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Trailer Reviews for May 30, 2014

MALEFICENT



I’m confused by all of the trailers I’ve seen for this movie. Is Maleficent the main character or the villain or both? She seems pretty evil, but then again so does Sleeping Beauty’s dad. And what is Maleficent trying to accomplish in this story? Is she trying to get her wings back? Looking for revenge against Sleeping Beauty’s dad? Both? Neither? I can’t say I’m inclined to see the movie to find out.

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST



I’m not a fan of Ted (though I did like the idea), and I though used to watch Family Guy back in the day, I wouldn’t say my sense of humor completely lines up with Seth MacFarlane’s. His jokes are a little cruder than the stuff that typically makes me laugh. Having said that, people dying in unorthodox ways is HILARIOUS. I don’t really understand why his character is back in the old west talking like a tour guide, but the trailer made me laugh enough that I’d pay money to find out.

THE GRAND SEDUCTION



Northern Exposure by way of Newfoundland. Nice! As funny as A Million Ways to Die in the West looks, I have to see this one this week. Not only is it a Canadian movie, it’s a Canadian movie that looks funny and upbeat and is coming to my town on opening week. I can’t pass up an opportunity like that, not if I ever want the ‘good’ Canadian films to come my way in a timely manner again.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past Review

poster from the Twentieth Century Fox film X-Men Days of Future Past

Of all the superhero movies, the X-Men are my favorite. Except, of course, for X-Men 3 – an atrocity we fans avoid speaking of like it’s the movie equivalent of Voldemort. X-Men: First Class was one of my favorite movies ever. I was looking forward to Days of Future Past, not just because it’s the sequel, but because it promised to erase X-Men 3 from history.

Wolverine is sent back to 1973 to stop an assassination that will lead to an apocalyptic future full of invincible mutant-hunting super-robots.

I had some slight worries regarding time travel rules and the huge cast of mutants, but I’m happy to report that they were groundless. Though there were some themes that were repeated from other movies, everything else was great. I’ll buy the DVD for sure.

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Trailer Reviews for May 23, 2014

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST



This movie looks incredibly ambitious. It has a huge cast that’s been doubled on account of everyone having a past and a future self. I worry that since time travel is so tricky, they’ll break their own rules. And even if they don’t, won’t it seem really rushed and chaotic as they try to squeeze everybody in? However, I love the first two X-Men movies and First Class was amazing. If this movie does as promised and wipes out the atrocity that was X-Men 3, I will be a very happy person.

BLENDED



This is a TERRIBLE movie. Not only is it horrifically unfunny, it also sends the message that single women are soft carpets who can’t raise boys not to burn their damn house down, that girls raised by single men are all involuntary tomboys, and that people with kids are too dumb to go on a date without spitting in each others’ faces. I like the idea of a movie about a blended family coming together, but this movie is light years dumber than Yours, Mine and Ours.

THE LOVE PUNCH



I don’t understand why this movie is called The Love Punch but it looks MUCH funnier than Blended. I love Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan and the whole ‘adventures of hilarious older people’ genre. If I was going to a romantic comedy this weekend, I would pick this one. But I’m not, because X-MEN!!!!

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DVDs for May 19, 2014

pompeii

Pompeii

Attention everybody: buy this movie. My brother worked on it. No, his name’s not in the credits. He was just filling in. Behind the camera. But buy it anyway. What? You want to know about the movie? It’s actually pretty good. Kit Harrington plays a pouty Celt not unlike Jon Snow who is taken to Pompeii as a gladiator, falls in love with the mayor’s daughter, and tries to get revenge on the guy who killed his family. Oh, and a mountain explodes. Spectacularly. In very expensive CGI. Check out my review for more.

Buy Pompeii on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

right kind of wrong

The Right Kind of Wrong

While you’ve got your credit card out, you should buy this movie too. Because a) it’s Canadian and b) it’s actually fun to watch and not depressing at all. Jason from True Blood plays a failed writer who decides to break up Aunt Jenna from The Vampire Diaries and her douchey husband on account of he saw her kick a football one time. It’s both romantic and comedic and the scenery is nice too. Check out my review for more.

