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How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review

poster from the Dreamworks Pictures film How to Train Your Dragon 2

The only new movie we got at my theater this week was Jersey Boys, and since I couldn’t sit through two hours of Frankie Valley’s horrible voice without driving nails into my ears, I went to How to Train Your Dragon 2. I loved the first one, but didn’t feel it needed a sequel, so I had no idea whether I would be impressed or not.


20-year-old Hiccup clashes with his father over whether it would be better to reason with or hide from the villain who plans to attack their village with a dragon army.

In some respects, I was right. How to Train Your Dragon 2 was not necessary, but it was enjoyable. Like most sequels, Dreamworks made it because there was more money in the franchise, but there are a few new elements to keep the story from getting too stale and the dragons are (of course) still cute.

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Trailer Reviews for May 30, 2014

MALEFICENT



I’m confused by all of the trailers I’ve seen for this movie. Is Maleficent the main character or the villain or both? She seems pretty evil, but then again so does Sleeping Beauty’s dad. And what is Maleficent trying to accomplish in this story? Is she trying to get her wings back? Looking for revenge against Sleeping Beauty’s dad? Both? Neither? I can’t say I’m inclined to see the movie to find out.

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST



I’m not a fan of Ted (though I did like the idea), and I though used to watch Family Guy back in the day, I wouldn’t say my sense of humor completely lines up with Seth MacFarlane’s. His jokes are a little cruder than the stuff that typically makes me laugh. Having said that, people dying in unorthodox ways is HILARIOUS. I don’t really understand why his character is back in the old west talking like a tour guide, but the trailer made me laugh enough that I’d pay money to find out.

THE GRAND SEDUCTION



Northern Exposure by way of Newfoundland. Nice! As funny as A Million Ways to Die in the West looks, I have to see this one this week. Not only is it a Canadian movie, it’s a Canadian movie that looks funny and upbeat and is coming to my town on opening week. I can’t pass up an opportunity like that, not if I ever want the ‘good’ Canadian films to come my way in a timely manner again.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past Review

poster from the Twentieth Century Fox film X-Men Days of Future Past

Of all the superhero movies, the X-Men are my favorite. Except, of course, for X-Men 3 – an atrocity we fans avoid speaking of like it’s the movie equivalent of Voldemort. X-Men: First Class was one of my favorite movies ever. I was looking forward to Days of Future Past, not just because it’s the sequel, but because it promised to erase X-Men 3 from history.

Wolverine is sent back to 1973 to stop an assassination that will lead to an apocalyptic future full of invincible mutant-hunting super-robots.

I had some slight worries regarding time travel rules and the huge cast of mutants, but I’m happy to report that they were groundless. Though there were some themes that were repeated from other movies, everything else was great. I’ll buy the DVD for sure.

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DVDs for May 19, 2014

pompeii

Pompeii

Attention everybody: buy this movie. My brother worked on it. No, his name’s not in the credits. He was just filling in. Behind the camera. But buy it anyway. What? You want to know about the movie? It’s actually pretty good. Kit Harrington plays a pouty Celt not unlike Jon Snow who is taken to Pompeii as a gladiator, falls in love with the mayor’s daughter, and tries to get revenge on the guy who killed his family. Oh, and a mountain explodes. Spectacularly. In very expensive CGI. Check out my review for more.

Buy Pompeii on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

right kind of wrong

The Right Kind of Wrong

While you’ve got your credit card out, you should buy this movie too. Because a) it’s Canadian and b) it’s actually fun to watch and not depressing at all. Jason from True Blood plays a failed writer who decides to break up Aunt Jenna from The Vampire Diaries and her douchey husband on account of he saw her kick a football one time. It’s both romantic and comedic and the scenery is nice too. Check out my review for more.

Buy The Right Kind of Wrong on DVD.

vampire academy

Vampire Academy

If you watched Twilight and wished there was a teen vampire movie that was less dumb and stalkery, let me introduce you to Vampire Academy. Our hero is a sarcastic, ass-kicking, hard-partying teenage vampire bodyguard who unravels a conspiracy involving secret superpowers and princess-napping. It’s about as far away from Twilight as you can get without becoming Underworld, and the book is good too. Check it out.

