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Trailer Reviews for November 23, 2012

RED DAWN



I watched the original 1984 version of Red Dawn on TV one time, and it was terrible. The only good thing about it was that while I was watching, an ad came on for Serenity which introduced me to the Firefly universe. Despite the shiny new crop of fancy weapons and popular not-really-teen-anymore actors, I don’t expect this Red Dawn to be any better, because it shares the same ridiculous premise: that another country invades and controls part of the United States and the only people who can fight back are some plucky teenagers in the woods. With the densely populated, highly militarized, overly nuke-ified USA as the setting, this premise is ridiculous. It worked much better in John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began, which was set in Australia. There’s a mini-series of it. I want to watch it. I’ll probably end up seeing this instead.

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS



Now this one I would actually like to see, but I think I should save it for the Girl Guide Christmas party. I hate watching the same movie over again like a week later, especially if it turns out to mediocre. The title of this movie is certainly mediocre. It tells you nothing about what the movie’s about or why you might want to see it. It’s utterly generic. Even if they’d called it Jack Frost, Santa, and the Easter Kangaroo Fight the Lord of Nightmares or something obvious (like, oh, say, How to Train Your Dragon), at least people would know that it was a kids’ holiday movie. It’s like Dreamworks felt the need to step up the nothing they reveal of the plot in the trailers and make sure no one can tell anything about it from the title either. Next thing you know they won’t even let us watch the movie, lest we learn too much about it.

LIFE OF PI



I have not read this book. I know only that it concerns a guy trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger and that it’s very popular with book clubs, which usually means I’ll think it’s boring and/or stupid. I have to say, the film trailer makes it look a lot more interesting. I still don’t know how much there can be to write about a guy and a tiger in a lifeboat, but the special effects don’t look fake and I usually like Ang Lee’s movies – even that Hulk movie that everyone else hated. Maybe I’ll see this instead of Red Dawn, because while Red Dawn is almost certainly going to be stupid, this one at least looks promising.

Also, if you’re in Sydney on Thursday, November 22 at 7pm you can catch the Cape Breton Film Series showing of Cosmopolis, weird Cronenberg take on Wall St. sharks starring Robert Pattinson. You can check out the trailer review here.

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DVDs for November 6, 2012

Amazing Spider-Man

If you’re a huge Spider-Man fan, you can probably see the point in rebooting a movie that’s not even as old as some of the stuff in my freezer, but I’m not so I can’t. Andrew Garfield isn’t that much less annoying than Tobey Maguire was, his girlfriend has a different name, he’s obsessed with some mystery surrounding his parents’ deaths (that he gets no answers to) and the villain is a monster lizard. That’s about the extent of the differences. Oh, and it’s in 3D, which only matters if you have a 3D TV. Rent it if you’re a fan, but otherwise the old one will do just fine. Read the full review here.

Buy Amazing Spider-Man on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Arthur Christmas

If you’re looking for something new to watch during the holidays with your family, I highly recommend Arthur Christmas. It’s a British film that follows the screwup youngest son of Santa as he tries to save Christmas by delivering a gift to the one kid that Santa’s automated juggernaut of an operation overlooked. There’s nothing really new about the story or characters, but it is downright hilarious instead of just being campy and full of sap, so it’s fun for both adults and kids. You can read the full review here.

Buy Arthur Christmas on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Fire With Fire

If someone said to me: “so there’s this movie where Josh Duhamel is a fireman–” I’d be like: “sold!” before they’d even finished the sentence. Sadly, Josh isn’t a fireman for the whole movie – just in the beginning so they can use that lame pun for the title when he witnesses a convenience store robbery and has to go all vigilante on a sociopath who threatened him. And Bruce Willis is in it, because by law at least one aging action star has to be featured in all new movies. It’s straight to video (obviously) but you should still watch it if you a) think Josh Duhamel is hot or b) like to watch people shoot each other.

Buy Fire With Fire on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Red Dog

This movie has three things going for it: 1) it’s Australian. 2) It stars a cute dog, and 3) Josh Lucas is in it. Story-wise it’s a bit like The Littlest Hobo, had the littlest hobo ever come to his senses and stayed in one place after he made friends and solved everyone’s problems. It’s based on a true story in which a dog (played by a dog named Koko) shows up in the road one day, is adopted by an industrial town in the middle of nowhere, and brings them all together while he searches for his one true forever person. Major cuteness. Rent it immediately.

Buy Red Dog on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Trailer Reviews for September 28, 2012

LOOPER



Hmm. Well, I recognize that I probably should be excited for this movie. It’s an actiony science fiction story. I love those. However, I’m not thrilled about the Joseph Gordon-Levitt factor or the Bruce Willis factor (I think they’re both merely okay – nothing to get excited over). And I’m definitely not thrilled about the time travel factor, because 99% of movies that deal with time travel end up breaking their own rules and not making any sense. The likelihood of a screwup is even higher with this one, since he’s chasing after himself. I dunno, a friend of mine swears it’s good, but I just can’t shake the feeling that it’ll only blow your mind if you don’t think very hard.

