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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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Iron Man 3 Review

poster from the Marvel Studios film Iron Man 3

Until 2008, I didn’t have a thought to spare for Iron Man, probably because until I’d only seen the suit. Then Iron Man introduced me to Tony Stark, and all of a sudden I’ve got a new favorite superhero. I mean, how can poor gloomy Bruce Wayne compete with a guy who’s as hilarious and intelligent as Tony Stark? Iron Man 2 was a bit of a letdown for me because Tony wasn’t as funny, but of course that didn’t stop me from rushing to the theater to see this one.

After an international terrorist blows up Tony’s house, he finds himself without his iron suit or Jarvis as he plots his revenge.

Because of Iron Man 2, my biggest worry was that Iron Man 3 would be too convoluted and not funny enough. Now that I’ve seen it I’m delighted to report that the plot is simple and linear (but not always obvious) and that it might have been even funnier than Iron Man. Go at once, I tell you!

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Trailer Reviews for May 3, 2013

IRON MAN 3



OMG Iron Man! I love Iron Man. He’s hot and he’s funny AND he dresses up as a jet plane to blast people with lasers. The first movie in this series is one of my favorite films ever and Iron Man 2, which I recently re-watched, seemed like less of a confused mess the second time around. Third installments of big budget action movies have a tenancy to try and pack about four movies worth of plot into two and a half hours (I cite Spider-man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as two of the most egregious offenders). But Dark Knight Rises pulled back from the drowning-in-plot cliff that Dark Knight was in grave danger of plunging over, and the trailer looks good, so I have hope, even though they’ve switched directors. Switching directors before the last movie is shades of X-Men: The Last Stand, so you understand why it has me worried. Fingers crossed for Tony Stark’s continued awesomeness.

KON-TIKI



Man, I remember reading this book in school. There was something simultaneously awesome and insane about a bunch of guys sailing a bundle of sticks tied together across a whole ocean just to prove it’s possible. It’s such an obvious setup for an adventure movie that I’m surprised no one did it earlier. I’ll totally watch this, especially since I don’t even have to watch a subtitled version if I don’t want to – they filmed it simultaneously in English and Norwegian.

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP



The synopsis for this movie on my theater’s website is both too long and describes the plot of the entire movie right up to the final confrontation. That’s not necessary. In fact, it’s detrimental. People see a huge block of text and they hiss, making the sign of the cross to fend off the dreaded devil: READING. The trailer did a much better job: focus on the drama. Dramatic string music. A twerpy little reporter digging up dirt on an old radical… what are the secrets this guy holds? HA HA WE’RE NOT TELLING YOU GO WATCH THE MOVIE. That’s what sells tickets. I might buy one if this wasn’t Iron Man 3 week…. and it didn’t star Shia LaBeouf.

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DVDs for April 30, 2013

silver linings playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Some movies get a lot of attention from critics because they’re boring and pretentious, but sometimes they get attention because everybody genuinely enjoys them. Silver Linings Playbook is one of those movies. Regular people like it because it’s a cute romantic comedy starring adorable people (Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper) and critics like it because it takes on ‘deep’ issues like mental illness, addiction, compulsive gambling, and dysfunctional relationships. One of my friends went to it 5+ times in theaters, but you’ll probably be fine with once on DVD.

Buy Silver Linings Playbook on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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broken city

Broken City

The whole dirty cop thing is a popular theme, but unlike the rest of the dirty cop thrillers, this one wraps up the cop part early and moves on to private eye (not a huge leap, I know, but it’s something). Mark Wahlberg plays the aforementioned dirty cop who kills a rapist and then gets sucked into a big dirty political mess involving the candidates for the mayoral election. Like most thrillers, it relies on revelations of who met whom for what reason for its tension, but the tension is damaged by the fact that the scandal is a pretty standard one that’s easy to figure out. I wouldn’t bother with it.

