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DVDs for January 10, 2012

Moneyball

This movie, which is based on the true story of the Oakland A’s manager who changed the way baseball teams are picked, should be incredibly boring. After all, it’s about math. Instead of picking players based on how hot their girlfriends are or whatever, Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill devise a statistics based strategy to find players they can a) afford and b) will make a good team. However, Moneyball is not incredibly boring. I know. I was surprised too. Especially since I don’t like Jonah Hill. But give it a chance. You might find it interesting too.

Buy Moneyball on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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What’s Your Number?

The title of this movie makes no sense. It’s about a woman (Anna Faris, playing the usual doofus) who goes back through her twenty exes looking for “the one.” The premise was stolen from the much more appropriately named TV show The Ex List, but if you liked that show you should rent this movie just to get some resolution. Or you can just watch the trailer, because it’s beyond obvious she ends up with her “friend” across the hall, Chris Evans. Anyway, it’s good for a couple hours of mindless entertainment, just don’t expect anything profound.

Buy What’s Your Number? on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Killer Elite

Is there anything more ridiculous than Clive Owen with a mustache? Yes! This movie. It has a plot, but you pretty much have to consult IMDB to find out what it was even after you’ve watched the movie because it’s just a long string of seemingly unconnected shootouts and leaps off buildings. But that’s what Jason Statham’s fans have come to expect from his movies – pointless violence so relentless that it becomes boring – so maybe you’ll like it anyway. I, however, will hold out for an action movie that’s slightly less silly.

Buy Killer Elite on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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There Be Dragons

If you missed this one in the theaters – and we pretty much all did, because I certainly never saw hide nor hair of it – give it a chance on DVD. It’s biopic based on the true story of a journalist who found out all his father’s deep dark Spanish Civil War related secrets while investigating the background of another priest who is being put up for sainthood. Don’t worry too much about the religious aspect – it’s more about secrets and lies and war. It’s especially interesting because the Spanish Civil War isn’t usually featured in movies except as five minute background/flashbacks.

Buy There Be Dragons on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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DVDs for January 3, 2012

Contagion

On Sunday I released my Top 5/Bottom 5 of 2011 list. Guess which movie ranked as #5 worst movie of 2011? That’s right – Contagion! It’s a disease movie that tries to have a broad scope, covering how everyone from single fathers to WHO officials to the CDC reacts to a new global flu crisis. Nothing about millions of people contracting a virulent flu strain should be boring, but this movie is. No tension, no conflict, no point in watching it. Don’t let the presence of so many famous people suck you into renting it. Read my full review for more details.

Buy Contagion on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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I Don’t Know How She Does It

“I Don’t Know How She Does It” can also describe my confusion over this film’s writer, Aline Brosh McKenna. On one hand, 27 Dresses, Laws of Attraction, and Morning Glory are great. But others, like The Devil Wears Prada, We Bought a Zoo, and this one, make me want to hurt myself. With I Don’t Know How She Does It, a cliched, unfunny comedy about an overworked woman trying to balance her job and her family, some of the blame lies with the ultra-irritating Sarah Jessica Parker. But regardless, watching this movie is like torture. Don’t rent it.

Buy I Don’t Know How She Does It on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Guillermo Del Toro has made some pretty weird movies, so this one, which is about evil little faries who live under the furnace, seems positively cliched by comparison. The story follows a little girl who moves into a new house with her dad and stepmom and is subsequently tormented by said evil little faries, who want bloody teeth and hate the light. The girl is terrified, but apparently has no survival instinct, because she keeps seeking them out. It’s atmospheric, but so ridiculous at times that it’s funny, especially when the creatures talk in their “scary” voices.

Buy Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Shark Night

If you’re determined to rent Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and you want to turn it into a bad horror marathon, Shark Night can be the crown jewel of the evening. It’s kind of like Piranha, in that vicious sea creatures show up in enclosed lakes and eat people, but unlike Piranha, I’m pretty sure Shark Night has no idea how lame it is. If you really need to watch a movie about sharks eating people, just rent Jaws again, because this is another lazy stamping out of the horror formula, just in 3D.

Buy Shark Night on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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New Year’s Eve Review

poster from the New Line Cinema film New Years Eve

As weird as it was to see a movie about New Year’s when everyone’s thinking about Christmas, and as underwhelmed as I was by Valentine’s Day, I chose to see New Year’s Eve this week because my only other option was The Sitter. So read this review and file the information away for that period between Christmas and New Year’s, when everyone’s actually thinking about what to do on the big day. With an ensemble movie like this, it’s almost impossible to write a good logline. The closest you can get is:

A bunch of people (who are kind of sort of vaguely connected to each other sometimes) have trouble with relationships on New Year’s Eve.

