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DVDs for March 12, 2013

life of pi

Life of Pi

Sometimes, a story really resonates with people and they can’t say why. This was the case with a lot of people and Life of Pi in both the book and the movie version, but I’m not one of those people. The story of a young Indian man who gets stuck on a lifeboat with a collection of zoo animals (most notably a tiger) after a shipwreck was original and interesting, sure, but it was also just a little too vague, rambly, and pseudo religious for me. I do agree with the critics who compare it to Avatar, though. The 3D special effects are spectacular. Read my review for more.

Buy Life of Pi on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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rise of the guardians

Rise of the Guardians

This was a good movie, but I wish they’d given it a less generic title. It sounds too much like the owl movie Legend of the Guardians. No one who heard that title could possibly guess that it’s actually about Jack Frost teaming up with the ‘real’ mythical creatures that people actually know – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy – to defeat a fear monster that’s ruining all the holidays and making kids miserable. But that’s what it’s about. It’s a good movie to watch with your kids on any holiday (or no holiday) so check it out.

Buy Rise of the Guardians on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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hitchcock

Hitchcock

Everyone knows OF Alfred Hitchcock, but how much do you actually know ABOUT Alfred Hitchcock? If you want to know more, check out this movie. It’s set during the filming of one of his most famous movies, Psycho, and showcases not only what he was like as a director (controlling) but also the important relationship he had with his wife Alma, who contributed creatively to a lot of his projects (though not as much as this movie would have you believe, some people argue). Regardless, it’s fascinating to get a glimpse ‘behind the scenes’ of Psycho, because it almost didn’t get made.

Buy Hitchcock on DVD/Blu-Ray.

cirque de soliel

Cirque du Soliel: Worlds Away

Let’s face it – most of us are never going to get the chance to see Cirque du Soliel live. They only travel to big cities and the tickets are hella expensive. With this movie, though, the price of admission drops from $300 per family to $3. Pretty good deal! There’s not much story here – a woman wanders through a bunch of trippy circus acts trying to find some guy (sort of like MirrorMask) but story is not the point here – it’s all the people doing cool spinny tricks on wires. Rent it, watch it with your kids. Maybe they’ll run away and join the circus.

Buy Cirque du Soliel: Worlds Away on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Oz the Great and Powerful Review

poster from the Disney film Oz the Great and Powerful

Man, I had to work to see Oz the Great and Powerful this week. First I tried to go on Friday night and after an hour and a half of fiddling with the projector and making us watch the first five minutes of the pre-show about a thousand times, the theater staff declared it a bust and handed out free passes. Luckily the Saturday afternoon matinee worked, or we’d be having a very different conversation right now.

A selfish con-man is caught in a tornado and transported to the land of Oz, which he is prophesied to save from an evil witch… if he can get his act together.

I loved the cartoon version of The Wizard of Oz when I was a kid and I enjoyed this movie too. It was funny, there was action. The plot twists were even somewhat surprising because I have only the vaguest recollection of the Dorothy story. However, the problem with redemption stories is that the main character has to be a jackass, and I hate jackasses.

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Trailer Reviews for March 8, 2013

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL



I’ve heard this movie compared to Alice in Wonderland and while it was meant as a compliment, I can’t help but be concerned. Alice in Wonderland was a little too much “look at all the cool stuff we can do with CGI” and not enough “boy, have I got a really great story to tell you.” It does help, though, that this is not the same Oz story we all know – with Dorthy and the little dog and the friends who are all missing their important bits. This is a prequel story about Oz, who has probably the least screen time of anyone in the original film yet somehow manages to be the most interesting character. I for one am looking forward to delving into the back story of the Wizard of Oz. On a side note – that was a cool thing they did there with the aspect ratios in the trailer. It gives me hope that the film will be clever also.

DEAD MAN DOWN



I’m a big fan of the original Swedish Dragon Tattoo movies. That trilogy was loaded with violence and it didn’t bother me but they almost lost me in Dead Man Down when she started talking about revenge. Too many dark/crime movies turn me off because the main characters are terrible people – revenge obsessed, self-interested, remorseless. I guess the reason I liked Dragon Tattoo so much – and the reason I’m actually kind of interested in seeing this movie – is that the main characters are sympathetic. Obviously the Terrence Howard character is horrible and needs to be stopped. Obviously some really bad stuff happened to the Noomi Rapace character that convinced her nothing but death would stop him. And Colin Farrell’s character is affected by the fact that he kills people. So yeah, I’d probably watch this movie.

