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DVDs for October 30, 2012

The Campaign

Being an un-fan of both Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, I won’t be rushing out to buy a copy of this movie, which features the two of them as a pair of idiotic losers competing for the same seat in congress. It’s loaded with the same type of awkward, crude comedy that both are known for, and their both playing they’re typical roles (a narcissistic a**hole and an effeminate dork), so if you’ve enjoyed their previous movies you might want to give it a try. I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone who’s not already a fan. It’d be a waste of your money.

Buy The Campaign on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Ruby Sparks

Normally I hate movies where the writer just turns the main character into a proxy of themselves and then writes about writing, but this one is a little different. Paul Dano is a writer (yawn) who has writer’s block (how original) who then writes about his dream girl (whatever) and she spontaneously appears from nowhere as his girlfriend (holy crap!) It’s that last bit that makes Ruby Sparks different from the rest of the writers writing about writing subset because it allows them to explore the question of whether you’d want to be able to change the person you’re with at will. Check it out.

Buy Ruby Sparks on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Safety Not Guaranteed

If you’ve ever wished you could watch a time travel movie that has no actual time travel in it, just a lot of crap about relationships, then Safety Not Guaranteed is for you. It’s a comedy (supposedly) about a guy who advertises in the paper for someone to time travel with him and some newspaper reports, one of whom is a girl, respond. Then they all talk about time travel a lot while the reporters try to figure out if he’s nuts or if they’re in love with him (the girl). Maybe you like that stuff, but I don’t like being lied to about the science fiction content.

Buy Safety Not Guaranteed on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


House of Dark Shadows

Remember that horror comedy called Dark Shadows that came out a few months ago? Well this 1970s movie of the TV series from the 60s and 70s that Dark Shadows was based on. It follows Barnabas Collins, a hundred-plus year old vampire who wakes up in modern times and falls for a reincarnated version of his fiance. He also eats a lot of people. It’s a little darker and less tongue-in-cheek than this year’s version, but if you like old Dracula movies you might like this too. The second movi,e Night of Dark Shadows, is also available.

Buy House of Dark Shadows on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for October 9, 2012

Prometheus

This movie is awesome. Seriously. It’s the best movie I’ve seen all year – and the year’s almost over. It’s a prequel to the Alien movies, where some scientists and an android check out some strange ruins on a planet far away, touch some things that should be left alone, and find (surprise!) things that want to kill them. There’s a ton of back story on how humans got to Earth, why we exist, and where aliens come from, plus the acting, plot, and effects are amazing. Watch it. Right now. For more, you can read my full review.

Buy Prometheus on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Rock of Ages

I love musicals, even though I don’t watch all that many of them. And Rock of Ages is a fun one. The songs and the outfits will all make you nostalgic for the 80s and you’ll discover (to your great surprise, probably) that Tom Cruise sounds just like Bon Jovi when he sings. The plot is pretty standard – two attractive young people move to L.A. looking for their big break, fall in love, yadda yadda. But it’s really funny, especially superstar rocker Stacee Jaxx, club owner Alec Baldwin and his pal Russell Brand. Watch it. And/or read my full review for more details.

Buy Rock of Ages on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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The Raven

This movie is about a serial killer in the mid 1800s who uses the works of Edgar Allan Poe as his inspiration, forcing the investigating detective to team up with the author (sort of like a turn of the century version of Castle). This sounds like a great idea in theory, but I don’t know what they were smoking when they cast John Cusack as Poe. His face is like the human version of a bloodhound and he’s got a squeaky voice, which totally ruins the horror atmosphere. The planned Ewan McGregor/Jeremy Renner pairing would have worked so much better. You can skip this one.

Buy The Raven on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Bones Season 7

Season 7 carries on from the “we hugged once and now we’re pregnant” fiasco of Season 6, and I have to say I think the show has gone downhill since Booth and Brennan stopped beating around the bush and just got together already. They still try to replicate the “intuitive FBI agent paired with practical forensic anthropologist” banter of previous years but it just doesn’t work as well. On the plus side, the cases are still really cool and I love all of Brennan’s rotating lab assistants, so it’s still worth watching… for now.

