Category: Theatrical Reviews

Score: A Hockey Musical Review

poster from the film Score: A Hockey Musical

I’m not a fan of hockey or of Canadian film, but when I heard about Score: A Hockey Musical, I knew I had to go, because more than anything I like to have fun watching a movie. Combining hockey and musicals sounded like a fun idea to me. It was the opening night film at the Toronto Film Festival and I’ve been seeing previews for it for months in the preshow that Empire Theaters puts on before the movie. But if you haven’t heard of it, the story goes like this:

A sheltered teenage hockey phenom decides to play organized hockey, but runs into trouble when his pacifist attitude clashes with the culture of hockey violence.

And if you haven’t heard of it, you’re not alone. For a movie about hockey, it didn’t generate much interest. It was me and about five high schoolers (possibly from the drama club) in the cinema for an opening weekend showing. Perhaps everyone else had read the advance reviews from the film festivals and decided not to bother. More likely they either didn’t hear of it or they don’t trust Canadian movies enough to pay $11.50 for a ticket. I don’t blame them. We don’t have much of a track record. Is Score going to change all that? Well, maybe.

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Red Review

poster from the Summit Entertainment film Red

If you believe Hollywood, there are two ways to handle getting old. The first is to pretend you haven’t and the second is to be proud of it. Movies like Red (which, ironically, is directed by Robert Schwentke, who is only 42) are what you get when Hollywood denizens choose option B. It’s the “lets not lose touch with reality” approach to aging, and it’s why I’ve been looking forward to the release of Red, which is about what happens when you pit age and experience against youthful ambition.

A retired CIA agent hooks up with his old team to fight back when younger agents from the CIA come looking to kill him.

I suspect that studios are watching Red closely to see if there’s any money in action movies starring old fogies. So the success or failure of this movie could actually determine what sorts of jobs older Hollywood actors might have open to them in the future. I don’t know about anyone else, but my reaction to this new “geriaction” genre is: more please!

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Life As We Know It Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film Life As We Know It

Somewhere in Hollywood, there is a machine that pairs up famous actors for romantic comedies. It may or may not look like a Magic 8 ball. And like a Magic 8 ball, it sometimes gives you terrible advice. The theory is that two people who are attractive and famous will make a cute couple, but this is not always the case. Gerard Butler + Hillary Swank = cute. Katherine Heigl + James Marsden = cute. Gerard Butler + Katherine Heigl = dud. It’s weird how these things work. Anyway the latest pairing that the rom-com-o-matic generator has churned out is Katherine Heigl + Josh Duhamel. The story they’re in goes like this:

A single woman and a single man who can’t stand each other end up parenting a baby together when their mutual best friends die in a car accident.

The fact that there’s death right there in the premise might have you thinking this is a drama rather than a comedy, but it’s not. Life As We Know It is a romantic comedy. So of course you know that the two of them have to end up together in the end. That’s a given for the genre. So it’s the journey that’s the deciding factor. And I for one enjoyed getting there.

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The Social Network Review

poster from the Columbia Pictures film The Social Network

Facebook and I have a hate/hate relationship. I hate that I had to sign up for it even though I didn’t want to because my friends refused to communicate any other way. I hate that people let it take over their lives to the point where they spend more time updating their status than actually doing things worth updating their status about. I hate that the default settings are “let everyone in the world know everything you ever did ever.” And I hate that the various features are frequently broken whenever I have to use them. So when I heard there was going to be a movie about Facebook, I was decidedly uninterested. However, the story for it goes something like this:

A brilliant Harvard computer student becomes embroiled in several lawsuits as he steps on whoever he has to in order to create an online social network that he hopes will earn him respect and attention he so desperately craves.

… instead of going “Mark Zuckerberg is the coolest, greatest person evaaar because he invented Facebook!” So I decided to give it a shot. And although the fellow sitting in front of me in the theater kept fetching deep sighs that clearly said “my girlfriend owes me at LEAST two action movies for making me see this crap,” I was glad I went.

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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film Legend of the Guardians

I have a theory that whatever form I see a story in first, that’s the one I prefer. If I’ve read the books, the movie won’t measure up. If I’ve seen the movie, the book’s just not as good (even if it was the story’s original form). I decided to test this theory on Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, because although the books were pretty good, I thought they’d make a better movie. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Guardians of Ga’Hoole books or the movie version, here’s the lowdown:

A young barn owl gets kidnapped by an order of evil owls who want to take over the world using an army of brainwashed owlets, but he escapes and bands together with a group of other orphans to find the mythical Guardians of Ga’Hoole and help free the others.

This covers the first four books in Kathryn Lasky’s Guardians of Ga’Hoole series (they’re very short). As you know if you’ve been following my blog, I’ve been looking forward to this film for months. Did it measure up to my admittedly high expectations? Yes and no.

