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DVDs for June 25, 2013

burt wonderstone

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

While it’s not my favorite movie by Steve Carrell or Jim Carrey, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was pretty hilarious. Carrell and Steve Buscemi play a Siegfried and Roy style pair of stage magicians who are knocked out of their top billing in Vegas by Jim Carrey, a Criss Angel style stunt magician. They have to team up with a female magician (Olivia Wilde) and an old guy (Alan Arkin) to come up with something big enough to win their audience back. Check out my full review for more or just go ahead and rent it, because it’s decent.

Buy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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the call

The Call

If this movie gets much attention from movie renters, I suspect it will be because it stars Halle Berry, not because the story is particularly unique or well executed. Berry plays a 9-1-1 operator who takes a call from a young girl (Abigail Breslin) who has been kidnapped by a serial killer. Because she’s taken calls from this killer’s victims before, Berry’s character defies all rules of 9-1-1 operating and common sense and chases after the guy herself hoping to rescue the girl. They do manage to generate some tension, but you’d be better off watching some episodes of Criminal Minds instead.

Buy The Call on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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upside down

Upside Down

It’s a shame this one was only a limited release in theaters because it’s totally unique and really well done. It’s a love story about two people who live on opposite sides of a twinned planet where one surface is upside down from the other and significantly poorer. Scientifically it would never work, of course, but that doesn’t stop the movie from pulling it off. Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst are adorable as the boy from the wrong side of the tracks and the girl born to privilege and the whole concept has got to be the best interpretation of the ‘bird and fish in love’ that I’ve ever seen. Check it out.

Buy Upside Down on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

hansel and gretel get baked

Hansel and Gretel Get Baked

I just had to pick this one because the title was so bad. It conjures up images of two little blonde kids smoking up in their parents’ basement… which turns out to not be far from the truth. The movie features a modern day Hansel and Gretel (played by the reject boy from Twilight and Rick Castle’s daughter) who get high on a drug called ‘Black Forest’ and raid the house of an old lady rumored to be growing the stuff at home and chowing down on people who come to visit. It’s a mildly funny concept but probably would have been better as a short film.

Buy Hansel and Gretel Get Baked on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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World War Z Review

poster from the Paramount Pictures film World War Z

Modern movie audiences (like me) are so cynical that it’s difficult to scare us. Maybe it’s because so many filmmakers have abandoned tension in favor of gore or maybe it’s just because we’ve seen it all so many times before. Regardless, the pressure of creating a movie from Max Brooks’ popular fake ‘oral history’ of the ‘zombie war’ resulted in many delays and rewrites but eventually a full narrative emerged.

In order to ensure protection for his family, a UN investigator must travel outside the safe zone to uncover information about the zombie virus that has devastated the world.

The production problems and the lackluster trailers for World War Z gave me the impression that the movie would be okay at best, so I was totally shocked when it was f***ing awesome. After a bit of a slow start, we ramped up into a story that was linear, cohesive, fascinating, believable, and downright scary too! I dare you to see it and not look apprehensively at crowds as you’re coming out of the theater.

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Trailer Reviews for June 21, 2013

WORLD WAR Z



I like zombie movies but I’m not often scared by them, largely because people in them tend to die from their own stupidity more than anything else. Running zombies are scarier than shambling zombies but running climbing hive-mind zombies? Terrifying. Those zombies alone are reason enough for me to go see the movie. I haven’t read the book (just the Zombie Survival Guide by the same author) and I find Brad Pitt to be a really bland actor, so those zombies are really all that’s keeping me going. I hope there’s a LOT of them in this movie (or the investigation plot turns out to be really interesting) or I’m going to be disappointed.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY



Normally I always go to Pixar movies, but I’m thinking about skipping this one. Monsters Inc. is one of my least favorite Pixar movies anyway (just above Cars 2 and just below A Bug’s Life) and the trailer just looks… bland. And kind of pointless. The storyline seems to be about Mike Wazowski trying to become a scarer but we already know that he doesn’t – in Monsters Inc. he’s Sully’s assistant. It’s also really hard to care about either Mike or Sully because I’ve never really found them that interesting as characters. So the question is: am I wrong (again) or is Pixar finally starting to go downhill?

BEFORE MIDNIGHT



Let me say upfront that I haven’t seen either of the two prequels, Before Sunrise or Before Sunset but I have a vague impression that they’re love stories about two people who only have a very limited amount of time together for some odd reason. It’s nice to know that should I decide to see this one, I won’t have to watch the other two first, because she just summed them both up in like three lines of dialogue. I don’t think I will decide to see this movie, though. It seems like it’s just This is 40, but for slightly more intelligent people. Unfortunately that still means they spend most of the movie whining about each other. Maybe I’ll be more interested when I’m forty.

