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Labor Day Review

poster from the Paramount Pictures film Labor Day

This week, I chose Jason Reitman over Zac Efron. The trailer for Labor Day looked good, but I hadn’t read the Joyce Maynard novel it was based on, so I couldn’t tell whether it would have a (relatively) happy ending like Juno or a depressing ending like Up in the Air. I was really hoping for happy. I mean, who wants to depress themselves on purpose?

A thirteen year old boy recounts the story of how his mother fell in love with a fugitive during who invited himself into their home.

I have seen it now and am happy to report that while there are certainly depressing parts in Labor Day, I would not call it, on the whole, a depressing movie. In fact, it would make a pretty good date movie, especially if you’re an escaped murderer with a captive girlfriend you’re trying to Stockholm Syndrome into liking you. Because hey, if it worked once…

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Trailer Reviews for January 31, 2014

LABOR DAY



I want to see this movie… but I also kind of don’t. I want to see it because I like what I see in the trailer. There’s a guy, maybe he killed somebody, maybe he didn’t, who kidnaps a woman and her son. It could be creepy, but instead he makes pies and teaches the kid to play baseball. Awww. It could have an ending that’s not totally depressing, right? And I don’t want to see it because of Up in the Air. That one looked cute too, but the story meandered around before faltering and sliding backward into a sad ending. I don’t want to watch another movie like Up in the Air. The question is: will Labor Day be like that? Maybe I should have read the book.

THAT AWKWARD MOMENT



As loathe as I am to see anything with the word ‘awkward’ right there in the title, this movie looks okay. I even jumped through the fourteen hoops YouTube puts up to stop kiddies from hearing swear words and made sure the red band trailer didn’t reveal it as a pile of dumb. It’s not a pile of dumb, though some of it is trying a little too hard. I’d spend two hours with it. Though if I’m being totally honest, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought without Zac Efon (COUGAR ALERT).

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DVDs for January 28, 2014

rush

Rush

Rush is the first of two movies where Daniel Bruhl knocked my socks off. He and Chris Hemsworth play Niki Lauda and James Hunt, a pair of real-life 1970s Formula One drivers competing for the championship in an era where safety comes a distant second to driving really fast in a tank full of flammable liquid. You can read my review for more. Once you’ve watched Rush (and you should) check out another of this week’s DVD’s: 1: a Formula One documentary on the drivers who changed the face of the sport by pushing for safety measures.

Buy Rush on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

fifth estate

The Fifth Estate

Coincidentally, here’s the second movie where Daniel Bruhl knocked my socks off! In this one he plays computer hacker Daniel Berg opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks. The story follows their friendship and falling out as Wikileaks rises from obscurity to international fame and controversy. It’s based on Daniel Berg’s book, so it’s not Julian Assange’s favorite movie in the world, but it’s definitely worth checking out. You can read my review for more.

Buy Fifth Estate on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

last vegas

Last Vegas

Last Vegas is essentially a tamer, old-man version of The Hangover where three crochety retirees (Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, and Robert DeNiro) meet their suave pal (Michael Douglas) in Las Vegas for his bachelor party (he’s marrying a much younger woman). After they’re mistaken for mobsters, suddenly they can have anything they want. The question is: what do they want? I really liked it – I thought it was sweet and funny. If you prefer your comedy crude, stick with The Hangover.

Buy Last Vegas on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

meatballs 2

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

If you want something totally weird and different to watch with your kids, choose these movies. Flint Lockwood, the inventor from the previous movie, returns with his friends to his old town to find that his food-making machine is creating hilarious and menacing hybrid food-animals (hippo potatoes, shrimp chimps, mosquito toast, etc). Kids will love it because it’s wacky and colorful. You’ll like it because it’s a) actually funny and b) not the same cliched princess crap all over again. Check it out.

Buy Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for January 24, 2014

I, FRANKENSTEIN



Updated fairy tales are all the rage these days, but not all of them adhere to the adaptation adage: ‘stay true to the intent of the original.’ After all, the intent of original stories like Beauty and The Beast and Frankenstein is that the main characters are ugly. When you ‘update’ their ugliness to a few scars (I, Frankenstein) or an eyebrow tattoo that says ‘suck’ (Beastly) you miss the point and your movie doesn’t work. This is what happened to Beastly and what I predict will also happen to I, Frankenstein, no matter how big they go with the special effects. Actually, it will probably be worse for I, Frankenstein. I mean… superpowers? Saving the human race? What?? And Frankenstein was the doctor’s name, not the monster’s.

DEVIL’S KNOT



Ooh, I remember this. There was a really good documentary about it called Paradise Lost. The whole (true) story is such a big mess (did the teens do it, is the town blaming them just because they wear black, why is that other guy so sketchy in interviews) that the title is an apt one. I just hope they’re able to ‘unravel the knot’ so to speak by the end of this fictional version, otherwise why bother to fictionalize it at all?

