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DVDs for June 4, 2013

warm bodies

Warm Bodies

The premise for this movie is dumb: zombies cured by the power of love. Twilight with zombies. I almost didn’t see it, but I’m glad I did, because it’s actually a very smart satire on teen paranormal romances and on the whole zombie movie genre. It’s funny, cute, has some action, makes sense in its own context (always a bonus) and it even has a new interpretation of the brain eating thing: that they do it to see people’s memories rather than gain nutrients. Rent it or check out my full review for more, because this one’s worth your time.

Buy Warm Bodies on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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good day to die hard

A Good Day to Die Hard

Speaking of movies that are worth your time, this one isn’t unless you’re looking for a big dumb explosionfest. Bruce Willis plays an aging loose cannon cop who travels to Russia to bail out his son, whom he thinks is a screwup but is actually in the middle of a carefully planned CIA op that would have been impressive if the movie had been set in 1985. Bruce Willis’ arrival messes everything up and he has to spend the rest of the movie being chased by tanks and falling off buildings and ‘bonding’ with the son who hates him. Check out my my full review for more on why this movie annoys me.

Buy A Good Day to Die Hard on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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identity thief

Identity Thief

Identity Thief has an interesting premise: a mild mannered office worker finds out that a female scam artist has stolen his identity. Almost immediately, though, it starts to get stupid. Instead of letting the police and credit companies handle it, he travels to Florida to reason with her and ends up in a series of increasingly ridiculous disasters, including the ever popular ‘accidental destruction of rental car.’ Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy are both underused in this movie, as the writing is formulaic at best. Don’t rent this movie unless you’re really REALLY bored.

Buy Identity Thief on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

escape earth

Escape from Planet Earth

Movies like Escape from Planet Earth prove that great visuals still cannot make up for terrible writing. The story follows a blue alien who goes on a mission to a dangerous planet (Earth) but gets captured and has to rely on his dorky brother to rescue him. Like Planet 51, Escape from Planet Earth misses a great opportunity to create a really interesting, unique, and funny alien culture and instead just carbon copies American culture with a few nominal tweaks (for example, it’s BASA instead of NASA). Don’t reward their laziness by paying to rent this movie.

Buy Escape from Planet Earth on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for May 14, 2013

cloud atlas

Cloud Atlas

I almost loved this movie. It’s a sweeping epic that interweaves a collection of characters through stories set in six different times. Each story is a different genre (adventure, drama, thriller, comedy, sci-fi, and post-apocalypse) and features the same thirteen actors in different roles, sometimes disguised so well you can barely recognize them. My only problem with Cloud Atlas was that I felt blah about one of the storylines (Halle Berry investigates nuclear secrets) and outright hated another (Tom Hanks as a post-apocalypse radiation hillbilly). Do check it out though. The other stories are fabulous.

Buy Cloud Atlas on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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top gear 19

Top Gear Season 19

I adore Top Gear – a British car program that’s funny and unique enough to attract even people who don’t like cars (people like me). Most of the seasons aren’t worth their $20-$30 price tag, as they only contain about 6 episodes. This one, however, is, because it’s one of the few that include an epic two-hour adventure. In this one, they drive station wagons across Africa looking for the source of the Nile. Other challenges worth buying the DVDs for include designing a car for seniors, pitching the world’s smallest homemade car to Dragon’s Den, and the epic train vs car race to Italy. Check it out – you’ll love it.

Buy Top Gear Season 19 on DVD.
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texas chainsaw

Texas Chainsaw 3D

This is a sequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it was released in theaters in 3D (though not screened for critics, which is not surprising). It takes place after a mob has lynched the family responsible for the original massacre and a distant relative comes in from out of town to claim the estate which (surprise!) contains Leatherface. Beyond that it’s your typical, predictable gore fest, with limbs and blood splatters flying everywhere and characters making the same bad decisions and dying in the same predictable order. This is something to put on in the background of a Halloween party and not watch.

Buy Texas Chainsaw 3D on DVD or on 3D Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for April 30, 2013

silver linings playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Some movies get a lot of attention from critics because they’re boring and pretentious, but sometimes they get attention because everybody genuinely enjoys them. Silver Linings Playbook is one of those movies. Regular people like it because it’s a cute romantic comedy starring adorable people (Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper) and critics like it because it takes on ‘deep’ issues like mental illness, addiction, compulsive gambling, and dysfunctional relationships. One of my friends went to it 5+ times in theaters, but you’ll probably be fine with once on DVD.

