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Trailer Reviews for July 11, 2014

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES



Planet of the Apes is a one-off for me. It was good for that one surprise at the end of the first one (I won’t say what it was in case you haven’t seen it) and the brief ‘ha ha, those are monkeys that act like people’ aspect of the premise. It’s not something I want to keep seeing movies about, even if they’ve upgraded from monkey suits to CGI and hired Gollum to animate them. Also, I think the title for this one and the one that came before it (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) should be switched around. It would just make more sense.

BEGIN AGAIN



Once was a film with a very simple (too simple, really) story that was carried on the strength of its soundtrack… or mostly that one song: “Falling Slowly.” I liked Once enough to check out another John Carney film but I do hope the “rejected rockstar girlfriend meets rejected agent” story is stronger than the storyline in Once.

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Trailer Reviews for June 20, 2014

JERSEY BOYS



I feel like I’ve fallen into a parallel universe where bad is good. I cannot fathom how anyone could possibly think that Frankie’s whiny, nasal, helium-fueled voice sounds good. And yet… here this movie is. And here are a lot of people who want to see it. As you probably guessed, I am not one of them. Just watching this trailer made me feel like someone was trying to puncture my eardrums with a Q-tip.

I’LL FOLLOW YOU DOWN



Somehow the tone of this movie doesn’t quite jive with the perky Gin Blossoms lyrics that pop into my head when I read the title. I seriously doubt it will be in many theaters, given that the only official version of the trailer on YouTube is almost impossible to find and has no audio (hence the 3rd party one). It’s pretty cliched but it looks like it could be okay as long as they don’t muck up their time travel rules in favor of relationship drama.

THE ROVER



My thought progression while watching this trailer:
Ooh, Australian
So… like Mad Max?
But sloooooooow
WTF is going on?
Uh oh, the director of Animal Kingdom?
Never mind, then.

THINK LIKE A MAN TOO



Hi Dorian! Sorry your show got canceled 🙁 (the “you’re rollin’ with the pros” guy is Michael Ealy from Almost Human for those of you who aren’t nerds) I don’t really understand why their bachelor party is a contest, or who’s getting married, or why any of them would listen to Kevin Hart’s character when he’s so obviously the ‘clueless and annoying one’ (like Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover, only squeakier), but naming your blow-up sex doll after Idris Elba is pretty funny.

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DVDs for March 18, 2014

frozen

Frozen

Frozen is the big-deal cartoon cartoon of the year (it just won an Oscar) but to me, this confused story about a princess trying to get another princess to unfreeze their land is just Disney’s first, fumbling attempt to bring their damsel-in-distress musical model into the 21st Century. The reindeer is cute and the twists on convention are amusing but the songs all sound the same and the plot meanders all over the place. Check out my full review for more.

Buy Frozen on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

saving mr banks

Saving Mr. Banks

If you’ve ever wanted to see a Disney movie about how they get the rights to make movies, this is for you. It follows the (sort of) true story of author Pamela Travers and her twenty year fight with Walt Disney over the rights to her book Mary Poppins. Travers is portrayed as unpleasant and Disney as a giant man-child and their battle is less interesting than the flashbacks to Travers’ childhood in Australia. It’s not strictly true to life but it does make a compelling movie. Read my review for more.

Buy Saving Mr. Banks on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

american hustle

American Hustle

This movie won a bunch of Golden Globes but no Oscars (as is usually the way with Golden Globes and Oscars) and is almost as popular as David O. Russell’s last movie, Silver Linings Playlist. It didn’t appeal to me, but if you like crime dramas where everyone’s in over their head and nobody’s quite sure who’s going to be conned by who when, then you might. It follows a pair of con artists (Christian Bale, Amy Adams) and an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) who worm their way into mafia circles in New Jersey.

Buy American Hustle on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

mandela

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

This film, which is based on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, is a school history style overview of Mandela’s life, starting with his childhood. It chronicles his opposition to South Africa’s racist Apartheid policy, the time he spent in jail, and his decision to pursue a peaceful resolution. It ends with him becoming president. Since this movie is more about ideology and personal struggle than chronicling the violence of the time, it’s not too gritty to show to young people. With a PG-13 rating, it’s appropriate for classes of junior high schoolers and above.

Buy Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for October 15, 2013

pacific rim

Pacific Rim

Before I saw Pacific Rim, I wouldn’t have said it was possible to love and hate a movie at the same time. I loved the damaged characters who became stronger by pairing up to pilot a giant robot, and the giant robot vs monster fighting was cool, but there were just too many ridiculous, impossible things and not enough secondary females – seriously, it was like the movie took place in the aftermath of a virus that wiped out all the ladies. (Lady virus + space monster attack, a double whammy) And yet – I still enjoyed it. Check out my full review for more.

