“The Hurt Locker” (R): Three members of an Army bomb-defusing squad —a cocky sergeant (Jeremy Renner), his steady second-in-command (Anthony Mackie) and a scared-spitless rookie (Brian Geraghty) — hit the streets of Iraq hoping to save lives, including their own, in director Kathryn Bigelow’s riveting action drama.
Other notable arrivals include “Moon” (R), which played last year’s CineVegas film festival, about an astronaut (Sam Rockwell) nearing the end of a three-year lunar stint. The wonderfully nasty political satire “In the Loop” (R), follows government officials — from a dovish U.S. general (James Gandolfini) to an expletive-undeleting British press secretary (Peter Capaldi) — as their governments prepare to invade an unidentified Middle Eastern country. Pistol-packin’ granny Madea (writer-director Tyler Perry) returns in “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” (PG-13), trying to reform a hard-drinking nightclub singer (spitfire Taraji P. Henson). Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo are “The Brothers Bloom” (PG-13), con-artist siblings who take an eccentric heiress (Rachel Weisz) on a romantic around-the-world escapade. “The Burning Plain” (R) links the lives of two troubled women: one (Charlize Theron) haunted by her past, the other (Kim Basinger) by an illicit affair. In “Post Grad” (PG-13), a chronically unemployed college graduate (Alexis Bledel) is forced to move back home with her wacky parents (Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch) and her wackier grandma (Carol Burnett) while she looks for the perfect job — and the perfect guy. A new “Fame” (PG) offers a bland “reinvention” of the 1980 fave about gotta-sing, gotta-dance students (including Naturi Naughton, Kay Panabaker, Asher Book, Kherington Payne and Collins Pennie) struggling to find their way at New York’s High School of the Performing Arts. And speaking of remakes, in rocker-turned-horror auteur Rob Zombie’s revamp of “Halloween II” (R), pesky Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) returns to his Illinois hometown to make life even more miserable for sister Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton).
In our “Welcome to Las Vegas” file, “Amreeka” (PG-13) follows a single mother (“The Visitor’s” Hiam Abbass) who leaves her West Bank home, teenage son in tow, for a new life in small-town Illinois. In Japan’s Oscar-winning “Departures” (PG-13), an unemployed cellist (Masahiro Motoki) returns to his hometown to take a job in what he thinks is the travel industry — but turns out to be the funeral industry. And India’s “Like Stars on Earth” (PG) follows a troubled 8-year-old to boarding school. Maria Bello, Jason Patrick, Amy Brenneman and Rufus Sewell star in the drama “Downloading Nancy” (not rated), while the thriller “Wrong Turn at Tahoe” (R) embroils Cuba Gooding Jr. and Harvey Keitel in mob machinations.
Topping today’s TV-transfer list (all unrated): “The Simpsons: The Complete 20th Season,” “ER: The Complete 12th Season,” “Jon and Kate Plus Ei8ht: Season Five — Big Changes,” “Becker: The Third Season,” “Robin Hood: Season Three,” “Route 66: Season Three — The Complete Season,” “The Whitest Kids U’ Know: The Complete Second Season” and “Fame: Season Two.”
Vampire Weekend, “Contra”: It sounds kind of like Paul Simon’s “Graceland” passed through an indie rock filter.
The sophomore effort from these critical darlings pairs the expected West African musical influences with a buoyancy as bright as the California sun which was allegedly a source of inspiration for the disc.
It’s only the beginning of the year, but this is an album that folks will still be talking about at its end.
Also in stores: All Time Low, “MTV Unplugged (CD/DVD)”; AM Conspiracy, “AM Conspiracy”; The Bad Detectives, “Trash Culture”; Freedy Johnston, “Rain on the City”; OK Go, “Of the Blue Colour of the Sky”; Omarion, “Ollusion”; Ringo Starr, “Y Not”; and Laura Veirs, “July Flame.”
“The First Rule” by Robert Crais: Private investigator Joe Pike teams up with partner Elvis Cole to solve the murders of businessman Frank Meyer and his family. Pike, who has ties to Meyer, finds himself drawn into a dangerous investigation filled with betrayal and vengeance.
Also expected out this week is Beth Hoffman’s debut novel, “Saving Ceecee Honeycutt,” in which 12-year-old CeeCee is left on her own after a truck hits and kills her crazy mother. Her great-aunt Tootie Caldwell comes to the girl’s rescue, delivering her into a world of Southern eccentricity in this story that embraces the strength of female friendship.
Also hitting shelves: “36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction” by Rebecca Goldstein; “Alice I Have Been” by Melanie Benjamin; “Beneath the Lion’s Gaze” by Maaza Mengiste; “Betrayal of the Blood Lily” by Lauren Willig; “Death of a Valentine” by M.C. Beaton; “Sleepless” by Charlie Huston; “The Swan Thieves” by Elizabeth Kostova; “Treasure Hunt” by John Lescroart; and “Where the God of Love Hangs Out” by Amy Bloom.