THE BLING RING



This movie looks kind of interesting. It’s like a commentary on how wide-open people’s lives (especially celebrities’ lives) are now with everything ending up on the internet, and also how stupid teenagers are in thinking they can post all their misdeeds online and not get in trouble (um, duh, the police have computers too). But (and this is a big but) the movie is directed by Sofia Coppola. She also directed Lost in Translation, which looked funny and interesting at the trailer stage and turned out to be bland and boring as a full movie. So I think I’ll just content myself with the trailer and move on.

MY LITTLE PONY: EQUESTRIA GIRLS



OMG PONIES! I used to love the My Little Ponies when I was like four. But ponies turning into people? I’m a little weirded out by that. Besides, I thought the point of ponies was… well, PONIES! Regardless, it’s only coming to select theaters, so you might not be special enough to see it anyway.

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DVDs for June 11, 2013

oz

Oz the Great and Powerful

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.

Buy Oz the Great and Powerful on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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hansel and gretel

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

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.

Buy Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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snitch

Snitch

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.

Buy Snitch on DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack.

Lego Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite

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.

Buy Lego Batman: The Movie on DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack.

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Trailer Reviews for June 7, 2013

THE INTERNSHIP



You know, I’m not a Vince Vaughn or Owen Wilson fan per se, but this movie actually looks kind of funny. There’s an interesting dichotomy here between the old workplace values and the new ones that I think a lot of people have been running into (what exactly ARE you supposed to do for a job these days if you’re no good at using computers?) That Xavier joke though– who are these guys? The missing link? You’d have to be living in a cave not to know that Professor Xavier is from X-Men.

THE PURGE



Ho now. That’s an interesting idea. A free crime day? It’s not outside the realm of possibility I suppose, but I seriously doubt it would lead to a society that’s perfect for the other 364 days of the year. I mean, all those crimes of passion that are committed now aren’t going to pause themselves until purge day rolls around. And how does crime day lead to a 1% unemployment rate? Just how many people are they killing?? And why are they wearing masks when all crime is legal? Nevertheless, it’s an interesting premise for a horror movie, one that I have not seen before, which is good. Makes me want to see it. If only the rest of the movie wasn’t so ‘oh, someone’s broken in to our house’ because that part I HAVE seen before. A lot.

THE ICEMAN



Sorry movie, but when I hear ‘iceman’ I think of Val Kilmer in a flight suit, not contract killers. In fact, I don’t think of contract killers at all if I can help it. Also ‘Zodiac’ meets ‘Goodfellas’ is a sentence specifically designed to turn me off. I hated Goodfellas (shoulda been called Badfellas) and Zodiac was one of the longest, most boring disappointments I’ve ever seen. I’ll be giving The Iceman a wide berth.

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DVDs for June 4, 2013

warm bodies

Warm Bodies

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.

Buy Warm Bodies on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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good day to die hard

A Good Day to Die Hard

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.

Buy A Good Day to Die Hard on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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identity thief

Identity Thief

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.

Buy Identity Thief on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

escape earth

Escape from Planet Earth

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.

Buy Escape from Planet Earth on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for May 31, 2013

AFTER EARTH



I used to be a fan of M. Night Shyamalan until the big twist in The Happening was exactly what everyone guessed it would be five seconds into the movie, so I can understand why they’re downplaying his involvement with this one. On its own, After Earth looks like a promising action/adventure/sci-fi/horror movie. Crash land. Earth full of monsters. Get help. Daddy issues resolved. The end. I don’t buy into the whole “fear is a choice” gimmick (fear is a reaction, not a choice, and anyone with any sense experiences it in the presence of danger) but the rest of it looks great. The M. Night Shyamalan factor makes me wonder if there’s some sort of big secret. I’m not opposed to big secrets, I just hope it’s not a big obvious secret like in The Happening.

NOW YOU SEE ME



Oooh. Me likey. It’ll be hard to choose between this and After Earth (next week – I’ve already got The Hangover Part III lined up for this week). I’m really not a fan of Jesse Eisenberg or Mark Ruffalo or Woody Harrelson but for some reason when they’re all put together with the awesomeness of Morgan Freeman and the pretty-decentness of James Franco’s little brother, they make something appealing. I also really REALLY want to know how they’re pulling off all these tricks (stealing the money, chaining cops to their own interrogation tables) and if it’s something as mundane and boring as actual magic, I will be mad.