Buy Bones Season 7 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for September 25, 2012

The Avengers

I’m in the minority here (I may even get yelled at for saying this), but I think The Avengers is overrated. Sure you get to see snarky Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, and Thor buddy up with two assassins and kick alien ass on a flying aircraft carrier, but the the alien invasion plot has been done to death recently, they spend an awful lot of time fighting amongst themselves, and the supervillain Loki is badly underused. I prefer the individual films, but that’s just me. You should watch it anyway. Read more about it here.

Buy The Avengers on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1

Don’t get this confused with The Dark Knight Rises. That one stars Christian Bale. This one is a cartoon. However, that doesn’t mean you should run out and buy if for your six year old who loves Batman. Even though it looks like the 90s Batman animated series you remember, it’s actually based on a Frank Miller comic, which mean’s it’s loaded with brutal violence. The plot follows 50 year old Batman as he returns to fight crime after a ten year absence, so it’s kind of a little bit like Dark Knight Rises, but not really. Check it out if you’re over 12.

Buy Batman: Dark Knight Returns 1 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Resident Evil: Damnation

Exercising what they no doubt see as great restraint, the people at Sony waited a whole ten minutes after the last Resident Evil movie (the live action Retribution) before putting out this one. It’s animated and stars floppy haired Leon Kennedy, who goes to Eastern Europe to investigatebioweapons/kill zombies. You may notice this is the same plot as most of the Resident Evil games and that the animation is the same weirdly jerky CGI as the cut scenes, so I can only conclude that this was supposed to be a game but they forgot to put in the game part. Sadly it’s still better than Retribution.

Buy Resident Evil: Damnation on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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American Horror Story: Season 1

If you regularly watch cliched haunted house movies like Amityville, The Haunting, and Paranormal Activity and wish they were drawn out until they were twelve hours long, this is the DVD set for you. It follows a family (Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, and Taissa Farmiga) who move into a rickety old mansion which (SUPRISE!) turns out to be haunted. It’s fairly highly rated on IMDB and has won a Golden Globe, so it’s not terribly done – it’s mostly the characters who carry it – it’s just an overdone story.

Buy American Horror Story Season 1 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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DVDs for September 18, 2012

Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods is a somewhat overhyped horror movie that satirizes the horror genre but falls a little short in the realm of being enjoyable to watch, mostly because of the characterization and the retarded ending. It follows a group of annoying college students who decide to vacation in the middle of nowhere and are set upon by monsters as the result of their mistakes combined with a little manipulation by scientists. It’s still better than a normal horror movie, though, so check it out or read the full review.

Buy Cabin in the Woods on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Supernatural

If you don’t already watch this show, start. I love Supernatural. Season 7 wasn’t their best season, though. Hot monster hunter brothers Sam and Dean do without the help two of my favorite characters – father figure Bobby and superpowered angel pal Castiel – as they face down unkillable munchy mouthed Leviathans from Purgatory. There are some good episodes this season, including one where a unicorn gores a guy and another where you can’t see the monster unless you’re drunk, but overall it’s weaker than Seasons 6, 5, 4,3, and 2.

Buy Supernatural Season 7 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I love British comedies. They always seem so much more intelligent than American ones. This one, which follows a group of British retirees who find out the supposedly luxurious hotel in India they booked is actually kind of a dump, is hilarious and heartwarming. Most of the actors are famous veterans, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Maggie Smith – so it’s not just another movie featuring vulgar thirtysomethings acting like they’re still in college. A must watch, especially if you’re planning a trip to India.

