Studios seem to be competing with one another to create more and more visually stunning movies to play in 3D. A lot of them forget to have a decent story to go with all the special effects, but Oz the Great and Powerful does pretty well. It’s a prequel to the Dorothy story which focuses on Oz the stage magician and how he ousted some evil witches to become the ruler of the Land of Oz. It’s a great movie to watch with kids (unless they’re little and/or easily scared) but it can be a bit of a struggle to like Oz himself. Check out my full review for more.
Updated versions of fairy tales are all the rage, but most of them, like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters are pretty bad. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton star as the fabled brother and sister, who become witch hunters after their encounter at the candy house. They’re both shallow and insufferable, the action is way too gory to make the movie acceptable for kids, and the writers seems to think anachronisms = steampunk. Check out my my full review for more on why even the Renner Factor can’t save this movie.
If this movie is to be believed, it is perfectly possible and even downright acceptable for the relatives of accused criminals to offer themselves up as sacrificial lambs in order to free their loved ones from jail. Dwayne Johnson, here masquerading as an ‘ordinary dad’ goes undercover for the government in exchange for the DA dropping the charges against his wrongly accused son. If you can get past that bit of ridiculous logic and the fact that an ‘ordinary dad’ can hold his own against the combined forces of the government and every drug dealer in the world, you might actually like Snitch.
I love the Lego video games and I’m chomping at the bit to get a copy of Lego Batman 2. Seeing your favorite superheroes as Lego minifigures who get blasted apart and put back together as often as the scenery is hilarious for both kids and adults. This movie, which is based on the game, features Lex Luthor and the Joker banding together to destroy Gotham against the combined forces of the Justice League, is great for parents to watch with kids because there’s a lot of clever little satirical bits, just like in the video games. It will make you nostalgic for the old Batman cartoons.
The premise for this movie is dumb: zombies cured by the power of love. Twilight with zombies. I almost didn’t see it, but I’m glad I did, because it’s actually a very smart satire on teen paranormal romances and on the whole zombie movie genre. It’s funny, cute, has some action, makes sense in its own context (always a bonus) and it even has a new interpretation of the brain eating thing: that they do it to see people’s memories rather than gain nutrients. Rent it or check out my full review for more, because this one’s worth your time.
Speaking of movies that are worth your time, this one isn’t unless you’re looking for a big dumb explosionfest. Bruce Willis plays an aging loose cannon cop who travels to Russia to bail out his son, whom he thinks is a screwup but is actually in the middle of a carefully planned CIA op that would have been impressive if the movie had been set in 1985. Bruce Willis’ arrival messes everything up and he has to spend the rest of the movie being chased by tanks and falling off buildings and ‘bonding’ with the son who hates him. Check out my my full review for more on why this movie annoys me.
Identity Thief has an interesting premise: a mild mannered office worker finds out that a female scam artist has stolen his identity. Almost immediately, though, it starts to get stupid. Instead of letting the police and credit companies handle it, he travels to Florida to reason with her and ends up in a series of increasingly ridiculous disasters, including the ever popular ‘accidental destruction of rental car.’ Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy are both underused in this movie, as the writing is formulaic at best. Don’t rent this movie unless you’re really REALLY bored.
Movies like Escape from Planet Earth prove that great visuals still cannot make up for terrible writing. The story follows a blue alien who goes on a mission to a dangerous planet (Earth) but gets captured and has to rely on his dorky brother to rescue him. Like Planet 51, Escape from Planet Earth misses a great opportunity to create a really interesting, unique, and funny alien culture and instead just carbon copies American culture with a few nominal tweaks (for example, it’s BASA instead of NASA). Don’t reward their laziness by paying to rent this movie.
Dark Skies has a pretty standard premise. There’s a nice normal family: mom, dad, two kids. Then one of the kids starts acting weird (in this case, stacking things on other things). One of the parents (the mom) thinks it’s something supernatural (aliens) but the other (the dad) insists that’s not possible, until something too crazy to deny happens and suddenly it’s all about not being killed. The formula works well, which is why it’s so common, but with Dark Skies things are a bit too boring for a horror film. It’s more of a slow building thriller, so just keep that in mind if you’re renting it.
