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Book of Life Review

poster from the 20th Century Fox film Book of Life

Fury, The Best of Me, and Book of Life came out this week. I’m tired of World War II movies about Heroic Americans in general and Brad Pitt specifically. Nicholas Sparks movies tend to make me want to punch his lights out. Book of Life is a cute cartoon about dead things created by Jorge R. Gutierrez, a Guillermo del Toro student. No brainer.

Two best friends, a soldier and a musician, compete for the hand of the same girl while the king and queen of the dead wager on the outcome.

In most respects, Book of Life is pretty good. It’s pretty original. The story is pretty tight. Characters are pretty likeable. It’s got a pretty cute side kick. The message to kids is pretty relevant. Where it really shines is in the visuals. Every inch of the screen is filled with something bright and intricate, which will either give you a headache or make you want to buy it as poster art.

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Dracula Untold Review

poster from the Legendary Pictures film Dracula Untold

I’m ‘meh’ on vampires in general (upgrade to ‘bleh’ if we’re talking sparkly Twilight vampires). I also know almost nothing about Vlad the Impaler, historically speaking. But this week I went to see a historical vampire movie about Vlad the Impaler, because… well… you gotta watch something, right?

A Transylvanian prince turns himself into a vampire to protect his people from slaughter at the hands of the Turkish army.

Perhaps because I know almost nothing of Vlad the Impaler’s true history, I was pleasantly surprised by Dracula Untold. I was expecting it to be stupid, but I actually enjoyed it. And, I suspect, you will too if you’ve ever watched a Twilight movie and wished someone would just turn into a hoard of bats and wipe out an army or something.

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Trailers for July 25, 2014

HERCULES



It’s interesting to see Rufus Sewell and Ian McShane playing wisecraking sidekicks rather than villains, especially considering that this is exactly the type of big budget hollywood meatheadstravaganza that is most likely to typecast actors (such as slapping a loincloth on a wrestler). Can’t say the Ancient Greek action appeals to me, though. I only watched the Perseus movies because Sam Worthington was in them.

LUCY



I can’t even begin to list the things that piss me off about this movie. Kidnapping people to use as drug mules when there are plenty around who would do it for money. Using a mule to transport supersoldier drugs. Supersoldier drugs. Supersoldier drugs that make the main character into an instant remorseless assassin savant with telekenetic powers. The fact that the filmmakers are probably patting themselves on the back for creating such a ‘strong female character.’ A science fiction movie that doesn’t bother to read up on science (the 10% of your brain thing is Hollywood science, not fact). I could go on, but I think you get the point.

AND SO IT GOES



A little insensitive? A little rude? Let’s call it like it is, okay? Dude’s an a**hole. No one in their right mind would ask him to look after a child. Also, the last movie I liked that involved reforming a total jerk was Cars. And Cars had a talking helicopter.

A MOST WANTED MAN



Oh no, not John Le Carre! I know he’s hailed for his realism but in my experience, realism in a spy movie means boring and confusing. I guess that explains why the trailer gave me almost no sense of what the f*** was going on.

THE BIRDER



Park? I thought they were at a university. Other than that it looks pretty funny. I just hope that the slightly lackadaisical tone in the trailer doesn’t mean the movie is slow and/or boring.

LAND HO!



This looks like a fun trip to BE on, but not a fun trip to watch these two old dudes go on. It was only two minutes long and I was bored.

I ORIGINS



Oh no, the director of Another Earth. That movie was a really cool idea that was unfortunately too metaphorical and boring in execution. I’m not sure about the idea part of this one – I’m kind of confused about what her eyes are supposed to be telling them – but I get the sense it is also too metaphorical and slow-moving for me.

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DVDs for July 15, 2014

rio 2

Rio 2

In the first Rio, a terrified, flightless macaw named Blue was brought to South America to breed with Jewel, the only other remaining bird of his species. In this sequel, we discover that blue macaws aren’t as rare as everyone thought: Jewel’s whole family is out in the jungle, so Blue (reluctantly) takes the family to Brazil once again to meet their relatives. Like the first Rio, it’s an okay movie. Not the funniest or most exciting movie ever, but it’s cute, it looks nice, and kids enjoy it.

Buy Rio 2 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

under the skin

Under the Skin

If you’re in the mood for a movie that will make you go: “What the #$%$@& is happening?!” then Under the Skin is for you. Don’t be fooled by the mention of aliens and the fact that Scarlett Johansson is in the cast (okay, she pretty much IS the cast). This movie is more about self discovery and learning about feelings, and by that I mean the main character has a weird look on her face while incomprehensible things happen around her. The only reason people who are not film critics might want to watch this movie is for the nudity.

Buy Under the Skin on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

wipers times

The Wipers Times

If Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife have sucked you into the world of British period drama, expand your horizons a little further and try a BBC war movie. Don’t worry, it’s not full of blood and bombs and harrowing death scenes. It’s about a group of soldiers (led by Ben Chaplin) who find a printing press in World War I and use it to publish a satirical newsletter to keep up morale in the trenches (even though the brass think it’s borderline treasonous) so it’s quite funny. And the best part is – it’s true!

