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DVDs for June 10, 2014

jack ryan

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

This is the first Jack Ryan movie not based on any of Tom Clancey’s novels, and it shows. It’s a lot less politically sophisticated than the previous Jack Ryan films and a lot more confused in terms of who the Jack Ryan character is and what he can do. Though the filmmakers have tried to update the series by bringing it into the present day, it still feels like a Cold War movie, mostly because the Russians are the bad guys and digital data is treated like hard copy. Rent it if you’re looking for a generic action movie or check out my full review.

Buy Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

nonstop

Non-Stop

Speaking of generic movies, Non-Stop, a generic thriller about a sky marshall trapped on a plane with a terrorist, also releases this week. It’s a good premise for a contained space thriller, but they ruined it by spending most of the movie texting and by having everyone think that the hero was the villain, which made the plot seem convoluted. If you’re looking at Liam Neeson’s picture on the box and thinking it will be like Taken, think again. There’s only one good fist fight in the whole movie. Read my review for more.

Buy Non-Stop on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

cosmos

Cosmos

Judging from the amount of pseudoscientific bullsh** and outright lies being shared by people on my Facebook news feed, a lot more people need to watch this documentary series. It does for physics, astronomy, and ecology what BBC’s Planet Earth did for geography and biology – it makes you want to hear about science. Whether you failed every science class in school or you’re a Popular Science subscriber, TV presenter/real actual scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson has something new to say to you. And it looks pretty. Check it out.

Buy Cosmos on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

devils knot

Devil’s Knot

And now for a non-generic thriller: Devil’s Knot is based on the true story of a trio of teens accused of murdering three little boys as part of a satanic ritual. The film delves into the horror of the murders as well as the controversial aspects of the case, raising the question of whether the teens really killed anyone or if the town is just out to get them for being weird. If you’ve seen the documentaries the film probably won’t offer anything new, but if you’re coming to it fresh you’ll find it really interesting. Check it out.

Buy Devil’s Knot on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for May 6, 2014

veronica mars

Veronica Mars

Otherwise known as “The Kickstarter Movie.” In a move reminiscent of Firefly, fans of the Nancy-Drew-esque high school murder mystery show Veronica Mars got together and handed series creator Rob Thomas (not the one from Matchbox 20) enough money to make a movie. They got an extra-long mystery featuring grown up Veronica investigating a case that catches her up with all the people she used to know as a teen. This is pretty much a fans-only movie, so try the TV show first.

Buy Veronica Mars on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

art of the steal

The Art of the Steal

There’s an art to making heist movies that aren’t just the same old cliches trotted out all over again, and this movie doesn’t have it. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a reformed thief bands together with his former colleagues to pull off one more heist before they retire, but divisions among the group screw up the plan. The only real difference is that the lead character played by Kurt Russell is (for some reason) an Evel Knievel knockoff. If you mass-consume heist movies, you’ll probably get to it eventually.

Buy The Art of the Steal on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

burn

Burn

I was first introduced to Detroit’s arson problem through Charlie LeDuff’s book Detroit: An American Autopsy. Overworked, underpaid firefighters in run down equipment risk their lives to fight huge numbers of arson fires in abandoned houses before they burn the handful of remaining people out of their homes (Detroit is where arsonists go on vacation). It’s hard hitting stuff, even more so in documentary form. They got some pretty amazing footage, so definitely check it out (especially you, fellow Chicago Fire fans).

Buy Burn on DVD.

generation war

Generation War

In North America, we call our World War II soldiers “The Greatest Generation.” We make endless movies about how they heroically put down those dastardly Nazis, but what if you’re German? What do you call the ’40s generation then? I always preferred the war movies/books that contained at least a single three dimensional Axis character rather than a hoard of cardboard psychopaths, so this miniseries, which follows five young Germans in different wartime roles, seemed like exactly what I’ve been looking for all this time. This is something we should all watch.

Buy Generation War on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailers for April 18, 2014

TRANSCENDENCE



Otherwise known as: SkyNet – the Movie! I mean, I’ll see it, but how many times do we need to travel the same well-worn territory? Oh no! We created a supermachine and now it can boss us around! The horror!

BEARS



It’s Earth Day again and time for another kids’ documentary about cute animals. While you’re watching Bears, don’t forget to remind your littleuns that if they ever catch a whiff of the fishy garbage-heap-in-the-sun smell of a real bear, under no circumstances should they attempt to approach and/or pat the cute bears, as they will totally rip your face off.

HAUNTED HOUSE 2



Sometimes I like deliberately dumb spoofs, but this one is just bad. That trailer didn’t even make me smile once.

