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Hugo Review

poster from the GK Films movie Hugo

I was really looking forward to Hugo, so much so that I actually wrote an angry email to our theater when it didn’t get Hugo in last week, when it was released. The trailer made it seem like an awesome children’s steampunk adventure. I didn’t know why it had to be directed by Martin Scorsese, a big shot of the “intelligent film” persuasion. You would think a children’s steampunk adventure would be more Chris Columbus territory, but I figured he was doing it for his grandkids or something. The story was certainly cool enough to appeal to kids:

An orphaned boy living in the walls of a Paris train station unlocks a mystery when he meets a girl with the key to his dead father’s clockwork automaton.

I was expecting something along the same lines as City of Ember (which, by the way, was fabulous) or A Series of Unfortunate Events, where the automaton’s clue leads Hugo down the path to danger, adventure, and the truth about his parents, but that wasn’t what I got at all. Instead, I got a thinly veiled lesson in the history of film which felt like nothing more than an ad urging people to support The Film Foundation’s restoration efforts. This explains why Martin Scorsese wanted to direct it – he’s the founder of that organization.

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DVDs for November 29, 2011

Friends With Benefits

This movie came out at the same time as another “let’s be friends who have sex but whoops we fell in love” movie called No String Attached. In the trailers, No Strings Attached seemed better, but I’ve seen both and this is definitely the stronger of the two. The characters are endearing, the dialogue is sharp, and the whole thing is downright hilarious. It’s a great movie to watch on date night, as even guys will laugh at the sexual humor. Definitely choose it over No Strings Attached. You can read my full Friends With Benefits review here.

Buy Friends With Benefits on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Our Idiot Brother

Paul Rudd excels at playing the quirky, lovable everyman in comedies. This time he goes a little more over the top and plays the weird hippie uncle that everyone in the family is sort of embarrassed by. The story follows his adjustment to real life after he gets out of jail. If he has a goal, it’s to get his dog back from his bitchy ex. It should fail because of this, but it’s really funny and sweet, so it manages to squeak by. I wouldn’t say rush out and buy a copy, but definitely check it out if you’re looking for a comedy that isn’t trying so hard to make you laugh that it becomes annoying. You can find the full Out Idiot Brother review here.

Buy Our Idiot Brother on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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One Day

With romantic movies, you usually only get to see the first bit of their lives, where they meet and fall in love and perhaps get married. Some focus on couples regaining lost love. This one in unique in that it shows the couple on one day a year (the anniversary of the day they met in college) over a period of 20 years. It’s based on a book, it’s British, and it stars Ann Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, so there’s three good reasons to watch it right there. Don’t go into it expecting to see a more drawn-out version of a romantic comedy, as things change direction near the end, but do watch it.

Buy One Day on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Another Earth

30 Minutes or Less and The Smurfs also come out on DVD today, but since one stars Danny McBride and the other is an ultra-lame nostalgia fest, I’m going to talk about Another Earth instead. It’s a lesser-known science fiction movie about two people who are caught in a horrifying accident on the day a second Earth is discovered. As they deal with the aftermath, they begin to wonder what their lives were like on that parallel universe version of Earth. Sort of like Sliding Doors, but with a tragic startoff. Check it out, even if you’re not a hard sci-fi fan. The science isn’t the focal point here anyway.

Buy Another Earth on DVD/Blu-Ray combo.

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Trailer Reviews for November 25, 2011

HUGO



I’ve been really looking forward to this movie, and no, it’s not because of Martin Scorsese. Martin Scorsese is incidental. What’s important is that it’s a cute movie involving a Steampunk mystery that stars a British kid rather than an American (the one who was in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, no less) and features the 30 Seconds to Mars song “Kings and Queens” in the trailer. I frikkin’ love that song. So I can easily forgive it for having a lame cake-wrecking joke in the trailer. In fact, I’ve been looking forward to it so much that I might just burn down our theater if it doesn’t get here pronto. I checked today, and it’s not in the lineup. This is a BIG MOVIE, Empire Theaters in Sydney, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!!!?

