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Trailer Reviews for April 11, 2014

RIO 2



Giant meh. The first Rio was pretty good, but I don’t remember it fondly enough that the thought of a sequel makes me excited. Jesse Eisenberg’s nervous parrot is a little annoying, I don’t like the dog… or the singing… none of the jokes in the trailer made me laugh and one of them (the super bicep parrot) seems like it’s ripped off The Fairly Oddparents. The only thing I really like is the evil cockatoo, and I don’t think I want to see a whole 3D movie just for that.

DRAFT DAY



Moneyball with football? Most of this seems like it takes place in an office… or on the phone. It doesn’t seem very exciting, but they managed to pull it off in Jerry Maguire. Even if it doesn’t get very tense, I’d rather watch this than another Rio movie.

OCULUS



Sadly, this movie has nothing to do with the Oculus virtual reality headset (that would have been a cool horror movie, eh?) I dunno about this. The trailer tells us nothing of the story. Something weird happens with a mirror that may or may not involve souls being taken, depending on whether the poet who wrote the voiceover was being metaphorical or not. I like horror, but the fake blood in the mirror looks cheesy, and the mirror thing has been done before, so I’m going to stick with Draft Day this week.

DOM HEMINGWAY



“Jude Law as you’ve never seen him before!” says the trailer. “Yes, with a different accent,” says I. The character and the accent seem funny but the whole ‘screwup tries to make up with his family’ thing isn’t drawing me in. Maybe because I’ve seen it too many times before. Or maybe I just don’t like screwups.

THAT BURNING FEELING



Okay, so, what is the plot of this movie? That scruffy guy has to tell all the people he slept with that he may have given them an STD? Or is he trying to get somebody to date him while he has an STD? Or both? I didn’t get much from that trailer other than that the characters are quirky enough to attract ‘name’ actors who are not quite famous. It’s still funnier than I expected, so it’s possible I may rent it later on.

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DVDs for April 1, 2014

47 ronin

47 Ronin

Based on a true story (sort of), 47 Ronin features a group of samurai who attack a rival faction to get revenge for the death of their master. The difference between this movie and the other 47 million films about Japanese martial arts is that this one is American, stars Keanu Reeves, and is mostly a vehicle for CGI. Paradoxically, this Japanese story will best be enjoyed by people who are not fans of Japanese cinema because it seems so inferior by comparison. However, if you just want to watch some hackey slashy and cool special effects, you might actually enjoy it.

Buy 47 Ronin on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

anchorman 2

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Will Ferrell’s iconic newsman and his entourage emerge from the 1970s and attempt to join the 80s by taking over a 24 hour news channel. Like Anchorman, you’ll either love this movie or hate it. Unfortunately the litmus tests seems to be attempting to watch one of the films. Haters (like me) rarely make it to the end. Some clues that you might not like this movie include: disliking other Will Ferrell movies, being offended by sexist/racist/anythingist jokes, and squirming with agony when characters embarrass themselves. Watch at your own risk.

Buy Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

pirate fairy

The Pirate Fairy

In this straight-to-DVD movie, Disney makes yet another feeble attempt to bring its Princess properties into the 21st century… by slapping a 19th century bar wench outfit on a fairy and setting her up as a misunderstood Tinkerbell villain. She apparently stole some pixie dust and Tinkerbell’s crew has to rescue it whilst attempting to sort out their switched-around powers. It’s a Tinkerbell movie so a lot of little girls will like it, but it mostly leaves me wondering who switched Disney’s brains around with bags of rocks.

Buy The Pirate Fairy on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

knights of badassdom

Knights of Badassdom

Knights of Badassdom is a goofy horror comedy about a group of scewups who accidentally summon a succubus while at a live action roleplaying convention (sort of like a pretend medieval camping trip/battle re-enactment). It’s better than Your Highness, mostly because it stars Peter Dinklage and Ryan Kwanten instead of Danny McBride, but it’s still pretty dumb. You might like it if you’re a fan of that Supernatural episode where Sam and Dean infiltrate a LARP convention as part of a case.

