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DVDs for October 17, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

This is the fourth installment of the film series, which was resurrected after the end of the trilogy without Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. Though Johnny Depp was undoubtedly the soul of the franchise, the movie still suffers from the lack of these two “normal” characters as crazy Captain Jack Sparrow staggers through the movie on a search for the fountain of youth with a love interest he doesn’t really connect with. Fun, but not up to the level of the first three films. You can read my full On Stranger Tides review here.

Buy Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides on DVD, on Blu-Ray or in 3D.

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Bad Teacher

All the teachers I know love this movie. In it, Cameron Diaz’s character does everything real teachers have always wished they could do: swear at students, tell off parents, dress inappropriately, and just generally not care about their job performance. She’s also looking to get in the pants of the school’s most perfect teacher (played by Justin Timberlake) by pretending to give a crap about her job. The comedy is the usual R-rated sex jokes. It’s a little too vulgar for me, and Cameron Diaz’s character is just a little too horrible, but that probably won’t stop you from enjoying it, especially if you’re a teacher.

Buy Bad Teacher on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Monte Carlo

It’s a cutesy tale aimed at tween girls, but I have to confess that I really did like this movie. It’s got a vaguely Prince and the Pauper style plot where a recent American high school grad takes over the life of her rich British lookalike in Monte Carlo, except the lookalike doesn’t know about it. There are three concurrent love stories in this film, one for each of the girls, but what I liked best is that they didn’t try to pretend that Leighton Meester and Kate Cassidy were teenagers too. This is one movie moms may not actually mind watching with their daughters.

Buy Monte Carlo on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Batman: Year One

Have you ever wished that you could watch Batman Begins, but this time in cartoon form? Have you ever tried to make the pictures in Frank Miller’s Year One comic move by flipping through them really fast? Then this is the movie for you. Done in a similar animation style to the cartoon we used to watch as kids in the 90s, Batman: Year One tries to tap into the Christopher Nolan grit that has recently revitalized the series. Though the animation style clashes with the tone, fans of the Batman series will probably find something to like about it. Personally, I’d just rewatch Batman Begins.

Buy Batman: Year One on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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The Thing (2011) Review

poster from the Universal Pictures film The Thing 2011

I have not seen the original The Thing, which is the way I usually like it when I’m trying to review remakes. The tendency is to assume that the new one is just lazily leeching off the older one’s success, so it’s better to go in fresh and evaluate it on its own merits. But in fact this new The Thing is not a remake. It’s actually a prequel with the same name as the original. What?? Whatever. It has essentially the same plot as the original, anyway, as that’s generally how things go with horror “sequels” – change the setting or characters and repeat.

A team of Norwegian scientists in Antarctica accidentally release a murderous frozen alien life form that can hide among them by imitating human tissue.

This is a very scary premise, and I was genuinely unnerved by The X-Files season one episode “Ice,” which borrowed from the original Thing. I had great hopes for this movie, especially since Joel Edgerton, a recent addition to my Awesome List, was in it, but despite the promising premise, it turned out rather blah. Not bad, but not that good, either.

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Trailer Reviews for October 14, 2011

THE THING



I haven’t seen the original Thing, but I have seen the episode of The X-Files that was based on it. It was pretty creepy. I’ve always found other people to be scarier than monsters, so this is kind of the perfect scare: people that ARE monsters. But is that really how they figure out the monster has taken someone over? “Oh, there’s some blood, but no one is bleeding. OBVIOUSLY someone was killed and then reanimated as an alien monster!” I dunno about you, as a rational person that would not be my first guess. I hope they just shortened that sequence for the trailers. Oh, and if they let the monster eat that dog, I’m going to be mad.

FOOTLOOSE



Hey, look, both of the major movies coming out this week are remakes from the 1980s. That’s… terrible. Actually, it’s probably a sign of things to come. Pretty soon there will be no new movies – only remakes. That in itself will be a horror movie. Anyway – Footloose. Now, I have not seen the original Footloose. I keep thinking I have, but that’s only because I keep getting it confused with Dirty Dancing. Having said that, I don’t remember there being any explosions in the original Footloose. Perhaps that, too, is a sign of the times. You can’t even make a dancing movie without blowing something up.