THE EAST



Hey, this looks pretty interesting. Not the most original story ever, at least not if she actually comes to side with them after she infiltrates them like I think she will, but I like the eco activists vs big business angle and then of course there’s Alexander Skarsgard. I’d see it, if it was coming near me.

ENGLISH TEACHER



Movie, I was with you right up till the point where Julieanne Moore started perving on Michael Angarano. But now I think Greg Kinnear was right: what kind of teacher ARE you?!

AMERICAN MARY



That girl’s voice makes me want to go to sleep. Also – ew. This is so not my kind of horror movie, even before they started making positive references to Josef Mengele.

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DVDs for May 28, 2013

dark skies

Dark Skies

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.

Buy Dark Skies on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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numbers station

The Numbers Stand

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.

Buy The Numbers Station on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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beetlejuice

Beetlejuice Complete Series

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.

Buy Beetlejuice Complete Series on DVD.

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DVDs for May 14, 2013

cloud atlas

Cloud Atlas

I almost loved this movie. It’s a sweeping epic that interweaves a collection of characters through stories set in six different times. Each story is a different genre (adventure, drama, thriller, comedy, sci-fi, and post-apocalypse) and features the same thirteen actors in different roles, sometimes disguised so well you can barely recognize them. My only problem with Cloud Atlas was that I felt blah about one of the storylines (Halle Berry investigates nuclear secrets) and outright hated another (Tom Hanks as a post-apocalypse radiation hillbilly). Do check it out though. The other stories are fabulous.

Buy Cloud Atlas on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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top gear 19

Top Gear Season 19

I adore Top Gear – a British car program that’s funny and unique enough to attract even people who don’t like cars (people like me). Most of the seasons aren’t worth their $20-$30 price tag, as they only contain about 6 episodes. This one, however, is, because it’s one of the few that include an epic two-hour adventure. In this one, they drive station wagons across Africa looking for the source of the Nile. Other challenges worth buying the DVDs for include designing a car for seniors, pitching the world’s smallest homemade car to Dragon’s Den, and the epic train vs car race to Italy. Check it out – you’ll love it.

Buy Top Gear Season 19 on DVD.
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texas chainsaw

Texas Chainsaw 3D

This is a sequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it was released in theaters in 3D (though not screened for critics, which is not surprising). It takes place after a mob has lynched the family responsible for the original massacre and a distant relative comes in from out of town to claim the estate which (surprise!) contains Leatherface. Beyond that it’s your typical, predictable gore fest, with limbs and blood splatters flying everywhere and characters making the same bad decisions and dying in the same predictable order. This is something to put on in the background of a Halloween party and not watch.

Buy Texas Chainsaw 3D on DVD or on 3D Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for May 7, 2013

jack reacher

Jack Reacher

I’m a big fan of the Lee Child novels this movie is based on, so I had some pretty big doubts about whether this movie would turn out to be good, especially since the titular character is supposed to be a 6’5” blonde silent-but-deadly type. But I have to say, Tom Cruise really pulled it off. They managed to compress the plot, which is about a former military cop getting called in to investigate a sniper terror attack, into movie form without losing anything important. Check it out if you get a chance or read my full review for more.

Buy Jack Reacher on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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safe haven

Safe Haven

I hate Nicholas Sparks sapfests, but I almost went to this one in theaters because of Josh Duhamel. Good thing I didn’t, because it’s the same tripe Sparks is always trying to shove down our throats. Ooooh I have a mysterious tragic background but ooooh everyone in town is just so ATTRACTIVE and WELCOMING. You got your standard romance with the sensitive heartthrob, your standard adopting of someone else’s sickeningly adorable children, and the obligatory friend/neighbor/old woman. If you don’t feel like you’ve seen this movie before, you probably don’t get out much.

Buy Safe Haven on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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mama

Mama

This movie isn’t exactly well known but it’s got several things going for it. First, it stars Jessica Chastain (from Zero Dark Thirty) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (from Game of Thrones) and they’re both great. Second, it’s got a really interesting/not ridiculous premise: they adopt two little girls who have been living in the woods and some creepy thing they call ‘Mama’ follows them home. Third, the movie understands effective use of tension and scaryness vs startles and gore. They don’t plaster the monster all over the screen – they let you imagine the worst. Check it out for sure.

Buy Mama on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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