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DVDs for April 8, 2014

smaug

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

Attention my one friend who likes these movies (hi, John): the longest movie in the world is now available to bore you right in your own home! If you’re the type that likes the extra long, extra boring re-cuts (hello again, John) then you’ll want to wait for the extended edition. This one only has a few featurettes. For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is the second film in a one-book trilogy about a hobbit and some dwarfs who are trying to kick a dragon out of a mountain. There’s a lot of filler. Read my review for more.

Buy The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

grudge match

Grudge Match

Other appropriate titles for this film would be Bum Fights: The Movie and Battle of the 80s Has-Beens: a sort-of Music and Lyrics Spinoff (but not really). It features creaky old Sylvester Stallone and flabby old Robert DeNiro as a pair of aging boxing rivals who agree to make a spectacle of themselves in public for money by fighting a rematch. If you want to see a comedy where 9/10 jokes are in the vein of “I’m too old for this sh**”, this is the movie for you. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.

Buy Grudge Match on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

marked ones

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Otherwise known as Paranormal Activity: The Other Side of the Tracks. Whereas the previous films have all featured hauntings among white suburban families, this movie switches things up a little. It’s still found footage and it’s still connected to the overarching story, but it’s about an inner-city Hispanic kid who gets possessed after he sticks his nose in his weird neighbor’s business. It’s rather a lot like all the other possession movies, but if you’re into horror I still think you should see it. There’s a scene where the kid pulls a worm out of his own eyeball.

Buy Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

august osage

August: Osage County

I am not a fan of dysfunctional family dramas, especially not when they’re adapted from plays, because there tends to be too much talking and not enough happening. That’s the kind of movie this is. Here’s the extent of the story: there’s a family crisis, the whole family comes home, they squabble a lot until the movie’s over. There are a lot of famous people in it, but that’s because they like to flex their acting muscles by getting all worked up and yelling at each other, not because the story is good. Critics like it, but normal people… not so much.

Buy August: Osage County on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for May 21, 2013

beautiful creatures

Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures is a movie in the Twilight vein – a teen paranormal romance based on a popular novel. The difference here is that the ‘normal’ main character is the guy and the supernatural creature is the girl – she’s a spellcaster. It takes place in the American South which means Civil War re-enactments and hilarious accents play into it along with the usual teen angst and parent drama. Plus there’s also an interesting choice vs destiny element. I really liked Beautiful Creatures, but my friend the Twilight fan hated it, so take from that what you will and read my full review for more.

Buy Beautiful Creatures on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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last stand

The Last Stand

I forget how I ended up seeing this movie in theaters. I think it came out on a week where there was either nothing else or everything was worse. It’s your typical terrible action movie, with a ridiculous, unbelievable plot (an escaped Mexican drug lord steals a fancy car and can only be stopped by the sheriff of a small border town) numerous clear violations of the laws of physics, moronic one-liners, and people who can’t act their way out of a paper bag (hello again, Arnold). If you like that sort of thing, great! Buy it. If you’re actually intelligent, read my full review and laugh at this movie some more.

Buy The Last Stand on DVD or on Blu-ay.
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parker

Parker

Parker is yet another uninspired action movie, this time starring Jason Statham as a robber/assassin with a code of honor, which is a character he’s played before. When he’s shot and left for dead by his pals after a heist (a plot device used in half of all action movies made in this decade) he decides to get revenge on them (also not original). What follows is a lot of shooting and an alliance with a real estate agent played by Jennifer Lopez who paradoxically turns out NOT to be a love interest. As such this movie is really only going to be appealing to fans of Jason Statham.

Buy Parker on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

side effect

Side Effects

People who read the blurbs for this movie or watch the trailer and think that the idea of a psychiatrist investigating a psychiatric drug that might turn patients into sleepwalking murderers sounds intriguing should remind themselves that this is a Steven Sodgerbergh thriller and Steven Soderbergh was responsible for the disjointed, unthrilling thriller Contagion. Side Effects is the kind of movie that most critics like and most normal people hate. It’s full of plot twists and turns, most of which will feel cheap enough to make you angry. I’d just skip it if I were you.

Buy Side Effects on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for April 30, 2013

silver linings playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Some movies get a lot of attention from critics because they’re boring and pretentious, but sometimes they get attention because everybody genuinely enjoys them. Silver Linings Playbook is one of those movies. Regular people like it because it’s a cute romantic comedy starring adorable people (Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper) and critics like it because it takes on ‘deep’ issues like mental illness, addiction, compulsive gambling, and dysfunctional relationships. One of my friends went to it 5+ times in theaters, but you’ll probably be fine with once on DVD.

