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Need for Speed Review

poster from the Walt Disney Pictures film Need for Speed

My brother and I were all set to see Grand Budapest Hotel this weekend. Then I opened up the theater schedule and the only new movie playing was Need for Speed. In 3D. While I don’t hate cars (Top Gear is one of my favorite shows) I do hate dumb things. And this movie is based on a video game with no actual people in it.

A street racer jailed on a false manslaughter charge drives a one of a kind car across the country to defeat the real killer in a secret street race.

With the plot and character motivations tenuous at best, the real reason to watch Need for Speed is the cars. Though it does feature non-CGI race action and European supercars like the Bugatti Veyron, Lamborghini Elemento, and Koenigsegg Agera, it’s a shame that the star of this movie is a boring old Ford Mustang (GT500). For that we can probably blame sponsorship and the fact that the movie is American.

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Trailer Reviews for March 14, 2014

NEED FOR SPEED

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No. Nope. Nuh uh. If I want to oogle expensive cars, I’ll watch Top Gear. At least those guys are funny. What I will not do is watch another terrible video game adaptation starring a guy who has that same dopey look as Deputy Dewey from Scream. Also, that stunt with the helicopter was a whole lot more hilarious in my head, where the chains just ripped off the car bumper and those two idiots plunged to the bottom of the canyon in a big dumb fireball.

ENEMY

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Directed by the Prisoners guy or not, this looks slow and boring. I’m only mildly curious about why there are two guys who look the same and I feel like the answer to the puzzle is some kind of spaced-out metaphor that would just piss me off anyway. So no way.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

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I have kind of a love/hate relationship with Wes Anderson films. I love The Life Aquatic and Fantastic Mr. Fox but I hated The Darjeeling Limited (too depressing, not funny enough). This one looks to be more on the goofy side of things, so I’ll see it.

VERONICA MARS

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Ah yes, the Kickstarter movie the Veronica Mars fans funded when they couldn’t accept the cancellation of their beloved show. I never watched the TV show and I don’t live in one of the select cities this film will be playing in, but if you are/do, I hope you get your money’s worth out of it. I think it looks like Nancy Drew as written by Joss Whedon.

TYLER PERRY’S SINGLE MOM’S CLUB

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Tyler Perry invents babysitting?

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DVDs for March 11, 2014

book thief

The Book Thief

A lot of people have flipped their lids over this movie and the book it’s based on. It’s a Nazi era story narrated by Death which follows an illiterate girl who steals books and shares them with the Jew her foster parents are hiding in the basement. As a ‘kid in the Nazi era/Holocaust’ movie, it’s decent. I’ve definitely seen better (Life is Beautiful, Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Devil’s Arithmetic, etc.) But as a film adaptation it can’t help but be miles better than the source material, given how sparse and confusing the writing was.

Buy The Book Thief on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

out of the furnace

Out of the Furnace

As I mentioned during my trailer review, Out of the Furnace can best be described as Winter’s Bone starring Christian Bale in the Jennifer Lawrence role. A desperate person (Bale) ventures into rural crime gang territory looking for a missing family member (in this case, a brother). It necessarily takes more of a turn into revenge thriller territory though, because we don’t have the dramatic angle of the searcher being a young dependent about to be turned out on her ear. There’s nothing new or particularly enthralling here.

Buy Out of the Furnace on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

homefront

Homefront

If you’re looking for a crime thriller with more shooting in it, skip Out of the Furnace and rent Homefront. It’s a paint-by-numbers action film starring Jason Statham as a burned out DEA agent who retires to a small town with his daughter to recover from an incident involving a tragic death. But guess what? Drug dealers in this small town want to cause another tragic death (of his daughter this time) over a bullying incident at school (yes really). Commence shotguns, explosions, and hero redemption.

Buy Homefront on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

inside llewyn davis

Inside Llewyn Davis

I like Garrett Hedlund, but if he keeps choosing bit parts in meandering period films about the messed up lifestyles of struggling artists, I’m going to have to jump ship to save my sanity. It’s not that the acting is bad. The movie is full of famous people looking to expand their range as actors. The problem is that they’re playing characters I can’t care about who wander through a story where nothing seems to be connected to anything else. If you like glacier-paced, introspective indie dramas, this will appeal to you. As you can probably tell, it didn’t appeal to me.

Buy Inside Llewyn Davis on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for March 7, 2014

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE



I know I have a long history of watching not-otherwise-awesome programs featuring shirtless dudes, but even I have to draw the line somewhere. The first 300 movie bored me so hard I almost fell asleep. I blame it on a combination of irritating filmmaking gimmicks (filters, slow motion) and beards. I never was a fan of beards.

MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN TRAILER



I only vaguely remember this show growing up, which is good, because I won’t care if they changed a bunch of things for the movie. I like history jokes and the trailer was pretty cute, so I’ll go. I just hope it’s funny enough to mask all the inevitable historical inaccuracies and broken rules of time traveling.