Straight to DVD movies usually have stupid premises or are knockoffs of other movies, but The Numbers Station is different. It’s an action thriller about a black ops agent and a civilian cryptographer who operate a secret radio station that sends instructions to agents via number codes. After bad guys break in, they have to crack a code in order to stop their agents from carrying out bogus terrorist missions. It’s pretty cool, but I’d have picked someone other than John Cusack to star opposite Malin Ackerman. IMDB says it was originally supposed to be Ethan Hawke. That would have been better.
I was all set to say that there was nothing else worth taking about when: HOMG BEETLEJUICE! Beetlejuice is a cartoon that’s loosely based on the Tim Burton movie about a crazy ghost from the Netherworld who hangs out with a morbid little girl in the real world named Lydia. Altogether there are about 90 half hour episodes. The show is fantastic (better than the movie, I think). I’d buy the DVDs in a heartbeat but at $70 (on sale – regular $90!) with no special features, this set is a bit steep. You might want to wait a while to see if the price comes down.
I won’t deny that I laughed at the first Hangover movie, but by the second one a pattern was starting to emerge. A pattern where they attempted to recapture their success by remaking the first movie with a few tweaks in terms of who’s missing and where. Kind of like the theory behind Final Destination sequels. Both featured the same set of guys waking up after a party with no memory, some sort of exotic animal, Ed Helms with a body modification he doesn’t remember, etc etc. Strangely though, there don’t seem to be any hangovers in The Hangover Part III. It looks like more of a comedic version of Taken. Maybe it’s a real sequel instead of a remake!
This looks like a cross between Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and Honey I Shrunk the Kid, but not in an interesting way. In kind of a boring way. I mean, ‘leaf men’? What kind of a lame name is that? And why are they all the warriors white dudes? Is that the most interesting thing that the writers could come up with? Generic white dude forest defenders? Actually, Generic White Dude Forest Defenders would have been a better title – Epic is really bland too. I can see some of the Ice Age influence in there though. The part where the bird pecks her in the butt and the part where the fly ages in front of their eyes are really funny. Just not funny enough that I’d even consider handing over like $15 to see it in 3D.
FAST AND FURIOUS 6
Oh how I hate these movies. They’re nothing but a bunch of meatheads crashing around in those regular cars that douchebags soup up with purple lights and nitrous oxide. The plots never make sense, the characters are so shallow they would disappear if you turned them sideways, and there’s never more than a token nod in the direction of the laws of physics, even outside of the action scenes. I’ve put up with a lot from terrible action movies before because they had hot dudes in them, but Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and Dwayne Johnson are so not my cup of tea. I like my hot dudes to have actual personalities and necks that can be distinguished from their heads. At least with my father and brothers living in other cities, there’s no one to weasel me into watching this latest epic fiasco.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Quentin Tarantino tackles slavery in his usual style: with lots of violence, blood, and a certain hysterical detachment from reality. Jamie Foxx plays a slave (Django) who escapes with the help of a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz playing the same character he always plays) and together they go after Leonardo DiCaprio, the horrible slave owner who has Django’s wife under his thumb. Enough Tarantino fans had a nerdgasm over it to get it high ratings online, but a lot of people will be turned off by the endless, glorified violence and the fact that most of it makes no sense.
This 3D animated film produced in France borrows a lot stylistically from the Aardman films, specifically the Aardman film Pirates! Band of Misfits – right down to the monkey assistant who speaks through cue cards. Story-wise it’s a cross between The Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast. It follows a pair of oddballs who discover a giant singing flea and his human partner when they go hunting the streets of Paris for the ‘monster’ that’s been ‘terrorizing’ it. It’s pretty decent (for both kids and adults) but nothing special.
If you enjoy spy movies like Skyfall and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, then this is not the movie for you. It’s more along the lines of a ‘realistic’ spy story a la John LeCarre wherein nothing much really happens until someone gets killed, and even then it doesn’t feel like anything’s happened. David Tennant (of Doctor Who fame) plays a French Embassy worker who falls for a Polish woman on the eve of World War II. Running time is about 5 hours (it’s really a mini-series) but it will feel like about 5 years to people who like their spy movies to have actual tension and/or action.