It’s really easy to make a bland ensemble movie, because with so many characters it can be hard to balance character development, screen time, and plot payoffs. Love Actually, the Christmas movie that started the recent holiday ensemble trend, managed it really, really well. Valentine’s Day, on the other hand, did not. I expected New Year’s Eve to be more of the same, because it was the same writer (Katherine Fugate) and director (Garry Marshall). But I was pleasantly surprised to find it was much, much funnier.

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Trailer Reviews for December 9, 2011

NEW YEAR’S EVE



With the near total non-failure of last year’s Valentine’s Day, Garry Marshall seems to have decided to continue making movies named after holidays and featuring (almost) the same humungous cast of celebrities falling in love with each other (a model they ripped off of Love Actually, which you will notice is not named for a holiday, but happens at Christmas). Anyway if you plan to see this movie, it’s probably a good idea not to watch the trailer (oops, too late) because it gives away the pairings and the “problems” that the characters have which will be solved in the inevitable happy ending. So it’s predictable, yes, but I’m going to it. Why? My major reason starts with J and ends with Osh Duhamel.

THE SITTER



As you can see, New Year’s Eve didn’t have a lot of competition this week. Way to ruin Adventures in Babysitting by putting Jonah Hill in it. Would I trust this guy with my kids? No. Would I let him live in my house and sponge off me? No. Even if he was my own son? Still no. In fact, it gives me great pleasure to see my dipsh** hypothetical son get punched in the face by drug dealers. I can think of a lot of things I’d rather buy than an $11.50 ticket to this movie. A new pair of mittens that don’t have holes in them. A DVD of Ghost Rider. Nine cans of creamed corn. You can put that on the DVD box, 20th Century Fox. “The Sitter is less enticing than nine cans of creamed corn.”

EYE OF THE STORM



This movie is Australian, so I’ll talk about it even though it’s probably only playing in about 5 theaters, all of which are in Toronto. Okay… rich people, with you so far… deciding when to die, okay, hints of suicide there…. wait, is her hair purple? Why does she have purple hair?? And her son looks strangely like Prince Charles. Has Geoffrey Rush ever played Prince Charles? No? Well they missed an opportunity there. This is pretty funny, actually. I mean, her idea of committing suicide is to hang around outside waiting to be hit by lightning? Shouldn’t she at least be on the roof? With a golf club or something? I’ll probably end up renting this in like five years when I remember that it exists.

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DVDs for September 13, 2011

Thor

Thor is a comic book movie about a Norse god turned superhero who gets banished to Earth for his arrogance. It’s part Shakespearean style drama, part hilarious fish out of water comedy. It’s also more science fictiony than most comic book fantasies (they actually use the words “Einstein Rosen Bridge”). I just love it – almost as much as I loved the first Iron Man. If you haven’t seen it, do. Even if you’re not a comic book fan, there may be enough mythology and drama in there to keep you from rolling your eyes until they fall out. You can check out my full review before you decide if you want.

Buy Thor on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Love Wedding Marriage

If you want to see one of the background vampires from Twilight acting (badly) alongside Mandy Moore in a bland, tired romantic comedy, this is the movie for you! Mandy Moore plays a relationship counselor who stoops to scheming to get her own parents back together when they separate and ends up ruining her own relationship (or rather almost ruining it, as romantic comedies are required by law to have happy endings). It’s pretty ridiculous in a parent-trap for grown-ups sort of way, so I’d think twice about choosing this one for date night… or any night, really, unless you’re a rabid Twilight fan, in which case you need help.

Buy Love Wedding Marriage on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Hesher

Sometimes, for whatever reason, famous actors decided to slum it and be in films like this. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a drugged up burnout loser who wrecks things, Natalie Portman plays a nerd in a dead end job who likes him for no reason, Rainn Wilson plays a depressed, scuzzy dad, and there’s a little kid who just lost his mom tossed in there to make all their flailing about seem meaningful. It’s not enjoyable to watch and it’s not exactly original, either, so I fail to see the point of its existence. Maybe rent it if you’re a fan of one of the above actors or if you want to be depressed after your movie night, but otherwise don’t bother.

Buy Hesher on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Incendies

Yes, I know it’s in French and you don’t want to spend you precious screen time reading, but it’s a really good movie. It’s about a Quebec brother and a sister whose mother dies and tells them in her will that they have a secret sibling in the Middle East. So they go over there trying to retrace her steps and end up digging up a lot of explosive stuff (sometimes literally – this is the Middle East, after all) about the family they never knew. The result is a movie that’s won a bunch of awards. You should give it a chance as long as you’re cool with some heavy subject matter.