Buy The Right Kind of Wrong on DVD.

vampire academy

Vampire Academy

If you watched Twilight and wished there was a teen vampire movie that was less dumb and stalkery, let me introduce you to Vampire Academy. Our hero is a sarcastic, ass-kicking, hard-partying teenage vampire bodyguard who unravels a conspiracy involving secret superpowers and princess-napping. It’s about as far away from Twilight as you can get without becoming Underworld, and the book is good too. Check it out.

Buy Vampire Academy on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

monuments men

The Monuments Men

If you watched Saving Private Ryan and wished there were more art critics puttering around in crumbly basements looking for old paintings, then Monuments Men is for you. While their work was important and deserves recognition, you’ll probably get more out of the book version. The movie tries to be glib and serious at the same time by melding wisecracking characters with the serious subject of trying to rescue cultures the Nazis tried to wipe out, but the film failed to resonate with people.

Buy Monuments Men on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for May 16, 2014

GODZILLA



I don’t normally get excited for big dumb giant thing movies, but this one looks pretty good. I like how the trailers hold back on the Godzilla reveal to make it clear that it’s a movie with actual characters and story, not just a two hour CGI rampage. There’s a trailer focused on Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character that’s even better than this one, but I can’t find it. Anyway, I wish I could go this weekend but I’m camping with my Girl Guides.

MILLION DOLLAR ARM



Dang, I wanted to see this movie too! Oh well. I’m just glad they didn’t decide to make me miss the opening weekend of X-Men: Days of Future Past. I don’t like baseball but I do like sports movies, I guess because they’re less about sports than they are about relationships and overcoming obstacles to become the best version of yourself. The idea of Jon Hamm becoming a ‘big brother’ to a bunch of Indian cricket players nobody thinks will succeed sucks me right in.

THE IMMIGRANT



Hmm. It looked nice, but I’m not sure I got much from this trailer. I get that Marion Cotillard is an immigrant, her sister’s in quarantine (consumption?) and that Joaquin Phoenix probably takes advantage of her while Jeremy Renner loves her, but why is it so quiet? Also, I get worried when I see reviews quoted that describe the movie as like a ‘dream’ or a ‘delusion.’ Dreams and delusions make no sense, and I can’t abide by nonsensical movies.

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DVDs for May 13, 2014

her

Her

The idea behind this movie is great. A lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) buys the latest technology gimmick (an AI operating system that designs its own personality to suit you) and ends up falling in love with it. The movie explores their relationship as well as its societal implications and just how different a computer-based life form would be from us. Unfortunately, when this great idea was executed, it turned into an awkward, boring film. If you don’t mind that sort of thing, check it out.

Buy Her on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

i frankenstein

I, Frankenstein

Even though it’s terrible, I was actually planning to see this in theaters. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I was thwarted by a broken projector. If you read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and thought: who cares about morality, ethics, science, and the nature of life? Frankenstein’s monster would be way more interesting if he was involved in a giant war between magical ugly things, then this movie is for you. This movie does for classic literature what Legion did for Christian mythology (i.e. made it stupid). Skip it.

Buy I, Frankenstein on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

that awkward moment

That Awkward Moment

This movie is sort of a romantic comedy told from the guys’ perspective – three guys (a womanizer, a nerd, and a married guy) all become single at the same time and decide to make a pact to stay that way – except that all three end up romantically involved with women. It differs from traditional romantic comedies in that it’s got a lot more dick jokes and the characters all act like overgrown frat boys. Some people will find it okay, but most will be put off by the fact that the women could do a lot better than these three.

