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Planes Review

poster from the Walt Disney Pictures film Planes

Not many adult Pixar fans include Cars on their list of favorites, probably because it was a more obvious attempt to sell toys than even their movies about toys were, so it was only me, the airplane fan, who got excited over Planes. Now a Pixar-less Disney franchise, my big concern that Planes would turn out to be Cars with planes and therefore a big cynical marketing ploy.

A cropdusting plane with a fear of heights competes in a round-the-world race to show everyone that it’s not what you’re made for but what you’re made of that matters.

Now that I’ve seen it, I can tell you that it is Cars with planes, but it’s also Cars 2 with planes, Speed Racer with planes, the pod racing subplot of Star Wars Episode I with planes, and of course Top Gun with (animated) planes. In other words, it’s different enough not to be a total insult to the audience. Plus it’s really, really cute.
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Trailers for August 9, 2013

ELYSIUM



I really liked District 9 and this movie looks pretty interesting, even if it does seem to consist of elements taken from District 9, the new Total Recall, and numerous other science fiction movies. I’d go if it didn’t star Matt Damon. He’s like the cardboard vanilla flavor of actors and no matter how action packed the movie got or how apt the socio-political satire, I’d still be annoyed that I wasn’t watching someone else. I’m skipping this one.

PERCY JACKSON AND THE SEA OF MONSTERS



I liked the Percy Jackson books and I didn’t hate the first movie, Lightning Thief, but the big problem I had with that movie remains (and has gotten worse) in this sequel: Percy Jackson and his buddies are much too old. Logan Lerman (Percy) is 21. Alexandra Daddario (Annabeth) is 27. Brandon T. Jackson (Grover) is 30. None of them can pass for less than 17. In the books, Percy and his pals were wise-cracking, trouble-making 13-year-olds. This wouldn’t have been a problem if they’d updated the rest of the material to fit the characters’ new ages, but they didn’t. The characters still look and act like tweenagers, gawping and bumbling their way through a summer camp adventure, and it’s annoying.

WE’RE THE MILLERS



This looks, at best, mildly funny. At worst, I suspect it’s cringe-worthy. Too many instances of vicarious audience embarrassment pass as jokes these days. Also the principle of the film seems flawed. Surely there are dogs hanging around border crossings sniffing for drugs that would make their half-assed plan to pass themselves off as a family pointless?

PLANES



As the lone living adult who actually enjoyed the Cars movie and a lifelong lover of airplanes, when I found out about Disney’s Planes, I felt like they made it just for me. I reserve judgment on the story, however. The flying-creature-with-fear-of-heights thing was done in Rio and the learning-to-be-a-racer story was done in Cars. In fact, other than the fact that it has planes in it, I can’t see ANY way in which this movie is different. That bothers me, but not enough to make me see something else.

THE CONSPIRACY



When I first started watching this trailer I thought I had the wrong one – it looked like one of those Inside Job style documentaries. But it’s a fake documentary style horror movie. It seems kind of cliched to me that the conspiracy theorist should fall victim to a conspiracy theory. I also think I’ve read or seen half a dozen stories about a cabal of shadowy villains who direct the political and financial course of the world by yanking on puppet strings. All in all nothing here that would convince me to see this movie.

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DVDs for August 6, 2013

oblivion

Oblivion

Usually I’m excited whenever Hollywood deigns to produce a science fiction movie, but Oblivion is pretty generic even for Hollywood. Tom Cruise plays a lowly repairman working on a ruined Earth, counting down the days to when he can move to the place where everything is nice. He meets a girl from an escape pod and finds out: SURPRISE there’s a big conspiracy and nothing he’s been told is true, which is such a common plot twist that no one is surprised any more. It’s nothing profound, but it looks nice and it’ll kill two hours if that’s what you need.