THE BIG YEAR



Jack Black’s character in this movie is the quintessential college grad having a quarter life crisis, farting around trying to figure out what do do with his life, except for the fact that Jack Black is like 40, which pushes him into creepy pathetic loser territory. I think he just forgot to stop playing those roles when he got too old and everyone was too nice to tell him to get a life. After that first big flock of birds, they seem to forget that the movie is about bird watching. In fact, they seem to forget that the movie is about anything other than Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson throwing out jokes. There is a plot (they’re competing to spot rare birds off a list) but you would never know it from the trailer. I suspect you’d never know it from the movie, either. It’ll just be the three of them competing for audience attention like the big hams they are.

THE CAPTAINS



I shouldn’t really count this one, because it’s coming out on DVD at the same time, but I had to, because oh my God, the William Shatner self love just NEVER ENDS. Captain Kirk died (several times) in the show, but that has not deterred William Shatner. He successfully had Kirk resurrected for Generations. He writes books about Captain Kirk. He pushed J.J. Abrams to bring old Kirk back for the new Star Trek movie like they did for Spock. Thankfully they didn’t listen, but that didn’t stop Shatner from accepting the Scream Award on behalf of the film. Now he’s directing a film about himself! I bet they only added the other captains into the mix to try and disguise the fact that Shatner’s in love with himself (note: it didn’t work). I won’t see this movie, because after about fifty seconds into the three minute trailer, I was bored. That does not bode well.

THE MAIDEN DANCED TO DEATH



This movie is a co-pro between Canada, Hungary, and Slovenia that takes place in China and Ireland, judging from the music. Maybe they’re going for some sort of international relations award. Apparently it’s filmed in several languages too so everyone has to take a turn at reading (now that’s fairness for you). Despite that the fact that the trailer is way too long (three whole minutes, practically an eternity) I still have no idea what the movie is about, or even what the tone is. There are two brothers (one of whom is incredibly blank-faced), some dancing, (but no one seems to die of it) and a couple of guys with sticks. None of it makes any sense. I hate it already.

And in other news, the Cape Breton Film Series is showing Life Above All. It’s a depressing/uplifting drama about a twelve year old girl in Africa who has to handle everything on her own. Looks pretty good. Click here to watch the trailer and decide for yourself. The show is at 7pm on Thursday at the Empire Theaters in Sydney.

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DVDs for October 11, 2011

Green Lantern

Normally, I love science fiction and superhero movies, but Green Lantern was a big letdown. Ryan Reynolds plays a jerkoff Air Force test pilot who inherits a ring from a dying alien that makes him a member of an intergalactic police force that’s trying to stop a giant pyroclastic cloud of evil from enveloping Earth. His powers enable him to make anything he can think of out of green energy, which is exactly as stupid as it sounds. Easily the dumbest superhero movie this year. Check out my full Green Lantern review for more details.

Buy Green Lantern on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses is basically 9 to 5 for the grossout comedy crowd, but since no one remembers 9 to 5, they can get away with it. Three idiots get together to moan about their awful bosses and jokingly attempt to have them bumped off, except their plans go awry when their reconnaissance mission ends in the actual death of one of their bosses. There’s a bit too much emphasis on butt jokes, but it still manages to be funny. Most guys and anyone who liked The Hangover will like it, everyone else will merely not hate it. You can read my full Horrible Bosses review for more.

Buy Horrible Bosses on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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The Tree of Life

I know a lot of people who wanted to see this movie but never got a chance because it hardly came to any theaters. If this sounds like you, now’s your chance to see The Tree of Life. It’s a meandering epic about a trio of boys growing up in the 1950s and their resulting disillusionment as adults. It’s written and directed by Terrence Malick (the same guy who did the unfortunately boring epic The New World) so make sure you know what you’re getting into. You’ll likely either think it’s moving to the point of genius or pretentious, boring and pointless. There aren’t many people who occupy a middle ground on this one.

