally came to my house. Our new recording schedule for RI leaves some time in the schedule that makes getting new movies really nice. Anyway - Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) is a middle-aged guy who is being let go from his retail position because he can no longer advance in the company because he doesn't have a college degree (he was in the Navy for 20 years). Now this plot device bothered me for about 10 minutes and then it doesn't matter at all, it's just a reason to make Larry go back to school. Why would ANY company fire a terrific employee just because their mantra is that everyone can advance, and he actually can't. He isn't asking to move up, just stay employed.
But Larry enrolls at a local community college in at least 2 classes, Economics 101 (taught but a really funny George Takai) and Communication 217 - Informal Remarks or something like that, taught by Mrs. Mercedes "Merry" Tainot (Julia Roberts, married to porn-addicted writer Bryan Cranston). She is really burned out by teaching, particularly 8am classes. And there's a rule that if a class has fewer than 10 enrolled students, it's not cost effective to continue, which pleases Merry a lot until Larry arrives and makes it 10, which puts a strike against Larry from the first.
The semester rolls along and Larry has to find ways to cut costs now that he's not working. His neighbors (Cedric the Entertainer and Taraji P. Henson) run a continuous yard sale and have a scooter he can buy to save on gas. From this, he's asked to join a "scooter gang", led by Talia and Dell (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Wilmer Valderama). Talia is unsure about school, but likes the look of Larry and wants to help him be cool. Larry goes through a few transformations and stays friends with the "scooter gang". Merry sees Larry out with Talia and assumes the worst.
You can guess how this movie ends. The trailer does give you some of the funny moments, but in context they're much funnier (when she's riding on the back of his scooter they drive by her husband getting arrested). Tom Hanks is particularly charming, much in the way he is during The Terminal, but without the accent, just the confusion. Having just taught at a community college myself, I found a lot to like about this film. They captured the mix of students really really well - you have older people trying to hang on to their lives or single moms eager to improve their lots under staggering odds. Then you have the young students who have no idea what they want to do, and they're pretty sure goofing off and being loud is all that will ever be required of them in life. Overall, it's a very cute movie - though if either Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts actively annoy you, it's not for you. If not, you'll really enjoy it's charming nature. 4 of 5 stars/lambs