DVD Court: The Master, Chasing Mavericks, Twilight

See which films being released this week are worth the watch!

Committed to Celluloid

Hello, dear followers! It’s Tuesday and that means it’s time for DVD Court!

dvd court

DVD Court takes place over at The Cinematic Katzenjammer and this is what we do on a weekly basis:

As The Jury, we recommend what should happen to a particular DVD released today. Voting Burn It, Skip It, Rent It, or Buy It, we come together to deliver a verdict and hope to help you decide what to watch or avoid.

So, if you’d like to see us deliberate on The Master, Chasing Mavericks and Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 2, go here.

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The Vow (2012)

The VowThe Vow

Release Date: February 10, 2012

Director: Michael Sucsy

Stars: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neill

Runtime: 104 min

I wrote the original review of this back in late August, and I just tweaked it a little.

The true story of it all seems like it’s a sad one, but the Hollywood version turns it into a complete and total schmaltz-fest. It’s apparent that we’re supposed to relate or feel pity for the characters, but it proves difficult sometimes.

The first half starts off on a fairly strong point with a nice little original wedding, the injury on account of lack of seatbelt, the amnesia bit. Then, the parents come in (Jessica Lange and Jurassic Park’s Sam Neill), wanting their baby girl home because she ran away a while ago.

It soon turns into a total schmaltz fest, that, if you are unaware that it’s a true story, you might think it comes right out of the mind of Nicholas Sparks. At the half-way mark, it’s hard not to lose interest in the characters and the story itself and the hardest task is not to mimic the people in the film, much like I did with The Lucky One. The film just doesn’t get any better.

The film isn’t entirely unendurable, but it’s a sub-par effort with lazy and predictable writing, that had the tendency to be too cute. The filmmakers probably feel having Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams on board, their appeal would satisfy audiences, and there wouldn’t be a need for good writers. News flash: That doesn’t work, guys. The chemistry between McAdams and Tatum was likeable enough, even though there was a lot of very irritating fights.

The film is part sad, part feel-good, but very average, with the best part being McAdams and Tatum.

55/100

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

Don't Be Afraid of the DarkDon’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Release Date: August 26, 2011

Director: Troy Nixey

Stars: Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison, Guy Pearce

Runtime: 99 min

Tagline: Fear is never just make believe

This is a lesser effort from co-screenwriter Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth), but hell – geniuses are allowed to mess up every now and then.

A young girl sent to live with her father and his new girlfriend discovers creatures in her new home who want to claim her as one of their own.

The daughter, played well by up-and-comer Bailee Madison, has layers because she’s all hyped up on medications and she feels abandoned by her mother. Her father (Guy Pearce) thinks that she’s just the little girl that cried wolf when she says little things are after her. Katie Holmes plays the girlfriend who is trying to make a good impression, and tries her very hardest to communicate with her.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark tries, it really does. The horror just isn’t good because there’s nasty teeth at times and there’s really only a few jump-scares. Sure, it can be creepy, but when the tiny villains are actually revealed – it becomes seriously laughable. I had a laughing fit at one point, it’s just so darn silly. The little things aren’t that threatening, probably because they’re just too CGI-animated and they come off as foolish. The characters really should just turn on a freaking light. Hint: when voices are calling to you from a vent, don’t answer. Idiots. The unrewarding film leads up to a questionable ending, that hardly makes sense.

The only points this will get from me is for: 1) the fact that it tried to be a little good, it just comes off as vastly below-average, 2) it tries to bring in real human emotions of abandonment and anxiety to some characters, even though the little girl is stupid as hell, and 3) if you are afraid of the dark, it might actually cure your fear, because you’ll think: “Hey… The dark isn’t so bad, all there is are those little idiots lurking around. I’ll just turn on my lamp on my bedside table. What a perfect kryptonite.”

52/100

Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995) & Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Die hard with a vengeanceDie Hard with a Vengeance

Release Date: May 19, 1995

Director: John McTiernan

Stars: Bruce Willis, Jeremy Irons, Samuel L. Jackson

Runtime: 131 min

Tagline: Think fast. Look alive. Die hard.

The plot: John McClane and a store owner must play a bomber’s deadly game as they race around New York while trying to stop him.

This is actually a better sequel than the first, but not by that much. This has the ability to be equally intense and still quite funny. McLane has a new sidekick, Samuel L. Jackson who plays a racist shop owner. They make a really good team. I also appreciate the film going back to its “original” roots by bringing in a mastermind like Hans Gruber, his brother Simon (portrayed by Jeremy Irons). I enjoyed all the surprises that were thrown out there, and the one-liners are still stellar.

93/100

Live Free or Die HardLive Free or Die Hard

Release Date: June 27, 2007

Director: Len Wiseman

Stars: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant

Runtime: 128 min

The plot: John McClane takes on an Internet-based terrorist organization who is systematically shutting down the United States.

