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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Review

poster from the Paramount Pictures film Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit

I was looking forward to this movie. I liked the previous Jack Ryan films and since the world’s biggest ‘fun’ spy franchise (James Bond) has become ultra-serious, realistic, and confusing, I thought that Jack Ryan (previously ultra-serious, realistic, and confusing) might switch places with it. I was led to believe this from the fact that they chose Chris Pine and stopped basing the plots on Tom Clancy novels.

A CIA analyst is reluctantly pressed into action after he uncovers a Russian plot to take down the American economy.

While Shadow Recruit was certainly a thrilling thriller, that was (relatively) easy to understand and (somewhat) realistic, it lacked the element of fun I was hoping for. It’s moved away from the usual tropes of the Jack Ryan franchise but hasn’t taken over the ones James Bond abandoned, so it comes off a little bland. I worry about its staying power as a franchise.

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Trailer Reviews for January 17, 2013

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT



I’m looking forward to this movie. I like Chris Pine. I liked the other Jack Ryan movies (especially The Sum of All Fears) and I don’t mind that they’re departing from the Tom Clancy source material (I find his books too dense and technical anyway). He’s a little more James Bond-y than he used to be, but that could be a good thing. The James Bond movies have moved away from James Bond-y ness and into the realms of grittiness and shaky cam, so there may be niche there to be refilled. Actually, now that I watch the trailer again, I’m thinking it’s more complicated and mysterious (more Mission Impossible) than James Bond. If it plays its cards right, it could become my second favorite spy franchise.

THE NUT JOB



I do not like that purple squirrel’s voice. It’s too deep and harsh for a light family film about squirrels stealing nuts. Also, if I wanted to see a movie about animals planning an elaborate operation, I’d watch Chicken Run or The Fantastic Mr. Fox.I know it’s a kids’ movie, but this trailer didn’t even make me laugh once. Cliched movie dialogue doesn’t automatically become funny just because it’s being delivered by a squirrel.

DEVIL’S DUE



So she’s possessed by her devil baby? That’s interesting I guess. But the trailer took all the life out of the idea for me. They showed everything except for the very end, which I’m assuming will be along the lines of The Exorcist. And can I just say: enough with the found footage. I’m tired of the contortions the characters have to go through just to explain why they’re filming every horrible thing that happens to them, just so the movie can look cheap.

RIDE ALONG



Stop talking and show me the damn trailer! Also, WHY is that lovely woman dating that immature loser? That’s another thing I’m tired of! Beautiful, intelligent, well-to-do women in movies who are dating lazy, unattractive morons for no other reason than ‘the plot demands it.’ The trailer was three minutes long, yet I saw no hint of a redeeming quality that might make me believe those two were in a relationship. So no, even though I like buddy cop movies and even sometimes movies where the main character is an idiot, I will not see this movie.

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DVDs for January 14, 2014

riddick

Riddick

Chances are you’ve heard of Riddick by now. He was the mysterious, morally ambiguous character at the center of the 2000 horor movie Pitch Black who was subsequently demystified and turned into a meatheaded sci-fi/fantasy action hero in a sequel movie and some video games. By the time Riddick rolled around, the character been relegated to cheap-bin status. The movie itself is about Riddick being chased by bounty hunters. Read my fake review Riddickulous to see what I thought of it.

Buy Riddick on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

the butler

The Butler

In this semi-true historical epic based on a newspaper article, an African American White House butler played by Forest Whitaker witnesses (and even manages to influence) most of the major civil rights related events of the second half of the 20th century. It’s interesting as a character study (his family members are all conveniently involved in different movements, which makes for a lot of conflict) and as a historical survey for anyone who’d like to learn more about Civil Rights. Check it out.

Buy The Butler on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

carrie

Carrie

Here’s another addition to the genre of ‘movies that didn’t need to be remade.’ Since it bills itself as a ‘re-imagining,’ you might think that it goes back to the source material (Stephen King’s novel) but it doesn’t. It’s just a remake of the 1976 version, where a telekenetic high school senior goes on a rampage after her bullies take things too far, but with more simplified characters/plot and better special effects. So if you like complexity, rewatch the old version. If you like CGI tables flying around, watch this one.

Buy Carrie on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

top gear 20

Top Gear Season 20

If you’re not already watching this show… what’s the matter with you? Haven’t you been listening to me? This is the funniest show on TV (and yes, I am counting all your favorite sitcoms). Even when they’re just reviewing cars, Jeremy, James, and Richard crack me up. When they challenge themselves to build/do something that looks easy, I can’t breathe. This season their six episodes of antics include: choosing the most inconspicuous supercar, driving a homeade hovervan on the Avon River, and crashing a lot of old taxis in a race.

Buy Top Gear: Season 20 on DVD.

