I love Wreck-It Ralph. In fact, I rated it as one of my favorite movies of 2012. It features a video game villain who throws the arcade into chaos when he abandons his game and befriends a marginalized little girl in a racing game in his efforts to be a hero. Anyone who gamed in the 90s will find it nostalgically awesome while today’s kids should be sufficiently entertained by the Halo references and the lands made of candy. Rent it for the whole family or read my review for more.
On the other side of the coin, we have the terrible modern remake of the also-terrible 80s film Red Dawn, where an off duty marine played by Chris Hemsworth must turn a bunch of whiny teenagers into a guerrilla squad after their town is invaded by North Korea. It only narrowly avoided making my ‘worst movies of 2013’ list by the skin of its Chris Hemsworth (Hey! Hotness can make up for a lot!) Unless you’re a huge fan of the original for some odd reason or you’re watching Chris Hemsworth’s backlist, there’s no reason to rent this movie. Read my review instead.
Playing for Keeps can’t seem to decide what type of movie it wants to be. Is it a comedy about a washed up pro soccer player who gets roped into coaching a bunch of little kids? Yes, sort of. Is it a buddy movie about an immature, absentee dad who reconnects with his son? Yes, sort of. Is it a romantic comedy where a sexy ex-boyfriend steals his one true love away from her new fiance? Yes, sort of. It’s all these things, but not enough of each to make it really resonate, which is why it’s merely okay. Read my review for more.
Not a lot of people watch foreign language films, and that’s a shame, because some of them are really good. If you’re one of the people who assume that anything European is bound to be confusing and/or depressing, I challenge you to find anything confusing or depressing about Les Intouchables, a hilarious and heartwarming French film about a wealthy paralyzed man who hires a big, tough poor guy as his caretaker against everyone’s advice and he ends up pushing his boundaries and having a great time. Check it out!
Okay… what? Someone steals this guy’s identity… the authorities know about it… they HAVE A PICTURE OF THE PERSON WHO DID IT AND HER LOCATION but they’re gonna send him down there to sort it out on his own? I’m sorry, but that’s just dumb. The few times people I know have had their credit card numbers stolen, the companies have jumped in to take over, canceling the cards, tracking down the culprits, and striking the bogus charges off the bill. They have to be like that, or no one would have a credit card anymore. It’s just way to easy for the number to be stolen. I could look past the dumb premise (maybe) if the movie looked funny, but Jason Bateman is bland and Melissa McCarthy is crude and I didn’t laugh once during the trailer. So I’ll be skipping this one.
“From the creators of Contagion.” Woah woah woah, let me stop you right there, trailer. Contagion is not something you want to brag about. Contagion was boring, directionless, and had an annoying tenancy to never fully develop any of its plot points. I rated it as one of the worst movies of 2011. The fact that you think it was awesome enough to brag about tells me that this otherwise interesting sounding medical conspiracy murder thriller starring Channing Tatum is going to be boring, directionless, and full of underdeveloped subplots as well. So thanks, movie, for not tricking me into thinking you were going to be good. I just saved $11.50!
TOP GUN 3D
Awesome. Now I’m a total hypocrite for ragging on all those studios that re-released old movies in aftermarket 3D and expected us to fall all over ourselves running to the theater to buy tickets. Because all I could think of when I heard about Top Gun 3D was HOMG! TOP GUN! IN 3DDDDDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!
This has been a year of really good “scary” cartoon movies for kids – Paranorman, Frankenweenie, Brave and this one. I put “scary” in quotation marks because they’re not really scary, they’re just about monsters, which makes them great for Halloween parties. In addition to being “scary” Hotel Transylvania is also hilarious. Dracula has a daughter and creates a whole all-monster hotel just to keep her away from the big bad humans… until a dopey college boy shows up by accident and his daughter falls for him. Fun for kiddies and grown ups.
They’re just going to keep milking the Paranormal Activity cow until we all get wise and stop giving them money. Oren Peli (who was also responsible for the atrocity that was Chernobyl Diaries) wrote and directed the original but by now he’s not even involved in the sequels, which are more of remakes than anything else. Family moves into house. Creepy things happen. They film it all on handhelds for some thinly justified reason. They all die. Repeat with ghost of above causing trouble for new family. If you want to know what happens in this movie, watch one of the others.
I’ve been reading a lot about psychopaths lately and I have to say: the characters in this movie don’t seem like psychopaths to me. Psychopaths are conscienceless manipulators, not endearingly moronic buffoons. A better title for Seven Psychopaths would have been Seven Quirky Criminals, but I guess that doesn’t sound as catchy. Anyway, apart from that it’s pretty funny in a wacky Tarantino-esque way. A screenwriter gets caught up in an insane plot to steal a gangster’s dog and lots of witty things happen while they try to survive long enough to collect ransom. Check it out.