Buy Broken City on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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guilt trip

Guilt Trip

I don’t like Seth Rogan at the best of times, but put him in a cliched and unfunny road trip movie with Barbara Streisand and I’d drive across the country just to avoid it. The plot (such as it is) centers around Rogan’s character as a cleaning fluid salesman driving across the US to peddle his product. His mother invites herself along to work out their issues and reunite with an old lover. A road trip movie’s success relies on character/actor chemistry, and unfortunately theirs just doesn’t do anything for me. For a really funny road trip comedy you haven’t seen, try the Australian film Thunderstruck.

Buy The Guilt Trip on DVD or try Thunderstruck instead.

best of both worlds

Star Trek: Next Generation – Best of Both Worlds

This was released in a limited number of theaters last week, but the DVD is what you really want. At $15, it’s the same price as an IMAX ticket and you get special features with it, including a documentary, an audio commentary, and a gag reel. The actual content is movie length – a full two-part episode arc featuring Captain Picard’s capture and assimilation into the Borg collective – and is remastered to look good in HD (though the aspect ratio remains full screen). Not worth it if you have the full season set, but a good nostalgic investment if you don’t.

Buy Best of Both Worlds on Blu-Ray.

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The Big Wedding Review

poster from the Millennium Films movie The Big Wedding

Ensemble comedies, especially ensemble romantic comedies, are hard to pull off. It seems that for every Love Actually there are at least a handful of Valentine’s Days. But I keep going to them anyway, because when they work – when they end up funny and cute and not too obviously contrived – then they’re a great time. That’s why I picked Big Wedding over Oblivion this week.

The adopted son of a divorced couple asks his parents to pretend to be married again during the weekend of his wedding to avoid offending his biological mother.

The premise is pretty ridiculous – it strains credibility that his parents would put on this whole charade to help their son lie about something so trivial – but when it came down to execution it worked. The Big Wedding was cute, it was funny, and my mom and I had a great time watching it.

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Trailer Reviews for April 26, 2013

THE BIG WEDDING



Man, it’s been a long time since I saw a romantic comedy. Even longer since I saw a GOOD one. Even longer than that since I saw a good ENSEMBLE romantic comedy. I’m looking forward to this. Why? Well, Ben Barnes is extremely cute. That goes a long way. And then of course the last two wedding related films I saw with Amanda Seyfried and Katherine Heigl in them (Mamma Mia and 27 Dresses, respectively) were HILARIOUS. And then there’s the hint of It’s Complicated thrown in there with the inclusion of a messy divorce/new girlfriend subplot involving the older parents. I’m not a DeNiro affictionato and the reason for the whole mess is tenuous at best (the mother of the groom is very religious) but I guess when you think about it, when are these movies ever that realistic?

PAIN AND GAIN



The fact that there’s a red band version of the trailer for this movie was a bad sign to me. That usually means the comedy is so disgusting they have to warn people before subjecting them to even two minutes of it (sort of like the labels they put on radioactive waste). And then of course there’s the Michael Bay factor. His name is not exactly a seal of quality these days. This movie doesn’t look too bad, though. The utter doofusness of the characters (combined with the fact that the movie and the actors know that these guys are doofuses) gives Pain and Gain a certain amount of charm. The plot seems to be very Seven Psychopaths with heavy thematic does of Jersey Shore, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’d watch this on video someday.

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – BEST OF BOTH WORLDS



This is only coming to a select few theaters (i.e those located in cities judged to have a high number of Star Trek fans) which is just as well, because it’s just two episodes squashed together. It costs somewhere between $11 and $16 to see it depending on your theater. For that much money, you might as well buy the DVD. At least then you’d get the special features (I for one would like to see that gag reel). Hell, buy a subscription to Netflix and you can watch all 178 episodes for $8 as long as you can speed through over a hundred hours of show in under a month. Having said that though, these screenings will be total nerd parties, which could be fun regardless of what’s on the screen.

