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Rio Review

poster from the Twentieth Century Fox Animation film Rio

These days, everyone and their dogs are churning out computer animated feature length films in 3D, so the technical stuff isn’t new and impressive anymore. If you want to get noticed, you have to go back to the beginning – the story. The trouble is that hardly any animated movies like to give away their stories in their trailers, instead focusing on a particular character (like the yellow henchmen from Despicable Me) or a particular scene (like the falling off the cliff scene in Rio). So it can be hard to tell what the movie’s actually about. From later versions of the Rio trailer, I was able to glean this much story:

A pet bird who can’t fly is shipped to Rio de Janeiro to mate with the last female of his kind, only to find himself lost in the Brazilian jungle and pursued by poachers.

I had my doubts about it, because it’s a comedy and there was very little in the trailer that even made me smile. But now that I’ve seen the movie I can say: forget the trailer(s). There’s a lot more going on in the movie than they let on. The full version of the movie is cute, funny, and tightly scripted, which, as far as I’m concerned, is the animation trifecta. It’s no Wall-E, but it’s certainly worth the price of admission.

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DVDs for March 29, 2011

Tangled

A lot of people point to some of Disney’s lackluster CGI efforts (Mars Needs Moms, A Christmas Carol, etc.) as evidence that classical animation is superior, but this movie really shows that the new paradigm can be super awesome when it wants to be. This 3D CGI animated tale is hilarious updated telling of the Rapunzel myth. There’s adventure, romance, comedy, musical numbers, and a cute horse support character. What more could you want? Rent this movie immediately, regardless of whether or not you have any children. You can check out my full review for confirmation of it’s awesomeness.

Buy Tangled on DVD or on Blu-Ray or on 3D Blu-Ray.

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Black Swan

There are two reasons you might want to see Black Swan. 1) You’re watching your way through all the Academy Award nominees. 2) You’re looking for something that will explode your brain. You might be forgiven for thinking that ballet fans will also be interested, but although the story focuses on a ballerina (Natalie Portman) and her struggles against being replaced by a younger model ballerina (Mila Kunis), this is more of a psychological thriller than anything else. Normal ballerinas do not grow feathers. I think that should give you enough information to decide if you want to see it.

Buy Black Swan on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Fair Game

This movie took a long time to be released on DVD. It’s that one you probably heard about briefly months and months ago but never went to see in theaters, where a CIA agent played by Naomi Watts gets outed and put in danger by her own bosses after her husband (Sean Penn) criticizes the Bush administration. It’s the true story of Valerie Plame, and it’s definitely worth checking out. Not only is it entertaining (especially if you like thrillers) but it’s also good to educate yourself on the kind of crap you could get caught up in if you decide to work for the government.

Buy Fair Game on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Made in Dagenham

I love Sally Hawkins. She’s just so delightful to watch. I’d tell you to rent this movie for that reason alone, but Made in Dagenham has also got the added recommendation of being British, and you know how I feel about British film. If you absolutely MUST know what it’s about first, it’s the mostly true story of a strike at the Dagenham auto factory in 1968, when the female employees got fed up with being paid less and demanded their fair share. It’s funny and lively rather than dark and angry, so even if you’re not a feminist you’ll probably enjoy it.

Buy Made in Dagenham on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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DVDs for March 1, 2011

127 Hours

Fresh off of six nominations and zero wins at the 2011 Oscars, here is Danny Boyle’s latest film 127 Hours, new to DVD and Blu-Ray. It’s not Danny Boyle’s best work, but it just might be James Franco’s. He was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of a too-cool hiker who gets trapped in a canyon with his arm under a rock for days, but sadly this performance came in the same year as Colin Firth’s totally mind-blowing turn as King George VI. If you’re not too squeamish, you should check it out, or you can read my full review first.

Buy 127 Hours on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Love and Other Drugs

You know, I wasn’t that impressed with Love and Other Drugs after I had seen it (I wasn’t very nice to it in my review) but I think my feelings have improved with time, because now I think it’s pretty good. It’s not light and fluffy like your typical romantic comedy (there are serious diseases in it) but it is both romantic and funny. Anne Hathaway is very impressive (though not impressive enough to get an Oscar nomination, apparently) and Jake Gyllenhaal is… well… Jake Gyllenhaal. Reasonably cute, not a bad actor. There are worse movies you could rent, especially if you’re limiting yourself to the romantic comedy section. So give it a try.

