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DVDs for July 22, 2014

transcendence

Transcendence

This movie explores the interesting (if unoriginal) idea that we can’t tell the difference between human and machine intelligence. After a computer scientist is fatally wounded, his wife uploads him into an AI, which immediately starts taking measures to improve the world and it’s people. But is it really? And who’s doing it, the scientist or the computer? Unfortunately, not a lot actually happens so it gets kind of boring. Read my review for more.

Buy Transcendence on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

heaven is for real

Heaven is For Real

When I type this title, it ends up as “Heaven Is Not For Real.” Freudian slip. You can yell at me if you want, but that won’t change the fact that even if you set aside the issue of veracity, this movie belongs to the same ‘hamfisted inspirational slap’ genre popularized by the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. A little boy has surgery, wakes up, tells his dad he went to heaven and met a bunch of famous people, and the dad puts him on TV to convince and uplift a skeptical public. It’s based on a “non-fiction” book written by the boy and the dad.

Buy Heaven is for Real on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

sabotage

Sabotage

My first thought was: how did Sam Worthington and Joe Manganiello star in a movie together without my knowing about it? (It was straight to DVD in Canada). The premise is a weird cross between an action movie and a horror movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a team of wise-cracking DEA agents who aren’t as witty as they think they are (a la The Expendables) take down a drug cartel safe house and then start getting killed off one by one (a la every horror movie ever made) on account of some missing money. It’s about as good as Arnold’s movies usually are.

Buy Sabotageon DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for June 26, 2012

Wrath of the Titans

Clash of the Titans was two hours of men in skirts yelling and flinging themselves at monsters, but the sequel, thankfully, has a bit more depth. Perseus (Sam Worthington) has a son now and only reluctantly returns to the monster killing business when his dad Zeus (Liam Neeson) gets kidnapped by his evil uncle Hades (Ralph Fiennes) as a ploy to release a giant lava monster. It’s pretty cool – I liked it a lot better than the first one – and the special effects were awesome. Check it out or read the full review.

Buy Wrath of the Titans on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror is the campy version of Snow White that came out earlier this summer – the one that features Julia Roberts as the evil queen trying to poach a young prince played by Armie Hammer out of her stepdaughter Lily Collins’ hands. There are also a magical dragon and some marauding little people on stilts who steal the pants off anyone that wanders into the woods. It’s goofy, a little lame, and nobody dies, so it’s perfect for younger kids and anyone who’s not looking to get into anything at all serious. Check out the full review here.

Buy Mirror Mirror on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


21 Jump Street

If you remember 21 Jump Street from the 80s, you should know that this is nothing like that. The other has a serious “drugs are bad” message, this one is a vehicle for sex jokes, goofing off, and making fun of high school movies. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play two (not so) young looking police officers who end up in the opposite roles they played in high school when they return to school as part of an undercover drug sting. It’s pretty funny, so check it out, but not if you’ve got kids with you. Most of the jokes are HIGHLY inappropriate. Read the full review here.

Buy 21 Jump Street on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


The Artist

I went to this movie with a friend. I loved it, she hated it, so it could go either way for you. The movie is black and white and almost entirely silent, which means you’ve gotta be cool with reading title cards and people’s faces if you want to know what’s going on. The story is that a famous silent movie actor (Jean Dujardin) is made obsolete by his protegee/girlfriend (Berenice Bejo) when Hollywood moves from silent pictures to “talkies.” It’s really sweet and also really different, so do check it out, even if you’re not a film snob.

Buy The Artist on DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack.

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DVDs for May 29, 2012

Man on a Ledge

I’m admittedly biased here, seeing as how Sam Worthington is on my Awesome List, but I’m going to tell you to rent this movie anyway because it’s cool. It’s about a guy (Sam) who was wrongfully convicted of a heist and threatens suicide on a ledge as a distraction while his buddies (one of whom is Jamie Bell, who is also awesome) actually pull off a heist to prove that the guy they’re stealing from is a big fat liar. And of course the policewoman who is sent to talk him down ends up on his side, because who wouldn’t? Anyway, what more could you want??

Buy Man on a Ledge on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Gone

This movie is stupid. You don’t even need to get that far into it before you can figure that out for yourself. The story goes that a woman (Amanda Seyfried) was kidnapped by a serial killer years ago and escaped, but nobody believes her for the sole reason that the movie needs this to happen in order to function, because obviously no police/hospitals/etc. are allowed to be that stupid in real life. Anyway her sister is kidnapped, again no one believes her (despite the fact that the sister is demonstrably not there) and she has to face her kidnapper again alone. Ho hum.

