The Croods can probably best be described as “some cave people and their adventures with anachronisms” and will best be remembered (among my friends, anyway) as the reason we didn’t get popcorn buckets with Star Trek: Into Darkness on them. The movie is in the same vein as Ice Age, in that science and history are twisted in any way the filmmakers like for the purposes of plot and puns. Reviewers on IMDB are falling all over themselves to praise it, but I think that’s mostly because it looked pretty and the jokes weren’t (all) cringe-worthy.
I know a lot of people who think this movie is hilarious, but I really don’t like it. The main attraction is the fact that it stars a bunch of celebrities (James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogan, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, etc.) as “themselves.” And by “themselves,” I mean I hope it’s not accurate, because the characters are all selfish morons. I can’t stand over-the-top crudeness or unlikeable characters and this movie has the biggest collection of them I’ve seen yet. Be warned that it’s really only going to please people who are already fans of the actors involved.
In this straight-to-video sequel to the 2011 remake of Fright Night, Jerry Dandridge the vampire next door neighbor is now Gerri Dandridge the vampire college professor who preys on visiting high school students who just so happen to be connected to the last film. Charley is still Charley (though played by a different kid) and Peter Vincent, the vampire hunter whose help he enlists, is still Peter Vincent (though played by a different guy) and the staking is still a staking. It’s brand new, so it’s a good choice for your upcoming Halloween party – no one will have seen it already.
For all you Avenger fans who are off salivating over the Age of Ultron trailer, wait! Come back! The Disney Channel has done a crossover cartoon with one of your OTHER favorite franchises: Phineas and Ferb. Okay, so mostly it will just be kids who will watch this movie, but seriously grown-ups, you’re missing a chance to see Iron Man being wheeled around on a dolly. Apparently he, Hulk, Thor, and Spider-Man have all lost their powers and need help from the inventive, oddly-shaped stepbrothers and their secret agent platypus. YES REALLY.
If there’s such a thing as too action packed, Star Trek: Into Darkness is the poster child. It begins with an exploding volcano, segues into a series of terrorist attacks on Starfleet, and ends with a final battle against craziness and corruption that lasts for almost the entire third act of the movie. If you hadn’t figured it out before, Star Trek isn’t just for Star Trek fans anymore. If you don’t believe me yet, check out my full review or just go ahead and let this movie do the talking.
Blood is one of those deep but depressing gritty police dramas where the cops end up guilty of more than the perps they’re chasing. Paul Bettany plays a British detective investigating a crime. He’s so sure a particular perp committed it that he goes a little overboard and has an ‘accident’ that results in a coverup he must share with his partner and an investigation by their department. We’re basically watching Bettany’s character fall apart, which can be interesting as an artistic/intellectual exercise but I wouldn’t really call it ‘entertaining.’
Horror movies would have you believe that biggest thing to worry about on your vacation is man-eating sharks, but that’s not really true. Running afoul of a foreign legal/criminal system is both scarier and more likely, because what can you do about it other than beg heartless bureaucracies to help you? In this movie, four friends go on a vacation to Cambodia but only three of them come back… and they come back with an awful lot of secrets and lies that will have to be unraveled before we find out what happened to the fourth guy. Great mystery/thriller.
If you’re not already watching this show, you should start. There’s something for everyone: shirtless men, heroic rescues, tragedies, coverups, inter-truck rivalries, a lesbian paramedic, issue-driven storylines, and even a cute puppy who rides a fire truck! The only thing I didn’t like about this season was the recurring police corruption arc, but luckily they’re spinning off the cops into their own show so we won’t have to hear about them anymore. Check out the DVDs or go online and watch some on your TV network’s website, because it starts again soon and you need to catch up!
If you (like me) really enjoyed the stage magic-based movies The Illusionist and The Prestige and are looking for another movie that will wow you the same way, you should know that this movie is trying to be what you want, but isn’t. It features a group of stage magicians who perform bank heists as part of their act and distribute money to the audiences while outwitting the cops. The big reveal just isn’t as believable or original as it needs to be to sustain the ‘wow’ factor after the film is over. Good only for a throwaway movie night.
There’s a really terrific spy novel by Henry Porter called Empire State. Sadly, this is not an adaptation of that novel. Instead, it’s yet another armored car/inside job robbery film where we’re supposed to believe that because the ‘system’ has wronged someone, they’re entitled to steal millions of dollars from it (otherwise known as the new American Dream). Cliched premise paired with uninspred execution leaves you with a film that you’d just as well not watch, even if it does star Liam Hemsworth and the Rock.