ARTHUR CHRISTMAS



This movie reminds me of something that’s been done before… a combination of the “marginalized Santa family member” plot from Fred Claus and the militarized elves of the E.L.F. Sqad from The Santa Clause perhaps? But still, it’s Aardman/Sony, so that’s a big draw for me. Aardman have been behind several movies I love, including Chicken Run and Flushed Away. James MacAvoy is perfect as Arthur, and that’s a pretty clever jab at the American “no child left behind” education initiative at the end of the trailer there. I think it’s going to be worth seeing, but unfortunately it comes out the same week as Hugo. And you can’t beat Hugo.

THE MUPPETS



When I was a kid, there were some programmes I only watched because they were on. Smurfs fell into that category. And there were others that I loved to pieces, like The Muppets. I still laugh every time I see Statler and Waldorf, and I’ve been a grown up for ten years now. I love the idea of a new muppet movie, but did they really have to put Jason Seigel in it? That guy is like everywhere, and he is not growing on me. I do like Amy Adams, though. And OH MY GOD they play the “munah munah” song. I love that song. I’ve seen the trailer a few times now and I’m still not sure what the plot is supposed to be. They’re putting on a reunion show? Is that the whole plot? Oh well, the whole reason people will be going is to see the nutso looks on the muppet faces as they flail around behind chest-high wall anyway.

THE DESCENDANTS



I know at least half the world is waiting in line to give George Clooney acting awards, but I just don’t see it. Look at that scene where he’s sitting across from his daughter attempting to have a meaningful conversation. The daughter looks embarrassed and exasperated. Clooney looks blank, just like he looks in every other scene in this trailer. I’m sorry, but if I’m going to watch a character-based drama like this, I need it to star someone who can freaking emote. Even the robot dad from And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird is more lovable than this. I am, therefore, unlikely to see this movie. If I want to watch a dad/child bonding film, I’ll break out my DVD of The Boys are Back, because even Clive Owen can do better than this.

MARGIN CALL



I suppose they’re trying to capitalize on all the Occupy Stuff protestors sitting around outside for various reasons by putting the movie out now, but is this what we really want to see as the Christmas season begins? A depressing movie about the terrible state of the economy? Yes, we like Zachary Quinto and Kevin Spacey and and Paul Bettany and Penn Badgley and Jeremy Irons and Simon Baker and Stanley Tucci, but even all of them combined will not be enough to induce people to subject themselves to a movie that will make them miserable when they want to feel happy. So they will go see Hugo and Arthur Christmas and The Muppets and forget about this until January, when their Christmas credit card bills arrive and they’re looking for someone else to blame it on. That’s my prediction.

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN



This is a limited release, so I was just going to ignore it until I saw the cast list. Emma Watson and Michelle Williams and Kenneth Brannagh and Dominic Cooper and Judi Dench all in one movie together?? Well I had to check it out. I’m not a big Marilyn Monroe devotee. I think all I’ve ever seen are the posters, which are pretty much a cliché now, so it would be interesting to see more of her life from a more personal perspective. And of course it’s British, so I wouldn’t miss it for that. I wouldn’t have thought of Michelle Williams as looking much like Marilyn Monroe, but I have to say she does pretty well here, from what I can see. I’ll add it to my list of DVDs to see.

THE ARTIST



This is another limited release, but I feel like I have to talk about it anyway because I talked about the last one. Is this a silent movie about silent movies? I have to admit, I’m intrigued. Some of my favorite episodes of TV shows have been the ones where characters lose the ability to speak and have to rely on their body language and the ambient music to convey emotion. (Check out Buffy the Vampire Slayer 4×10 “Hush” and The Fairly Odd Parents 3×24 “Pipe Down” to see what I mean) Holy cow that hand-in-the-empty-jacket thing is freaky, though! Anyway, it looks totally cool. I definitely want to see it. Sign me up for the DVD.

And in other news, the Cape Breton Film Series is showing a cool looking documentary called The Interrupters, which is about people who try to fight urban violence like it’s an infectious disease. Click here to see the trailer and decide for yourself. The show is at 7pm on Thursday at the Empire Theaters in Sydney.