NO CLUE



I hate film noir, but this movie makes fun of it, so that’s a plus. Also, it’s Canadian, features Amy Smart, and looks half decently funny, so that’s enough for me… to check out on DVD… later.

ALAN PARTRIDGE



Apparently this movie is called Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa in regions (Britiain) where they actually know who Alan Partridge is (a BBC radio sketch comedy character). I normally like British comedy and Steve Coogan, but honestly, this trailer isn’t all that funny and it doesn’t give me much of an idea what the movie’s about. I’ll pass.

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DVDs for March 4, 2014

catching fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Between accidental revolution/totalitarian government mind-f**ckery and harrowing teenage death-match game show action, Catching Fire was the third best movie of 2013… not that the Academy agrees with me, but when do they ever? I would also rate this movie better than the first Hunger Games, simply because they did away with the shaky-cam and gave Gale (the non-annoying point on the love triangle) more screen time. Read my full review for more or just go ahead and watch it right now.

Buy Catching Fire on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

12 years a slave

12 Years a Slave

Films that win best picture Oscars (like 12 Years a Slave just did) are almost always depressing. Frequently they’re boring and/or pretentious too, at least from the viewpoint of normal people. Thankfully 12 Years a Slave is actually good. It’s a true story based on the life of a free-born African American man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 1840s. As the title suggests, the poor guy spends the next 12 years trying to get back to his family. The subject matter is depressing, but at least it has a relatively happy ending. Check it out.

Buy 12 Years a Slave on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

hours

Hours

Not to be confused with The Hours (a 2002 film about women and suicide), Hours is the story of a distraught father who has just lost his wife and is abandoned at a New Orleans hospital to keep his premature daughter alive on manual life support during Hurricane Katrina. It’s not based on a true story and it’s not particularly well written or made (about average for a B movie), but it is one of the last films Paul Walker had a chance to do before his accident, so if you’re a fan you’ll want to put it on your list.

Buy Hours on DVD.

girl rising

Girl Rising

I was having trouble finding another movie worth talking about on the release list for this week until I came across Girl Rising. It’s a documentary made to support the cause of making sure girls and women in developing countries are safe, educated, and able to direct their own futures. My Girl Guides and I learned about the Girl Effect (giving aid money to women/girls as a way of making sure it actually helps communities) a few years ago and I can tell you that the stories these girls have to tell are very compelling. So check out this movie.

Buy Girl Rising on DVD.

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Trailer Reviews for February 28, 2014

NON-STOP



I tend to view Liam Neeson’s more recent movies as faintly ridiculous. I blame Taken. And The Grey. And Taken 2 (you get the idea). My first impulse was to brush this one off too, but then I realized: Non-Stop is a contained-space thriller that (in the trailer version, anyway) actually manages to preserve some mystery. Sort of like the thing I want to try to do at some point. So obviously I want to see how it all pans out. If it turns out to be dumb, oh well. Expectations met. But it could surprise me. I think I’ll give it a chance.

SON OF GOD



I don’t necessarily have a problem with a movie about Jesus. I mean, it could be interesting from a historical perspective… supposing anyone ever did any research beyond reading the bible. What I do have a problem with is the blatant moneygrubbery inherent in slapping together some scenes from a previously produced (and sold! And played on TV!) miniseries and calling it a movie. On a more hilarious note, is it just me, or does Diogo Morgado’s Jesus remind you a little of Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox?

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DVDs for February 25, 2014

Whoops! It seems I accidentally did the DVDs for this week on February 4… which makes me wonder what actually DID come out February 4? Anyway here are those releases again, and this time it’s not a lie!

gravity

Gravity

The #2 best movie of 2013 (according to me) is now available to own! If you’ve seen it, you’re probably already pre-ordered your copy. If you haven’t see it – buy one now. It’s the thrillingest thriller I’ve seen in… possibly ever. Sandra Bullock plays an astronaut with a tragic past who struggles to stay alive in space after her shuttle is destroyed by debris. There are some science problems if you think about it too hard, but that doesn’t matter, because the rest of it is so awesome. Read my full review for more.

Buy Gravity on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

thor 2

Thor: The Dark World

Coincidentally, the #4 best movie of 2013 (according to me) is also available to own today. Thor himself may not be my favorite superhero (or even my favorite Avenger) but his movies are full of fun, action, witty jokes, and science. Fun science, not real science. In this one, Thor teams up with his (girl)fan-favorite brother Loki and portal-hop-battles an evil elf who wants to take over the universe with dark matter. Awesome! You can read my review for more or just go buy it already.

Buy Thor: The Dark World on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

nebraska

Nebraska

The quote on the DVD box, from the LA Times reviewer, says: “one of those movies I’ll watch for the rest of my life.” “Because it seems like it goes on forever,” my brain finished for him. This is one of those movies you either love or hate. If you’re into indie art house American slice-of-life drama, then you’ll think it’s the bees knees. If, however, you don’t, the prospect of a crotchety geezer trekking across a dreary black and white landscape to collect a scam lottery prize, occasionally stopping to argue with other local caricatures, will probably seem boring and pretentious.

