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DVDs for September 17, 2013

world war z

World War Z

I know a lot of people hate this movie, largely because it has very little to do with the book it’s based on, but I really like it. Not many horror movies manage to scare me, but this one did. It’s loaded with tension as the main character tries to get his family out of a zombie-riddled city and then track down the disease’s origins and cure (I’m a sucker for epidemiology stories). The zombies are much scarier than regular zombies – they pile like ants and react to sound. Watch it with the lights on or read myfull review first.

Buy World War Z on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

the east

The East

The East is a boring title that tells you nothing about the movie and makes it difficult to get relevant search results on Google, so let me make it easy for me. This is a dark thriller about a woman who gets hired by a security company to infiltrate a group of anarchists who are launching guerrilla attacks against the company’s sleazy big-business clients. She kind of falls down the rabbit hole and ends up questioning whose side she should be on (especially when she meets the hot ringleader – Alexander Skarsgard). It’s pretty good. Check it out.

Buy The East on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

scenic route

Scenic Route

I have to laugh at this one. The DVD box makes it look like a quirky comedy, like ‘oh, haha, this dude went on a road trip and ended up with dirty clothes and a goofy haircut’ but if you watch the movie or the trailer, it’s obvious that it’s a serious psychological horror/thriller about a pair of guys who come unhinged after their truck breaks down in the desert. I don’t know about you, but I’d have preferred the first scenario. Still, there is the Josh Duhamel factor, and it’s not bad for what it is.

Buy Scenic Route on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

disconnect

Disconnect

This is a drama/thriller, but it should really be classed as a public service announcement and shown in schools, because it’s all about the different ways you can totally screw yourself over by posting too much online. Cyberbullying, sexual exploitation, scams, stalking, and just generally spending so much time digitally connected that you forget to have a life in the real world – it’s all in here, each issue presented as a different subplot in an ensemble drama. There have been a couple of ‘online dangers’ issue movies, but this is the best one so far.

Buy Disconnect on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for September 13, 2013

INSIDIOUS 2



The big twist from Insidious (which they don’t reveal in this trailer, so I won’t say what it is) was so bizarre and unusual that it’s really not possible for them to replicate the feel of that movie in a sequel. Unless they plan on assuming the audience hasn’t seen the first movie, they’ll just have to proceed as if their secrets are being taken as read and move on. Unfortunately there’s nowhere to move on to. They’re pretty much confined to replicating the events from the first movie – this trailer bears that out. It could be the trailer for the first one except the kid in danger is a different one this time. Once was enough for me, so I won’t be seeing it.

THE FAMILY



The title is boring and generic, which will make it difficult for people to get results when Googling it, but the movie looks like it could be okay. It may be a little difficult to like people who blow up grocery stores just because they feel insulted, but the sheer ridiculousness of their overreactions could be funny. I just hope they don’t abandon the comedic premise halfway through and switch to destroying half of France in a giant gun battle. But it seems likely that’s exactly what will happen, given that it’s directed by the guy who did Taken. And the fact that the trailer contains at least three explosions. But if this is the only other thing we’re getting, I guess I’ll take it.

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DVDs for September 10, 2013

into darkness

Star Trek: Into Darkness

If there’s such a thing as too action packed, Star Trek: Into Darkness is the poster child. It begins with an exploding volcano, segues into a series of terrorist attacks on Starfleet, and ends with a final battle against craziness and corruption that lasts for almost the entire third act of the movie. If you hadn’t figured it out before, Star Trek isn’t just for Star Trek fans anymore. If you don’t believe me yet, check out my full review or just go ahead and let this movie do the talking.

Buy Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

blood

Blood

Blood is one of those deep but depressing gritty police dramas where the cops end up guilty of more than the perps they’re chasing. Paul Bettany plays a British detective investigating a crime. He’s so sure a particular perp committed it that he goes a little overboard and has an ‘accident’ that results in a coverup he must share with his partner and an investigation by their department. We’re basically watching Bettany’s character fall apart, which can be interesting as an artistic/intellectual exercise but I wouldn’t really call it ‘entertaining.’

