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DVDs for May 21, 2013

beautiful creatures

Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures is a movie in the Twilight vein – a teen paranormal romance based on a popular novel. The difference here is that the ‘normal’ main character is the guy and the supernatural creature is the girl – she’s a spellcaster. It takes place in the American South which means Civil War re-enactments and hilarious accents play into it along with the usual teen angst and parent drama. Plus there’s also an interesting choice vs destiny element. I really liked Beautiful Creatures, but my friend the Twilight fan hated it, so take from that what you will and read my full review for more.

Buy Beautiful Creatures on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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last stand

The Last Stand

I forget how I ended up seeing this movie in theaters. I think it came out on a week where there was either nothing else or everything was worse. It’s your typical terrible action movie, with a ridiculous, unbelievable plot (an escaped Mexican drug lord steals a fancy car and can only be stopped by the sheriff of a small border town) numerous clear violations of the laws of physics, moronic one-liners, and people who can’t act their way out of a paper bag (hello again, Arnold). If you like that sort of thing, great! Buy it. If you’re actually intelligent, read my full review and laugh at this movie some more.

Buy The Last Stand on DVD or on Blu-ay.
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parker

Parker

Parker is yet another uninspired action movie, this time starring Jason Statham as a robber/assassin with a code of honor, which is a character he’s played before. When he’s shot and left for dead by his pals after a heist (a plot device used in half of all action movies made in this decade) he decides to get revenge on them (also not original). What follows is a lot of shooting and an alliance with a real estate agent played by Jennifer Lopez who paradoxically turns out NOT to be a love interest. As such this movie is really only going to be appealing to fans of Jason Statham.

Buy Parker on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

side effect

Side Effects

People who read the blurbs for this movie or watch the trailer and think that the idea of a psychiatrist investigating a psychiatric drug that might turn patients into sleepwalking murderers sounds intriguing should remind themselves that this is a Steven Sodgerbergh thriller and Steven Soderbergh was responsible for the disjointed, unthrilling thriller Contagion. Side Effects is the kind of movie that most critics like and most normal people hate. It’s full of plot twists and turns, most of which will feel cheap enough to make you angry. I’d just skip it if I were you.

Buy Side Effects on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for May 14, 2013

cloud atlas

Cloud Atlas

I almost loved this movie. It’s a sweeping epic that interweaves a collection of characters through stories set in six different times. Each story is a different genre (adventure, drama, thriller, comedy, sci-fi, and post-apocalypse) and features the same thirteen actors in different roles, sometimes disguised so well you can barely recognize them. My only problem with Cloud Atlas was that I felt blah about one of the storylines (Halle Berry investigates nuclear secrets) and outright hated another (Tom Hanks as a post-apocalypse radiation hillbilly). Do check it out though. The other stories are fabulous.

Buy Cloud Atlas on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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top gear 19

Top Gear Season 19

I adore Top Gear – a British car program that’s funny and unique enough to attract even people who don’t like cars (people like me). Most of the seasons aren’t worth their $20-$30 price tag, as they only contain about 6 episodes. This one, however, is, because it’s one of the few that include an epic two-hour adventure. In this one, they drive station wagons across Africa looking for the source of the Nile. Other challenges worth buying the DVDs for include designing a car for seniors, pitching the world’s smallest homemade car to Dragon’s Den, and the epic train vs car race to Italy. Check it out – you’ll love it.

Buy Top Gear Season 19 on DVD.
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texas chainsaw

Texas Chainsaw 3D

This is a sequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it was released in theaters in 3D (though not screened for critics, which is not surprising). It takes place after a mob has lynched the family responsible for the original massacre and a distant relative comes in from out of town to claim the estate which (surprise!) contains Leatherface. Beyond that it’s your typical, predictable gore fest, with limbs and blood splatters flying everywhere and characters making the same bad decisions and dying in the same predictable order. This is something to put on in the background of a Halloween party and not watch.

Buy Texas Chainsaw 3D on DVD or on 3D Blu-Ray.

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The Great Gatsby

poster  from the Warner Bros. Pictures film The Great Gatsby

Even though I studied history in college, I know very little about America in the 1920s (they weren’t at war with anyone – yawn) so I never had any desire to read The Great Gatsby. As far as I was concerned, I got enough from the 10 Classics in 10 Minutes version to make reading the book unnecessary. The trailer for the movie version didn’t really dissuade me from this view.