STOKER



Apparently Wentworth Miller writes screenplays. Did you know Wentworth Miller wrote screenplays? I did not know Wentworth Miller wrote screenplays. I wish I could say I like the trailer for the screenplay he has written, because he seems like a nice guy, but sadly I cannot. I mean, it looks like it could have been scary, but it’s way too quiet. As in, quiet enough that I’d probably get bored watching the movie. Too many close ups of spiders crawling around and bits of gunk floating in water. Too many long awkward pauses between lines of dialogue. Too many blank faces delivering emotionless lines. I like all these actors in other things but here… either their characters are psychopaths who missed the ‘mimicking human emotion’ day in psychopath school or they were all having a bad acting day (year?). I’ll pass on this one.

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Jack the Giant Slayer Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film Jack the Giant Slayer

I was less than thrilled to hand over $14.50 to see Jack the Giant Slayer in 3D this weekend, and even less thrilled that I had to watch about ten minutes of 3D ads in addition to paying for the privilege of watching the movie in useless 3D, but the only other movie coming out this weekend was 21 and Over. There were so many ads I forgot what I was there to see: a retelling of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale.

A farm boy discovers the legend of giants is true when his friend the princess is accidentally stranded in their land by a rogue beanstalk.

I like fairy tale retellings (I watch Once Upon a Time regularly) and I had some hopes for this movie because Ewan McGregor (who is awesome) and Bryan Singer (who directed X-Men) were both involved, even though the trailer was lackluster. And while it was better than I expected, it just didn’t hook me.

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Trailer Reviews for March 1, 2013

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER



I have to say – this movie looks pretty dopey and uninspired. If you want to impress me with fairy tales these days, you have to give them a twist, not just load them down with CGI. Hansel and Gretel as serial killers. Rapunzel with magic hair. Once Upon a Time has already twisted the Jack and the Beanstalk story (Jack was a girl and the giants were the good guys) so I expect to be unimpressed by this movie. I mean – simple farm boy? Beautiful princess? Where have we seen that before? (answer: everywhere) And yet… and yet… Ewan McGregor almost always picks movies to be in that I like. So I have to wonder – does he know something I don’t? Is there something about Jack the Giant Slayer that the trailers didn’t show? Or is Ewan McGregor just having a little fun hauling a sword around?

LAST EXORCISM II



I saw The Last Exorcism. I even reviewed it for this blog but I still couldn’t tell you whether the woman in this movie is the same woman, or even if the vaguely I Know What You Did Last Summer plot has much of a connection to the previous movie. That’s how much of an impression it made on me. I do know that The Last Exorcism #2: Really the Last One This Time has taken a few pages from the Supernatural playbook since the last outing, though (the black demon eyes, crazy symbols on the doors, circles of salt on the floor). Keep an eye out next year for Last Exorcism #2: Seriously, this is the Last One, You Guys, We Promise, featuring Sean and Dam Flinchester as renegade priests looking to do their final exorcism (for serious this time).

21 AND OVER



Haven’t we seen this movie before? Like a million times? Wasn’t it already released this year under the name Project X? I mean, as happy as I am that Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have stopped ripping off their own script from The Hangover, they haven’t really moved on that far, have they? Another party, another collection of drunken antics, another pressing morning deadline. The only difference from The Hangover is that they don’t start at the end of the night and the characters are all teenagers, which makes me even less eager to see it. Teenagers are annoying and at least the looking-for-the-missing-friend/piecing-together-the-night gimmick was interesting. Now they don’t even have that.

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DVDs for February 26, 2013

breaking dawn 2

Breaking Dawn Part 2

The worst movie of 2012 is now available on DVD! Fans of the Twilight series will want to buy it and relive its insipid finale forever, while non-fans who are forced to watch will only feel like it goes on forever. The plot concerns a pair of vampire lovers and their vegetarian vampire/werewolf family protecting a creepy half human infant from the evil vampire ruling class, but all you need to know is that nothing really happens…. and it’s like three hours long. Easily the worst of the five films in the series, though they’re all pretty bad. Read my review for more.