Buy Knights of Badassdom on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Muppets Most Wanted Review

poster from the Walt Disney Pictures film Muppets Most Wanted

The offerings this week consisted of Noah (too ridiculous) and Bad Words (too angry) so I decided to turn back the clock to last week and see Muppets Most Wanted. I’ve never been a big fan of Kermit, Miss Piggy, or any of the ‘big’ Muppets but I do love backgrounders like Beaker, Robin, and Statler and Waldorf. Plus the last movie was really funny.

After taking Kermit’s place, international criminal Constantine and the Muppets’ manager Dominic Badguy use their world tour as a cover for stealing priceless artifacts.

I’m always worried that a movie with a hilarious trailer will be disappointing because it used up all its good jokes already. Luckily, that didn’t happen here. Though I did occasionally wish for less Muppets and more supporting cast, it turned out to be as funny as the last one.

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Random Friday Book Review: Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere

I’ve been getting a lot of free books from Goodreads lately. They’ll keep giving them to me as long as I keep reviewing them on the site. Just in case you guys like books, too, I’ll also post them here. We’ll start on a high note with Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere, an awesome middle grade disaster book by Julie T. Lamana, which set during ‘my’ hurricane. It’s releasing in April from Chronicle Books.

upside down in the middle of nowhere cover
————————————————————————-
New Orleans native Armani Curtis looks forward to more responsibility as she turns ten. Unfortunately, she has to shoulder more than she bargained for when a hurricane rips her family apart.
————————————————————————-

I blew through the whole book in a day. I love that the children come from a variety of home types (nuclear family, single-parent, foster care) and that it doesn’t seem contrived when they have to shoulder a lot of responsibility. Each piece of the story falls neatly into place like a jigsaw puzzle. Even things that seem like set decoration at first turn out to be important later.

I work with elementary aged kids, and the young characters in this book are dead on. I can just picture precocious, know-it-all Armani Curtis standing in front of me giving me attitude. Debut author Julie T. Lamana writes Armani’s accent into the narration, so I could hear Armani ‘speaking’ in my head as I read. Writing accents is a balancing act. Tweak the grammar too little and the reader forgets the main character has an accent. Tweak it too much and the reader has difficulty following the story. This book is an example of how it should be done.

Writing a disaster book for middle graders is not easy. Any ten-year-old caught in a disaster like Hurricane Katrina would almost certainly be traumatized. The trick lies in conveying the depth of the character’s suffering without also traumatizing the reader. Lamana pulls this off masterfully. She describes the awful sights, sounds, and smells of a disaster zone without wallowing in the kind of grit and horror that would make the novel inappropriate for young readers.

My only criticisms are minor. I think young readers would benefit from a map at the beginning of the book showing New Orleans and the location of important places in the story (the Lower Ninth Ward, the Superdome, etc.) as well as the parts of the city that are below sea level and made habitable only by the levees that hold back the water. I would also have liked to see an epilogue containing some kid-friendly facts and nonfiction reading suggestions related to the hurricane, such as how much of the city was destroyed, the number of people killed or made homeless, and what happened to them afterward.

I shall now adopt the hurricane rating system for all my book reviews. This one wins highest honors:
category 5

This review has been brought to you by:
hurricane me

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DVDs for March 25, 2014

Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street

This movie, which could also be called Douchebags Spend Your Retirement Savings is the latest in a long line of Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio teamups. It tells the true story of a Wall Street stockbroker named Jordan Belfort, who made a buttload of sketchy money and was subsequently tackled by the FBI’s white collar crime division. If you have a heart condition and a burning hatred of fatcat fraudsters, watching this movie will probably kill you.

Buy The Wolf of Wall Street on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

delivery man

Delivery Man

This movie is an Englishization of a Quebec movie called Starbuck. Vince Vaughn plays a screwup who discovers that his sperm bank donations have resulted in the birth of over 500 kids, all of whom want to meet their ‘dad.’ He’s not sure he wants to meet them, so he insinuates himself into their lives without telling them who he is. I’ve never found Vince Vaughn characters as ‘lovable’ as advertised, but you should see this movie just to watch Chris Pratt keep a straight face while being slapped by a toddler.

