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DVDs for September 4, 2012

The Five Year Engagement

Don’t let the “from the producer of Bridesmaids” fool you: this movie is nothing like Bridesmaids except that it involves a wedding and there’s pink on the box. The Five Year Engagement, which is about a couple (Jason Segel and Emily Blunt) who keep having to put off their wedding for their careers, is much tamer and less funny than Bridesmaids. Like their engagement, it’s also a little too long. Most comedies clock in at 90 minutes but this one is a full two hours… of blah. Rent it only if you’re not expecting much.

Buy The Five Year Engagement on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Safe

Most action movies revolve around some sort of McGuffin that everyone wants, and Safe is more of the same. The McGuffin is a little girl with a photographic memory who was shown a code so she would remember it (I guess no one had a camera handy). Then she got conveniently misplaced and every gang in the world is looking for her. Jason Statham just happens to be in the right place at the right time to find the McGuffin which just happens to be a great way to get back at the people who just happened to ruin his life. I guess if you’re really bored, watching this movie is a way to pass the time, but so is watching a bug crawl across the floor. And the bug is free.

Buy Safe on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Piranha 3DD

The original Piranha was a so-terrible-it’s-funny horror movie from the 1980s. In 2010 they made a tongue in cheek remake that was actually pretty good. Piranha 3DD is the terrible sequel kicked from the mouth of the dead horse that was the Piranha remake. Piranha was funny and so was the remake, but it’s a joke that only works once. Besides which, this one, which is about some piranhas loose in a water park, has no idea what the other movies did to be funny. It just copies the part where the plots were stupid. A painful waste of 83 minutes.

Buy Piranha 3DD on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Criminal Minds: Season 7

I know there are plenty of other TV shows you think are more worthy of attention, but if you aren’t watching Criminal Minds, you should be. It follows the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, which flies around the country helping local police departments by profiling and catching serial killers. Most of their cases are inspired by real serial killers like the BTK killer and Robert Pickton and you get a lot of cool psychology facts. Not a lot carries over between episodes so you can pick it up anytime, just don’t watch it before bed when you’re home alone if you actually want to sleep.

Buy Criminal Minds: Season 1 on DVD.

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Double Feature Review: The Apparition and The Possession

posters for the Dark Castle Entertainment film The Apparition and the Ghost House Pictures film The Possession

There are two horror movies with titles that start with “the” and follow with a ghosty word: The Apparition and The Possession. I’ve seen both in the last week, and considering that I almost bought (another) ticket to The Apparition when I went to see The Possession because it’s easy to mix up their generic titles, I figured I should review both just in case you also end up staring at the screen wondering which was the “good” one.

The Apparition
A thought experiment goes wrong, bringing a malevolent being into our dimension, where it haunts a young couple in their new house.

The Possession
A divorced dad turns to the Hasidic community for help when his daughter displays unnatural behavior after buying a wooden box from a yard sale.

This review will be the story of two movies: a failure and a success. One that had an innovative idea that went nowhere (The Apparition) and another that followed a well worn pattern but did it well (The Possession).

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Trailer Reviews for August 31, 2012

LAWLESS



I knew before I even laid eyes on this trailer that I didn’t want to see this movie. For starters, it stars Shia LaBeouf (also known in some circles as Shia LaDouche). He is the least badass actor that I can think of yet people still keep hiring him to act like a badass. (It’s not working. Stop it.) The second thing that turned me off was that it’s about a bunch of criminals whom we are supposed to think of as heroes simply because the villains are slightly worse than they are. I hate watching these kinds of anti-hero movies because I just can’t bring myself to give a crap about a bunch of moonshine bootleggers who end up on a killing spree because some corrupt sheriffs want some of the money they’re making on their illegal enterprise. So I guess you’ve figured out that I’ll be skipping this one.

THE POSSESSION



Oh hello, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Here I was thinking I wouldn’t see anything new this week because we aren’t getting anything worth watching, but I think I’ve changed my mind. I mean, this movie is so far so standard in terms of horror movie stories. There’s a kid. She touches something she shouldn’t. She becomes super creepy and possessed. Everyone tries to explain it away. Sh** gets real. People get killed. Religious experts get consulted. And the ending is either tragic or ambiguous. And then they try to say it’s a true story because it’s based on some story the writer overheard at a coffee shop that supposedly really happened to the the friend of the nephew of a lady from the teller’s knitting club. But it’s got Jeffrey Dean Morgan in it, and that’s enough for me. Besides, maybe it will even make me jump a few times.

