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DVDs for May 19, 2014

pompeii

Pompeii

Attention everybody: buy this movie. My brother worked on it. No, his name’s not in the credits. He was just filling in. Behind the camera. But buy it anyway. What? You want to know about the movie? It’s actually pretty good. Kit Harrington plays a pouty Celt not unlike Jon Snow who is taken to Pompeii as a gladiator, falls in love with the mayor’s daughter, and tries to get revenge on the guy who killed his family. Oh, and a mountain explodes. Spectacularly. In very expensive CGI. Check out my review for more.

Buy Pompeii on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

right kind of wrong

The Right Kind of Wrong

While you’ve got your credit card out, you should buy this movie too. Because a) it’s Canadian and b) it’s actually fun to watch and not depressing at all. Jason from True Blood plays a failed writer who decides to break up Aunt Jenna from The Vampire Diaries and her douchey husband on account of he saw her kick a football one time. It’s both romantic and comedic and the scenery is nice too. Check out my review for more.

Buy The Right Kind of Wrong on DVD.

vampire academy

Vampire Academy

If you watched Twilight and wished there was a teen vampire movie that was less dumb and stalkery, let me introduce you to Vampire Academy. Our hero is a sarcastic, ass-kicking, hard-partying teenage vampire bodyguard who unravels a conspiracy involving secret superpowers and princess-napping. It’s about as far away from Twilight as you can get without becoming Underworld, and the book is good too. Check it out.

Buy Vampire Academy on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

monuments men

The Monuments Men

If you watched Saving Private Ryan and wished there were more art critics puttering around in crumbly basements looking for old paintings, then Monuments Men is for you. While their work was important and deserves recognition, you’ll probably get more out of the book version. The movie tries to be glib and serious at the same time by melding wisecracking characters with the serious subject of trying to rescue cultures the Nazis tried to wipe out, but the film failed to resonate with people.

Buy Monuments Men on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for May 16, 2014

GODZILLA



I don’t normally get excited for big dumb giant thing movies, but this one looks pretty good. I like how the trailers hold back on the Godzilla reveal to make it clear that it’s a movie with actual characters and story, not just a two hour CGI rampage. There’s a trailer focused on Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character that’s even better than this one, but I can’t find it. Anyway, I wish I could go this weekend but I’m camping with my Girl Guides.

MILLION DOLLAR ARM



Dang, I wanted to see this movie too! Oh well. I’m just glad they didn’t decide to make me miss the opening weekend of X-Men: Days of Future Past. I don’t like baseball but I do like sports movies, I guess because they’re less about sports than they are about relationships and overcoming obstacles to become the best version of yourself. The idea of Jon Hamm becoming a ‘big brother’ to a bunch of Indian cricket players nobody thinks will succeed sucks me right in.

THE IMMIGRANT



Hmm. It looked nice, but I’m not sure I got much from this trailer. I get that Marion Cotillard is an immigrant, her sister’s in quarantine (consumption?) and that Joaquin Phoenix probably takes advantage of her while Jeremy Renner loves her, but why is it so quiet? Also, I get worried when I see reviews quoted that describe the movie as like a ‘dream’ or a ‘delusion.’ Dreams and delusions make no sense, and I can’t abide by nonsensical movies.

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DVDs for May 13, 2014

her

Her

The idea behind this movie is great. A lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) buys the latest technology gimmick (an AI operating system that designs its own personality to suit you) and ends up falling in love with it. The movie explores their relationship as well as its societal implications and just how different a computer-based life form would be from us. Unfortunately, when this great idea was executed, it turned into an awkward, boring film. If you don’t mind that sort of thing, check it out.

Buy Her on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

i frankenstein

I, Frankenstein

Even though it’s terrible, I was actually planning to see this in theaters. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I was thwarted by a broken projector. If you read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and thought: who cares about morality, ethics, science, and the nature of life? Frankenstein’s monster would be way more interesting if he was involved in a giant war between magical ugly things, then this movie is for you. This movie does for classic literature what Legion did for Christian mythology (i.e. made it stupid). Skip it.

Buy I, Frankenstein on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

that awkward moment

That Awkward Moment

This movie is sort of a romantic comedy told from the guys’ perspective – three guys (a womanizer, a nerd, and a married guy) all become single at the same time and decide to make a pact to stay that way – except that all three end up romantically involved with women. It differs from traditional romantic comedies in that it’s got a lot more dick jokes and the characters all act like overgrown frat boys. Some people will find it okay, but most will be put off by the fact that the women could do a lot better than these three.

Buy That Awkward Moment on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

stalingrad

Stalingrad

This is a big-budget Russian film about a vicious urban hellhole of a battle between the Soviets and the Germans in World War II. It looks pretty good, especially for a non-Hollywood movie, and aims for a Band of Brothers feel, with the narrative following a handful of soldiers protecting a local girl. They even give some non-evil screentime to the Germans. Unfortunately, some of the heroism borders on silliness, it doesn’t always make sense, and it glosses over some of the ways Soviet leadership was not awesome to its soldiers. Give it a try though if you liked Enemy at the Gates.

Buy Stalingrad 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 May 2, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2



Spider-Man has never been one of my favorite superheros. Most of the time I feel like angsty teenage Peter Parker and his smarmy alter ego need a good hard smack upside the head. And I really don’t feel like they needed to remake all these movies again as a 3D special effects bonanza just so Sony doesn’t have to give the rights back to Marvel. However, even if I didn’t have a blog to write, I’d still be going to this movie, since my friend is a huge (and I mean HUGE) Spider-man nerd, and the Wolf Pack rolls together, yo.