Buy That Awkward Moment on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

stalingrad

Stalingrad

This is a big-budget Russian film about a vicious urban hellhole of a battle between the Soviets and the Germans in World War II. It looks pretty good, especially for a non-Hollywood movie, and aims for a Band of Brothers feel, with the narrative following a handful of soldiers protecting a local girl. They even give some non-evil screentime to the Germans. Unfortunately, some of the heroism borders on silliness, it doesn’t always make sense, and it glosses over some of the ways Soviet leadership was not awesome to its soldiers. Give it a try though if you liked Enemy at the Gates.

Buy Stalingrad on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for May 6, 2014

veronica mars

Veronica Mars

Otherwise known as “The Kickstarter Movie.” In a move reminiscent of Firefly, fans of the Nancy-Drew-esque high school murder mystery show Veronica Mars got together and handed series creator Rob Thomas (not the one from Matchbox 20) enough money to make a movie. They got an extra-long mystery featuring grown up Veronica investigating a case that catches her up with all the people she used to know as a teen. This is pretty much a fans-only movie, so try the TV show first.

Buy Veronica Mars on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

art of the steal

The Art of the Steal

There’s an art to making heist movies that aren’t just the same old cliches trotted out all over again, and this movie doesn’t have it. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a reformed thief bands together with his former colleagues to pull off one more heist before they retire, but divisions among the group screw up the plan. The only real difference is that the lead character played by Kurt Russell is (for some reason) an Evel Knievel knockoff. If you mass-consume heist movies, you’ll probably get to it eventually.

Buy The Art of the Steal on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

burn

Burn

I was first introduced to Detroit’s arson problem through Charlie LeDuff’s book Detroit: An American Autopsy. Overworked, underpaid firefighters in run down equipment risk their lives to fight huge numbers of arson fires in abandoned houses before they burn the handful of remaining people out of their homes (Detroit is where arsonists go on vacation). It’s hard hitting stuff, even more so in documentary form. They got some pretty amazing footage, so definitely check it out (especially you, fellow Chicago Fire fans).

Buy Burn on DVD.

generation war

Generation War

In North America, we call our World War II soldiers “The Greatest Generation.” We make endless movies about how they heroically put down those dastardly Nazis, but what if you’re German? What do you call the ’40s generation then? I always preferred the war movies/books that contained at least a single three dimensional Axis character rather than a hoard of cardboard psychopaths, so this miniseries, which follows five young Germans in different wartime roles, seemed like exactly what I’ve been looking for all this time. This is something we should all watch.

Buy Generation War on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Sniper’s Honor Review

It’s Random Friday again and I’m still trying to clear my backlog of free Goodreads First Reads books, so today we’ll be talking about Sniper’s Honor, a military/historical thriller by Stephen Hunter. It’s releasing this month from Simon and Schuster.

snipers honor cover

A retired sniper and a newspaper reporter attract deadly notice when they start digging into the history of a female sniper who disappeared from the Ukraine in the closing days of World War II.

I requested Sniper’s Honor because I loved one of Hunter’s other thrillers. When it opened with a quote from The Terminator, I knew we would get along like a house on fire.

I love Sniper’s Honor for a lot of reasons. It’s part World War II novel, part modern-day thriller. The plotting is tight and the prose is clever. The two timelines trade the narrative back and forth as each set of characters discovers clues and encounters setbacks, ensuring that there’s no good place to stop reading. Everything clicks together perfectly, but even though I usually figure thrillers out in a few chapters, I had no idea how Sniper’s Honor was going to end until all the pieces fell into place.

The World War II timeline doesn’t just re-hash the same old American/British victories. It delves into the action on the often ignored Eastern Front, touching on the battles we’ve heard of (Stalingrad, Kursk, the siege of Leningrad) but focusing on the forgotten partisans who fought SS death squads and battle-hardened paratroopers in the remote Ukrainian mountains. The hero of the story is not only a sniper but a female Russian sniper, which I was thrilled about, even if her beauty is the only reason anyone’s interested in her.

I also love that Sniper’s Honor doesn’t fall into the propaganda-movie trap of ‘all Allies good, all Axis bad,’ as there are heroes and villains on both sides. There’s a fair amount of graphic violence, but it didn’t bother me. Violence is necessary to convey the horror and confusion of war and when some of the truly monstrous characters meet their ends, I would even call it satisfying.