Buy The Tree of Life on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer

Zookeeper also comes out this week, but that movie is so confused and lame that I’d rather feature Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer. Judy Moody is a very popular book series among younger girls, so if you know a girl in Grade 3 or lower, this is a good bet to entertain her. Despite the fact that it’s written for eight year olds, it’s got the same level of sophistication (i.e. not sophisticated at all) as Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The storyline follows Judy, her brother Stink, and her cool aunt as they try to pack the summer full of adventurous challenges. More installments are sure to follow if it does well.

Buy Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Real Steel Review

poster from the Walt Disney Studios film Real Steel

As I mentioned in my trailer review of Real Steel, I am not a fan of boxing movies. I’m also not a fan of giant robot movies, though I do enjoy science fiction in general. I was baffled by the fact that I actually wanted to see Real Steel, even though it was a robot boxing movie that looked kind of silly and therefore should have turned me off, especially since the annoying title begs for misspellings (Reel Steel, Real Steal, etc) And yet the movie had something that was drawing me in, and I couldn’t figure out what it was, at least not from the basic storyline, which goes something like this:

A washed up human boxer gets his shot at the robot boxing title when his son unearths an old sparring bot in a junkyard.

Take away the robots and it’s the same plot as every boxing movie ever made – down and out underdog finally gets the chance to “be a contender.” I speculated as to whether Real Steel was a boxing movie with a sci-fi gimmick or a sci-fi movie with a boxing gimmick. It took seeing the full movie to make me realize the truth: that Real Steel is actually a father-son drama with a sci-fi boxing gimmick. And that’s what was drawing me in.

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Trailer Reviews for October 7, 2011

REAL STEEL



I know I’ve mentioned about a million times that I hate boxing movies, but I’m actually looking forward to seeing this movie. I thought the premise was dumb at first. Robots are such a tired sci-fi cliché now that I tend to avoid stories that have them. But then I realized that putting robots in it did the impossible – made a boxing movie that’s actually different enough to bother with. The plot doesn’t seem like it’s changed much, though, and I can’t decide if it’s a boxing movie using sci-fi as its gimmick or a sci-fi movie using boxing as its gimmick, but the loser dad/spunky child thing has been done plenty (like, in half of all dramas ever made). And yet… and yet I must see it, because it’s got… something. Hopefully once I see it I’ll figure out what it is.

THE IDES OF MARCH



Ryan Gosling? Blech. George Clooney? Blech. Politics? Double blech. Even if Real Steel starred the Smurfs and was directed by Michael Bay, I’d still see it over this one. The trailer tries to make this movie look like a mysterious political thriller, but with a name like The Ides of March, there’s not much left up to the imagination. Hello, Ceasar story? I can tell you what’s going to happen right now. George Clooney is the Caesar character. Ryan Gosling is his Brutus. George thinks that Ryan is loyal, but really Ryan is working behind his back with Paul Giamatti, who is the Mark Antony character. George Clooney doesn’t get elected, Paul Giamatti does. But then everything falls apart, there’s a big battle (press scandal?) and Brutus dies (Ryan’s career is ruined) after which Paul Giamatti commits suicide (steps down?) and his girlfriend offs herself with a snake (I got nothin’). Someone go see it and confirm my clairvoyant powers.

THE GUARD



Am I going blind, or is this trailer slightly out of focus?? That’s not a good sign. Other than that it looks like a pretty funny twist on the “partners who are total opposites” cop gimmick. The guy from Hotel Rwanda paired with Mad Eye Moody? They must have arrived at that pairing while playing movie roulette. Or darts. Or something else where the results are left completely to chance. But it could work. I have to say it’s interesting that the one with the Southern accent actually ISN’T the idiot in this one. Southerners are ALWAYS the idiots. I hope the Irish cop has more jokes in him than just the racist ones, or he’ll be something of a one trick pony. Oh well, I’ll find out in like 2 years when I get my hands on the DVD.

And in other news, the Cape Breton Film Series is showing The Trip. It’s a documentary about Steve Coogan and his annoying buddy on a restaurant tour. Check out the trailer review here. The show is at 7pm on Thursday at the Empire Theaters in Sydney.

