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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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The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film The Hobbit Desolation of Smaug

I’m not a J.R.R. Tolkien fan, and after the epically too-long nothing-fest that was The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I wasn’t looking forward to Desolation of Smaug either. In fact, I was all geared up to see Saving Mr. Banks this week until I found out we weren’t going to get it here. So here I am, talking about the second of three movies that should have been one.

A raiding party of dwarves travel to a deserted mountain kingdom to steal a special gem from the dragon who displaced them many years ago.

The most I was really hoping for from Desolation of Smaug was that it be bearable. And it looked like it was going to be – in the beginning it was fun and lively and interesting. But then it went on and on and on and on and on and finally ended with no payoff for any of the plots they were developing, so in the end I wasn’t impressed.

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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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DVDs for December 10, 2013

despicable me 2

Despicable Me 2

Lovable villain Gru (Steve Carell), his three cute daughters, and all his squeaky yellow minions are back for more in Despicable Me 2. Since Gru is now a non-evil father, the action comes from Gru being recruited into the Anti-Villain League. And since Gru has already learned to love kids, he learns to love a lady agent named Lucy who is nearly as nutty as he is. Great fun for the whole family, though not as brilliant and original as the first one. Read my full review for more.

Buy Despicable Me on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

fast and furious 6

Fast and Furious 6

In case you haven’t heard already, Paul Walker, one of the stars of the Fast and Furious series, has died in a car crash (not on set), so this will likely be the last one which features him unless the studio goes ahead with his half-filmed part in #7. In this sequel, the usual crew of fast driving thieves bands together to stop the head of a fast-driver mafia in exchange for a pardon for all the things they did in their other films. It’s the same constant physics-less action as the previous films, but if you buy it on DVD the studio will donate to Paul Walker’s charity.

Buy Fast and Furious 6 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

day of the doctor

Day of the Doctor

Calling all relatives and friends of Doctor Who fans: this is what you’re getting them for Christmas. Recently shown only in theaters and on BBC, there will be a sizeable number of fans who haven’t seen it yet (unless they have the internet and slightly loose morals). Anyway, it stars two doctors (David Tennant and Matt Smith) as well as a third half Doctor in a giant episode that cuts back and forth from the 1500s and today and has cameos from old doctors and favorites. Too confusing for a newbie, but a massive nerdgasm for people who are already fans.

Buy Day of the Doctor on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

battle of the year

Battle of the Year

When I hear the words Battle of the Year, I think of war. Or maybe boxing. What I do not think about is dancing. But that’s what this movie is about. It’s your standard sports movie. There’s a team. Other teams keep beating them. They want to win, so they drag some grouchy retired person (Josh Holloway) back into the sport. Said grouch is hard on them but makes them bond as a team, then they try their hardest and either win or lose depending on which lesson they’re supposed to learn. Only reccomended for So You Think You Can Dance fans.

Buy Battle of the Year on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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5 Underplayed Christmas Movies

xmas tree

This week, I didn’t feel like paying money to see Christian Bale as Jennifer Lawrence in Scary Hillbillies Took My Family Part 2. It occurred to me that this feeling of not wanting is similar to the feeling of not wanting that comes over me every time someone suggests we watch It’s a Wonderful Life (I’m looking at you, all the TV stations) or Love Actually (Mom) again around Christmas time. If you are also sick of whatever movies made their way into your tradition, allow me to suggest some alternatives:

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DVDs for December 3, 2013

wolverine

THE WOLVERINE

Otherwise known (by me) as Wolverine Goes to Japan to distinguish it from the other standalone Wolverine movie from 2009, which wasn’t that great. Wolverine Goes to Japan, however, is pretty awesome, largely because it keeps things simple. Wolverine turns to a Japanese mutant for help after his healing powers are stolen as part of a ploy to take over a major Japanese corporation. It only loses points in my book by referencing X-Men: The Last Stand, which should be forgotten once and for all. Read my full review for more.

Buy The Wolverine on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

city of bones

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

I really enjoyed the Mortal Instruments book series, and for a book adaptation, the movie is surprisingly okay. The story centers around a teenage girl who discovers that she belongs to an ancient race of demon hunters after her mom is kidnapped by bad guys. There’s lots of action, a well rounded main character, and some cool mythology. However the plot was a bit confusing, the boyfriend character was kind of odd looking, and my favorite character Alec was pushed into the background. Read my review for a full rundown or just watch it yourself. Book reading is optional but recommended.

Buy City of Bones on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

smurfs 2

Smurfs 2

Ugh, I used to watch The Smurfs as a kid even though I didn’t really like them. As an adult, I don’t just find them annoying and stupid but also sexist, pervy, and unfunny. In this second film, Smurfette (the ONLY female smurf in a community of several generations) is kidnapped by the wizard Gargamel so she can use a magic smurf-making spell (sex?) to turn his evil anti-Smurfs into real Smurfs for… some reason related to magic. But since Smurfette FOR SOME REASON has always felt “different” from other Smurfs she might not want to go home. Ick. Watch The Muppets instead.

Buy Smurfs 2 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

drinking buddies

Drinking Buddies

This movie looks like a light, fun comedy about two best friends (Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson) who work at a brewery together and COULD have a thing were it not for the fact that they’re both in long term relationships (with Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick respectively). However it’s more of a funny-awkward dramedy with inappropriate flirting and breakups than a flat out comedy and things don’t work out as perfectly as they would in a true rom com, so if you’re planning on renting it, just keep that in mind. But for quirky indie true-to-life dramedy people? Perfect.