Buy Oblivion on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

place beyond the pines

The Place Beyond the Pines

I know some people who will blindly adore anything featuring Ryan Gosling (hi Angella) or Bradley Cooper (hi Meghan) but if you’re not one of them, this film will be an exercise in frustration and boredom. It’s a wannbe epic, with three very common crime movie plots giving way to one another. The story of Gosling’s motorcycle-riding bank robber shifts to the story of the cop who took him down (Cooper) shifts to the story of their sons. With its slow pace, overlong running time, and inability to focus on any particular character, most people won’t be moved. They’ll just be glad it’s over.

Buy The Place Beyond the Pines on DVD and on Blu-Ray.

sapphires

The Sapphires

The sixties were a turbulent time, what with civil rights and missile crises and everyone shooting up Vietnam, but sometimes you just want a nice happy movie about the 60s, not a depressing epic. That’s what The Sapphires is. Four young Australian Aboriginal singers are discovered by the Irish cop from Bridesmaids and together they go on a tour of Vietnam entertaining the troops, where they have fun and learn life lessons rather than developing PTSD and a chest full of bullet holes like in a regular Vietnam movie. If you liked Dreamgirls or That Thing You Do, give this one a shot.

Buy The Sapphires on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

on the road

On the Road

Based on the book by Jack Kerouac, this movie is about a blocked writer (Sam Riley) who goes on a road trip with the promiscuous, drugged up Dean (Garret Hedlund) and Marylou (Kristen Stewart). None of the characters are worth caring about and nothing in the story is connected to anything else. The characters just drift along doing things without it stemming from or leading to anything. If you’ve read the book or like the Beatnik/sex-and-drugs/dicking-around-being-useless-to-society lifestyle, you’ll enjoy this movie, but I think Garrett Hedlund is the only reason to watch it.

Buy On the Road on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for July 26, 2013

THE WOLVERINE



Wolverine was one of my favorite characters in X-Men and X-2 (we do not speak of the atrocity that was X-Men: The Last Stand), largely because he was so sympathetic. He was a broken guy trying hard not to fit in anywhere and failing. I thought X-Men Origins: Wolverine was pretty good but not great, mostly because they covered too much ground time-wise and sacrificed coherency of story. I’d like to see more of Wolverine but I have mixed feelings about this movie for several reasons. 1) They reference the movie that we do not speak of right in the opening seconds of the trailer 2) Despite being more than 2 minutes long the trailer still doesn’t give me much of an idea what the movie is about 3) Giant stupid robot.

THE TO DO LIST



I have major problems with this movie. The poster makes it look like it’s a harmless Judy Moody type tween movie, when in reality it’s brash and dirty enough to have a red band trailer. Hint – that sex list she’s working on contains more than just ‘hickies’ and ‘french kiss.’ It’s supposed to be a high school movie but the leads are 28 (Aubrey Plaza) and 34 (Scott Porter). Also, in said red band trailer, the actress introduces the film as a Valentine’s Day movie (it’s July) in a voice like a bored robot on drugs. The green band trailer also seems to indicate that bored robot on drugs is her standard mode of acting. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that Agent Phil Coulson spoke the only non-stilted line in that whole trailer. Interesting concept, poor execution. Skip!

FRUITVALE STATION



This trailer spends all its time trying to hide what happens at Fruitvale Station. This might have been a more effective tactic if they hadn’t a) outlined the entire plot in the theater website blurb and b) hadn’t based the movie on a true story everyone knows about from a couple of years ago. Hell, YouTube even suggests cell phone videos of the ‘BART Shooting’ after the trailer is finished. However, it seems like a pretty good movie otherwise. One of those: ‘let us move you by showing you the tragic results of senseless errors by persons in positions of authority’ films that film festivals go for.