In the ‘present day’ timeline, the heroes are a reporter who has grandchildren, a retired sniper with a bad hip, and (in an interlude) a desk jockey who spends all day crunching numbers. None of the three are typical action heroes, which is why it’s such a pleasure to see them stick it to the cocky young guns in the intelligence and organized crime communities who are trying to keep their dark secrets buried.

My only real complaint is that prose was a little technical for me at times. I’m not a firearms expert, and with so many weapons being identified by number-letter combinations, I needed to have Google images near at hand in order to visualize the action. During the wrap-up, I was also a bit confused about what happened to a few of the bit players, but the neat bow tied around the principals more than made up for it.

I would recommend Sniper’s Honor to any history or thriller buff who’s tired of the same old thing (extra points if you’re both). I award it the coveted rating of:

category 5

Before you go, here’s your Sniper’s Honor-related cartoon:
girl sniper meme

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DVDs for April 29, 2014

labor day

Labor Day

Normally I hate movies where the main character is a criminal, but Labor Day broke my rule. Josh Brolin plays a man in prison for murder who escapes and forces a woman (Kate Winslet) and her thirteen-year-old son (Gattlin Griffith) to hide him at their house for the long weekend. The grown-ups fall in love and the kid gets a better father figure than his mom’s remarried ex, so it’s sweet rather than scary. Check it out if you like romantic dramas, or read my review for more.

Buy Labor Day on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

devils due

Devil’s Due

In this low-budget found footage horror movie, Zach Gilford and Allison Miller find themselves in a Rosemary’s Baby meets The Exorcist situation when some cultists kidnap them on their honeymoon and impregnate them (well, her) with a demon baby. Mom’s role in the story is to be creepy, while Dad’s role is to be weirded out and make videotapes of everything. The story’s a bit ridiculous but the acting’s good, so if you’re looking for a new horror movie to watch, try this or read my review for more.

Buy Devil’s Due on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

hercules

Legend of Hercules

There is a Hercules movie starring Dwayne Johnson that’s releasing this summer. This is not that movie. This is a lower (not low) budget version starring Kellan Lutz (best known for being one of the secondary vampires in Twilight). It’s kind of a cross between 300 and Gladiator, with poor misunderstood Hercules getting sold into slavery because he fell in love with the wrong girl. Watch it if you really want to see Kellan Lutz with his shirt off, but if you want to learn the myths, read a book.

Buy Legend of Hercules on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

gimmie shelter

Gimme Shelter

Apparently Vanessa Hudgens is really serious about breaking away from the cutesy good-girl image that’s been following her ever since she starred in High School Musical. First Spring Breakers, now this: a gritty/inspiring drama based on a true story. Hudgens plays a pregnant teen who escapes from her abusive, drug addicted mother, is rejected by her rich absentee father, and finally winds up accepting help from a shelter run by Catholics. If you can stomach the faith aspects, it’s a pretty strong showing.

Buy Gimme Shelter on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for April 25, 2014

THE OTHER WOMAN



There are three of them. Shouldn’t it be called The Other Women? The trailer reminds me a lot of John Tucker Must Die and The First Wives Club, but those were funny movies. I don’t think I would mind watching another movie that was like them. Also, that was Taylor Kinney.

THE QUIET ONES



“If we cure one patient, we cure all mankind.” I’m not sure science works that way, dude. Also, yet another thin justification for found footage. Who went and edited it all together in the scariest possible way after you were all sucked into the sky by the ghost/demon/whatever?

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE



“You being so reclusive and everything is probably only going to make people more interested in your music…” and also, you look like Tom Hiddleston and you rarely wear a shirt. That’ll do it every time. It looks pretty funny, but also reeeeeally slow. I’m not sure I’d have the patience.

BRICK MANSIONS



Ugh, and here I’d been thinking parkour looked cool. Way to ruin it, movie.

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