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Book of Life Review

poster from the 20th Century Fox film Book of Life

Fury, The Best of Me, and Book of Life came out this week. I’m tired of World War II movies about Heroic Americans in general and Brad Pitt specifically. Nicholas Sparks movies tend to make me want to punch his lights out. Book of Life is a cute cartoon about dead things created by Jorge R. Gutierrez, a Guillermo del Toro student. No brainer.

Two best friends, a soldier and a musician, compete for the hand of the same girl while the king and queen of the dead wager on the outcome.

In most respects, Book of Life is pretty good. It’s pretty original. The story is pretty tight. Characters are pretty likeable. It’s got a pretty cute side kick. The message to kids is pretty relevant. Where it really shines is in the visuals. Every inch of the screen is filled with something bright and intricate, which will either give you a headache or make you want to buy it as poster art.

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The Box Trolls Review

poster from the Laika Entertainment film The Box Trolls

There’s just something about stop-motion animation. Maybe it’s the enormous amount of work that goes into it. More likely it’s the incredible amount of detail you end up with when you’re filling your screen with real objects rather than pixels. Whatever it is, I couldn’t resist The Box Trolls, which was adapted from an Alan Snow book I have not read by the people who did Paranorman.

A boy raised underground by box trolls joins forces with a neglected girl to rescue the harmless creatures from the town exterminator.

Box Trolls is ghoulishly cute like Paranorman. It also has that underlying theme of ‘just because we’re different doesn’t mean we can’t get along.’ It’s not as funny or as scary (or as good) as Paranorman, but there’s so much detail in the sets and characters that you might not even notice.

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Lucy Review

poster from the Universal Pictures Film Lucy

My theater got zero movies that I wanted to see this week. I contemplated staying home and reviewing a much more promising looking DVD, but my friends were in town. So I let them pick the movie (well, to be fair, the decision was made on the basis of start time rather than content). Anyway, they picked Lucy, the movie I thrashed in my trailer reviews.


A coerced drug mule goes after the Triad who kidnapped her when a drug bag leaks and gives her superpowers.

Sometimes there’s a small possibility that I might like a movie I didn’t like as a trailer. This is usually because the trailer failed to get at the essence of the story. But with Lucy this was not possible. With Lucy, the premise is the problem. It’s just another revenge movie, but based on the fallacy that we only use 10% of our brains.

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Game of Dopes: Me Reading ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’

Ned Stark from Game of Thrones is a little dumb

I just finished reading A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (that’s Game of Thrones series to you, if you only watch the TV show). Instead of reviewing it, I thought I’d give you a look at what’s going on inside my head as I read these things.

CHARACTER #1: I have a daring plan! It will bring me honor and/or glory!
ME: It’s a dumb plan. It will bring you death.
CHARACTER #1: Nonsense! I’m sure it’ll be fine.
ME: Yeah, that’s what the last guy said.
DEATH: Just so you know, I’m coming to kill you in 3…
CHARACTER #1: Who said that? Must be the wind…
DEATH: 2…
CHARACTER #1: Silence, craven wind-speaker!
DEATH: 1…
CHARACTER #1: Onward! For honor/glory!
*SliceBleedChompBurnSplatFail*
ME and DEATH: I fucking TOLD you.
CHARACTER #1: Oh, oh, I’m dying! Woe! Woe! I totally did not see this coming.
ME: I refuse to feel sorry for you. You’re obviously too dumb to live.
CHARACTER #1: Oh fine then.
*Dies*
CHARACTER #2: Wasn’t that dramatic? Are you moved?
ME: Try annoyed. I’m gonna go read a different book.
CHARACTER #2: Wait! Don’t you want to know what happens to me?
CHARACTER #3: Or me?
ME: Are you as thick as the other guy?
CHARACTER #2: Umm….
CHARACTER #3: Err…
ME: That’s what I thought.
*Leaves*
CHARACTER #2: Wait!
CHARACTER #3: Take us with you!
CHARACTER #2: Poop. I hate it when I don’t get everything I want.
CHARACTER #3: Oh but we CAN have what we want.
CHARACTER #2: How?
CHARACTER #3: I have a plan!
CHARACTER #2: Is it daring?
CHARACTER #3: Without a doubt.
CHARACTER #2: Will it bring us honor and/or glory?
CHARACTER #3: By the bucket! …if it works.
CHARACTER #2: Is this plan ill-conceived?
CHARACTER #3: Possibly. But I’m sure it’ll be fine.
CHARACTER #2: LET’S DO IT.

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DVDs for June 24, 2014

winters tale

Winter’s Tale

I’d have waited until February to release this. Nobody wants to be reminded of winter in the summer, plus it’s the kind of epic love story that people always buy for each other for Valentine’s Day. Oh well. The movie itself is soppy but watchable. It’s part historical fiction set in early 1900s New York and part angels vs demons magical fairy tale/love story. Colin Farrell plays a thief with a magical horse who falls in love with a dying woman then wakes up in the present day to help some little girl with cancer. Read my review for more.

