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Trailer Reviews for June 20, 2014

JERSEY BOYS



I feel like I’ve fallen into a parallel universe where bad is good. I cannot fathom how anyone could possibly think that Frankie’s whiny, nasal, helium-fueled voice sounds good. And yet… here this movie is. And here are a lot of people who want to see it. As you probably guessed, I am not one of them. Just watching this trailer made me feel like someone was trying to puncture my eardrums with a Q-tip.

I’LL FOLLOW YOU DOWN



Somehow the tone of this movie doesn’t quite jive with the perky Gin Blossoms lyrics that pop into my head when I read the title. I seriously doubt it will be in many theaters, given that the only official version of the trailer on YouTube is almost impossible to find and has no audio (hence the 3rd party one). It’s pretty cliched but it looks like it could be okay as long as they don’t muck up their time travel rules in favor of relationship drama.

THE ROVER



My thought progression while watching this trailer:
Ooh, Australian
So… like Mad Max?
But sloooooooow
WTF is going on?
Uh oh, the director of Animal Kingdom?
Never mind, then.

THINK LIKE A MAN TOO



Hi Dorian! Sorry your show got canceled 🙁 (the “you’re rollin’ with the pros” guy is Michael Ealy from Almost Human for those of you who aren’t nerds) I don’t really understand why their bachelor party is a contest, or who’s getting married, or why any of them would listen to Kevin Hart’s character when he’s so obviously the ‘clueless and annoying one’ (like Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover, only squeakier), but naming your blow-up sex doll after Idris Elba is pretty funny.

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Trailer Reviews for June 6, 2014

EDGE OF TOMORROW



This movie looks awesome and stupid at the same time. Dying every day and waking up to do a big battle over again until you get it right? Awesome. The suits they wear in said battle? Stupid. They’re clunky and they offer no protection at all (I guess if you just keep waking up again it doesn’t matter if you get shot?) Their only purpose seems to be as a framework for hoisting their massive, ridiculous guns.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS



Again, I do and I don’t want to see this movie. I’m sure it’s cute and romantic and meaningful, but one or both of them is dying, so there’s no getting around the fact that it’s going to be really f***ing depressing. So I guess the question is: do I want to be sad all weekend?

CHEF



To me, Jon Favreau will always be the guy who made Iron Man hilarious and awesome. But who’s to say he couldn’t make independent dramedies about cooking awesome and hilarious as well?

TRACKS



I’m pretty sure Robyn Davidson is who they were making fun of in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, when the lady dragging the little blinking light would run by. It’s an inspiring story and Mia Wasikowska is a great actress, but I feel like this movie will have to work really hard not to be boring. Struggling alone makes for a compelling autobiography, but put it on screen and it’s just a woman squinting at the horizon.

WOLFCOP



This movie was some sort of Cineplex contest winner. I’ve been seeing ads for this for months. Looks pretty funny. Maybe I’ll see it someday. Our theater’s not currently on the Wolfcop list.

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Book Review: The Bicycle Teacher by Campbell Jeffreys

Continuing to clear the backlog of free Goodreads books I have reviewed (and sticking with last week’s 1980s Berlin theme) here is The Bicycle Teacher by Campbell Jeffreys, available now from Rippple Books (yes, I spelled that correctly).

bike teacher cover

Michael, a disillusioned Australian mechanic, breaks his family’s cycle of poverty by moving to East Germany, where he finds love and the opportunity to move up in the world. But can it last?

This book isn’t for everyone. Michael’s virulent belief that life is better behind the Iron Curtain may alienate die-hard capitalists, but I found it fascinating. Until now, all the books I read about the USSR featured repressed intellectuals wanting to escape to the West. But looking at things through the eyes of an everyman like Michael, it’s easy to see the appeal of community and guaranteed subsistence, even if it means never achieving wealth or greatness.

Jeffreys cunningly constructs a mirror between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in East/West Germany and East/West Perth, and because Michael is trying not to become a bitter, angry drunk like his father, his experience has a universal appeal.

Jeffreys has a gift for description and has obviously done his research into Cold War era Berlin. His matter-of-fact style and attention to detail makes it easy to picture cities, events, and people. One of my favorite descriptions is: “he had a stringy mustache that seemed to start from deep within his nose.” The only time the descriptions get weighed down by metaphor is when Michael gets maudlin, as the book is written diary-style. For the most part the story stays focused on Michael and his personal experiences, though toward the end it did stray a little further into politics than I usually like to go.