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DVDs for October 4, 2011

Fast Five

The Fast movies have never been big on logic or the laws of physics. Luckily, no one watching them cares. All they care about are cars driving fast and things blowing up. If that sounds like you, you’ll like Fast Five. It follows Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, the original two characters from The Fast and The Furious, as they try to pull off a heist in cars in South America while being hunted by a DEA agent played by Dwayne Johnson. Most of the gimmicks are ripped off and none of them can act, but it’s actioney enough. You can read my full Fast Five review here.

Buy Fast Five on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Scream 4

Scream and Scream 2 were fantastic movies that managed to walk the line between tense horror and satire of horror cliches. By Scream 3 they were kind of losing it, and with Scream 4, released a full eleven years later, they’ve decided to go back to the basics. It’s more of a reboot of the series than a sequel, with a new crop of high schoolers joining Neve Campbell in being stalked by the Ghostface Killer, but without the clever satire that made the first movie so successful. It’s tired, but it’s still better than movies like Shark Night or Final Destination 5.

Buy Scream 4 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Lion King

Disney is releasing this new “diamond” version of The Lion King to coincide with its re-release in 3D theaters. Everyone is familiar with this 1996 Blockbuster – a young lion is driven out of his pride and forced to hide in the jungle until he grows up enough to challenge his evil uncle for leadership. Some of the special features you get on this edition include: never before seen deleted scenes, bloopers, and songs as well as a sing along mode and audio commentary as well as everything that was on the old DVD versions. You can get it in 2 disc or 4 disc (the difference is that the 4 disc includes a digital copy and the 3D Blu-Ray).

Buy The Lion King 2 disc Blu-Ray/DVD or 4 disc 3D Blu-Ray.


African Cats

Every year Disney releases a nature documentary to coincide with Earth Day. Last year’s was called African Cats and it is now out on DVD. It follows the same format as Earth and Oceans in that it follows a “family” of animals during a year of their lives. This time it’s cheetahs and lions. This format is designed to appeal to kids because it focuses on the kittens. Adults will like it too, though, because not only is it educational it’s also extremely cute and it won’t make you want to drill into your own brain like Dora the Explorer or Spooky Buddies will.

Buy African Cats on DVD/Blu-Ray combo back.

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Trailer Reviews for September 30, 2011

DREAM HOUSE



I wonder if it was a mistake for them to reveal that the whole “scary things stalking my family in a house” thing is all in his head and that he’s a murderer. I suppose it all depends how early this “revelation” comes in the full film. If he figures it out after ten minutes, then yeah, we need to know. If it takes a half hour, we’re still okay. An hour? Now we’re giving things away, and if it comes around an hour and a half in they ruined the movie. From the rest of the trailer, I’m guessing it’s an early occurrence, so we’re safe on that front. That doesn’t make it any clearer what’s going on. It is now? Then? Both? Does he remember? Is he just imagining these things? I guess that’s the sort of thing you need to watch the film for. I’m game.

WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER?



Does anyone else remember the short-lived television series The Ex-List? No? Well, I guess that’s what they were counting on here because What’s Your Number? has almost the exact same story. Just replace the fortune teller with a magazine article. Anna Faris is a lot more annoying than the woman from the TV show (Elizabeth Reaser) but the gags are the same – gross ex-boyfriends are now hot, hot ex-boyfriends are now gross, and the reasons for breaking up with them still stand. The only real difference is that the TV show was canceled before we found out who was “the one.” This movie looks painful. Embarrassing gaffes. Obvious jokes. Luckily I don’t actually have to see it to get closure, since even the trailer seems to know she ends up with Chris Evans.

50/50



I dunno, I don’t really feel anything about this trailer. It’s not bad enough to deserve scorn or good enough to make me look forward to seeing it. It just is. Joseph Gordon Levitt is blank, Seth Rogan is the same character he always plays because he’s a freaking clone and he can only play himself, and they trotted out cancer because it’s a sure fire way to tug at the heartstrings. In fact, it’s so common as to become bland (in the movie sense, anyway, I’m sure if I came down with it I could muster up some emotion). For me, this movie is just going to blend into the background of other depressing/hopeful stories about a young man facing death and the life truths he’s supposed to learn from it. And no, I’m not going to go see it. It’s wallpaper. You don’t go out of your way to see wallpaper.