Buy Love and Other Drugs on DVDor on Blu-Ray.
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Burlesque

I’m sorry, Christina Aguilera, but you do not get to list yourself by your first name only. You are not that famous, and your name is not that original. When I hear “Cher,” I think of that singer. When I hear “Christina,” I think of Sandra Oh’s character from Grey’s Anatomy, who is way awesomer than you. So sign your whole name. Anyway… the film is about a girl who gets a job waiting tables in a Burleqsue club but she REALLY REALLY wants to be on stage, so you can pretty much figure out the whole plot from there. Like Showgirls, but less aggressively awful. See it if you’re dying for a new musical, but it’s never going to be a classic.

Buy Burlesque on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Faster

Do you think traffic laws should be for other people? Do you secretly long to burn up your quiet suburban streets at 120mph? Do you like it when The Rock hurts and/or kills people? If you answered yes to all these questions, then you meet the requirements to enjoy Faster. It’s not smart, it’s not twisty, it’s not mysterious, but it is violent and loud. In it, a man gets out of prison and starts killing people in revenge for his brother’s death. Dwayne Johnson is allowed to call himself by his name now, and not his silly wrestling monkier, but this movie is essentially the same as all the roles he took back when he was bashing (pretend) heads for a living.

Buy Faster on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Trailer Reviews for November 26, 2010

Coming out this weekend: Tangled, Love and Other Drugs, Burlesque, Faster, and the limited release of Made in Dagenham. Plus the Cape Breton Island Film Series also is showing Restrepo. For some reason, all of them except for Made in Dagenham are coming out on Wednesday. What, has Friday lost its cool day status?

TANGLED



It used to be only Pixar and Dreamworks made computer animated movies, but the theaters are overbrimming with them now, even the ones in 3D. This one is from Disney (without Pixar’s help). It’s a modern update of the Rapunzel fairy tale (fairy tales are popular fodder for animation companies because it means they don’t have to pay for royalties or come up with new ideas). And by modern I mean instead of being a helpless damsel who needs a man to save her, Rapunzel is a weirdo with alien being living in her hair that makes it prehensile. Is it just me, or do you find her hair kind of creepy? Anyway, it looks adventurous and funny. Especially the horse, so I’ll probably give it a shot. It goes without saying that kids will like it.

LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS



I’ve been hearing a lot of rumors about Anne Hathaway being nominated for an Oscar for this movie, but I just don’t see it. I mean, I like Anne Hathaway, but since when do generic rom com roles get nominated for Oscars? Has the world gone mad? Or are they just trying to bring the Oscars more in line with what we rabble like? This movie looks cute enough to earn a shot from me, even if Jake Gyllenhaal’s character deserves to be punched in the face. My problems are 1) they showed pretty much the whole plot in the trailer and 2) some of the lines in the screamy upset moments were really clichéd and lame: “You’re a good man!” “I need you more, *sob*” If they put those parts in the trailer, how bad is the rest of it?

BURLESQUE



Must we go through this again, Hollywood? Good singers do not make good actors, and bad singers make even worse actors. I might have shown some interest in this movie (I did, after all, really like Coyote Ugly), but the Christina Aguilera thing put me on my guard. I don’t like her music. Then they had an utterly generic handsome man-candy character who drives a motorcycle and wears a stupid hat. And then they put the main-character-embarrasses-themselves moment in the trailer. TWICE. I hate those moments, so this movie is officially dead to me until such time as it comes out on TV and I am bored enough to not turn it off.

FASTER



Why is this movie called Faster? Is it because Hollywood is recycling the same old revenge themed hit-list murder action movie faster and faster? Or is it because Dwayne Johnson occasionally drives a car in the movie? The trailer doesn’t even seem sure what sort of movie its for – a hit list revenge murder action movie or a dual-between-vengeful-guy-and-baddie type of movie? Likely it switches tracks about halfway through, which is another point against it. You should’ve stuck with the Tooth Fairy type movies, Dwayne, at least they had some semblance of originality.

MADE IN DAGENHAM



Damn, this is limited release, so we’re never going to get it up here, are we? It’s a shame, because this movie looks really great! Funny, charming, plenty of girl power, and British too. I really like Sally Hawkins, she was terrific in ITV’s Persuasion and in Happy-Go-Lucky. But I bet you a box of doughnuts it’ll get crowded out of most theaters by samey crap like Faster. This is one of those movies I’ll have to actively forget about so it can be a pleasant surprise when I see it on the DVD release list… and I can actually have it this time.