Buy Gone on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Goon

Fighting is my least favorite part of hockey, so of course it’s the part that movies always seem to focus on. Add Seann William Scott, the guy I hated from the American Pie movies and stir in Jay Baruchel, the irritating nerd from Trotsky, and you’ve got a perfect storm of things I don’t want to watch packed into one movie. I dunno, maybe the story of a bar bouncer who can’t even skate bashing in heads in a series of bloody fight on the way to hockey glory appeals to you, but it doesn’t to me, so I’m going to tell you to skip it.

Buy Goon on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Coriolanus

If you liked Baz Luhrmann’s take on Romeo + Juliet and also 300, then you stand a decent chance of liking Coriolanus. It’s based on one of Shakespeare’s bloodier plays about a Roman hero-turned-douchebag who gets kicked out of Rome after his policies cause a riot. He sucks up his pride (sort of) and joins forces with his enemy for the purposes of revenge on Rome. It looks modern in a former Soviet Republic sort of way but the language is Shakespeare all the way. Pretty cool if you can get through it without the Cliff’s Notes.

Buy Coriolanus on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Double Feature Review: Wrath of the Titans and Friends With Kids

posters for Wrath of the Titans and Friends With Kids

Since I’m not interested in American Reunion and Titanic is thirteen years old, my original plan for this week was to review Wrath of the Titans. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find my theater had managed to get a copy of Friends With Kids, which you may remember from this interview, so I saw that too. And I found that I had things to say about both films, so instead of flipping a coin, I decided to do a double feature.

Wrath of the Titans
When Zeus is kidnapped and taken to Tartarus as a sacrifice to free the Titan Kronos, reluctant hero Perseus is pressed back into action for a rescue mission.

Friends With Kids
After seeing their friends’ marriages implode from having kids, two friends decide to have a kid together to get it out of the way before finding their soul mates.

The main thing I want to say about Wrath of the Titans was that Sam Worthington was right: it is much better than Clash of the Titans. And the main thing I want to say about Friends With Kids is that it’s soooo cute!

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Trailer Reviews for March 30, 2012

WRATH OF THE TITANS



This movie poses an interesting dilemma, because while I wasn’t very impressed with Clash of the Titans, I am impressed with Sam Worthington, and he says this one will be better because he’s got more character to work with. Perseus is now a retired monster killer and father. The trailer is too impressed with its own landscapes, explosions, monster battles, and Marilyn Manson Eurythmics covers (I know – WTF??) to give much hint of how Perseus feels about everything (much like the entire last film) so I just don’t know. Sam’s position on the awesome list means I have to go to the movie but it doesn’t mean I have to review it, so I may shunt this to a Tuesday cheap night viewing and check out Mirror Mirror instead. I’m not exactly keen on the Greek/Roman sword and skirt bloodbaths anyway.

MIRROR MIRROR



Every now and then it happens that two studios put out movies on the same thing in the same year. It happened with asteroids and volcanoes and betrayed commando teams and now it’s happening with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Except this time one of the movies (Mirror Mirror) is really goofy and the other (Snow White and the Huntsman) is really dark. I have to say I’m intrigued. It would be interesting to compare the two, anyway. Both could go off the rails rather easily. Snow White is obviously the main character but I have a feeling Julia Roberts is going to steal the show in this version. Perhaps its for the best – there are fart sound effects, squeaky voices, and Snow White seems kind of bland and boring. Yes, picking between this and Wrath of the Titans will be tough, but not in a good way.

SERVITUDE



If you liked Waiting, you should probably just go ahead and watch that DVD again, because this movie seems like a lamer copy. Poor Dave Foley – after all that time on Kids in the Hall this is what it comes to.

Also, if you live in Sydney (Nova Scotia, not Australia), on Thursday at 7pm the Cape Breton Film Series people are showing Restless, an quirky teenage love story between a guy with a ghost pal and a cancer patient. You can check out their website to see the trailer for it.

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DVDs for December 6, 2011

The Debt

The Debt is a period film that alternates between the 90s and the 50s as it tells the story of three Mossad agents sent to East Germany to hunt down a Nazi criminal. Something went wrong during that mission, and the movie gradually builds up to a big reveal. It’s not a true story, but it is vaguely based on the Nazi-hunting that Mossad used to do after World War II. All of the actors, particularly Sam Worthington, Helen Mirren, and Jessica Chastain, are really good, and the whole thing is really, really tense. Definitely rent it. You can read my full review of The Debt here.

Buy The Debt on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


The Help

Most movies about civil rights tend to be very serious and depressing, even the ones with uplifting messages. The Help on the other hand, has a humorous and uplifting (yet somehow still serious) tone that sets it apart. It stars Emma Stone as a young Southern reporter doing a book on the lives of the black maids of Jackson, Mississippi, who are played by Viola Davis and the hilarious Octavia Spencer. This is a great movie to rent on ladies’ night, but your average fella won’t be too interested, so rent something else for date night. Check out my full review of The Help here.