Buy Delivery Man on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

walking with dinos

Walking with Dinosaurs

This movie was mostly a 3D vehicle made to bring in kids who wanted to see CGI dinosaurs roaming around. While a lot of work was put into the effects, almost none was put into the story. A kid on an archeology trip gets a lecture that turns into a movie about a clumsy little dinosaur whose dinosaur tribe is migrating through a valley full of predators. Bad dialogue, thin plot, and heavy handed lecturing make this a big flop for all but the littlest and least discerning children. Just put on The Land Before Time instead.

Buy Walking with Dinosaurs on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

scooby wrestling

Scooby Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery

Otherwise known as the movie that ruins Scooby Doo. He and the gang travel to a Wrestlemania event (blergh) which is threatened by a ghost bear thing (what??) so the Scooby gang has to solve the mystery before the event can continue. And a bunch of “wrestlers” (sarcastic air quotes) have cartoon cameos. As you can probably guess, I hated big fake wrestling even as a kid (when they were still insisting it was real) but if you or your kids are fans you might like this movie better.

Buy Scooby Doo Wrestlemania Mystery on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for March 18, 2014

frozen

Frozen

Frozen is the big-deal cartoon cartoon of the year (it just won an Oscar) but to me, this confused story about a princess trying to get another princess to unfreeze their land is just Disney’s first, fumbling attempt to bring their damsel-in-distress musical model into the 21st Century. The reindeer is cute and the twists on convention are amusing but the songs all sound the same and the plot meanders all over the place. Check out my full review for more.

Buy Frozen on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

saving mr banks

Saving Mr. Banks

If you’ve ever wanted to see a Disney movie about how they get the rights to make movies, this is for you. It follows the (sort of) true story of author Pamela Travers and her twenty year fight with Walt Disney over the rights to her book Mary Poppins. Travers is portrayed as unpleasant and Disney as a giant man-child and their battle is less interesting than the flashbacks to Travers’ childhood in Australia. It’s not strictly true to life but it does make a compelling movie. Read my review for more.

Buy Saving Mr. Banks on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

american hustle

American Hustle

This movie won a bunch of Golden Globes but no Oscars (as is usually the way with Golden Globes and Oscars) and is almost as popular as David O. Russell’s last movie, Silver Linings Playlist. It didn’t appeal to me, but if you like crime dramas where everyone’s in over their head and nobody’s quite sure who’s going to be conned by who when, then you might. It follows a pair of con artists (Christian Bale, Amy Adams) and an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) who worm their way into mafia circles in New Jersey.

Buy American Hustle on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

mandela

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

This film, which is based on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, is a school history style overview of Mandela’s life, starting with his childhood. It chronicles his opposition to South Africa’s racist Apartheid policy, the time he spent in jail, and his decision to pursue a peaceful resolution. It ends with him becoming president. Since this movie is more about ideology and personal struggle than chronicling the violence of the time, it’s not too gritty to show to young people. With a PG-13 rating, it’s appropriate for classes of junior high schoolers and above.

Buy Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for March 11, 2014

book thief

The Book Thief

A lot of people have flipped their lids over this movie and the book it’s based on. It’s a Nazi era story narrated by Death which follows an illiterate girl who steals books and shares them with the Jew her foster parents are hiding in the basement. As a ‘kid in the Nazi era/Holocaust’ movie, it’s decent. I’ve definitely seen better (Life is Beautiful, Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Devil’s Arithmetic, etc.) But as a film adaptation it can’t help but be miles better than the source material, given how sparse and confusing the writing was.

Buy The Book Thief on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

out of the furnace

Out of the Furnace

As I mentioned during my trailer review, Out of the Furnace can best be described as Winter’s Bone starring Christian Bale in the Jennifer Lawrence role. A desperate person (Bale) ventures into rural crime gang territory looking for a missing family member (in this case, a brother). It necessarily takes more of a turn into revenge thriller territory though, because we don’t have the dramatic angle of the searcher being a young dependent about to be turned out on her ear. There’s nothing new or particularly enthralling here.

