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Captain America Review

poster from the Marvel Studios film Captain America the First Avenger

For a long time, I’ve always thought of Captain America as the lamest of the Marvel superheroes. With his two main activities being spouting annoyingly patriotic jargon and prancing around in a helmet with little wings on it, I would have thought it would be very difficult to make a serious movie about Captain America. But Marvel is gearing up for an Avengers movie and Captain America is an Avenger, so they had to go for it. And I thought: what the hell. Why not? I liked Iron Man and Thor. Chances are this one will be good too. The story sounded promising, at least:

An undersized American with a host of medical problems gets his shot at contributing to World War II when he is tapped for a supersoldier program.

The trailer didn’t let on much more than that, but there had to be more. I was a little worried that the more would be stupid, but now that I’ve seen it, I can tell you emphatically that it is not. In fact, Captain America is nearly flawless in every way, and that’s rare, especially for a superhero movie.

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Trailer Reviews for July 22, 2011

CAPTAIN AMERICA



I have to say: I’m excited for this movie. I’ve got my ticket already. One of the things that really sold me on it was the World War II angle. I don’t know why, but things set during World War II always seem so much more important. Perhaps because it was the last time we really had to fight for anything – and there was a big chance we could lose. I don’t know how they got Chris Evans to look so puny (I guess they can do anything with computers these days) but the whole “weak guy becomes strong” idea is intriguing. Also, I’m pretty sure there was a Stark on the project. Tony’s daddy or granddaddy, perhaps? I just hope the movie has a plot after the transformation other than “fight things.”

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS



Romantic comedies appeal to people primarily based on the lead actors and their chemistry together rather than the actual plot of the film. This work to the advantage of Friends With Benefits, because it has the exact same plot as No Strings Attached, which came out earlier in the year. Whether you prefer one film or the other depends on whether you’re a fan of Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis or of Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. Either way both of them feature one half of the main couple from That 70s Show. Coincidence? Stranger things have happened, I guess. Having said all that, the movie at least looks half decently funny. I’ll rent it when it comes out on DVD, or maybe go on Tuesday cheap night.

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DVDs for July 5, 2011

Hobo With A Shotgun

There aren’t many films where the title can double as a plot synopsis, but Hobo With a Shotgun is one of those films. There’s a hobo. He has a shotgun. The end. I’m guessing you don’t need me to tell you what he does with it. If your life won’t be complete until you see Rutger Hauer riddle a department store Santa Claus with buckshot, then you should either seek therapy or rent this movie. There’s really no other reason to bother with it. It’s not even so bad it’s funny. It would be if it was a short film. As a long film it’s just repetitive and boring.

Buy Hobo With a Shotgun on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Wake Wood

The death of a child is traumatic, so naturally it’s a popular subject with filmmakers. You’ve got your grief dramas like Rabbit Hole and The Other Woman and then you’ve got your disturbing horror films, like Godsend or Pet Semetary. Guess which kind Wake Wood is? It features a couple undergoing a pagan ritual in Nowhere, Ireland that will give them their daughter back for three days, with predictable results. See it if you’re having a horror marathon or you want to see the British version of those desert hillbillies from The Hills Have Eyes. It’s not likely to float anyone else’s boat.

Buy Wake Wood on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Witchville

This is a SyFy original movie, so don’t go expecting it to have things like sense or compelling characters. In fact, you should probably be prepared for a lot of cliched dialogue and a plotline that sounds like it was written by a nine year old boy. Some guys with swords go away for a while. They come back and find their town overrun with witches. They fight the witches. The end. The only mildly interesting point is that it offers a glimpse into what happens to failed movie stars. Ed Speleers, who fell off the end of the Earth after the spectacular non-success of Eragon, and Luke Goss, an actor who stars in a lot of movies with 2 on the end, are the leads.

Buy Witchville on DVD.
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13 Assassins

When you were watching 300, did you wish it could be more Japanese? Don’t lie, you know you did, because otherwise why would Takashi Miike have made this movie? Replace the thirteen assassins with 300 Spartans and the 200 evil warlord goons with about a million Persians. Then make the evil Japanese warlord into a blue guy who brings his stairs around with him. And finally, swap all their robes for skirts, and voila! It’s the same thing. Personally I feel sorry for those 200 poor saps who had the bad luck to be conscripted by an evil warlord and used as human sandbags.

Buy 13 Assassins on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Transformers: Dark of the Moon Review

poster from the Paramount Pictures film Transformers Dark of the Moon

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was widely derided (by me) as one of the worst movies ever made. Filmed without a script and consisting of almost three hours of disconnected slow motion robot fighting, its epic failure to make sense was what convinced me that seeing Transformers: Dark of the Moon might not be such a waste of time, because at least I’d get a funny review out of it. Unfortunately, this plan started falling apart even at the trailer stage, when I was able to actually discern a plot that made a kind of sense.

The evil Decepticon robots clash with the good Autobot robots allied with the United States in order to steal a secret weapon that was recovered from a crashed ship on the moon during the Apollo 11 space mission.