For a movie that is a carbon copy of Taken and stars the guy from The Tudors (Henry Cavill) and Mr. Die Hard himself (Bruce Willis), it’s hard to imagine how Cold Light of Day managed to slip by without much attention from the action fans. Actually, it’s only surprising until you watch it and realize that it is terrible. It features your standard ‘oh no my family is kidnapped’ plot with unsurprising parental CIA connections and the involvement of a plot-important McGuffin, all strung sloppily together and acted out with all the verve of actors who are painfully aware that none of it matters. Avoid.
Unless you’re ten years old, you may remember that former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was once a famous lump of muscle who starred in many terrible action films. Now that studios are looking for more old meatheads to star in more terrible action movies (thanks, The Expendables) and Arnold is out of office, apparently he’s decided to pick up where he left off with The Last Stand.
The sheriff of a small Arizona town and his deputies must stop an escaped drug lord from crossing back into Mexico.
As you might expect, it’s dumb, action packed, and dumb. If that’s what you’re looking for in a movie, congratulations! You just found the movie you should see this week. However, if you’re like me, you want your action movies to be logical, tense, and be populated with interesting characters, none of which describes The Last Stand.
Well, thanks, trailer producers. Now I don’t need to bother seeing that movie. You already told me that Russell Crowe is a dirty mayor, he hires Mark Wahlberg to discover who his wife is having an affair with, then sets him up for the murder. Enter Mark Wahlberg shooting his way to the top and exposing the tragically corrupt mayor who is dumb enough to talk about his evil plans right out loud even though anyone with half a brain cell would be wearing a wire to a meeting with the guy who set them up. I suppose I should thank the trailer producers, because Broken City doesn’t sound like something I’d be interested in anyway.
THE LAST STAND
“I’m old but I’m still a badass!” that’s the new genre of movies that have cropped up in the last couple of years. Now dear old Arnold can go back to starring in the same half-assed action movies we all knew and tolerated in the 1990s, but with more cracks about being “too old for this.” I can hardly wait. This particular movie reminds me (unpleasantly) of a thriller I read once by Ted Bell that somehow managed to be both annoying and boring. And stupid. How can they have a whole movie about some people driving through town? Surely their town is not so large that the drive would take 1 hour and 47 minutes. So what happens for the rest of the movie? They set up trip wires and precariously balanced rocks like a bunch of Ewoks waiting for the stormtroopers to arrive?
See, now there’s an interesting idea for a horror movie. I’ve been mildly intrigued by feral children ever since our history professor did an extended sidebar on them during our study of the founding of Rome, but I’ve never considered them in a possibly murderous context before. That’s a pretty cool idea. And holy Jeebus, that kid scuttling around on top of the refrigerator was extremely creepy. I have no idea what mama is (thankfully they didn’t give away that part) but they may have showed a bit too much of her for a trailer. She should be kept in the shadows until maximum tension is revealed. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to judge whether the movie does things right or not. I’d like to, but of the three movies coming out this week, naturally the one I want to see is the one we’re not getting.
I wasn’t a fan of the Sylvester Stallone version of Judge Dredd but I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed this one. The plot was simple – a by-the-book future cop and his psychic rookie partner take on a drug lord while locked in a huge apartment building. The characters are pretty simple too – Karl Urban never so much as exposes the upper half of his face. So why did I like it so much? Because it was clean and uncluttered. And a lot of stuff got shot up. Read my review for more.
Frankenweenie is the full length stop-motion animated version of an old Tim Burton short film where the young Victor Frankenstein brings his beloved dog back to life and causes havoc in the town. It’s pretty good, but the message is a little confused (Is messing with death bad or not? Is it ok to discriminate against reanimated corpses or not?) and there are some subplots that seem kind of shoehorned in because they don’t make sense alongside the rest of it. Read my review for more.
Since Jennifer Lawrence is kind of an it-girl now, there will probably be a lot of people watching this movie just to see her. It’s not that bad. It’s about a girl and her mom who move in next door to a boy (Max Theriot) with a murdered family. But you should know that it’s more of a slow building thriller than a horror movie, so if you’re expecting a madman running around with a bloody knife, you’ll be disappointed. You should also know that climactic plot twist is pretty obvious to anyone with more than a single functioning brain cell.