WHITEWASH



A drunken snowplow driver. Now there’s a scary thought. As our province continually reminds us in TV commercials, a snowplow ‘ain’t no featherduster’ (seriously – they really say that). But in this movie’s case, the snowplow really is a featherduster! Just look at that silly little thing! Also this trailer is confusing. So he ran a guy over… on purpose? By accident? Before or after the dude was crashing at his house cooking up a tray of eyeballs and our pal snowplow driver was hiding in a quinzhee? And then there’s a…. what’s who doing with that snowmobile? WTF is going on??

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DVDs for January 14, 2014

riddick

Riddick

Chances are you’ve heard of Riddick by now. He was the mysterious, morally ambiguous character at the center of the 2000 horor movie Pitch Black who was subsequently demystified and turned into a meatheaded sci-fi/fantasy action hero in a sequel movie and some video games. By the time Riddick rolled around, the character been relegated to cheap-bin status. The movie itself is about Riddick being chased by bounty hunters. Read my fake review Riddickulous to see what I thought of it.

Buy Riddick on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

the butler

The Butler

In this semi-true historical epic based on a newspaper article, an African American White House butler played by Forest Whitaker witnesses (and even manages to influence) most of the major civil rights related events of the second half of the 20th century. It’s interesting as a character study (his family members are all conveniently involved in different movements, which makes for a lot of conflict) and as a historical survey for anyone who’d like to learn more about Civil Rights. Check it out.

Buy The Butler on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

carrie

Carrie

Here’s another addition to the genre of ‘movies that didn’t need to be remade.’ Since it bills itself as a ‘re-imagining,’ you might think that it goes back to the source material (Stephen King’s novel) but it doesn’t. It’s just a remake of the 1976 version, where a telekenetic high school senior goes on a rampage after her bullies take things too far, but with more simplified characters/plot and better special effects. So if you like complexity, rewatch the old version. If you like CGI tables flying around, watch this one.

Buy Carrie on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

top gear 20

Top Gear Season 20

If you’re not already watching this show… what’s the matter with you? Haven’t you been listening to me? This is the funniest show on TV (and yes, I am counting all your favorite sitcoms). Even when they’re just reviewing cars, Jeremy, James, and Richard crack me up. When they challenge themselves to build/do something that looks easy, I can’t breathe. This season their six episodes of antics include: choosing the most inconspicuous supercar, driving a homeade hovervan on the Avon River, and crashing a lot of old taxis in a race.

Buy Top Gear: Season 20 on DVD.

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Top 5 and Bottom 5 Movies of 2013

new-year

2013 is over and it’s time to rank the movies I saw according to their bestiness and worstiness. As I paged through my review notebook listing films according to their secret star rating, I noticed three things. One: franchise films have done well with me this year. Two: I only saw 45 movies. And three: only one of them was bad enough to rate one star. My policy this year was not to waste money on bad movies, but it made me realize that bad movies have their uses. They force you to think about WHY the movie bad, and they make for hilarious reviews. I therefore resolve that 2014 shall be the year of using my Scene points to see crappy movies.

And now, the list. If you don’t agree with it, feel free to argue with me in the comments. That’s what they’re for. Just keep it clean, ok?

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Saving Mr. Banks Review

poster from the Walt Disney Pictures film Saving Mr. Banks

Until I saw the trailer for Saving Mr. Banks, I had no real desire to watch Mary Poppins (too cutesy) or read the book (because I had no idea it existed). But in the interests of knowing what the hell they were talking about, I read the book and watched the movie the day before I went to see Saving Mr. Banks. I was surprised to discover how different they were, a circumstance which is explained in this movie.

Mary Poppins author Pamela Travers refuses to sell Walt Disney the rights to her stories until the re-writes address wounds left over from her own childhood.

Now that I’ve seen Saving Mr. Banks, I’m awfully glad I ‘did my research’ so to speak. This movie seems to assume you’re familiar with the book and movie (though I think you could get by with only having seen the movie). You may be confused if you aren’t. On the whole though, it was a very good movie.

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Trailer Reviews for December 20, 2013

First of all: apologies! I had a snow day from work yesterday and completely forgot about the trailer reviews. Second of all: Huzzah! Saving Mr. Banks gets a wide release this week so I can finally see it!

ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES



Like Napoleon Dynamite, Anchorman is one of those movies that people either find hilarious or painful. I fall into the latter category. I don’t laugh when people make asses of themselves in a movie. I cringe. Anchorman was so awful and unfunny to me that I didn’t even make it 20 minutes into into the movie before I had to turn it off. And I NEVER turn movies off Well, sometimes I do. But they have to be REALLY bad. Even the trailer for this one made me want to crawl under a rock, so James Marsden or no James Marsden, I’m skipping this one for sure.

