Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Last week in DVD through July 25th.

Man, I'm dragging my butt posting my DVD reviews. I probably didn't help that the reviews I posted for Captain America and Friends With Benefits needed to be edited heavily the day after. I really need to not post reviews when I am up late...and have been drinking heavily.

Anyway, on to the DVDs...

The Lincoln Lawyer

I'm always afraid of watching any movie with Matthew McConaughey, but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. This movie, and character, is based on a series of books by Michael Connelly. I would suspect that based on the reception of this movie, they might make more of these.

Basically, McConaughey plays kind of a douchey defense lawyer named Mickey Haller (the book series is known as the Mickey Haller series). He's asked to defend a rich, privileged kid, played by Ryan Phillippe, who's accused of assaulting a prostitute. Phillippe maintains his innocence and says that this is a setup by the girl to cash in on his family's fortune. He does a good job of convincing Haller, but...oh yes...there's more going on here than meets the eye.

I don't want to tell too much of the plot, because I don't want to spoil the movie for you. I really enjoyed this and I don't like to spoil a movie when I really think it's worth watching.

I thought the cast overall was great and it's a good story. There are some kind of standard courtroom movie elements here, and you can see the twists coming, but nothing felt too forced to me. It was still satisfying.

This was directed by Brad Furman, who's only other movie I can remember was The Take, which I thought was just okay. We'll see if Furman can direct some other good films in the future.

I give this one a strong rental recommendation.


Wow! A movie that I actually found kind of scary.

This starts out as what appears to be a haunted house story. Insidious stars Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne as a couple that have just moved into a new house with their young son. Apparently, there were some issues with the previous house they had lived in, but now weird things seemed to have followed them here. Their son mysteriously falls into a coma and after it cannot be medically explained why this has happened, they start to look at other possible causes.

Unfortunately, this is kind of where the movie takes a turn for the worse. Once they start trying to give a 'real' explanation for what is happening to their son, it just kind loses it's edge and I thought the ending wasn't a very good payoff at all. I won't spoil it for you, but it's a shame cause the movie starts out with such a good setup and then just isn't effective in the second half.

It doesn't have any cheap, jump scares, nor is it gory. I actually got the chills a few times when watching this and I rarely get that kind of reaction to scary movies. It has a good overall, creepy vibe to it. If you have a good surround sound system, it'll help with the scares.

I think this was better and scarier than Paranormal Activity, which I'm sure this will draw some comparisons too.

Kuduos to everyone involved here though. This movie was made under the microbudget model and was made for just $1.5 million. They went for normal, practical effects, instead of overblown CG or anything like that. I think that's why it was more effective as far as being creepy. I hope they continue to make movies like this though. I would like everyone to keep supporting smaller budget films if they are even halfway decent.

This was directed by James Wan, who also directed the first Saw movie and has been involved with most of that series as a producer. It's nice to see that he can do more than just torture porn movies.

I really wish I had seen this one in the theater just so I could have heard everyone's reactions to this.

I've love to give this a higher recommendation, but the second half just drops it down a few pegs for me. Overall, I still give a rental recommendation.

A short rant:

The next two movies both claimed to be based on true stories or real events. Both movies also tell you this in the first 30 seconds as the opening credits start. This is starting to become a pet peeve of mine.

If it's based on a true story, doesn't telling me that up front kind of kill any suspense for the film and even sometimes eliminates the need to even watch it? If it's a survival-type film, which both of these are, the obviously someone survived or there'd be nobody left to tell the story.

Then, you read up on the real story and find that it's VERY loosely based on a true story or the details are sketchy at best. A different person survived, it was a different kind of shark, it was in a different location, etc. If they change everything about the supposedly 'true' story, then why even say it's a true story?

Wouldn't it make more sense to save telling me it's based on a true story for just before the end credits roll? I think that would be more effective. Well, here are the two reviews:

The Way Back

They tell you up front that 3 men survived an escape from a Siberian prison and walking 4000 miles to India. So, when like seven or eight people are part of the group, you already know half are going to die. See what I mean about that killing the suspense?

Anyway, so these guys all escape from prison and then it's just it's just people walking through snow and desert and then watching most of them die. It's not pretty to watch them, and it's not fun. Most of the time you don't even know who just died. Since they are all bundled up (in the snow) or chapped, sunburnt and bearded when they reach the desert, it's hard to know who is who.