Buy The Help on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens is exactly as silly as you would think from the title Cowboys and Aliens, but sometimes we’re not looking for grit and seriousness in our science fiction. Sometimes we’re looking for fun. So if you’re being treated for depression because of Battlestar Galactica, rent Cowboys and Aliens. Watching Daniel Craig blast alien spaceships with a laser gun from the back of a horse while Harrison Ford says cranky Harrison Ford things is bound to put a smile on anybody’s face. There’s even a bit of mystery included in the set, since Daniel Craig has amnesia.

Buy Cowboys and Aliens on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


The Hangover Part II

If you finished watching The Hangover and immediately wished you could watch it again, this is the movie for you. It’s not so much a sequel to The Hangover as it is a remake, with a slight swapping out of the missing person and the setting. The premise is still the same (wake up in strange hotel room with no memory after a bachelor party) the characters are still the same (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zack Galifianakis) and even most of the jokes are the same (the missing tooth becomes a tattoo). It’s a good movie for boys’ night as long as you and your friends don’t mind repetition.

Buy The Hangover Part II on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for Sept 6, 2011

X-Men First Class

I’m usually too cheap to buy DVDs until they’re relegated to the $5 bin, but I love X-Men First Class so much that I’m going to go out immediately and buy the superfancy shiny box edition with lots of special features. This is easily the best of the X-Men films and you don’t even need to be a comic book fan to like it, because at its heart it’s a friendship tragedy about two guys (James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender) with superpowers who have differing views on how to deal with the normal people who are persecuting them… during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Rent it. Now. You can check out the full review first if you like.

Buy X-Men First Class on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Hanna

In a way, Hanna was trying to achieve the same thing as X-Men First Class: inject character depth into an action movie. It didn’t succeed nearly as well. The logic is outlandish at best, Saoirse Ronan comes off as blankly psychotic and her father, played by Eric Bana, seems heartless for training her to be a killer then unleashing her (alone) on their enemy. It isn’t bad – the action scenes are pretty awesome, especially considering the ass-kicking hero is a fourteen year old girl – but it isn’t the best action movie I’ve seen this year either. Give it a chance, just don’t expect anything profound from it. You can read the full review here.

Buy Hanna on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Last Night

Usually I make it a point to see all of Sam Worthington’s movies, but I missed this one because it never came anywhere near our theater. I have to say the subject matter doesn’t interest me at all. Adultery? Again? There must be fifty dramas out this year alone about a character fighting the temptation to cheat on his/her partner. The only difference with this movie is that they’re BOTH tempted at the same time, which seems extra unlikely. But I’ll rent it. If you’re into depressing movies you might want to as well, just be aware that it’s probably not the best thing to get for date night.

Buy Last Night on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Everything Must Go

This is another one of those movies where Will Ferrell tries not to be so Will Ferrell-y (think Stranger Than Fiction) and because of that I didn’t immediately reject it offhand. Instead of an over the top doofus, he plays a guy who loses his job and gets kicked out by his wife on the same day, forcing him to live on his lawn with all the stuff she chucked out and have a big yard sale as a symbolic way of starting over. It’s funny, but not in the usual man-child Will Ferrell way. More in an “I have actual functioning brain cells” way. Check it out if you liked Stranger Than Fiction or any of the more subtle indie type comedies (The Kids Are Alright, Our Idiot Brother, etc.)

Buy Everything Must Go on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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The Debt Review

poster from the Miramax Films movie The Debt

Yay! I’ve been looking forward to seeing this movie for months, and now it’s finally here. It’s just a shame that it came out on the same day as Apollo 18, the OTHER movie I’ve been waiting to see for months. But it was no contest picking which one to see this week. Sam Worthington always beats not Sam Worthington, since he’s on the Awesome List. Of course, it also helped that the movie itself looked really interesting. Sort of like Munich but with a World War II connection.

A trio of Mossad agents in 1997 find their past coming back to haunt them when a book is released about their 1966 mission to capture the notorious Surgeon of Birkenau.

Before you ask, no, The Debt is not based on a true story or even a book. It’s based on an Isreali film from 1997 called Ha-Hov. The Surgeon of Birkenau is not real either, though he is obviously based on Josef Mengle (often referred to as the Butcher of Birkenau) who performed some of the same medical experiments on concentration camp victims that are attributed to the Surgeon in this movie. The fact that it’s made up doesn’t take much away from the movie, though. It’s still tense, fascinating, and heartrending.