I wanted to mention this show on here, but not because it’s good. Because it’s TERRIBLE and I hated it. I only watched one episode, but here are the impressions I came away with. 1) It’s supposed to be a post-apocalyptic show taking place 15 years after all the electricity mysteriously went away, yet everyone is clean, nicely clothed, and smooth. 2) The main character, a teenage girl whose mission is to rescue her brother from organized bandits and find out what caused the blackout, is just a whinier version of Katniss Everdeen. AVOID.
And finally, I will round the set off with a TV show that you SHOULD watch: Criminal Minds. Eight years later and having replaced several cast members, the show is still fantastic and utterly chilling. The highlight of this season is the overarching plot concerning the serial killer who is himself stalking the serial killer hunters of the FBI. They’ve been delving more into the characters’ personal lives in the last few seasons, but not enough to get annoying or ridiculous (like what happened in Private Practice). Watch it and if you like having to sleep with the lights on.
I’m not gonna lie – I saw this one mostly because of Ben Barnes, but I ended up being glad I chose it because it was cute and funny despite the fact that it was based upon a ridiculous premise: that his adopted parents would pretend to be married to each other to avoid insulting his staunchly Catholic birth mother. It’s one of those ensemble event-themed comedies that are hard to pull off, but this one does it. Great for watching with family. Check out my full review for more.
Talking about TV on a movie blog is a slippery slope, but I thought I’d risk it for Once Upon a Time, because I look forward to it every week. Each episode is split between two stories – one taking place in the town in our world where all the fairy tale characters were banished by a curse, and the other a flashback set in their old magical world, both focused on the same character. I love it because you never know how they’re going to twist the fairy tale or who in town they’ll turn out to be. This season adds Dr. Frankenstein, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, and Mulan.
Not to be confused with White House Down, which is still in theaters, this movie is about Gerard Butler rescuing the President (as played by Aaron Eckhart) while White House Down is about Channing Tatum rescuing the President (as played by Jamie Foxx). Olympus Has Fallen takes itself a lot more seriously, though. They even had an ad campaign that tried to fool people into thinking the White House was really under attack, so it’s less fun to watch. Still okay for killing two hours, though. The action is pretty over the top.
I’m a sucker for movies featuring unselfconscious acting by little kids, and this is a great one. Maisie (Onata Aprile) is a resilient seven year old girl with two divorced self-absorbed bigshots for parents (Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan). The movie is told from her perspective, as she ends up confused and neglected (but not bitter) and then forms a bond with her parents’ new spouses – Alexander Skarsgard, who looks like a creepy deadbeat but is actually sweet, and Joanna Vanderham, her former nanny. Check it out. Seriously.
Danny Boyle movies rarely slip by without a lot of people taking notice and making a big deal over them, but Trance did, probably because it’s just not as good as Slumdog Millionaire or Sunshine. James McAvoy works at an auction house and his job is to hide the expensive paintings if thieves come to steal them. Thieves come, he hides the painting, then they hit him on the head and hire a hypnotist to mess around in his brain with the ultimate goal of finding out where the painting is. It deliberately messes with you, so if you don’t like being confused and/or frustrated, watch something else.
This ‘movie’ is really a kids’ TV series that has already been released on the Cartoon Network. There are only twenty 22 minute episodes, but for some reason Dreamworks went the Battlestar Galactica route and released them on two separate DVDs. Probably to try and weasel more money out of you. The show itself is good, almost as good as the movie, and it stars the same voice actors. Post-movie, the town of Berk has opened a Dragon Academy and each episode features a standalone problem that requires dragon and human cooperation. However, you don’t really need to part with $26 just to watch it. Someone’s already uploaded them all to YouTube.
Now that Liam Hemsworth is well known as “the much hotter dude” who doesn’t get to be Katniss’ boyfriend from The Hunger Games (see the Honest Trailer), you might be looking to see something where he gets the girl. And boy does he ever in this one. Love and Honor is a sappy, stilted, weirdly clean-cut Vietnam War movie about a soldier who flies home on leave with his buddy to help the buddy win back his hippy girlfriend and ends up with a hippy girlfriend of his own. It feels like a god movie with the god stuff missing, but if you like Hallmark Channel movies, you might like it.