Currently, this is the weakest of the series (I haven’t seen the fifth), but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. At all. It’s really good and the idea of shutting down the United States is cool.

There’s fun oozing out of this, and there are epic action scenes, even though one might have to accept a lack of realism at times.

Strangely, Justin Long’s character can be a serious and extremely anxious, but you’d expect a comedian to be a bit more hilarious. Not a lot stands out about him in this. I have nothing but love for the guy in most his roles, but this one… It isn’t special. It isn’t the greatest idea on the studio’s behalf to cast a comedian as a character who’s hardly that funny or memorable. In fact, to date, he’s the most forgettable of the sidekicks that McLane has had. Though, Olyphant plays a solid villain.

It’s a pretty stellar movie that’s really fun and flows well, but an R-rating may have made this a little better.

84/100

February 22-24 Box Office Predictions: Dark Skies, Snitch

The new releases

Dark Skies
Dark Skies
Snitch
Snitch

Snitch doesn’t seem like Dwayne Johnson’s usual action vehicle, because this one seems to have a moralistic edge with concepts of loyalty. It also seems like it has a good story, unlike 2010’s Faster. The story follows John Matthews, a father who goes undercover for the DEA in order to free his son who was imprisoned after being set up in a drug deal. It also has a true story appeal, however, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s popularity isn’t huge. Hopefully having Barry Pepper, Susan Sarandon and Jon Bernthal (Shane on TV’s The Walking Dead) will attract audiences alike, even though there won’t be any zombies in this. Films similar to this usually open at $14.9 million, but this won’t open at that much since this is an action drama. His last main action vehicle, Faster, opened to $8.52 million, and for the opening weekend, he averages out at $27 million for fourteen films. Snitch should gross over Faster’s opening, but only by a few million.

Dark Skies is the other big release opening this weekend at 2400 theaters. It is being marketed as being from the producers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious, two fairly well-liked films. It’s a haunting film, but with mythology and aliens instead… It could turn out to be a really cool flick, but it could also turn out to be just awful. The trailer seems promising, but it starts to get laughable, so it could just be unintentionally hilarious. I want to see it, it might be a good time. Might. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of star appeal, because the only person I know is in it is J.K. Simmons. This would be in good shape if it opened between The Covenant’s $8.6 million and The Reaping’s $10 million, but I’m not sure if it will.

Here’s how I see the top 10
1. Identity Thief: $14, 250, 000
2. A Good Day to Die Hard: $12, 100, 000
3. Safe Haven: $12, 000, 000
4. Escape from Planet Earth: $11, 200, 000
5. Snitch: $10, 500, 000
6. Dark Skies: $8, 500, 000
7. Warm Bodies: $6, 000, 000
8. Silver Linings Playbook: $5, 250, 000
9. Beautiful Creatures: $4, 300, 000
10. Side Effects: $3, 800, 000

 

Identity Thief (2013)

Identity ThiefIdentity Thief

Release Date: February 8, 2013

Director: Seth Gordon

Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Bateman, John Cho

Runtime: 111 min

Tagline: She’s having the time of his life

As a follow-up to the hilarious Horrible Bosses, Seth Gordon brings us Identity Thief, a film that isn’t the gut-buster everyone was expecting, but it is quite funny.

Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) has a good life: a beautiful family, a decent job, and a silly name he swears to be unisex. He’s almost living the American dream. He is able to land a Vice President job at a new firm when he and a good majority of employees at his old one start a new company. Everything’s going well, until he finds out that he is the next victim of identity theft, Diana (the hilarious and charismatic Melissa McCarthy), who is living it up with his credit cards down in Winter Park, Florida. Since the cops can’t do it, he must travel from Colorado to Florida to retrieve her so he can get his life back, and all will be hunky-dory. Unexpected threats arise, and comedy and action ensue.

This film follows a pretty traditional road trip formula that is structured to get asses in seats, eyes on the screen, and money in the studio’s pocket. Thankfully, it’s fairly deserving of many people’s money. It’s mostly entertaining, but sometimes predictable. It suffers many flaws on the way to the end, but it finds its way, thanks to the great comedy team that is Bateman and McCarthy.

Jason Bateman plays the straight man here, lobbing up lines so the hysterical McCarthy can smash down some hysterical comebacks. A lot are aces, but some are just a little too out there, and even for a crude comedy, some of it’s a little too raunchy. The scene with her and Big Chuck is only funny because of poor Bateman hiding away in the bathroom. It’s nice that he is able to make the audience laugh a few times. The extreme crudeness is the case only on one to three occasions, but this suffers greatly from poor comedic momentum. It’s funny in the beginning, it begins to be hilarious when Bateman and McCarthy are united for the first time, and at times, five minutes go by without a joke. It forgets to make its audience to laugh, and that’s something that a comedy should promise. However, part of this is to blame on the excessive marketing campaign. If you haven’t been living under a rock since December, you would know that a good 60% of the film’s best jokes are revealed in the trailers.

