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DVDs for June 7, 2011

True Grit

This movie is a remake of a western from 1969 about a girl who hires a U.S. Marshall to help her track down her father’s murderer. It’s not your typical western, however, so if you’re a John Wayne fan be careful. This is a Cohen brothers film, which means the characters are weird, the structure is all over the place, there’s a lot of darkness and violence (grit, if you will) and the whole thing seems vaguely discomforting. If you think you can deal with that (or if you’re a Cohen fan) by all means, rent away. If you’ve got kids or a squirmy disposition, avoid

Buy True Grit on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Just Go With It

In this latest Adam Sandler comedy, his usual slobby, idiotic character (himself) convinces Jennifer Aniston, who is actually intelligent and is friends with him (for some strange reason), to pose as his ex-wife for the benefit of his pretty but clueless girlfriend, with predictable results (for those of you who haven’t seen a movie since 1955, that means it’s Sandler and Aniston that end up together). If you’re an Adam Sandler fan, I can see you wanting to rent it. But it’s so utterly stupid and unfunny that the advice I have to give to the rest of you is: just go without it.

Buy Just Go With It on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Sanctum

Any time there’s underwater photography involved in a movie, you can be sure James Cameron’s got some sort of a hand in it. In the case of Sanctum, the fictitious re-telling of a true story about some Australian spelunkers who get caught in an underwater cave, Cameron acts as producer. There are several reasons why I think you should watch it: a) Australians – they’re just better actors. b) James Cameron didn’t write it (see my Avatar review to find out why this is good) and c) being trapped underwater in a cave would be really fu**ing scary!

Buy Sanctum on DVD, on Blu-Ray or on 3D Blu-Ray.


The Company Men

Ah, depressing dramas about getting downsized. You can never have too many of those, if the video store shelves are to be believed. The thing is, nobody who’s been downsized wants to watch a movie about how depressing it is to be downsized and how crappy it is for their families, even if it does star Ben Affleck. They already know all that. It happened to them. They’re more likely to go out and rent Just Go With It to try and cheer themselves up. It’s people who still have a job and are trying to understand the people who don’t who need/want to watch this movie.

Buy The Company Men on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for May 31, 2011

True Blood Season 3

I usually don’t mention TV seasons on this blog, simply because there are just too many of them. I’m making an exception for True Blood though, because it’s AWESOME. It’s about a telepathic waitress in a version of Louisiana where vampires are out of the closet and (ostensibly) sucking on bottled fake blood instead of people. There’s lots of sex (LOOOOTS of sex, it’s an HBO show) and violence, so DO NOT let your kid watch it unless you want to be answering a lot of uncomfortable questions. Start with season one, since it’s one of those shows where everything carries over. You’ll be glad you did. The show is even better than the books by Charlaine Harris.

Buy True Blood Season 3 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Drive Angry

You know how Nicholas Cage has a tendency to act badly in terrible action movies with ridiculous premises and plots thin enough to see through? Well this movie is probably the worst in the genre. It’s about a man who breaks out of hell (I guess jail isn’t cool enough anymore) and chases after the people who killed his daughter in order to get (you guessed it: revenge) which makes it the same as about 4,000 other (better) movies that thankfully don’t feature Nicholas Cage. This is the type of movie you rent on your last living brain cell, so give yourself some credit and pick something else.

Buy Drive Angry on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Biutiful

Want to have a movie night that leaves you feeling depressed AND confused? Then Biutiful is your obvious choice when you get to the rental store. I’d describe the plot for you, but it doesn’t really have one, unless Javier Bardem wandering around Barcelona being depressed about how corrupt and ugly everything is counts as a plot. This is one of those movies that film snobs call “honest” but that normal people call “boring.” Oh, and it’s subtitled and shot in handheld so you you may contract motion sickness and/or want to put the sides of your TV in a vice to stop the view from shaking so annoyingly. This one is for film snobs only.

