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We're The Millers (Blu-Ray) - Dec 28, 2013
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Main Stars: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, Will Poulter, Ed Helms

Rating: 3.5 out 5

Small time drug dealer David (Sudeikis) graduates to drug smuggler when his stash and all his money are stolen one day. The unsavory person he owes a bunch of money to gives him the choice of death or going to Mexico and bringing back a big score. To do so he rounds up a group of misfits consisting of an ex-stripper (Aniston), awkward virgin, and rebellious street kid to create a make believe family he thinks will ensure an easy border crossing. Director Thurber also helmed Dodgeball which is one of my favourite comedic films. While this doesn't quite achieve the same level it's still overall an entertaining romp. Although the storyline is somewhat safe and predictable, the overriding warm and fuzzy theme is a nice break from the never-ending raunch of recent films. This is probably the first film since Office Space that I didn't find Aniston annoying and fans of hers will appreciate her really getting into the role of a stripper. I suspect that the scene involving some kissing lessons didn't make it on the theatrical cut. Which is a shame as it was easily the funniest part of the movie. The end credits also provide their fair share of hilarity.

World War Z (Blu-Ray) - Oct 23, 2013
Director: Marc Forster

Main Stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, Mathew Fox, Fana Mokoena

Rating: 4 out 5

Gerry Lane (Pitt) has left his life working at the UN behind him in order to spend time with his family and stop working on other people’s problems. Life is good until one day they get stuck in downtown Philadelphia and it soon becomes apparent that they need to get out of the city - and fast. This film had a troubled history with rewrites and reshoots. When I saw the trailer my first reaction was that it looked like a CGI'd mess and I decided it was going to be a disaster and didn't want to see it. Fast forward to today and in a 'why not' moment I grabbed it on Blu-Ray. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. More 28 Days Later than The Walking Dead the zombies in this one are fast, as in really fast. No time for Romero type social commentary as everyone is too busy simply trying to survive. For most of the film I was literally on the edge of my seat. There's some amazing set pieces in here. About the only downside was that I wish the wife had a bigger role as I simply adore the actress (Enos) who plays her. I also thought the movie ended on a somewhat neat and tidy note. But overall an enjoyable thrill ride.

Martyrs (Blu-Ray) - Sep 28, 2013
Director: Pascal Laugier

Main Stars: Morjana Alaoui, Mylene Jampanoi, Catherine Begin

Rating: 5 out 5

Tormented by the most sadistic forms of torture and abuse in a house of horrors, little Lucie manages to escape her captors and ends up in an orphanage where she befriends Anna, herself a victim of abuse. Unfortunately the suffering doesn't end as she finds herself haunted by a ghoul who routinely attacks her. Wow. Just wow. My fellow Canucks from La Belle Province are one messed up lot. Seriously, I think the makers should be put on some kind of watch list. This was brutal. It starts off as a somewhat typical horror flick and then does a 180 and descends into a relentless spectacle of abuse and victimization. Easily the most disturbing movie I've ever seen. I literally had tears running down my cheeks the last half of the movie, yet was absolutely transfixed to the screen. Brutal. And yet I'm glad I stuck with it to the end as ultimately it managed to transform itself way above 'torture porn' the likes of Hostel or Saw and into a truly great film. I don't know what else to say. This will stick with me a long, long time. Highly recommended but extremely hard to watch and emotionally draining.

Before Sunrise (Laserdisc) - Aug 16, 2013
Director: Richard Linklater

Main Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Rating: 4 out 5

American tourist Jesse (Hawke) fresh off the sting of travelling to Madrid to meet his girlfriend, only to then be dumped, has spent the days since aimlessly travelling around in trains. A chance meeting with a beautiful woman (Delpy) leads to enjoyable conversation and a real connection. Unwilling to let the moment go, they decide to make the most of his last day in Europe. Honestly, if all 'chick flicks' were like this one I wouldn't have to be dragged to them. Yes, the story centers around two people falling in love, but it doesn't descend to the clichéd 'boy meets girl, boy loses girl' formulaic crap that dominates these films. It's a credit to the real chemistry between the two stars that they keep you glued to the screen in a movie consisting of nothing but dialog and gorgeous scenery. Of course it helps that I've been in love with Delpy ever since I saw her in Killing Zoe. I could listen to her talk in her cute French accent forever. I can't wait to see the remaining two films in the trilogy and see where this relationship goes.

