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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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Trailer Reviews for February 7, 2014

THE LEGO MOVIE



It’s probably just a cynical marketing ploy to sell more toys (I couldn’t help noticing the LEGO Movie themed building sets in the Target flyer) but I MUST see this movie. It’s like one of those Superhero Movie type parodies of The Matrix, but actually funny to actual adults (okay, to ME) and with all the characters played by LEGO minifigures. What more could you want?? Also, if you need me I’ll be at the store buying (more) toys.

VAMPIRE ACADEMY



Dang! I also really want to see this movie. I know it doesn’t look like much in this trailer – kind of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer goes to vampire high school type thing, but I saw a much snarkier and funnier trailer earlier (which I can’t find now). I’ve also read the book and discovered that it has many redeeming features, including the fact that it a) makes sense b) has action and c) features characters that are not cardboard cutouts with holes cut where their faces should be (in other words, not like Twilight). But in a LEGO/Vampires battle, Batman always wins.

THE MONUMENTS MEN



My degree is in history and most of the courses I took were war (specifically World War II) related. And I like war movies. So this movie SHOULD pose a dilemma for me when stacked up against The LEGO Movie and Vampire Academy. But The Monuments Men easily loses out to the other two. Why? One of my reasons is right there in the title. Monuments MEN. I know it’s historically accurate, but if I have to watch one more movie where the only female characters are the real characters’ girlfriends, I’m going to scream. Second and third reasons: Matt Damon and George Clooney. I know they have a fan club, but I am not in it.

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DVDs for January 28, 2014

rush

Rush

Rush is the first of two movies where Daniel Bruhl knocked my socks off. He and Chris Hemsworth play Niki Lauda and James Hunt, a pair of real-life 1970s Formula One drivers competing for the championship in an era where safety comes a distant second to driving really fast in a tank full of flammable liquid. You can read my review for more. Once you’ve watched Rush (and you should) check out another of this week’s DVD’s: 1: a Formula One documentary on the drivers who changed the face of the sport by pushing for safety measures.

Buy Rush on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

fifth estate

The Fifth Estate

Coincidentally, here’s the second movie where Daniel Bruhl knocked my socks off! In this one he plays computer hacker Daniel Berg opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks. The story follows their friendship and falling out as Wikileaks rises from obscurity to international fame and controversy. It’s based on Daniel Berg’s book, so it’s not Julian Assange’s favorite movie in the world, but it’s definitely worth checking out. You can read my review for more.

Buy Fifth Estate on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

last vegas

Last Vegas

Last Vegas is essentially a tamer, old-man version of The Hangover where three crochety retirees (Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, and Robert DeNiro) meet their suave pal (Michael Douglas) in Las Vegas for his bachelor party (he’s marrying a much younger woman). After they’re mistaken for mobsters, suddenly they can have anything they want. The question is: what do they want? I really liked it – I thought it was sweet and funny. If you prefer your comedy crude, stick with The Hangover.

Buy Last Vegas on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

meatballs 2

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

If you want something totally weird and different to watch with your kids, choose these movies. Flint Lockwood, the inventor from the previous movie, returns with his friends to his old town to find that his food-making machine is creating hilarious and menacing hybrid food-animals (hippo potatoes, shrimp chimps, mosquito toast, etc). Kids will love it because it’s wacky and colorful. You’ll like it because it’s a) actually funny and b) not the same cliched princess crap all over again. Check it out.

Buy Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for January 24, 2014

I, FRANKENSTEIN



Updated fairy tales are all the rage these days, but not all of them adhere to the adaptation adage: ‘stay true to the intent of the original.’ After all, the intent of original stories like Beauty and The Beast and Frankenstein is that the main characters are ugly. When you ‘update’ their ugliness to a few scars (I, Frankenstein) or an eyebrow tattoo that says ‘suck’ (Beastly) you miss the point and your movie doesn’t work. This is what happened to Beastly and what I predict will also happen to I, Frankenstein, no matter how big they go with the special effects. Actually, it will probably be worse for I, Frankenstein. I mean… superpowers? Saving the human race? What?? And Frankenstein was the doctor’s name, not the monster’s.

DEVIL’S KNOT



Ooh, I remember this. There was a really good documentary about it called Paradise Lost. The whole (true) story is such a big mess (did the teens do it, is the town blaming them just because they wear black, why is that other guy so sketchy in interviews) that the title is an apt one. I just hope they’re able to ‘unravel the knot’ so to speak by the end of this fictional version, otherwise why bother to fictionalize it at all?