Buy Biutiful on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


The Waiting City

This one came out a few years ago in Australia, but I’m going to talk about it anyway because a) we’re only just getting it now, and b) it’s Australian. It’s about a couple – Radha Mitchell from The Crazies, and Joel Edgerton, who played Luke’s uncle in the Star Wars prequels – going to India to pick up a kid they adopted. It’s less about foreign adoption than it is about marital problems (yawn!), but I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt because it’s Australian. If you’ve already watched Slumdog Millionaire and you need more India like NOW, try this one.

Buy The Waiting City on DVD.

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Trailer Reviews for February 11, 2011

Releasing this weekend: Gnomeo and Juliet, Just Go With It, The Eaglr, The Way Back, From Prada To Nada, and (sigh) Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. The Cape Breton Film series is also showing You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger.

GNOMEO AND JULIET



So… if this is the garden gnome version of Romeo and Juliet, what happens at the end? Does someone get smashed on the pavement or taken to the dump? Shakespearian tragedies don’t make for very upbeat children’s comedies, so I’ll bet they took some liberties with the ending… and the middle where that guy gets killed in a swordfight… okay, so it probably bears only a token resemblance to the actual play. But it could be cute. It’s like Toy Story with garden gnomes. It won’t be as clever but at least it doesn’t involve Justin Beiber.

JUST GO WITH IT



Movies in which a marginally funny, out of shape, unattractive loser is seemingly irresistible to glamorous, beautiful women annoy me. Adam Sandler is not a catch. Family or not, if he wasn’t famous he’d never get a date. Ever. He still dresses like a high school burnout, for crying out loud. Anyway, this has to be the least believable premise for a relationship ever, and that’s even grading it on a romantic comedy bell curve. It’s not going to be funny, either. Even if you’re an Adam Sandler fan (which I am not) any movie that will put the word “pee pee” in the trailer (not this version) is obviously not worth my time.

THE EAGLE



ANOTHER Ancient Roman battle movie? How many will be enough? Oddly enough, I may actually see this one, because it’s not based on some producer’s whim of what would look cool or on some bloody comic book, it’s actually based on a young adult novel by Rosemary Sutcliffe called The Eagle of the Ninth and though it’s about Romans, it’s set in Britain. Channing Tatum is MUCH too old to play Marcus (he was about 17 in the book, more about Jamie Bell’s age) but the fighting bits are not the main part of the story, it’s more about cultural differences, friendship, honor, etc. etc. Anyway I want to see how faithfully they adapted it.

THE WAY BACK



A Russian film made by an Australian and starring an American, two Englishmen, and an Irishman. I guess I can still be surprised. Peter Weir made Gallipoli, an Australian war film about equal to this one in scope, and that would be enough to make me want to see it. However, it being about the Gulags is also a big appeal for me – I studied Russian and Russian history in college. This movie is like One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich combined with The Great Escape and Rabbit Proof Fence. Aren’t you intrigued? I’m intrigued. But we’ll never get it here. I’ll have to wait for the DVD.

FROM PRADA TO NADA



So… what is this movie about? Is it making fun of poor Mexicans or rich people who think Mexicans are all gardeners or both? I suppose it could theoretically be touching and heartwarming and everyone could make friends, but it seems more likely to be lame and clichéd and to try really hard to make obvious jokes. This is something you’ll rent a few years down the line when you’re really desperate and in a corner store in a small town. Or better yet – on an airplane. I will forget this movie exists by tomorrow.

JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER



Man, I can’t help it, this movie just seems like such a huge joke to me. Taking itself all seriously, like it’s a real movie and not just a cynical attempt to pry money from tween girls before they lose interest and move on to something else. Like Justin Bieber has actually struggled for anything in his short life (he made a YouTube video and was handed a music career). Well Justin, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to break your rule and say never. I will never see this movie. I will especially never PAY MONEY to see this movie. In fact, I would pay money NOT to have to see this movie.

I’ve already talked about You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. You can read my trailer review of it here. Remember: it’s only playing Thursday at 7pm.

