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Into the Storm Review

poster from the Warner Bros. film Into the Storm

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out this weekend, but I decided not to pay Michael Bay to retroactively ruin my childhood. I didn’t completely forego 90s nostalgia, though. I chose Into the Storm, a tornado movie that I hoped would re-create the ‘wow’ factor from my first viewing of Twister.

A high school vice principal and his videographer son tag along with a team of tornado chasers in order to rescue his other son from a tornado-demolished factory.

Armchair storm chasing is one of my family’s favorite hobbies. Everybody who was in town turned out for this movie, even though it wasn’t all that popular among regular folks. Into the Storm was no Twister. Take out the tornados and it would be terrible. But you can’t take out the tornados, because it’s a tornado movie. So it’s still pretty awesome.

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A Fake Review of Transformers: Age of Extinction

Transformers was dumb. I huffed and snorted so much during Transformers 2 that despite all the noisy explosions, by brother still had to tell me to shut up. Transformers 3 was perhaps the worst of all, in that it was so mediocre I didn’t even enjoy tearing it apart. There was no chance of me going to see Transformers: Age of Extinction, is the point I’m trying to get at. But since it was the only new movie playing this week at my theater, I present you this in lieu of a review.

Transformers Age of Extinction

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Trailer Reviews for June 27, 2014

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION



NO. Making one of the robots a dinosaur DOES NOT MAKE IT LESS DUMB.

THEY CAME TOGETHER



You had me at “from the creators of Wet Hot American Summer.” Seriously, you can’t go wrong with Paul Rudd or Amy Poehler. Put them together and you could get away with murder… ing the romantic comedy genre! (hur hur)

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DVDs for June 10, 2014

jack ryan

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

This is the first Jack Ryan movie not based on any of Tom Clancey’s novels, and it shows. It’s a lot less politically sophisticated than the previous Jack Ryan films and a lot more confused in terms of who the Jack Ryan character is and what he can do. Though the filmmakers have tried to update the series by bringing it into the present day, it still feels like a Cold War movie, mostly because the Russians are the bad guys and digital data is treated like hard copy. Rent it if you’re looking for a generic action movie or check out my full review.

Buy Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

nonstop

Non-Stop

Speaking of generic movies, Non-Stop, a generic thriller about a sky marshall trapped on a plane with a terrorist, also releases this week. It’s a good premise for a contained space thriller, but they ruined it by spending most of the movie texting and by having everyone think that the hero was the villain, which made the plot seem convoluted. If you’re looking at Liam Neeson’s picture on the box and thinking it will be like Taken, think again. There’s only one good fist fight in the whole movie. Read my review for more.

Buy Non-Stop on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

cosmos

Cosmos

Judging from the amount of pseudoscientific bullsh** and outright lies being shared by people on my Facebook news feed, a lot more people need to watch this documentary series. It does for physics, astronomy, and ecology what BBC’s Planet Earth did for geography and biology – it makes you want to hear about science. Whether you failed every science class in school or you’re a Popular Science subscriber, TV presenter/real actual scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson has something new to say to you. And it looks pretty. Check it out.

Buy Cosmos on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

devils knot

Devil’s Knot

And now for a non-generic thriller: Devil’s Knot is based on the true story of a trio of teens accused of murdering three little boys as part of a satanic ritual. The film delves into the horror of the murders as well as the controversial aspects of the case, raising the question of whether the teens really killed anyone or if the town is just out to get them for being weird. If you’ve seen the documentaries the film probably won’t offer anything new, but if you’re coming to it fresh you’ll find it really interesting. Check it out.

Buy Devil’s Knot on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for June 3, 2014

lone-survivor dvd

Lone Survivor

Based on the autobiography of a Navy SEAL who was lost and wounded during a disastrous operation in Afghanistan, Lone Survivor isn’t so much Marcus Luttrell’s survival story as it is a memorial to his fallen brothers. It’s like Saving Private Ryan, only more heartwrenching because it’s true. This makes it a hard movie to watch, but if you can handle it, I think you should do it. You may feel a bit like you’re intruding on the grief of others, but they made the movie because want us to see it.