MACHINE GUN PREACHER



This whole subset of action movies about blank-faced lunatics with big guns mowing down everything in their path in a vaguely satiric yet totally straight way has really caught on. They’re funny, they’re actiony, they’ve got everything. Unfortunately, Machine Gun Preacher is not one of these movies. Despite the title’s resemblance to Hobo With a Shotgun, MAchine Gun Preacher actually wants to be taken seriously. They even went the “inspirational true story route,” though I doubt the actual Southern preacher guy had a Scottish accent that came and went in stressful situations. If they cool it with the religious stuff (the trailer doesn’t seem too bad) then I could probably stand to watch it.

COURAGEOUS



We’re going along, setting up some nice drama, there’s a tragedy, okay interesting, something about a calling, uh oh, that doesn’t sound good and – WHAM they hit you with the God stuff. They don’t tell you it’s a God movie until halfway through, just to sucker in people like me who would otherwise have avoided it. By slapping the religiosity front and center like that they’re severely limiting the audience to people who are strongly religious – or more specifically, strongly Christian. I’d have gone to see this movie if it was just about some cop dads reconnecting with their families, but it’s actually more about marching in time to some religious leader’s rules than people actually figuring out their own problems, so no way. If you’re into that stuff, you’ll go, but everyone else is going to skip it unless they somehow missed the God part and thought it was a regular drama.

BREAKAWAY



Okay, here we go again trying to make a Canadian hockey movie with a gimmick. This time it’s that the players are all Indian-Canadian (Indian as in from India, not Indian as in the old non-PC term for First Nations people). Russell Peters is really monotone here, which is weird, considering he’s the famous one. Maybe he didn’t transition well from standup. The trailer made me laugh a couple times (okay, once) but the fantasy musical scene worries me. Score proved well enough that hockey and musicals equals lame. I suspect that’s true even if you’re riffing on Bollywood films (which, incidentally, all make more money than Canadian films). I’ll see it, but I’ll probably have to wait for the DVD to do so.

And in other news, the Cape Breton Film Series is showing Page One. It’s a documentary about how the New York Times adapted to the digital age and it sounds pretty boring. Click here to watch the trailer and decide for yourself. The show is at 7pm on Thursday at the Empire Theaters in Sydney.

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DVDs for Sept 27, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Transformers: Dark of the Moon isn’t the worst movie in the world. That honor goes to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Instead, it’s something worse: blah. This story, about a nerdy twenty-something loser with giant robots for friends rescuing his inexplicably beautiful girlfriend from other giant robots who want to turn the Earth into a robot resort, is not bad enough to laugh at and not good enough to enjoy unless all you care about are special effects. Avoid! Avoid! Read my full review for more reasons why.

Buy Transformers: Dark of the Moon on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trigun: Badlands Rumble

You know it’s a slow week for movie releases when I resort to talking about Japanese anime. Based on the Trigun TV series, the film follows the preposterously named Vash the Stampede as he wanders around the Japanese interpretation of the American West trying not to get killed by all the bounty hunters who want to take him out because of the reward on his head from some bank robbery from 20 years ago. It fits in to the side of the plotline of the series. If you like anime, maybe you’d want to watch it, but I don’t so I won’t.

Buy Trigun: Badlands Rumble on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Ben Hur: 50th Anniversary Edition

Yes, I realize that Ben Hur actually came out in 1959, but they’re releasing a special Blu-Ray edition for its 50th anniversary, so that’s enough to include it on a week like this, where there’s almost nothing coming out. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Ben Hur is the story of a vengeful Jewish prince who becomes a slave to the Romans. This edition is loaded with special features, including a feature length documentary, Charlton Heston’s diary, and the academy awards telecast where the movie won 11 Oscars. If you’re going to get it, this is the version you want.

Buy Ben Hur on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Without Men

And to round out the set, we’ve got a straight to DVD romantic comedy starring Christian Slater! (I told you it was a slow week). At least, it’s supposed to be funny, but the setup they chose to get rid of the men isn’t exactly funny – they were all kidnapped and forced to be communist guerillas! This movie is also likely to anger even the least virulent feminist, because apparently after all the men leave all the women are completely hopeless. “Who will look after me?” they cry. Add in the fact that it stars Eva Longoria, and you’ve got a recipe for horrid. No matter how bored think you are, you are not bored enough to enjoy this film.