RESTREPO



In case it wasn’t clear from the trailer, Restrepo follows a platoon of American soldiers who are posted to a valley in Afghanistan for a year. The trailer doesn’t really make it seem that different from any other modern war documentary, but if they were with them for a whole year they’re bound to dredge up something new. Perhaps they just forgot to put it in the trailer? It was co-directed by Sebastian Junger, that journalist who made a name for himself like ten years ago by writing about that Perfect Storm that killed some fishermen, which was then turned into a George Clooney movie. This is not a George Clooney movie. And no I have no idea why it’s called Restrepo. Maybe that was the operation name or something, they never make any sense (Operation Tuning Fork, Operation Monkey Parade, etc.) Restrepo plays at 7pm on Thursday only.

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Score: A Hockey Musical Review

poster from the film Score: A Hockey Musical

I’m not a fan of hockey or of Canadian film, but when I heard about Score: A Hockey Musical, I knew I had to go, because more than anything I like to have fun watching a movie. Combining hockey and musicals sounded like a fun idea to me. It was the opening night film at the Toronto Film Festival and I’ve been seeing previews for it for months in the preshow that Empire Theaters puts on before the movie. But if you haven’t heard of it, the story goes like this:

A sheltered teenage hockey phenom decides to play organized hockey, but runs into trouble when his pacifist attitude clashes with the culture of hockey violence.

And if you haven’t heard of it, you’re not alone. For a movie about hockey, it didn’t generate much interest. It was me and about five high schoolers (possibly from the drama club) in the cinema for an opening weekend showing. Perhaps everyone else had read the advance reviews from the film festivals and decided not to bother. More likely they either didn’t hear of it or they don’t trust Canadian movies enough to pay $11.50 for a ticket. I don’t blame them. We don’t have much of a track record. Is Score going to change all that? Well, maybe.

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Trailer Reviews for October 22, 2010

Opening this weekend: Score!, Hereafter, Conviction, and Paranormal Activity 2. Plus the Cape Breton Island Film Series also is showing Farewell.

SCORE!



Call me a bad Canadian if you will, but I don’t like hockey, and I don’t like Canadian movies. For some reason (maybe they feel like they have to be “different” to make up for Hollywood) Canadians make a lot of weird, fragmented, unenjoyable films. But in spite of all that, I’m looking forward to Score! Maybe because it’s doing something different than your typical sports movie. Maybe it’s because it looks silly and fun and all the things that Canadian movies aren’t usually (with the possible exception of Bon Cop Bad Cop and Gunless). Whatever it is, I’m giving it a chance.

HEREAFTER



Once again I find myself having the complete opposite reaction from everyone else. Plenty of people are willing to give Hereafter a shot because it’s directed by Clint Eastwood even if the premise doesn’t interest them. It’s the premise that interests me (it looks kind of like Ghost Whisperer combined with The Mentalist), and Clint Eastwood’s involvement that worries me. Clint Eastwood makes draggy, depressing, overemotional movies, usually starring himself. Thankfully he’s not in this one, but the trailer gives no hint as to what the plot might be, which usually means it’s too convoluted to sum up in two minutes. Not a good sign.

CONVICTION



Do you have siblings? How much do you love them? Enough to defy all the evidence against them that says they committed murder, put yourself through law school, and dedicate your whole life to getting them out of prison? Because that’s what Betty Anne Waters did. For real. Obviously it’s a movie so it won’t be totally true to life, but Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell are both excellent actors, and they’re working with really compelling material, so Conviction is definitely worth watching.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2



I didn’t see Paranormal Activity, but I heard good things. Paranormal Activity 2 is actually a prequel rather than a sequel, as it features the sister of the main character from the first film and her family. There are only so many places you can go with the “haunted house” thing, so it’s probably going to be more like a remake of the first one than anything else, as least as far as how the haunting works. Kind of like every Final Destination movie. But if you want to watch a scary movie in the runup to Halloween, I think is probably your best bet.

FAREWELL



Farewell is an old-school spy thriller based on the true story of a French engineer who gets drawn into a Russian spy’s plan to help the fall of communism in the 1980s. It’s French, but the Americans are heavily involved in the story too so it’s not entirely in subtitles (if that helps). Don’t go into this expecting a James Bond movie (despite the reference the engineer’s wife makes to ye old British superspy). This is more along the lines of the slower paced dramas they made out of John Le Carre’s books. If you don’t mind that, you’ll learn a about a fascinating and little known part of Cold War history.

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