Buy Incendies on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Friends With Benefits Review

poster from the Castle Rock Entertainment film Friends With Benefits

I’m kind of burned out on the big blockbuster summer movies, so this week I thought I’d see Crazy Stupid Love. Then Girl Guide grocery bagging day occupied me for all the movie hours on Friday and I went on vacation Saturday (yes, I’m working on my vacation right now – you’re welcome). So I ended up reviewing Friends With Benefits instead, which came out last week. You remember Friends With Benefits. It’s that one that’s the same as No Strings Attached except it stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis instead of Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman.

Two people who are fed up with relationships meet and decide to be sex friends instead of going on dates but end up fighting feelings for each other anyway.

After having seen both of the trailers, I declared No Strings Attached to be the better movie. I mean, hello! Natalie Portman! She won an Oscar! But now that I’ve seen them both, I have to admit I was dead wrong. While No Strings Attached was pretty laconic for a romantic comedy, Friends With Benefits was relentlessly hilarious.

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Something Borrowed Review

poster from the Alcon Entertainment film Something Borrowed

Since I wasn’t impressed enough (try at all) by the trailers for Bridesmaids or Priest, my original plan was to review The Bang Bang Club this week. But of course if a movie is more than halfway intelligent my theater either doesn’t get it at all or gets it for a week right before it comes out on DVD. So instead I ended up with Something Borrowed, a standard romantic comedy that I took my mom to for Mother’s Day. It’s based on a romance novel by Emily Griffin, and the plot goes like this:

Rachel, who years ago gave up her almost-boyfriend Dex to her best friend Darcy, gets drunk and starts an affair with him just before their wedding.

Normally I hate romantic comedies where one of the leads is getting married. It makes them seem like such a scumbag for falling in love with this other person while their future spouse is off looking at table linens or whatever. And they always end so unrealistically (with the possible exception of My Best Friend’s Wedding), with the future spouse suddenly deciding they don’t want to get married after all just so the happy ending isn’t soured by their misery. But Something Borrowed wasn’t really like that, which makes it okay in my book.

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Trailer Reviews for January 21, 2011

Releasing this weekend: No Strings Attached, and that’s it. Which is probably good because I’m still behind schedule.

NO STRINGS ATTACHED



Okay, so this time the Hollywood rom com randomizer has paired up Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. An Oscar nominated actress and a guy who plays practical jokes on celebrities. Obviously they’re going for an ‘opposites attract’ vibe here. And you know, from the trailer, I’m not entirely convinced it doesn’t work. The friends seem a bit flat and generic but they’ve got decent chemistry. I might see this. Probably not until next week, though, because I still haven’t seen The Green Hornet.

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Top 5 and Bottom 5 Movies of 2010

happy old year
Well, 2010 is over. Even though, if you’re like me, you still keep writing 2010 on everything, it’s officially 2011 now and time for a whole new crop of movies. Before I push on, however, I’d like to go back and review the best 5 and worst 5 movies I’ve seen this year, just in case you were living in a cave or something and now you have time for five movies ONLY before you go back in again. Those of you who’ve read my top 5/bottom 5 of 2009, know that only movies I’ve seen are in the running and since I am not a bottomless well of time and/or money, I can only see one a week (sorry, The Town, and Get Low you missed out) and I generally try not to pick ones I KNOW are going to be horrible. You know, like a normal person.
So onward, with the normal non-rich person’s bestest and worstest movies of 2010!

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Life As We Know It Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film Life As We Know It

Somewhere in Hollywood, there is a machine that pairs up famous actors for romantic comedies. It may or may not look like a Magic 8 ball. And like a Magic 8 ball, it sometimes gives you terrible advice. The theory is that two people who are attractive and famous will make a cute couple, but this is not always the case. Gerard Butler + Hillary Swank = cute. Katherine Heigl + James Marsden = cute. Gerard Butler + Katherine Heigl = dud. It’s weird how these things work. Anyway the latest pairing that the rom-com-o-matic generator has churned out is Katherine Heigl + Josh Duhamel. The story they’re in goes like this:

A single woman and a single man who can’t stand each other end up parenting a baby together when their mutual best friends die in a car accident.

The fact that there’s death right there in the premise might have you thinking this is a drama rather than a comedy, but it’s not. Life As We Know It is a romantic comedy. So of course you know that the two of them have to end up together in the end. That’s a given for the genre. So it’s the journey that’s the deciding factor. And I for one enjoyed getting there.

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