CATEGORIES DVDs, Movies
This week's batch of DVD releases has something for everyone. For mystery/thriller fans there's Roman Polanski's taut suspenser 'The Ghost Writer,' about a scribe who gets more than he bargained for when he takes on writing the memoirs of a scandal-ridden ex-British prime minister. If you like crime and/or prison dramas, then the French import 'A Prophet' -- which explores the intricate political hierarchy of the prison system -- is for you. Teens will like 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid,' a comic-inspired take on life in that worst of all institutions, middle school. And, lastly, for superhero fans there's 'Kick-Ass,' which ramps up the violence vigilante quotient to the nth power. Read on. 'The Ghost Writer'
What It's About: When a gifted ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) is hired to write the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), he quickly finds himself trapped in a web of political and sexual intrigue. Lang is implicated in a scandal over his administration's harsh tactics and as the ghostwriter digs into the politician's past, he discovers secrets that threaten to jeopardize international relations -- as well as his life.

It's Kinda Like:
'Chinatown' meets 'The Parallax View'

What We Say: This is a thinking person's thriller -- there's not a lot of slam-bang action since most of the thrills bubble up under the surface and have to do with the interactions between people. Director Roman Polanski hasn't lost his touch for delineating the intrigue of the human condition: He's at his best when his protagonists find themselves in situations in which they're way out of their league. McGregor's ghostwriter (he's never referred to by a given name) fights his way through a maze to get to the truth -- but, in the end, the truth can hurt. It's a taut and shocking adventure.
Rotten Tomatoes Reviews
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'A Prophet'
What It's About: Condemned to six years in prison, Malik El Djebena, part Arab, part Corsican, appears younger and more fragile than the other convicts. He's 19 years old and comes under the thumb of the leader of the Corsican gang currently ruling the prison. During his incarceration, he's required to prove himself -- by rubbing out an Arab inmate -- and then he's given a number of "missions" to carry out, toughening him up and gaining the gang leader's confidence. But Malik has plans of his own, and he rises to the top of the hierarchy until he threatens the authority of his mentor.

It's Kinda Like: 'Brute Force' meets 'The Godfather'

What the Critics Say:
The critics were almost unanimous in their praise of 'A Prophet.' Claudia Puig of 'USA Today' said "'A Prophet' is a compelling piece of naturalistic filmmaking, claustrophobic and thought-provoking," while J. R. Jones of the 'Chicago Reader' said that "writer-director Jacques Audiard manages to replicate 'The Godfather's' most elusive element, not the dark comedy or the operatic bloodletting, but the incremental corruption of a decent man into a willful, coldhearted killer." Andrew O'Hehir at Salon.com summed it up: "A highly original film made in a familiar context, and an exciting moviegoing experience you shouldn't miss."
Rotten Tomatoes Reviews
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'Diary of a Wimpy Kid'

What It's About: Based on the best-selling illustrated novel by Jeff Kinney, the film chronicles the adventures of wisecracking pre-teen Greg Heffley, who must somehow survive the scariest time of anyone's life ... middle school. Convinced it's the "dumbest idea ever invented," Heffley considers junior high school a place rigged with hundreds of social land mines, not the least of which are clueless parents, wedgies, swirlies, bullies, lunchtime banishment to the cafeteria floor and a festering piece of cheese with nuclear cooties that one must overcome to become popular.

It's Kinda Like: 'Stand by Me' meets 'Napoleon Dynamite'

What We Say: The trailers we saw for 'Diary' -- keying in on silliness and bathroom humor -- didn't do justice to the at-times gentle and subtle humor of the film. Exploring pre-adolescent life is fraught with problems -- how do you delineate the excitement and sadness of those years with being overly maudlin -- but director Thor Freudenthal navigates his story with a deft hand. The film does have its share of pre-teen slapstick, but in the end it's friendship and caring that rise to the surface as young Heffley finds out that it's better to stand up for what's right than stand back.
Rotten Tomatoes Reviews
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'Kick-Ass'

What It's About: An ordinary teenager, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), goes unnoticed in high school until he takes a chance to "do something" and dons a mask and becomes "Kick-Ass" to fight real-life crime. There's only one problem standing in his way: Kick-Ass has absolutely no superpowers. Bruised and beaten, he is saved by a father-daughter duo (Nicolas Cage as "Big Daddy", Chloe Moretz as 11-year-old sword-wielding "Hit-Girl") who know all the right moves and have a vendetta against a vicious crime-lord.

It's Kinda Like: 'The Dark Knight' meets 'Defendor'

What the Critics Say: 'Kick-Ass' stirred up quite a hornet's nest, particularly for its violence, much of it perpetrated (with many expletives) by a 10-year-old girl. A.O. Scott of 'At the Movies' said, "I know it's all supposed to be tongue in cheek and lots of fun, but frankly this turned my stomach," while Tom Long of the Detroit News said "Everything you've likely heard about 'Kick-Ass' is true, providing you've heard it's profane, outlandish, ultra-violent, shocking, funny and wildly entertaining."
Rotten Tomatoes Reviews
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Other New August 3 DVD Releases:
'After.Life'
'The Breakfast Club 25th Anniversary Edition' (Blu-ray)
'Elvis on Tour'
'Errol Flynn Adventures'
'Happiness Runs '
'James and the Giant Peach' (Blu-ray)
'The Kim Novak Collection'
'Road to Perdition' (Blu-ray)
'To Save a Life'

Check out other new August 3 DVD releases at OnVideo.