Buy Blood on DVD.

wish you were here

Wish You Were Here

Horror movies would have you believe that biggest thing to worry about on your vacation is man-eating sharks, but that’s not really true. Running afoul of a foreign legal/criminal system is both scarier and more likely, because what can you do about it other than beg heartless bureaucracies to help you? In this movie, four friends go on a vacation to Cambodia but only three of them come back… and they come back with an awful lot of secrets and lies that will have to be unraveled before we find out what happened to the fourth guy. Great mystery/thriller.

Buy Wish You Were Here on DVD.

chicago fire

Chicago Fire: Season 1

If you’re not already watching this show, you should start. There’s something for everyone: shirtless men, heroic rescues, tragedies, coverups, inter-truck rivalries, a lesbian paramedic, issue-driven storylines, and even a cute puppy who rides a fire truck! The only thing I didn’t like about this season was the recurring police corruption arc, but luckily they’re spinning off the cops into their own show so we won’t have to hear about them anymore. Check out the DVDs or go online and watch some on your TV network’s website, because it starts again soon and you need to catch up!

Buy Chicago Fire: Season 1 on DVD.

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RIDDICKulous: An Epic Tale

I wasn’t kidding when I said I’d rather stay home this week than pay $11.50 to see another Riddick movie. Money’s tight and must not be wasted on franchises that are really one-offs which have overstayed their welcome. However, NOT seeing Riddick (and therefore being ignorant of the plot details) put me in the unique position of being able to create a best-guess story pieced together from the results of a Google image search for ‘Riddick,’ which, let’s face it, will probably be more entertaining than the real plot of the movie anyway.

So on we go with:

cover

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DVDs for September 3, 2013

now you see me

Now You See Me

If you (like me) really enjoyed the stage magic-based movies The Illusionist and The Prestige and are looking for another movie that will wow you the same way, you should know that this movie is trying to be what you want, but isn’t. It features a group of stage magicians who perform bank heists as part of their act and distribute money to the audiences while outwitting the cops. The big reveal just isn’t as believable or original as it needs to be to sustain the ‘wow’ factor after the film is over. Good only for a throwaway movie night.

Buy Now You See Me on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

empire state

Empire State

There’s a really terrific spy novel by Henry Porter called Empire State. Sadly, this is not an adaptation of that novel. Instead, it’s yet another armored car/inside job robbery film where we’re supposed to believe that because the ‘system’ has wronged someone, they’re entitled to steal millions of dollars from it (otherwise known as the new American Dream). Cliched premise paired with uninspred execution leaves you with a film that you’d just as well not watch, even if it does star Liam Hemsworth and the Rock.

Buy Empire State on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

revolution

Revolution

I wanted to mention this show on here, but not because it’s good. Because it’s TERRIBLE and I hated it. I only watched one episode, but here are the impressions I came away with. 1) It’s supposed to be a post-apocalyptic show taking place 15 years after all the electricity mysteriously went away, yet everyone is clean, nicely clothed, and smooth. 2) The main character, a teenage girl whose mission is to rescue her brother from organized bandits and find out what caused the blackout, is just a whinier version of Katniss Everdeen. AVOID.

Buy Revolution: Season 1 on Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack.

criminal minds

Criminal Minds

And finally, I will round the set off with a TV show that you SHOULD watch: Criminal Minds. Eight years later and having replaced several cast members, the show is still fantastic and utterly chilling. The highlight of this season is the overarching plot concerning the serial killer who is himself stalking the serial killer hunters of the FBI. They’ve been delving more into the characters’ personal lives in the last few seasons, but not enough to get annoying or ridiculous (like what happened in Private Practice). Watch it and if you like having to sleep with the lights on.

