Times Colonist

Cars 2 slow off the mark

- KATHERINE MONK

CARS 2

★★ 1/2

Um. I still have a problem with the whole cars premise . . . not because I resist the idea of anthropomo­rphizing inanimate objects. I thought The Brave Lit

tle Toaster was amazing. But these slick Pixar films that turn our love affair with internal combustion into high drama with supposedly human charms just leave skid marks across my brain. In this outing, we watch as Mater — the tow truck stuck in low gear — becomes involved in an internatio­nal plot involving spies and a new type of fuel. A bizarre investigat­ion of our central passion for cars, these films take a magnifying glass to our auto-centric culture and make our romance with cars look just a little creepy. Special features include all-new Pixar short Air Mater, behind the scenes, Hawaiian Vacation short, digital copy and more.

CRAZY, STUPID LOVE

★★★

It’s cute and just a little formulaic, but when you have great actors moving through a predictabl­e landscape, you can sink into each character and go for the ride. Moreover, what gives this all-star romantic comedy real teeth is the underlying message that real love takes a big, uncompromi­sing and courageous heart. You can’t manipulate or cajole the real thing out of a person. If it’s the real deal, you know it, and you go all the way. A clever and sincere antidote to romantic cynicism and the concept of being cool in the clutches of Eros, this movie finds sweetness where other recent efforts have found only fermenting sentiment. Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei and Emma Stone make for a fun — and often moving — trip through the mod- ern meat market. Special features include Steve and Ryan walk into a bar, The Player Meets his Match, deleted scenes and more.

A BETTER LIFE

★★★

In the early haze of a Los Angeles morning, gardeners move through the groomed crabgrass and manicured exotic blooms of the Hollywood hill dwellers. The work looks backbreaki­ng and those who do it are socially invisible to the privileged, but for Carlos Galindo (Demian Bichir), being the worker ant who keeps L.A. scented with eucalyptus offers more than a sense of purpose: It affords their very survival as “illegal immigrants.”

Chris Weitz ( About a Boy) directs veteran Mexican talent Bichir in this surprising­ly subtle melodrama about finding a place, and making a better life. A story plucked from the front pages, the film follows Carlos as he attempts to realize the American Dream by working hard and taking entreprene­urial risk, but finally ends up in a futile struggle with the law and customs and immigratio­n officials. A heartfelt film that brings a whole other world into crisp focus, A Better Life is a good bet. Special features include audio commentary with Chris Weitz, deleted scenes, Jardinero Music by Ozomatli and more.

HOT COFFEE

★★★★

Susan Saladoff was a lawyer without any ambitions of becoming a documentar­y filmmaker, until she saw what was happening to the U.S. legal system in the wake of the so-called Mcdonald’s Hot Coffee case. Senior citizen Stella Liebeck received thirddegre­e burns to her legs, abdomen and groin as a result of coffee spilling in her lap. She was awarded damages to compensate for her medical costs, but the suit was quickly deemed problemati­c by corporate forces on the right, who felt industry might be crippled by giving the individual his or her day in court. Quickly afterward, phrases and initiative­s such as “tort reform” and “jackpot justice” entered the policy vocabulary. A fascinatin­g and altogether urgent dissection of how ordinary Joe and Jane Public are being denied their right to a public trial, and being forced into arbitratio­n, Hot Coffee is a movie that may well make you wake up and smell the bean counters. Special features include deleted scenes, take action and more.

THE GRATEFUL DEAD MOVIE

★★★★

Take a deep breath, and don’t cough, as you inhale the magic of Jerry Garcia and the iconic group of trippers called the Grateful Dead in this archival concert movie. Shot over a five-night stand at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco in 1974, The Grateful Dead movie captures the band at its apex. The band actually took an extended break after the tour was over, and you can see why: They give so much of themselves to their fans, they’re completely drained by the experience of playing for hours and hours every night. The movie features in-depth interviews with several Deadheads, and gets to the heart of the GD obsession: It’s not just about music, it’s about community. A rather artful piece of rock documentar­y, this is probably the best gift you could ever buy that uncle of yours with the rusty VW bus and the incense burners. This Dvd/blu-ray version has been created from the original negative, and was extensivel­y restored using the latest digital tools. Special features include extra songs and more.

TRESPASS

★★ 1/2

Once you stop wondering what the heck Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman are doing in this movie, Joel Schumacher’s latest effort actually starts to deliver a whole lot of frantic — and just a little sudsy — fun. Not that anything here is cute, light or in any way fluffy. It’s a dark voyage into the broken heart of the American Dream — and the spine of the zeitgeist — as we explore the consequenc­es of vast social inequality. Cage and Kidman play a married couple under siege by loot-seeking have-nots looking to get a piece of the shrinking pie.

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