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Dracula Untold Review

poster from the Legendary Pictures film Dracula Untold

I’m ‘meh’ on vampires in general (upgrade to ‘bleh’ if we’re talking sparkly Twilight vampires). I also know almost nothing about Vlad the Impaler, historically speaking. But this week I went to see a historical vampire movie about Vlad the Impaler, because… well… you gotta watch something, right?

A Transylvanian prince turns himself into a vampire to protect his people from slaughter at the hands of the Turkish army.

Perhaps because I know almost nothing of Vlad the Impaler’s true history, I was pleasantly surprised by Dracula Untold. I was expecting it to be stupid, but I actually enjoyed it. And, I suspect, you will too if you’ve ever watched a Twilight movie and wished someone would just turn into a hoard of bats and wipe out an army or something.

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DVDs for July 15, 2014

rio 2

Rio 2

In the first Rio, a terrified, flightless macaw named Blue was brought to South America to breed with Jewel, the only other remaining bird of his species. In this sequel, we discover that blue macaws aren’t as rare as everyone thought: Jewel’s whole family is out in the jungle, so Blue (reluctantly) takes the family to Brazil once again to meet their relatives. Like the first Rio, it’s an okay movie. Not the funniest or most exciting movie ever, but it’s cute, it looks nice, and kids enjoy it.

Buy Rio 2 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

under the skin

Under the Skin

If you’re in the mood for a movie that will make you go: “What the #$%$@& is happening?!” then Under the Skin is for you. Don’t be fooled by the mention of aliens and the fact that Scarlett Johansson is in the cast (okay, she pretty much IS the cast). This movie is more about self discovery and learning about feelings, and by that I mean the main character has a weird look on her face while incomprehensible things happen around her. The only reason people who are not film critics might want to watch this movie is for the nudity.

Buy Under the Skin on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

wipers times

The Wipers Times

If Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife have sucked you into the world of British period drama, expand your horizons a little further and try a BBC war movie. Don’t worry, it’s not full of blood and bombs and harrowing death scenes. It’s about a group of soldiers (led by Ben Chaplin) who find a printing press in World War I and use it to publish a satirical newsletter to keep up morale in the trenches (even though the brass think it’s borderline treasonous) so it’s quite funny. And the best part is – it’s true!

Buy The Wipers Times on DVD.

hercules reborn

Hercules Reborn

There is a Hercules movie coming out soon that stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. This is not it, but a sizeable portion of its marketing team are probably hoping you get the two confused – it’s about Hercules and stars a WWE wrestler (John “Johnny Nitro” Hennigan), but the movie itself is sort of a sequel. Hercules is a down-on-his-luck exile who is pressed into action once again when a young man’s bride is kidnapped by an evil king. It’s about as good as any of the knockoffs in the “mockbuster” family (Transmorphers, Chop Kick Panda, etc.) which is to say: not very good.

Buy Hercules Reborn on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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Trailer Reviews for June 6, 2014

EDGE OF TOMORROW



This movie looks awesome and stupid at the same time. Dying every day and waking up to do a big battle over again until you get it right? Awesome. The suits they wear in said battle? Stupid. They’re clunky and they offer no protection at all (I guess if you just keep waking up again it doesn’t matter if you get shot?) Their only purpose seems to be as a framework for hoisting their massive, ridiculous guns.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS



Again, I do and I don’t want to see this movie. I’m sure it’s cute and romantic and meaningful, but one or both of them is dying, so there’s no getting around the fact that it’s going to be really f***ing depressing. So I guess the question is: do I want to be sad all weekend?

CHEF



To me, Jon Favreau will always be the guy who made Iron Man hilarious and awesome. But who’s to say he couldn’t make independent dramedies about cooking awesome and hilarious as well?

TRACKS



I’m pretty sure Robyn Davidson is who they were making fun of in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, when the lady dragging the little blinking light would run by. It’s an inspiring story and Mia Wasikowska is a great actress, but I feel like this movie will have to work really hard not to be boring. Struggling alone makes for a compelling autobiography, but put it on screen and it’s just a woman squinting at the horizon.

WOLFCOP



This movie was some sort of Cineplex contest winner. I’ve been seeing ads for this for months. Looks pretty funny. Maybe I’ll see it someday. Our theater’s not currently on the Wolfcop list.

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DVDs for June 3, 2014

lone-survivor dvd

Lone Survivor

Based on the autobiography of a Navy SEAL who was lost and wounded during a disastrous operation in Afghanistan, Lone Survivor isn’t so much Marcus Luttrell’s survival story as it is a memorial to his fallen brothers. It’s like Saving Private Ryan, only more heartwrenching because it’s true. This makes it a hard movie to watch, but if you can handle it, I think you should do it. You may feel a bit like you’re intruding on the grief of others, but they made the movie because want us to see it.