I wanted to like Michael, and for the most part I did. He seems like a real person with good qualities (he works hard, helps his neighbors, loves his family) and bad ones (he’s judgmental, a bit homophobic, and extremely thick when it comes to the machinations of his wife’s cousin). However, I didn’t feel like I really connected with him. The bare-bones writing style told rather than showed his emotions, making him seem a bit cold and distant.

I would recommend The Bicycle Teacher to people who normally read travelogues or memoirs and to anyone who’s interested in hearing about the ‘other side’ of the Cold War (ideologically speaking). It’s a strong effort, so I rate it:

category 4

This review brought to you by:

american russian pants

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DVDs for March 18, 2014

frozen

Frozen

Frozen is the big-deal cartoon cartoon of the year (it just won an Oscar) but to me, this confused story about a princess trying to get another princess to unfreeze their land is just Disney’s first, fumbling attempt to bring their damsel-in-distress musical model into the 21st Century. The reindeer is cute and the twists on convention are amusing but the songs all sound the same and the plot meanders all over the place. Check out my full review for more.

Buy Frozen on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

saving mr banks

Saving Mr. Banks

If you’ve ever wanted to see a Disney movie about how they get the rights to make movies, this is for you. It follows the (sort of) true story of author Pamela Travers and her twenty year fight with Walt Disney over the rights to her book Mary Poppins. Travers is portrayed as unpleasant and Disney as a giant man-child and their battle is less interesting than the flashbacks to Travers’ childhood in Australia. It’s not strictly true to life but it does make a compelling movie. Read my review for more.

Buy Saving Mr. Banks on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

american hustle

American Hustle

This movie won a bunch of Golden Globes but no Oscars (as is usually the way with Golden Globes and Oscars) and is almost as popular as David O. Russell’s last movie, Silver Linings Playlist. It didn’t appeal to me, but if you like crime dramas where everyone’s in over their head and nobody’s quite sure who’s going to be conned by who when, then you might. It follows a pair of con artists (Christian Bale, Amy Adams) and an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) who worm their way into mafia circles in New Jersey.

Buy American Hustle on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

mandela

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

This film, which is based on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, is a school history style overview of Mandela’s life, starting with his childhood. It chronicles his opposition to South Africa’s racist Apartheid policy, the time he spent in jail, and his decision to pursue a peaceful resolution. It ends with him becoming president. Since this movie is more about ideology and personal struggle than chronicling the violence of the time, it’s not too gritty to show to young people. With a PG-13 rating, it’s appropriate for classes of junior high schoolers and above.

Buy Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Top 5 Horror Movies That Could Really Happen

pumpkin

It’s almost Halloween and this week’s new releases were pretty underwhelming. None of them were even horror movies! Being poor, I’m into voting with my wallet, so I decided to save money and do another list instead of subjecting myself to a movie I knew I wouldn’t like. This list is all about horrifying things that are actually real and could really happen to you (so no vampires, aliens, giant monsters, sharks inside a tornado, etc.) not all of the movies on here are technically horror movies, but I really liked each one and they all contain at least one scene that I wished I could un-see. If you’re a horror fan and you’ve already seen all the good horror movies, or if you’re just looking for new ideas for your Halloween party, maybe this will help you broaden your horizons and/or scar yourself for life.

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Trailer Reviews for September 27, 2013

RUSH



I was raised by Formula 1 fans, so I know my Michael Schumachers from my Fernando Alonsos. However, until I saw the trailer for this movie, I’d never heard of Niki Lauda or James Hunt, probably because their rivalry played out back in the 70s, which was pretty much ancient history as far as I was concerned, even when I was watching races with my parents on a fairly regular basis. Because I don’t know the story, I’m that much more excited for the movie. Why? Because I have no idea how it plays out. Who wins? Who loses? Does anyone die? The trailer doesn’t give it away either, so seeing this film on Friday should be pretty exciting!

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2



I really liked the first Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. It was just so completely bonkers. And it has a great title – no chance of getting a lot of extraneous results searching for THAT monster on Google! I’m sad that I’m going to miss the sequel. The trailer actually made me laugh! Shrimpanzees! Mosqui-toast! A leek in the boat! Ah ha ha ha ha ha! ‘Course, it’s only funny if you know what a leek is, so that’s kind of a parent joke. I had hoped I could fit it into my schedule next week, but next week is Gravity and after that Captain Phillips is coming… so I don’t know. This may be something I’ll have to catch on DVD.