Buy Pacific Rim on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

the heat

The Heat

I love The Heat. It’s a comedy dominated by female characters (which you hardly ever see) and it doesn’t get bogged down in sex and toilet humor (like Bridesmaids). It’s smart, witty, and action packed enough to appeal to anyone, even guys who don’t give a crap about gender equality. It pairs a smug know-it-all (Sandra Bullock) with a brash nutcase (Melissa McCarthy) in a drug case simply because no one else will work with either of them. Check out my full review for more or just go right out and see it. It’s great fun.

Buy The Heat on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

shrek the musical

Shrek: The Musical

I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t another straight-to-DVD holiday special tied to a popular animated franchise. It’s a Broadway-to-DVD recording of a stage show adapted from a popular animated franchise. I wouldn’t have thought it would be possible to put a computer animated movie on stage, especially one starring a green ogre, a talking donkey, and a huge purple dragon, but it’s amazing what they can do with makeup and anamatronics these days. Little kids will LOVE it and it retains enough of the movie’s cleverness to appeal to parents as well. Check it out.

Buy Shrek: The Musical on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

the colony

The Colony

This movie is like a Day After Tomorrow featuring the Reavers from Serenity/Firefly. It’s years after the apocalypse and people are living underground in colonies. One colony receives a distress signal from another, sends a team out to investigate, and ends up in the middle of a Dead Space video game, complete with blood all over the walls (poor Laurence Fishburne – he never seems to catch a break). It’s pretty good, as horror movies go. It falls into some of the usual cliches (esp. characters and decision making) but it’s not bad enough to pass over.

Buy The Colony on DVD on on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for March 19, 2013

les miserables

Les Miserables

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.

Buy Les Miserables on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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zero dark thirty

Zero Dark Thirty

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.

Buy Zero Dark Thirty on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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hobbit

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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.

Buy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

this is 40

This is 40

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.

Buy This is 40 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Les Miserables Review

poster from the Universal Pictures film Les Miserables

A few months ago, I watched the 10th Anniversary concert DVD of Les Miserables and I thought: that was incredibly moving. But what the hell was going on? So I read the book and filled myself in. Now all I needed to do was see the stage musical and my life would be complete. The movie musical came along instead. It has the same plot as the book and show.

A convict on the run from the law tries to atone for his mistakes by raising the orphaned daughter of a factory worker.

Having seen stage musicals before and now having seen this movie, I think seeing the movie may actually be better than the stage show in a lot of ways. For one thing, you don’t just hear their emotions in their voices, you can see them on their faces, and it makes a BIG difference. If you’re not moved by Les Mis, you might want to get your anterior insular cortex checked.

Read More

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Trailer Reviews for December 21-25, 2012

JACK REACHER



I’m a Jack Reacher fan. I’ve read almost all of Lee Child’s books and I love them. The one that this movie is based on, One Shot, is one of the better books, so I’m excited about that… but I’m not so sure about Tom Cruise as Reacher. And no, it’s not because Reacher is supposed to be 6’5” and blond. It’s because Jack Reacher is a Great Dane among men. He’s the kind of guy who goes unnoticed, minding his own business, until somebody pushes him too far and he bites their face off and buries them in the yard. Tom Cruise, meanwhile, is a rabid terrier of a man, running through the streets yapping and latching on to the legs of anyone who looks at him funny. But I have seen him act convincingly, and Lee Child did approve the casting choice so… I dunno. I guess we’ll see this weekend.

THIS IS 40



I am not a fan of Judd Apatow. I did like Freaks and Geeks, but I was unimpressed with his movie comedies and my anti-Apatow feelings intensified when I read a MacLean’s article in film school about how Knocked Up was a ripoff of a book by a Canadian author. Even taking the movies by themselves, they’re often sexist, frequently crude, and feature irresponsible characters that I cannot force myself to like. Except if they’re Paul Rudd, because I love Paul Rudd. If Jack Reacher wasn’t coming out this week, I might feel obligated to go watch Paul Rudd in this otherwise boring looking movie (they say it’s everyone’s story… which is why I don’t need to go see it). But it is so I don’t.

CIRQUE DE SOLIEL WORLDS AWAY



This movie looks like a cross between Mirrormask (which was a letdown) and those weird pseudo-documentaries they make for IMAX. It’s supposed to have an actual story, but as far as I can tell the story is just: “go here and look at things.” Having an audience-representitive character wandering through your disconnected stunt shows does not a story make. Don’t get me wrong – Cirque de Soliel shows are massively cool. All firey and with flips and people spinning around on wires, but it’s not really a movie. It’s a “3d experience”. At about $15, it’s expensive for a movie, but it’s a hell of of a lot cheaper than the $75 plus you’d have to pay to see them live. So yeah, I’d go, take some kids. It’d be a cool thing to see. With the special James Cameron 3D you’d ALMOST feel like you were there.