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Trailer Reviews for February 4, 2011

Releasing this weekend: Sanctum, The Roomate, Casino Jack, Frankie and Alice, and the Cape Breton Film series is showing Jack Goes Boating.

SANCTUM



I saw the other trailer before I saw this one, and the impression I got of it was that it was a horror movie, which was why I was so surprised when my horror-movie-hating mother wanted to go to it with me. Turns out it’s really more of a survival adventure, like Into Thin Air or The Perfect Storm or The Abyss (probably without aliens, though). They’re making a big deal of the James Cameron angle, but he’s only the executive producer (translation: money man, probably for the 3D), not the director, so it probably won’t be three and a half hours long. Thankfully. There’s only so long you can drag out a “help, we’re trapped in a (insert remote area here)” before it gets old, no matter how true the story is.

THE ROOMATE



Okay, so which one is the crazy one? Is it Rebecca or Sarah? Why are the two main characters practically identical with identically generic names? Do they want us to be hopelessly confused? Or does it not really matter as long as they both have nice boobs? The good one also has a generically handsome pouty-faced underwear model for a boyfriend. How original. Apparently the plot doesn’t matter either, because they gave the whole thing away. Two roommates are friends, one goes off her meds, goes nuts, kills everyone else the other one gets close to. So pretty much the typical college experience, only with murder instead of catty comments on Facebook.

CASINO JACK



Remember Jack Abramoff? Vaguely? Yeah, me too. They certainly made a big deal over the scandal back in 2006. So what did he do? Bomb a school? Murder prostitutes? No – bribe people. Specifically congressmen. So Jack Abramoff went to jail – for a measly four years. Six years later, when nobody remembers him, they’re doing a movie. Why did they wait so long? It’s not like they had to wait for him to get out of jail. They could have visited him. And anyway, isn’t the more important part the fact that the congressmen can be bought? Oh well, it’s got Kevin Spacey in it so it will probably do rather well.

FRANKIE AND ALICE



From the title, I guessed this movie would be a Bonnie and Clyde type deal – with a girl and a guy robbing banks. Boy was I wrong. It’s Frankie as in Francesca and she and Alice are both Halle Berry – and not in a twins sort of way. In an Identity sort of way. It’s supposedly a true story, but it reminds me of the Detta/Odetta dichotomy in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. It’s basically (another) Oscar vehicle for Halle Berry, but I might check it out eventually on DVD, since my theater will never get it.

I’ve already talked about Jack Goes Boating. You can read my trailer review of it here. Remember: it’s only playing Thursday at 7pm.

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DVDs for January 18, 2011

Justified

I love Justified, and not just because it has Timothy Olyphant in it (he’s on the list). On the surface it looks like just another cop show. Raylan Givens is an FBI agent, he lives in Kentucky, he hunts bad guys, etc. But it’s so much more deranged than that. The bad guys are crazy, drugged out, rednecks with a penchant for violence and Raylan’s not much better. The only difference is that he’s got a badge… and a cowboy hat. Get this set and watch it just before the show comes back for its second season to minimize your “what happens next?!” torture period.

Buy Justified on DVD or Blu-Ray

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Buried

I have not seen this movie on account of I saw the CSI episode about being buried and that stretched the idea quite far enough. It stars Ryan Reynolds as a guy who gets buried alive in a coffin while in Iraq, because apparently his attackers ran out of bullets and didn’t think to bash him over the head with the shovel and save themselves the trouble (just kidding, I don’t know why they kept him alive). He’s got a lighter and a cell phone, because otherwise it would be a giant soliloquy in audiobook form. By all accounts it can be very tense at times, but I’ll just have to take their word for it, because I can’t see myself actually bothering sit through all two hours of it to find out.

Buy Buried on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Animal Kingdom

According to the box, Animal Kingdom is Australia’s answer to Goodfellas, which came out in 1990, so they took their sweet time thinking of a reply. It’s about a young Australian who gets involved in organized crime. I’m in something of a bind when it comes to this movie because I hated Goodfellas (I usually hate crime movies where douchebags/bad guys are supposed to be the “good” guys) but I love Australian movies. I was surprised by Dirty Deeds and Gettin’ Square, which were both Australian crime movies that I actually liked, so I might have to give it a chance.