Buy Breaking Dawn Part 2 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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chasing mavericks

Chasing Mavericks

No, this is not a movie about tracking down loose cannon fighter pilots. Mavericks are really big, really dangerous waves, and Chasing Mavericks is the (sort of) true story of a teenage boy who decides to surf one and enlists the aid of a local surfing legend named Frosty (no, he is not a snowman) to help him not die. As an inspirational surfing movie, it’s less annoying than Soul Surfer (too religious), but still pretty trite. The big draw is the surfing footage: apparently they lost six cameras just trying to film in the big waves. Check it out if you’re into the sport (or wish you were).

Buy Chasing Mavericks on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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master

The Master

Quite a few Hollywood movies are thinly veiled takes on Scientology. Perhaps the thinnest veil of all belongs to The Master, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as an alcoholic post-World War II naval officer who gets sucked into a cult run by Philip Seymour Hoffman. It’s one of those movies that’s not very satisfying to watch, though, where everything falls apart and everybody is horrible, so the movie did well with critics and award committees but not with regular viewers like you and me. So I’m recommending that you get your cult on by watching episode 3 of Cracked instead.

Buy The Master on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

africa

Africa

This is a BBC documentary. It is presented by David Attenborough. Need I say more? Can we all agree that the BBC makes the best nature documentaries and that whenever a new one comes out you should watch it? We got quite a few fascinating glimpses into Africa during the Planet Earth series, but here the continent has a whole series all to itself. MOAR ELEPHANTS! MOAR LIONS! MOAR WEIRD ANIMALS AND SAND DUNES! The best part is, you won’t even realize you’re learning while you’re watching it (and neither will your kids).

Buy BBC Africa on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for February 19, 2013

argo

Argo

I love Argo, which is a dramatization of the true story of a CIA rescue during the Iranian hostage crisit. It pairs a hilarious first half, where a CIA agent played by Ben Affleck dives into the craziness that is Hollywood to craft a cover story for his rescue mission, with an unbearably tense second half where the Iranians get closer and close to figuring out who he is and catching him before he can make off with the embassy workers. Ben Affleck really did a great job directing. It’s a shame he didn’t get an Oscar nod for it. Check it out or read my review for more.

Buy Argo on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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sinister

Sinister

I’m pretty jaded, so horror movies that scare other people tend to elicit little more than a few sarcastic comments from me. Sinister is pretty cookie cutter – a crime writer brings his family to stay in the house of a murdered family… which (quelle surprise) turns out to be haunted. But, as I discovered, cookie cutter plots don’t necessarily mean not scary. I jumped quite a few times watching this movie, and it was largely due to the directing (well done, Scott Derrickson). So if you want a horror movie that really will actually freak you out a bit, see this one. Read my review for more.

Buy Sinister on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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battlestar

Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome

I used to complain a lot about Battlestar Galactica because they spent too much time yelling at each other and having political campaigns when they should be blasting robots to kingdom come. And… it’s like someone was listening. Blood and Chrome is the pilot for a new, action-oriented Battlestar series (that’s not getting made… sorry). It follows William Adama as a young recruit in the First Cylon War. It’s awesome, but you don’t need to buy the DVD. You can watch it all for free on YouTube, where it was released (officially) in 12 minute installments.

Buy Blood and Chrome on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

anna karenina

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina is a famous Russian novel about some aristocrats having an affair. It’s quite long, which is why many high school and college students will be watching this movie instead. But be warned, if you’re not interested in opulent and unreal lifestyles, parties, and dancing, you’ll probably bored by this movie. I can’t even recommend it to fans of director Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice adaptation, because the love story isn’t righteous and happy but sordid and tragic. You may also have trouble drumming up sympathy for the characters, who are varying degrees of horrible.

Buy Anna Karenina on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

skyfall

Skyfall

I forgot to do a DVD article last week (blame my snowpocalypse induced shoveling coma) so I’ll briefly also mention the only movie worth mentioning from last week: the latest James Bond. It sucks – it’s contrived, forgetful, lacking in cool technology, and steals plot points from other movies (named Mission: Impossible and Home Alone. It is better than Quantum of Solace, but everything is better than Quantum of Solace. If you must watch a gritty, Daniel Craig take on Bond, make it Casino Royale. At least that one made sense. Read my review for more detail.