LES MISERABLES



Oh my god, I cannot even express to you how much I’m looking forward to seeing this movie. It doesn’t open until Christmas Day, but that’s too early for next week’s trailer review article, so I’m lumping next week’s movies in with this week’s. And you’d better believe I will be there on Christmas Day, starry eyed and with my entire family in tow. This time last year I couldn’t even tell Les Miserables apart from Miss Saigon, but since then I’ve read the book, watched the 10th anniversary concert recording, seen the non-musical movie, and listened to the soundtrack. But I’ve never seen the musical. Not even on DVD. I haven’t had the REAL EXPERIENCE. If this movie is anything like the trailer (which makes me a little misty eyed, to be perfectly honest) it will be AMAZING. The only slight blip of hesitation for me is Eddie Redmayne. He seems too sulky to be Marius. But hopefully I’ll either be wrong or the rest of it will be so awesome I won’t even notice.

DJANGO UNCHAINED



Also coming out on Christmas Day: this Quentin Tarantino movie about slavery! Oh… kay. I guess Les Miserables isn’t your typical shiny happy Christmas movie either (what with it being about miserable people and everything) but this one just seems a little… violent. But I guess non-shiny happy people need something to do on December 25 too. I’m not usually that big of a Tarantino fan, but this one looks pretty good. It’ll be very satisfying to see slave owners get their butts kicked, kind of like it was satisfying to see Liam Neeson throat chop human traffickers in Taken. It’s also nice to see Christoph Waltz playing a good guy for once… though he still seems to be the same amoral, half-insane character he was when he was playing bad guys. I’ll see it someday, probably on DVD.

PARENTAL GUIDANCE



See, now this is more like the kind of movie you EXPECT to come out on Christmas Day. A marginally funny yet inoffensive family comedy you can bring your kids to without worrying about them becoming depressed and/or serial killers. It doesn’t have anything to do with the holidays, but that’s a minor detail. Actually, it doesn’t look that bad. I’m not the world’s biggest Billy Crystal fan (read: not a fan at all) but I laughed at the little girl going all Linda Blair on her mom over the cake that doesn’t taste like yogurt and I do like Bette Midler. It’s not enticing enough to win me over the other offerings, though, so it will be relegated to the bottom of my DVD rental list, where it will eventually be forgotten.

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DVDs for October 9, 2012

Prometheus

This movie is awesome. Seriously. It’s the best movie I’ve seen all year – and the year’s almost over. It’s a prequel to the Alien movies, where some scientists and an android check out some strange ruins on a planet far away, touch some things that should be left alone, and find (surprise!) things that want to kill them. There’s a ton of back story on how humans got to Earth, why we exist, and where aliens come from, plus the acting, plot, and effects are amazing. Watch it. Right now. For more, you can read my full review.

Buy Prometheus on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Rock of Ages

I love musicals, even though I don’t watch all that many of them. And Rock of Ages is a fun one. The songs and the outfits will all make you nostalgic for the 80s and you’ll discover (to your great surprise, probably) that Tom Cruise sounds just like Bon Jovi when he sings. The plot is pretty standard – two attractive young people move to L.A. looking for their big break, fall in love, yadda yadda. But it’s really funny, especially superstar rocker Stacee Jaxx, club owner Alec Baldwin and his pal Russell Brand. Watch it. And/or read my full review for more details.

Buy Rock of Ages on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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The Raven

This movie is about a serial killer in the mid 1800s who uses the works of Edgar Allan Poe as his inspiration, forcing the investigating detective to team up with the author (sort of like a turn of the century version of Castle). This sounds like a great idea in theory, but I don’t know what they were smoking when they cast John Cusack as Poe. His face is like the human version of a bloodhound and he’s got a squeaky voice, which totally ruins the horror atmosphere. The planned Ewan McGregor/Jeremy Renner pairing would have worked so much better. You can skip this one.

Buy The Raven on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Bones Season 7

Season 7 carries on from the “we hugged once and now we’re pregnant” fiasco of Season 6, and I have to say I think the show has gone downhill since Booth and Brennan stopped beating around the bush and just got together already. They still try to replicate the “intuitive FBI agent paired with practical forensic anthropologist” banter of previous years but it just doesn’t work as well. On the plus side, the cases are still really cool and I love all of Brennan’s rotating lab assistants, so it’s still worth watching… for now.

Buy Bones Season 7 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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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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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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