A group of frivolous young people in the 20s revolve around a mysterious rich man who throws extravagant parties, drinks too much, and spends money like water.

But now that I’ve seen The Great Gatsby I realize that there’s (slightly) more to it than “Let’s have a drink!” (the most oft-repeated phrase in the one minute audio version). Even though the rest of the characters are exactly as fake as they seem, the frivolous spender is only the surface layer of Jay Gatsby, which made him sympathetic enough for me care about.

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Trailer Reviews for May 10, 2013

THE GREAT GATSBY



I’ve never been particularly interested in The Great Gatsby – the exploits of a bunch of partiers drinking their way through the 1920s just never caught my attention. That was before Baz Luhrmann got ahold of it, though. When you think about it, who better to capture the extravagance and unbelievability of the Roaring Twenties better than the guy who did Moulin Rouge? I’m still not that interested in the story, but maybe the crazy visuals will be enough.

PEEPLES



Sometimes I wonder if Tyler Perry has a time machine. I can’t think of any other way he could manage to make as many films as he does, unless he’s actually just slapping his name onto movies that are mostly other people’s work, like James Patterson and Tom Clancy seem to be doing with their books and assorted other media franchises. But if he DID have a time machine, you think he’d take a little more time to make his movies actually good. This one looks like a combination of Father of the Bride and every other Tyler Perry movie ever made (well, all the ones that weren’t depressing, anyway).

BLACKBIRD



Not a bad story. Bullying, juvenile prisons, and school shootings are all hot button topics, but it seems like they’re probably explored better in books like Hate List or movies like Bowling for Columbine. The trailer for this movie really didn’t impress me – especially the acting. Too stilted.

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DVDs for May 7, 2013

jack reacher

Jack Reacher

I’m a big fan of the Lee Child novels this movie is based on, so I had some pretty big doubts about whether this movie would turn out to be good, especially since the titular character is supposed to be a 6’5” blonde silent-but-deadly type. But I have to say, Tom Cruise really pulled it off. They managed to compress the plot, which is about a former military cop getting called in to investigate a sniper terror attack, into movie form without losing anything important. Check it out if you get a chance or read my full review for more.

Buy Jack Reacher on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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safe haven

Safe Haven

I hate Nicholas Sparks sapfests, but I almost went to this one in theaters because of Josh Duhamel. Good thing I didn’t, because it’s the same tripe Sparks is always trying to shove down our throats. Ooooh I have a mysterious tragic background but ooooh everyone in town is just so ATTRACTIVE and WELCOMING. You got your standard romance with the sensitive heartthrob, your standard adopting of someone else’s sickeningly adorable children, and the obligatory friend/neighbor/old woman. If you don’t feel like you’ve seen this movie before, you probably don’t get out much.

Buy Safe Haven on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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mama

Mama

This movie isn’t exactly well known but it’s got several things going for it. First, it stars Jessica Chastain (from Zero Dark Thirty) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (from Game of Thrones) and they’re both great. Second, it’s got a really interesting/not ridiculous premise: they adopt two little girls who have been living in the woods and some creepy thing they call ‘Mama’ follows them home. Third, the movie understands effective use of tension and scaryness vs startles and gore. They don’t plaster the monster all over the screen – they let you imagine the worst. Check it out for sure.

Buy Mama on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for April 30, 2013

silver linings playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Some movies get a lot of attention from critics because they’re boring and pretentious, but sometimes they get attention because everybody genuinely enjoys them. Silver Linings Playbook is one of those movies. Regular people like it because it’s a cute romantic comedy starring adorable people (Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper) and critics like it because it takes on ‘deep’ issues like mental illness, addiction, compulsive gambling, and dysfunctional relationships. One of my friends went to it 5+ times in theaters, but you’ll probably be fine with once on DVD.

Buy Silver Linings Playbook on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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broken city

Broken City

The whole dirty cop thing is a popular theme, but unlike the rest of the dirty cop thrillers, this one wraps up the cop part early and moves on to private eye (not a huge leap, I know, but it’s something). Mark Wahlberg plays the aforementioned dirty cop who kills a rapist and then gets sucked into a big dirty political mess involving the candidates for the mayoral election. Like most thrillers, it relies on revelations of who met whom for what reason for its tension, but the tension is damaged by the fact that the scandal is a pretty standard one that’s easy to figure out. I wouldn’t bother with it.