Buy Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Hysteria

This is a historical comedy about the invention of the vibrator. There. Now you want to watch it, which is more than the box art is capable of. It looks like just your average boring love story, but it’s much more than that. Hugh Dancy, a doctor, is scientifically attempting to treat “female hysteria” using “pelvic massages,” which quickly makes him the most popular doctor in London. It is of course a romantic comedy too (with Maggie Gyllenhaal), but it’s so different from the usual phone-in jobs that you’ll never want to go back. Definitely watch it.

Buy Hysteria on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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DVDs for September 4, 2012

The Five Year Engagement

Don’t let the “from the producer of Bridesmaids” fool you: this movie is nothing like Bridesmaids except that it involves a wedding and there’s pink on the box. The Five Year Engagement, which is about a couple (Jason Segel and Emily Blunt) who keep having to put off their wedding for their careers, is much tamer and less funny than Bridesmaids. Like their engagement, it’s also a little too long. Most comedies clock in at 90 minutes but this one is a full two hours… of blah. Rent it only if you’re not expecting much.

Buy The Five Year Engagement on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Safe

Most action movies revolve around some sort of McGuffin that everyone wants, and Safe is more of the same. The McGuffin is a little girl with a photographic memory who was shown a code so she would remember it (I guess no one had a camera handy). Then she got conveniently misplaced and every gang in the world is looking for her. Jason Statham just happens to be in the right place at the right time to find the McGuffin which just happens to be a great way to get back at the people who just happened to ruin his life. I guess if you’re really bored, watching this movie is a way to pass the time, but so is watching a bug crawl across the floor. And the bug is free.

Buy Safe on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Piranha 3DD

The original Piranha was a so-terrible-it’s-funny horror movie from the 1980s. In 2010 they made a tongue in cheek remake that was actually pretty good. Piranha 3DD is the terrible sequel kicked from the mouth of the dead horse that was the Piranha remake. Piranha was funny and so was the remake, but it’s a joke that only works once. Besides which, this one, which is about some piranhas loose in a water park, has no idea what the other movies did to be funny. It just copies the part where the plots were stupid. A painful waste of 83 minutes.

Buy Piranha 3DD on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Criminal Minds: Season 7

I know there are plenty of other TV shows you think are more worthy of attention, but if you aren’t watching Criminal Minds, you should be. It follows the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, which flies around the country helping local police departments by profiling and catching serial killers. Most of their cases are inspired by real serial killers like the BTK killer and Robert Pickton and you get a lot of cool psychology facts. Not a lot carries over between episodes so you can pick it up anytime, just don’t watch it before bed when you’re home alone if you actually want to sleep.

Buy Criminal Minds: Season 1 on DVD.

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DVDs for August 28, 2012

The Lucky One

Normally I can’t stand Nicholas Sparks movies because they’re too sappy and they always end in tragedy, but this one, based on one of his earlier books, is pretty good. Zac Efron stars as an Iraq war veteran who tracks tracks down the woman in the photo that saved his life and ends up falling in love with her and her adorable young son. Tragedy strikes, but misses the important stuff, and if you ever doubted that Zac Efron can do grown up roles, watch this movie, because it will make you into a believer. For more, check out the full review.

Buy The Lucky One on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Battleship

Battleship is an overly loud, hideously expensive, unintentionally hilarious movie based on the board game of the same name. Taylor Kitsch stars as the idiot commander of a single, ancient human battleship blind firing at a bunch of suspiciously Metroid esque aliens who have invaded Hawaii for no reason. Rihanna is also with him, because someone has to look pouty and get paid a way too much. It’s so awful it’s awesome, so for that reason I’m going to tell you to watch it. Check out my full review for more fun at Battleship‘s expense.

Buy Battleship on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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The Pirates!

This film, alternately known as The Pirates! Band of Misfits and The Pirates! In an Adventure With Science follows a group of screwup pirates as they use Charles Darwin to help them win the Pirate of the Year award. The plot is a bit of a mess and most of the characters aren’t very well developed, but it is funny, largely because of the dialogue, the backgrounds, and the chimp who speaks through flash cards. So do watch it, with your children if you’ve got some. Read the full review for pictures and more details.