If the three Transformers movies aren’t enough reason to stay away from the Michael Bay reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, buy these DVDs and relive the awesomeness of your childhood all over again. Then think of how bad the first set of live action films were. Then think of Michael Bay and how he’s going to turn April O’Neil into Megan Fox, and vow to keep your money in your pocket. Seriously, as long as people keep going to the trainwrecks he produces, people will continue to hire him to produce more trainwrecks. IT’S A VICIOUS CYCLE.
I was first introduced to these documentaries by my Russian professor in college, who showed us the Soviet version of the first film in the series, 7 Up. It’s a pretty simple concept – interview a bunch of 7-year-olds and return every seven years to interview them again so you can capture a stop-motion version of their lives on film. Director Michael Apted started this project in 1964 and as you can see the original kids are 56. Watch the series from the beginning if you haven’t seen them before. It’s fascinating to see where people end up as opposed to where they thought they would be at that age.
When I heard that there was going to be a military show about Navy SEALs on a nuclear submarine, I thought: that’s going to be so awesome! Unfortunately when I watched the pilot my only thought was: this is so stupid. The premise of the show is that there’s an extremely convoluted plot afoot in the US government which results in the sub crew getting an order to launch their nukes. They refuse to do it, get attacked by their own people, and retire to a deserted island to bicker amongst themselves. I stopped paying attention after about 10 minutes. No wonder it didn’t get a second season.
Normally I don’t bother talking about Hallmark Channel movies on this blog because a) there are too many and b) most of them make me want to throw up. But I’m a Girl Guide leader so I wanted to mention this one, which is about a woman who becomes a Girl Scout leader in the United States. It’s got the format of an inspirational sports movie, so she of course sucks when she starts out as a leader but then they bond over selling cookies and then all the little girls love her. So it’s cutesy, but it’s a shout-out to Guiding. You’ll want to watch it if you’re a leader too.
I’m going through a phase where I’m reading a lot of psychology, so I thought I’d also mention this one, which has a different title depending on where you live. It stars Julianne Moore as a therapist trying to help Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who’s got six multiple personalities. They all seem to be murder victims, so the only way she can help him is to solve the murders. It’s a pretty creepy movie even though it’s not terribly educational and it’s kind of a ripoff of Identity. It’s definitely worth two hours in front of your TV though.
I like zombie movies but I’m not often scared by them, largely because people in them tend to die from their own stupidity more than anything else. Running zombies are scarier than shambling zombies but running climbing hive-mind zombies? Terrifying. Those zombies alone are reason enough for me to go see the movie. I haven’t read the book (just the Zombie Survival Guide by the same author) and I find Brad Pitt to be a really bland actor, so those zombies are really all that’s keeping me going. I hope there’s a LOT of them in this movie (or the investigation plot turns out to be really interesting) or I’m going to be disappointed.
Normally I always go to Pixar movies, but I’m thinking about skipping this one. Monsters Inc. is one of my least favorite Pixar movies anyway (just above Cars 2 and just below A Bug’s Life) and the trailer just looks… bland. And kind of pointless. The storyline seems to be about Mike Wazowski trying to become a scarer but we already know that he doesn’t – in Monsters Inc. he’s Sully’s assistant. It’s also really hard to care about either Mike or Sully because I’ve never really found them that interesting as characters. So the question is: am I wrong (again) or is Pixar finally starting to go downhill?
Let me say upfront that I haven’t seen either of the two prequels, Before Sunrise or Before Sunset but I have a vague impression that they’re love stories about two people who only have a very limited amount of time together for some odd reason. It’s nice to know that should I decide to see this one, I won’t have to watch the other two first, because she just summed them both up in like three lines of dialogue. I don’t think I will decide to see this movie, though. It seems like it’s just This is 40, but for slightly more intelligent people. Unfortunately that still means they spend most of the movie whining about each other. Maybe I’ll be more interested when I’m forty.
THE BLING RING
This movie looks kind of interesting. It’s like a commentary on how wide-open people’s lives (especially celebrities’ lives) are now with everything ending up on the internet, and also how stupid teenagers are in thinking they can post all their misdeeds online and not get in trouble (um, duh, the police have computers too). But (and this is a big but) the movie is directed by Sofia Coppola. She also directed Lost in Translation, which looked funny and interesting at the trailer stage and turned out to be bland and boring as a full movie. So I think I’ll just content myself with the trailer and move on.