Buy Winter’s Tale on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

300 2

300: Rise of an Empire

If you thought a movie where everybody dies couldn’t possibly have a sequel, you haven’t seen Hamlet 2… or tried to get between a studio and a giant pile of money. Rise of an Empire is basically the same as 300, in that bare chests and slow motion droplets are the stars of the movie and the story consists of some Greeks planting themselves between an army of insane monsters and their homeland. If you like action, this is the movie for you. If you like character, content, or story, pick something else. Literally anything else.

Buy 300: Rise of an Empire on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

enemy

Enemy

In this drama/thiller, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a boring college professor who goes to a show and meets an actor who’s basically a more exciting version of himself (existentially and literally) and ends up stalking the guy/going crazy (as you do). Actors love to stretch their wings by playing two roles in the same movie, but if you want to watch a movie like that, pick Moon instead of this one. It’s less boring (read: not boring), stars Sam Rockwell, and it has an actual story, whereas this one is more of a metaphor.

Buy Enemy on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

blood ties

Blood Ties

At this point, they could release a movie about two brothers/friends on opposite sides of the law and have it be the greatest movie in the history of movies and I would still refuse to see it because these ‘oh noes, do we choose principle or family?’ stories are a dime a dozen. This one stars Clive Owen as the criminal brother and Billy Crudup as the cop brother and it’s the 70s. That’s the only thing that sets it apart from We Own the Night, Mission Park, Line of Duty, Ganga and Yamuna, etc. etc. etc. Randomly select one from the list, or just skip them all and watch something more upbeat.

Buy Blood Ties on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review

poster from the Dreamworks Pictures film How to Train Your Dragon 2

The only new movie we got at my theater this week was Jersey Boys, and since I couldn’t sit through two hours of Frankie Valley’s horrible voice without driving nails into my ears, I went to How to Train Your Dragon 2. I loved the first one, but didn’t feel it needed a sequel, so I had no idea whether I would be impressed or not.


20-year-old Hiccup clashes with his father over whether it would be better to reason with or hide from the villain who plans to attack their village with a dragon army.

In some respects, I was right. How to Train Your Dragon 2 was not necessary, but it was enjoyable. Like most sequels, Dreamworks made it because there was more money in the franchise, but there are a few new elements to keep the story from getting too stale and the dragons are (of course) still cute.

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Trailer Reviews for June 13, 2014

22 JUMP STREET



21 Jump Street was a comedy I worried would be too dumb for me, but it turned out to be both hilarious and smart. Major points went to it for making fun of the fact that it was a remake. This trailer shows the same level of self awareness. It also made me smile, though the red band trailer is funnier.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2



I loved the first How to Train Your Dragon. It was pretty much a perfect movie. But I felt like when it was over, it was done. It didn’t need a sequel. Any attempt to lengthen the story with another movie would just seem tacked-on. And this trailer hasn’t convinced me otherwise. But Dreamworks has money to make, so I guess we’ll be seeing these for a while until eventually they end up straight-to-video like Land Before Time 27.

THE DOUBLE



Wasn’t there just a movie about two Jake Gyllenhaals? Is this a trend now, that actors don’t feel challenged unless they’re playing against themselves? I’m not a fan of even one Jesse Eisenberg and this movie looks boring and weird. Weird in a way that’s meant to be funny but fails to elicit more than an awkward ‘heh’ from me. I’m skipping it.

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Trailer Reviews for May 30, 2014

MALEFICENT



I’m confused by all of the trailers I’ve seen for this movie. Is Maleficent the main character or the villain or both? She seems pretty evil, but then again so does Sleeping Beauty’s dad. And what is Maleficent trying to accomplish in this story? Is she trying to get her wings back? Looking for revenge against Sleeping Beauty’s dad? Both? Neither? I can’t say I’m inclined to see the movie to find out.

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST



I’m not a fan of Ted (though I did like the idea), and I though used to watch Family Guy back in the day, I wouldn’t say my sense of humor completely lines up with Seth MacFarlane’s. His jokes are a little cruder than the stuff that typically makes me laugh. Having said that, people dying in unorthodox ways is HILARIOUS. I don’t really understand why his character is back in the old west talking like a tour guide, but the trailer made me laugh enough that I’d pay money to find out.

THE GRAND SEDUCTION



Northern Exposure by way of Newfoundland. Nice! As funny as A Million Ways to Die in the West looks, I have to see this one this week. Not only is it a Canadian movie, it’s a Canadian movie that looks funny and upbeat and is coming to my town on opening week. I can’t pass up an opportunity like that, not if I ever want the ‘good’ Canadian films to come my way in a timely manner again.

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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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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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