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Transcendence Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film Transcendence

I wasn’t eager to see another movie about artificial intelligence, because who in their right mind still expects an audience to be surprised when the thing turns evil? But the only other movies that came to my theater this week were a children’s documentary about bears and another stupid Trailer Park Boys movie.

A scientist transfers his consciousness to a computer as he dies, but some worry that the resulting hyperintelligent AI marks the end of humanity.

I was expecting SkyNet: The Movie, but that wasn’t exactly what I got. Transcendence is more like a giant Outer Limits episode than a Hollywood movie. The story was interesting and a little different than the pantheon of AI movies led me to expect. Unfortunately, it’s also a lot more boring.

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Trailers for April 18, 2014

TRANSCENDENCE



Otherwise known as: SkyNet – the Movie! I mean, I’ll see it, but how many times do we need to travel the same well-worn territory? Oh no! We created a supermachine and now it can boss us around! The horror!

BEARS



It’s Earth Day again and time for another kids’ documentary about cute animals. While you’re watching Bears, don’t forget to remind your littleuns that if they ever catch a whiff of the fishy garbage-heap-in-the-sun smell of a real bear, under no circumstances should they attempt to approach and/or pat the cute bears, as they will totally rip your face off.

HAUNTED HOUSE 2



Sometimes I like deliberately dumb spoofs, but this one is just bad. That trailer didn’t even make me smile once.

FACE OF LOVE



While I’m not opposed to the notion of a woman falling in love with a guy who looks like her dead husband (okay, I find it a LITTLE creepy), this looks like one of those slow, quiet (read: boring) movies that make me want to hit fast forward just to make something happen.

TRAILER PARK BOYS: DON’T LEGALIZE IT



I despise Trailer Park Boys, but I know a lot of people don’t, so here’s the trailer. Me: out.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

poster from the Marvel Studios film Captain America Winter Soldier

Marvel has effectively put us on a money treadmill. All of their movies (and now the TV show) interlock, so if you miss one, you miss the clues that lead in to the next one. The best part for Marvel is that no one wants to get off the treadmill. Not even me, and I’m the one cynically pointing out that we’re running in place. The latest mile we’re paying for is Captain America: Winter Soldier.

A patriotic superhero from the 1940s struggles to adjust to modern anti-terror tactics while facing off against an enemy from his past.

I was really looking forward to the Winter Soldier aspect of this movie, so when I watched it and discovered that a more accurate title would have been Captain America and a Bunch of Crap About SHIELD, I was disappointed. If you’re dying to see more Nick Fury, maybe you’ll like it better than I did.

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Trailer Reviews for April 4, 2014

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER



I can’t decide if the Winter Soldier’s identity is supposed to be a secret. Black Widow is talking like the guy’s a big mystery, but you can see his face a couple of times in the trailer. Even if you don’t already know the answer from reading comics, you’ll recognize him from the other movies. It doesn’t really matter, I suppose. I’ll still see it. I like Cap better in his own movies than in the Avengers, because he gets to be funny instead of herding cats around all the time. Also, that winged jet pack is awesome. If I was the Cap, I’d be like: where’s MY winged jet pack?!

CAS AND DYLAN



Let me guess – she has such a meaningful, heartwarming adventure with the dying guy that once he dies she writes a meaningful heartwarming book that gets published super easily, the end. I feel like I’ve seen all this before.

AFFLICTED



Okay, I applaud them for finding a different excuse for their characters to be filming every weird and horrible thing that happens to them, but it doesn’t make sense. Who is editing and uploading the footage to their blog once they’re dead or full of rabies or whatever? And whose first instinct when their buddy comes down with rabies is to grab the camera and take it with them to the hospital? Though illogical, the rabid hulk/spiderman chest camera shots are pretty cool.

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Divergent Review

poster from the Summit Entertainment film Divergent

Teen dystopia is popular right now, largely thanks to the huge pile of money made by the Hunger Games series. What set The Hunger Games apart was that it was successful not just as a book trilogy but also as a film series. Now studios are throwing more teen dystopian novels on the adaptation bandwagon. But will lightning strike again for Divergent?

In a world divided into factions based on personality traits, a teenage girl joins the bravery faction to hide the fact that she doesn’t belong in any one category.

I read Divergent about a year ago and really liked it. As far as I can remember, this movie is exactly the same as the book, which should make fans happy. Nothing’s been changed and as far as I can tell nothing important has been left out. Except, perhaps, the people who came to see this movie without having read the book first.