MY LITTLE PONY: EQUESTRIA GIRLS
OMG PONIES! I used to love the My Little Ponies when I was like four. But ponies turning into people? I’m a little weirded out by that. Besides, I thought the point of ponies was… well, PONIES! Regardless, it’s only coming to select theaters, so you might not be special enough to see it anyway.
Quartet is part of a new genre of movies I like to call “old people are still funny” in which aging comedians choose scripts where they play age-appropriate characters dealing with age appropriate situations to show that they’ve still got it. Quartet isn’t as funny as Best Exotic Marigold Hotel but it’s still really good. It stars Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins as famous retired opera singers who had a falling out years ago but end up together again in a retirement home for musicians. Check out my full review for more.
In this updated version of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale, Nicholas Hoult plays a Luke Skywalker-esque farm boy who wants to grow up to be a knight and marry a princess. Thanks to a giant beanstalk transporting her into a land of people-eating giants, he gets to meet the princess. Thanks to good breeding practices, she doesn’t turn out to be his sister. It’s kind of funny, kind of exciting, and also kind of disappointing. There’s just not enough that’s different about it to make it worth remembering. You can read my my full review for more.
If you haven’t started watching this show yet, you should. It’s terrific. It’s a BBC drama set in the 1950s about a group of nurse-midwives who are living in a convent in a poor London neighborhood and riding around on bicycles providing free medical care to pregnant women and new mothers. The production values are great and all the characters are lovable and hilarious. The best part about it, though, is getting to see how much of a difference free health care to poor people.
21 and Over is the tired story of a group of boys celebrating a friend’s birthday with a night of wild partying right before a big interview. It was written by the same writers as The Hangover and it shows, because it’s almost the same movie as The Hangover – only worse. It doesn’t have any clever gimmicks like The Hangover does and it calls up all the same cliches that you see in every teen party movie. Teens who haven’t been so overexposed to the genre (especially boys) might like it, but adults will likely think it’s stupid and/or boring.
Dark Skies has a pretty standard premise. There’s a nice normal family: mom, dad, two kids. Then one of the kids starts acting weird (in this case, stacking things on other things). One of the parents (the mom) thinks it’s something supernatural (aliens) but the other (the dad) insists that’s not possible, until something too crazy to deny happens and suddenly it’s all about not being killed. The formula works well, which is why it’s so common, but with Dark Skies things are a bit too boring for a horror film. It’s more of a slow building thriller, so just keep that in mind if you’re renting it.
Straight to DVD movies usually have stupid premises or are knockoffs of other movies, but The Numbers Station is different. It’s an action thriller about a black ops agent and a civilian cryptographer who operate a secret radio station that sends instructions to agents via number codes. After bad guys break in, they have to crack a code in order to stop their agents from carrying out bogus terrorist missions. It’s pretty cool, but I’d have picked someone other than John Cusack to star opposite Malin Ackerman. IMDB says it was originally supposed to be Ethan Hawke. That would have been better.
I was all set to say that there was nothing else worth taking about when: HOMG BEETLEJUICE! Beetlejuice is a cartoon that’s loosely based on the Tim Burton movie about a crazy ghost from the Netherworld who hangs out with a morbid little girl in the real world named Lydia. Altogether there are about 90 half hour episodes. The show is fantastic (better than the movie, I think). I’d buy the DVDs in a heartbeat but at $70 (on sale – regular $90!) with no special features, this set is a bit steep. You might want to wait a while to see if the price comes down.
I’ve been a science fiction fan since I was a kid, with the Star Wars movies sitting at the top of my personal heap and the Star Trek shows and movies in the middle, except for the original Star Trek, which is near the bottom. When J.J. Abrams remade Star Trek in 2009, it slotted in just below the original Star Wars trilogy, so you can imagine how crushed I was not to be able to see the sequel on opening night, especially since it sounded so awesome.
Following a terrorist attack on Starfleet, Captain Kirk and the crew of the enterprise go on a black op to hunt down and kill the rogue officer responsible.
Terrorism? Black ops? Assassination? Hell yeah! I already knew J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek was nothing like the campy, wishy washy TV show from the 60s, but it took seeing Into Darkness to make me realize what it WAS like: Star Wars. I suspect that’s why I love it.