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DVDs for April 23, 2013

gangster squad

Gangster Squad

I feel like this movie has been made a million times, but fans of Ryan Gosling tend to disagree with me on that. In Gangster Squad he plays an LA cop who joins a vigilante squad of rogue cops pitted against a mob boss played by Sean Penn. Their goal: to take back the city without all that pesky paperwork and due process. It’s your typical amoral noir-esque shoot-em-up full of mostly unlikeable characters, so if you like that sort of thing (and you don’t find Ryan Gosling as blank and annoying-voiced as I do) you may enjoy it.

Buy Gangster Squad on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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the impossible

The Impossible

The fact that this movie has such a generic title is unfortunate, because it may be overlooked. It’s the story of the 2004 tsunami from the perspective of a family on vacation to Thailand when ‘the impossible’ happens: everything is wiped off the map by a huge wave. Parents Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts are spit up, he with their two younger kids, she with their older one, and they spend the movie searching for each other amidst the devastation. Don’t go in expecting The Day After Tomorrow but do go in expecting to need some tissues – it’s a real tearjerker.

Buy The Impossible on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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promised land

Promised Land

This movie is trying to be the Thank You For Smoking of the oil and gas industry. Matt Damon plays the naive agent who’s trying to convince hard-up townsfolk to sell his company drilling rights over the objections of a local teacher (John Krasinski). It was Earth Day yesterday so the issue of economics vs environmental impact is a good one to bring up in a film, as it will help expose more people to the issue. It’s just a shame the movie turned out to be so lousy. Damon’s lack of charisma and the script’s reliance on cliches just make it seem simplistic and dull compared to a doumentary.

Buy Promised Land Promised Land or on Blu-Ray.

jurassic park 3d

Jurassic Park 3D

This movie has held up remarkably well in the twenty years since it came out. Even the special effects still look good. I wouldn’t pay extra money to have it in 3D, especially since I don’t even know anyone with one of those gimmicky 3D TV sets, but it is a movie that’s so awesome everyone should own a copy so they can show the next generation. Even cynical 2010s kids will love the idea of a theme park ravaged by real dinosaurs (and lawyers getting eaten – can’t forget that part). Just don’t show it to a little kid unless you want it to have nightmares.

Buy Jurassic Park 3D on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for April 19, 2013

OBLIVION



This movie looks pretty cool. Tom Cruise discovers the people from The Matrix living underground in a destroyed version of earth that actually looks LESS destroyed now that all the people have moved away. Then he finds out the government is evil or something (quelle suprise) and then he fights GLaDOS and some robots…. or something. I dunno, they don’t really give you much of an idea of what the plot is. I think they’re hoping Tom Cruise and cool special effects will draw you in. Normally it would work on me (Tom Cruise may be crazy but he’s a good actor). Unfortunately I’m going to be away this week so I’ll either have to miss it or wait until next week to see it depending on how good next week’s lineup looks.

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES



How many times are we going to do this? Blank faced Ryan Gosling drives a vehicle very fast as part of a robbery scheme, but even though he’s a criminal he’s not REALLY a bad guy… or so the movie would have us believe. I’m not a Ryan Gosling fan by any stretch of the imagination and I’ve mentioned before (ad nauseum) that I don’t like criminal-as-the-good-guy movies either. As if that wasn’t enough, the trailer music even makes it seem draggy and boring. This movie couldn’t get any less appealing to me unless it was directed by Michael Bay.

THE SAPPHIRES



I’m not a fan of soul music but I do love Australian comedies. Chris O’Dowd’s character seems to make a lot of racist remarks, which would be cringe-worthy to watch if there’s more than just the few in the trailer, but the rest of it looked pretty funny. I’d watch it.

TO THE WONDER



You know, those little logos with the film festival names in the wheat sheaves are supposed to attract people to see a movie. They’re like the little stamps that say GRADE A QUALITY on the meat packages at the grocery store. But they have the opposite effect on me. I think to myself: oh no, not another pretentious snoozefest that’s not actually about anything. Sometimes it’s an unfair thought, but given how boring and noncommittal the trailer is and the fact that it’s directed by Terrence Malik, I very much doubt I’m wrong about this one.