Buy Nebraska on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

twice born

Twice Born

In Twice Born, Penelope Cruz plays a single mother who takes her teenaged son to Sarajevo so she can tell him all about his dad (Emile Hirsch), who died in the Bosnian war. Normally I’m all for depressing stories about Bosnia. I liked The Whistleblower, Welcome to Saeajevo, and Savior. But I think they would have done better to focus the depressingness on the conflict and the people caught up in it rather than trying to shoehorn in the same adultery/betrayal/marriage on the rocks drama that we’ve seen a million times. I recommend one of the other three movies I mentioned instead.

Buy Twice Born on DVD.

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Pompeii Review

poster from the Sony Pictures film Pompeii

This week’s film selection was brought to you by nepotism. My brother worked in the sound department for Pompeii (filling in – sadly he’s not in the credits) so of course our family turned out in support. I’m not sure I would have bothered with this one otherwise. The effects looked cool and there’s Kit Harington, but the Pompeii story is not one of my hot buttons.

A Celtic gladiator competes with a skeezy Roman senator for the love of a wealthy daughter of Pompeii… on the eve of a giant volcano explosion!

The story of Pompeii is a paint-by-numbers construct, taking all your standard hero clichés and assembling them into a half-decently pretty canvas that is subsequently destroyed by the REAL star of the movie: the volcano effects. I enjoyed it, but I seriously doubt it will make anyone’s ‘best of’ list.

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Trailer Reviews for February 21, 2014

POMPEII



I’ve been looking out for this movie ever since my brother told me about how he filled in for one of their sound guys. Of course I’ll go see it, but I’m not sure I would have been so eager if it weren’t for the brother factor. It’s like Gladiator crossed with Dante’s Peak – both are movies I like, but I probably wouldn’t put them together. I worry this movie is just an excuse to spend a billion dollars on 3D volcano eruptions.

THE WIND RISES



I’m not a fan of Japanese animation, with its punches that last a year and the flashing backgrounds that threaten to give me seizures. One of my cousins insisted I would like Miyazaki’s films anyway, but I didn’t believe him. Eventually I got around to watching Howl’s Moving Castle and had to admit that my cousin was right. I’ll see this one too, even though the trailer spends too much time praising the director to convey much of the plot. All I got out of it is ‘Harry Potter likes airplanes.’

3 DAYS TO KILL



When I saw the name of this film, I assumed it would star Jason Statham. Imagine my surprise when I saw Kevin Costner on the screen. Kevin Costner? When did he decide he was going to be an old-guy action hero like Liam Neeson? First Shadow Recruit, now this. This movie looks every bit as dumb as a Statham or Neeson flick, so I guess he’s doing it right. The goofy pesudo-medical ticking clock from Cranked combined with the teenage daughter drama of Taken. “Hang on, sweetie. Daddy just has to go punch the spare tire for a second.” No thanks.

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Trailer Reviews for February 14, 2014

ROBOCOP



Oh joy. Another unnecessary 80s remake. Seriously, this has got to stop. Studios are obsessed with ‘established properties’ (i.e. not taking any risks) and I feel like if I support it by handing over money for a ticket, it will result in the total death of new big-budget movie ideas. If you think I’m overreacting, scroll down. The other two movies coming out this week are based on books. And so are 4 of the 7 other movies playing this weekend. Of the remaining 3, one is based on a toy franchise and the other is based on a meme, leaving a total of one original film out of 10. And I can’t even watch that movie, because it’s stupid.

WINTER’S TALE



I guess Robocop was a token nod to the existence of single people, because the other two movies coming out this week are (unsurprisingly) romances. This looks like the better of the two. And no, not because it has Colin Farrell (okay, not ONLY because it has Colin Farrell). I’m not sure how much magic comes into play here, because when Russell Crowe orders the death of his rival he makes sure to mention that he wants the guy to stay dead (like people routinely spring back to life in this movie’s world) but then he acts really surprised to find out the guy’s still alive. Also this movie gets the award for most unintentionally hilarious line: “I’ve had no memory ever since I can remember.” What?

ENDLESS LOVE



My friend assures me that this movie (and the book it’s based on) are romantic, but you’ll have to forgive me if my heart doesn’t melt at the thought of a guy who is so obsessed with his girlfriend that he stalks her and burns her house down. That’s the kind of Twilight-styke love we’d all be better off without. How uplifting and Valentines-y. I wouldn’t have seen it anyway, but if you’re also opposed to remakes you should know that this isn’t just a novel adaptation but a remake of a novel adaptation from 1981 (the freaking 80s again… are we trying to reclaim our glory days or something?)

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