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Easy A Review

poster from the Sony Pictures film Easy A

I’ve been seeing so many mediocre movies lately that I completely forgot what it was like to be excited to see a movie until Easy A came along. The quality of adult romantic comedies has been in decline for the past few years (I know they’re genre movies so they all have to be sort of the same, but come on, put some effort into it!) We discerning rom com fans have had to turn to teen movies to meet our funny love story quota. Easy A, which is indeed a funny teen love story, goes something like this:

A teenage girl who’s tired of being ignored agrees to have fake sex with losers to help improve their social status, which earns her the label ‘trollop’ and inspires her to wear red As on her clothes like the main character in the Scarlet Letter.

The mere mention of classic literature in the blurb set off my spidey “this is going to be an intelligent movie” sense, and then when I saw the trailer, my super-clairvoyant ninja sense told me I was going to be funny and that I would love it. Hence my excitement. But the thing about expectations is that sometimes they are completely fulfilled.

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Resident Evil: Afterlife Review

poster from the Sony Pictures film Resident Evil Afterlife

Even with very popular franchises, like Indiana Jones or Star Wars, by the fourth installment the teat is starting to get pretty chaffed from all that milking. Resident Evil: Afterlife is the fourth installment in a film series based on a nine installment videogame series. By now the cow is dead, and they’re reduced to recycling old milk that wasn’t very tasty to begin with. Resident Evil: Afterlife has essentially the same plotline as all of the other films:

A genetically engineered superwoman meets up with a bunch of survivors of a zombie apocalypse caused by the evil Umbrella Corporation and tries to keep them from getting killed.

… and yet people will watch it. It will make money (it is making money – it’s at the top of the box office this weekend) and there will be a Resident Evil: Some Other Random Death Word, just like Resident Evil: Afterlife rather arrogantly assumes there will be. I’ll admit to liking the first Resident Evil movie, and to not completely hating the first sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, but enough is enough already!

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Going the Distance Review

poster from the New Line Cinema film Going the Distance

I’m not Justin Long’s biggest fan (or a fan of his at all, actually), but as soon as I saw the trailer for Going the Distance (the one directed by Nanette Burstein, not the National Lampoon one), I knew I had to see it. Why? Because it was actually funny. I can count on one hand the number of so-called romantic comedies that I’ve seen in the last two years that were actually funny as opposed to awkward and lame. The fact that the only other new movie I could have chosen this week was Machete, Robert Rodriguez’s total gorefest, just made my decision even easier. Here’s a quick rundown of the plot for Going the Distance:

A woman doing a temporary internship in New York and a man who just got dumped aren’t looking for a relationship, but they fall for each other anyway and decide to keep it going long distance when she moves back to San Francisco.

Using long distance relationships as a premise for a romantic comedy is a brave move considering how easy it is for telephone conversations to become boring (which is part of the reason why long distance relationships tend to fall apart in the first place). And that’s if you’re IN it. When you’re watching OTHER people talk on the phone it adds a whole new boredom dimension. So how did Going the Distance fare? Pretty well, actually.

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The Last Exorcism Review

poster from the Lionsgate film The Last Exorcism

Boy, it sure was slim pickings this week. I had a choice between a heist movie that definitely wasn’t going to be any good and an exorcism movie that probably wasn’t going to be any good. Probably not is better than definitely not, so I ended up choosing The Last Exorcism. You’ve most likely seen the trailer, but contrary to the new trailer trend of giving everything away, the trailer for The Last Exorcism gives almost nothing away. Here’s the basic plot:

An Evangelical minister having a crisis of faith goes to an isolated farm in Louisiana to film a documentary that will expose exorcisms for the scam they really are, but finds more trouble than he bargained for.

Director Daniel Stamm shot it in a fake-documentary style (I don’t want to say “mockumentary” because there are approximately three moments of facetiousness in the entire film). It’s kind of like The Blair Witch Project crossed with The Reaping and Jesus Camp. If those were three movies you thought unlikely to fit together, you have now been proven wrong, because The Last Exorcism works… mostly.

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The Switch Review

poster from the Miramax film The Switch

I was undecided as to whether I should see The Switch or Nanny McPhee Returns this week (since we aren’t getting Get Low), but then another grown-up decided to go with me and my decision kind of made itself. You can’t drag real grown-ups to movies where little kids fall in the mud chasing after pigs. It just isn’t done. So we went to see The Switch instead. If you haven’t seen the previews, the basic premise is this:

A guy gets majorly drunk at his best friend’s insemination party and switches his juice for her donor’s, then when she moves back to town seven years later he has to figure out how to tell her.

It’s set up (in the trailers, anyway) as a romantic comedy, but don’t go to it expecting a repeat of The Backup Plan. There are no hijinks. No one falls in the mud, get hit in the crotch, or slips on a placenta. The Switch gives the audience more credit than that. In return, here is the credit that I will give The Switch: it’s pretty good.

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