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DVDs for March 4, 2014

catching fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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

Buy Catching Fire on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

12 years a slave

12 Years a Slave

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

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

hours

Hours

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

Buy Hours on DVD.

girl rising

Girl Rising

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

Buy Girl Rising on DVD.

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DVDs for February 25, 2014

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

gravity

Gravity

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

Buy Gravity on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

thor 2

Thor: The Dark World

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

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

nebraska

Nebraska

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

Buy Nebraska on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

twice born

Twice Born

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

Buy Twice Born on DVD.

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Winter’s Tale Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film Winters Tale

I was underwhelmed by this week’s movie choices: one remake of an 80s movie (Robocop), one film adaptation of a novel (Winter’s Tale), and one film adaptation of a novel that is also a remake of an 80s movie (Endless Love). I probably should have said ‘the hell with it’ and gone to Vampire Academy but I didn’t. I went to Winter’s Tale. Blame Colin Farrell.

Angels conspire to help a handsome thief fall in love with a lonely girl dying of tuberculosis before Lucifer’s forces can kill him.

Winter’s Tale is partly historical fiction, as it’s mostly set in the early 1900s, and partly fantasy, because there are angels and demons and magic horses. It’s the literary type of fantasy, though, because the magic is just there to assist the story in being DEEP and MOVING. So it’s soppy, but the damn thing managed to make me cry anyway.

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Trailer Reviews for February 14, 2014

ROBOCOP



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

WINTER’S TALE



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

ENDLESS LOVE



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

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DVDs for February 11, 2014

enders game

Ender’s Game

Whether or not you agree with the things that Orson Scott Card has been saying online, you should see this movie, because you buying or not buying it won’t affect his bottom line. Ender’s Game is probably the best adaptation we can expect from the classic novel about six-year-olds who are training to wipe out an alien space fleet. It’s a little hectic and a little de-toothed, but it’s exciting, it poses some interesting questions, and the effects are cool. Read my full review for more.

Buy Ender’s Game on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

sherlock season3

Sherlock: Season 3

ERMEGERD! SERSERN THRUH IS ERRT! Says everyone who watches Sherlock but fell into a coma during the long hiatus between seasons. WTF IS THE BIG DEAL? Says everyone who has not watched the show. Group One: the link to buy the DVD is below. Group Two: you need to watch this show. Seriously. Each season is three two hour movies starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as modern day Holmes and Watson. It blows your usual CSI and Law and Order type shows out of the water.

Buy Sherlock: Season 3 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

the counselor

The Counselor

If you would like to be depressed, confused, and generally divested of your faith in humanity by your next film, add The Counselor to your Netflix list. It’s a teamup between Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy and features a greedy lawyer who ruins his life by getting involved with drug trafficking. All the wholesome violence of No Country for Old Men combined with the bleakness of The Road. Who could resist? It’s the feel-good movie of the year for people who don’t like there to be anyone left alive at the end of the film.

Buy The Counselor on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

austenland

Austenland

Either I missed this in theaters or they changed their minds and put it out straight to DVD, because I was looking for it. I read the book. It was cute and half decently funny – better than the other Pride and Prejudice-inspired chick lit novels I’ve read (there are a lot). The main character decides to go on a Regency retreat to kick her Mr. Darcy addiction once and for all, only to fall in love with the actor playing Mr. Darcy (d’oh). It’s not going to rock anyone’s world, but it’d make a great selection for your next Girls’ Night In.

Buy Austenland on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for February 7, 2014

THE LEGO MOVIE



It’s probably just a cynical marketing ploy to sell more toys (I couldn’t help noticing the LEGO Movie themed building sets in the Target flyer) but I MUST see this movie. It’s like one of those Superhero Movie type parodies of The Matrix, but actually funny to actual adults (okay, to ME) and with all the characters played by LEGO minifigures. What more could you want?? Also, if you need me I’ll be at the store buying (more) toys.

VAMPIRE ACADEMY



Dang! I also really want to see this movie. I know it doesn’t look like much in this trailer – kind of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer goes to vampire high school type thing, but I saw a much snarkier and funnier trailer earlier (which I can’t find now). I’ve also read the book and discovered that it has many redeeming features, including the fact that it a) makes sense b) has action and c) features characters that are not cardboard cutouts with holes cut where their faces should be (in other words, not like Twilight). But in a LEGO/Vampires battle, Batman always wins.