Buy Silver Linings Playbook on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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broken city

Broken City

The whole dirty cop thing is a popular theme, but unlike the rest of the dirty cop thrillers, this one wraps up the cop part early and moves on to private eye (not a huge leap, I know, but it’s something). Mark Wahlberg plays the aforementioned dirty cop who kills a rapist and then gets sucked into a big dirty political mess involving the candidates for the mayoral election. Like most thrillers, it relies on revelations of who met whom for what reason for its tension, but the tension is damaged by the fact that the scandal is a pretty standard one that’s easy to figure out. I wouldn’t bother with it.

Buy Broken City on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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guilt trip

Guilt Trip

I don’t like Seth Rogan at the best of times, but put him in a cliched and unfunny road trip movie with Barbara Streisand and I’d drive across the country just to avoid it. The plot (such as it is) centers around Rogan’s character as a cleaning fluid salesman driving across the US to peddle his product. His mother invites herself along to work out their issues and reunite with an old lover. A road trip movie’s success relies on character/actor chemistry, and unfortunately theirs just doesn’t do anything for me. For a really funny road trip comedy you haven’t seen, try the Australian film Thunderstruck.

Buy The Guilt Trip on DVD or try Thunderstruck instead.

best of both worlds

Star Trek: Next Generation – Best of Both Worlds

This was released in a limited number of theaters last week, but the DVD is what you really want. At $15, it’s the same price as an IMAX ticket and you get special features with it, including a documentary, an audio commentary, and a gag reel. The actual content is movie length – a full two-part episode arc featuring Captain Picard’s capture and assimilation into the Borg collective – and is remastered to look good in HD (though the aspect ratio remains full screen). Not worth it if you have the full season set, but a good nostalgic investment if you don’t.

Buy Best of Both Worlds on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for March 12, 2013

life of pi

Life of Pi

Sometimes, a story really resonates with people and they can’t say why. This was the case with a lot of people and Life of Pi in both the book and the movie version, but I’m not one of those people. The story of a young Indian man who gets stuck on a lifeboat with a collection of zoo animals (most notably a tiger) after a shipwreck was original and interesting, sure, but it was also just a little too vague, rambly, and pseudo religious for me. I do agree with the critics who compare it to Avatar, though. The 3D special effects are spectacular. Read my review for more.

Buy Life of Pi on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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rise of the guardians

Rise of the Guardians

This was a good movie, but I wish they’d given it a less generic title. It sounds too much like the owl movie Legend of the Guardians. No one who heard that title could possibly guess that it’s actually about Jack Frost teaming up with the ‘real’ mythical creatures that people actually know – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy – to defeat a fear monster that’s ruining all the holidays and making kids miserable. But that’s what it’s about. It’s a good movie to watch with your kids on any holiday (or no holiday) so check it out.

Buy Rise of the Guardians on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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hitchcock

Hitchcock

Everyone knows OF Alfred Hitchcock, but how much do you actually know ABOUT Alfred Hitchcock? If you want to know more, check out this movie. It’s set during the filming of one of his most famous movies, Psycho, and showcases not only what he was like as a director (controlling) but also the important relationship he had with his wife Alma, who contributed creatively to a lot of his projects (though not as much as this movie would have you believe, some people argue). Regardless, it’s fascinating to get a glimpse ‘behind the scenes’ of Psycho, because it almost didn’t get made.

Buy Hitchcock on DVD/Blu-Ray.

cirque de soliel

Cirque du Soliel: Worlds Away

Let’s face it – most of us are never going to get the chance to see Cirque du Soliel live. They only travel to big cities and the tickets are hella expensive. With this movie, though, the price of admission drops from $300 per family to $3. Pretty good deal! There’s not much story here – a woman wanders through a bunch of trippy circus acts trying to find some guy (sort of like MirrorMask) but story is not the point here – it’s all the people doing cool spinny tricks on wires. Rent it, watch it with your kids. Maybe they’ll run away and join the circus.

Buy Cirque du Soliel: Worlds Away on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for November 16, 2012

TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN PART 2



It’s pretty safe to say that if you haven’t been looking forward to the release of this movie, you don’t need to bother seeing it. First of all, it’s the last of a five-film series and you need to have seen the one before it (Breaking Dawn Part 1) to make sense of it. Breaking Dawn Part 2 picks up halfway through the last of Stephenie Meyer’s teen vampire romance books, right around the point Bella became a vampire, developed an actual personality, and became mildly interesting (at least, I stopped wanting her to be ripped apart by one of the many giant wolves). The clincher for me will be whether the battle with the killer Italian vampire ruling elite that they spend the whole book/movie building up to actually goes down or not. If it doesn’t (like it doesn’t in the book), I may have to burn down the studio (you’re on notice, Summit Entertainment). I’m just saying: if I have to spend my birthday weekend watching this movie, somebody needs to get ripped apart by a giant wolf.