FACE OF LOVE



While I’m not opposed to the notion of a woman falling in love with a guy who looks like her dead husband (okay, I find it a LITTLE creepy), this looks like one of those slow, quiet (read: boring) movies that make me want to hit fast forward just to make something happen.

TRAILER PARK BOYS: DON’T LEGALIZE IT



I despise Trailer Park Boys, but I know a lot of people don’t, so here’s the trailer. Me: out.

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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 January 28, 2014

rush

Rush

Rush is the first of two movies where Daniel Bruhl knocked my socks off. He and Chris Hemsworth play Niki Lauda and James Hunt, a pair of real-life 1970s Formula One drivers competing for the championship in an era where safety comes a distant second to driving really fast in a tank full of flammable liquid. You can read my review for more. Once you’ve watched Rush (and you should) check out another of this week’s DVD’s: 1: a Formula One documentary on the drivers who changed the face of the sport by pushing for safety measures.

Buy Rush on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

fifth estate

The Fifth Estate

Coincidentally, here’s the second movie where Daniel Bruhl knocked my socks off! In this one he plays computer hacker Daniel Berg opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks. The story follows their friendship and falling out as Wikileaks rises from obscurity to international fame and controversy. It’s based on Daniel Berg’s book, so it’s not Julian Assange’s favorite movie in the world, but it’s definitely worth checking out. You can read my review for more.

Buy Fifth Estate on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

last vegas

Last Vegas

Last Vegas is essentially a tamer, old-man version of The Hangover where three crochety retirees (Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, and Robert DeNiro) meet their suave pal (Michael Douglas) in Las Vegas for his bachelor party (he’s marrying a much younger woman). After they’re mistaken for mobsters, suddenly they can have anything they want. The question is: what do they want? I really liked it – I thought it was sweet and funny. If you prefer your comedy crude, stick with The Hangover.

Buy Last Vegas on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

meatballs 2

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

If you want something totally weird and different to watch with your kids, choose these movies. Flint Lockwood, the inventor from the previous movie, returns with his friends to his old town to find that his food-making machine is creating hilarious and menacing hybrid food-animals (hippo potatoes, shrimp chimps, mosquito toast, etc). Kids will love it because it’s wacky and colorful. You’ll like it because it’s a) actually funny and b) not the same cliched princess crap all over again. Check it out.

Buy Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for Novembe 15, 2013

THE BOOK THIEF



I picked the book up because it was about kids and Nazis, but ended up ditching it after just a few pages for being disjointed and pretentious. It was told from the perspective of Death and there was no setting or description at all, just clumps of words. It drove me nuts. However, I do think that it could be a decent movie. Why? Because it’s not possible to have a movie with no setting or description! That’s what’s on the screen! And look at the trailer – trains! Houses! Tables! Little girls! Concrete things to look at. I have no idea if there’s enough story, though, and the acting seems a little stiff, but I suppose I’ll see it anyway. It’s probably the only new movie we’ll be getting.

BEST MAN HOLIDAY



I didn’t take in any of this trailer at all. I was completely consumed with hatred for the song they were playing over it – Robin Thicke’s rape anthem “Blurred Lines.” The weird thing is, it doesn’t even fit. It doesn’t flow with the scenes at all and the lyrics drown out the dialogue. Also, what the hell is this movie even about? Some people get together. Someone’s not telling someone something. Something else is on YouTube. The guys dance in shiny suits, and then they all flirt with each other. If there’s an overarching story here, I’m missing it.

DEAR MR. WATTERSON



I LOVE CALVIN AND HOBBES. I loved it even when I was a kid and I didn’t get half the jokes. I don’t know if I want to watch a documentary about Bill Watterson, though. It would be too much like looking behind the curtain. Look! There’s the Great and Powerful Oz! He’s just a dude with a pencil! Luckily, he doesn’t seem to be in here at all. It’s just a bunch of people talking about how they also like Calvin and Hobbes.

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Trailer Reviews for November 8, 2013

THOR: THE DARK WORLD



Thor! Hey buddy! Good to see you again! Any chance you’re gonna take a few minutes in this movie to stumble over some hilarious Earth customs? I’d love to be able to add something like ‘Thor Goes to the Grocery Store’ or ‘Thor Uses an ATM’ to my list of potential Marvel picture book plotlines. No? You plan on smashing things and arguing with Loki for two straight hours? Yeah, that’s what the trailer looked like. I just thought I’d ask. I’ll still come, of course. Because there’s Team Thor/Jane/Loki. But in the future, if you want to throw in a little more ‘myeh myeh,’ I’ll be really happy.