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DVDs for July 23, 2013

trance

Trance

Danny Boyle movies rarely slip by without a lot of people taking notice and making a big deal over them, but Trance did, probably because it’s just not as good as Slumdog Millionaire or Sunshine. James McAvoy works at an auction house and his job is to hide the expensive paintings if thieves come to steal them. Thieves come, he hides the painting, then they hit him on the head and hire a hypnotist to mess around in his brain with the ultimate goal of finding out where the painting is. It deliberately messes with you, so if you don’t like being confused and/or frustrated, watch something else.

Buy Trance on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

riders of berk

Dragons: Riders of Berk

This ‘movie’ is really a kids’ TV series that has already been released on the Cartoon Network. There are only twenty 22 minute episodes, but for some reason Dreamworks went the Battlestar Galactica route and released them on two separate DVDs. Probably to try and weasel more money out of you. The show itself is good, almost as good as the movie, and it stars the same voice actors. Post-movie, the town of Berk has opened a Dragon Academy and each episode features a standalone problem that requires dragon and human cooperation. However, you don’t really need to part with $26 just to watch it. Someone’s already uploaded them all to YouTube.

Buy Dragons: Riders of Berk Part 1 and Part 2.

love and honor

Love and Honor

Now that Liam Hemsworth is well known as “the much hotter dude” who doesn’t get to be Katniss’ boyfriend from The Hunger Games (see the Honest Trailer), you might be looking to see something where he gets the girl. And boy does he ever in this one. Love and Honor is a sappy, stilted, weirdly clean-cut Vietnam War movie about a soldier who flies home on leave with his buddy to help the buddy win back his hippy girlfriend and ends up with a hippy girlfriend of his own. It feels like a god movie with the god stuff missing, but if you like Hallmark Channel movies, you might like it.

Buy Love and Honor on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

turtles 3

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season 3

If the three Transformers movies aren’t enough reason to stay away from the Michael Bay reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, buy these DVDs and relive the awesomeness of your childhood all over again. Then think of how bad the first set of live action films were. Then think of Michael Bay and how he’s going to turn April O’Neil into Megan Fox, and vow to keep your money in your pocket. Seriously, as long as people keep going to the trainwrecks he produces, people will continue to hire him to produce more trainwrecks. IT’S A VICIOUS CYCLE.

Buy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season 3 on DVD.

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RED 2 Review

poster from the Summit Entertainment film RED 2

I remember the first RED being a pretty big movie. Based on a comic book, starring a host of famous actors, and featuring lots of nice big explosions, it was a sure hit. It did well – enough to warrant a sequel, anyway – and then… something must have gone wrong, because not only did RED 2 premiere in one of the few remaining tiny theaters at my local megaplex, it did so to an audience whose members I could count on one hand.

A group of retired spies team up to uncover the truth when a rumor that they were involved in a secret op thirty years ago results in a government-sponsored contract on their lives.

I think it must have been a bad week for it to come out, because there’s nothing wrong with the movie. It’s as good as the first one was, with their trademark blend of comedy and action and a plot that twists and turns so much even I have trouble guessing what’s going to happen next. Far better than some dumb cartoon about a snail.

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Trailer Reviews for July 19, 2013

RED 2



I absolutely loved the first RED. It took me completely by surprise. Obviously the surprise factor will be gone this time but judging from the trailer it’s going to be just as funny. With the Russian connection, missing nuke, and locked up scientist, the plot seems very similar to A Good Day to Die Hard, but I’m going to think of it as this plot’s chance to redeem itself from its terrible showing in Die Hard rather than outright copying. After all, it’s not like Twentieth Century Fox can copyright Russia (though they’ve probably tried). At least you know when this movie gets ridiculous, it’s actually TRYING to be ridiculous rather than totally ignorant of the laws of physics.

R.I.P.D.



Oh, hello again, Mary Louise Parker! That’s two movies for you in one week. If it weren’t for the fact that RED 2 was opening this weekend, I might have gone to see this one. The trailer hooked me as soon as it smashed Ryan Reynolds’s face off the concrete. Ouch! That’s gotta be worth a broken neck. The R.I.P.D. Thing is a little cutesy but funny – in the same way that the angels hell-bent on getting Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz to fall in love in Life Less Ordinary were funny. Though, obviously, there’s a lot more wanton destruction in this movie, probably because they had a lot more money. I’ll wait for the DVD.