Buy Broken City on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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guilt trip

Guilt Trip

I don’t like Seth Rogan at the best of times, but put him in a cliched and unfunny road trip movie with Barbara Streisand and I’d drive across the country just to avoid it. The plot (such as it is) centers around Rogan’s character as a cleaning fluid salesman driving across the US to peddle his product. His mother invites herself along to work out their issues and reunite with an old lover. A road trip movie’s success relies on character/actor chemistry, and unfortunately theirs just doesn’t do anything for me. For a really funny road trip comedy you haven’t seen, try the Australian film Thunderstruck.

Buy The Guilt Trip on DVD or try Thunderstruck instead.

best of both worlds

Star Trek: Next Generation – Best of Both Worlds

This was released in a limited number of theaters last week, but the DVD is what you really want. At $15, it’s the same price as an IMAX ticket and you get special features with it, including a documentary, an audio commentary, and a gag reel. The actual content is movie length – a full two-part episode arc featuring Captain Picard’s capture and assimilation into the Borg collective – and is remastered to look good in HD (though the aspect ratio remains full screen). Not worth it if you have the full season set, but a good nostalgic investment if you don’t.

Buy Best of Both Worlds on Blu-Ray.

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The Big Wedding Review

poster from the Millennium Films movie The Big Wedding

Ensemble comedies, especially ensemble romantic comedies, are hard to pull off. It seems that for every Love Actually there are at least a handful of Valentine’s Days. But I keep going to them anyway, because when they work – when they end up funny and cute and not too obviously contrived – then they’re a great time. That’s why I picked Big Wedding over Oblivion this week.

The adopted son of a divorced couple asks his parents to pretend to be married again during the weekend of his wedding to avoid offending his biological mother.

The premise is pretty ridiculous – it strains credibility that his parents would put on this whole charade to help their son lie about something so trivial – but when it came down to execution it worked. The Big Wedding was cute, it was funny, and my mom and I had a great time watching it.

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Trailer Reviews for April 26, 2013

THE BIG WEDDING



Man, it’s been a long time since I saw a romantic comedy. Even longer since I saw a GOOD one. Even longer than that since I saw a good ENSEMBLE romantic comedy. I’m looking forward to this. Why? Well, Ben Barnes is extremely cute. That goes a long way. And then of course the last two wedding related films I saw with Amanda Seyfried and Katherine Heigl in them (Mamma Mia and 27 Dresses, respectively) were HILARIOUS. And then there’s the hint of It’s Complicated thrown in there with the inclusion of a messy divorce/new girlfriend subplot involving the older parents. I’m not a DeNiro affictionato and the reason for the whole mess is tenuous at best (the mother of the groom is very religious) but I guess when you think about it, when are these movies ever that realistic?

PAIN AND GAIN



The fact that there’s a red band version of the trailer for this movie was a bad sign to me. That usually means the comedy is so disgusting they have to warn people before subjecting them to even two minutes of it (sort of like the labels they put on radioactive waste). And then of course there’s the Michael Bay factor. His name is not exactly a seal of quality these days. This movie doesn’t look too bad, though. The utter doofusness of the characters (combined with the fact that the movie and the actors know that these guys are doofuses) gives Pain and Gain a certain amount of charm. The plot seems to be very Seven Psychopaths with heavy thematic does of Jersey Shore, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’d watch this on video someday.

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – BEST OF BOTH WORLDS



This is only coming to a select few theaters (i.e those located in cities judged to have a high number of Star Trek fans) which is just as well, because it’s just two episodes squashed together. It costs somewhere between $11 and $16 to see it depending on your theater. For that much money, you might as well buy the DVD. At least then you’d get the special features (I for one would like to see that gag reel). Hell, buy a subscription to Netflix and you can watch all 178 episodes for $8 as long as you can speed through over a hundred hours of show in under a month. Having said that though, these screenings will be total nerd parties, which could be fun regardless of what’s on the screen.

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DVDs for April 23, 2013

gangster squad

Gangster Squad

I feel like this movie has been made a million times, but fans of Ryan Gosling tend to disagree with me on that. In Gangster Squad he plays an LA cop who joins a vigilante squad of rogue cops pitted against a mob boss played by Sean Penn. Their goal: to take back the city without all that pesky paperwork and due process. It’s your typical amoral noir-esque shoot-em-up full of mostly unlikeable characters, so if you like that sort of thing (and you don’t find Ryan Gosling as blank and annoying-voiced as I do) you may enjoy it.