Buy Lone Survivor on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

robocop dvd

Robocop

This movie is a remake of the classic 1987 film. A critically injured police officer in a city plagued by crime is brought back to the force as a heavily armored robot to do the police department’s bidding, but there’s more of the officer left than they bargained for, and he has an agenda of his own. Debate rages as to whether the original was better, but if you like action movies, cool special effects, and exploring the scientific aspects of your sci-fi (like in Almost Human), you’ll probably like the new Robocop.

Buy Robocop on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

son-of-god dvd

Son of God

If you’re strongly religious and of the Christian persuasion, you MIGHT enjoy this movie. It’s a biopic of Jesus edited down from a miniseries that interprets the bible literally. This movie does not have its tongue in its cheek (like Life of Brian), has no grit (like Passion of the Christ), and takes no chances (like Color of the Cross). However, even if you’re really religious, you still may not like the movie because Jesus is cast as a smirking, laid-back surfer type whose smarmy face begs to be slapped.

Buy Son of God on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

goodbye-world dvd

Goodbye World

Have you been wondering what the guy from Entourage and Ryan from The O.C. have been up to lately? Well the answer is: starring in a movie about what happens after a computer virus destroys civilization. Its an ensemble drama rather than horror or action. Almost the entire plot is devoted to their interpersonal problems (marriage falling apart, friends arguing, neighbors who are suspicious of outsiders). This, for me, is the least interesting thing that could happen in a post-apocalyptic world. But if you like people arguing (so… The Walking Dead?) you might like it.

Buy Goodbye World on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for May 19, 2014

pompeii

Pompeii

Attention everybody: buy this movie. My brother worked on it. No, his name’s not in the credits. He was just filling in. Behind the camera. But buy it anyway. What? You want to know about the movie? It’s actually pretty good. Kit Harrington plays a pouty Celt not unlike Jon Snow who is taken to Pompeii as a gladiator, falls in love with the mayor’s daughter, and tries to get revenge on the guy who killed his family. Oh, and a mountain explodes. Spectacularly. In very expensive CGI. Check out my review for more.

Buy Pompeii on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

right kind of wrong

The Right Kind of Wrong

While you’ve got your credit card out, you should buy this movie too. Because a) it’s Canadian and b) it’s actually fun to watch and not depressing at all. Jason from True Blood plays a failed writer who decides to break up Aunt Jenna from The Vampire Diaries and her douchey husband on account of he saw her kick a football one time. It’s both romantic and comedic and the scenery is nice too. Check out my review for more.

Buy The Right Kind of Wrong on DVD.

vampire academy

Vampire Academy

If you watched Twilight and wished there was a teen vampire movie that was less dumb and stalkery, let me introduce you to Vampire Academy. Our hero is a sarcastic, ass-kicking, hard-partying teenage vampire bodyguard who unravels a conspiracy involving secret superpowers and princess-napping. It’s about as far away from Twilight as you can get without becoming Underworld, and the book is good too. Check it out.

Buy Vampire Academy on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

monuments men

The Monuments Men

If you watched Saving Private Ryan and wished there were more art critics puttering around in crumbly basements looking for old paintings, then Monuments Men is for you. While their work was important and deserves recognition, you’ll probably get more out of the book version. The movie tries to be glib and serious at the same time by melding wisecracking characters with the serious subject of trying to rescue cultures the Nazis tried to wipe out, but the film failed to resonate with people.

Buy Monuments Men on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for May 13, 2014

her

Her

The idea behind this movie is great. A lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) buys the latest technology gimmick (an AI operating system that designs its own personality to suit you) and ends up falling in love with it. The movie explores their relationship as well as its societal implications and just how different a computer-based life form would be from us. Unfortunately, when this great idea was executed, it turned into an awkward, boring film. If you don’t mind that sort of thing, check it out.

Buy Her on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

i frankenstein

I, Frankenstein

Even though it’s terrible, I was actually planning to see this in theaters. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I was thwarted by a broken projector. If you read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and thought: who cares about morality, ethics, science, and the nature of life? Frankenstein’s monster would be way more interesting if he was involved in a giant war between magical ugly things, then this movie is for you. This movie does for classic literature what Legion did for Christian mythology (i.e. made it stupid). Skip it.

Buy I, Frankenstein on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

that awkward moment

That Awkward Moment

This movie is sort of a romantic comedy told from the guys’ perspective – three guys (a womanizer, a nerd, and a married guy) all become single at the same time and decide to make a pact to stay that way – except that all three end up romantically involved with women. It differs from traditional romantic comedies in that it’s got a lot more dick jokes and the characters all act like overgrown frat boys. Some people will find it okay, but most will be put off by the fact that the women could do a lot better than these three.