AT ANY PRICE



The blurb for this movie starts off with ‘In the competitive world of modern…’ which makes you think it’s going to be a sports movie, but then it goes ‘agriculture’ and you go: ‘what?’ And then they switch from farming to race car driving anyway, because I guess even the movie realizes that farming is too boring to support a whole movie (though I would point to MacLeod’s Daughters to disprove that theory). A couple of weird things though: what did they do that could ruin them and why are the wind turbines the only things that make this movie look like it’s set later than the 90s?

BAGGAGE CLAIM



I feel like it’s been ages since a romantic comedy has come near my theater. We’ve been so overloaded with big budget super movies and 3D animation and gut wrenching drama that I could really use a nice relaxing romantic comedy. The premise is a little thin (but they always are with rom coms) and it’s not very original (similar thing to The Ex-List and What’s Your Number?) and it’s not obvious from the trailer who her soul mate is supposed to be (which makes me a little nervous). But it looks like it fits together well and (this is the important part) is looks FUNNY. “Nobody move! I have no life, which gives me all day to ruin yours!” Priceless! But what are the odds we’ll actually get this in my theater?

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Trailer Reviews for June 28, 2013

THE HEAT



You’ve probably never thought much about it, but all the buddy comedies, especially the buddy cop comedies, are all about two mismatched GUYS who are forced to partner up. You almost never see two females in a buddy movie, which is why I’m so excited for this one. A female buddy cop movie! And it looks funny! Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are a good pairing. We already know they’re talented comedians and when they play off each other it’s a good dynamic – straight-laced vs…. unlaced, I guess it would be. Can’t wait.

WHITE HOUSE DOWN



See what I mean about buddy movies always being about guys? If I’m not holding that (or the fact that the main character’s name is John – AGAIN) against White House Down, it actually does look pretty funny. Channing Tatum is a brawny goof and Jamie Foxx is a smart person who can act, so between them I think they can carry this thing. The story is ridiculous, but that’s not the point. Big dumb fun and all that. Not quite as dumb as Battleship or quite as big as Olympus Has Fallen but big dumb fun nonetheless.

UNFINISHED SONG



LOL, what did those people expect, singing outside his window early in the morning? I’d have told them off too. I kind of love this guy – he’s like the live action version of Statler and Waldorf all rolled into one. I’ve seen the underdogs-in-singing-contest thing before, but never featuring a choral group of curmudgeonly seniors. I’d watch it.

STORM SURFERS 3D



I guess if you’ve ever watched a surfing movie and wished the story would f*** off so you could watch two hours of crazy Australians surfing pipe than this movie is for you. They seem like pretty funny guys, so I’m glad the filmmakers were able to catch them on video before they try to surf a tsunami and get wiped out by an office building filled with water or something.

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DVDs for April 30, 2013

silver linings playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Some movies get a lot of attention from critics because they’re boring and pretentious, but sometimes they get attention because everybody genuinely enjoys them. Silver Linings Playbook is one of those movies. Regular people like it because it’s a cute romantic comedy starring adorable people (Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper) and critics like it because it takes on ‘deep’ issues like mental illness, addiction, compulsive gambling, and dysfunctional relationships. One of my friends went to it 5+ times in theaters, but you’ll probably be fine with once on DVD.

Buy Silver Linings Playbook on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

.

broken city

Broken City

The whole dirty cop thing is a popular theme, but unlike the rest of the dirty cop thrillers, this one wraps up the cop part early and moves on to private eye (not a huge leap, I know, but it’s something). Mark Wahlberg plays the aforementioned dirty cop who kills a rapist and then gets sucked into a big dirty political mess involving the candidates for the mayoral election. Like most thrillers, it relies on revelations of who met whom for what reason for its tension, but the tension is damaged by the fact that the scandal is a pretty standard one that’s easy to figure out. I wouldn’t bother with it.

Buy Broken City on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
.

guilt trip

Guilt Trip

I don’t like Seth Rogan at the best of times, but put him in a cliched and unfunny road trip movie with Barbara Streisand and I’d drive across the country just to avoid it. The plot (such as it is) centers around Rogan’s character as a cleaning fluid salesman driving across the US to peddle his product. His mother invites herself along to work out their issues and reunite with an old lover. A road trip movie’s success relies on character/actor chemistry, and unfortunately theirs just doesn’t do anything for me. For a really funny road trip comedy you haven’t seen, try the Australian film Thunderstruck.