Buy Animal Kingdom on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Takers

Apparently no one told the Takers people, but this movie has already been made about a hundred times – and done better. Ocean’s 11, The Italian Job, The Usual Suspects, The Bank Job, etc. The problem with heist movies is that they are all necessarily the same, so if you’ve seen one you’ve seen ‘em all. I’d only bother seeing this one if you (for some reason) are a huge fan of heist movies and must see every one ever made, or you’re a fan of one of the lead actors: Hayden Christensen, Matt Dillon, Idris Alba, Zoe Saldana, or Paul Walker.

Buy Takers on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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New Words for Movie Reviews

If I hear one more movie described as “a high-octane thrill ride” or “laugh out loud funny,” I’m going to gnaw off my own arm in annoyance (not really. I need two arms to type). I’d lambaste the movie reviewers who keep using the same reviews for everything, but I can’t really blame them. A bjillion movies come out each year and most of them are not appreciably different from the ones that have come before. There are only so many words in the English language to describe the same thing (yes, I know they’re called synonyms, smart ass) and we’re running out, throwing the movie criticism industry into crisis.

Some reviewers have tried to work around the rapidly evaporating pool of witty criticisms by simply comparing new movies to old ones:

“[insert name of move that came out this year] is this year’s [insert name of similar movie that came out last year]!”

EXAMPLES:

Observe and Report is this year’s Bad Santa!”

“Iron Man 2 is this year’s Iron Man!”

Other reviewers make claims that whatever new movie they’ve seen is the best of some genre (just not any genre that’s already been topped by a movie that’s actually good.) A tightly confined, made up category, usually further narrowed down by being limited to the current year:

“[insert name of movie] is the best [insert four qualifying adjectives] of the year!”

EXAMPLES:

Tangled is “Disney’s best non-Pixar animated movie since 1994!”

“Dinner for Schmucks is the best awkward dinner comedy starring a former Daily Show correspondent of 2010!”

The smart ones, however, realize that it’s not going to take very long for people to notice a pattern in their obvious contortions to say something new and complimentary that will end up on the DVD box. These savvy but still panicked critics often resort to using random, semi-applicable dictionary words that nobody understands.

Duplicity is an “effervescent espionage with two irresistible forces”!
TRANSLATION: Duplicity is lively and exhilarating and it has two sexy people in it.

Babies is a “joyous and buoyant new documentary”!
TRANSLATIONS: Happy babies float in water?

Since all of these movie critics seem to be having so much trouble coming up with things to say, I thought I would help them out by appropriating, mutilating, and outright inventing new words that can be used to describe common facets of moviemaking. Hopefully they’ll put off the impending crisis for a few months until the new urban dictionary comes out and everyone can switch to street slang, yo. I’ll list them for you here along with their definitions. I’ll even use them in a sentence, like this is a spelling test.

Hyperventalatory

From the verb “to hyperventilate,” which means to breathe so quickly you can’t get enough oxygen. In this context, it means a movie that causes extreme excitement and/or fear.

EXAMPLE: “A Perfect Getaway is a hyperventalatory thriller that has made me afraid to go on vacation.”

Volumized

A made-up word usually used to describe the eyelash engorging effects of mascara, but in this case it means a movie that has less substance than it appeared to have, often because of an unusually good trailer.

EXAMPLE: “The Dilemma has been volumized to the point where a great idea for a five minute sketch was drawn out into a terrible ninety minute movie.”

Ectopic

A term that is usually used in medicine to describe a pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus and must be aborted. In this case it describes a movie that is based on an extremely out of the box idea that just didn’t work.

EXAMPLE: “I was expecting it to be fun, but Michael McGowan’s Score: a Hockey Musical turned out to be ectopic.”

