I’m really not sure about this movie. On the one hand, it seems to have that same combination of madcap action and wacky characters that made me like Pirates of the Caribbean so much, where you’ve got a straight-man heartthrob type (it was Orlando Bloom, now Armie Hammer) paired with an eccentric genius type in a flamboyant outfit (was Johnny Depp, still Johnny Depp) flailing their way through huge destructive setpieces. But the whole Tonto thing… isn’t it super racist? I know Johnny Depp has said he’s got some Native American blood in him and the Tonto character has always been way smarter than the Lone Ranger, but they’re still playing it for laughs, especially the outfit and the accent, and it makes me uncomfortable. Maybe I’ll just avoid the issue altogether by not seeing the movie.
DESPICABLE ME 2
I absolutely loved the first one but never got a chance to review it, so I’m looking forward to this one. I did wonder, when they announced that they were making a sequel, what they would have Gru do now that he was done being a villain. I was worried that he would stop being funny once he wasn’t trying to corral three little girls into helping him with a ridiculous evil plot. I’ve seen the trailers for Despicable Me 2 and I still can’t figure out what it’s about, mostly because Gru isn’t even in them except as a logo! They’ve focused entirely on the minions. I know the minions are cute and funny (actually cute and funny rather than intended to be cute and funny but actually annoying) but they can’t carry the whole movie. There’s got to be a plot in there somewhere.
THE WAY WAY BACK
Oh I see, Gru couldn’t be in the Despicable Me 2 trailer because Steve Carell was already booked to star in this trailer for The Way Way Back. It looks like a pretty decent (if pretty 500 Days of Summer-y) coming of age movie with the added bonus of Sam Rockwell as the father figure, but I don’t like the title. It’s too similar to The Way Back, an awesome movie about some guys who walked 4,000km to freedom after escaping from a Siberian Gulag. I also really don’t like that kid. He’s too hunched and sulky (i.e. too much like a real teenage boy) and I doubt I would appreciate spending two hours in his company. I’d probably come out sympathizing more with the supposedly douchey boyfriend than the kid.
I like zombie movies but I’m not often scared by them, largely because people in them tend to die from their own stupidity more than anything else. Running zombies are scarier than shambling zombies but running climbing hive-mind zombies? Terrifying. Those zombies alone are reason enough for me to go see the movie. I haven’t read the book (just the Zombie Survival Guide by the same author) and I find Brad Pitt to be a really bland actor, so those zombies are really all that’s keeping me going. I hope there’s a LOT of them in this movie (or the investigation plot turns out to be really interesting) or I’m going to be disappointed.
Normally I always go to Pixar movies, but I’m thinking about skipping this one. Monsters Inc. is one of my least favorite Pixar movies anyway (just above Cars 2 and just below A Bug’s Life) and the trailer just looks… bland. And kind of pointless. The storyline seems to be about Mike Wazowski trying to become a scarer but we already know that he doesn’t – in Monsters Inc. he’s Sully’s assistant. It’s also really hard to care about either Mike or Sully because I’ve never really found them that interesting as characters. So the question is: am I wrong (again) or is Pixar finally starting to go downhill?
Let me say upfront that I haven’t seen either of the two prequels, Before Sunrise or Before Sunset but I have a vague impression that they’re love stories about two people who only have a very limited amount of time together for some odd reason. It’s nice to know that should I decide to see this one, I won’t have to watch the other two first, because she just summed them both up in like three lines of dialogue. I don’t think I will decide to see this movie, though. It seems like it’s just This is 40, but for slightly more intelligent people. Unfortunately that still means they spend most of the movie whining about each other. Maybe I’ll be more interested when I’m forty.
THE BLING RING
This movie looks kind of interesting. It’s like a commentary on how wide-open people’s lives (especially celebrities’ lives) are now with everything ending up on the internet, and also how stupid teenagers are in thinking they can post all their misdeeds online and not get in trouble (um, duh, the police have computers too). But (and this is a big but) the movie is directed by Sofia Coppola. She also directed Lost in Translation, which looked funny and interesting at the trailer stage and turned out to be bland and boring as a full movie. So I think I’ll just content myself with the trailer and move on.
MY LITTLE PONY: EQUESTRIA GIRLS
OMG PONIES! I used to love the My Little Ponies when I was like four. But ponies turning into people? I’m a little weirded out by that. Besides, I thought the point of ponies was… well, PONIES! Regardless, it’s only coming to select theaters, so you might not be special enough to see it anyway.
Studios seem to be competing with one another to create more and more visually stunning movies to play in 3D. A lot of them forget to have a decent story to go with all the special effects, but Oz the Great and Powerful does pretty well. It’s a prequel to the Dorothy story which focuses on Oz the stage magician and how he ousted some evil witches to become the ruler of the Land of Oz. It’s a great movie to watch with kids (unless they’re little and/or easily scared) but it can be a bit of a struggle to like Oz himself. Check out my full review for more.