Buy That Awkward Moment on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

stalingrad

Stalingrad

This is a big-budget Russian film about a vicious urban hellhole of a battle between the Soviets and the Germans in World War II. It looks pretty good, especially for a non-Hollywood movie, and aims for a Band of Brothers feel, with the narrative following a handful of soldiers protecting a local girl. They even give some non-evil screentime to the Germans. Unfortunately, some of the heroism borders on silliness, it doesn’t always make sense, and it glosses over some of the ways Soviet leadership was not awesome to its soldiers. Give it a try though if you liked Enemy at the Gates.

Buy Stalingrad on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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DVDs for May 6, 2014

veronica mars

Veronica Mars

Otherwise known as “The Kickstarter Movie.” In a move reminiscent of Firefly, fans of the Nancy-Drew-esque high school murder mystery show Veronica Mars got together and handed series creator Rob Thomas (not the one from Matchbox 20) enough money to make a movie. They got an extra-long mystery featuring grown up Veronica investigating a case that catches her up with all the people she used to know as a teen. This is pretty much a fans-only movie, so try the TV show first.

Buy Veronica Mars on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

art of the steal

The Art of the Steal

There’s an art to making heist movies that aren’t just the same old cliches trotted out all over again, and this movie doesn’t have it. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a reformed thief bands together with his former colleagues to pull off one more heist before they retire, but divisions among the group screw up the plan. The only real difference is that the lead character played by Kurt Russell is (for some reason) an Evel Knievel knockoff. If you mass-consume heist movies, you’ll probably get to it eventually.

Buy The Art of the Steal on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

burn

Burn

I was first introduced to Detroit’s arson problem through Charlie LeDuff’s book Detroit: An American Autopsy. Overworked, underpaid firefighters in run down equipment risk their lives to fight huge numbers of arson fires in abandoned houses before they burn the handful of remaining people out of their homes (Detroit is where arsonists go on vacation). It’s hard hitting stuff, even more so in documentary form. They got some pretty amazing footage, so definitely check it out (especially you, fellow Chicago Fire fans).

Buy Burn on DVD.

generation war

Generation War

In North America, we call our World War II soldiers “The Greatest Generation.” We make endless movies about how they heroically put down those dastardly Nazis, but what if you’re German? What do you call the ’40s generation then? I always preferred the war movies/books that contained at least a single three dimensional Axis character rather than a hoard of cardboard psychopaths, so this miniseries, which follows five young Germans in different wartime roles, seemed like exactly what I’ve been looking for all this time. This is something we should all watch.

Buy Generation War on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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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 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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DVDs for February 11, 2014

enders game

Ender’s Game

Whether or not you agree with the things that Orson Scott Card has been saying online, you should see this movie, because you buying or not buying it won’t affect his bottom line. Ender’s Game is probably the best adaptation we can expect from the classic novel about six-year-olds who are training to wipe out an alien space fleet. It’s a little hectic and a little de-toothed, but it’s exciting, it poses some interesting questions, and the effects are cool. Read my full review for more.

Buy Ender’s Game on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

sherlock season3

Sherlock: Season 3

ERMEGERD! SERSERN THRUH IS ERRT! Says everyone who watches Sherlock but fell into a coma during the long hiatus between seasons. WTF IS THE BIG DEAL? Says everyone who has not watched the show. Group One: the link to buy the DVD is below. Group Two: you need to watch this show. Seriously. Each season is three two hour movies starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as modern day Holmes and Watson. It blows your usual CSI and Law and Order type shows out of the water.

Buy Sherlock: Season 3 on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

the counselor

The Counselor

If you would like to be depressed, confused, and generally divested of your faith in humanity by your next film, add The Counselor to your Netflix list. It’s a teamup between Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy and features a greedy lawyer who ruins his life by getting involved with drug trafficking. All the wholesome violence of No Country for Old Men combined with the bleakness of The Road. Who could resist? It’s the feel-good movie of the year for people who don’t like there to be anyone left alive at the end of the film.

Buy The Counselor on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

austenland

Austenland

Either I missed this in theaters or they changed their minds and put it out straight to DVD, because I was looking for it. I read the book. It was cute and half decently funny – better than the other Pride and Prejudice-inspired chick lit novels I’ve read (there are a lot). The main character decides to go on a Regency retreat to kick her Mr. Darcy addiction once and for all, only to fall in love with the actor playing Mr. Darcy (d’oh). It’s not going to rock anyone’s world, but it’d make a great selection for your next Girls’ Night In.

Buy Austenland on DVD or on Blu-Ray.

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