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DVDs for November 22, 2011

Super 8

Super 8 sounded fantastic. It was a story about a group of kids filming a horror movie who stumble upon an Air Force secret project that starts destroying their town after a train crash. It had a fantastic trailer, plus J.J. Abrams’ name to recommend it. But when I watched it I was disappointed. It had crossed the fine line between “homage” and “ripoff” because it brought nothing new to the genre. The action is good and you may even be impressed if you didn’t spend the 80s and 90s watching the movies it copies, but it’s not the “instant classic” many reviewers are calling it. You can read my full Super 8 review here.

Buy Super 8 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Spy Kids: All the Time in the World

The Spy Kids movies have always been campy, with an emphasis on hammy acting and fart jokes, but this new installment takes the cake by actually pumping fart smell into the theater. Thankfully, such things are not yet possible with home DVD systems, so if you want to watch a spy stepmom bond with her spy stepkids through campy spy antics involving an evil villain who wants to take over the world, you can do so without gagging. Kids will likely enjoy it as long as they’re under ten, but parents and older kids will be squirming at its awfulness, even if they didn’t hate the previous films. So if you want a movie you can all watch as a family, this is not it.

Buy Spy Kids: All the Time in the World on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Conan the Barbarian

Conan movies are about three things: big muscles, hot babes, and gratuitous violence. By these standards, then, this remake of the Schwarzenegger meathead classic is a success. By any other standards, however, it is vapid, empty, and boring. Despite the near constant smashing of heads, violence without a point (and without an end) tends to become boring. The plot is as thin as it can be and still be present (Conan’s village is destroyed, he takes revenge, the end) so unless you can distract yourself by staring at scantily clad bodies, you’re probably going to nod off.

Buy Conan the Barbarian on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Sarah’s Key

This movie is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Tatiana de Rosnay and follows the investigations of a French/American journalist as she digs into the unknown history surrounding the Vel d’Hiv roundup in 1942 where French Jews were sent to their deaths by the French police. It cuts back and forth between the story of a young girl named Sarah in 1942 and modern times, which can get a little distracting, and story is a little overcomplicated in the end, but overall it’s a fascinating movie. Most people have never even heard of the incident it deals with, so definitely watch it, just prepare yourself for some sadness of tone.

Buy Sarah’s Key on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for November 11, 2011

IMMORTALS


What is is with all the Greek mythology these days? It’s like a fad. And as a fad, I don’t want anything to do with it. Greek stories may be the foundation for everything we write now, but we’ve moved on rather a lot since then, so I find these myth-based movies to be simplistic and boring. They’d probably be less so if they weren’t so focused on violence and showing off their fancy special effects, but oh well. This one looks especially boring, since it seems (from the trailer, anyway) to be about 90% slow motion. The “from the producers of 300” bit (I hated 300) does not give me great hopes that this movie will be different. Pass!

JACK AND JILL


I guess Adam Sandler was jealous that Eddie Murphy had cornered the market for stupid movies featuring a comedian as multiple members of the same family. What other reason could there be for making such an epically crappy, unfunny movie? I know there are some people out there who actually think Adam Sandler is funny, but come on – fat jokes? Crushing a horse? These are the last pathetic gasps at the bottom of the comedy barrel – the ones that piss off more people than they make laugh. I only saw the trailer, and I still want my money back.

J. EDGAR



Now here’s a movie I might go see if I wasn’t away this weekend. He’s such a controversial figure, I can’t decide if this movie would fascinate or enrage me… or both. There’s a third possibility, though. It could be boring. These political thrillers aren’t just slow to get started sometimes, they never really get started at all. The bit with his mother is intriguing, though, it’s always interesting/heartbreaking to see kids with weird parents come out extraordinary/twisted. And of course, you can always count on Leonardo DiCaprio (well, after he grew up, anyway) to pick interesting roles, so I think I would take a chance on this one.

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE



Numerous “ripped from the headlines” episodes of Criminal Minds have left me vaguely interested in the subject of cults and escaping from cults, but I haven’t read much non-fiction on it. This movie, obviously, is not non-fiction either, but it could provide the impetus to do more reading. That creepy guy has played the creepy guy in movies and TV shows so much that I bet everyone in real life treats him as a creepy guy even if he isn’t. What I don’t like about it is that it’s one of those movies that blends dreams with reality. I hate those, especially when you can’t tell which is which, so I don’t think I would watch this movie after all.