Repo Man (Blu-Ray) (Criterion) - Jul 10, 2013
Director: Alex Cox

Main Stars: Harry Dean Stanton, Emilio Estevez, Tracey Walter, Olivia Barash, Sy Richardson

Rating: 3 out 5

Otto (Estevez) is a young punk desperate to find some money. Upon finding that his parents gave away his college money to a local televangelist he reluctantly joins up with a bunch of misfits and becomes a Repo Man. His life takes a turn for the bizarre when a mysterious Chevy Malibu shows up on the wanted list and he must fight off a rival repo group, government agents, and his delinquent friends to get his hands on it and the strange cargo in its trunk. Films tend to end up with the Cult label because either the movie was ahead of its time and the mainstream viewers just didn't 'get it' or because the movie simply appealed to a niche group who vigorously endorsed it. Repo Man falls into the later camp as a homage to the punk, anti-authority culture. But aside from a decent soundtrack (Black Flag, Circle Jerks), I don't see how it's reputation is justified. Overall it's an odd, although moderately entertaining, mash up of ideas. Harry Dean Stanton is awesome as usual and helps elevate the movie. A disappointing first time effort from the director that brought us Sid & Nancy. Being a Criterion release, I simply expected more.

Man Bites Dog (DVD) (Criterion) - May 20, 2013
Director: Remy Belvaux

Main Stars: Benoit Poelvoorde, Jacqueline Poelvoorde, Nelly Pappaert

Rating: 4 out 5

Ben is a likeable man with a loving family who has an opinion on everything and anything. He also happens to be a serial killer who is being followed around by a film crew that is documenting his life. I don't know what it is about the French film industry, but they've produced some terrific movies over the years that I've enjoyed greatly- Irreversible, Delicatessen, and now this one. Shot in Black & White on a handheld camera, it evokes the documentary style and feel that has been copied so many times in more recent films. The film would be brutally shocking if it wasn't for the overlying absurdity of it all (in one hilarious scene the killer and his documentary crew run into another serial killer with his own crew in tow). It also wouldn't work if the actor who plays Ben wasn't so charismatic and engaging. He's so damn likeable even when he's committing the most horrible of acts. I also love how the documentary crew goes from being passive observers to reluctant participants. Man Bites Dog has become a cult classic over the years and I can see why. It's a gem of indie film making.

The Avengers (VOD) - Apr 23, 2013
Director: Joss Whedon

Main Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson

Rating: 2 out 5

Every super hero known to the Marvel Universe gets together to open up a can of whoop-ass. That pretty much sums it up. I generally hate the never ending string of movies based on comic book characters. I did like Iron Man, mostly because of Robert Downey and I thought the first Spiderman was genuinely refreshing - but I haven't even bothered to see the third Batman. The story in this one, such as it is, involves Thor's buddy Loki coming to earth to generate a portal and let in an invasion of aliens to conquer the world. For me I had issues getting past the absurdity of the characters. On one hand you have the Hulk (Ruffalo) who is invincible and on the other hand you have Black Widow (Johansson) who while yummy in her tight leather getup, basically just fires pistols. The bad guy is genuinely riveting in some scenes with some pretty decent dialog, but then looks ridiculous in other scenes strutting about, less than imposing, and wearing a stupid helmet. Robert Downey owns the camera, but they did do a fairly good job at not making him the focus. I thought Mark Ruffalo was one of the few that actually acted in the film, but no one cares about that. They want to see lots of stuff blowing up and this CGI fest delivers. In fact, New York gets basically destroyed (yet somehow without a single citizen getting hurt). Fanboyz will eat it up, but I'd rather have the 143 minutes of my life spent watching this back.

Identity Thief (Theatre) - Mar 11, 2013
Director: Seth Gordon

Main Stars: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, Robert Patrick

Rating: 3 out 5

Things are looking up for Sandy Patterson (Bateman). Recently promoted to VP of a startup firm he looks forward to giving his loving wife and daughters the comfortable life they deserve. However things come crashing down around him when he's wanted for fraud in Florida - just one thing, he's never been to Florida. Occasionally I'll see a movie that I'm not overly looking forward to, but go mostly to appease the wife. And sometimes I'll actually end up liking the movie. Such is the case here. When taken as a whole, the film isn't overly special and drags a bit as it comes to it's predictable and contrived end. But for most of it I was highly entertained and laughed out loud several times. Essentially a road movie, the strength of the film comes from the dynamic between the two main characters. McCarthy is hilarious and physical comedy is obviously her strength. Bateman is equally effective as the prerequisite straight man. There's also a hilarious bit with the guy who plays Cameron on Modern Family. Some of the characters seem extraneous and just thrown in to add a touch of drama although it was nice seeing Robert Patrick as a grizzled bounty hunter. A somewhat typical comedy that elevates itself just a bit above average due to the efforts of the lead actors.