Buy The Pirates! on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Once Upon a Time: Season 1

I don’t usually talk about TV shows here, but I love Once Upon a Time, so I’m going to make an exception. It’s about a woman (Jennifer Morrison who used to play Cameron on House) who gets dragged to a small town full of trapped fairy tale characters by her young son, who was adopted by the wicked Queen from Snow White. Each week you get to see someone’s fairy world back story which tells you who they really are, even though no one believes it. It’s pretty addictive. Check it out before the new season comes on in a few weeks.

Buy Once Upon a Time: Season 1 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for August 21, 2012

The Dictator

Sacha Baron Cohen is known for making movies that polarize audiences – either you love it or you hate it. This one, which is about an imaginary Middle Eastern dictator who goes to New York prevent the UN from introducing democracy to his country, is probably the most outrageous. It is likely to piss you off if you are: Middle Eastern, involved in politics, offended by racism, made uncomfortable by crude humor, opposed to movies that set a bad example for youth, or over thirty. So will you like it? Consult the previous list.

Buy The Dictator on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Chimpanzee

Every year Disney makes a cute animal movie for Earth Day. This year’s was Chimpanzee. While chimps aren’t as cute as baby cheetahs or even elephants, the story of little Oscar the chimp is adorable. His mom is killed in attack by a rival clan and Oscar has trouble being accepted after that until a cranky old alpha male adopts him. Though it’s a documentary, don’t expect much in the way of education on chimps – Tim Allen does the narration in a Meerkat Manor sort of way, making jokes and giving the chimps human motivations. African Cats is better.

Buy Chimpanzee on Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack
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A Separation

This movie, which is set in Iran, follows a married couple who are arguing over whether or not to emigrate. She wants to leave and give their daughter a chance at a better future, he wants to stay because he feels obligated to look after his father, who has Alzheimers. Though the movie deals with a lot of issues that are specific to Iran, the central question of whether or not to stay together when you’ve got such different goals is something a lot of people can relate to. If you’re looking for something different to watch, check out A Separation. It won the best foreign language film at the Oscars.

Buy A Separation on DVD or on Blu-Ray.


Tiny Toons: How I Spent My Vacation

I almost fell over when I saw this movie in the list – it seems like I’ve been waiting forever for it to come out on DVD. It’s a special movie from the 90s cartoon show Tiny Toon Adventures that follows the characters during the summer. Buster and Babs get courted and almost eaten by alligators after getting swept downriver, Hampton and Plucky pick up a hitchiking serial killer on their way to Happy World Land, and Fifi dates a movie star who’s in love with himself. Really clever, really funny, really worth watching, even if you’re not nostalgic for 90s TV like I am.

Buy Tiny Toons: How I Spent My Vacation on DVD.

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DVDs for June 12, 2012

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

In this second installment of the Guy Richie Sherlock Holmes adaptations, the duo attempt to thwart their evil nemesis Moriarty as he tries to start World War I about a decade and a half too early. Robert Downy Jr. and Jude Law are, as always, fantastic as the brilliant lunatic Holmes and the newly married Dr. Watson. These movies are so funny that I can watch them again and again even though I know what’s going to happen. I think I liked the first one a little better than this one, but it’s still well worth watching. Check out the full review for more details.

Buy Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

All comic book superheroes are goofy and ridiculous to some extent, but the right filmmaker and actor can make them seem gritty and serious anyway. This is not one of those situations. The first Ghost Rider movie was a joke, but this one is even worse. Nicholas Cage plays a flaming demonic motorcycle stuntman who is called upon to stop the devil from stealing a little boy (and, apparently the laws of physics, because they do not apply for this film). This film manages to be both too loud and too boring, which is some kind of achievement I guess. Rent something else anyway.