But I thought I’d see it anyway because this was a Michael Bay movie, so there was a decent chance the main plot would be so overburdened by superfluous subplots that the whole thing would collapse in on itself like a black hole (kind of like what happened to the first Transformers) movie. Sadly, now that I’ve seen it, I have to report that Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the worst thing a movie can be: mediocre.

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Trailer Reviews for July 1, 2011

TRANSFORMERS 3: DARK OF THE MOON



My loathing for the second title in this series, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen is well documented. I hate it so much that this one cannot possibly be bad enough to rival it. There are several things about it that give me hope that I might not want to kill myself to end the agony while I’m watching it. The first is that the first thirty or so seconds of this trailer makes Transformers 3 look like another, different sci-fi movie that I might actually like to see (then they showed Shia LaDouche, as my friend Angella calls him, and ruined it). The second is that since the writers are no longer on strike, there may actually have been a script written for the film. And the third is that Megan Fox has been replaced (by a British faux Megan Fox, but anything would be an improvement). Will it be enough to save Transformers 3 from a review heaped with scorn? We shall see.

MONTE CARLO



Call me crazy, but I actually kind of want to see this. It’s like a bubblegum take on the Prince(ess) and the Pauper. Sure it’s got the same travel/cultural clash jokes that every movie featuring an American going somewhere else (how many times are they going to recycle that same “American plug, foreign socket” thing??) and her friends almost look old enough to have children who are Selena Gomez fans, but it’s got a weird kind of charm to it. I suppose it helps that Selena Gomez is a celebrity of the Disney variety – i.e. wholesome and not actually a bad role model for impressionable youngsters. If there wasn’t such a huge potential for hilarity in the a Transformers 3 review, I’d see this instead.

LARRY CROWNE



I like Tom Hanks as much as the next person, but I just feel like I’ve seen this movie before. In fact, I think Hanks’ whole generation of uber-celebrities have each made their own “I’m old and washed up but look how quirky/hopeful/bittersweet/action packed my life still is” movies. Mel Gibson’s got The Beaver, Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin made It’s Complicated, Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich were in RED… hell, even Indiana Jones was old and creaky (but still spry and funny!) in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This is the same sort of thing. The theme isn’t new anymore, but it looks half decently funny. I’ll probably catch it on DVD.

THE MOUNTIE



Oh… kay. So this is like Eastern Promises crossed with Deadwood, but in Canada? That music was totally wrong for the visuals and the font they used made it look like they put the trailer together in Windows Movie Maker, so I don’t have high hopes of this being any good. Even if I liked mobster stories (which I don’t) I still wouldn’t see it. There is the slight tug of “but it’s Canadian…” but this tug has never really been strong enough to drag me into the theaters to see movies I didn’t already think I might like. Pass.

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DVDs for June 21, 2011

Unknown

Although it is easy to confuse this movie with Taken because they are both European-based fisticuff fests starring Liam Neeson, the key difference between the two movies is that Taken is sort of ridiculous and Unknown is actually pretty good. There’s a mystery element surrounding why his character has has his identity stolen that’s twisty and surprising in addition to all the throad-chopping action. Therefore I recommend it as a rental for just about anyone (except small children). You can read my full review here.

Buy Unknown on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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The Eagle

The runaway success of 300 has inspired studios to produce a rash of similar looking Roman Legion themed films. Most of them aren’t worth your time, but this one is. It’s based on a young adult novel by Rosemary Sutcliffe about a young soldier (Channing Tatum) invalided out of the army who goes on a perilous journey into the wilds of Scotland with his loyal warrior manservant (Jamie Bell) to steal the emblem of his father’s lost legion from the bloodthirsty tribesmen and regain his family’s honor. Check out my full review here.

Buy The Eagle on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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The Adjustment Bureau

Destiny vs Free Will has always been a popular topic for stories, but it’s such a broad theme that most of the time the movies turn out totally different from each other. In The Adjustment Bureau, Matt Damon plays a political candidate who screws up his a manifest destiny to become powerful and influential by meeting a dancer and deciding to stay with her even after the forces of fate (here represented by creepy grandfathers in fedoras) intervene directly to tear them apart. Actioney yet with that dose of tru wuv that softens it enough to make it appealing all around. A solid bet for date night.

Buy The Adjustment Bureau on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules

I have read all of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books so I can be up on what the kiddies like, but while I was only mildly annoyed by them, the movies have really hit my vitriol button square on the head. The plots are episodic, the kids can’t act, and the characters are terrible role models. This incarnation focuses on the twelve year old main character’s antagonistic relationship with his older brother. If I had my way, no one would watch this movie, but in all likelihood your under twelves will want to see it, so rent it for them at your peril and keep an eye out for signs that the jerk main character is rubbing off on them.

Buy Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Green Lantern Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film Green Lantern

The Green Lantern was not a superhero I was familiar with as a child. When I thought about him at all, I often got him confused with Green Hornet, so that the picture I had in my head was of a guy in a black car with a green ring that worked sort of like the ones on Captain Planet and the Planeteers. This year’s crop of superhero movies cleared up the confusion for me. I never would’ve guessed that the actual story for Green Lantern went more like this:

A test pilot receives a ring from a dying alien that gives him the power to create anything he sees in his mind and the duty to fight alongside a corps of galactic guardians against a massive amorphous being powered by fear.