JOE



While I like the idea of an ex-con rescuing a boy’s family from an abusive dad, this movie doesn’t grab me. Maybe it’s just because I don’t like Nicholas Cage, but I would want a story like that to be more uplifting and less mired in revenge and violence.

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DVDs for April 29, 2014

labor day

Labor Day

Normally I hate movies where the main character is a criminal, but Labor Day broke my rule. Josh Brolin plays a man in prison for murder who escapes and forces a woman (Kate Winslet) and her thirteen-year-old son (Gattlin Griffith) to hide him at their house for the long weekend. The grown-ups fall in love and the kid gets a better father figure than his mom’s remarried ex, so it’s sweet rather than scary. Check it out if you like romantic dramas, or read my review for more.

Buy Labor Day on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

devils due

Devil’s Due

In this low-budget found footage horror movie, Zach Gilford and Allison Miller find themselves in a Rosemary’s Baby meets The Exorcist situation when some cultists kidnap them on their honeymoon and impregnate them (well, her) with a demon baby. Mom’s role in the story is to be creepy, while Dad’s role is to be weirded out and make videotapes of everything. The story’s a bit ridiculous but the acting’s good, so if you’re looking for a new horror movie to watch, try this or read my review for more.

Buy Devil’s Due on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

hercules

Legend of Hercules

There is a Hercules movie starring Dwayne Johnson that’s releasing this summer. This is not that movie. This is a lower (not low) budget version starring Kellan Lutz (best known for being one of the secondary vampires in Twilight). It’s kind of a cross between 300 and Gladiator, with poor misunderstood Hercules getting sold into slavery because he fell in love with the wrong girl. Watch it if you really want to see Kellan Lutz with his shirt off, but if you want to learn the myths, read a book.

Buy Legend of Hercules on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

gimmie shelter

Gimme Shelter

Apparently Vanessa Hudgens is really serious about breaking away from the cutesy good-girl image that’s been following her ever since she starred in High School Musical. First Spring Breakers, now this: a gritty/inspiring drama based on a true story. Hudgens plays a pregnant teen who escapes from her abusive, drug addicted mother, is rejected by her rich absentee father, and finally winds up accepting help from a shelter run by Catholics. If you can stomach the faith aspects, it’s a pretty strong showing.

Buy Gimme Shelter on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for April 25, 2014

THE OTHER WOMAN



There are three of them. Shouldn’t it be called The Other Women? The trailer reminds me a lot of John Tucker Must Die and The First Wives Club, but those were funny movies. I don’t think I would mind watching another movie that was like them. Also, that was Taylor Kinney.

THE QUIET ONES



“If we cure one patient, we cure all mankind.” I’m not sure science works that way, dude. Also, yet another thin justification for found footage. Who went and edited it all together in the scariest possible way after you were all sucked into the sky by the ghost/demon/whatever?

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE



“You being so reclusive and everything is probably only going to make people more interested in your music…” and also, you look like Tom Hiddleston and you rarely wear a shirt. That’ll do it every time. It looks pretty funny, but also reeeeeally slow. I’m not sure I’d have the patience.

BRICK MANSIONS



Ugh, and here I’d been thinking parkour looked cool. Way to ruin it, movie.

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Transcendence Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film Transcendence

I wasn’t eager to see another movie about artificial intelligence, because who in their right mind still expects an audience to be surprised when the thing turns evil? But the only other movies that came to my theater this week were a children’s documentary about bears and another stupid Trailer Park Boys movie.

A scientist transfers his consciousness to a computer as he dies, but some worry that the resulting hyperintelligent AI marks the end of humanity.

I was expecting SkyNet: The Movie, but that wasn’t exactly what I got. Transcendence is more like a giant Outer Limits episode than a Hollywood movie. The story was interesting and a little different than the pantheon of AI movies led me to expect. Unfortunately, it’s also a lot more boring.

Read More

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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 April 15, 2014

mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

If you like snazzy, colorful, Life magazine photos about people’s experiences, this movie is for you. It follows an archivist as he tracks an elusive photographer across the world looking for the missing photo negative he needs for the cover of the magazine’s final print issue. The story will resonate particularly well with people who have boring lives and who frequently daydream about having adventures, like the titular character does. Read my review for more.

Buy The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

nut job

The Nut Job

If you’re not already sick to death of heist movies, here’s another one. It features squirrels trying to steal nuts from a store so they can survive the winter. Sounds cute, right? It would be, if the lead squirrel wasn’t a self-centered, backstabbing jacka** who lost the winter food supply to start with and is only helping get it back because the store is a front for human bank robbers. A much better animated animal-related food-heist movie is Fantastic Mr. Fox. Rent that one for the kids instead.

Buy The Nut Job on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

philomena

Philomena

This is another nice, quirky British comedy-drama. Steve Coogan plays a jaded journalist who helps Judi Dench’s character find the son the Catholic Church forced her to give up many years ago. Philomena herself is a real person, as is her son, and though they do take a few liberties in the name of story structure, it’s mostly accurate. It’s also an indictment on church adoption policy and a heartwarming buddy/road trip movie, without all the cliches you usually expect (oh no, the car rolled into a pond, etc.) Check it out.

Buy Philomena on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

ride along

Ride Along

Speaking of comedies that are loaded with cliches, here’s Ride Along. A wimpy, video-game obsessed security guard (Kevin Hart) accompanies his fiance’s cop brother (Ice Cube) to work in order to prove himself. The only thing he really proves is that he can get increasingly squeaky and hysterical in response to danger, which I guess is supposed to be funny. Rent it if you must, but the poor dialogue and the lack of original situations for the duo to face will make you wish you’d rented any other buddy cop movie ever made.

Buy Ride Along on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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