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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 May 27, 2014

endless love

Endless Love

More like creepy, obsessive love. Gabriella Wilde plays a sheltered rich girl who falls in love with a teenage boy who’s ‘below her station,’ played by Alex Pettyfer (yes, the one from the man-stripper movie). Her parents try to keep them apart, so he goes psycho and burns her house down. At least, he does in the book. In the original film and in this remake, it’s a soppy ‘we were meant for each other, they just don’t understand’ teen love story. Like Twilight. So if you like that, you’ll like this.

Buy Endless Love on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

supercollider

Supercollider

This B-level disaster movie is based on the fear that a really really powerful supercollider could tear apart spacetime. A cliched dad-who-is-not-there-for-his-kids working at an Epcot-looking supercollider begins to suspect that the slew of disasters plaguing the world are the result of the collider accidentally shoving time onto a different track, but of course everyone thinks he’s crazy so he’s the only one that can save them. Good idea, bad execution. Read Jack McDevitt’s book Odyssey instead.

Buy Supercollider on DVD.

gambit

Gambit

Sadly, this movie has nothing to do with my favorite character from X-Men. I guess we’ll have to rely on Channing Tatum (I know. What??) to give us that movie in a few years. This one was written (but not directed) by the Cohen brothers and features a Devil Wears Prada-esque abused employee trying to con his boss into buying a fake painting. Colin Firth loses his pants. Alan Rickman is naked, and Cameron Diaz has a ridiculous accent. If you want to see famous people hamming it up and having fun, check it out.

Buy Gambit on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

birders guide

A Birder’s Guide to Everything

In this coming-of-age dramedy, a group of teens lead by Kodi Smit-McPhee trek into the wilderness to earn a place in the bird watching record books by confirming their sighting of an extinct duck. Sort of like Stand By Me, but with a duck instead of a body. And no danger. And one of them is a girl. And the bad teens are replaced by adult birders trying to steal their thunder. The pace is laconic and the kids’ acting is awkward, but some people find that charming/authentic. If you’re one of them (I’m not), check it out.

Buy A Birder’s Guide to Everything on DVD.

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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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Trailer Reviews for May 23, 2014

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST



This movie looks incredibly ambitious. It has a huge cast that’s been doubled on account of everyone having a past and a future self. I worry that since time travel is so tricky, they’ll break their own rules. And even if they don’t, won’t it seem really rushed and chaotic as they try to squeeze everybody in? However, I love the first two X-Men movies and First Class was amazing. If this movie does as promised and wipes out the atrocity that was X-Men 3, I will be a very happy person.

BLENDED



This is a TERRIBLE movie. Not only is it horrifically unfunny, it also sends the message that single women are soft carpets who can’t raise boys not to burn their damn house down, that girls raised by single men are all involuntary tomboys, and that people with kids are too dumb to go on a date without spitting in each others’ faces. I like the idea of a movie about a blended family coming together, but this movie is light years dumber than Yours, Mine and Ours.

THE LOVE PUNCH



I don’t understand why this movie is called The Love Punch but it looks MUCH funnier than Blended. I love Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan and the whole ‘adventures of hilarious older people’ genre. If I was going to a romantic comedy this weekend, I would pick this one. But I’m not, because X-MEN!!!!

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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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Blood of Alexander Book Review

I’ll be stuck in the woods all weekend, so there will be no Godzilla review this Sunday. I did receive an equally implausible free book through Goodreads recently. As a consolation prize, I shall share my impressions with you. It’s an action/adventure novel called Blood of Alexander, recently released by Forge Books.

blood of alexander cover

A globetrotting antiques expert working for a secret organization must save the word from a weaponized artifact in the hands of an evil villain.

I requested Blood of Alexander because I’m a fan of archeology thrillers such as Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Relic. However, I’m sorry to report that I gave up on The Blood of Alexander about a third of the way through.

The Blood of Alexander ticks all the boxes on the action-thriller genre list. A terrorist plans to use a relic to destroy the world. The only one who can stop him is the main character, a man with more skills and knowledge than the Encyclopedia Britannica. Scarcely a dozen pages go by without a gunfight, and the the chapters all seem to end with cliffhangers. This is exactly what many genre fans are looking for, so that’s great.

However, the book never managed to engage me. The awkward writing prevented me from losing myself in the story. It sacrificed flow in the name of glib irreverence and it made me want to put the book down as soon as I started reading. The story seemed to be built on a very shaky foundation and the characters’ actions were dictated by the needs of the plot rather than what was logical or realistic.

The characters were constantly either fighting or escaping. I like action-oriented thrillers as much as archeological ones (I’m a huge fan of Jack Reacher and Alex Rider) but the battles in The Blood of Alexander seemed to be stalling the plot rather than advancing it. I stopped reading a third of the way through the book, and at that point the characters had only collected one clue. There was still no sign of anything related to Alexander the Great.

I also wasn’t a fan of the main character, Jonathan Blake. Jonathan’s tragic back story and his first person perspective were (I believe) meant to help readers empathize, but I couldn’t connect with him. It seemed like Jonathan was trying to be Indiana Jones and James Bond at the same time, but in my opinion, you can’t be both a scruffy rogue who’s constantly in over his head AND a suave operator who can garotte a henchman with a spool of dental floss.