Buy Vampire Academy on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

monuments men

The Monuments Men

If you watched Saving Private Ryan and wished there were more art critics puttering around in crumbly basements looking for old paintings, then Monuments Men is for you. While their work was important and deserves recognition, you’ll probably get more out of the book version. The movie tries to be glib and serious at the same time by melding wisecracking characters with the serious subject of trying to rescue cultures the Nazis tried to wipe out, but the film failed to resonate with people.

Buy Monuments Men on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for May 16, 2014

GODZILLA



I don’t normally get excited for big dumb giant thing movies, but this one looks pretty good. I like how the trailers hold back on the Godzilla reveal to make it clear that it’s a movie with actual characters and story, not just a two hour CGI rampage. There’s a trailer focused on Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character that’s even better than this one, but I can’t find it. Anyway, I wish I could go this weekend but I’m camping with my Girl Guides.

MILLION DOLLAR ARM



Dang, I wanted to see this movie too! Oh well. I’m just glad they didn’t decide to make me miss the opening weekend of X-Men: Days of Future Past. I don’t like baseball but I do like sports movies, I guess because they’re less about sports than they are about relationships and overcoming obstacles to become the best version of yourself. The idea of Jon Hamm becoming a ‘big brother’ to a bunch of Indian cricket players nobody thinks will succeed sucks me right in.

THE IMMIGRANT



Hmm. It looked nice, but I’m not sure I got much from this trailer. I get that Marion Cotillard is an immigrant, her sister’s in quarantine (consumption?) and that Joaquin Phoenix probably takes advantage of her while Jeremy Renner loves her, but why is it so quiet? Also, I get worried when I see reviews quoted that describe the movie as like a ‘dream’ or a ‘delusion.’ Dreams and delusions make no sense, and I can’t abide by nonsensical movies.

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Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

poster from the Sony Pictures film Amazing Spider-man 2

Spider-man and I have a weird relationship. I’ve read some of the comics, watched the cartoon, and I even own two of the movies. I think Spider-man is cool… as long as he doesn’t open his mouth. When he starts wisecracking I mostly just want to slap him. This latest incarnation is the mouthiest of all, but I keep going to see the movies anyway.


Spider-man struggles with his girlfriend’s decision to move away and his old friend’s need for his blood as a new electricity-based supervillain threatens the city.

There’s so much going on in Amazing Spider-man 2 (not all of it necessarily relevant) that it’s hard to boil it down to a coherent logline. Despite the logjam of subplots it all seems to work together somehow, so in the end the movie is about as good as a Spider-man movie could be.

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Trailers for May 2, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2



Spider-Man has never been one of my favorite superheros. Most of the time I feel like angsty teenage Peter Parker and his smarmy alter ego need a good hard smack upside the head. And I really don’t feel like they needed to remake all these movies again as a 3D special effects bonanza just so Sony doesn’t have to give the rights back to Marvel. However, even if I didn’t have a blog to write, I’d still be going to this movie, since my friend is a huge (and I mean HUGE) Spider-man nerd, and the Wolf Pack rolls together, yo.

JOE



While I like the idea of an ex-con rescuing a boy’s family from an abusive dad, this movie doesn’t grab me. Maybe it’s just because I don’t like Nicholas Cage, but I would want a story like that to be more uplifting and less mired in revenge and violence.

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Trailer Reviews for April 11, 2014

RIO 2



Giant meh. The first Rio was pretty good, but I don’t remember it fondly enough that the thought of a sequel makes me excited. Jesse Eisenberg’s nervous parrot is a little annoying, I don’t like the dog… or the singing… none of the jokes in the trailer made me laugh and one of them (the super bicep parrot) seems like it’s ripped off The Fairly Oddparents. The only thing I really like is the evil cockatoo, and I don’t think I want to see a whole 3D movie just for that.