KILL YOUR DARLINGS



Ugh. Please, no more Beat Poets! They’re so pretentious and annoying! And the stories about their lives are always so messed up and depressing. I’m sorry, Daniel Radcliffe, you’re very good. But there’s no way I’m seeing this movie.

THE SUMMIT



Looks cool. It’s like the Into Thin Air for K2. They make it seem like there’s a big conspiracy but then one of the reviewer quotes describes it as a cliffhanger… I hope she meant literally because I don’t want to see it if they don’t at least decide on a theory as to what happened to everyone.

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Trailer Reviews for August 30, 2013

CLOSED CIRCUIT



This movie looks good. We’ve got some Eric Bana, some Julia Stiles (whom I haven’t seen in a movie in like ten years) and a huge dollop of Spooks (MI-5 on this side of the pond). The only problem I can see is that they gave most of it away in the trailer. Let’s review what we know, shall we? There was a terrorist attack. The bomber was caught. Two lawyers are assigned to defend him. With a journalist’s help they discover MI-5 were responsible for getting him into the country and setting him up in a terrorist cell as a double agent. MI-5 uses closed circuit cameras to try and bump them off before the trial brings everything to light. Am I missing anything? Apart from a non-Bana reason to pay $11.50 to see it again, but longer?

GETAWAY



Taken – sorry, Getaway is the story of a guy whose female family member was kidnapped by bad people and who has to wreck a lot of stuff to get her back. Geez, how many times are they going to make this movie? The only things that are different about it are the fact that they also ripped off The Fast and the Furious (the bit where they’re driving around very fast in cool cars to steal things) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (where he’s got a young punk ass hacker girl helping him). Actually, now that I watch it again, I realize I’m wrong. It’s not a movie, it’s a two hour ad for the Ford Mustang.

THE SPECTACULAR NOW



Yes, enjoy your impulsiveness and popularity now, children, because soon you will have JOBS and STUDENT LOANS and RESPONSIBILITIES and if you try to cling too hard to your youth, you will end up becoming that creepy person who works at Staples, lives in their parents’ basement, and tries to get drunk with high schoolers every night! Bwahahahahahaha!

ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US



No. Just… no. Though I have to say, I did enjoy the graphic of the big red band logo spreading across the world like a hemorrhagic fever.

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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 July 2, 2013

56 up

56 Up

I was first introduced to these documentaries by my Russian professor in college, who showed us the Soviet version of the first film in the series, 7 Up. It’s a pretty simple concept – interview a bunch of 7-year-olds and return every seven years to interview them again so you can capture a stop-motion version of their lives on film. Director Michael Apted started this project in 1964 and as you can see the original kids are 56. Watch the series from the beginning if you haven’t seen them before. It’s fascinating to see where people end up as opposed to where they thought they would be at that age.

Buy 56 Up on DVD.

.

last resort

Last Resort

When I heard that there was going to be a military show about Navy SEALs on a nuclear submarine, I thought: that’s going to be so awesome! Unfortunately when I watched the pilot my only thought was: this is so stupid. The premise of the show is that there’s an extremely convoluted plot afoot in the US government which results in the sub crew getting an order to launch their nukes. They refuse to do it, get attacked by their own people, and retire to a deserted island to bicker amongst themselves. I stopped paying attention after about 10 minutes. No wonder it didn’t get a second season.

Buy Last Resort: the Complete Series on DVD.
.

smart cookies

Smart Cookies

Normally I don’t bother talking about Hallmark Channel movies on this blog because a) there are too many and b) most of them make me want to throw up. But I’m a Girl Guide leader so I wanted to mention this one, which is about a woman who becomes a Girl Scout leader in the United States. It’s got the format of an inspirational sports movie, so she of course sucks when she starts out as a leader but then they bond over selling cookies and then all the little girls love her. So it’s cutesy, but it’s a shout-out to Guiding. You’ll want to watch it if you’re a leader too.

Buy Smart Cookies on DVD.

6 souls

6 Souls/Shelter

I’m going through a phase where I’m reading a lot of psychology, so I thought I’d also mention this one, which has a different title depending on where you live. It stars Julianne Moore as a therapist trying to help Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who’s got six multiple personalities. They all seem to be murder victims, so the only way she can help him is to solve the murders. It’s a pretty creepy movie even though it’s not terribly educational and it’s kind of a ripoff of Identity. It’s definitely worth two hours in front of your TV though.

Buy 6 Souls/Shelter on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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