Buy Skyfall on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for February 8, 2013

IDENTITY THIEF



Okay… what? Someone steals this guy’s identity… the authorities know about it… they HAVE A PICTURE OF THE PERSON WHO DID IT AND HER LOCATION but they’re gonna send him down there to sort it out on his own? I’m sorry, but that’s just dumb. The few times people I know have had their credit card numbers stolen, the companies have jumped in to take over, canceling the cards, tracking down the culprits, and striking the bogus charges off the bill. They have to be like that, or no one would have a credit card anymore. It’s just way to easy for the number to be stolen. I could look past the dumb premise (maybe) if the movie looked funny, but Jason Bateman is bland and Melissa McCarthy is crude and I didn’t laugh once during the trailer. So I’ll be skipping this one.

SIDE EFFECTS



“From the creators of Contagion.” Woah woah woah, let me stop you right there, trailer. Contagion is not something you want to brag about. Contagion was boring, directionless, and had an annoying tenancy to never fully develop any of its plot points. I rated it as one of the worst movies of 2011. The fact that you think it was awesome enough to brag about tells me that this otherwise interesting sounding medical conspiracy murder thriller starring Channing Tatum is going to be boring, directionless, and full of underdeveloped subplots as well. So thanks, movie, for not tricking me into thinking you were going to be good. I just saved $11.50!

TOP GUN 3D



Awesome. Now I’m a total hypocrite for ragging on all those studios that re-released old movies in aftermarket 3D and expected us to fall all over ourselves running to the theater to buy tickets. Because all I could think of when I heard about Top Gun 3D was HOMG! TOP GUN! IN 3DDDDDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!

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Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters Review

poster  from the Paramount Pictures film Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters

I started my review later than usual this week, partly because I just got back from a Girl Guide sleepover and I’d rather be in a coma recovering from a bad case of chronic exasperation, and partly because I’d rather read page after page of funny autocorrects than try to think of things to say about Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. But I’ve run out of funny autocorrects, so I guess we can talk about the movie now. It’s the Hansel and Gretel legend, but gimmicky.

Adult Hansel and Gretel discover secrets about their past while hunting witches who are stealing children from the forest.

I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this movie were it not for Jeremy Renner. The ‘re-imagining fairy tales’ thing is popular right now but 9 out of 10 attempts are not very good. Unfortunately, despite the Renner factor, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is one of the lousy ones. No wonder it took forever to get a release date.

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Trailer Reviews for January 25, 2013

HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS



I kind of feel like I’ve seen this movie before (in Van Helsing and Brothers Grimm) but that’s not going to stop me from going to see it. I’m not gonna lie – the fact that it stars Jeremy Renner is probably the biggest (read: only) reason I upgraded it from “ignore” to “go see.” There’s nothing in the trailer that’s particularly enthralling – in fact it seems a little like a slapdash, pseudo-medieval version of Supernatural. I mean, if Hansel is such an expert hunter, how come he throws his shotgun (um… shotgun?) over his shoulder even though the muzzle is pointing right in some poor villager’s face? And where did that witch get a machine gun? And I really REALLY hope that wasn’t Gretel in the lake with Hansel (Surprise! The twist is that they’re not REALLY brother and sister!) [Not really – I made that up].

MOVIE 43



I was intrigued by this movie when I heard it was a collection of sketch comedy shorts. I love sketch comedy shorts (GOOD sketch comedy shorts, that is) But then the blurb went on to say that it was produced by one of the Farrelly brothers, and I was like: “woah woah, let me stop you right there, movie. You can just turn right around and crawl back into the arsehole you came from.” And then I thought: “No, no, you’re being unfair. It could be good.” Even though the blurb warns that the movie isn’t for the ‘easily offended.’ So I watched the trailer and I have to say, it’s not so much offensive as it is stupid, so I guess they’re partially right: if you’re offended by stupidity, you shouldn’t see this movie.

PARKER



I have a friend who is a huge Jason Statham fan (Hi, Meghan!) We do not agree on the relative merits of Jason Statham, probably because one person’s bad assity is the next person’s douchebaggery (it’s a fine line). This is a shame (from the studio’s point of view), because an irrational devotion to the lead actor is the only thing that could possibly make me go see a movie about criminals as heroes AND revenge plots conducted by the supposedly dead AND elaborate jewel heists (three of my least favorite movie premises). So enjoy, fans of baldy-headed criminals with their own moral codes! You will have no competition for tickets from me.

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