In a nod to the fact that next Monday is Earth Day, Disneynature is releasing a documentary about the pollinators – the butterflies, bees, bats, and hummingbirds who fly around landing on flowers and plants, spreading the pollen around so that they reproduce. As always, the cinematography is incredible – sometimes achieving Planet Earth levels of awesome when they’re showing hummingbirds in slow motion close up. But since it’s for kids, it’s short (77 minutes) and quite superficial on an informational level, so if you have any training in science you probably won’t learn anything new.
I had no idea this show had managed to stick around past the first season. I watched a few episodes years ago with my grandmother and I remember thinking that it was at least as dorky as Doctor Who. In the show, Merlin is young and just coming into his powers. He starts out as adviser to King Arthur’s dad, but by season 5 Arthur himself has taken over and for 13 episodes they’re roaming over the countryside having magical adventures. The only thing missing is the Tardis. It’s too campy for me, but it might be good for kids and the easily offended.
It used to be that all the actors were clamoring to play mentally challenged people as a sure-fire way to get an Oscar nomination. Now they’re all competing for roles where they get to impersonate a historical figure. Come close enough and you might get a nod! This time it’s Bill Murray taking his turn as FDR in a historical drama set during the King and Queen of England’s visit in 1939. His affair with Laura Linney’s character provides part of the story and the other part comes from Roosevelt getting King Bertie and his wife to loosen up a little. It’s no King’s Speech, but it’s not bad.
You know you’re dealing with a crappy straight-to-DVD movie when the principal cast consists of not one but FIVE washed up television stars and the title sounds like a film school student’s description of a cliched stock character. The story is Scott Pilgrim vs the World-ish, with a bunch of ex-lovers showing up like dumb sheep to be manipulated by Katie Sackhoff’s character (the aforementioned sexy evil genius) who has already murdered one of her exes. It’s 85 minutes of overacting, illogic, and William Baldwin trying to be Alec Baldwin. You probably want to skip this one.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, it’s a lean week for DVDs, so let’s look at another terrible knockoff with an on-the-nose title. Bad Kids Go to Hell is probably best described as ‘the Breakfast Club gets horribly murdered, har de har har.’ It even stars (and I use that word loosely) Judd Nelson as the headmaster who’s trying to be David Cross in She’s the Man. The ‘kids’ all look to be around 38 years old and are so unlikeable you’ll be hoping for the killer. It’s billed as a dark comedy but the only really funny thing about it is how bad the acting is. Skip it!
Yes, I know the original Evil Dead from the 80s is a sort of accidental cult classic, and no, I don’t care that they’ve rebooted it and replaced Bruce Campbell with a girl no one’s ever heard of. I’m going to judge this movie on its own merits. I kind of have to, since it’s the only new movie coming out this week and I haven’t seen the original (yes I’m a deprived child yadda yadda). The trailer’s a pretty good one as far as horror movies go – they give you the basics (there’s a book – don’t read it) and then just bombard you with scary scenes for two minutes so you don’t have enough information to guess the end or even who’s going to die. When I see this, I’ll be totally surprised by everything that happens, which is how I like it.
JURASSIC PARK 3D
Like I said, there’s nothing else NEW coming out this week. But if I wasn’t seeing a movie for the purposes of reviewing it… yeah, I might pay $14.50 to see Jurassic Park again in 3D. I don’t really care about the 3D part – Jurassic Park was freaking awesome on the big screen the first time around, largely because of the sound – all the dinosaur roars played loud enough to make your lungs rattle. It’s amazing how well the special effects have held up, too, even in the current ‘we can make anything from CGI’ era. Anyway, I won’t be going, but at least I won’t yell at them for releasing it – or you for handing over more money.
When I first read the name of this movie in the Coming Soon lists I thought it might be another Greek mythology movie, but I think this might actually be worse than The Titans Do Something Angrily Part 3. They had me interested in Gerard Butler’s character when he had to make a tough call about leaving Mrs. President in the car, but then they got into the real point of the movie which is… ridiculous. Like: plot-of-a-video-game ridiculous (I’m looking at you, Modern Warfare series). Armed airplanes swanning into White House airspace, barely two dozen random terrorists who are possibly North Korean toppling the whole Secret Service and then NOT KILLING the president for some weird reason? Isn’t that like terrorist goal #1? This movie looks dumber than Red Dawn, and it doesn’t even have that dopey kid from Drake and Josh in it!