Buy Criminal Minds: Season 8 on DVD.

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City of Bones Review

poster from the Sony Pictures film Mortal Instruments City of Bones

I read the original Mortal Instruments trilogy several years ago and really liked it. Reading it directly after Twilight gave me a special degree of appreciation for its heroine with a personality, complex world, villains who do things, and actual battles that actually happen. I remember thinking that it would make a good movie, and now the first one, City of Bones has arrived.

A teenage artist discovers she comes from a race of secret demon hunters after her mother is kidnapped.

I’ve heard from other people who’ve seen it that it deviates quite a lot from the plot in the book, but it’s been a few years since I read the book and I didn’t notice anything glaringly different except for a few minor things, which is to be expected when you’re cramming 485 pages of story into a 120 page movie script. And apart from a few minor glitches, I liked it.

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Trailer Reviews for August 30, 2013

CLOSED CIRCUIT



This movie looks good. We’ve got some Eric Bana, some Julia Stiles (whom I haven’t seen in a movie in like ten years) and a huge dollop of Spooks (MI-5 on this side of the pond). The only problem I can see is that they gave most of it away in the trailer. Let’s review what we know, shall we? There was a terrorist attack. The bomber was caught. Two lawyers are assigned to defend him. With a journalist’s help they discover MI-5 were responsible for getting him into the country and setting him up in a terrorist cell as a double agent. MI-5 uses closed circuit cameras to try and bump them off before the trial brings everything to light. Am I missing anything? Apart from a non-Bana reason to pay $11.50 to see it again, but longer?

GETAWAY



Taken – sorry, Getaway is the story of a guy whose female family member was kidnapped by bad people and who has to wreck a lot of stuff to get her back. Geez, how many times are they going to make this movie? The only things that are different about it are the fact that they also ripped off The Fast and the Furious (the bit where they’re driving around very fast in cool cars to steal things) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (where he’s got a young punk ass hacker girl helping him). Actually, now that I watch it again, I realize I’m wrong. It’s not a movie, it’s a two hour ad for the Ford Mustang.

THE SPECTACULAR NOW



Yes, enjoy your impulsiveness and popularity now, children, because soon you will have JOBS and STUDENT LOANS and RESPONSIBILITIES and if you try to cling too hard to your youth, you will end up becoming that creepy person who works at Staples, lives in their parents’ basement, and tries to get drunk with high schoolers every night! Bwahahahahahaha!

ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US



No. Just… no. Though I have to say, I did enjoy the graphic of the big red band logo spreading across the world like a hemorrhagic fever.

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DVDs for August 27, 2013

gatsby

The Great Gatsby

As much as I love how the 10 Classics in 10 Minutes version of The Great Gatsby boils down to “lets have a drink!” it doesn’t do justice to the depth of character portrayed in this movie. Sure the characters are all rich, frivolous, selfish 1920s socialites who believe that rules are made for other people, but that’s just on the surface. Underneath they’re repressed, desperate lovers or confused fish out of water (well, some of them are, anyway). Add that to the sheer decadence of the filming style and you’ve got a compelling film. Check it out or read my full review for more.

Buy The Great Gatsby on Blu-Ray or on DVD.

elementary

Elementary

I love this show. Typically American versions of British shows (this is an Americanization of Sherlock) are terrible but in this case I think both are great. In this version, Watson’s a woman (Lucy Liu) and Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) is a recovering heroin addict who acts as an unpaid (and sometimes unwanted) consultant to detectives Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and Bell (Jon Michael Hill) of the NYPD. He’s still an abrasive but lovable genius but other than that don’t waste your time comparing it with Sherlock, its totally different. Still worth checking out, though, so go do it.