Buy Out of the Furnace on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

homefront

Homefront

If you’re looking for a crime thriller with more shooting in it, skip Out of the Furnace and rent Homefront. It’s a paint-by-numbers action film starring Jason Statham as a burned out DEA agent who retires to a small town with his daughter to recover from an incident involving a tragic death. But guess what? Drug dealers in this small town want to cause another tragic death (of his daughter this time) over a bullying incident at school (yes really). Commence shotguns, explosions, and hero redemption.

Buy Homefront on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

inside llewyn davis

Inside Llewyn Davis

I like Garrett Hedlund, but if he keeps choosing bit parts in meandering period films about the messed up lifestyles of struggling artists, I’m going to have to jump ship to save my sanity. It’s not that the acting is bad. The movie is full of famous people looking to expand their range as actors. The problem is that they’re playing characters I can’t care about who wander through a story where nothing seems to be connected to anything else. If you like glacier-paced, introspective indie dramas, this will appeal to you. As you can probably tell, it didn’t appeal to me.

Buy Inside Llewyn Davis on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Mr. Peabody and Sherman Review

poster from the Dreamworks Pictures film Mr. Peabody and Sherman

No way was I paying $14 to be bored to sleep by Slow Motion Swordfight 2: Now With More Beards and Instagram Filters, so my choice this week was cartoons. I only vaguely remembered Mr. Peabody from when I was little, so I could watch the reboot without all those pesky predetermined notions you usually have with a remake.

A hyperintelligent dog tries to keep his adoptive son out of trouble after he messes up the past trying to impress a girl from school.

My major concern was that I would be annoyed by the inevitable historical and scientific inaccuracies, but the movie is so hilarious that I ended up not caring about any of that. It also has some interesting things to say about adoption if you’re paying attention, so it’s both cute and funny. Take the kids. You’ll both like it.

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Trailer Reviews for February 21, 2014

POMPEII



I’ve been looking out for this movie ever since my brother told me about how he filled in for one of their sound guys. Of course I’ll go see it, but I’m not sure I would have been so eager if it weren’t for the brother factor. It’s like Gladiator crossed with Dante’s Peak – both are movies I like, but I probably wouldn’t put them together. I worry this movie is just an excuse to spend a billion dollars on 3D volcano eruptions.

THE WIND RISES



I’m not a fan of Japanese animation, with its punches that last a year and the flashing backgrounds that threaten to give me seizures. One of my cousins insisted I would like Miyazaki’s films anyway, but I didn’t believe him. Eventually I got around to watching Howl’s Moving Castle and had to admit that my cousin was right. I’ll see this one too, even though the trailer spends too much time praising the director to convey much of the plot. All I got out of it is ‘Harry Potter likes airplanes.’

3 DAYS TO KILL



When I saw the name of this film, I assumed it would star Jason Statham. Imagine my surprise when I saw Kevin Costner on the screen. Kevin Costner? When did he decide he was going to be an old-guy action hero like Liam Neeson? First Shadow Recruit, now this. This movie looks every bit as dumb as a Statham or Neeson flick, so I guess he’s doing it right. The goofy pesudo-medical ticking clock from Cranked combined with the teenage daughter drama of Taken. “Hang on, sweetie. Daddy just has to go punch the spare tire for a second.” No thanks.

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The LEGO Movie Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film The LEGO Movie

I was a LEGO kid. I had almost all the Ice Planet sets, a fair bit of Magnetron, and a Space Police cruiser. In fact, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have a couple of LEGO kits on the shelves in my office and half a dozen LEGO themed video games in my living room. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there was no chance of me skipping The LEGO Movie, even considering the generic storyline.

An ordinary construction worker discovers he is ‘the special’ and must save LEGO City from being destroyed by the evil Lord Business.

I watched the movie in a posse of unaccompanied adults, and I think we were laughing even harder than the kids. The story is generic, yes, and a little bit on the eye-rolling side of inspirational, but it’s the funniest movie I’ve seen since Easy A. Since most parents are young enough to be nostalgic about LEGO, it really is fun for the whole family.

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