Friday, February 28, 2014

What to Watch This Weekend: February 28, 2014

The Wind Rises was released in DC last week, but it's getting a more widespread release this week. On top of that there is an Oscar nominee on DVD and some good streaming options to hold you over until the Oscars on Sunday!

Miyazaki's latest movie, and supposedly his last, is another beautiful animated movie from the master of anime. The film is set in a more realistic world with dream sequences allowing for some of the more fantastical hallmarks of a Miyazaki film, and tells the story of the man who modernized Japan's airforce. It is slowly paced and avoids many controversial topics about the consequences of his advances, but it is still a beautiful film and a sharp departure from what Miyazaki is known for.

Nebraska tells the story of an old man's last shot at adventure, as he travels to Nebraska to claim a million dollar prize. The movie is nominated for an Academy award. I enjoyed it, but didn't love it as much as other critics and the Academy. I thought it was an interesting story with good acting that could have been half an hour shorter. Still, it's worth renting this weekend so you can catch it before the awards.

Blue is the Warmest Color tells the story of Adele who meets a young woman with blue hair who allows her to grow and assert herself as a woman and an adult. The movie has generally favorable reviews although I hear that it's just a very long story. Everything about it seems drawn out and it could have been done much quicker and with less detail. However, since it's on Netflix streaming, if it gets too long you can fast foward!

Netflix Link

The long awaited sequel to Kevin Smith's first, and probably most beloved, movie, Clerks II sees a calamity forcing Dante and Randall to search for new horizons.  The movie is available for free streaming on Amazon Prime Instant Video and should not be missed by any Kevin Smith fan.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: 3 Days to Kill

Release date: February 21, 2014
Running time: 113 minutes
Starring: Kevin Costner, Amber Heard, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen
Who to see it with: Someone who thinks action films could use more family drama


In McG's 3 Days to Kill, mortally ill, aging CIA agent Ethan (Costner) reluctantly accepts a mission from mysterious fellow agent Vivi (Heard) who offers a potentially life-prolonging drug as an incentive. Unfortunately, this offer arrives when Ethan is attempting to reconnect with his estranged daughter Zoey (Steinfeld) and wife Christine (Nielsen), who grew distant due to Ethan's time-consuming work. Can a man repair his fractured family, kill a series of criminals and placate his demanding, oddly femme fatale-like boss all within a few days?

I don't think so, at least not in a believable fashion. Fortunately, contrary to the film's marketing and serious opening scenes, 3 Days isn't a totally serious thriller and becomes more of an action comedy once Ethan begins struggling to find time to both kill people and hang out with his moody teenage daughter. Unfortunately, this balancing act makes the events hard to believe. The story's tonal shifts when alternating between Ethan's violent work and corny father-child bonding are awkward, though I'll admit that the film often uses the contrast between Ethan's lives to humorous, if unbelievable, effect. 3 Days looks like a straight thriller but plays like a slightly subtler version of McG's jokey Charlie's Angels or This Means War, its relative grounding in reality making the action less fun and creative. This isn't helped by the somewhat illogical plot or the randomness of Ethan's condition, which makes it feel more like a meaningless plot device rather than a meaningful part of his character or the story. Would the CIA rely on a guy whose illness incapacitates him at the worst times, often when in pursuit of highly dangerous criminals? The convenience and inconvenience of the illness afflicting 3 Days to Kill's protagonist hurt the mediocre action sequences and kill any dramatic stakes; it should have been treated more seriously or dropped in favor of a more straightforward "tough CIA agent comically trying to be a good dad" story that better fits the director's talents.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Review: Endless Love

Release date: February 14, 2014
Running time: 103 minutes
Starring: Gabriella Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Bruce Greenwood, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson
Who to see it with: Someone who wanted more romance in their Cloud Atlas


Endless Love is a remake of the 1981 Brooke Shields classic. The film has been modified with some tweaks to the story, and updated with various plot and technological elements. The film follows an upper class girl who falls madly in love with a blue collar boy and all the issues that can come from that. As you would expect, some members of the girl's family are less than thrilled that she is having a summer fling, and a lot of the movie deals with him trying to win them over. This story sets up a drama-saturated summer love fest that has implications for the two protagonists far beyond their fleeting romance.

If the plot sounds predictable and cheesy, it's because it is. The movie doesn't so much seem like a genuine love story as what Hollywood execs and Abercrombie advertisers think a teen love story should be. The dialog is corny and cliched. There are some heartfelt moments but overall the lines are pretty bad and groan inducing. And, on top of this, the main characters both have noticeable accents. The film is set in Georgia, and the main characters supposedly have grown up there, so the presence of accents caught me off guard and was distracting when it shouldn't have been. Most of the characters are well thought out, but the overbearing, unrealistic dad is grating. It's fine to have him disapprove and be overly concerned, but what he does throughout the movie approaches sociopathic. In the end, Endless Love could have been a dramatic and innocent story about a summer fling, but it ends up being an unrealistic overly dramatized teen love story pulled from the worst of Hollywood.