GINGER AND ROSA



Oh look, it’s that girl from Beautiful Creatures and Dakota Fanning’s little sister… who’s being perved on by Alessandro Nivola. Gross. There are a lot of famous people in this movie, but it looks almost as boring as the last one except for that brief snippet of nuclear protest. I don’t think I’ll see this one.

HOME RUN



Be careful! This trailer might not give you much of a hint (which is probably intentional) but this is one of those faith-based inspirational movies, like Fireproof or Courageous. It’s not a regular rom com/Bad News Bears ripoff. The clues are there if you can put them together. Listen to the lyrics of the song they’re playing. Lord lord god god miracles etc. Check out his 12 step program – it’s in a church. And finally, look at the font they used for the title. Exact same as Courageous. Plus if you read the YouTube comments you’ll see all the bible quotes. Anyway, just be warned.

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DVDs for April 16, 2013

django

Django Unchained

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.

Buy Django Unchained on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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monster in paris

A Monster in Paris

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.

Buy A Monster in Paris on DVD.
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spies of warsaw

Spies of Warsaw

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.

Buy Spies of Warsaw on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

wings of life

Wings of Life

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.

Buy Wings of Life on combo pack.

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Trailer Reviews for April 12, 2013

REVOLUTION



I’ve been seeing trailers for Revolution for months, but I’ve never seen this one before. While the other trailer mostly focused on the fact that Rob had discovered that pollution was a problem and had gone on to make a movie about it to inspire people to change, I never really got the sense from it that he had anything new to say. This trailer, however puts us on to the fact that the oceans (which are a massive carbon dioxide sink) are nearing their capacity and that when they tip over the edge, they could take everything else with it. Apart from in Gwynne Dyer’s book Climate Wars, I don’t recall any popular authors or filmmakers talking specifically about the oceans with regard to environmentalism and I’d like to know more. For that reason, I’ll probably see this movie.

42



I feel like I’ve seen this movie already. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been seeing the story of Jackie Robison through the extremely well-produced (and popular) Canadian Heritage commercials. It basically condenses this film into a one minute sound byte and focused on the most important point to Canadians – that the city of Montreal (where he played for the Royals before going to Brooklyn) supported him when American cities were finding excuses to shut their ballfields to him. Perhaps this movie can fill in some interesting factual details (or, you know, not… this is a Hollywood movie after all, not a documentary) but I’m not a fan of the rap soundtrack on the trailer. It clashes with the historical period. I might skip this one.

SCARY MOVIE 5



I have a confession to make. I’ve seen all the Scary Movie films, and I think most of them are funny (okay, okay, all of them… except for Scary Movie 4). I actually own Scary Movie 3. I wasn’t thrilled by the first trailer I saw, but this one makes me want to see it more. It focuses more on the actual horror movies it spoofs (Mama, Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Evil Dead, etc) and less on spoofing Inception, which is pushing the definition of horror a little (okay, a lot… okay, so they chased the definition right into science fiction). I’ll probably watch this movie too. And I’ll probably like it. But this isn’t the kind of movie you pay $12 to see in theaters. I’ll wait for it to come out on DVD.

THE COLONY



It’s a shame we’re not getting this one. I like Kevin Zegers and the plotline is like The Day After Tomorrow crossed with Event Horizon (complete with Laurence Fishbourne in charge). Both of those movies gave me the heebie jeebies. The problem, of course, is that they gave away the entire thing in the trailer, so now what’s the point of going to see it in theaters?

TRANCE



I don’t like heist movies. I don’t like movies that try to mess with your head regarding what’s real and what’s not real. I don’t like it when all the characters in a movie are criminals or when those criminals get free rein to wreak violence and mayhem. So why am I thinking about seeing this movie? Because it’s a Danny Boyle movie, and I always think I won’t like Danny Boyle movies, but then I see them and I think they’re fantastic. Unfortunately we’re not getting this one in my town either.

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