Buy Silver Linings Playbook on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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broken city

Broken City

The whole dirty cop thing is a popular theme, but unlike the rest of the dirty cop thrillers, this one wraps up the cop part early and moves on to private eye (not a huge leap, I know, but it’s something). Mark Wahlberg plays the aforementioned dirty cop who kills a rapist and then gets sucked into a big dirty political mess involving the candidates for the mayoral election. Like most thrillers, it relies on revelations of who met whom for what reason for its tension, but the tension is damaged by the fact that the scandal is a pretty standard one that’s easy to figure out. I wouldn’t bother with it.

Buy Broken City on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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guilt trip

Guilt Trip

I don’t like Seth Rogan at the best of times, but put him in a cliched and unfunny road trip movie with Barbara Streisand and I’d drive across the country just to avoid it. The plot (such as it is) centers around Rogan’s character as a cleaning fluid salesman driving across the US to peddle his product. His mother invites herself along to work out their issues and reunite with an old lover. A road trip movie’s success relies on character/actor chemistry, and unfortunately theirs just doesn’t do anything for me. For a really funny road trip comedy you haven’t seen, try the Australian film Thunderstruck.

Buy The Guilt Trip on DVD or try Thunderstruck instead.

best of both worlds

Star Trek: Next Generation – Best of Both Worlds

This was released in a limited number of theaters last week, but the DVD is what you really want. At $15, it’s the same price as an IMAX ticket and you get special features with it, including a documentary, an audio commentary, and a gag reel. The actual content is movie length – a full two-part episode arc featuring Captain Picard’s capture and assimilation into the Borg collective – and is remastered to look good in HD (though the aspect ratio remains full screen). Not worth it if you have the full season set, but a good nostalgic investment if you don’t.

Buy Best of Both Worlds on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for April 26, 2013

THE BIG WEDDING



Man, it’s been a long time since I saw a romantic comedy. Even longer since I saw a GOOD one. Even longer than that since I saw a good ENSEMBLE romantic comedy. I’m looking forward to this. Why? Well, Ben Barnes is extremely cute. That goes a long way. And then of course the last two wedding related films I saw with Amanda Seyfried and Katherine Heigl in them (Mamma Mia and 27 Dresses, respectively) were HILARIOUS. And then there’s the hint of It’s Complicated thrown in there with the inclusion of a messy divorce/new girlfriend subplot involving the older parents. I’m not a DeNiro affictionato and the reason for the whole mess is tenuous at best (the mother of the groom is very religious) but I guess when you think about it, when are these movies ever that realistic?

PAIN AND GAIN



The fact that there’s a red band version of the trailer for this movie was a bad sign to me. That usually means the comedy is so disgusting they have to warn people before subjecting them to even two minutes of it (sort of like the labels they put on radioactive waste). And then of course there’s the Michael Bay factor. His name is not exactly a seal of quality these days. This movie doesn’t look too bad, though. The utter doofusness of the characters (combined with the fact that the movie and the actors know that these guys are doofuses) gives Pain and Gain a certain amount of charm. The plot seems to be very Seven Psychopaths with heavy thematic does of Jersey Shore, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’d watch this on video someday.

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – BEST OF BOTH WORLDS



This is only coming to a select few theaters (i.e those located in cities judged to have a high number of Star Trek fans) which is just as well, because it’s just two episodes squashed together. It costs somewhere between $11 and $16 to see it depending on your theater. For that much money, you might as well buy the DVD. At least then you’d get the special features (I for one would like to see that gag reel). Hell, buy a subscription to Netflix and you can watch all 178 episodes for $8 as long as you can speed through over a hundred hours of show in under a month. Having said that though, these screenings will be total nerd parties, which could be fun regardless of what’s on the screen.

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DVDs for April 23, 2013

gangster squad

Gangster Squad

I feel like this movie has been made a million times, but fans of Ryan Gosling tend to disagree with me on that. In Gangster Squad he plays an LA cop who joins a vigilante squad of rogue cops pitted against a mob boss played by Sean Penn. Their goal: to take back the city without all that pesky paperwork and due process. It’s your typical amoral noir-esque shoot-em-up full of mostly unlikeable characters, so if you like that sort of thing (and you don’t find Ryan Gosling as blank and annoying-voiced as I do) you may enjoy it.