Updated versions of fairy tales are all the rage, but most of them, like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters are pretty bad. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton star as the fabled brother and sister, who become witch hunters after their encounter at the candy house. They’re both shallow and insufferable, the action is way too gory to make the movie acceptable for kids, and the writers seems to think anachronisms = steampunk. Check out my my full review for more on why even the Renner Factor can’t save this movie.
If this movie is to be believed, it is perfectly possible and even downright acceptable for the relatives of accused criminals to offer themselves up as sacrificial lambs in order to free their loved ones from jail. Dwayne Johnson, here masquerading as an ‘ordinary dad’ goes undercover for the government in exchange for the DA dropping the charges against his wrongly accused son. If you can get past that bit of ridiculous logic and the fact that an ‘ordinary dad’ can hold his own against the combined forces of the government and every drug dealer in the world, you might actually like Snitch.
I love the Lego video games and I’m chomping at the bit to get a copy of Lego Batman 2. Seeing your favorite superheroes as Lego minifigures who get blasted apart and put back together as often as the scenery is hilarious for both kids and adults. This movie, which is based on the game, features Lex Luthor and the Joker banding together to destroy Gotham against the combined forces of the Justice League, is great for parents to watch with kids because there’s a lot of clever little satirical bits, just like in the video games. It will make you nostalgic for the old Batman cartoons.
The premise for this movie is dumb: zombies cured by the power of love. Twilight with zombies. I almost didn’t see it, but I’m glad I did, because it’s actually a very smart satire on teen paranormal romances and on the whole zombie movie genre. It’s funny, cute, has some action, makes sense in its own context (always a bonus) and it even has a new interpretation of the brain eating thing: that they do it to see people’s memories rather than gain nutrients. Rent it or check out my full review for more, because this one’s worth your time.
Speaking of movies that are worth your time, this one isn’t unless you’re looking for a big dumb explosionfest. Bruce Willis plays an aging loose cannon cop who travels to Russia to bail out his son, whom he thinks is a screwup but is actually in the middle of a carefully planned CIA op that would have been impressive if the movie had been set in 1985. Bruce Willis’ arrival messes everything up and he has to spend the rest of the movie being chased by tanks and falling off buildings and ‘bonding’ with the son who hates him. Check out my my full review for more on why this movie annoys me.
Identity Thief has an interesting premise: a mild mannered office worker finds out that a female scam artist has stolen his identity. Almost immediately, though, it starts to get stupid. Instead of letting the police and credit companies handle it, he travels to Florida to reason with her and ends up in a series of increasingly ridiculous disasters, including the ever popular ‘accidental destruction of rental car.’ Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy are both underused in this movie, as the writing is formulaic at best. Don’t rent this movie unless you’re really REALLY bored.
Movies like Escape from Planet Earth prove that great visuals still cannot make up for terrible writing. The story follows a blue alien who goes on a mission to a dangerous planet (Earth) but gets captured and has to rely on his dorky brother to rescue him. Like Planet 51, Escape from Planet Earth misses a great opportunity to create a really interesting, unique, and funny alien culture and instead just carbon copies American culture with a few nominal tweaks (for example, it’s BASA instead of NASA). Don’t reward their laziness by paying to rent this movie.
I won’t deny that I laughed at the first Hangover movie, but by the second one a pattern was starting to emerge. A pattern where they attempted to recapture their success by remaking the first movie with a few tweaks in terms of who’s missing and where. Kind of like the theory behind Final Destination sequels. Both featured the same set of guys waking up after a party with no memory, some sort of exotic animal, Ed Helms with a body modification he doesn’t remember, etc etc. Strangely though, there don’t seem to be any hangovers in The Hangover Part III. It looks like more of a comedic version of Taken. Maybe it’s a real sequel instead of a remake!
This looks like a cross between Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and Honey I Shrunk the Kid, but not in an interesting way. In kind of a boring way. I mean, ‘leaf men’? What kind of a lame name is that? And why are they all the warriors white dudes? Is that the most interesting thing that the writers could come up with? Generic white dude forest defenders? Actually, Generic White Dude Forest Defenders would have been a better title – Epic is really bland too. I can see some of the Ice Age influence in there though. The part where the bird pecks her in the butt and the part where the fly ages in front of their eyes are really funny. Just not funny enough that I’d even consider handing over like $15 to see it in 3D.
FAST AND FURIOUS 6
Oh how I hate these movies. They’re nothing but a bunch of meatheads crashing around in those regular cars that douchebags soup up with purple lights and nitrous oxide. The plots never make sense, the characters are so shallow they would disappear if you turned them sideways, and there’s never more than a token nod in the direction of the laws of physics, even outside of the action scenes. I’ve put up with a lot from terrible action movies before because they had hot dudes in them, but Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and Dwayne Johnson are so not my cup of tea. I like my hot dudes to have actual personalities and necks that can be distinguished from their heads. At least with my father and brothers living in other cities, there’s no one to weasel me into watching this latest epic fiasco.