Turbo



Oh, hello again, Ryan Reynolds! That’s two movies for you in one week as well! Are we playing a game I’m not aware of? Perhaps One Degree of Separation? I have to thank this movie, because I had no idea that nitrous oxide was capable of giving superpowers molluscs. Since there seems to be a fine line between superpowers and horrible death by poisoning, I’ll know to be careful if I ever decide to douche-up my Honda Civic with happy-gas canisters and little green lights. I was also unaware that cars were optional in the Indy 500. Look at all the new facts I’m learning today! If you need me I’ll be in Indianapolis pedaling madly on my tricycle. Where I will NOT be is in the theater watching this movie.

The Conjuring



Oh, hello again, Patrick Wilson! Sadly, you’ve ruined the game. This movie seems very familiar, probably because found footage films are a dime a dozen these days and there are whole shows devoted to people who wander around old houses with EMF meters trying to talk to ghosts. Sadly none of them are as good as Supernatural, though I suspect this movie won’t be a total waste of money. If it’s anything like Insidious it will take a 90 degree turn into crazytown about two thirds of the way through the movie, so even if you think you know the whole story from watching the trailer there are still a few surprises left. I wish they weren’t so liberal with displaying all the horrors all over the screen, though. Don’t they get that what we CAN’T see is scarier?

Renoir



This movie reminds me a little bit of Ever After, though I couldn’t say why. Maybe because it’s a semi-historical love story that stars a famous painter as the grownup who browbeats the two young lovers into pulling their heads out of their own asses. I’m intrigued by the story and the characters. It looks good, the acting seems solid…. and yet, I suspect it would be boring. Not because it’s foreign and I’d have to read – I like reading. Because they used the slowest, dreariest music they could possibly find for this trailer. That does not bode well for the pace of the film.

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DVDs for July 16, 2013

evil dead

Evil Dead

Evil Dead calls itself “the most terrifying film you will ever experience” but Evil Dead is confusing ‘disgusting’ with ‘scary. Movies like Evil Dead are the first while moves like Sinister are the second. In a sort-of reboot from the 1980s Bruce Campbell original, a group of twentysomethings retire to a remote cabin to help one of their friends deal with her drug addiction. There are demons and chainsaws and more than one person hacks their own body parts off. I think that’s all I need to say here. Read my review for more or just trust me and avoid it.

Buy Evil Dead on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

.

42

42

The government did the Jackie Robinson story in a Heritage Minute commercial, officially beating this movie by 127 minutes… if moviemaking was a race. Being an American movie, 42 skims over the playing-in-Montreal part of Jackie Robinson’s career and focuses instead on his first season with the Dodgers, when everyone was horrible to him and he had to be the bigger man and take it until his awesomeness at baseball changed people’s minds. It’s a good movie but it’s not even my favorite civil rights sports movie. That would be Glory Road. I just don’t like baseball.

Buy 42 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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erased

Erased

This movie, which is also called The Expatriate outside of North America, is a cross between The Net, The Bourne Identity, and Taken. Aaron Eckhart starts out as a computer engineer and OH NO his company suddenly disappears and someone’s trying to kill him! Then it turns out that WHOOPS he’s a spy so he’s got to drag his useless and now very angry daughter around on the run. Then she gets captured and suddenly he’s an unstoppable war machine who wants her back. Think of it as three half decent movies for the price of one. It’s pretty good.

Buy Erased on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

ice road terror

Ice Road Terror

What’s more dangerous than driving a fully-laden tractor trailer down a mountain of ice? Driving a fully-laden tractor trailer down a mountain of ice chased by dinosaurs! ROWR! As you may have guessed, this is one of those Sharknado style silly horror movies that the SyFy channel likes to put out. This is a movie you see for its epic badness so if you’re going into it expecting quality, I can tell you right now: you’ll be disappointed. However, if you want a big dumb laugh (think Battleship with terrible CGI) then Ice Road Terror may be right up your street.