Buy Gangster Squad on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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the impossible

The Impossible

The fact that this movie has such a generic title is unfortunate, because it may be overlooked. It’s the story of the 2004 tsunami from the perspective of a family on vacation to Thailand when ‘the impossible’ happens: everything is wiped off the map by a huge wave. Parents Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts are spit up, he with their two younger kids, she with their older one, and they spend the movie searching for each other amidst the devastation. Don’t go in expecting The Day After Tomorrow but do go in expecting to need some tissues – it’s a real tearjerker.

Buy The Impossible on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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promised land

Promised Land

This movie is trying to be the Thank You For Smoking of the oil and gas industry. Matt Damon plays the naive agent who’s trying to convince hard-up townsfolk to sell his company drilling rights over the objections of a local teacher (John Krasinski). It was Earth Day yesterday so the issue of economics vs environmental impact is a good one to bring up in a film, as it will help expose more people to the issue. It’s just a shame the movie turned out to be so lousy. Damon’s lack of charisma and the script’s reliance on cliches just make it seem simplistic and dull compared to a doumentary.

Buy Promised Land Promised Land or on Blu-Ray.

jurassic park 3d

Jurassic Park 3D

This movie has held up remarkably well in the twenty years since it came out. Even the special effects still look good. I wouldn’t pay extra money to have it in 3D, especially since I don’t even know anyone with one of those gimmicky 3D TV sets, but it is a movie that’s so awesome everyone should own a copy so they can show the next generation. Even cynical 2010s kids will love the idea of a theme park ravaged by real dinosaurs (and lawyers getting eaten – can’t forget that part). Just don’t show it to a little kid unless you want it to have nightmares.

Buy Jurassic Park 3D on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for April 9, 2013

merlin

Merlin Season 5

I had no idea this show had managed to stick around past the first season. I watched a few episodes years ago with my grandmother and I remember thinking that it was at least as dorky as Doctor Who. In the show, Merlin is young and just coming into his powers. He starts out as adviser to King Arthur’s dad, but by season 5 Arthur himself has taken over and for 13 episodes they’re roaming over the countryside having magical adventures. The only thing missing is the Tardis. It’s too campy for me, but it might be good for kids and the easily offended.

Buy Merlin Season 5 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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hyde park on hudson

Hyde Park on Hudson

It used to be that all the actors were clamoring to play mentally challenged people as a sure-fire way to get an Oscar nomination. Now they’re all competing for roles where they get to impersonate a historical figure. Come close enough and you might get a nod! This time it’s Bill Murray taking his turn as FDR in a historical drama set during the King and Queen of England’s visit in 1939. His affair with Laura Linney’s character provides part of the story and the other part comes from Roosevelt getting King Bertie and his wife to loosen up a little. It’s no King’s Speech, but it’s not bad.

Buy Hyde Park on Hudson on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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sexy evil genius

Sexy Evil Genius

You know you’re dealing with a crappy straight-to-DVD movie when the principal cast consists of not one but FIVE washed up television stars and the title sounds like a film school student’s description of a cliched stock character. The story is Scott Pilgrim vs the World-ish, with a bunch of ex-lovers showing up like dumb sheep to be manipulated by Katie Sackhoff’s character (the aforementioned sexy evil genius) who has already murdered one of her exes. It’s 85 minutes of overacting, illogic, and William Baldwin trying to be Alec Baldwin. You probably want to skip this one.

Buy Sexy Evil Genius on DVD.

bad kids

Bad Kids Go to Hell

As you’ve probably figured out by now, it’s a lean week for DVDs, so let’s look at another terrible knockoff with an on-the-nose title. Bad Kids Go to Hell is probably best described as ‘the Breakfast Club gets horribly murdered, har de har har.’ It even stars (and I use that word loosely) Judd Nelson as the headmaster who’s trying to be David Cross in She’s the Man. The ‘kids’ all look to be around 38 years old and are so unlikeable you’ll be hoping for the killer. It’s billed as a dark comedy but the only really funny thing about it is how bad the acting is. Skip it!

Buy Bad Kids Go to Hell on DVD.

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Evil Dead Review

poster from the Sony Pictures film Evil Dead 2013

I don’t plan on comparing this Evil Dead remake/reboot with the original, mostly because I didn’t see it. I like horror movies, but the ones I enjoy are the ‘tense and scary’ type like Sinister rather than the ‘gross and spattery’ type like Saw. I wasn’t sure which kind Evil Dead would be, probably because I watched the green band trailer.

A group of people retreat to a cabin to help a friend recover from a drug addiction but accidentally unleash a demon by reading an evil spell book.