Quentin Tarantino tackles slavery in his usual style: with lots of violence, blood, and a certain hysterical detachment from reality. Jamie Foxx plays a slave (Django) who escapes with the help of a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz playing the same character he always plays) and together they go after Leonardo DiCaprio, the horrible slave owner who has Django’s wife under his thumb. Enough Tarantino fans had a nerdgasm over it to get it high ratings online, but a lot of people will be turned off by the endless, glorified violence and the fact that most of it makes no sense.
This 3D animated film produced in France borrows a lot stylistically from the Aardman films, specifically the Aardman film Pirates! Band of Misfits – right down to the monkey assistant who speaks through cue cards. Story-wise it’s a cross between The Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast. It follows a pair of oddballs who discover a giant singing flea and his human partner when they go hunting the streets of Paris for the ‘monster’ that’s been ‘terrorizing’ it. It’s pretty decent (for both kids and adults) but nothing special.
If you enjoy spy movies like Skyfall and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, then this is not the movie for you. It’s more along the lines of a ‘realistic’ spy story a la John LeCarre wherein nothing much really happens until someone gets killed, and even then it doesn’t feel like anything’s happened. David Tennant (of Doctor Who fame) plays a French Embassy worker who falls for a Polish woman on the eve of World War II. Running time is about 5 hours (it’s really a mini-series) but it will feel like about 5 years to people who like their spy movies to have actual tension and/or action.
In a nod to the fact that next Monday is Earth Day, Disneynature is releasing a documentary about the pollinators – the butterflies, bees, bats, and hummingbirds who fly around landing on flowers and plants, spreading the pollen around so that they reproduce. As always, the cinematography is incredible – sometimes achieving Planet Earth levels of awesome when they’re showing hummingbirds in slow motion close up. But since it’s for kids, it’s short (77 minutes) and quite superficial on an informational level, so if you have any training in science you probably won’t learn anything new.
Pretty much everything Daniel Day-Lewis touches these days turns to gold… or at least into golden awards, usually for himself. Lincoln, a historical biopic of President Lincoln’s struggle to abolish slavery before the end of the Civil War, was nominated for the best picture Oscar but lost to Argo. Lincoln is probably the more stereotypical ‘best picture’ movie, though. It’s two and a half hours long, incomprehensible to anyone with no prior knowledge of the topic, and consists mostly of slow moving scenes of people talking or making speeches. I’d take Argo over Lincoln any day.
If your family is getting together for the holidays this weekend and you want to put on something inoffensive to keep everyone from having to talk to each other too much, this would be a good choice. It involves all three generations of a family as the grandparents step in to look after the grandkids when the kids go away for work. Almost everyone will find something to identify with (high strung parents, bratty kids, inflexible grandparents, etc.) and almost no one will find anything really objectionable about it, as the most risque joke in the movie involves grandpa getting hit in the crotch.
The title makes it seem like maybe people are smothered with pillows, but actually they spend a lot of time filling houses full of bullets. The storyline has to do with some dumb criminals robbing the mob’s card game and then getting chased around for the rest of the movie. Nobody in this film is really likeable or even redeemable so it’s a little hard to care when they get their asses shot off. There are a few quips and jokes here and they try to satirize American politics (how original) but it just comes off as insufferable and annoying. The pool of people who might actually like this movie is small.
I’m a big Star Wars nerd and I own most of the Lego video games, but even I wouldn’t pay $12 for 22 minutes of content. The Empire Strikes Out is a cartoon TV special starring Lego characters satirizing The Empire Strikes Back. It’s cute and funny (funnier if you’re a Star Wars fan, obviously) but it’s also on YouTube, where you can watch it for free. Even including a Lego figure of Darth Vader with the DVD doesn’t make it worth the money. If you’ve got $12 to spend, go out and pluck one of the Lego video games out of a sale bin instead.
When I first read the name of this movie in the Coming Soon lists I thought it might be another Greek mythology movie, but I think this might actually be worse than The Titans Do Something Angrily Part 3. They had me interested in Gerard Butler’s character when he had to make a tough call about leaving Mrs. President in the car, but then they got into the real point of the movie which is… ridiculous. Like: plot-of-a-video-game ridiculous (I’m looking at you, Modern Warfare series). Armed airplanes swanning into White House airspace, barely two dozen random terrorists who are possibly North Korean toppling the whole Secret Service and then NOT KILLING the president for some weird reason? Isn’t that like terrorist goal #1? This movie looks dumber than Red Dawn, and it doesn’t even have that dopey kid from Drake and Josh in it!