MELANCHOLIA



Okay… what? So there’s two sisters… and one of them just got married… and everyone thinks she’s happy… but really she’s not… because there’s a mysterious planet coming… and it may or may not crash into the earth… which may or may not be a metaphor for something I don’t understand. Sound right so far? If I can’t figure out what the heck is going on by watching the trailer, the chances of me seeing the actual film are astronomically small. As small as the odds of a strange red planet going undetected this long by hiding behind the sun, even! Oh well, it’s a limited release so it won’t come here anyway.

THE WAY



Oh, hello Emilio Estevez! Long time no see? Yeah, it was The Mighty Ducks I remember you from. Or maybe it was one of the sequels. Anyway, you’re directing movies now! With your dad in them! That’s so nice. What? I should talk about the movie? Oh alright then. Actually, it looks pretty cool. It’s a road trip movie, except everyone is on foot. The characters all have something to get over, which I love, plus I’m a big hiker so I’d probably watch it just for that… and Tcheky Karyo. I love that guy. I dunno why. What are the odds of this movie coming near me, though?

And in other news, the Cape Breton Film Series is showing Tree of Life. It’s one of those boring epic drama things. Click here to see my trailer review of it, or you can decide for yourself by seeing the show Thursday at 7pm at the Empire Theaters in Sydney.

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Trailer Reviews for November 4, 2011

A VERY HAROLD AND KUMAR CHRISTMAS



I’ve never been a fan of burnout comedies, so I’ve never made the effort to see the other Harold and Kumar films. Now, however, I may be forced to watch one. I have to say I’m not optimistic. Just in the trailer I’ve noticed several scenes that are ripped off (sorry PARODIED) from other movies, including the accidental taking-out of Santa from The Santa Clause and the baby crawling on the ceiling scene from Trainspotting. And to top it all off, it’s in pointless 3D, which just means it’s going to cost $3 extra to see. Sadly, the only other thing coming out this week is Tower Heist.

TOWER HEIST



Oh joy. I get to choose between Harold and Kumar and yet another half-assed, phoned-in heist movie that stars one of my least favorite actors (it’s been Matt Damon, Jason Statham, Matt Dillon, and now it’s Ben Stiller). The really ironic thing is that it started out looking good in the trailer, like it would be a comedy about the secret, invisible lives of high end apartment building staff. That movie I would watch, even if it starred Ben Stiller. Then they had to ruin it by slapping in the same old stupid heist plot. But I’m not surprised. After all, what can you expect from Brett Ratner, the man who ruined the X-Men trilogy?

THE WOMEN ON THE SIXTH FLOOR



I would not normally have mentioned this one, since it’s in French and probably only playing in Quebec, but it’s a slow week, so here we go. I’m mildly interested in seeing this movie, because one of my brother’s girlfriends lived in Paris on a tiny old former housekeeper room so it would be interesting to see how they lived. And the dichotomy of the boss finding freedom in the tiniest, stuffiest, most regimented part of the household is pretty funny. I just hope he doesn’t cheat on his wife with the maid. I would hope a pretty young maid would have more self respect than to get with her old married boss, but I’ve been wrong before, especially about movies written by older men who are probably wishing their maids would sleep with them. Anyway, I don’t mind reading subtitles, so I’ll see it someday.

The Cape Breton Film Series is also showing Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which is a boring, hilariously pretentious art documentary about cave paintings. Check out the trailer review and decide for yourself. The show is at 7pm on Thursday at the Empire Theaters in Sydney.

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DVDs for November 1, 2011

Cars 2

I really liked the first Cars movie because thematically it was very tight – friends are more important than winning. Cars 2, while fun, doesn’t really have anything new to say. It focuses on Tow Mater, Lightning McQueen’s best friend, as he is mistaken for an international spy and bumbles his way through an investigation like Inspector Gadget. The message is supposed to be something like “just be yourself”, except Tow Mater never had a problem being himself. It looks cool enough that kids will like it, but it lacks the resonance of other Pixar films. You can read my full review of Cars 2 here.