Thicktastic

From the root “thick,” a slag term used to describe a stupid person, it describes movies for muscle-bound thickos that are actually good or at least fun to watch, usually starring former sports players.

EXAMPLE: “Sylvester Stallone’s thicktastic new movie The Expendables will find a home on my action shelf.”

Antihesive

An invented antonym (opposite) to “cohesive,” which means something that makes sense or fits together well. It describes a movie that just can’t seem to keep itself together.

EXAMPLE: “Resident Evil Apocalypse turned out to be extremely antihesive, bouncing between plot points that had nothing to do with each other.”

Unicornacious

From the root “unicorn,” which is a magical horse-like beast with a horn on its forehead. It describes a film that is impossibly awesome and sharp, but that looked, at first glance, to be something ordinary.

EXAMPLE: “You could be excused for getting Easy A confused with Postgrad, but make no mistake: Easy A is extremely unicornacious.”

Luciferian

From the root “Lucifer,” one of the many names for the devil. Used to describe movies made by people who seem to hate their audiences.

EXAMPLE: “In a luciferian attempt to cause uncontrolled bleeding in viewers’ brains, David Fincher let Zodiac run on for nearly three hours before pulling the plug on its inconclusive plot.”

Fossicker

From the verb “to fossick,” a mining term from Australia/New Zealand which describes looking for gems and minerals in the scrap heap from an old mine. It is used to describe a director or writer whose Blockbuster movies are based on ideas stolen from other people’s reject files.

EXAMPLE: “When Michael Bay took the brief, aborted inclusion of human beings in the Transformer cartoons and turned them into a whole trilogy of big budget movies, he went down in history as Hollywood’s biggest fossicker.”

Strychnatic

Based on the root “strychnine,” which is a bitter alkaloid poison. It describes movies that have been made by bitter, angry filmmakers.

EXAMPLE: “Michael Moore’s strychnatic documentary, Farenheight 911, blames everyone and their dog for the trouble the country is in.”

Ecliptic

Usually used in astronomy to describe the orbital paths of celestial bodies. In this case it refers to a movie that goes around and around the point but never gets to it.

EXAMPLE: “Legion’s maddeningly ecliptic plot was supposedly about a modern day Mary but kept detouring away for monster battles and angsty reunions between angels.”

Bonobous

Based on the root “Bonobo,” which is a species of great ape previously known as the Pygmy Chimpanzee. It is used to refer to a movie which was obviously made by monkeys.

EXAMPLE: “Leap Year is the most bonobous excuse for a romantic comedy since a monkey actually got hold of of a film camera and taped itself picking nits off its girlfriend.”

Dystrophic

A word usually used in medicine to describe the degenerative effects of faulty nutrition. In this case it refers to a franchise that has been slowly disintegrating due to poor writing.

EXAMPLE: “The Clone Wars is just the latest entry in an increasingly dystrophic series of Star Wars spinoffs designed solely to sponge money from nerds with OCD.”

If you’re stuck on a review, feel free to use the above words to make it more original. At least until enough people start using them for them to become cliched, and then it’s back to the drawing board. After a few years we’ll be doing all our descriptions in Portuguese.

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Top 5 and Bottom 5 Movies of 2010

happy old year
Well, 2010 is over. Even though, if you’re like me, you still keep writing 2010 on everything, it’s officially 2011 now and time for a whole new crop of movies. Before I push on, however, I’d like to go back and review the best 5 and worst 5 movies I’ve seen this year, just in case you were living in a cave or something and now you have time for five movies ONLY before you go back in again. Those of you who’ve read my top 5/bottom 5 of 2009, know that only movies I’ve seen are in the running and since I am not a bottomless well of time and/or money, I can only see one a week (sorry, The Town, and Get Low you missed out) and I generally try not to pick ones I KNOW are going to be horrible. You know, like a normal person.
So onward, with the normal non-rich person’s bestest and worstest movies of 2010!