DRAFT DAY



Moneyball with football? Most of this seems like it takes place in an office… or on the phone. It doesn’t seem very exciting, but they managed to pull it off in Jerry Maguire. Even if it doesn’t get very tense, I’d rather watch this than another Rio movie.

OCULUS



Sadly, this movie has nothing to do with the Oculus virtual reality headset (that would have been a cool horror movie, eh?) I dunno about this. The trailer tells us nothing of the story. Something weird happens with a mirror that may or may not involve souls being taken, depending on whether the poet who wrote the voiceover was being metaphorical or not. I like horror, but the fake blood in the mirror looks cheesy, and the mirror thing has been done before, so I’m going to stick with Draft Day this week.

DOM HEMINGWAY



“Jude Law as you’ve never seen him before!” says the trailer. “Yes, with a different accent,” says I. The character and the accent seem funny but the whole ‘screwup tries to make up with his family’ thing isn’t drawing me in. Maybe because I’ve seen it too many times before. Or maybe I just don’t like screwups.

THAT BURNING FEELING



Okay, so, what is the plot of this movie? That scruffy guy has to tell all the people he slept with that he may have given them an STD? Or is he trying to get somebody to date him while he has an STD? Or both? I didn’t get much from that trailer other than that the characters are quirky enough to attract ‘name’ actors who are not quite famous. It’s still funnier than I expected, so it’s possible I may rent it later on.

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DVDs for April 8, 2014

smaug

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

Attention my one friend who likes these movies (hi, John): the longest movie in the world is now available to bore you right in your own home! If you’re the type that likes the extra long, extra boring re-cuts (hello again, John) then you’ll want to wait for the extended edition. This one only has a few featurettes. For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is the second film in a one-book trilogy about a hobbit and some dwarfs who are trying to kick a dragon out of a mountain. There’s a lot of filler. Read my review for more.

Buy The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

grudge match

Grudge Match

Other appropriate titles for this film would be Bum Fights: The Movie and Battle of the 80s Has-Beens: a sort-of Music and Lyrics Spinoff (but not really). It features creaky old Sylvester Stallone and flabby old Robert DeNiro as a pair of aging boxing rivals who agree to make a spectacle of themselves in public for money by fighting a rematch. If you want to see a comedy where 9/10 jokes are in the vein of “I’m too old for this sh**”, this is the movie for you. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.

Buy Grudge Match on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

marked ones

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Otherwise known as Paranormal Activity: The Other Side of the Tracks. Whereas the previous films have all featured hauntings among white suburban families, this movie switches things up a little. It’s still found footage and it’s still connected to the overarching story, but it’s about an inner-city Hispanic kid who gets possessed after he sticks his nose in his weird neighbor’s business. It’s rather a lot like all the other possession movies, but if you’re into horror I still think you should see it. There’s a scene where the kid pulls a worm out of his own eyeball.

Buy Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

august osage

August: Osage County

I am not a fan of dysfunctional family dramas, especially not when they’re adapted from plays, because there tends to be too much talking and not enough happening. That’s the kind of movie this is. Here’s the extent of the story: there’s a family crisis, the whole family comes home, they squabble a lot until the movie’s over. There are a lot of famous people in it, but that’s because they like to flex their acting muscles by getting all worked up and yelling at each other, not because the story is good. Critics like it, but normal people… not so much.

Buy August: Osage County on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

poster from the Marvel Studios film Captain America Winter Soldier

Marvel has effectively put us on a money treadmill. All of their movies (and now the TV show) interlock, so if you miss one, you miss the clues that lead in to the next one. The best part for Marvel is that no one wants to get off the treadmill. Not even me, and I’m the one cynically pointing out that we’re running in place. The latest mile we’re paying for is Captain America: Winter Soldier.

A patriotic superhero from the 1940s struggles to adjust to modern anti-terror tactics while facing off against an enemy from his past.

I was really looking forward to the Winter Soldier aspect of this movie, so when I watched it and discovered that a more accurate title would have been Captain America and a Bunch of Crap About SHIELD, I was disappointed. If you’re dying to see more Nick Fury, maybe you’ll like it better than I did.

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