LINCOLN



My quota for Abraham Lincoln movies has already been met this year, so I don’t feel any great need to see this movie. Besides which, I feel like this would be less exciting to watch than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Steven Spielberg, you know I think you rock, but if you’re going to tell us a story we already know inside, outside, and upside down, at least have the decency to tweak it a little bit. Put in some zombies or something. I’m sure Daniel Day Lewis will win more awards for the role (though I can’t help thinking the voice sounds wrong) and that the critics will like it. History teachers will also wear out their copies showing them to their classes, but the regular people, the ones who are not critics or history teachers, are just going to glaze right over this one. “Been there, learned that” they will think to themselves. “Slavery bad, war sad, Lincoln good.” And then they will buy a ticket to Skyfall.

Also, if you’re in Sydney on Thursday, November 15 at 7pm you can catch the Cape Breton Film Series showing of Your Sister’s Sister, an awkward romantic comedy/drama about two traumatized people trying to start a relationship with a third wheel in the middle. You can check out the trailer review here.

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Skyfall Review

poster from the MGM film Skyfall

First of all, I should warn you that I am not a Bond fan. I like the movies in the sense that I always go to them, but the misogyny and clichés bother me and I always hate the psychedelic credit sequences set to wailing, on-the-nose, ballads. My favorite Bond movie is Goldeneye, precisely because it doesn’t take it self so seriously. They went for more grittiness with the Daniel Craig films, and while I liked Casino Royale, I thought Quantum of Solace was terrible, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Bond 23.

After M loses a hard drive containing the names of all the NATO undercover agents, Bond must return to save the service that left him for dead.

Now that I’ve seen it, I can tell you it’s pretty good. Better than Quantum of Solace, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Casino Royale, even though it tries to follow the Batman franchise’s example and tunnel further down into the land of darkness and grit.

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DVDs for March 20, 2012

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I’ve seen both the Swedish and American adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s novel about a disgraced journalist and a reclusive hacker who team up to solve a decades old disappearance and I’m not sure which I like better. By necessity, each leaves out some subplots and scenes, but not the same ones. This one, the American one, is a little more stylized and plays up the brutality (there’s rape) a little more, but that’s Americans for you. Both are good movies. You should rent them (unless you’re squeamish or a child) but with this one you don’t have to read subtitles.

Buy Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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The Muppets

As a rule, nostalgia movies do not work. Shows we liked as kids adapted into new movies always end up retroactively ruining our childhoods and confusing our kids. But with every rule there must be exceptions, and The Muppets is one of them. In the story, it’s been years since the Muppets broke up and a trio of human fans (including Jason Segel and Amy Adams) bring them back together to save their old theater from an oil tycoon. Loaded with songs and kid/adult friendly humor, it’s one of those rare movies that actually is fun for the whole family. Do rent it. Wokka wokka!

Buy The Muppets on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Hop

While The Muppets was in theaters just a few months ago, it’s been a whole year since Hop. I know they’re timing the theatrical and DVD releases with Easter, but a year is enough time to forget this movie even existed. Hop was made by the people who did Despicable Me but it’s got a standard plot (son of mythical holiday creature runs away to be something else – in this case a drummer) and it’s that eternally annoying blend of live action and animation. Flop might have been a better name for it, but it’s still good enough to entertain your kids for a few hours.

Buy Hop on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

If you’re looking to be bored out of your skull during this upcoming long weekend, look no further than Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It’s more tedious and uninteresting than any movie about a Cold War spy uncovering a Soviet mole has any right to be. Don’t let its Oscar nominations fool you. Only critics like this movie. Normal people will want to drill into their own brains to escape it. Rent this movie only if you need to read the John Le Carre novel for school and you’d rather torture yourself for two hours than the two weeks it will take to slog through the book.

Buy Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I don’t like having expectations of movies because I’m almost always disappointed. Hugo was such a letdown that when I saw the trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I actively tried not to expect it to be good, since so many “real” critics were falling all over themselves to praise it (the “real” critics and I rarely agree). This was difficult, because it was directed by the same guy (Stephen Daldry) who did Billy Elliot (which I love), because the kid in it is extremely cute, and because there was just something sweet about it.

A year after his father is killed in the World Trade Center, a nine-year old boy find a key his dad’s closet and searches New York City for the lock it fits, hoping to find a message.

Grief-and-grieving movies are frequently awkward, slow, and/or weird, but I saw Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and I was moved to tears by it. However, I should mention that the friend I was with thought it was stupid. I’ve thought about it and came to the conclusion that whether or not you like this movie will be determined by your ability to connect with the character of Oskar Schell.