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA



Haha, now this one I’m looking forward to seeing. The first trailer wasn’t great – it followed that irritating Pixar practice (this is not a Pixar movie) of not giving away any hint of plot in the teasers. But the full trailer reveals the existence of the daughter and now I can see it’s actually got a story – he’s kind of like Nemo’s dad, trying to keep his kid from getting hurt in the big bad world, only with an Addams Family twist. I freaking LOVE the Addams family, and this movie looks pretty funny. I love the bingo lady monster. So I’ll probably pick this one over Looper, even though I probably should see Looper… oh well, this is why it’s great not having a boss to tell me what to review.

PITCH PERFECT



Call me crazy, but I actually kind of want to see this one, too. Sure, it’s the same “oh we’re a (insert activity here) team and we really need to win (insert name of competition) if only we can get our act together and get us some boy/girlfriends” plot that they use in every movie related to a sport or contest, but it just seems so… funny. The rape whistle joke is pretty clever (and spot on, if I’m remembering college correctly) and that Australian girl from Bridesmaids is HILARIOUS. I think that sets it apart from all the Step Ups and Joyful Noises out there. So I’d watch it, just probably not this week.

WON’T BACK DOWN



Dang, I wanted to see this one as well! I’ve been interested in movies to do with the (American) school system since I saw Waiting for “Superman”, and this is kind of the Waiting for “Superman” version of Erin Brockovich. It’ll make me cry. I know it. These kinds of movies all do. I think that’s probably why I go to them. Plus it’s a true story (as true as these movies ever get, anyway), and Maggie Gyllenhaal is a total ass kicking mom. What more could you want? I’d say I’ll save it for another week, but with the coming weeks stacked up with Frankenweenie, Argo, Cloud Atlas, Wreck-It Ralph, and Skyfall, it’s not looking like I’ll get a chance. Maybe I’ll have to save this one for the DVD release.

INESCAPABLE



Oh my god! It’s Doctor Bashir! I need to see this movie. I don’t think I’ve seen this guy since Deep Space Nine… actually, no, that’s a lie. He was in Cairo Time, which was so boring I don’t think I even watched the whole thing, so you’ll understand if the same director’s name being attached to this movie doesn’t make me jump for joy. In fact, he may be the only person in the world who can lift the “missing daughter in another country” concept from Taken and make it boring. Which is quite a feat, when you think about how dangerous Syria can be. Lots of quiet meetings in dark parking lots, very little throat chopping, though the last few seconds of the trailer look promising. I guess we’ll see.

ARBITRAGE



Wait, was that his wife he was making out with or a mistress or something? I’m confused. I guess I zoned out when they started talking about money and business and all that boring stuff I don’t really care about. Anyway so then he gets in a car crash… and runs away? Because…. why? Because he was drinking? Because he crashed the car on purpose? Because he’s afraid of cops? What is it? And what does his running away from an accident have to do with his money going missing or getting frozen or whatever? This trailer is confusing. Thankfully it’s a limited release so it’s not even going to come near me.

THE MASTER



Ohhhh right! This is that not-Scientology movie that has all the Scientology nuts up in arms. I’d go see it just for that. But I have to say the trailer doesn’t make it seem like much. They barely even give you any plot. I feel like I have to fill in the blanks for you. There’s a guy, he comes back from World War II, he joins a cult, the cult is a stand in for Scientology, bad cult sh** goes down. It sounds good, but from what I understand it’s done in a really jumbled up style (much like the trailer) that makes it really annoying, so maybe I won’t watch the whole thing after all. Later, I mean. It’s only a limited release.

Also, if you’re in Sydney on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 7pm you can catch the Cape Breton Film Series showing of In a Better World, a Danish movie about bullying, revenge, and working in a refugee camp as well as a 12 minute short called When You Sleep by a New Waterford filmmaker.

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Total Recall Review

poster from the Columbia Pictures film Total Recall 2012

I was really excited for Total Recall – excited enough to induce me to review it for this blog even though I’m on vacation. I don’t remember a lot about the first Total Recall, but what I do remember is that Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a good actor. So although I’m generally against remakes because they mean new stories aren’t getting made, I’m in favor of this one because there was a lot of room for improvement. The basic story was the same, taken from a Philip K. Dick short story called “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.”

An ordinary guy visits a company that promises to implant fun spy memories only to have his repressed memories of being a real spy rise to the surface, making him a police target.

Where the new Total Recall differs from the old Total Recall is in the details, and the details can make all the difference. For me, they turned a “meh” movie into a great one.