Thankfully, they’re still a little funny when they come around (but I go to the movies so much that I probably saw the trailer six times beforehand), and there are points in the film where some jokes are really, really funny. The big laughs are separated by some good chuckles, so that’s decent. There are also some nice surprises in this film as a whole. Diana receives a nice emotional layer added to her, as she seems to be stealing identities because she doesn’t know her own. Because of this, many might be able to relate to the material and find a solid emotional connectivity to her character. This adds a sweetness to her, and the film in general, when car chases aren’t going on. Or Diana isn’t punching 92% of the people she meets in the throat. It is also nice to see her character transformation go from antagonist to anti-hero and so forth.

Back to the flaws, since many road trip concepts have been walked on before, this isn’t very original. It’s good enough entertainment, though. This film is also very crowded. There are antagonists left and right, and to make the film longer and put in more laughs, another is added to the mix. At first, Sandy is chasing Diana. Then Diana finds herself in trouble with a drug lord to whom she sold bad credit cards, and his drug dealers (Genesis Rodriguez and T.I.) come after her. Then, as a pleasant surprise, Robert “T-1000” Patrick is back in his element: chasing people. He portrays a bounty hunter who is also after Diana. Then there are cops who are also chasing Diana, and at times, Sandy. It’s a real jumbled nightmare when they are all chasing each other and when some of their paths cross. The conflicts also get solved almost too conveniently and unrealistically, so for some of it you have to turn off the logical part of your brain. I guess it’s better than having no conflict at all, like last year’s The Guilt Trip, which is almost completely bereft of conflict.

Due to all the antagonists, the writing often comes off as lazy. Especially part of the haphazard ending, which makes the writer, Craig Mazin (who also wrote The Hangover Part II and Scary Movie 3), come off as completely disorganized and idiotic. He does not know whether to end it off as mean-spirited, dramatic, sweet, or hilarious, so he practically decides to do all four.

In a nutshell: Despite all Identity Thief‘s flaws, it’s a funny, often charming, and fun, yet sometimes unrealistic, ride and it flows to the end fairly well. It isn’t a gem and the writing stops it from being great, but it’s still a slightly above-average comedy. By the end of 2013, many might forget about this comedy; but it is inarguably the first big comedy hit of the year, thanks to a lack of competition and a great comedy duo.

72/100

Toy Story (1995) A quick review

toy storyToy Story

Release Date: November 22, 1995

Director: John Lasseter

Stars (voices): Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles

Runtime: 81 min

Tagline: Hang on for the comedy that goes to infinity and beyond!

A cowboy doll is profoundly threatened and jealous when a new spaceman figure supplants him as top toy in a boy’s room.

Toy Story introduced us to the magnificent world of Pixar, and its awesome CGI-animation. It’s a very cool concept that these toys come to life when Andy isn’t in the room. It raises that philosophy of: Do your toys really stay still when you’re out of the room, or do they mend relationships? It’s something awesome to believe in for the kids of the 1990s. Both the concept and premise are very fresh, and very entertaining. The toys are awesome and the voices of Woody and Buzz Lightyear have become iconic.

Woody’s jealousy of Buzz cues the start of a great adventure. It also begins a great Pixar trilogy, that is soon to become a saga.

100/100

Die Hard 2 (1990)

Die Hard 2Die Hard 2

Release Date: July 4, 1990

Director: Renny Harlin

Stars: Bruce Willis, William Atherton, Bonnie Bedelia

Runtime: 124 min

Bruce Willis is back in his iconic role of John McLane, and this time he’s up against a bigger threat with more lives in jeopardy.

After the terrifying events in LA, John McClane (Willis) is about to go through it all again. A team of terrorists, led by Col. Stuart (Sadler) is holding the entire airport hostage. The terrorists are planning to rescue a drug lord from justice. In order to do so, they have seized control of all electrical equipment affecting all planes. With no runway lights available, all aircraft have to remain in the air, with fuel running low, McClane will need to be fast.

Die Hard 2 is one of the finest sequels of the franchise, and a seriously awesome action sequel. The formula for sequel greatness is all there, and the way that McLane comments on how it is all happening again is quite refreshing. It’s a hilarious commentary and hardly a tedious one, unlike in other sequels like The Hangover Part II when the guys comment that it’s all happening again. I mean, we’d forgive that if that film would have turned out to be actually good.

John McLane partners up with, instead of Powell and Argyle in its predecessor, he teams up with a funny janitor, among others. The janitor doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but he nonetheless leaves an impression on us.