THE MONUMENTS MEN



My degree is in history and most of the courses I took were war (specifically World War II) related. And I like war movies. So this movie SHOULD pose a dilemma for me when stacked up against The LEGO Movie and Vampire Academy. But The Monuments Men easily loses out to the other two. Why? One of my reasons is right there in the title. Monuments MEN. I know it’s historically accurate, but if I have to watch one more movie where the only female characters are the real characters’ girlfriends, I’m going to scream. Second and third reasons: Matt Damon and George Clooney. I know they have a fan club, but I am not in it.

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DVDs for Feb 4, 2014

gravity

Gravity

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

Buy Gravity on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

thor 2

Thor: The Dark World

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

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

nebraska

Nebraska

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

Buy Nebraska on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

twice born

Twice Born

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

Buy Twice Born on DVD.

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Labor Day Review

poster from the Paramount Pictures film Labor Day

This week, I chose Jason Reitman over Zac Efron. The trailer for Labor Day looked good, but I hadn’t read the Joyce Maynard novel it was based on, so I couldn’t tell whether it would have a (relatively) happy ending like Juno or a depressing ending like Up in the Air. I was really hoping for happy. I mean, who wants to depress themselves on purpose?

A thirteen year old boy recounts the story of how his mother fell in love with a fugitive during who invited himself into their home.

I have seen it now and am happy to report that while there are certainly depressing parts in Labor Day, I would not call it, on the whole, a depressing movie. In fact, it would make a pretty good date movie, especially if you’re an escaped murderer with a captive girlfriend you’re trying to Stockholm Syndrome into liking you. Because hey, if it worked once…

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Trailer Reviews for January 31, 2014

LABOR DAY



I want to see this movie… but I also kind of don’t. I want to see it because I like what I see in the trailer. There’s a guy, maybe he killed somebody, maybe he didn’t, who kidnaps a woman and her son. It could be creepy, but instead he makes pies and teaches the kid to play baseball. Awww. It could have an ending that’s not totally depressing, right? And I don’t want to see it because of Up in the Air. That one looked cute too, but the story meandered around before faltering and sliding backward into a sad ending. I don’t want to watch another movie like Up in the Air. The question is: will Labor Day be like that? Maybe I should have read the book.

THAT AWKWARD MOMENT



As loathe as I am to see anything with the word ‘awkward’ right there in the title, this movie looks okay. I even jumped through the fourteen hoops YouTube puts up to stop kiddies from hearing swear words and made sure the red band trailer didn’t reveal it as a pile of dumb. It’s not a pile of dumb, though some of it is trying a little too hard. I’d spend two hours with it. Though if I’m being totally honest, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought without Zac Efon (COUGAR ALERT).

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Trailer Reviews for January 24, 2014

I, FRANKENSTEIN



Updated fairy tales are all the rage these days, but not all of them adhere to the adaptation adage: ‘stay true to the intent of the original.’ After all, the intent of original stories like Beauty and The Beast and Frankenstein is that the main characters are ugly. When you ‘update’ their ugliness to a few scars (I, Frankenstein) or an eyebrow tattoo that says ‘suck’ (Beastly) you miss the point and your movie doesn’t work. This is what happened to Beastly and what I predict will also happen to I, Frankenstein, no matter how big they go with the special effects. Actually, it will probably be worse for I, Frankenstein. I mean… superpowers? Saving the human race? What?? And Frankenstein was the doctor’s name, not the monster’s.

DEVIL’S KNOT



Ooh, I remember this. There was a really good documentary about it called Paradise Lost. The whole (true) story is such a big mess (did the teens do it, is the town blaming them just because they wear black, why is that other guy so sketchy in interviews) that the title is an apt one. I just hope they’re able to ‘unravel the knot’ so to speak by the end of this fictional version, otherwise why bother to fictionalize it at all?

WHITEWASH



A drunken snowplow driver. Now there’s a scary thought. As our province continually reminds us in TV commercials, a snowplow ‘ain’t no featherduster’ (seriously – they really say that). But in this movie’s case, the snowplow really is a featherduster! Just look at that silly little thing! Also this trailer is confusing. So he ran a guy over… on purpose? By accident? Before or after the dude was crashing at his house cooking up a tray of eyeballs and our pal snowplow driver was hiding in a quinzhee? And then there’s a…. what’s who doing with that snowmobile? WTF is going on??

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