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Wild Helicopters Wins First Place in Story Pros

You know how I write screenplays in addition to reviewing movies? (You didn’t? Click here then) Well it turns out I don’t suck at it! I just found out this week that my script, The Wild Helicopters of the Outback (which is based on my short story from this anthology) won first place in the Family/Teen/Animation category of the 5th Annual Story Pros Awards.

Wild Helicopters is about a young Australian aerospace engineer who defies convention by befriending one of the pesky, artificially intelligent helicopters who steal power from her family’s floating wind farm. I started adapting it into a screenplay because an Australian animation company was looking for scripts. Even though I originally envisioned Wild Helicopters as live action, I figured the odds of getting it made that way were pretty slim given how many helicopters were in it, so I thought: why not go for it?

Sadly the animation company I wanted to submit it to went belly up before the script was done, so in lieu of any other likely companies turning up in my Google searches I decided to submit it to Story Pros for some exposure (Coast Guards had almost won with them a few years back, and I had a coupon). And I won!

Winning this contest is a pretty big deal. I get a bunch of money, a buttload of software and services, and (the best part) readings from producers and agents and stuff. Here’s hoping some Australian producer will like it, not care that I’m not Australian (Canadian is sorta almost as good, right?!) and make it into a movie with real live helicopters (well, not really live, but really not animated).

Cross your fingers! I sure am. If you’d like to read Wild Helicopters, Story Pros will shortly be posting a Winner’s Circle with a link to the script.

P.S. – Special thanks goes out to Meghan Lightle, who gave me story notes on the first draft.

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DVDs for February 28, 2012

Hugo

Hugo won five Academy Awards Sunday night, but thankfully none of them were for the “big three” (best acting, best directing, or best picture). The awards were all for sound, artistry, and visuals, which makes sense, because although this movie looks nice, overall it’s extremely pompous, annoying, and message oriented. The story is ostensibly about an orphan boy living in a Paris train station who uncovers a mystery related to his father’s automaton, but it’s actually just a heavy handed lesson in film history that will bore kids to tears. You can read my full review here.

Buy Hugo on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Johnny English

There are some days when I really miss Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and those are the days when I rent Johnny English movies. A lot of people compare his antics to Mr. Bean but the wacky antics have always reminded me more of early Jim Carrey. And that’s not a bad thing. Early Jim Carrey was hilarious, and so is Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English. It’s not as sophisticated a satire as Get Smart, but it’s definitely worth a look if you’re in a goofy mood and you’re hanging out with friends. In this sequel, moron secret agent Johnny English is in China trying to foil an assassination attempt on the premier.

Buy Johnny English Reborn on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Top Gear Season 17

I have no interest in cars, but I absolutely adore Top Gear. These guys have the best jobs in the world because they get to spend all day doing wacky stuff. In this season, Richard takes a giant South African Hummer-thing through a McDonald’s drive through, James pulls a series of flaming caravans down the train tracks, and Jeremy buys a used land-mine thrashing mining machine to knock down a row of derelict housing. There are only six pisodes and the only bonus is an episode of the crap US version of the show, but these DVDs are cheaper and more reliable than subscribing to BBC Canada.

Buy Top Gear Season 17 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Tomorrow When the War Began

The John Marsden books this movie is based on are fantastic, but also Australian, so I was waiting to see this movie for like a year. Sadly I couldn’t afford to fly to the big Sydney just to see a movie. Tomorrow When the War Began is the first in a series of movies about a group of Australian teenagers who go on a camping trip, come back to find their country has been invaded by a nameless Asian power, and decide to become guerrillas. The books are some of the best war novels I’ve ever read, so I’d recommend this to all teens and grown ups. It’s too heavy for younger kids, though.

Buy Tomorrow When the War Began on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for December 9, 2011

NEW YEAR’S EVE



With the near total non-failure of last year’s Valentine’s Day, Garry Marshall seems to have decided to continue making movies named after holidays and featuring (almost) the same humungous cast of celebrities falling in love with each other (a model they ripped off of Love Actually, which you will notice is not named for a holiday, but happens at Christmas). Anyway if you plan to see this movie, it’s probably a good idea not to watch the trailer (oops, too late) because it gives away the pairings and the “problems” that the characters have which will be solved in the inevitable happy ending. So it’s predictable, yes, but I’m going to it. Why? My major reason starts with J and ends with Osh Duhamel.

THE SITTER



As you can see, New Year’s Eve didn’t have a lot of competition this week. Way to ruin Adventures in Babysitting by putting Jonah Hill in it. Would I trust this guy with my kids? No. Would I let him live in my house and sponge off me? No. Even if he was my own son? Still no. In fact, it gives me great pleasure to see my dipsh** hypothetical son get punched in the face by drug dealers. I can think of a lot of things I’d rather buy than an $11.50 ticket to this movie. A new pair of mittens that don’t have holes in them. A DVD of Ghost Rider. Nine cans of creamed corn. You can put that on the DVD box, 20th Century Fox. “The Sitter is less enticing than nine cans of creamed corn.”