Oh Dreamworks… I thought we were going to leave the history-massacring animated movies to Twentieth Century Fox? And speaking of Twentieth Century Fox, isn’t the whole plot of this movie (Earth breaking up – must move!) plus the character of the annoying/abusive granny, lifted wholesale from Ice Age: Continental Drift? If they’re trying to compete against Ice Age, I already know they’re going to lose. This trailer didn’t make me laugh even once. I think they’re trying too hard to impress us with their colorful plants and starry skies and skimping on the originality (remind you of any other movies you know? *cough*Avatar*cough). We know you can do nice things with computers, movie studios. We’re not impressed anymore. Give us back our good stories.
If this movie starred anyone other than Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, I would skip over it without a second glance. I didn’t laugh at the trailer. They gave almost the entire thing away (WHY would you ever think it would be a good idea to stick the “he’s your son!” revelation into the TRAILER?!) and on top of that… it just feels kinda blah. A comedy from the perspective of an admissions officer who’s getting bombarded with every sob story and rambling, narcissistic essay in the nation is original and could be really funny. But then they had to go and muddy it up with the “I’m suddenly a mom” thing, which could be funny (but isn’t) and certainly isn’t original. Poorly done, movie. Poorly done. And a waste of Tina Fey!
WELCOME TO THE PUNCH
Two things struck me about this trailer: 1) it is extremely blue. Like Smurf blue or Avatar blue. I’m pretty sure that’s not what they were going for. 2) It’s very laconic for an action movie or a thriller or a crime movie or whatever this is. I wondered why, and then I saw Ridley Scott’s name, and I thought: mystery solved. I like both James MacAvoy and Mark Strong, but this trailer has not made me want to see their movie.
So… this has surprisingly few knives and fights for a movie called Knife Fight, though I suppose I should at least give them half points for talking a lot about metaphorical knife fighting. I’m not really sure what this movie is about, though. A political fixer who’s working for both sides in the election? That could be funny… though the trailer was pretty low energy. Overall I was not enthralled.
Didn’t I already disparage a terrible sketch comedy film starring famous people this month? Wasn’t it called Movie 43? I was barely ten seconds into the trailer and I already wanted to stop watching. I can’t see myself paying actual money to see this unfunny. I’m not a masochist.
Sometimes, a story really resonates with people and they can’t say why. This was the case with a lot of people and Life of Pi in both the book and the movie version, but I’m not one of those people. The story of a young Indian man who gets stuck on a lifeboat with a collection of zoo animals (most notably a tiger) after a shipwreck was original and interesting, sure, but it was also just a little too vague, rambly, and pseudo religious for me. I do agree with the critics who compare it to Avatar, though. The 3D special effects are spectacular. Read my review for more.
This was a good movie, but I wish they’d given it a less generic title. It sounds too much like the owl movie Legend of the Guardians. No one who heard that title could possibly guess that it’s actually about Jack Frost teaming up with the ‘real’ mythical creatures that people actually know – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy – to defeat a fear monster that’s ruining all the holidays and making kids miserable. But that’s what it’s about. It’s a good movie to watch with your kids on any holiday (or no holiday) so check it out.
Everyone knows OF Alfred Hitchcock, but how much do you actually know ABOUT Alfred Hitchcock? If you want to know more, check out this movie. It’s set during the filming of one of his most famous movies, Psycho, and showcases not only what he was like as a director (controlling) but also the important relationship he had with his wife Alma, who contributed creatively to a lot of his projects (though not as much as this movie would have you believe, some people argue). Regardless, it’s fascinating to get a glimpse ‘behind the scenes’ of Psycho, because it almost didn’t get made.
Let’s face it – most of us are never going to get the chance to see Cirque du Soliel live. They only travel to big cities and the tickets are hella expensive. With this movie, though, the price of admission drops from $300 per family to $3. Pretty good deal! There’s not much story here – a woman wanders through a bunch of trippy circus acts trying to find some guy (sort of like MirrorMask) but story is not the point here – it’s all the people doing cool spinny tricks on wires. Rent it, watch it with your kids. Maybe they’ll run away and join the circus.
Man, I had to work to see Oz the Great and Powerful this week. First I tried to go on Friday night and after an hour and a half of fiddling with the projector and making us watch the first five minutes of the pre-show about a thousand times, the theater staff declared it a bust and handed out free passes. Luckily the Saturday afternoon matinee worked, or we’d be having a very different conversation right now.
A selfish con-man is caught in a tornado and transported to the land of Oz, which he is prophesied to save from an evil witch… if he can get his act together.
I loved the cartoon version of The Wizard of Oz when I was a kid and I enjoyed this movie too. It was funny, there was action. The plot twists were even somewhat surprising because I have only the vaguest recollection of the Dorothy story. However, the problem with redemption stories is that the main character has to be a jackass, and I hate jackasses.