AMERICAN HUSTLE



This movie has a lot of actors I like in it. Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper (well, okay, I only like him sometimes). Logic states that I should be chomping at the bit to see it, but I’m not. For one thing, this trailer gives me very little idea of the plot. It’s got something to do with a con job. And for another thing – it’s about conning people, and I don’t like stories where criminals are the main characters and we’re supposed to be hoping for them to screw somebody over. I will only consider it if the person getting screwed is worse than they are (i.e. they deserve it). But the trailer didn’t tell me that was the case, so I’m not going.

WALKING WITH DINOSAURS



This trailer makes the movie seem like a Disney Nature documentary with dinosaurs, but don’t be fooled. Watch any of the TV spots like this one and you get the truth: it might be in 3D, it might have nice computer animation, but it’s still loaded with the same awful nasal voices, unfunny cliches, and poop jokes that they slap on all second rate kids’ movies. Little kids will be impressed with the looks, but if you want a good STORY about dinosaurs, rent them The Land Before Time (the first one).

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS



Strike One: Cohen Brothers
Strike Two: Struggling musician
Strike Three: Laconic pace which is sure to bore me
But then again: Helloooo, Garrett Hedlund. Hai kitteh! I like Carey Mulligan. And that’s not a bad song.
I might rent it later on.

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DVDs for December 17, 2013

prisoners

Prisoners

It’s almost Christmas and you’re frantically looking for good movies to buy for people on your list. Is this a good movie? Yes. Should you give it as a Christmas gift? NO. Nothing says ‘happy holidays’ like a big old bucket of dark and disturbing. Well acted dark and disturbing, but there’s still a lot more kidnapping and torture of children than a lot of people like to watch on a family holiday. On the plus side, it’s got a really good investigation plot, so do put it on your list to watch for a normal day or read my full review for more.

Buy Prisoners on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

the family

The Family

The Family contains nearly as much violence as Prisoners but because it’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s less not okay to buy and watch on Christmas. Unfortunately, it’s also a lousy movie. Robert DeNiro plays the head of a mafia family in witness protection. Being a family of idiots who think they’re awesome, they make no effort to hide the fact that they are awful and thus end up getting tracked down by the mob they betrayed, putting the lives of their protectors in danger. Read more about it or just trust me and avoid it.

Buy The Family on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

elysium

Elysium

Do you have a sci-fi lover on your gift list who either is a fan of or doesn’t actively hate Matt Damon? Then this is the gift idea you were looking for. Elysium is a District 9 style movie from the writer/director of District 9 about a poor guy who gets pissed off at the fact that the Earth is a garbage heap and the rich get to live in style on a HALO ring, so he drills an exoskeleton into his spine and goes off to attack them. It’s got quite a few plot holes but if you’re into Matt Damon, destruction, or expensive special effects, you and/or your recipient may not even notice.

Buy Elysium on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

lone ranger

The Lone Ranger

And speaking of things that are expensively filmed and exciting but have problems if you think about them too much, there’s also The Lone Ranger. This movie has several things going for it: it’s Pirates of the Caribbean style action/comedy tone, Armie Hammer being hot, Johnny Depp being silly, snappy dialogue, and bombastic destruction of every cliched Wild West setpiece imaginable. On the other hand, there’s also the fact that Johnny Depp being silly is a dicey prospect when no one can figure out if it’s disrespectful to Native Americans or not. Buy accordingly.

Buy The Lone Ranger on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailers for December 13, 2013

THE HOBBIT: DESOLATION OF SMAUG



To be perfectly honest, after last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey failed to do more than get the massive, indistinguishable clump of dwarves within binocular viewing distance of their destination, I’m not eager to see this movie. As the middle chapter in a trilogy of movies made from a single not-even-very-long book, it will have more time to waste than the other two, which at least have beginnings and endings to deal with. Fans will no doubt lap up the time wasting and beg for more, but I can’t read more than a few chapters of J.R.R. Tolkien without wondering why I’m torturing myself. Unfortunately, it looks like I’ll have to see this movie. We’re not getting Saving Mr. Banks at my theater.

SAVING MR. BANKS



Now HERE’S a movie that interests me. As a writer who has experienced the attempted hijacking of my work by clueless people, I can understand why P.L. Travers was so reluctant to sell the rights to Mary Poppins despite Walt Disney’s 20 years of asking for them. Though obviously she did eventually and Dick Van Dyke was in it and there were lots of words in it that were made up, so I have to wonder – how’d he get her to change her mind? Plus, Emma Thompson is just great in everything.

TYLER PERRY’S A MADEA CHRISTMAS



Okay, I’m not normally a Tyler Perry fan, but this looks funny in an “I need something upbeat and uncomplicated for my family to watch on Christmas eve” way. I’m ALWAYS looking for more of those movies so I won’t have to watch Love Actually again. Favorite joke:
“Your daughter is grown. Leave her alone!”
“I’ll pay you.”
“When do we leave?”

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