The Woman In Black (VOD) - Feb 18, 2013
Director: James Watkins

Main Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciaran Hinds, Sophie Stuckey, Roger Allam

Rating: 3 out of 5

Life hasn't been kind to Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe). Having lost his wife he is grief stricken and barely managing to hang on to his job at a London law office. He loves his only son dearly but is forced to leave him behind when he is assigned to wrap up the affairs of a recently deceased widow at a faraway country mansion. Upon arriving at the local village he is shunned as an outsider who is apt to bring tragedy to them all. For some reason there's a plethora of horror movies being released out of season so I decided to join the fun and take one in. In a world full of gory slasher flicks a Victorian ghost story seems almost trite. But I thought it was a welcome break from the norm. Of course the big question on everyone's minds when this was released was whether Radcliffe could shed his association with Harry Potter. I thought he did a great job and didn't once think of him in that role. As for the story I thought it was decent although upon reflection nothing extraordinary. There were a couple times however that I actually got chills down my back - which with the exception of two other films never happens. So in that respect as a horror flick it succeeded. I just wish they had fleshed out the story more.

Looper (Blu-Ray) - Jan 26, 2013
Director: Rian Johnson

Main Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Piper Perabo

Rating: 4 out of 5

"Time travel has not yet been invented. But thirty years from now, it will have been." And thus begins Looper, a rare sci-fi gem that offers a fresh look at the time travel genre which has been done so many times before it. While it stars Willis, Gordon-Levitt who plays Willis in the past is the real star. I actually didn't recognize him at first and it was bugging me trying to figure out who he was. He gets Bruce's mannerisms and icy stare down pat. The story is a bit confusing at first but by the time you get a handle on it you're sucked into the movie. There are so many small details in this that show how much thought went into the script and story. And while the film takes place in the future it's a gritty near-future - no spaceships or laser guns to be found here. Without giving anything away, there's also a supernatural element which adds an interesting dimension to things. Think Inception meets Carrie. This is easily Willis' best role since 12 Monkeys which is ironic as that was another excellent time travel movie. I went into this not knowing much about it other than hearing good buzz when it was screened at the Toronto Film Festival. It was a pleasant surprise and I would rank it up there with my favourite sci-fi films. Highly recommended.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Theatre) - Jan 13, 2013
Director: Peter Jackson

Main Stars: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett

Rating: 2 out of 5

When I first heard they were going to turn The Lord Of The Rings into a set of movies I rolled my eyes. These books along with The Hobbit were highly cherished by me growing up. There was no way a movie would even compare. But when they came out Jackson won me over and I loved them. So when I heard he was doing the same to The Hobbit I had a similar reaction. This time unfortunately, he lost his way. I saw the film in regular 2D as I didn't want the raging debate over the technology used in the 3D version to be a distraction. I also went in not having watched any trailers, or read anything about it as I didn't want to be biased in any way. First the good - I thought Martin Freeman was excellent as Bilbo. I also found the 'Riddle In the Dark' scene where Bilbo first meets Gollum and discovers the ring to be top notch. Easily the best part of the movie. Now the bad - I knew going in that this was going to be the first part of a trilogy. With the other two movies essentially being 'made up' by Jackson based on literally a few appendix notes Tolkien had made. So there were obvious parts that weren't in the book but thrown in to tie into the upcoming films. While I get it, I found it to be annoying. I was also worried about the tone of the movie. The Hobbit is after all a children's book. While there was some attempt to lighten the mood which succeeded in parts it also resulted in things constantly flipping back and forth from comedic to serious. It didn't work for me. Worse, the special effects reflected that disparity. In one scene we have the one Goblin bad guy looking all evil and menacing, and then in the next scene we have the other Goblin bad guy looking like something out of Labyrinth being puppeted by Jim Henson. It was a bizarre clash of styles. Then when the credits rolled I was extremely pissed off I just spent three hours watching only to get part way through what in reality is a short novel. They easily could have started things where it ended and covered everything else in a short pre-amble. Highly disappointing.