Buy Cars 2 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Water for Elephants

I ike this movie a lot. It’s based on a popular novel and stars Robert Pattinson as a young veterinarian hired by a cut-rate circus to look after their elephant. It’s set in the 1930s, so when he falls in love with the boss’s wife and starts agitating for elephant rights, things get hairy because the circus is owned by Christophe Waltz, who is essentially the same character as in Inglorious Basterds. The elephant is a real elephant and it can really act. That’s the reason you should go and see this movie. You’ll also like it if you’re a fan of Big Fish, as they’re pretty similar in tone and use the same framing device. You can read my full review of Water for Elephants here.

Buy Water for Elephants on DVD or on DVD.
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Crazy Stupid Love

Too many romantic comedies are unfunny phone in jobs, and too many dramas about midlife crises are boring and pretentious. This movie is neither. It’s a romantic comedy-drama that manages to walk the fine line between these two pits of failure without falling in. Steve Carrell stars as a man who’s just gotten a divorce and turns to young stud Ryan Gosling for help re-entering the dating scene. In an ironic twist, said young stud falls in love and need help from the old married guy to win his lady. A good movie for date night or girls’ night, especially if you’re older and looking for something less flighty than the norm.

Buy Crazy Stupid Love on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Every once in a while, I’ll get sick of watching the same old American movies and rent something that focuses on a completely different culture, like Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. It’s a story about two women in 19th century China who are laotong (like best friends from birth). They struggle with things like food binding and pressure to find husbands, which is interesting, but there’s also a parallel storyline of two friends in modern China that kind of takes away from it. Rent it if you’re not expecting to be greatly moved, but if you are, you’re better off with the book version.

Buy Snow Flower and the Secret Fan on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for October 28, 2011

PUSS IN BOOTS


I was never crazy about Shrek or Donkey or Fiona or any of the other characters in the Shrek movies, but I looooove Puss in Boots. FINALLY he gets his own movie all to himself, where he can be adorable and Spanish without those annoying green ogres getting in his way. They aren’t exactly forthcoming when it comes to the plot – there’s some blue fire, the world is in danger, and his partner is a girl kitty – but to be honest, I’m not sure I’ll even notice if there’s no plot at all. You see, they’ve tapped into my crippling weakness: KITTIES DOING CUTE THINGS. I won’t be able to resist.

IN TIME


I thought it sounded a little bit like Logan’s Run at first, but they took the concept way further than Logan’s Run, and now I think it’s a really cool idea. The way time works in their world is the same way money works in ours, so it’s actually pushing a deep social message instead of just throwing two hours of explosions in our faces (everyone knows the best sci-fi is messages AND explosions). It seems like they’re trying to turn Justin Timberlake into a James Bond-style action hero here, and I don’t think it’s working. He still looks and sounds like a youngster, and it hasn’t been THAT long since NSYNC that some nice suits and cars can make us forget all the spotlit gyrating.

ANONYMOUS


Apparently there’s real controversy out there over whether William Shakespeare actually wrote all his plays… and whether he ever existed in the first place, but this is the first movie I’ve heard of about it, which I find surprising. It seems like prime period drama fodder. They don’t give you much in this trailer, just the impression that whoever wrote the plays was being punished with anonymity and the idea that the movie cost an awful lot to make. You have to go on IMDB to look up who the movie claims really wrote the plays – Edward DeVere, the Earl of Oxford – and that the fighting in the trailer is from the rebellion against the succession of Elizabeth I. I dunno about you, but that’s too much work, and we still don’t have a very good idea of how the plot goes. I’ll still see it (eventually). I just hope seeing it doesn’t retroactively ruin my enjoyment of Shakespeare in Love.