Buy Drinking Buddies on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Frozen Review

poster from the Walt Disney Pictures film Frozen

Disney has been taking a lot of flak lately for how old fashioned their Princess line is. The princesses are too white. Too pink. Too rich. Too blonde. Too skinny. Too hung up on finding a man, etc. None of it, however, seems to have made a dent in their bottom line, so we can expect them to continue making princess movies (albeit with the odd concession to reality) until the end of time. The latest is Frozen.

A lonely Norse princess teams up with a hermit, a reindeer, and a snowman to talk her superpowered sister into unfreezing their kingdom.

As with the last two princess movies, Brave and The Princess and the Frog, Disney has attempted to be more modern with Frozen, but at the same time they’ve tried to hearken back to the old days by making it a musical. The result is cute and funny, but I just didn’t feel like it worked as a story.

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DVDs for November 26, 2013

red 2

RED 2

I liked this movie when I saw it in theaters (though not as much as liked the first one). But after a few months, it sort of blended into the latest Die Hard movie: A Good Day to Die Hard. Russian setting, Bruce Willis paired with a younger person (his son in Die Hard, his girlfriend here), madcap action… the difference, I guess, is that RED 2 stars more old people, and that when it’s funny it’s because it’s supposed to be, not because the filmmakers are completely divorced from reality. Read my full review for more.

Buy RED 2 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

getaway

Getaway

After the success of Taken, there have been many imitators. In this one, Ethan Hawke plays a guy who drives really fast. Some people kidnap his wife in order to get him to drive really fast for them. But they don’t give him a car, so he has to hijack one with way-too-young-for-him eye candy in it (Selena Gomez), and her computer hacking skills (such as they are) end up helping Ethan while he drives really fast. In this movie, driving fast is what throat chopping was to Taken, so I’d really only recommend it to you if you’re a huge fan of Mustangs.

Buy Getaway on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

jobs

JOBS

This movie is trying to be The Social Network, but since we already have The Social Network, it mostly just comes off as two hours of Ashton Kutcher alternately having revolutionary ideas and being a dick to people. It’s based on the popular biography of Steve Jobs’ life, which exposed his dark underbelly, but since everyone already knows about it, there’s nothing revolutionary about the movie. I’d only recommend it for big Steve Jobs/Apple fans, as I’ve never bought an Apple product in my life and my attitude toward the film is a giant ‘who cares?’

Buy JOBS on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

the canyons

The Canyons

Wow, I guess the studios wanted to make sure all the bad movies were out in time for people to not buy them for each other for Christmas. Most of the people who saw this movie were tricked into it by the fact that it was directed by the guy who did Taxi Driver and written by the guy who did American Psycho. But really, it’s just about a crazy dude (a porn star called James Dean, but with two Es) going crazy on the stars of his movie. It’s billed as an ‘erotic thriller’ but that was probably just an excuse to get Lindsay Lohan to take her top off (which, incidentally, is why the rest of the people saw this movie).

Buy The Canyons on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Catching Fire Review

poster from the Lionsgate film Hunger Games 2 Catching Fire

With the exception of a couple of blips, I like the Hunger Games book series. One of the blips was the first person present tense narration, which was carried over into the film adaptation in the form of a lot of unnecessary and annoying close-up shaky-cam work. With director Gary Ross replaced by Francis Lawrence for the sequel, I hoped that Catching Fire might be an improvement over The Hunger Games.


A pair of traumatized teens are forced to compete in a second bout of televised gladiatorial combat after they become symbols of rebellion against the government.

I went into Catching Fire hoping for it to be a little better than The Hunger Games but I was surprised to find that it was a LOT better. They got rid of the confusing direction. They took more time to explore the dystopian aspects of the world. And best of all they didn’t shove the main character’s other (more suitable) love interest aside this time.

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Trailer Reviews for November 22, 2013

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE



I really like the first two books in this series – especially this one because the character of Gale and his obvious suitability to Katniss isn’t so easily dismissed. But the movie version of the first one was disappointing. Drably colored and jerkily filmed, it took away from the important story and the (mostly) good acting (sorry Josh Hutcherson). There’s a new director this time. Obviously he hasn’t done anything about the grey-on-grey color palate. There’s a chance he didn’t give the camera to a palsy sufferer and tell them to shoot the whole movie 3 inches from Jennifer Lawrence’s face, but I can’t really tell. Trailers are all so frenetically cut anyway. I guess I’ll have to see the whole movie to find out.

DELIVERY MAN



I thought this movie looked funny in its original French version. With Vince Vaughn…. slightly less funny. I’m just not a fan of his. And he plays the same character every time – the everyman slacker who’s bitter and sarcastic but somehow ends up with a girlfriend anyway. BUT I will probably see this movie at some point. Why? Because Chris Pratt. I mean, how long did he have to sit there with a straight face and let a little girl slap him to get that scene down? The kids seem okay too, though most of the boys look more like they could be Chris Pratt’s kids than Vince Vaughn’s. Especially the coffee shop kid with the tie.

NEBRASKA



I think the idea of an old guy walking to Nebraska to claim winnings from a bogus sweepstakes accompanied by his skeptical son is funny. I also think Will Forte can be funny. But, watching the trailer… I worry that the movie will be slow and boring. A lot of talking heads. So I’ll probably pass it by.

DAY OF THE DOCTOR



This will also be on TV if you’ve got BBC, but if you don’t and you’re a big Doctor Who fan, you should know that on Saturday, a lot of theaters will be showing it on the big screen. In 3D. So break out your Tom Baker scarves and your Matt Smith bow ties and nerd it up with fellow fans. I won’t be going, though, as I’m not a fan of the new Doctor Who and the only doctors it really features are Matt Smith (#11), David Tennant (#10), and John Hurt (#8.5 sort of). My favorite is #8: Paul McGann.

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