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Trailer Reviews for September 2, 2011

THE DEBT



I was terribly afraid that our theater wasn’t going to get this one, but I’m relieved to note that it’s been on the schedule since Wednesday. Plot wise The Debt is like Munich, with a handful of Israeli commandos ruthlessly hunting down a person who did a bad thing (in Munich it was kill athletes at the 1972 Olympics, this time it’s perform horrible experiments on concentration camp prisoners). That alone would be enough to interest me, but add in the fact that there are a bunch of awesome people I like in it (Sam Worthington, Helen Mirren, Ciaran Hinds, Marton Csokas) and the whole “something we’ve done has come back to haunt us” future mystery element and I’m just dying to see this movie.

APOLLO 18



Oooh, goodie. This movie is finally coming out. It was supposed to come out ages ago but they kept pushing it back. It’s pretty much just The Blair Witch Project on the moon, but of course I’m a big sucker for it because it’s sci-fi. It looks like they went to a lot of effort to match the look of the actual Apollo footage from the 1970s, even the quality, which bodes well for the movie being good. They also didn’t give away the scary thing right there in the trailer so there will actually be an element of suspense when you go to watch it for real. It’s a well put together trailer, and I’m looking forward to seeing the full film.

SHARK NIGHT



Oh dear. It looks like Shark Night could learn a few things about tension and pacing from Apollo 18. Here’s a tip, Shark Night: showing the monster in the trailer instantly robs your film of all suspense. And by the by, you should also know that adding 3D doesn’t miraculously make a cliché into something fresh. Especially not when you’re ripping off both Jaws AND Saw. It’s hard to express the depth of my disinterest in this movie, but I’ll try. I wouldn’t even bother with this movie if it was on TV for free and all the other channels were experiencing technical malfunction. I’d rather read a book. Or clean my apartment.

THE TRIP



Okay… so this is a documentary? It’s kind of the same thing as that one where Ewan McGregor and his buddy went around the world on their motorcycles… except it’s Steve Coogan, and they’re not really going anywhere or experiencing any privations except as related to eating very fancy food (i.e. none). AND his friend does impressions (constantly, if the trailer is any clue). I’m sorry, I like Steve Coogan, but this film seems like it would be mildly amusing at best, and at worst, downright annoying. I might give it a chance on some far future date when it’s in the library and everything else that’s left stars Nicholas Cage.

THE WHISTLEBLOWER



Cool. The title leaves something to be desired – there have been at least half a dozen films by that name – but Rachel Weiss plus explosively dramatic subject matter equals a solid bet. The whole concept of diplomatic immunity drives me absolutely crazy – there’s just so much potential for abuse. I’ve seen it dealt with in a couple episodes of CSI: New York but it’s nice to see a whole film dealing with its ramifications. The kicker of course is that it’s based on a true story, which is a shame because it really casts everyone, including the people who have gone overseas to be good and brave and honest and forthright, in a bad light.

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Trailer Reviews for May 13, 2011

BRIDESMAIDS



Who says crude humor is only for men? This movie is like the female comedians’ response to The Hangover, complete with the Vegas connection. I never particularly liked Kristin Wiig while she was on SNL, but she seems to have done rather well for herself. Better even than Maya Rudolph, who was more popular than she was on SNL but now just tags along behind her and takes secondary roles in her movies. Though I applaud the existence of this movie, I can’t say that it really interests me at all. Kristin Wiig is awkward and weird. The boyfriends are all boring looking. And I hate jokes related to bodily fluids. But if these things float your boat, hey, then it’s worth $11.50, right?

PRIEST



Paul Bettany, haven’t you already made one ill-advised foray into the world of badly written apocalyptic horror-action films featuring the Christian religion? (Remember Legion? I wish I didn’t.) Are you starting a collection? Or is the prospect of simultaneously ripping off Batman, Blade Runner, and Equilibrium what appealed to you? I experienced no surprise when I learned that this movie was based on a graphic novel, because it is utterly ridiculous. A bald-headed monk with a giant cross tattooed on his face gets in a slow motion karate fight with a cowboy? Give me a break. Producers, I know you want to capitalize on the recent success of vampire related things and comic book movies, but is this really the best way to do it? I predict ten seconds of public attention, and then a rapid slide into obscurity.

LAST NIGHT



Dammit, I knew I should have kept the Awesome List a secret. Someone’s definitely taking advantage of it. I would never watch a movie like this if it weren’t for Sam Worthington (although Keira Knightly is very close to being on the Awesome List herself). What’s he even doing in this movie when he can do pretty much whatever he wants by this point? Actors (and writers and directors) always seem to be fascinated by adultery. There are an awful lot of dramas where the central question is: “to cheat or not to cheat?” and most of them have managed to attract star casts. Maybe it’s their way of exorcising their demons or something. There’s Unfaithful, The Other Boleyn Girl, American Beauty, The Graduate, etc. etc. and of course, Closer, which is pretty much the same movie as this one. I never like characters who cheat, and I don’t sympathize with their “conflict.” Maybe I’ll get out of having to watch this one. It’s very unlikely my theater will even get it anyway.

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