What to Watch This Weekend: Valentines Day

Looking for something romantic to watch this weekend? Check out these perfect date movies to to take that special someone to.

We haven't even seen About Last Night, but given the other two Valentine's day options, Winter's Tale and Endless Love, plus the generally positive reviews of this movie, we're pretty confident that About Last Night will give you the best Valentine's Day theater experience. Plus, it's got Kevin Hart and who doesn't like Kevin Hart?

James Gandolfini's final performance is a genuine and heartfelt one that lends a lot of realism to this "grown up" romantic comedy. The film showcases a realistic (well, Hollywood realistic) relationship involving two individuals who are far removed from dating and slowly, cautiously, allowing themselves to get involved. The DVD was released a little bit ago, but it's now available on Redbox so make sure to check it out.

This Valentine's Day (and technically, Christmas) classic is available for free streaming. It follows a variety of couples in various stages of relationships and tells a disjointed, but interwoven, story about the complicated issues that result from love. It's one of my favorites and has a who's who of British celebrities involved.

Netflix Link

Say Anything is a classic romantic movie with one of the most iconic scenes in movie history. It's also available for free streaming on Netflix so if you're in the mood for a classic, then make sure to check it out.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Review: Winter's Tale

Release date: February 14, 2014
Running time: 118 minutes
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe, Mckayla Twiggs
Who to see it with: Someone who wanted more romance in their Cloud Atlas


If I had reviewed Cloud Atlas, I would have said that although it didn't come together well in the end, I appreciated what it was trying to do. It took a risk, and it didn't fully pay off, but I liked it for trying. Winter's Tale is similar to Cloud Atlas, in that it tries to tell a grand story that spans multiple timelines. Also like that movie, it doesn't tell you that initially so it starts with a confusing premise and weaves in details here and there. Unfortunately, the movie is based off a fairly dense book, which leaves some aspects of the plot to be only briefly explored when you would hope for some more detail. The main character, Peter Lake, is played by Colin Farrell, who despite the poor story does an admirable job of winning your heart. If you've seen Saving Mr. Banks, you saw how great Colin Farrell is at playing a flawed, but ultimately good character. His portrayal of Peter Lake is similar and it's a joy to see; I really like him in these new roles.  

As I mentioned, the plot initially starts off with a confusing premise. I don't mind being forced to work to understand the story, but some of the plot elements are comical. And, unfortunately, a confusing plot is the least of the films problems. Winter's Tale just doesn't know what kind of movie it wants to be. It's advertised as a romance, so you have the typical predictable plot and cheesy dialog. The aforementioned cheese is pretty bad in some parts, with completely predictable and overly gushing dialog. But, there are also overarching themes of good and evil, heaven and hell, and the movie becomes strangely violent at times. This contradiction could have been interesting, but in the movie just feels awkward. Fittingly, there is a theme of light and dark throughout the film, but the light motif doesn't exactly work and becomes saturated after it's pointed out to you (numerous times). I imagine that some of the plot points are pulled from the novel and need a little more backstory to translate well on the big screen. And other parts the movie overtly tells you what's going on without you asking for it or needing it. As one fellow critic described it, it is opaque when it should be clear, and overt when it should be subtle. Unfortunately, aside from Farrell's great portrayal of Lake, Winter's Tale doesn't have much going for it. If you want to see Winter's Tale, you should at least wait until the Spring to see it on DVD, if ever.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Screening: 3 Days to Kill

Screening Date: February 19, 2014
Time: 7:00 PM
City: Washington, DC
Theater: AMC Georgetown

Do you love seeing Kevin Costner back in major films as much as we do?  From Jack Ryan, to Draft Day, and now 3 Days to Kill, it seems like this is the year of Costner. In 3 Days to Kill, Costner plays a spy who is trying to get out of the game but must complete one last mission.  In doing so, he must hunt down a dangerous terrorist while trying to take care of his teenage daughter.  If this sounds like something you'd like to see, then find out how to enter below.

We will be notifying winners on Friday, February 14th (Happy Valentines Day). We will by using Rafflecopter for this one so let us know what you think. To enter, follow the Rafflecopter widget instructions below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, February 7, 2014

What to Watch This Weekend: February 7, 2014

Looking for something to watch this weekend?

The directors of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street return by bringing the popular Lego construction blocks comes to the big screen. Like Cloudy, its creatively and beautifully animated. Like Jump Street, it's clever and funny. Sounds like a crowd-pleaser for the entire family.