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Trailer Reviews for January 10, 2014

LONE SURVIVOR



I read this book. When I heard they were making a movie out of it, I thought I wanted to see it. Now I’m not so sure. For one thing, I know how it’s going to go, and it’s going to be really depressing. Everyone’s going to die. And no, that’s not a spoiler. They gave it away in the title. I’ve seen plenty of ‘everybody dies’ war movies and you really only need to see one to get the point. As for the casting… holy crap. That kid from The Seeker is old enough to play grown ups? Also, Mark Wahlberg as Marcus Luttrell? He’s not really what I would call a ‘serious’ actor. Plus the real guy is about 6’5” and looks like Greg Grunberg. On the other hand though: Eric Bana. I can never say no to that guy.

HER



My brother really wants me to go see this movie with him. I don’t know if I want to. It’s an interesting concept. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie about a guy falling in love with Siri before, unless you count Raj from Big Bang Theory. But it’s also really really weird, and not just because of Joaquin Phoenix’s little mustache. I’m not sure I want to see how far a guy will take his love for a computer. It’s also likely to be depressing, as there’s no way I can see his love affair working out unless they want to get a lot more science fictioney than ‘talking computer voice.’ Tough call.

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY



I could have sworn I saw a trailer for this where it actually looked funny, but in this one all I see are a bunch of people who would rather not see each other thrown together for a family emergency and picking on each other to fill the time. I saw another movie like that once, Death at a Funeral (British version) and I can’t help thinking I’d end up comparing this film unfavorably to that one, seeing as how this one’s more drama than comedy.

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Top 5 and Bottom 5 Movies of 2013

new-year

2013 is over and it’s time to rank the movies I saw according to their bestiness and worstiness. As I paged through my review notebook listing films according to their secret star rating, I noticed three things. One: franchise films have done well with me this year. Two: I only saw 45 movies. And three: only one of them was bad enough to rate one star. My policy this year was not to waste money on bad movies, but it made me realize that bad movies have their uses. They force you to think about WHY the movie bad, and they make for hilarious reviews. I therefore resolve that 2014 shall be the year of using my Scene points to see crappy movies.

And now, the list. If you don’t agree with it, feel free to argue with me in the comments. That’s what they’re for. Just keep it clean, ok?

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Review

poster from the Twentieth Century Fox Film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

I didn’t think I’d be able to see a movie this week because of the holidays, but I’d forgotten how the combination of early rising and overeating always makes my family unfit for anything but comas and movie watching by Christmas evening. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was acceptable to all, even though it was a) a remake and b) possibly too focused on visuals and c) likely to be a dream in the end.

A photographic negatives manager at Life magazine travels the world looking for his photographer friend after he discovers the final issue cover image is missing.

Now that I’ve seen it I’m happy to say that Walter Mitty did everything right. It was not (spoiler alert) all dream in the end. The visuals complimented the story instead of trying to BE the story. And the remade version is different enough from both the original short story and the first movie to be considered a completely new entity. I recommend it!

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DVDs for December 17, 2013

prisoners

Prisoners

It’s almost Christmas and you’re frantically looking for good movies to buy for people on your list. Is this a good movie? Yes. Should you give it as a Christmas gift? NO. Nothing says ‘happy holidays’ like a big old bucket of dark and disturbing. Well acted dark and disturbing, but there’s still a lot more kidnapping and torture of children than a lot of people like to watch on a family holiday. On the plus side, it’s got a really good investigation plot, so do put it on your list to watch for a normal day or read my full review for more.

Buy Prisoners on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

the family

The Family

The Family contains nearly as much violence as Prisoners but because it’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s less not okay to buy and watch on Christmas. Unfortunately, it’s also a lousy movie. Robert DeNiro plays the head of a mafia family in witness protection. Being a family of idiots who think they’re awesome, they make no effort to hide the fact that they are awful and thus end up getting tracked down by the mob they betrayed, putting the lives of their protectors in danger. Read more about it or just trust me and avoid it.

Buy The Family on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

elysium

Elysium

Do you have a sci-fi lover on your gift list who either is a fan of or doesn’t actively hate Matt Damon? Then this is the gift idea you were looking for. Elysium is a District 9 style movie from the writer/director of District 9 about a poor guy who gets pissed off at the fact that the Earth is a garbage heap and the rich get to live in style on a HALO ring, so he drills an exoskeleton into his spine and goes off to attack them. It’s got quite a few plot holes but if you’re into Matt Damon, destruction, or expensive special effects, you and/or your recipient may not even notice.