WHITEWASH



A drunken snowplow driver. Now there’s a scary thought. As our province continually reminds us in TV commercials, a snowplow ‘ain’t no featherduster’ (seriously – they really say that). But in this movie’s case, the snowplow really is a featherduster! Just look at that silly little thing! Also this trailer is confusing. So he ran a guy over… on purpose? By accident? Before or after the dude was crashing at his house cooking up a tray of eyeballs and our pal snowplow driver was hiding in a quinzhee? And then there’s a…. what’s who doing with that snowmobile? WTF is going on??

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DVDs for January 21, 2014

captain phillips

Captain Phillips

I know this movie was designed to be moving, true-story, Oscar bait, but I just can’t drum up any feelings about it other than ‘meh.’ It’s partly the Tom Hanks factor (a ‘meh’ actor if I ever saw one), partly the Paul Greengrass factor (I HATE shaky cam) and partly the hostage-taking factor. Hostage situations are by nature sedentary until the burst of action at the end, consisting mostly of arguing (bo-ring). They do throw in a little sympathy for the hostage takers by blaming their actions on globalization, but… meh. I’d rather watch Speed 2: Cruise Control.

Buy Captain Phillips on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

machete kills

Machete Kills

I love action movies that don’t take themselves seriously. The Machete series goes the ‘so bad it’s funny’ route by playing up the bad acting, cliched dialogue, terrible effects, and silly plots common in B action movies. Machete Kills sends the titular crazed sharp-object-wielder on a mission from the President to foil a plot involving space weapons. If you want a laugh, this movie is about the same silliness level as Shoot ‘Em Up. So goofier than Knight and Day but not quite as goofy as MacGruber, if that helps you at all.

Buy Machete Kills on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

in a world

In a World

I bet you never even think about movie trailer voice-overs. Like air and wallpaper, they’re just THERE in the background. But now that you are thinking about it, when was the last time you saw a trailer with a voice-over by a woman? I’m guessing it’s something like ‘never.’ That’s what this movie is about – a female voice coach goes up against her dad and brother to achiever her dream of doing movie trailer voice-overs. I bet you never saw a movie about that before. And it’s funny, so what more could you want?

Buy In a World on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

starving games

The Starving Games

This is a spoof from the same people who did Vampires Suck, so it exists partly to make fun of a popular movie and partly to trick your grandmother when she goes out to buy you a copy of The Hunger Games. These movies are beyond stupid – basically a shot-for-shot remake of the original with its flaws cartoonishly blown up like the noses in fairground caricatures. And a few pokes at other movies thrown in for good measure. But… (confession time)… I laughed. You might too if you like SNL or MAD magazine movie parodies.

Buy The Starving Games on DVD.

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DVDs for January 14, 2014

riddick

Riddick

Chances are you’ve heard of Riddick by now. He was the mysterious, morally ambiguous character at the center of the 2000 horor movie Pitch Black who was subsequently demystified and turned into a meatheaded sci-fi/fantasy action hero in a sequel movie and some video games. By the time Riddick rolled around, the character been relegated to cheap-bin status. The movie itself is about Riddick being chased by bounty hunters. Read my fake review Riddickulous to see what I thought of it.

Buy Riddick on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

the butler

The Butler

In this semi-true historical epic based on a newspaper article, an African American White House butler played by Forest Whitaker witnesses (and even manages to influence) most of the major civil rights related events of the second half of the 20th century. It’s interesting as a character study (his family members are all conveniently involved in different movements, which makes for a lot of conflict) and as a historical survey for anyone who’d like to learn more about Civil Rights. Check it out.

Buy The Butler on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

carrie

Carrie

Here’s another addition to the genre of ‘movies that didn’t need to be remade.’ Since it bills itself as a ‘re-imagining,’ you might think that it goes back to the source material (Stephen King’s novel) but it doesn’t. It’s just a remake of the 1976 version, where a telekenetic high school senior goes on a rampage after her bullies take things too far, but with more simplified characters/plot and better special effects. So if you like complexity, rewatch the old version. If you like CGI tables flying around, watch this one.

Buy Carrie on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

top gear 20

Top Gear Season 20

If you’re not already watching this show… what’s the matter with you? Haven’t you been listening to me? This is the funniest show on TV (and yes, I am counting all your favorite sitcoms). Even when they’re just reviewing cars, Jeremy, James, and Richard crack me up. When they challenge themselves to build/do something that looks easy, I can’t breathe. This season their six episodes of antics include: choosing the most inconspicuous supercar, driving a homeade hovervan on the Avon River, and crashing a lot of old taxis in a race.