Buy Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Top Gear Season 18

I subscribed to the BBC specifically so I could watch this show. Presenters James May, Jeremy Clarkson, and Richard Hammond are all bonkers, which is why it’s so funny when they do ridiculous challenges like racing against a man on a jet pack, delivering a thousand lunches to workers in India, filming a car chase for a cop movie, or test driving Chinese cars that have been copied from European ones (they do all this in Season 18). I’m not really interested in cars but I’m learning about them anyway by accident as I watch what I think of as a comedy program. Definitely watch it.

Buy Top Gear Season 18 on DVD.
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In Darkness

Remember how in Schindler’s List a factory owner protected a bunch of Jews from the Nazis even though it was really hazardous to his health and it was really moving? Well history is full of stories like that, only some of which get told. This one, about a Polish thief who keeps a dozen Jews alive while hiding from the Nazis in a sewer in Lvov, is only just coming to light. It will be difficult to watch, just warning you. All holocaust movies are (and should be). And it is subtitled, but you should watch it anyway because it’s amazing, both the movie and the true story.

Buy In Darkness on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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DVDs for May 22, 2012

This Means War

This one didn’t really catch on with people when it came out in theaters, and I think that’s a shame, because it’s hilarious. You’ve got Chris Pine (the new Captain Kirk) vs Tom Hardy (from Warrior) as they use all their mad spy skillz to sabotage each other after they figure out that they’re both after the same girl (Reece Witherspoon). If you liked Mr. and Mrs. Smith or the middle bit in True Lies, you’ll like this one too. You can check out my full review for confirmation of its hilarity.

Buy This Means War This Means War or on Blu-Ray.

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The Woman in Black

Daniel Radcliffe is trying to have a career beyond Harry Potter, so if you’re a fan of his you’ll want to see this movie. Personally I don’t think he’s a very good actor and he still looks too young to be taken seriously as a lawyer with a four year old son. There are a few scary moments as he gets stuck in a haunted house on a tidal marsh as while he tries to sort out a dead client’s papers, though, so I’d probably say this is the scariest horror movie I’ve seen so far this year. You can read the full review here.

Buy The Woman in Black on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Sherlock: Season 2

I don’t usually talk about TV shows here but Sherlock is just too awesome a show to let the DVD release go by without mentioning it. The show is a modern-day adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries with Benedict Cumberbatch as the borderline autistic puzzle solver and Martin Freeman as his Afghan war vet/doctor/blogger friend/sidekick. The episodes are movie length and all three: “Scandal in Belgravia,” “Hounds of Baskerville” and “The Reichenback Fall” are all mind blowing. Watch them and wait with bated breath (like me) for Season 3.

Buy Sherlock: Season 2 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
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Red Tails

If you have access to a copy of Tuskegee Airmen, there’s no reason to watch this movie, which is also about a squadron of African American fighter pilots in WW2 overcoming racism and Nazis. You might think that since it’s newer, the effects will be better, but there’s nothing wrong with the old plane footage from Tuskegee Airmen. If anything, the CGI sequences look even faker than the old stuff did. And even if they were awesome, they couldn’t save this movie from bad writing, bad research, and bad music. The real Tuskegee airmen were really awesome and deserve better.

Buy Red Tails on DVD or buy Tuskegee Airmen instead because it’s better.
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Dark Shadows Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film Dark Shadows

I know I said I wouldn’t be able to review Dark Shadows this week, but: surprise! It worked out that I could. And I’m glad – Dark Shadows is an updated version of a horror soap from the 1960s and 70s. The words “horror” and “soap” don’t really go together except in a universe where everything is crazy, so naturally it’s screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (who wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and director Tim Burton (who did Corpse Bride) who bring the classic to life (again).

Cursed by the witch whose love he spurned, a rich canning company heir turned vampire spends two hundred years in a box then returns to restore his family’s prosperity.

I really enoyed Dark Shadows because after a decade of supernatural fiction moving further and further away from the vampires-as-monsters model and toward an ideal where vampires are broody sparkly bunny munching boyfriends, it’s refreshing to see something that calls back to the good old days where vampires were scary. Scary and hilarious.

Read More

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