Buy The Wipers Times on DVD.

hercules reborn

Hercules Reborn

There is a Hercules movie coming out soon that stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. This is not it, but a sizeable portion of its marketing team are probably hoping you get the two confused – it’s about Hercules and stars a WWE wrestler (John “Johnny Nitro” Hennigan), but the movie itself is sort of a sequel. Hercules is a down-on-his-luck exile who is pressed into action once again when a young man’s bride is kidnapped by an evil king. It’s about as good as any of the knockoffs in the “mockbuster” family (Transmorphers, Chop Kick Panda, etc.) which is to say: not very good.

Buy Hercules Reborn on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for June 24, 2014

winters tale

Winter’s Tale

I’d have waited until February to release this. Nobody wants to be reminded of winter in the summer, plus it’s the kind of epic love story that people always buy for each other for Valentine’s Day. Oh well. The movie itself is soppy but watchable. It’s part historical fiction set in early 1900s New York and part angels vs demons magical fairy tale/love story. Colin Farrell plays a thief with a magical horse who falls in love with a dying woman then wakes up in the present day to help some little girl with cancer. Read my review for more.

Buy Winter’s Tale on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

300 2

300: Rise of an Empire

If you thought a movie where everybody dies couldn’t possibly have a sequel, you haven’t seen Hamlet 2… or tried to get between a studio and a giant pile of money. Rise of an Empire is basically the same as 300, in that bare chests and slow motion droplets are the stars of the movie and the story consists of some Greeks planting themselves between an army of insane monsters and their homeland. If you like action, this is the movie for you. If you like character, content, or story, pick something else. Literally anything else.

Buy 300: Rise of an Empire on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

enemy

Enemy

In this drama/thiller, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a boring college professor who goes to a show and meets an actor who’s basically a more exciting version of himself (existentially and literally) and ends up stalking the guy/going crazy (as you do). Actors love to stretch their wings by playing two roles in the same movie, but if you want to watch a movie like that, pick Moon instead of this one. It’s less boring (read: not boring), stars Sam Rockwell, and it has an actual story, whereas this one is more of a metaphor.

Buy Enemy on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

blood ties

Blood Ties

At this point, they could release a movie about two brothers/friends on opposite sides of the law and have it be the greatest movie in the history of movies and I would still refuse to see it because these ‘oh noes, do we choose principle or family?’ stories are a dime a dozen. This one stars Clive Owen as the criminal brother and Billy Crudup as the cop brother and it’s the 70s. That’s the only thing that sets it apart from We Own the Night, Mission Park, Line of Duty, Ganga and Yamuna, etc. etc. etc. Randomly select one from the list, or just skip them all and watch something more upbeat.

Buy Blood Ties on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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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 June 17, 2014

grand budapest hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Tragically, we did not get this in theaters. It’s a Wes Anderson movie (for a lot of people, that’s all I’ll need to say) about a hotel concierge and his buddy the lobby boy who are dealing with the craziness of the hotel’s patrons (art theft, family infighting, the general weirdness of the period between the world wars). For those who know Wes Anderson’s work, it’s more like The Life Aquatic than Darjeeling Limited. For those who don’t, the best way to describe it is ‘quirky.’ Rent or do not rent accordingly.

Buy The Grand Budapest Hotel on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

no clue

No Clue

This is a Canadian noir comedy written by and starring Brent Butt, so if you like his standup (or the TV show Corner Gas, you’ll probably like it). Butt plays a salesman who is mistakenly hired to find a woman’s missing brother and ends up stumbling his way through the usual noir movie cliches. Butt and the other actors play it like it’s a serious noir film that a bumbling coward somehow got caught up in, so if you like fish-out-of-water characters and parodies, you might want to give No Clue a shot.

Buy No Clue on DVD.

joe

Joe

In this deadly serious drama, Nicholas Cage plays an ex-con/labor crew leader who gets involved in the life one of his teenaged employees. Said teen has a typical ‘serious drama’ family (useless mother, traumatized sibling, abusive father) and Nicholas Cage’s character faces a typical ‘serious drama’ choice (act in my own best interests or someone else’s). Whether or not you’ll like it depends on how depressed you want to be afterward and whether you like Nicholas Cage (it’s ‘not’ and ‘no’ for me).

Buy Joe on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

authors anonymous

Authors Anonymous

In this almost-straight-to-DVD comedy, the members of a writing group deal with feelings of jealousy and rejection after one of their number becomes an overnight success. The cast is made up of current and former television actors (including Kaley Cuoco, Chris Klein, Terri Polo, Tricia Helfer, and Dylan Walsh) most of whom play the same type of roles you remember them for. This is the kind of movie written by writers for other writers, but if you’ve got a writer in your life, watching this movie might help understand them better.

Buy Authors Anonymous on DVD.

