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Pompeii Review

poster from the Sony Pictures film Pompeii

This week’s film selection was brought to you by nepotism. My brother worked in the sound department for Pompeii (filling in – sadly he’s not in the credits) so of course our family turned out in support. I’m not sure I would have bothered with this one otherwise. The effects looked cool and there’s Kit Harington, but the Pompeii story is not one of my hot buttons.

A Celtic gladiator competes with a skeezy Roman senator for the love of a wealthy daughter of Pompeii… on the eve of a giant volcano explosion!

The story of Pompeii is a paint-by-numbers construct, taking all your standard hero clichés and assembling them into a half-decently pretty canvas that is subsequently destroyed by the REAL star of the movie: the volcano effects. I enjoyed it, but I seriously doubt it will make anyone’s ‘best of’ list.

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Trailer Reviews for February 21, 2014

POMPEII



I’ve been looking out for this movie ever since my brother told me about how he filled in for one of their sound guys. Of course I’ll go see it, but I’m not sure I would have been so eager if it weren’t for the brother factor. It’s like Gladiator crossed with Dante’s Peak – both are movies I like, but I probably wouldn’t put them together. I worry this movie is just an excuse to spend a billion dollars on 3D volcano eruptions.

THE WIND RISES



I’m not a fan of Japanese animation, with its punches that last a year and the flashing backgrounds that threaten to give me seizures. One of my cousins insisted I would like Miyazaki’s films anyway, but I didn’t believe him. Eventually I got around to watching Howl’s Moving Castle and had to admit that my cousin was right. I’ll see this one too, even though the trailer spends too much time praising the director to convey much of the plot. All I got out of it is ‘Harry Potter likes airplanes.’

3 DAYS TO KILL



When I saw the name of this film, I assumed it would star Jason Statham. Imagine my surprise when I saw Kevin Costner on the screen. Kevin Costner? When did he decide he was going to be an old-guy action hero like Liam Neeson? First Shadow Recruit, now this. This movie looks every bit as dumb as a Statham or Neeson flick, so I guess he’s doing it right. The goofy pesudo-medical ticking clock from Cranked combined with the teenage daughter drama of Taken. “Hang on, sweetie. Daddy just has to go punch the spare tire for a second.” No thanks.

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Winter’s Tale Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film Winters Tale

I was underwhelmed by this week’s movie choices: one remake of an 80s movie (Robocop), one film adaptation of a novel (Winter’s Tale), and one film adaptation of a novel that is also a remake of an 80s movie (Endless Love). I probably should have said ‘the hell with it’ and gone to Vampire Academy but I didn’t. I went to Winter’s Tale. Blame Colin Farrell.

Angels conspire to help a handsome thief fall in love with a lonely girl dying of tuberculosis before Lucifer’s forces can kill him.

Winter’s Tale is partly historical fiction, as it’s mostly set in the early 1900s, and partly fantasy, because there are angels and demons and magic horses. It’s the literary type of fantasy, though, because the magic is just there to assist the story in being DEEP and MOVING. So it’s soppy, but the damn thing managed to make me cry anyway.

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Trailer Reviews for February 14, 2014

ROBOCOP



Oh joy. Another unnecessary 80s remake. Seriously, this has got to stop. Studios are obsessed with ‘established properties’ (i.e. not taking any risks) and I feel like if I support it by handing over money for a ticket, it will result in the total death of new big-budget movie ideas. If you think I’m overreacting, scroll down. The other two movies coming out this week are based on books. And so are 4 of the 7 other movies playing this weekend. Of the remaining 3, one is based on a toy franchise and the other is based on a meme, leaving a total of one original film out of 10. And I can’t even watch that movie, because it’s stupid.

WINTER’S TALE



I guess Robocop was a token nod to the existence of single people, because the other two movies coming out this week are (unsurprisingly) romances. This looks like the better of the two. And no, not because it has Colin Farrell (okay, not ONLY because it has Colin Farrell). I’m not sure how much magic comes into play here, because when Russell Crowe orders the death of his rival he makes sure to mention that he wants the guy to stay dead (like people routinely spring back to life in this movie’s world) but then he acts really surprised to find out the guy’s still alive. Also this movie gets the award for most unintentionally hilarious line: “I’ve had no memory ever since I can remember.” What?

ENDLESS LOVE



My friend assures me that this movie (and the book it’s based on) are romantic, but you’ll have to forgive me if my heart doesn’t melt at the thought of a guy who is so obsessed with his girlfriend that he stalks her and burns her house down. That’s the kind of Twilight-styke love we’d all be better off without. How uplifting and Valentines-y. I wouldn’t have seen it anyway, but if you’re also opposed to remakes you should know that this isn’t just a novel adaptation but a remake of a novel adaptation from 1981 (the freaking 80s again… are we trying to reclaim our glory days or something?)

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DVDs for February 11, 2014

enders game

Ender’s Game

Whether or not you agree with the things that Orson Scott Card has been saying online, you should see this movie, because you buying or not buying it won’t affect his bottom line. Ender’s Game is probably the best adaptation we can expect from the classic novel about six-year-olds who are training to wipe out an alien space fleet. It’s a little hectic and a little de-toothed, but it’s exciting, it poses some interesting questions, and the effects are cool. Read my full review for more.