Matthew McConaughey continues to prove that he's more than a sex symbol in the role of Ron Woodroof, a homophobic Texan whose life is turned upside down by a positive HIV diagnosis. Seeking alternatives after becoming frustrated with the standard HIV treatment of the 80's, enterprising Ron realizes that FDA-unapproved drugs present a lucrative business opportunity. Jared Leto also steps out of his comfort zone in the role of a transgender woman who becomes involved in Ron's controversial business.

Left to fend for themselves in the Brooklyn projects, a streetwise thirteen-year-old African-American teen and a naively innocent nine-year-old Korean form an unconventional team as they deal with rapidly depleting money and food supplies. The characters' situation and struggle feel real, if occasionally heavy-handed, and the story maintains a hopeful rather than depressing tone unlike many urban dramas.

Before Bryan Singer became a blockbuster director with X-Men, he made this indie mystery widely known for its clever, twisty story. A con man (Kevin Spacey) recounts the complicated series of events that he and four other criminals (Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, Chazz Palminteri and Kevin Pollak) encountered after being blackmailed by a notorious crime lord.

Review: Vampire Academy

Release date: February 7, 2014
Running time: 104 minutes
Starring: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky, Gabriel Byrne, Dominic Sherwood
Who to see it with: The most rabid of Twilight fans


Studios are trying to fill the giant, blood-sucking, twinkling hole that Twilight left, and Vampire Academy is the latest attempt to appeal to the teen movie demographic. Unfortunately, it is a poor substitute for those looking for a vampire fix. Vampire Academy follows a group of vampires and half-vampires who are training at a specially designed school. They're all in the equivalent of high school, and are dealing with what you would expect teenagers to deal with. School, boys / girls, hormones, fitting in, cliques; it's all present in the Vampire Academy. Additionally, there is a certain level of class inequality thrown in and a pinch of inappropriate relationships to mix together in your teenage, hormone stew. It's like you're back in high school, a pretty sweet high school, but still high school.

The Twilight movies never had a great plot; they were filled with bad dialog, teenage angst, sex references, and terrible CG. Vampire Academy follows this formula to a T. The plot is disjointed, shallow, and predictable. Because there's a lot of back story to get through, the first 15 minutes or so are pure exposition to introduce the viewer to the world. Afterwards, the drama begins. Poor dialog, overacting, odd accents, and crazy character twists are the norm. Superficial characters and excessive drama are all too common. Thankfully, the movie doesn't use much CG until the end, but when it does, it's pretty poor. The effects look like they were done by the same house that did the terrible wolves in Twilight, and towards the end there is a panning shot that looks like it was from a 1990s computer game. Sure, the movie has some attractive new actors / actresses and plenty of eye candy, but that's about all the movie has going for it. It's not a good movie and unless you're the most die-hard of Twilight fans, avoid enrolling in the Vampire Academy.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Review: The Lego Movie

Release date: February 7, 2014
Running time: About 95 minutes
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Morgan Freeman
Who to see it with: Anyone with kids.


If there's one toy that pretty much every kid has played with, it's Legos.  The little building blocks are available in every toy store and in probably any kid's play room.  Although the toys have been around forever, the brand has recently started moving into new territory, starting with a successful line of Lego-themed video games.  The Lego Movie is a natural extension to the video games, a computer animated adventure through all things Lego. In the movie, an ordinary Lego man is forced to go on an extraordinary journey to save the Lego world. 

The animation is beautiful and imaginative.  As would be expected, the Lego theme permeates everything about the film, from the sets and environments, to the props and effects. It's amazing to see the creativity of the animators, with little touches like an entire desert with rolling hills or a vast sea that, on closer inspection, are made completely of individual blocks. It's so subtle that you don't notice it at times, but when you do it's simply amazing. The animation is also solid, although there are spots when it's too jerky for my taste. I'm not sure if that is by design to simulate how they would move in an actual Legos play session, but it's distracting. Fortunately, it's not a normal occurrence.

The story takes a lot of cues from various other Warner Brothers properties, most notably the Matrix. It is a pretty typical children's movie with a message of being happy with who you are. Lots of the lines and themes seem drawn from many other kids films, but it's not necessarily a bad theme to reinforce. The Lego license is in full effect with cameos from a variety of Lego-licensed properties including DC Comics, Lord of the Rings, and more. The plot jumps around a lot, which makes it tough to follow, but at the same time allows you to visit many different areas. The voice acting is good, with some very well known personalities lending their voices to the film. In the end, the animation is wonderful and the imaginative sets and Lego themes make up for a story I've seen many times before.  

Watch it.