Buy Lone Survivor on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

robocop dvd

Robocop

This movie is a remake of the classic 1987 film. A critically injured police officer in a city plagued by crime is brought back to the force as a heavily armored robot to do the police department’s bidding, but there’s more of the officer left than they bargained for, and he has an agenda of his own. Debate rages as to whether the original was better, but if you like action movies, cool special effects, and exploring the scientific aspects of your sci-fi (like in Almost Human), you’ll probably like the new Robocop.

Buy Robocop on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

son-of-god dvd

Son of God

If you’re strongly religious and of the Christian persuasion, you MIGHT enjoy this movie. It’s a biopic of Jesus edited down from a miniseries that interprets the bible literally. This movie does not have its tongue in its cheek (like Life of Brian), has no grit (like Passion of the Christ), and takes no chances (like Color of the Cross). However, even if you’re really religious, you still may not like the movie because Jesus is cast as a smirking, laid-back surfer type whose smarmy face begs to be slapped.

Buy Son of God on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

goodbye-world dvd

Goodbye World

Have you been wondering what the guy from Entourage and Ryan from The O.C. have been up to lately? Well the answer is: starring in a movie about what happens after a computer virus destroys civilization. Its an ensemble drama rather than horror or action. Almost the entire plot is devoted to their interpersonal problems (marriage falling apart, friends arguing, neighbors who are suspicious of outsiders). This, for me, is the least interesting thing that could happen in a post-apocalyptic world. But if you like people arguing (so… The Walking Dead?) you might like it.

Buy Goodbye World on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for April 29, 2014

labor day

Labor Day

Normally I hate movies where the main character is a criminal, but Labor Day broke my rule. Josh Brolin plays a man in prison for murder who escapes and forces a woman (Kate Winslet) and her thirteen-year-old son (Gattlin Griffith) to hide him at their house for the long weekend. The grown-ups fall in love and the kid gets a better father figure than his mom’s remarried ex, so it’s sweet rather than scary. Check it out if you like romantic dramas, or read my review for more.

Buy Labor Day on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

devils due

Devil’s Due

In this low-budget found footage horror movie, Zach Gilford and Allison Miller find themselves in a Rosemary’s Baby meets The Exorcist situation when some cultists kidnap them on their honeymoon and impregnate them (well, her) with a demon baby. Mom’s role in the story is to be creepy, while Dad’s role is to be weirded out and make videotapes of everything. The story’s a bit ridiculous but the acting’s good, so if you’re looking for a new horror movie to watch, try this or read my review for more.

Buy Devil’s Due on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

hercules

Legend of Hercules

There is a Hercules movie starring Dwayne Johnson that’s releasing this summer. This is not that movie. This is a lower (not low) budget version starring Kellan Lutz (best known for being one of the secondary vampires in Twilight). It’s kind of a cross between 300 and Gladiator, with poor misunderstood Hercules getting sold into slavery because he fell in love with the wrong girl. Watch it if you really want to see Kellan Lutz with his shirt off, but if you want to learn the myths, read a book.

Buy Legend of Hercules on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

gimmie shelter

Gimme Shelter

Apparently Vanessa Hudgens is really serious about breaking away from the cutesy good-girl image that’s been following her ever since she starred in High School Musical. First Spring Breakers, now this: a gritty/inspiring drama based on a true story. Hudgens plays a pregnant teen who escapes from her abusive, drug addicted mother, is rejected by her rich absentee father, and finally winds up accepting help from a shelter run by Catholics. If you can stomach the faith aspects, it’s a pretty strong showing.

Buy Gimme Shelter on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Book Review: The Bicycle Teacher by Campbell Jeffreys

Continuing to clear the backlog of free Goodreads books I have reviewed (and sticking with last week’s 1980s Berlin theme) here is The Bicycle Teacher by Campbell Jeffreys, available now from Rippple Books (yes, I spelled that correctly).

bike teacher cover

Michael, a disillusioned Australian mechanic, breaks his family’s cycle of poverty by moving to East Germany, where he finds love and the opportunity to move up in the world. But can it last?

This book isn’t for everyone. Michael’s virulent belief that life is better behind the Iron Curtain may alienate die-hard capitalists, but I found it fascinating. Until now, all the books I read about the USSR featured repressed intellectuals wanting to escape to the West. But looking at things through the eyes of an everyman like Michael, it’s easy to see the appeal of community and guaranteed subsistence, even if it means never achieving wealth or greatness.