Oh Dreamworks… I thought we were going to leave the history-massacring animated movies to Twentieth Century Fox? And speaking of Twentieth Century Fox, isn’t the whole plot of this movie (Earth breaking up – must move!) plus the character of the annoying/abusive granny, lifted wholesale from Ice Age: Continental Drift? If they’re trying to compete against Ice Age, I already know they’re going to lose. This trailer didn’t make me laugh even once. I think they’re trying too hard to impress us with their colorful plants and starry skies and skimping on the originality (remind you of any other movies you know? *cough*Avatar*cough). We know you can do nice things with computers, movie studios. We’re not impressed anymore. Give us back our good stories.
If this movie starred anyone other than Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, I would skip over it without a second glance. I didn’t laugh at the trailer. They gave almost the entire thing away (WHY would you ever think it would be a good idea to stick the “he’s your son!” revelation into the TRAILER?!) and on top of that… it just feels kinda blah. A comedy from the perspective of an admissions officer who’s getting bombarded with every sob story and rambling, narcissistic essay in the nation is original and could be really funny. But then they had to go and muddy it up with the “I’m suddenly a mom” thing, which could be funny (but isn’t) and certainly isn’t original. Poorly done, movie. Poorly done. And a waste of Tina Fey!
WELCOME TO THE PUNCH
Two things struck me about this trailer: 1) it is extremely blue. Like Smurf blue or Avatar blue. I’m pretty sure that’s not what they were going for. 2) It’s very laconic for an action movie or a thriller or a crime movie or whatever this is. I wondered why, and then I saw Ridley Scott’s name, and I thought: mystery solved. I like both James MacAvoy and Mark Strong, but this trailer has not made me want to see their movie.
So… this has surprisingly few knives and fights for a movie called Knife Fight, though I suppose I should at least give them half points for talking a lot about metaphorical knife fighting. I’m not really sure what this movie is about, though. A political fixer who’s working for both sides in the election? That could be funny… though the trailer was pretty low energy. Overall I was not enthralled.
Didn’t I already disparage a terrible sketch comedy film starring famous people this month? Wasn’t it called Movie 43? I was barely ten seconds into the trailer and I already wanted to stop watching. I can’t see myself paying actual money to see this unfunny. I’m not a masochist.
Les Miserables is one of those films you either love or hate. Some people say it’s melodramatic and overwrought, and others are transported. I rated Les Miserables as the best movie of 2012, so you can probably guess which camp I’m in. This movie, based on a famous-book-turned-stage musical about a convict struggling to raise his adopted daughter in the middle of a student uprising in France, is in a class apart from other movie musicals because all of the singing was recorded live, freeing the actors up to go with the flow. The results are astounding. Check it out or read my review for more.
The best movie from last year and my frontrunner for best movie of 2013 coming out the same day – it’s a good week! This war thriller, which tells the story of the CIA manhunt for Osama Bin Laden and the subsequent Navy SEAL takedown, was tense from start to finish, incredibly intelligent, positive in its depiction of women agents, and at times disturbing. It’s probably the best movie about modern war I’ve ever seen, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s an explosion fest. It’s a lot more subtle than that. You should definitely check it out. It deserved that Best Picture nomination. Read my review for more specifics.
I liked Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy even though I barely made it througha third of the first book, but The Hobbit just didn’t work. This story of a sedentary hobbit who is recruited to help some dwarfs win their mountain home back from a dragon is one book but was dragged out into three movies. They barely get within sight of the mountain in three hours and most of the plot is taken up by monster and character cameos shoehorned in to appease Tolkien fans. Rent it if you must, but don’t expect much. You can read my review for more.
I almost went to this movie in theaters, but then I decided I’d rather stay home than give Judd Apatow more of my money. I’m not a fan of Knocked Up, the sort of prequel movie (the main characters in that film are only referenced in this one) but I do like Paul Rudd. Unfortunately, he’s not given much to work with here. His character (all of the characters, really) are spoiled, spiteful, entitled, and irresponsible. Since there’s not even really a plot to speak of, just endless sequences of people picking on each other, there’s no reason this needed to be over two hours long. Unless you’re a huge Apatow acolyte, skip it.