Buy Top Gear: Season 20 on DVD.

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Trailer Reviews for January 10, 2014

LONE SURVIVOR



I read this book. When I heard they were making a movie out of it, I thought I wanted to see it. Now I’m not so sure. For one thing, I know how it’s going to go, and it’s going to be really depressing. Everyone’s going to die. And no, that’s not a spoiler. They gave it away in the title. I’ve seen plenty of ‘everybody dies’ war movies and you really only need to see one to get the point. As for the casting… holy crap. That kid from The Seeker is old enough to play grown ups? Also, Mark Wahlberg as Marcus Luttrell? He’s not really what I would call a ‘serious’ actor. Plus the real guy is about 6’5” and looks like Greg Grunberg. On the other hand though: Eric Bana. I can never say no to that guy.

HER



My brother really wants me to go see this movie with him. I don’t know if I want to. It’s an interesting concept. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie about a guy falling in love with Siri before, unless you count Raj from Big Bang Theory. But it’s also really really weird, and not just because of Joaquin Phoenix’s little mustache. I’m not sure I want to see how far a guy will take his love for a computer. It’s also likely to be depressing, as there’s no way I can see his love affair working out unless they want to get a lot more science fictioney than ‘talking computer voice.’ Tough call.

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY



I could have sworn I saw a trailer for this where it actually looked funny, but in this one all I see are a bunch of people who would rather not see each other thrown together for a family emergency and picking on each other to fill the time. I saw another movie like that once, Death at a Funeral (British version) and I can’t help thinking I’d end up comparing this film unfavorably to that one, seeing as how this one’s more drama than comedy.

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DVDs for January 7, 2014

runner runner

Runner Runner

I like both Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake (as an actor) but this movie just doesn’t do anything for me. It’s hard to sympathize with a character who is dumb enough to risk his college tuition in an online poker game. And dumb enough to go abroad to confront the website owner. Dumb enough to fall in with this guy, and dumb enough to be surprised when the guy turns out to be evil. There are plenty of other movies who do the poker shark and/or seduced by bad guy thing with less dumbness. Watch those instead.

Buy Runner Runner on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

closed circuit

Closed Circuit

If you like MI-5/Spooks and also enjoy legal thrillers such as those of the Law & Order or John Grisham persuasion, you’ll like this movie. Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall play lawyers who are tasked with defending the people accused of a terrorist attack. During their investigation they uncover ties between the perpetrators and MI-5, which makes them a target. A thrilling thriller starring the world’s most adorable human being and a few good explosions. What more could you want?

Buy Closed Circuit on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

thanks for sharing

Thanks for Sharing

If you’re looking for a romantic comedy with a unique gimmick or a less depressing version of Michael Fassbender’s Shame, you should watch Thanks for Sharing. It’s an ensemble comedy about a handful of couples who know each other through their sex addiction support group. It covers a lot of bases – established relationships, new relationships, and friendships, and though the characters are sex addicts, their struggles with their addictions don’t get so graphic that you might feel like it should be sold in a paper bag. Check it out.

Buy Thanks for Sharing on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

big ass spider

Big Ass Spider

If you liked Sharknado or any movies from the new ‘intentionally bad disaster movie’ genre, Big Ass Spider is for you. As the title suggests, a Big Ass Spider is on a rampage through Los Angeles and it’s up to a smart-ass exterminator and his plucky ethnic support character (a hospital security guard) to stop it. Greg Grunberg (previously a comedic support character on Alias) unleashes his inner ham on the tongue-in-cheek script, resulting in surprisingly hilarious experience. Check it out.

Buy Big Ass Spider on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Top 5 and Bottom 5 Movies of 2013

new-year

2013 is over and it’s time to rank the movies I saw according to their bestiness and worstiness. As I paged through my review notebook listing films according to their secret star rating, I noticed three things. One: franchise films have done well with me this year. Two: I only saw 45 movies. And three: only one of them was bad enough to rate one star. My policy this year was not to waste money on bad movies, but it made me realize that bad movies have their uses. They force you to think about WHY the movie bad, and they make for hilarious reviews. I therefore resolve that 2014 shall be the year of using my Scene points to see crappy movies.

And now, the list. If you don’t agree with it, feel free to argue with me in the comments. That’s what they’re for. Just keep it clean, ok?

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