I was unsure of what to expect from the film after I saw the trailers, because there were some promising jokes that made light of the alien/superhero angle but also a super lame, ultra serious poem/oath that sounded like it was written by a fifth grader. I had high hopes, given that there were fighter planes involved, but sadly now that I’ve seen the movie I have to report that Green Lantern isn’t even the best superhero movie I’ve seen this month.

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DVDs for June 14, 2011

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Red Riding Hood

I’ve you’ve ever read the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale and wished it could be more like Twilight, then this is the movie for you. It’s a stylistically dark story set in something like 700 AD of a girl with a sullen boyfriend, an angsty suitor, and a werewolf which may or may not be her grandmother trying to chow down on her town. It’s actually pretty mysterious if you can get past the ridiculously stylized sets, occasional nonsensical plot points, and annoyingly broody boyfriends. You can read my full review here.

Buy Red Riding Hood on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Battle: Los Angles

It’s been a while since an alien invasion movie has hit the shelves… and by a while I mean it’s been a few hours. It’s tough to stand out in a genre that already has so many titles in it, so it’s no surprise that Battle: Los Angeles doesn’t. It’s a fairly standard Black Hawk Down style war movie about a group of soldiers mounting a rescue in a city at war, the only difference is that instead of Somali warlords or Iraqi terrorists they’re fighting against aliens. It’s not as good as Independence Day, but at least it’s better than Skyline. Rent it if you have a perverse desired to see Los Angeles leveled.

Buy Battle: Los Angeles on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Hall Pass

There’s a sequel out to The Hangover, but with it being an almost word-for-word remake of the original, you may get more satisfaction out of watching Hall Pass instead. It’s a movie about two idiots who get a week off of being married and try (mostly unsuccessfully) to get with everything in sight. It’s not up to the level of the original Hangover, and it definitely ranks low down on the list of top Farrelly Brothers comedies, but it’s less of a phone in job than the Hangover sequel. Rent it if you’re too misogynistic to go see Bridesmaids instead.

Buy Hall Pass on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son

No one knows how to milk the tiniest smidgen of success like Martin Lawrence. He’s turned a surprisingly funny film into a terrifically unfunny franchise, and now he’s dragged Brandon Jackson (the promising young actor who wanted to hook up with Lance Bass in Tropic Thunder) down with him. In this latest incarnation, an FBI (which must stand for Federal Bureau of Idiocy in this universe, since they’ve kept a Martin Lawrence character on staff for so long) agent turned fat suit cross dresser needs his son’s help to infiltrate an all girls college as part of a murder investigation.

Buy Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Super 8 Review

poster from the Paramount Pictures film Super 8

J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg are two of my favorite filmmakers. Separately, they brought us Star Trek and Indiana Jones and Alias and Saving Private Ryan. When I heard they would be working together on Super 8, Abrams as writer/director and Spielberg as producer, I thought: “well this is going to be fabulous. Obviously.” They were a bit cagey with the story in the trailers, but from what I could see it went something like this:

In 1979 a group of friends filming a home movie witness the crash of an Air Force train that sets a mysterious monster loose on their small Ohio town and they defy the military crackdown in order to investigate.

It sounded like a decent (if fairly standard) basis for a science fiction movie. I assumed with Abrams and Spielberg at the helm, it couldn’t be anything but brilliant, and that they were just being cagey in order to hide all the mind-blowing plot twists. But now, after having seen Super 8, I can honestly say that I don’t understand why this movie needed to made at all, much less by two geniuses.

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Asteroids: The Movie

original photo by Neitnagel on Flickr

When I first heard a rumor that they were making a movie out of Asteroids, I thought they were kidding. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Asteroids, it’s an extremely primitive first generation video game where you play a spaceship that has to shoot a bunch of little rocks that fall from the top of the screen. How could anyone make a movie out of something that thin? It had to be an April fool’s gag. But it wasn’t. In fact, Roland Emmerich (known as the Destroyer of Worlds and Budgets to his friends) is REALLY MAKING THIS MOVIE RIGHT NOW.

By all all accounts, the movie is about some humans and aliens living in an asteroid belt. I don’t even understand why he needed to buy the rights to this game to make a movie like that. Did they need to buy the rights to Asteroids for that bit in Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo was shooting his way out of an asteroid belt? Did they need to buy the rights to Asteroids to make Deep Impact or Armageddon? No, because you CAN’T COPYRIGHT A NATURAL OCCURANCE. Asteroids hit ships and planets and break them. It’s just something that happens. You can’t slap a trademark on it and say you invented it, thus forcing everyone who wants to use the concept to pay you money. If you could, we’d all be paying royalties every time we sneezed or stopped at a stop sign.

Roland Emmerich’s movies are usually ridiculous, plotless, distructo-fests (see 2012, 10,000 BC, The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, and Independence Day… or rather don’t, because they’re bad) but Asteroids takes the cake. There is literally nothing to it, which means there’s two whole hours free to showcase the destruction wrought by big rocks banging into things. Gee, I can’t wait.

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