Buy Gangster Squad on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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the impossible

The Impossible

The fact that this movie has such a generic title is unfortunate, because it may be overlooked. It’s the story of the 2004 tsunami from the perspective of a family on vacation to Thailand when ‘the impossible’ happens: everything is wiped off the map by a huge wave. Parents Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts are spit up, he with their two younger kids, she with their older one, and they spend the movie searching for each other amidst the devastation. Don’t go in expecting The Day After Tomorrow but do go in expecting to need some tissues – it’s a real tearjerker.

Buy The Impossible on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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promised land

Promised Land

This movie is trying to be the Thank You For Smoking of the oil and gas industry. Matt Damon plays the naive agent who’s trying to convince hard-up townsfolk to sell his company drilling rights over the objections of a local teacher (John Krasinski). It was Earth Day yesterday so the issue of economics vs environmental impact is a good one to bring up in a film, as it will help expose more people to the issue. It’s just a shame the movie turned out to be so lousy. Damon’s lack of charisma and the script’s reliance on cliches just make it seem simplistic and dull compared to a doumentary.

Buy Promised Land Promised Land or on Blu-Ray.

jurassic park 3d

Jurassic Park 3D

This movie has held up remarkably well in the twenty years since it came out. Even the special effects still look good. I wouldn’t pay extra money to have it in 3D, especially since I don’t even know anyone with one of those gimmicky 3D TV sets, but it is a movie that’s so awesome everyone should own a copy so they can show the next generation. Even cynical 2010s kids will love the idea of a theme park ravaged by real dinosaurs (and lawyers getting eaten – can’t forget that part). Just don’t show it to a little kid unless you want it to have nightmares.

Buy Jurassic Park 3D on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for April 19, 2013

OBLIVION



This movie looks pretty cool. Tom Cruise discovers the people from The Matrix living underground in a destroyed version of earth that actually looks LESS destroyed now that all the people have moved away. Then he finds out the government is evil or something (quelle suprise) and then he fights GLaDOS and some robots…. or something. I dunno, they don’t really give you much of an idea of what the plot is. I think they’re hoping Tom Cruise and cool special effects will draw you in. Normally it would work on me (Tom Cruise may be crazy but he’s a good actor). Unfortunately I’m going to be away this week so I’ll either have to miss it or wait until next week to see it depending on how good next week’s lineup looks.

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES



How many times are we going to do this? Blank faced Ryan Gosling drives a vehicle very fast as part of a robbery scheme, but even though he’s a criminal he’s not REALLY a bad guy… or so the movie would have us believe. I’m not a Ryan Gosling fan by any stretch of the imagination and I’ve mentioned before (ad nauseum) that I don’t like criminal-as-the-good-guy movies either. As if that wasn’t enough, the trailer music even makes it seem draggy and boring. This movie couldn’t get any less appealing to me unless it was directed by Michael Bay.

THE SAPPHIRES



I’m not a fan of soul music but I do love Australian comedies. Chris O’Dowd’s character seems to make a lot of racist remarks, which would be cringe-worthy to watch if there’s more than just the few in the trailer, but the rest of it looked pretty funny. I’d watch it.

TO THE WONDER



You know, those little logos with the film festival names in the wheat sheaves are supposed to attract people to see a movie. They’re like the little stamps that say GRADE A QUALITY on the meat packages at the grocery store. But they have the opposite effect on me. I think to myself: oh no, not another pretentious snoozefest that’s not actually about anything. Sometimes it’s an unfair thought, but given how boring and noncommittal the trailer is and the fact that it’s directed by Terrence Malik, I very much doubt I’m wrong about this one.

GINGER AND ROSA



Oh look, it’s that girl from Beautiful Creatures and Dakota Fanning’s little sister… who’s being perved on by Alessandro Nivola. Gross. There are a lot of famous people in this movie, but it looks almost as boring as the last one except for that brief snippet of nuclear protest. I don’t think I’ll see this one.

HOME RUN



Be careful! This trailer might not give you much of a hint (which is probably intentional) but this is one of those faith-based inspirational movies, like Fireproof or Courageous. It’s not a regular rom com/Bad News Bears ripoff. The clues are there if you can put them together. Listen to the lyrics of the song they’re playing. Lord lord god god miracles etc. Check out his 12 step program – it’s in a church. And finally, look at the font they used for the title. Exact same as Courageous. Plus if you read the YouTube comments you’ll see all the bible quotes. Anyway, just be warned.

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