Buy Ice Road Terror on DVD or on DVD.

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Trailer Reviews for July 12, 2013

PACIFIC RIM



I know a lot of people are really excited for this movie, but I can’t help looking at it and noticing how many similarities there are between it and Transformers (big stupid robots) and Battleship (big stupid sea battles) and Godzilla (giant dinosaur-looking monsters stomping around). They even ripped off the ‘aliens under the ocean’ from The Abyss and Bill Pullman’s speech from Independence Day. I guess when you’re ripping off so many different sources it can be counted as a kind of creativity, but I would have liked to see SOMETHING about Pacific Rim that looked new. I’ll go to the movie and look for it, but only because it’s either this or Grown Ups 2.

GROWN UPS 2



This movie looks absolutely putrid. Clearly the writers of this movie (one of whom is Adam Sandler) have never met an actual child in their lives, because they expect us to believe kids that age (10ish?) wouldn’t know the meaning of the word ‘wasted.’ They have also never lived in a house before, because they expect us to believe that a caribou could a) get into a house b) get through all the doorways between the entrance and the master bedroom and c) live in suburban New England. They also think that animals pissing in people’s mouths is funny and that a 250 lb man jumping off a 25ft cliff directly onto the head of another man wouldn’t result in horrific cranial/spinal injury and/or death. I can only conclude that Adam Sandler is some sort of bizarre alien from a logic-free planet and that the only reason anyone likes his movies is that they are being mind controlled by the additives in movie theater popcorn.

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DVDs for July 9, 2013

the host

The Host

I hated the Twilight movies and I couldn’t make it past the first few chapters of Stephenie Meyer’s book version of The Host, but I kinda liked the movie. It’s a post-apocalyptic alien invasion sci-fi love story starring Saoirse Ronan as a girl with an alien living in her head trying to discover where the last people are hiding. Girl loves Max Irons, alien loves Jake Abel, and killer alien death squads are after them, which leads to less action than you would think, but it’s still pretty cool. I guess all they needed to do was remove the Meyer factor. Check it out or read my review for more.

Buy The Host on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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admission

Admission

I love Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, so anything with BOTH of them in it should be amazing. But Admission is a resounding ‘meh.’ It’s half decently funny, but the story of a college admissions officer trying to get her long lost weirdo son into her university and falling for the teacher at his hippy school just didn’t grab me. I think the problem was that the movie couldn’t decide whether to be a straight up comedy or a romantic comedy so it tried to do both and stretched itself too thin. There are better things out there, so read my review first before you waste your time.

Buy Admission on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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dead man down

Dead Man Down

I’m not into movies about organized crime and/or retribution because too often they’re ridiculous and convoluted, trying way too hard to make it the most perfectly perfect revenge scheme ever. Dead Man Down falls into this trap. Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace both want Terrence Howard dead. So what does Colin do? Saves Terrence’s life to ‘get close to him.’ Things go downhill from there, with a lot of ‘I do but I don’t’ tomfoolery. It’s very serious and gritty, but with that plot it probably would have been better as a comedy. Skip it.

Buy Dead Man Down on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

spring breakers

Spring Breakers

This movie is part parody on people’s expectations of spring break and part rampant crime extravaganza. Four teens: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgins, Rachel Korine, and Ashley Benson, rob a restaurant so they can get to Florida for spring break, whereupon they skip the whole ‘get drunk at the MTV beach house’ scene and take up with a rapper played by James Franco, who turns them all into bikinied mobster hitgirls. The whole thing is bizarre and it’s hard to care about the characters, so you should probably only rent it if you like half naked chicks or movies like Goodfellas.

Buy Spring Breakers on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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