This felt like watching Lord of the Rings, except there were no Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves, Orcs or anything else of interest happening around them.

I felt like I was enduring this movie as much as these guys were enduring this walk. At least the scenery was nice and the movie was shot well.

It's not that it's acted poorly. In fact, the cast features several actors I like, and I didn't think any of the performances were bad. Ed Harris was great, Jim Sturgess was good (who normally I haven't cared for) as was Saoirse Ronan. Colin Farrell gave a nice performance as well, but he actually goes his own way about halfway through the movie, never to be seen again.

The Way Back is just not a very interesting story. This movie kind of bums me out. I really wanted to like it. I like the director and most of the cast, but this just isn't anything I see people watching and enjoying on any level. I don't think it's a terrible movie, it's just not one worth recommending to anyone unless you want to torture yourself watching people struggle against the elements.

It's directed by Peter Weir. I think he really tried here, but given the subject matter, there was only so much he could do. Plus, when reading up on the 'true' story, you'll find that the entire guy's story has been debunked and now even the director now admits this is a work of fiction. That kind of kills any of the emotion you might have had towards the characters.

This is a pass for me.

The Reef

The second in my 'based on real events' double feature. This one is a bit more believable though. A group of friends pile in a boat and set sail for Indonesia, but shortly after the trip starts, the boat runs up on a reef and capsizes. The group decides that it's better to make a swim for it as the current is taking them further out to sea and they think the boat will sink before anyone is able to find them. One guy stays behind as he knows what is in the water and would rather take his chances staying with the boat.

The rest of the group swims for an island they think is a few miles away. I'm sure you can guess what happens next.

This is probably the most effective shark film I've seen since Jaws. One smart thing they did is not use a CG shark. What they did was film their own footage of a Great White, and then composite that in with the actors. It works surprisingly well here. I knew about this going in and there were many times where I felt like they actors really were swimming just a few feet away from a huge shark.

As someone that has both a pretty strong fear of deep water, being stranded at sea AND sharks, this movie was pretty terrifying at times.

It's only just about 88 minutes, so The Reef doesn't drag on, but can feel like it at times since they are just swimming for most of the film. However, I think that's what helps contribute to the helplessness and the eventual paranoia the characters feel.

The Reef is a little closer to the real story this was based on. It appears that two people really were killed by a shark as they were swimming back. Another difference was that it was a Tiger shark instead of a Great White, but those are the kind of changes they do for dramatic effect.

I actually recommend this one.


I did not like this. I'm not even going to get into the lack of need for a remake of the original Arthur. This is a remake nobody asked for or even cared about.

The first 15 minutes of this movie are just awful. Russell Brand's Arthur is just so annoying that I almost turned the movie off. Fortunately, he tones his act down a bit,but then the movie just becomes what felt like a run of the mill romantic comedy. I'd get more into the plot, but it's just not interesting enough to talk about.

I'm sorry, but I don't find Russell Brand funny. He has that high pitched voice that just grates on you. I don't really think there's a lot of talent there. What exactly does he do? Act annoying? I do think he works in a small doses and in supporting roles, like in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. A little of him goes a long way. Give him a full movie and there's not enough there to keep your interest.

Greta Gerwig plays Arthur's love interest. I didn't think she was bad, but she kind of came across to me as a poor-man's Zooey Deschanel. I actually think some of the date scenes between her and Arthur were cute and a little charming. If they had gotten rid of a lot of the ridiculousness of this movie, it might have worked better as just a Rom-Com between these two.

I like Helen Mirren, but she felt totally out of place. I can't imagine why an actress of her caliber would have even agreed to be in this. It's like she lost a bet or the director must have naked pictures of her stashed away for blackmail.

Speaking of, this was directed by Jason Winer. This is actually a shock to me as he has directed many episodes of Modern Family, which is one of the funniest shows on TV. You'd think he would have known this wasn't a funny movie.

This movie is bad, but it wasn't quite as bad as I was expecting. That's still not saying much or a compliment. Saying a movie isn't as bad you were expecting it still saying it's bad. I just didn't think it was funny at all and I don't think this movie does anything to prove why Russell Brand should be in starring in movies. Overall, I can't find any reason why you need to watch it.

Ugh, don't watch this.


I rented this as this was written and directed by Mike Mills, who recently did Beginners, which I liked a lot. I wanted to see what else he had to offer. Thumbsucker isn't bad, but it wasn't as enjoyable as Beginners.