FOR A GOOD TIME CALL



Wow, 24 seconds in is all it took to convince me I wouldn’t like this movie, even though I got a favorable impression from the blurb. It’s not a record. In fact, it’s a depressingly common occurrence. I watch 5 or 6 trailers every week for this thing and I’m lucky if I turn up one movie I actually want to see. I haven’t laughed at a bodily function joke since I was about 12, but apparently I’m in the minority here because these “raunchy” or R rated comedy movies just keep getting made. Okay, so this one is mostly sex jokes, which I can deal with if they’re actually funny, but the jokes in this trailer are all so standard as to be boring and I keep feeling like they’ve made this movie before, except with actors whose performances weren’t phoned in (if you’ll excuse the pun).

ROBOT AND FRANK



The blurb for this one sounded interesting, but then again, so did the one for For a Good Time Call. I hoped the trailer wouldn’t let me down like the last one, and by seven seconds in, I already knew that it wouldn’t. Because that tiny skinny car is HILAROUS. I’d go see this movie just to see that car again for longer (I should mention that I once chased a tiny three wheeled truck down the street in Amsterdam because I wanted to take a picture and giggle over it forever). Anyway, this movie has several things going for it. It’s funny, James Marsden is in it, and Richard Nixon trains Asimo to become a jewel thief AND THEN THEY GO ON THE RUN TOGETHER. Even I couldn’t think of anything that priceless. So naturally my theater’s not getting it.

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DVDs for August 28, 2012

The Lucky One

Normally I can’t stand Nicholas Sparks movies because they’re too sappy and they always end in tragedy, but this one, based on one of his earlier books, is pretty good. Zac Efron stars as an Iraq war veteran who tracks tracks down the woman in the photo that saved his life and ends up falling in love with her and her adorable young son. Tragedy strikes, but misses the important stuff, and if you ever doubted that Zac Efron can do grown up roles, watch this movie, because it will make you into a believer. For more, check out the full review.

Buy The Lucky One on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Battleship

Battleship is an overly loud, hideously expensive, unintentionally hilarious movie based on the board game of the same name. Taylor Kitsch stars as the idiot commander of a single, ancient human battleship blind firing at a bunch of suspiciously Metroid esque aliens who have invaded Hawaii for no reason. Rihanna is also with him, because someone has to look pouty and get paid a way too much. It’s so awful it’s awesome, so for that reason I’m going to tell you to watch it. Check out my full review for more fun at Battleship‘s expense.

Buy Battleship on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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The Pirates!

This film, alternately known as The Pirates! Band of Misfits and The Pirates! In an Adventure With Science follows a group of screwup pirates as they use Charles Darwin to help them win the Pirate of the Year award. The plot is a bit of a mess and most of the characters aren’t very well developed, but it is funny, largely because of the dialogue, the backgrounds, and the chimp who speaks through flash cards. So do watch it, with your children if you’ve got some. Read the full review for pictures and more details.

Buy The Pirates! on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Once Upon a Time: Season 1

I don’t usually talk about TV shows here, but I love Once Upon a Time, so I’m going to make an exception. It’s about a woman (Jennifer Morrison who used to play Cameron on House) who gets dragged to a small town full of trapped fairy tale characters by her young son, who was adopted by the wicked Queen from Snow White. Each week you get to see someone’s fairy world back story which tells you who they really are, even though no one believes it. It’s pretty addictive. Check it out before the new season comes on in a few weeks.

Buy Once Upon a Time: Season 1 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Paranorman Review

poster from the Laika Entertainment film Paranorman

Yes yes, I know I could have seen Premium Rush (meh) or Hit and Run (blegh), which are new this week, but that would mean leaving Paranorman behind, and I wasn’t ready to do that yet. It and The Odd Life of Timothy Green had an equal chance of being good, and since Timothy Green turned out to be mediocre, that must mean Paranorman is really good (it makes sense to me).


A derided boy who can speak to the dead is the only one who can save his town from a 300 year old witch’s curse.

And my illogic turned out to be totally, totally right. In fact, I loved Paranorman so much I gave it the highest possible rating in my secret notebook rating system that I don’t publish here because it wouldn’t help others. It’s funny, a little scary, and original, so get out there and give it some money.

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Trailer Reviews for August 24, 2012

PREMIUM RUSH



I hate the title of this movie. It just sounds all wrong for an action movie, even a dorky one where the principals ride around on bicycles yelling at people like a bunch of unruly teenagers. It’s not the rush part that bothers me. It’s the “premium” part. It brings to mind mortgages and fancy things, not gritty pulse pounding action. I might not let the title sour me on the whole film, because I like bikes. Biking can be cool, when you go fast and do tricks and stuff. But I just can’t understand why a bike messenger would risk his life delivering some random envelope, like he lives by a medieval bike messenger code of honor: “give me delivery or give me death!!” Give me a break. I’ll be skipping this one.