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Trailer Reviews for March 21, 2014

DIVERGENT



I’ve been looking forward to this movie. The book is excellent. It reminds me a lot of how we’re always trying to put people in boxes with those personality tests – like there are only sixteen kinds of people in the world. I fully expect the movie to be as good (or better) than The Hunger Games, provided they steered clear of all that shaky-cam that plagued the first Hunger Games movie. The trailer says it does. Woot! Bring on Friday!

MUPPETS MOST WANTED



It’s a shame this movie opens the same week as Divergent, because everything about this trailer makes me laugh. “Kerrrrrmeet da frog heeer.” Dominic Badguy. “Thees is my car. Eet is illegal now for eets massive size.” “Turn dem back on, I can’t see anything!” I’m dying over here. The good news is that there’s nothing I care about coming out next week, so I can just wait and do the Muppets then. ERMEGERD MERPERTS!!

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Mr. Peabody and Sherman Review

poster from the Dreamworks Pictures film Mr. Peabody and Sherman

No way was I paying $14 to be bored to sleep by Slow Motion Swordfight 2: Now With More Beards and Instagram Filters, so my choice this week was cartoons. I only vaguely remembered Mr. Peabody from when I was little, so I could watch the reboot without all those pesky predetermined notions you usually have with a remake.

A hyperintelligent dog tries to keep his adoptive son out of trouble after he messes up the past trying to impress a girl from school.

My major concern was that I would be annoyed by the inevitable historical and scientific inaccuracies, but the movie is so hilarious that I ended up not caring about any of that. It also has some interesting things to say about adoption if you’re paying attention, so it’s both cute and funny. Take the kids. You’ll both like it.

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Trailer Reviews for March 7, 2014

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE



I know I have a long history of watching not-otherwise-awesome programs featuring shirtless dudes, but even I have to draw the line somewhere. The first 300 movie bored me so hard I almost fell asleep. I blame it on a combination of irritating filmmaking gimmicks (filters, slow motion) and beards. I never was a fan of beards.

MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN TRAILER



I only vaguely remember this show growing up, which is good, because I won’t care if they changed a bunch of things for the movie. I like history jokes and the trailer was pretty cute, so I’ll go. I just hope it’s funny enough to mask all the inevitable historical inaccuracies and broken rules of time traveling.

NO CLUE



I hate film noir, but this movie makes fun of it, so that’s a plus. Also, it’s Canadian, features Amy Smart, and looks half decently funny, so that’s enough for me… to check out on DVD… later.

ALAN PARTRIDGE



Apparently this movie is called Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa in regions (Britiain) where they actually know who Alan Partridge is (a BBC radio sketch comedy character). I normally like British comedy and Steve Coogan, but honestly, this trailer isn’t all that funny and it doesn’t give me much of an idea what the movie’s about. I’ll pass.

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DVDs for March 4, 2014

catching fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Between accidental revolution/totalitarian government mind-f**ckery and harrowing teenage death-match game show action, Catching Fire was the third best movie of 2013… not that the Academy agrees with me, but when do they ever? I would also rate this movie better than the first Hunger Games, simply because they did away with the shaky-cam and gave Gale (the non-annoying point on the love triangle) more screen time. Read my full review for more or just go ahead and watch it right now.

Buy Catching Fire on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

12 years a slave

12 Years a Slave

Films that win best picture Oscars (like 12 Years a Slave just did) are almost always depressing. Frequently they’re boring and/or pretentious too, at least from the viewpoint of normal people. Thankfully 12 Years a Slave is actually good. It’s a true story based on the life of a free-born African American man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 1840s. As the title suggests, the poor guy spends the next 12 years trying to get back to his family. The subject matter is depressing, but at least it has a relatively happy ending. Check it out.

Buy 12 Years a Slave on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

hours

Hours

Not to be confused with The Hours (a 2002 film about women and suicide), Hours is the story of a distraught father who has just lost his wife and is abandoned at a New Orleans hospital to keep his premature daughter alive on manual life support during Hurricane Katrina. It’s not based on a true story and it’s not particularly well written or made (about average for a B movie), but it is one of the last films Paul Walker had a chance to do before his accident, so if you’re a fan you’ll want to put it on your list.

Buy Hours on DVD.

girl rising

Girl Rising

I was having trouble finding another movie worth talking about on the release list for this week until I came across Girl Rising. It’s a documentary made to support the cause of making sure girls and women in developing countries are safe, educated, and able to direct their own futures. My Girl Guides and I learned about the Girl Effect (giving aid money to women/girls as a way of making sure it actually helps communities) a few years ago and I can tell you that the stories these girls have to tell are very compelling. So check out this movie.

Buy Girl Rising on DVD.

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DVDs for February 25, 2014

Whoops! It seems I accidentally did the DVDs for this week on February 4… which makes me wonder what actually DID come out February 4? Anyway here are those releases again, and this time it’s not a lie!

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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