This is one of those quirky movies where every character is flawed in some way or seems to be a little off. The main character Justin, played by Lou Taylor Pucci, is a high school student that still has issues with sucking his thumb. He struggles in school and doesn't seem to be able to focus on anything. He has a unusual relationship with his parents, whom he both addresses by their first names. This actually at their request, because saying 'mom' or 'dad' makes them feel old. His Father, played by Vincent D'Onofrio, is a former jock that seems to be a little bugged by his son's awkwardness. His Mother, played by Tilda Swinton, is a nurse that doesn't seem to be happy in her marriage and has a weird crush on a TV-actor, played by Benjamin Bratt.

As a thumb sucker, Justin sees an orthodontist played by Keanu Reeves. He attempts to council Justin on his thumb sucking and tries a few methods of getting him to quit.

Justin eventually is diagnosed as ADHD and is given Ritalin, which actually allows him to start focusing on school. The debate team, which he originally only joined to get close to a girl he had a crush on, he is now excelling at. However, his new confidence and success has made him a bit arrogant, and this leads to a bit of a conflict with his debate coach, played by Vince Vaughn. He becomes confrontational with others as well and eventually quits taking the Ritalin.

It has a very good cast and they all perform well here. Even Keanu Reeves was interesting in his role and you see Vince Vaughn play a much different role than what you're used to seeing.

As I said earlier, it's on the quirky side and I thought it was a little uneven. It just felt a little slow and awkward, but the awkwardness is partially due to the subject matter and the flaws of the characters.

I thought it was worth the rental and if you like films on the awkward side, then you might enjoy this one as well.

Take Me Home Tonight

It's kind of tough to do an 80's nostalgia comedy when you already have The Wedding Singer, and more recently, Hot Tub Time Machine beating you to the punch. It's even tougher when both of those movies are far funnier than this.

Take Me Home Tonight isn't the worst movie, it just isn't very funny or all that original. It also suffers from some bad writing. There are a bunch of things that happen that don't make sense at all. Normally, you can forgive stuff like that in a comedy, but only of it's really funny. Plus, I really hate when the main character lies to a girl when there just isn't any reason to. It's the same issue I had with Just Go With It.

Topher Grace's character, is a recent MIT graduate who's back home and trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life. In an effort to impress a girl he's had a crush on since high school, tells her he has a job at Goldman Sachs, when he really works at a Suncoast Video. The girl is played by Teresa Palmer, appears to be the only actor in the movie playing her age. Anyway, as far as the lie goes, he just got out of college. It wouldn't have been a stretch to say, "I just moved back from college and I'm working here until I can get a job in my field." Granted, it's easier to say that now with the economy the way it is, but I still don't see any reason to lie like this. When the lie eventually gets revealed, you will look terrible. I'll give you one guess as to whether or not that happens here.

Plus, it's not even a well thought out lie. Several people in the movie immediately challenge him on the fact that Goldman Sachs doesn't have an office that's local. If you're gonna lie like that, at least do you homework first. You're supposed to be a math whiz, but I guess you didn't take Lying 101 at college. I guess MIT doesn't offer that as part of the curriculum.

Anyway, the plot of this all hinges around everyone meeting up at the big party. You've seen this a million times, and done much better in other films. Like I said, there's just nothing new or original here.

Having said that, I actually didn't mind it that much. It's harmless enough and the cast is likeable. It's just kind of meh. I like Anna Farris, but I felt like she was underused. Also, it seemed kind of weird to cast her as Topher's twin sister when that wasn't used for any comic effect. Why not just have her be his older sister by a year or two or just a good friend even?

Another interesting thing was that this movie was actually made in 2007, but was shelved until this year. I wonder if this movie might have been received better if it had been released a few years ago. It was directed by Michael Dowse, who really hasn't directed anything of note. I can only imagine if they had gotten a better comedy director and punched up the script a bit, this would have came off much better.

As you would guess by the title of the movie, it has a lot of 80's songs and references, so if you like that, then you'll at least get a kick out of some of that.

It wouldn't be the worse thing to rent this, just don't expect much.


I have nothing to say about this other than it's just another bad film based on a video game. I was hoping that it would at least deliver on the martial arts action.

There's just no reason at all to watch this. I didn't think the fight scenes were all that good and the whole story is ridiculous. It's a shame because there are actually some good people in this movie, they are just all wasted here.


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