I would tentatively recommend this book to action-thriller fans who like Hollywood-style high-concept plots and jack-of-all-trades heroes (think Clive Cussler or Ted Bell), but even then you should read the first few pages before you commit to the book.

Given that I wasn’t interested in finishing, I give Blood of Alexander a rating of:

category 0

This review brought to you by:
Indiana Bond and the Temple of Explosions

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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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DVDs for May 13, 2014

her

Her

The idea behind this movie is great. A lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) buys the latest technology gimmick (an AI operating system that designs its own personality to suit you) and ends up falling in love with it. The movie explores their relationship as well as its societal implications and just how different a computer-based life form would be from us. Unfortunately, when this great idea was executed, it turned into an awkward, boring film. If you don’t mind that sort of thing, check it out.

Buy Her on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

i frankenstein

I, Frankenstein

Even though it’s terrible, I was actually planning to see this in theaters. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I was thwarted by a broken projector. If you read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and thought: who cares about morality, ethics, science, and the nature of life? Frankenstein’s monster would be way more interesting if he was involved in a giant war between magical ugly things, then this movie is for you. This movie does for classic literature what Legion did for Christian mythology (i.e. made it stupid). Skip it.

Buy I, Frankenstein on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

that awkward moment

That Awkward Moment

This movie is sort of a romantic comedy told from the guys’ perspective – three guys (a womanizer, a nerd, and a married guy) all become single at the same time and decide to make a pact to stay that way – except that all three end up romantically involved with women. It differs from traditional romantic comedies in that it’s got a lot more dick jokes and the characters all act like overgrown frat boys. Some people will find it okay, but most will be put off by the fact that the women could do a lot better than these three.

Buy That Awkward Moment on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

stalingrad

Stalingrad

This is a big-budget Russian film about a vicious urban hellhole of a battle between the Soviets and the Germans in World War II. It looks pretty good, especially for a non-Hollywood movie, and aims for a Band of Brothers feel, with the narrative following a handful of soldiers protecting a local girl. They even give some non-evil screentime to the Germans. Unfortunately, some of the heroism borders on silliness, it doesn’t always make sense, and it glosses over some of the ways Soviet leadership was not awesome to its soldiers. Give it a try though if you liked Enemy at the Gates.

Buy Stalingrad on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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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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Sniper’s Honor Review

It’s Random Friday again and I’m still trying to clear my backlog of free Goodreads First Reads books, so today we’ll be talking about Sniper’s Honor, a military/historical thriller by Stephen Hunter. It’s releasing this month from Simon and Schuster.

snipers honor cover

A retired sniper and a newspaper reporter attract deadly notice when they start digging into the history of a female sniper who disappeared from the Ukraine in the closing days of World War II.

I requested Sniper’s Honor because I loved one of Hunter’s other thrillers. When it opened with a quote from The Terminator, I knew we would get along like a house on fire.

I love Sniper’s Honor for a lot of reasons. It’s part World War II novel, part modern-day thriller. The plotting is tight and the prose is clever. The two timelines trade the narrative back and forth as each set of characters discovers clues and encounters setbacks, ensuring that there’s no good place to stop reading. Everything clicks together perfectly, but even though I usually figure thrillers out in a few chapters, I had no idea how Sniper’s Honor was going to end until all the pieces fell into place.

The World War II timeline doesn’t just re-hash the same old American/British victories. It delves into the action on the often ignored Eastern Front, touching on the battles we’ve heard of (Stalingrad, Kursk, the siege of Leningrad) but focusing on the forgotten partisans who fought SS death squads and battle-hardened paratroopers in the remote Ukrainian mountains. The hero of the story is not only a sniper but a female Russian sniper, which I was thrilled about, even if her beauty is the only reason anyone’s interested in her.

I also love that Sniper’s Honor doesn’t fall into the propaganda-movie trap of ‘all Allies good, all Axis bad,’ as there are heroes and villains on both sides. There’s a fair amount of graphic violence, but it didn’t bother me. Violence is necessary to convey the horror and confusion of war and when some of the truly monstrous characters meet their ends, I would even call it satisfying.

In the ‘present day’ timeline, the heroes are a reporter who has grandchildren, a retired sniper with a bad hip, and (in an interlude) a desk jockey who spends all day crunching numbers. None of the three are typical action heroes, which is why it’s such a pleasure to see them stick it to the cocky young guns in the intelligence and organized crime communities who are trying to keep their dark secrets buried.

My only real complaint is that prose was a little technical for me at times. I’m not a firearms expert, and with so many weapons being identified by number-letter combinations, I needed to have Google images near at hand in order to visualize the action. During the wrap-up, I was also a bit confused about what happened to a few of the bit players, but the neat bow tied around the principals more than made up for it.

I would recommend Sniper’s Honor to any history or thriller buff who’s tired of the same old thing (extra points if you’re both). I award it the coveted rating of:

category 5

Before you go, here’s your Sniper’s Honor-related cartoon:
girl sniper meme

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