I should have watched the red band trailer instead (or the original), because it would have clued me in to what Evil Dead really is: an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most fake blood used in a movie. It’s not so much scary as it is disgusting (my friend was actually gagging) and as a result I was bored with it by about the 30 minute mark.

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Trailer Reviews for April 5, 2013

EVIL DEAD



Yes, I know the original Evil Dead from the 80s is a sort of accidental cult classic, and no, I don’t care that they’ve rebooted it and replaced Bruce Campbell with a girl no one’s ever heard of. I’m going to judge this movie on its own merits. I kind of have to, since it’s the only new movie coming out this week and I haven’t seen the original (yes I’m a deprived child yadda yadda). The trailer’s a pretty good one as far as horror movies go – they give you the basics (there’s a book – don’t read it) and then just bombard you with scary scenes for two minutes so you don’t have enough information to guess the end or even who’s going to die. When I see this, I’ll be totally surprised by everything that happens, which is how I like it.

JURASSIC PARK 3D



Like I said, there’s nothing else NEW coming out this week. But if I wasn’t seeing a movie for the purposes of reviewing it… yeah, I might pay $14.50 to see Jurassic Park again in 3D. I don’t really care about the 3D part – Jurassic Park was freaking awesome on the big screen the first time around, largely because of the sound – all the dinosaur roars played loud enough to make your lungs rattle. It’s amazing how well the special effects have held up, too, even in the current ‘we can make anything from CGI’ era. Anyway, I won’t be going, but at least I won’t yell at them for releasing it – or you for handing over more money.

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Trailer Reviews for March 29, 2013

THE HOST



Though I think the Twilight books are terrible, I do think that Stephanie Meyer’s other book (her ONE other book) has an interesting premise – a human trying to coexist in her own head with an alien consciousness. The problem is that I can’t get through the book. I read about 30 pages and didn’t want to go any further. The trailer for the movie version looks pretty interesting. Humans vs alien car chases, sci-fi laser effects, and best of all: they can’t spend the whole time inside her head with the two of them just talking back and forth. It could be funny to watch her struggle with herself on screen like there are two cartoon characters in her brain fighting for control over her puppet strings. Yeah there’s a love story, but it’s already better than Twilight just by not having any sparkling vampires, so I might give it a chance.

G.I. JOE RETALIATION



The first G.I. Joe reboot only made it to #5 on my worst movies of the year list, so if The Host turns out to be ‘typical’ Stephenie Meyer (i.e. #1 worst movie) this sequel might actually turn out to be better. It’s going to be dumb, though. That much is a given. But it’s a fun kind of dumb. The first one was dumb. The trailer is dumb. The plot is a ripoff of the good X-Men movies and every commando movie made in the last two years (oh noes! The government has turned on us! Whatever shall we do?!) Bruce Willis is (yet again) THE ONLY MAN THAT CAN SAVE US. Even though they’re Awesome Team G.I. Joe Commandos or whatever. Ninjas on ropes fight with swords and never think to CUT EACH OTHER’S ROPES. So I guess you have to ask yourself which is better: potentially terrible or definitely dumb?

SPRING BREAKERS



I could hardly even FIND a green band version of the trailer for this movie to embed in this article, so that should tell you a lot about this movie. A better title might have been ‘James Franco pervs on some teenagers in bikinis who have a tenancy to make bad life decisions.’ And no, I’m not talking about how they pick their clothes – I’m talking about their decision to ROB A BANK and BECOME INVOLEVED WITH DRUG DEALERS. It’s like Girls Gone Wild crossed with Blow but ‘legitimate’ because it’s ‘fiction.’ FYI though if your teenage sons want to go see it, you should probably say no. The whole thing reads like a desperate ploy by former Disney actresses to break out of the ‘good girl’ mold.

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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Review

poster

We’re well into the doldrums period of film releases now and I wasn’t particularly excited about either of this week’s offerings: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone or The Call. Burt Wonderstone emerged as the front runner because a) The Call made me watch its trailer 5,000 times on the CTV website and b) Jim Carrey’s back playing a nutcase (which means it is officially the 90s again).

A jaded Las Vegas magician tries to restart his career after he loses his audience to a rival with bloodier tricks.

I’ve seen this Siegfried and Roy vs Criss Angel setup before in really well done episodes of CSI: NY and Supernatural, so what it all boiled down to for me was: is it funny? And yes, I’m happy to report that it is hilarious, which easily makes up for a few plot and character related issues.

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