Buy Ender’s Game on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

sherlock season3

Sherlock: Season 3

ERMEGERD! SERSERN THRUH IS ERRT! Says everyone who watches Sherlock but fell into a coma during the long hiatus between seasons. WTF IS THE BIG DEAL? Says everyone who has not watched the show. Group One: the link to buy the DVD is below. Group Two: you need to watch this show. Seriously. Each season is three two hour movies starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as modern day Holmes and Watson. It blows your usual CSI and Law and Order type shows out of the water.

Buy Sherlock: Season 3 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

the counselor

The Counselor

If you would like to be depressed, confused, and generally divested of your faith in humanity by your next film, add The Counselor to your Netflix list. It’s a teamup between Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy and features a greedy lawyer who ruins his life by getting involved with drug trafficking. All the wholesome violence of No Country for Old Men combined with the bleakness of The Road. Who could resist? It’s the feel-good movie of the year for people who don’t like there to be anyone left alive at the end of the film.

Buy The Counselor on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

austenland

Austenland

Either I missed this in theaters or they changed their minds and put it out straight to DVD, because I was looking for it. I read the book. It was cute and half decently funny – better than the other Pride and Prejudice-inspired chick lit novels I’ve read (there are a lot). The main character decides to go on a Regency retreat to kick her Mr. Darcy addiction once and for all, only to fall in love with the actor playing Mr. Darcy (d’oh). It’s not going to rock anyone’s world, but it’d make a great selection for your next Girls’ Night In.

Buy Austenland on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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The LEGO Movie Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film The LEGO Movie

I was a LEGO kid. I had almost all the Ice Planet sets, a fair bit of Magnetron, and a Space Police cruiser. In fact, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have a couple of LEGO kits on the shelves in my office and half a dozen LEGO themed video games in my living room. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there was no chance of me skipping The LEGO Movie, even considering the generic storyline.

An ordinary construction worker discovers he is ‘the special’ and must save LEGO City from being destroyed by the evil Lord Business.

I watched the movie in a posse of unaccompanied adults, and I think we were laughing even harder than the kids. The story is generic, yes, and a little bit on the eye-rolling side of inspirational, but it’s the funniest movie I’ve seen since Easy A. Since most parents are young enough to be nostalgic about LEGO, it really is fun for the whole family.

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DVDs for Feb 4, 2014

gravity

Gravity

The #2 best movie of 2013 (according to me) is now available to own! If you’ve seen it, you’re probably already pre-ordered your copy. If you haven’t see it – buy one now. It’s the thrillingest thriller I’ve seen in… possibly ever. Sandra Bullock plays an astronaut with a tragic past who struggles to stay alive in space after her shuttle is destroyed by debris. There are some science problems if you think about it too hard, but that doesn’t matter, because the rest of it is so awesome. Read my full review for more.

Buy Gravity on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

thor 2

Thor: The Dark World

Coincidentally, the #4 best movie of 2013 (according to me) is also available to own today. Thor himself may not be my favorite superhero (or even my favorite Avenger) but his movies are full of fun, action, witty jokes, and science. Fun science, not real science. In this one, Thor teams up with his (girl)fan-favorite brother Loki and portal-hop-battles an evil elf who wants to take over the universe with dark matter. Awesome! You can read my review for more or just go buy it already.

Buy Thor: The Dark World on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

nebraska

Nebraska

The quote on the DVD box, from the LA Times reviewer, says: “one of those movies I’ll watch for the rest of my life.” “Because it seems like it goes on forever,” my brain finished for him. This is one of those movies you either love or hate. If you’re into indie art house American slice-of-life drama, then you’ll think it’s the bees knees. If, however, you don’t, the prospect of a crotchety geezer trekking across a dreary black and white landscape to collect a scam lottery prize, occasionally stopping to argue with other local caricatures, will probably seem boring and pretentious.

Buy Nebraska on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

twice born

Twice Born

In Twice Born, Penelope Cruz plays a single mother who takes her teenaged son to Sarajevo so she can tell him all about his dad (Emile Hirsch), who died in the Bosnian war. Normally I’m all for depressing stories about Bosnia. I liked The Whistleblower, Welcome to Saeajevo, and Savior. But I think they would have done better to focus the depressingness on the conflict and the people caught up in it rather than trying to shoehorn in the same adultery/betrayal/marriage on the rocks drama that we’ve seen a million times. I recommend one of the other three movies I mentioned instead.

Buy Twice Born on DVD.

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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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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Review

poster from the Paramount Pictures film Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit

I was looking forward to this movie. I liked the previous Jack Ryan films and since the world’s biggest ‘fun’ spy franchise (James Bond) has become ultra-serious, realistic, and confusing, I thought that Jack Ryan (previously ultra-serious, realistic, and confusing) might switch places with it. I was led to believe this from the fact that they chose Chris Pine and stopped basing the plots on Tom Clancy novels.

A CIA analyst is reluctantly pressed into action after he uncovers a Russian plot to take down the American economy.

While Shadow Recruit was certainly a thrilling thriller, that was (relatively) easy to understand and (somewhat) realistic, it lacked the element of fun I was hoping for. It’s moved away from the usual tropes of the Jack Ryan franchise but hasn’t taken over the ones James Bond abandoned, so it comes off a little bland. I worry about its staying power as a franchise.

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