Buy Elysium on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

lone ranger

The Lone Ranger

And speaking of things that are expensively filmed and exciting but have problems if you think about them too much, there’s also The Lone Ranger. This movie has several things going for it: it’s Pirates of the Caribbean style action/comedy tone, Armie Hammer being hot, Johnny Depp being silly, snappy dialogue, and bombastic destruction of every cliched Wild West setpiece imaginable. On the other hand, there’s also the fact that Johnny Depp being silly is a dicey prospect when no one can figure out if it’s disrespectful to Native Americans or not. Buy accordingly.

Buy The Lone Ranger on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film The Hobbit Desolation of Smaug

I’m not a J.R.R. Tolkien fan, and after the epically too-long nothing-fest that was The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I wasn’t looking forward to Desolation of Smaug either. In fact, I was all geared up to see Saving Mr. Banks this week until I found out we weren’t going to get it here. So here I am, talking about the second of three movies that should have been one.

A raiding party of dwarves travel to a deserted mountain kingdom to steal a special gem from the dragon who displaced them many years ago.

The most I was really hoping for from Desolation of Smaug was that it be bearable. And it looked like it was going to be – in the beginning it was fun and lively and interesting. But then it went on and on and on and on and on and finally ended with no payoff for any of the plots they were developing, so in the end I wasn’t impressed.

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Trailers for December 13, 2013

THE HOBBIT: DESOLATION OF SMAUG



To be perfectly honest, after last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey failed to do more than get the massive, indistinguishable clump of dwarves within binocular viewing distance of their destination, I’m not eager to see this movie. As the middle chapter in a trilogy of movies made from a single not-even-very-long book, it will have more time to waste than the other two, which at least have beginnings and endings to deal with. Fans will no doubt lap up the time wasting and beg for more, but I can’t read more than a few chapters of J.R.R. Tolkien without wondering why I’m torturing myself. Unfortunately, it looks like I’ll have to see this movie. We’re not getting Saving Mr. Banks at my theater.

SAVING MR. BANKS



Now HERE’S a movie that interests me. As a writer who has experienced the attempted hijacking of my work by clueless people, I can understand why P.L. Travers was so reluctant to sell the rights to Mary Poppins despite Walt Disney’s 20 years of asking for them. Though obviously she did eventually and Dick Van Dyke was in it and there were lots of words in it that were made up, so I have to wonder – how’d he get her to change her mind? Plus, Emma Thompson is just great in everything.

TYLER PERRY’S A MADEA CHRISTMAS



Okay, I’m not normally a Tyler Perry fan, but this looks funny in an “I need something upbeat and uncomplicated for my family to watch on Christmas eve” way. I’m ALWAYS looking for more of those movies so I won’t have to watch Love Actually again. Favorite joke:
“Your daughter is grown. Leave her alone!”
“I’ll pay you.”
“When do we leave?”

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DVDs for December 3, 2013

wolverine

THE WOLVERINE

Otherwise known (by me) as Wolverine Goes to Japan to distinguish it from the other standalone Wolverine movie from 2009, which wasn’t that great. Wolverine Goes to Japan, however, is pretty awesome, largely because it keeps things simple. Wolverine turns to a Japanese mutant for help after his healing powers are stolen as part of a ploy to take over a major Japanese corporation. It only loses points in my book by referencing X-Men: The Last Stand, which should be forgotten once and for all. Read my full review for more.

Buy The Wolverine on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

city of bones

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

I really enjoyed the Mortal Instruments book series, and for a book adaptation, the movie is surprisingly okay. The story centers around a teenage girl who discovers that she belongs to an ancient race of demon hunters after her mom is kidnapped by bad guys. There’s lots of action, a well rounded main character, and some cool mythology. However the plot was a bit confusing, the boyfriend character was kind of odd looking, and my favorite character Alec was pushed into the background. Read my review for a full rundown or just watch it yourself. Book reading is optional but recommended.

Buy City of Bones on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

smurfs 2

Smurfs 2

Ugh, I used to watch The Smurfs as a kid even though I didn’t really like them. As an adult, I don’t just find them annoying and stupid but also sexist, pervy, and unfunny. In this second film, Smurfette (the ONLY female smurf in a community of several generations) is kidnapped by the wizard Gargamel so she can use a magic smurf-making spell (sex?) to turn his evil anti-Smurfs into real Smurfs for… some reason related to magic. But since Smurfette FOR SOME REASON has always felt “different” from other Smurfs she might not want to go home. Ick. Watch The Muppets instead.

Buy Smurfs 2 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

drinking buddies

Drinking Buddies

This movie looks like a light, fun comedy about two best friends (Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson) who work at a brewery together and COULD have a thing were it not for the fact that they’re both in long term relationships (with Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick respectively). However it’s more of a funny-awkward dramedy with inappropriate flirting and breakups than a flat out comedy and things don’t work out as perfectly as they would in a true rom com, so if you’re planning on renting it, just keep that in mind. But for quirky indie true-to-life dramedy people? Perfect.

Buy Drinking Buddies on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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