Buy Without Men on DVD.
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Trailer Reviews for September 23, 2011

MONEYBALL



Call me crazy, but I actually do want to see this movie. And no, it’s not because it has Brad Pitt in it. I never really understood the whole “Brad Pitt” thing. And it’s definitely not because of Jonah Hill. I hate that guy. It’s not the baseball factor, either. It’s the world’s second most boring game (golf is #1). Could it be because of… math? After barely scraping by second year calculus in college (thanks, Jenny) I thought I was done with math, but there’s really nothing else it could be. I just want to see them make a baseball team with math. Me wanting to see a math movie may actually be a sign of the apocalypse. Call the National Guard, I think the world is about to end.

ABDUCTION



Ah, and so it begins – the attempts to cash in on the popularity of Twilight by hiring its lead actors to be in unimaginative genre films that will go straight to the $5 bin upon their release on DVD. I’m actually surprised that they waited this long. The idea behind the film isn’t too bad (it’s ripped off of The Face on the Milk Carton, a popular YA book) but the execution… so bad. You can tell just from the trailer. “Sometimes I feel different” (no sh** Sherlock, you’re a teenager) “Why would my picture end up on a missing persons website” (um, because you’re a missing person?) Apparently they didn’t think to include his NAME on said website, if he’s asking for it a few seconds later (in a flat, blank way characteristic of bad actors). Even the title is bad: “there’s an abduction in it, let’s just call it Abduction.” No thank you.

DOLPHIN TALE



Hee hee, it’s clever because it’s called Dolphin Tale and it’s about a dolphin’s tail! Get it? In all seriousness, though, I will probably see this movie because I have a crippling weakness for cute kids and cuddly animals. It’s like Free Willy, only a dolphin, and the story is true. Winter the dolphin even plays herself! Also, it’s not from the 1990s, which means a blessed lack of neon outfits and Jason James Richter. Those Blind Side people made this movie, though, so it’s probably going to make everyone cry. Just putting that out there in case you’re one of those parental units who feel like they have to spirit their children out of the theater at the faintest suggestion of sadness. Stick around and see the happy ending instead.

AFGHAN LUKE



In the beginning of the trailer, I was interested. I thought it would be one of those journalist expose movies about tracking down difficult truths in wartime, but funny. And then it took a left turn into nuttytown and I was like “… what?” When I saw that it was made by the Trailer Park Boys people, I finally understood what was going on. Or rather, I understood that the people who made this movie had no idea what was going on. Seriously, from watching this trailer it’s obvious that they can’t even decide whether they’re making a point or not. Serious moments, ridiculous moments, all combined into a confusing soup. At least Trailer Park Boys knew it was dumb. This movie thinks it’s smart. I doubt it is. After all, it was made by the Trailer Park Boys guy.

KILLER ELITE



“You and I got a lot in common.” It’s true, they’re both unattractive British actors who star in a lot of terrible action movies. And they both look stupid with facial hair. Oh, and let’s add Robert DeNiro into the mix for extra unattractiveness and cliches. And just so everyone knows it’s riddled with cliches, let’s throw in some cheesy one liners: “This guy is good!” “You have no idea!” “The gloves are off!” “This ends today!” This trailer gives no indication as to what the story is about, so I have to assume there isn’t one. It’s just a two hour montage of terrible mustachioed one-liners and things exploding. It’s supposed to be based on a true story, but this does not seem like the type of story that gets around, if you know what I mean. As in: no witnesses live to tell the tale of how half the city got destroyed.

And in other news, the Cape Breton Film Series is showing Jane Eyre. It’s an excellent adaptation of one of my favorite classic books. It’s already out on DVD, but if you want to see it on the big screen you can go to the Empire Theaters in Sydney this Thursday evening at 7pm. Click here to see my trailer review of it. I recommend seeing it and THEN re-reading the book. It really enhances the experience.

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