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Trailer Reviews for June 13, 2014

22 JUMP STREET



21 Jump Street was a comedy I worried would be too dumb for me, but it turned out to be both hilarious and smart. Major points went to it for making fun of the fact that it was a remake. This trailer shows the same level of self awareness. It also made me smile, though the red band trailer is funnier.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2



I loved the first How to Train Your Dragon. It was pretty much a perfect movie. But I felt like when it was over, it was done. It didn’t need a sequel. Any attempt to lengthen the story with another movie would just seem tacked-on. And this trailer hasn’t convinced me otherwise. But Dreamworks has money to make, so I guess we’ll be seeing these for a while until eventually they end up straight-to-video like Land Before Time 27.

THE DOUBLE



Wasn’t there just a movie about two Jake Gyllenhaals? Is this a trend now, that actors don’t feel challenged unless they’re playing against themselves? I’m not a fan of even one Jesse Eisenberg and this movie looks boring and weird. Weird in a way that’s meant to be funny but fails to elicit more than an awkward ‘heh’ from me. I’m skipping it.

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DVDs for June 10, 2014

jack ryan

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

This is the first Jack Ryan movie not based on any of Tom Clancey’s novels, and it shows. It’s a lot less politically sophisticated than the previous Jack Ryan films and a lot more confused in terms of who the Jack Ryan character is and what he can do. Though the filmmakers have tried to update the series by bringing it into the present day, it still feels like a Cold War movie, mostly because the Russians are the bad guys and digital data is treated like hard copy. Rent it if you’re looking for a generic action movie or check out my full review.

Buy Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

nonstop

Non-Stop

Speaking of generic movies, Non-Stop, a generic thriller about a sky marshall trapped on a plane with a terrorist, also releases this week. It’s a good premise for a contained space thriller, but they ruined it by spending most of the movie texting and by having everyone think that the hero was the villain, which made the plot seem convoluted. If you’re looking at Liam Neeson’s picture on the box and thinking it will be like Taken, think again. There’s only one good fist fight in the whole movie. Read my review for more.

Buy Non-Stop on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

cosmos

Cosmos

Judging from the amount of pseudoscientific bullsh** and outright lies being shared by people on my Facebook news feed, a lot more people need to watch this documentary series. It does for physics, astronomy, and ecology what BBC’s Planet Earth did for geography and biology – it makes you want to hear about science. Whether you failed every science class in school or you’re a Popular Science subscriber, TV presenter/real actual scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson has something new to say to you. And it looks pretty. Check it out.

Buy Cosmos on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

devils knot

Devil’s Knot

And now for a non-generic thriller: Devil’s Knot is based on the true story of a trio of teens accused of murdering three little boys as part of a satanic ritual. The film delves into the horror of the murders as well as the controversial aspects of the case, raising the question of whether the teens really killed anyone or if the town is just out to get them for being weird. If you’ve seen the documentaries the film probably won’t offer anything new, but if you’re coming to it fresh you’ll find it really interesting. Check it out.

Buy Devil’s Knot on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for June 3, 2014

lone-survivor dvd

Lone Survivor

Based on the autobiography of a Navy SEAL who was lost and wounded during a disastrous operation in Afghanistan, Lone Survivor isn’t so much Marcus Luttrell’s survival story as it is a memorial to his fallen brothers. It’s like Saving Private Ryan, only more heartwrenching because it’s true. This makes it a hard movie to watch, but if you can handle it, I think you should do it. You may feel a bit like you’re intruding on the grief of others, but they made the movie because want us to see it.

Buy Lone Survivor on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

robocop dvd

Robocop

This movie is a remake of the classic 1987 film. A critically injured police officer in a city plagued by crime is brought back to the force as a heavily armored robot to do the police department’s bidding, but there’s more of the officer left than they bargained for, and he has an agenda of his own. Debate rages as to whether the original was better, but if you like action movies, cool special effects, and exploring the scientific aspects of your sci-fi (like in Almost Human), you’ll probably like the new Robocop.

Buy Robocop on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

son-of-god dvd

Son of God

If you’re strongly religious and of the Christian persuasion, you MIGHT enjoy this movie. It’s a biopic of Jesus edited down from a miniseries that interprets the bible literally. This movie does not have its tongue in its cheek (like Life of Brian), has no grit (like Passion of the Christ), and takes no chances (like Color of the Cross). However, even if you’re really religious, you still may not like the movie because Jesus is cast as a smirking, laid-back surfer type whose smarmy face begs to be slapped.

Buy Son of God on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

goodbye-world dvd

Goodbye World

Have you been wondering what the guy from Entourage and Ryan from The O.C. have been up to lately? Well the answer is: starring in a movie about what happens after a computer virus destroys civilization. Its an ensemble drama rather than horror or action. Almost the entire plot is devoted to their interpersonal problems (marriage falling apart, friends arguing, neighbors who are suspicious of outsiders). This, for me, is the least interesting thing that could happen in a post-apocalyptic world. But if you like people arguing (so… The Walking Dead?) you might like it.

Buy Goodbye World on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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