If you’re really excited to see Zero Dark Thirty, the movie about the CIA officers and Navy SEALs who went after Osama Bin Laden, and you’re too impatient to wait three days for it to come out, then good news! This terrible TV movie is about the same thing! And it comes out today! Sure it stars one of the vampires from Twilight. Sure it’s boring as hell. Sure the performances all sound like they were phoned in via a bad Skype connection. But you’ll see the story three days early. That’s all that matters, right?
Well, another year has gone by, so it’s time to look back and see how the 62 movies I saw in theaters stack up against one another. This year’s best and worst movies were easy to choose but numbers 2 through 5 were hard, especially when I thought about them in retrospect – some big ticket movies were great in the theaters but didn’t hold up when I thought about them later. Others weren’t that great to begin with. In the end there were a lot of pretty good movies and a lot of pretty bad movies, but pretty doesn’t make the cut with me. Here’s what did.
So… as you can see, I didn’t end up seeing Killing Them Softly. The combined aversion factor of Brad Pitt and mob violence was just too much for me to overcome. So I went to see Red Dawn instead, which didn’t look any better (in fact, it looked stupider) but at least it had Chris Hemsworth in it. The story is a remake of the 1980s version, but with communist North Korea swapped for communist Russia:
A group of teenagers escape to the woods to form a guerilla resistance after communists invade the city of Spokane, Washington.
Good war movies need three things: believable scenarios, epic action, and sympathetic characters. Unfortunately, with the possible exception of Chris Hemsworth’s character, the new Red Dawn had none of these things. Much like the 80s version, so at least we’re maintaining the status quo.
I watched the original 1984 version of Red Dawn on TV one time, and it was terrible. The only good thing about it was that while I was watching, an ad came on for Serenity which introduced me to the Firefly universe. Despite the shiny new crop of fancy weapons and popular not-really-teen-anymore actors, I don’t expect this Red Dawn to be any better, because it shares the same ridiculous premise: that another country invades and controls part of the United States and the only people who can fight back are some plucky teenagers in the woods. With the densely populated, highly militarized, overly nuke-ified USA as the setting, this premise is ridiculous. It worked much better in John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began, which was set in Australia. There’s a mini-series of it. I want to watch it. I’ll probably end up seeing this instead.
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS
Now this one I would actually like to see, but I think I should save it for the Girl Guide Christmas party. I hate watching the same movie over again like a week later, especially if it turns out to mediocre. The title of this movie is certainly mediocre. It tells you nothing about what the movie’s about or why you might want to see it. It’s utterly generic. Even if they’d called it Jack Frost, Santa, and the Easter Kangaroo Fight the Lord of Nightmares or something obvious (like, oh, say, How to Train Your Dragon), at least people would know that it was a kids’ holiday movie. It’s like Dreamworks felt the need to step up the nothing they reveal of the plot in the trailers and make sure no one can tell anything about it from the title either. Next thing you know they won’t even let us watch the movie, lest we learn too much about it.
LIFE OF PI
I have not read this book. I know only that it concerns a guy trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger and that it’s very popular with book clubs, which usually means I’ll think it’s boring and/or stupid. I have to say, the film trailer makes it look a lot more interesting. I still don’t know how much there can be to write about a guy and a tiger in a lifeboat, but the special effects don’t look fake and I usually like Ang Lee’s movies – even that Hulk movie that everyone else hated. Maybe I’ll see this instead of Red Dawn, because while Red Dawn is almost certainly going to be stupid, this one at least looks promising.
Also, if you’re in Sydney on Thursday, November 22 at 7pm you can catch the Cape Breton Film Series showing of Cosmopolis, weird Cronenberg take on Wall St. sharks starring Robert Pattinson. You can check out the trailer review here.
I played my first video game on the Commodore 64 my grandparents bought for us when I was five. It took me a while to wear my parents down, but eventually I managed to get a Nintendo for our house, followed by a Sega Genesis, a Super Nintendo, and so on. What I’m getting at is that I was a child of the gaming 90s, so when I saw how many of my favorite games had cameos in Wreck It Ralph, I just had to go. Though to be fair, the Disney story would have hooked me anyway.
A destructive bad guy in an arcade game longs for friends and praise, so he leaves his game to earn a hero’s medal in another, throwing the whole arcade into disarray.
As I suspected, though Wreck It Ralph is billed as a kids’ movie, the setting and characters are obviously geared toward the children of the 80s and 90s, who are now twenty and thirtysomethings with kids of their own. This doesn’t mean today’s kids won’t enjoy it, it just means that you can take your kids and everyone will have a great time.