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DVDs for December 14, 2010

The A-Team

This was the overall winner of this summer’s “spec-ops movies with identical premises” contest. Liam Neeson, Sharlto Copley, Quentin Jackson, and Bradley Cooper blast their way through a rousing remake of the popular 80s TV show of the same name. The plot is based around a MacGuffin and it takes a while to get started but the action is A for Amazing. Buy it for the action lover on your list but I wouldn’t recommend putting it on during a family gathering – too much violence and swearing. You can read my full review here.

Buy The A-Team on DVD or on Blu-Ray

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Despicable Me

This movie shares a premise with Megamind in that the main character is an evil villain, but it takes a more interesting route in that Gru (Steve Carrell) finds himself getting attached to the three girls he adopts as part of his nefarious plan to steal the moon. It’s cute, funny, and different. Even the little yellow men didn’t end up being annoying like I feared. Despicable Me would be a great movie to buy for a kid on your list, or just to rent to keep all your visiting relatives entertained for a few hours. You can read more about it here.

Buy Despicable Me on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


The Other Guys

I’m not a Will Ferrell fan, but I was killing myself laughing for 90% of this movie. It’s such an apt satire of cop movies and TV shows and Mark Wahlberg really gets to flex his comedy muscles. Some of the jokes can be pretty crass (especially when the wife character is involved), but it’s not a dumb comedy. It’s got a really involved and intelligent plot. Buy it for the cop movie or comedy lover on your list instead of the awful Cop Out or put it on when your friends come round. You can read more about it here.

Buy The Other Guys on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Wow. This movie was only released at the end of September and now it’s on 3D Blu-Ray. The projector’s probably not even cool yet. I imagine they want to take advantage of the Christmas market, where there are only about three other 3D Blu-Rays to choose from. It’s a decent good vs evil knight’s quest sort of story featuring a group of Australian owls and it’s really beautifully rendered. If you want maximum visual value, pick this over Alice in Wonderland or A Christmas Carol. It’s a great gift idea for kids. You can read my full review here.

Buy The Legend of the Guardians on DVD or on 3D Blu-Ray.

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Thunderstruck Review

poster from the movie thunderstruck

Do you know AC/DC is Australian? I didn’t, at least until I watched Thunderstruck. No, it’s not a documentary or a concert video or a music video of the famous song. It’s an Australian road trip comedy. Since I’m away this weekend at Hal-Con, I thought I’d review Thunderstruck and continue the “review Australian movies on DVD when I go away” trend that I started in August with Newcastle. If you haven’t heard of Thunderstruck (and very few people have) it goes like this:

Four washed up AC/DC fans reunite to steal their dead friend’s ashes and bury them next to former AC/DC singer Bon Scott.

Despite the emphasis on AC/DC, you don’t have to be a fan of the band, or even know of the band, to enjoy this movie. The boys know enough about AC/DC to cover for your lack of knowledge and at heart it’s a road trip movie about friends and unfulfilled dreams, which pretty much everyone can relate to. Plus, it’s just plain fun to watch.

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Score: A Hockey Musical Review

poster from the film Score: A Hockey Musical

I’m not a fan of hockey or of Canadian film, but when I heard about Score: A Hockey Musical, I knew I had to go, because more than anything I like to have fun watching a movie. Combining hockey and musicals sounded like a fun idea to me. It was the opening night film at the Toronto Film Festival and I’ve been seeing previews for it for months in the preshow that Empire Theaters puts on before the movie. But if you haven’t heard of it, the story goes like this:

A sheltered teenage hockey phenom decides to play organized hockey, but runs into trouble when his pacifist attitude clashes with the culture of hockey violence.

And if you haven’t heard of it, you’re not alone. For a movie about hockey, it didn’t generate much interest. It was me and about five high schoolers (possibly from the drama club) in the cinema for an opening weekend showing. Perhaps everyone else had read the advance reviews from the film festivals and decided not to bother. More likely they either didn’t hear of it or they don’t trust Canadian movies enough to pay $11.50 for a ticket. I don’t blame them. We don’t have much of a track record. Is Score going to change all that? Well, maybe.

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