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Trailer Reviews for January 20, 2012

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE



Why is this movie called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? It must be referring to when the planes hit the towers or something. The problem is: with a title like that, I expected it to be one of those annoying indie movies about couples having issues that never really go anywhere. It wasn’t until I saw the trailer that I got interested in seeing it. With the boy hunting down a mystery left by his dead dad, it seems like this movie could be what I was hoping Hugo would be. It’s got a bit of a Billy Elliot feel to it (makes sense – same director) so I’ve got my fingers crossed. I think I’ll like it. That would be (almost) a first – me agreeing with the real critics!

HAYWIRE



This movie looks like it was supposed to come out during that glut of action movies from two summers ago where spec ops soldiers kept getting betrayed. It has the exact same premise as The Losers, The A-Team, and The Expendables, and if we look forward, the GI: Joe sequel. Were all these movies part of a class assignment or something? You would think that somewhere along the line secret organizations would learn not to try and kill highly trained agents. It never ends well. Ordinarily I wouldn’t bother with this movie at all – been there, seen that – especially since everything (fights, dialogue, etc) seems so laconic. BUT it’s got three people from my awesome list in it (Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, and Channing Tatum) so it gets a triple free pass. So I don’t know if I’ll review it (maybe I just did) but I have to see it. It’s the Awesome Law.

RED TAILS



Here’s another movie that’s straddling the line between interest and disinterest for me. On the pro side, there’s fighter planes, World War II, and it’s made by Lucasfilm. On the con side, it’s basically just Tuskegee Airmen with CGI added to it. Lawrence Fishburne was in Tuskegee Airmen. You just can’t improve on Lawrence Fishburne (sorry, Cuba Gooding Jr.) This is the kind of movie you just need to see, though, especially if you haven’t seen Tuskegee Airmen. Too many war movies are all “yay happy war time heroes!” and gloss over the fact that these same heroes were telling other potential heroes (black people, women, etc) to take a long walk off a short pier. Plus: fighter planes!!

UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING



Though I prefer the “predator” genre of vampire stories to the “shiny sparkle” genre, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never seen any of the Underworld movies. Maybe it’s because the wolves are so ugly. Why can’t they look wolfier? I’d make up for it by seeing this one, but a) there are three other better movies also coming out this week that I’d rather see. And b) it looks a little too much like the Resident Evil movies, which are of course abominable. She was captured for only twelve years and that was enough time for the entire world to change so much that she doesn’t even recognize it? Get real. I know it’s the technology age and everything but things don’t change that fast. Also: “where is Michael?” more like “who is Michael!”

SHAME



Everyone’s all atwitter about this movie because apparently you get to see Michael Fassbender’s junk, but that’s not why I’m going to be really incredibly uncomfortable watching it. It’s because it’s I find it painful to watch people embarrass themselves, and people with addictions are always pushed into embarrassing themselves in movies. Maybe that’s why I don’t like addiction movies. (In case you didn’t figure it out from the trailer, Michael Fassbender’s character has a sex addiction). Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, Michael Fassbender is awesome, so I have to see all of his movies. Even ones that make me uncomfortable and contain his junk (it’s none of my business what your junk looks like, Michael Fassbender!) At least I won’t have to see it in theaters. Ours will never get it since it’s rated NC-17.

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY



At one point, I tried to read the John LeCarre novel this movie was based on. It was so boring I couldn’t even finish it. My friend Angella claims it was so boring she couldn’t even START it. This does not bode well for the film version. Don’t be fooled by the mention of a mole and the tense music in the trailer. This movie will bore you to tears. You see, John LeCarre writes “realistic” spy novels, which means that three quarters of the story is taken up by writing reports and letters and people having conversations. No amount of famous people (this movie has Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, and Ciaran Hinds) can save a movie in which nothing really happens. My dad will like it, but you won’t.

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Hugo Review

poster from the GK Films movie Hugo

I was really looking forward to Hugo, so much so that I actually wrote an angry email to our theater when it didn’t get Hugo in last week, when it was released. The trailer made it seem like an awesome children’s steampunk adventure. I didn’t know why it had to be directed by Martin Scorsese, a big shot of the “intelligent film” persuasion. You would think a children’s steampunk adventure would be more Chris Columbus territory, but I figured he was doing it for his grandkids or something. The story was certainly cool enough to appeal to kids:

An orphaned boy living in the walls of a Paris train station unlocks a mystery when he meets a girl with the key to his dead father’s clockwork automaton.

I was expecting something along the same lines as City of Ember (which, by the way, was fabulous) or A Series of Unfortunate Events, where the automaton’s clue leads Hugo down the path to danger, adventure, and the truth about his parents, but that wasn’t what I got at all. Instead, I got a thinly veiled lesson in the history of film which felt like nothing more than an ad urging people to support The Film Foundation’s restoration efforts. This explains why Martin Scorsese wanted to direct it – he’s the founder of that organization.

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