THE RUM DIARIES



Okay… this movie doesn’t waste any time. It stampedes straight for crazytown within the first few seconds of the trailer. And it’s not just the situations and plot that are weird – there’s something unsettling about the characters. I want to look away from Johnny Depp’s face because of all the weird contortions it’s going through. His boss is even worse. I strongly suspect, based on the fact that there’s only the barest hint of plot in the trailer, that this isn’t so much a coherent story as it is a madcap series of events where characters’ decisions are heavily influenced by drugs and alcohol. I’ve never been a fan of those types of films (I prefer my madcap sober and with a British accent) so I’ll steer clear of this one.

LIKE CRAZY



This one is only a limited release, I just stop reading/watching now unless you live in a big city, I guess. While I was watching this trailer, I thought – this is going to be one of those slow, boring, introspective movies that doesn’t seem to realize it’s the nine millionth movie made on the same subject, isn’t it? And the second thing I thought was: is Anton Yelchin’s hairline receding already? Poor boy. He can’t be more than twenty. Anyway, this is going to be one of those movies I forget about after a few minutes…. yup. There it goes.

STARBUCK



You’re not likely to see this one unless you live in Quebec, but I thought I’d mention it anyway for two reasons. Firstly, it stars Patrick Huard, the French guy we all loved in Bon Cop Bad Cop, and secondly, it’s got a genius premise. Fathering 533 kids though a sperm bank? And getting to know a hundred of them? Hilarious. I’ll totally rent this one someday.

TAKE SHELTER



I’m trying to remember which war movie I remember this guy from… to IMDB! Ah yes, he was in Pearl Harbor. Anyway, I don’t usually go for these “is he crazy or isn’t he” movies, but I think if it turned out that he was right about the big storm, I would like it. If he was crazy, I wouldn’t. There’s no real way to find out other than to go see it. It wouldn’t be such a hardship – those are some pretty cool looking storms.

The Cape Breton Film Series is also showing Meek’s Cutoff, which is a boring looking art-type film about early settlers who have to decide whether or not to trust a native after their guide gets them lost in a desert. Check out the trailer and decide for yourself. The show is at 7pm on Thursday at the Empire Theaters in Sydney.

And finally, you should know that many Empire Theaters locations are playing GHOSTBUSTERS on HALLOWEEN night, should you wish to tell the trick or treaters to screw themselves and go to a movie instead.

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Three Musketers Review

poster from the Constantin Film Three Musketeers 2011

Choosing a movie to see this week was tough, because all three of the major studio offerings looked less than stellar. Paranormal Activity 3 looked unscary, Johnny English Reborn looked unfunny, and The Three Musketeers looked unoriginal. In the end I eliminated Paranormal Acivity because I had done a horror movie last week and I decided to give Three Musketeers the benefit of the doubt, because aren’t all movies based on classic novels a little bit unoriginal? After all, we’ve known the story for ages.

A young swordsman aiming to join the king’s elite guards joins his three heroes in rescuing the queen’s jewels from England to thwart a plot against the monarchy by the evil Cardinal Richelieu.

The trick with an adaptation is not necessarily to follow the book’s storyline exactly (Alexandre Dumas’ novel is rather more complicated than that) but to add something new to the mix that makes it worth seeing over again. Unfortunately, by this rule, this new version of the Three Musketeers is utterly worthless, as I don’t think that there is one original scene in the whole movie.

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Water for Elephants Review

poster from the 20th Century Fox Film Water for Elephants

Since I’m not a Robert Pattinson fan and I wasn’t overly impressed with the trailer for Water for Elephants, my original plan this week was to see Apollo 18. But Apollo 18 was bumped to January for some reason, so my only choices were Water for Elephants or African Cats. I love big cats, but how do you review a documentary about them? “There were some cats. They were cute?” So I ended up seeing Water for Elephants instead. It’s based on a best-selling novel by Sara Gruen and its story goes like this:

A destitute an Ivy League vet student gets hired by a circus to work with the animals and makes the mistake of falling in love with his boss’s wife.

It’s an age old tale, or rather two age old tales: running away to join the circus and falling in love with someone else’s spouse. The movie also uses some standard plot points but it somehow makes them seem fresh and different. I was skeptical about how good it would be, but then I saw it and I was surprised to find that I agreed with all those advance reviewers who were raving about how good it was. Water for Elephants is excellent, but not so much because of Robert Pattinson as because of the elephant.

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