HIT AND RUN



Oh ew, Bradley Cooper with dreadlocks? No thank you. In fact, this whole trailer has a really high “ew” factor – Dax Shepard with facial hair, naked old people (how did they convince those people to appear nude in a film?!), and WAY too much casual talk about rape. I can see that it’s trying to be a raunchy comedy, but mostly it’s just racist, insensitive, and gross. There’s no way I’m going to see this.

THE APPARITION



Oh yes, I remember this movie now. It’s the one where Draco Malfoy is trying to be a grown up by looking and sounding nothing like Draco Malfoy. Seriously. I had no idea that was even Tom Felton. Well done, Tom Felton. The movie, however, reminds me a little too much of the Mythbusters episode where Tori, Grant, and Kari tried to find out if plants were psychic by thinking angry things at them and seeing if they wilt (news flash: they don’t). But premises are just excuses to kill people anyway, so how well does The Apparition do that? Pretty well, actually. That thing in the dryer looked a little too much like the girl from The Ring, but I’ve never seen anyone smothered by their own sheets before. I’ll keep it in mind for Halloween.

QUEEN OF VERSAILLES



If you think YOU had a tough time during the mortgage crisis/recession, what with losing your retirement savings, the bank foreclosing on your home, and having to stand in line at the food bank you used to donate to, this movie would like you to know that your suffering is nothing compared to these people, who had to give up their dream of owning a home with thirty bathrooms that rivals the French royal palace in size. For shame, how could you be so selfish!? Obviously, for your oversight you should have to pay $11.50 to sit through a movie about this vapid woman, who tragically seems not to realize how vapid she is. Maybe you’ll get a few laughs out of it. I think it would just make me depressed.

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DVDs for August 21, 2012

The Dictator

Sacha Baron Cohen is known for making movies that polarize audiences – either you love it or you hate it. This one, which is about an imaginary Middle Eastern dictator who goes to New York prevent the UN from introducing democracy to his country, is probably the most outrageous. It is likely to piss you off if you are: Middle Eastern, involved in politics, offended by racism, made uncomfortable by crude humor, opposed to movies that set a bad example for youth, or over thirty. So will you like it? Consult the previous list.

Buy The Dictator on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Chimpanzee

Every year Disney makes a cute animal movie for Earth Day. This year’s was Chimpanzee. While chimps aren’t as cute as baby cheetahs or even elephants, the story of little Oscar the chimp is adorable. His mom is killed in attack by a rival clan and Oscar has trouble being accepted after that until a cranky old alpha male adopts him. Though it’s a documentary, don’t expect much in the way of education on chimps – Tim Allen does the narration in a Meerkat Manor sort of way, making jokes and giving the chimps human motivations. African Cats is better.

Buy Chimpanzee on Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack
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A Separation

This movie, which is set in Iran, follows a married couple who are arguing over whether or not to emigrate. She wants to leave and give their daughter a chance at a better future, he wants to stay because he feels obligated to look after his father, who has Alzheimers. Though the movie deals with a lot of issues that are specific to Iran, the central question of whether or not to stay together when you’ve got such different goals is something a lot of people can relate to. If you’re looking for something different to watch, check out A Separation. It won the best foreign language film at the Oscars.

Buy A Separation on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Tiny Toons: How I Spent My Vacation

I almost fell over when I saw this movie in the list – it seems like I’ve been waiting forever for it to come out on DVD. It’s a special movie from the 90s cartoon show Tiny Toon Adventures that follows the characters during the summer. Buster and Babs get courted and almost eaten by alligators after getting swept downriver, Hampton and Plucky pick up a hitchiking serial killer on their way to Happy World Land, and Fifi dates a movie star who’s in love with himself. Really clever, really funny, really worth watching, even if you’re not nostalgic for 90s TV like I am.

Buy Tiny Toons: How I Spent My Vacation on DVD.

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The Odd Life of Timothy Green Review

poster from the Disney film the Odd Life of Timothy Green

This week there were two movies with an equal chance of being pretty good: Paranorman and The Odd Life of Timothy Green. I get extra Disney points for seeing Timothy Green on opening weekend, and it’s got Joel Edgerton in it, so it won the coin toss (yes, it was rigged). There was a kind of Pay it Forward feel to Timothy Green, though I hoped it would dispense with the sad ending.

A couple buries their dreams of having a child in the garden only to have them magically morph into a ten year old boy who is part plant.

With a blurb like that, you’d expect it to be some kind of Plants vs Zombies expansion pack, but it’s actually your standard “being different is okay!” kids’ movie. As for whether they did away with the sad ending – only kind of. So although I did like The Odd Life of Timothy Green, I just didn’t love it.