EYE OF THE STORM



This movie is Australian, so I’ll talk about it even though it’s probably only playing in about 5 theaters, all of which are in Toronto. Okay… rich people, with you so far… deciding when to die, okay, hints of suicide there…. wait, is her hair purple? Why does she have purple hair?? And her son looks strangely like Prince Charles. Has Geoffrey Rush ever played Prince Charles? No? Well they missed an opportunity there. This is pretty funny, actually. I mean, her idea of committing suicide is to hang around outside waiting to be hit by lightning? Shouldn’t she at least be on the roof? With a golf club or something? I’ll probably end up renting this in like five years when I remember that it exists.

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Remembrance Day Movies

Since I’ll be away at Hal-Con this weekend, I decided to replace this week’s in depth movie review with an overview of films you might want to watch for Remembrance Day.

For most people, Remembrance Day means wearing a poppy on their coat for a week or so, and maybe even going to a ceremony. It’s rote. It’s what they’re supposed to do, at least on the surface. But you’re still missing the point unless you’re really thinking about and appreciating our soldiers, sailors and air men/women. If you don’t find that speeches and documentaries have really helped you understand what our military men and women have and are going through on our behalf, these movies may help. They’re fictitious, but they’re all based on true stories and they have that sense of immediacy that documentaries lack.

I’ve endeavored to include a broad spectrum of viewpoints and experiences, not just US Army ones, so please don’t message me asking where Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down are.

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Online Chat Interview!

Starting at 2pm Atlantic on Monday, November 7, drop by www.bittenbybooks.com for the Tesseracts Fifteen launch party. You can post questions for the authors (like ME) and editor to answer. Every question you post earns you more chances to win a $50 Amazon gift card, which will be awarded at 2pm Atlantic on Tuesday when the event ends.

If you go there between 9pm and midnight Atlantic on Monday night and ask wierd questions about helicopters and wind turbines and brain surgery or whatever, I’ll be there to answer them. And you might win a prize. Fun! Yay!

The following other authors will also be dropping by at various times during the event:

Cat McDonald
Claire Eamer
Claude Lalumière
Elise Moser
K. Boorman
Kevin Cockle
Leslie Brown
Lynne MacLean
Michele Ann Jenkins
Michelle Barker
Mike Rimar
Nicole Luiken
Robert Runté
Shen Braun
Tony Pi
Virginia Modugno

So be there or be the square loser who can’t win any free stuff! FREE STUFF!

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DVDs for July 19, 2011

Limitless

Hey kids! Did you know that there’s a drug that can help you unlock your potential? Yeah, it can turn you from a sketchy bum into an attractive genius. It’s called Speed… I mean, something futuristic. And the only trade-off is that you get totally addicted and run afoul of organized crime! That’s the gist of Limitless. It seems like a story that was written in the 80s around the time so many businessmen were snorting their salaries up their noses, but what the hey: Bradley Cooper’s in it! That automatically makes it almost decent. You can read my full review here.

Buy Limitless on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Take Me Home Tonight

Topher Grace and Dan Fogler have played a company CEO and a plastic surgeon, respectively, in films before this one, yet here we’re supposed to believe they’re just out of college and floundering around in a quarter-life crisis? I don’t think so. This is pretty much the heights to which Dan Fogler can aspire, but I’m curious as to why Topher Grace (of That 70s Show) and Anna Faris (Hollywood’s go-to loveable bimbo character actress) felt they needed to be in this movie. Mortgage payments to meet, perhaps? This is one of those rom coms that disappear among the other films at the store and everyone forgets about once they’ve seen it.

Buy Take Me Home Tonight on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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The Reef

Apparently somebody in Australia saw Open Water and thought it should be more like Jaws, because here we have a horror film about a shark attacking some people who are stranded in the middle of the ocean. The movie is about 94 minutes long, which is about 90 minutes longer than you would assume any self respecting shark would take to eat a couple of people. Rent it if you’re into slow building horror, but don’t be surprised if you get impatient waiting for it to hurry up and eat someone already.

Buy The Reef on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


House of the Rising Sun

I chose this one to profile over Tekken (a terrible video game movie) because I liked Amy Smart in Rat Race and Just Friends but, as you can probably guess from the fact that it stars a wrestler, this movie isn’t really worth your time either. It’s about an ex-con trying to go straight and ending up getting embroiled in the crime world again, but it’s far, far inferior to Gettin’ Square, which is a hilarious and well-written Australian film with the same sort of story. Go rent that one instead if you can find a copy.

Buy House of the Rising Sun on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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