Jeffreys cunningly constructs a mirror between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in East/West Germany and East/West Perth, and because Michael is trying not to become a bitter, angry drunk like his father, his experience has a universal appeal.

Jeffreys has a gift for description and has obviously done his research into Cold War era Berlin. His matter-of-fact style and attention to detail makes it easy to picture cities, events, and people. One of my favorite descriptions is: “he had a stringy mustache that seemed to start from deep within his nose.” The only time the descriptions get weighed down by metaphor is when Michael gets maudlin, as the book is written diary-style. For the most part the story stays focused on Michael and his personal experiences, though toward the end it did stray a little further into politics than I usually like to go.

I wanted to like Michael, and for the most part I did. He seems like a real person with good qualities (he works hard, helps his neighbors, loves his family) and bad ones (he’s judgmental, a bit homophobic, and extremely thick when it comes to the machinations of his wife’s cousin). However, I didn’t feel like I really connected with him. The bare-bones writing style told rather than showed his emotions, making him seem a bit cold and distant.

I would recommend The Bicycle Teacher to people who normally read travelogues or memoirs and to anyone who’s interested in hearing about the ‘other side’ of the Cold War (ideologically speaking). It’s a strong effort, so I rate it:

category 4

This review brought to you by:

american russian pants

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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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DVDs for April 1, 2014

47 ronin

47 Ronin

Based on a true story (sort of), 47 Ronin features a group of samurai who attack a rival faction to get revenge for the death of their master. The difference between this movie and the other 47 million films about Japanese martial arts is that this one is American, stars Keanu Reeves, and is mostly a vehicle for CGI. Paradoxically, this Japanese story will best be enjoyed by people who are not fans of Japanese cinema because it seems so inferior by comparison. However, if you just want to watch some hackey slashy and cool special effects, you might actually enjoy it.

Buy 47 Ronin on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

anchorman 2

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Will Ferrell’s iconic newsman and his entourage emerge from the 1970s and attempt to join the 80s by taking over a 24 hour news channel. Like Anchorman, you’ll either love this movie or hate it. Unfortunately the litmus tests seems to be attempting to watch one of the films. Haters (like me) rarely make it to the end. Some clues that you might not like this movie include: disliking other Will Ferrell movies, being offended by sexist/racist/anythingist jokes, and squirming with agony when characters embarrass themselves. Watch at your own risk.

Buy Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

pirate fairy

The Pirate Fairy

In this straight-to-DVD movie, Disney makes yet another feeble attempt to bring its Princess properties into the 21st century… by slapping a 19th century bar wench outfit on a fairy and setting her up as a misunderstood Tinkerbell villain. She apparently stole some pixie dust and Tinkerbell’s crew has to rescue it whilst attempting to sort out their switched-around powers. It’s a Tinkerbell movie so a lot of little girls will like it, but it mostly leaves me wondering who switched Disney’s brains around with bags of rocks.

Buy The Pirate Fairy on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

knights of badassdom

Knights of Badassdom

Knights of Badassdom is a goofy horror comedy about a group of scewups who accidentally summon a succubus while at a live action roleplaying convention (sort of like a pretend medieval camping trip/battle re-enactment). It’s better than Your Highness, mostly because it stars Peter Dinklage and Ryan Kwanten instead of Danny McBride, but it’s still pretty dumb. You might like it if you’re a fan of that Supernatural episode where Sam and Dean infiltrate a LARP convention as part of a case.

Buy Knights of Badassdom on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Muppets Most Wanted Review

poster from the Walt Disney Pictures film Muppets Most Wanted

The offerings this week consisted of Noah (too ridiculous) and Bad Words (too angry) so I decided to turn back the clock to last week and see Muppets Most Wanted. I’ve never been a big fan of Kermit, Miss Piggy, or any of the ‘big’ Muppets but I do love backgrounders like Beaker, Robin, and Statler and Waldorf. Plus the last movie was really funny.

After taking Kermit’s place, international criminal Constantine and the Muppets’ manager Dominic Badguy use their world tour as a cover for stealing priceless artifacts.

I’m always worried that a movie with a hilarious trailer will be disappointing because it used up all its good jokes already. Luckily, that didn’t happen here. Though I did occasionally wish for less Muppets and more supporting cast, it turned out to be as funny as the last one.

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