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Trailer Reviews for August 17, 2012

THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN



I complain a lot about how there aren’t many new ideas getting made into movies, so I can’t argue with this one: an infertile couple want a kid so badly that one grows out of their garden. It’s a nutbar idea, of course, but most of the best ones are. At least, I hope The Odd Life of Timothy Green could be one of the best ones. It’s got that same “weird yet moving child” sort of feel you got with Pay it Forward, but hopefully without the sad ending. They don’t reveal much of the plot in either of the trailers apart from the fact that he comes from the garden, which could be a good sign or a bad one. But Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton agreed to be in it, so I’m going to take it as a good one.

THE EXPENDABLES 2



Oh God, not another one. I suppose I should have expected this – washed up action stars are always looking for ways to be not washed up anymore – but after the first one was so not worth my time I had hoped to avoid a sequel. But I can’t, and if possible, this movie looks even worst than the first one. They’ve not only expanded Schwarzenegger’s cameo into a full-on role, they’ve also taken on Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme, the kings of wooden acting land. And WTF? What is Liam Hemsworth doing here? Washing up before he’s washed out? All they need is Steven Segal, Clint Eastwood, and Christian Slater to jump on the bandwagon and we’ll have the whole set of bad 90s action movie trading cards. You would think that with a cast so ponderously large the film would collapse under its own weight, but luckily they don’t need any plot development beyond “go here” and “blow that up.”

PARANORMAN



Oh no! I want to see this movie too! Which do I choose? The Odd Life of Timothy Green or Paranorman? (or The Expendables 2 for its sheer hilarious terribleness?) I hate these weeks. Coraline was a great movie and I love the stop motion. I’m not sure the whole being scared/change who you are line really fits in with the lighthearted tone of the rest of the trailer and the “bullied loser saves the town” plot has been done to death, but those zombies are really hilarious looking and I love the hockey mask joke. If I don’t see this next week, I’ll probably go to it the week after.

SPARKLE



Wait wait wait… their names are Sticks and Sparkle? Did their mothers think they were adopting dogs? Who names their kids that? I might believe it if Whitney Houston was really their mom (famous people always give their kids crazy names) but she’s only acting… or trying to, anyway. Mostly it just seems like a promotion to reignite interest in Whitney Houston’s music (dead people still sell records). Plot wise it’s pretty much the same as Joyful Noise except set in night clubs instead of churches and with Whitney Houston taking over the role of singer mom who doesn’t want her pretty daughter to be a singer lest she be knocked up and have her life ruined. I liked Joyful Noise, but this one just seems too phoned in. I’m going to skip it.

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DVDs for August 14, 2012

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is a juggernaut of a young adult novel about a young archer played by Jennifer Lawrence who takes her sister’s place in an annual game show run by the government that forces teenagers from outlying areas to fight to the death. What’s worse – she’s up against one of her friends. The book is fantastic except for the fact that it’s written in first person present tense, and the movie is the same – fantastic except for the fact that there’s a little too much close-in handheld camera work. You can read more about it in my full review, but I think you should watch it.

Buy The Hunger Games on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Assassin’s Bullet (aka Sofia)

Oh Christian Slater, how did you manage to avoid being in the cast of The Expendables 2? You’re just as washed up an action star as the rest of them. This movie is case in point. A straight to video (or as near as makes no difference) film about a retired investigator called in to track down a vigilante assassin in Bulgaria. It sounds interesting, but that’s until you watch it and find out that a) the script was most likely written by a monkey on a typewriter and b) the filmmakers obviously had no idea that Bulgaria was not in the Middle East. Skip it for all our sakes.

Buy Assassin’s Bullet on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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A Girl Walks into a Bar

Ensemble movies like 200 Cigarettes rank among some of my favorite films, but movies with multiple interconnected storylines are VERY easy to screw up. This movie unfortunately is one of the duds. It takes place in ten bars across L.A. and if you think bars are boring in real life, just wait until you have to watch OTHER people sit in them all day. It bills itself as a “quick witted comedy” but I don’t see any evidence of wit. The only reason I’d bother with it is to see Zachary Quinto, Josh Hartnett (no, apparently he has not fallen off the earth and died), and Kevin Zegers.

Buy A Girl Walks into a Bar on DVD.


Hick

I’ve been impressed by Chloe Moretz before (see Kick Ass) but lately all she seems to be doing is showing up, sneering, and calling it a day. In this movie, she plays a sneering, dim-witted, seductive (supposedly) teenager who sets off on a hitchiking road trip to Las Vegas and meets every redneck hick in the world in between (and not one nice, well adjusted person… apparently none of those live in Nebraska). The movie tries to make us care about how tragic her life is, but mostly you’ll just want her to get run over by a semi. Watch something else.

Buy Hick on DVD.

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