Buy The Guilt Trip on DVD or try Thunderstruck instead.

best of both worlds

Star Trek: Next Generation – Best of Both Worlds

This was released in a limited number of theaters last week, but the DVD is what you really want. At $15, it’s the same price as an IMAX ticket and you get special features with it, including a documentary, an audio commentary, and a gag reel. The actual content is movie length – a full two-part episode arc featuring Captain Picard’s capture and assimilation into the Borg collective – and is remastered to look good in HD (though the aspect ratio remains full screen). Not worth it if you have the full season set, but a good nostalgic investment if you don’t.

Buy Best of Both Worlds on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for April 19, 2013

OBLIVION



This movie looks pretty cool. Tom Cruise discovers the people from The Matrix living underground in a destroyed version of earth that actually looks LESS destroyed now that all the people have moved away. Then he finds out the government is evil or something (quelle suprise) and then he fights GLaDOS and some robots…. or something. I dunno, they don’t really give you much of an idea of what the plot is. I think they’re hoping Tom Cruise and cool special effects will draw you in. Normally it would work on me (Tom Cruise may be crazy but he’s a good actor). Unfortunately I’m going to be away this week so I’ll either have to miss it or wait until next week to see it depending on how good next week’s lineup looks.

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES



How many times are we going to do this? Blank faced Ryan Gosling drives a vehicle very fast as part of a robbery scheme, but even though he’s a criminal he’s not REALLY a bad guy… or so the movie would have us believe. I’m not a Ryan Gosling fan by any stretch of the imagination and I’ve mentioned before (ad nauseum) that I don’t like criminal-as-the-good-guy movies either. As if that wasn’t enough, the trailer music even makes it seem draggy and boring. This movie couldn’t get any less appealing to me unless it was directed by Michael Bay.

THE SAPPHIRES



I’m not a fan of soul music but I do love Australian comedies. Chris O’Dowd’s character seems to make a lot of racist remarks, which would be cringe-worthy to watch if there’s more than just the few in the trailer, but the rest of it looked pretty funny. I’d watch it.

TO THE WONDER



You know, those little logos with the film festival names in the wheat sheaves are supposed to attract people to see a movie. They’re like the little stamps that say GRADE A QUALITY on the meat packages at the grocery store. But they have the opposite effect on me. I think to myself: oh no, not another pretentious snoozefest that’s not actually about anything. Sometimes it’s an unfair thought, but given how boring and noncommittal the trailer is and the fact that it’s directed by Terrence Malik, I very much doubt I’m wrong about this one.

GINGER AND ROSA



Oh look, it’s that girl from Beautiful Creatures and Dakota Fanning’s little sister… who’s being perved on by Alessandro Nivola. Gross. There are a lot of famous people in this movie, but it looks almost as boring as the last one except for that brief snippet of nuclear protest. I don’t think I’ll see this one.

HOME RUN



Be careful! This trailer might not give you much of a hint (which is probably intentional) but this is one of those faith-based inspirational movies, like Fireproof or Courageous. It’s not a regular rom com/Bad News Bears ripoff. The clues are there if you can put them together. Listen to the lyrics of the song they’re playing. Lord lord god god miracles etc. Check out his 12 step program – it’s in a church. And finally, look at the font they used for the title. Exact same as Courageous. Plus if you read the YouTube comments you’ll see all the bible quotes. Anyway, just be warned.

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Revolution Review

poster from the Rob Stewart documentary Revolution

I make it a point to read/watch the environmental books and documentaries that seem like they have new information to give me. Rob Stewart’s Revolution has been racking up the awards at film festivals and the trailers trumpet it as, well, revolutionary. That plus its focus on the oceans intrigued me enough to pay box office prices to see a documentary that’s not even an hour and a half long.

Filmmaker Rob Stewart of Sharkwater fame turns his sights toward discovering how we can stop ocean acidification to save humanity.

Now that I’ve seen it, I can tell you there’s not much about Revolution that’s revolutionary. It can best be described as ‘Rob Stewart discovers what everyone else already knows.’ It’s extremely light on scientific fact and the presentation is disjointed and superficial. It’s like a dumbed down version of An Inconvenient Truth.

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