Buy Elementary on DVD.

kon tiki

Kon-Tiki

I loved this book when I read it as a kid, and I can’t believe it took them this long to make a film of it (there was a documentary in 1950 but that’s about three millenia ago in Hollywood time). It follows a group of Scandinavian explorers who sail across the Pacific ocean on a balsa wood raft with almost nothing just to prove that the Polynesian peoples could originally have come from South America. I’m glad they did wait, though, because now modern technology has given us a really incredible looking movie to go along with the incredible story. Whether you’ve read the book or not, you’ve got to see it.

Buy Kon-Tiki on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

pain and gain

Pain and Gain

Anthony Mackie, Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson return to their muscle head roots for this movie (well, Dwayne Johnson does, Anthony Mackie started out in engineering and Mark Whalberg was in a boy band). They play a trio of bodybuilding knuckleheads who decide to try and force the universe to give them the American dream through kidnapping and extortion, and as you might expect, it goes hilariously and predictably wrong. The weirdest part about this action/comedy/crime/thriller/mess is that it’s based on a true story. I guess you can’t make this stuff up.

Buy Pain and Gain on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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The World’s End Review

poster from the Universal Studios film The Worlds End

I’ve always preferred British comedies to American ones and Hot Fuzz is one of the all time funniest movies I’ve ever seen. So when the choice came up between another Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost comedy and the City of Bones adaptation, I went for The World’s End, which should not be confused with This is the End, another apocalypse comedy which is terrible and American.

Five friends return to their hometown to conquer the Golden Mile, a local pub crawl they failed as teens, only to find their town has been taken over by robots.

Before seeing The World’s End I wouldn’t have thought this was possible, but I’m meh on a Wright/Pegg/Frost movie. It was slow to start, hilarious in the middle, and kind of fell apart at the end. Easily my least favorite of their movies. I may even go so far as to say I chose the wrong movie to see, but that will have to wait until next week when I see City of Bones.

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Trailer Reviews for August 23, 2013

MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES



I really liked this book, and not just because I read it right after Twilight, when anything that didn’t actively insult my intelligence would have seemed fantastic. I liked that the main character was a girl who got to have powers of her own and that the world had actual details and that there were plenty of battles. I thought it would make a good movie, but now that the movie is here I’m not that thrilled about it. Why? Casting. Lily Collins and Kevin Zegers seem like good picks, but who cast the hero’s big love interest as a scrawny, girly, way-too-old guy? He’s like some sketchbag biker version of one of those androgynous boys from the manga comics. The bizarre casting is enough to push this movie to #2 spot, which means I probably won’t get to it until next week, if at all.

THE WORLD’S END



I love these guys. After they piled Hot Fuzz on top of Shaun of the Dead they earned a free pass for life. It might not have been enough to get them chosen over City of Bones without that movie’s casting fail, though. For some reason the pub crawl doesn’t seem like enough of a goal, even considering the robots. In Shaun of the Dead they were trying to live through a zombie apocalypse, in Hot Fuzz they were trying to save the town, but in this one they’re trying to, well, get drunk. Not exactly enthralling, but it WILL be funny, I can trust in that much.

IN A WORLD



I really want to see this movie, for several reasons. 1) It looks funny. 2) I love it when movies do fake movie trailers for pretend movies (think of all those fake trailers from Tropic Thunder). 3) It’s an inside look at a job I know nothing about. The closest I’ve ever seen to this was in The Holiday when Cameron Diaz and Jack Black were trailer editor/musicians. 4) I was just reading a bunch of articles about sexism in the film industry and I’d be really interested in hearing about sexism in the film spinoff industries too. ALAS (again) it will probably take forever for it to come my way.

YOU’RE NEXT



I don’t understand the point of this movie. It seems to have something to do with hunting or animal revenge, but the people being hunted are just some stupid family who haven’t even done anything to deserve it and the animals are just guys in masks. Plus it would be a lot scarier if they didn’t show the killer so much. If we can see him, we know where he is, and if we know where he is, we’re not twisted up in knots wondering if he’s going to be around the next corner. So no thanks. I prefer horror movies that are actually horrifying.

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