There’s a sort-of emotional layer of surprise at one point in the film, when a plane crashes. But it soon goes back to its fun and suspenseful ways. Out of all the Die Hard situations, I think I’d hate being in this situation the most… Think about it, how scary would it be being up in a plane for however long, running out of fuel. Especially one is afraid of flying, which I am. And they don’t they’re in danger, but when they approach the ground – they sure do. It’d just be terrifying to be up there, especially when the criminals are incognito.

In a nutshell: The first Die Hard sequel brings the laughs, fine one-liners a short battle between McLane and Robert “T-1000” Patrick. It also amps up the action and the explosions. And at least after this one, McLane will finally have a normal Christmas without having to crawl in any air vents.

92/100

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

harry potter and the deathly hallows part 2Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Release Date: July 15, 2011

Director: David Yates

Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint

Runtime: 130 min

Tagline: It all ends here

The final Harry Potter film is the best yet, and generally one of the best films of 2011.

The final chapter begins as Harry, Ron, and Hermione continue their quest of finding and destroying the Dark Lord’s three remaining Horcruxes, the magical items responsible for his immortality. But as the mystical Deathly Hallows are uncovered, and Voldemort finds out about their mission, the biggest battle begins and life as they know it will never be the same again.

This is truly a huge battle that will determine the future of the entire wizarding and muggle world. Will it fall into a deeper despair under the rule of Voldermort, or will all be well? It really depends on Harry, Hermione, Ron and all the other good guys to save the world.
If I were to tell you just to watch one of the films of the Harry Potter franchise, it would be this. There’s really a lot of appeal to this. There’s some comedy, mostly in the beginning when they go to Gringotts. There’s tons of action, so action lovers will actually be able to enjoy this thoroughly. Most of all, however and inevitably, this appeals mostly to fantasy lovers and fans of the series itself. This is for them.

This stays faithful to the book, and it’s amazing to see unfold on the screen. This is not only probably the best Potter, but it’s one of the best fantasy/action adventures in years. The action is maximized, the emotions run the highest they ever have, and there are new layers brought to characters, everything ends and gets revealed.
There’s one side brought to Voldermort that we haven’t seen for some time in the series: he’s scared shitless. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still freaking ruthless – he just knows in the back of his mind that Potter or he dies. Of course he’d prefer it’s Potter, but he knows they’re getting close to destroying all of the pieces of soul he has hid in those Horcruxes.

One amazing thing about this is that it really isn’t just Harry’s chance to shine. Neville gets a few spotlights shone on him, as well, after he being the character always to have crappy things happen throughout the entire series. The stakes and emotions haven’t really been this high yet; people will die, and Harry must use self-sacrifice and muster all the bravery and strength he possibly can. We’ve never been this afraid for Harry.

For those who follow the series might just be bawling at some characters’ deaths, because we’ve followed them on this journey all along. This is also the darkest of the series, but the atmosphere is awesome and there’s never a dull moment to be had. Fans may also cry at the fact that over the ten years of the franchise, it’s over. It really is. With that being said, I tip my metaphorical hat at everyone involved in this series over the years.

We’ve seen so many people grow. We’ve seen the stars of Radcliffe, Watson, Grint and everyone else be born into stars. We’ve seen yet another amazing character from Alan Rickman, as the usually despicable Severus Snape. That guy is just a troubled character. We have lost so many characters over the course of this franchise. This is obviously an imagined world, but we fans have gone on this journey all along. We might as well be a background character at Hogwarts. I wonder how many people were really disappointed they didn’t see that letter from Hogwarts on their eleventh birthday. I know I was. I just want to say thanks for this series being made, to all the directors, the amazing J.K. Rowling, the cast. Everyone who made this possible. I’m not thanking the Academy, though. This series mustered a seriously impressive twelve Oscar nominations over its eight-film run, but it didn’t manage to win one fucking award. I’m not holding any grudges, but this was some fantastic visual work. This was one of the greatest fantasy franchises of all time, and both a commercialistic and critical Young Adult adaptation success. Now, Hollywood, it’s time to bring on the inevitable young adult adaptations to make quick bucks.

94/100

 

Die Hard (1988)

die hardReleased: July 15, 1988Director: John McTiernanStars: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie BedeliaRuntime: 131 min.

This is what great action is all about: Bruce Willis as John McLane, terrorists, and Christmas time. It really brings the family together, doesn’t it?

John McClane, officer of the NYPD, tries to save wife Holly Gennaro and several others, taken hostage by German terrorist Hans Gruber during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.
This is seriously one of the greatest action films ever made, and generally a great experience. It has fantastic action sequences, hilarious and iconic one-liners, and some great characters.

John McLane is probably one of my favourite action heroes, and I only saw this for the first time a few weeks ago. He’s clever, macho, and he kicks some serious terrorist ass. Alan Rickman is in one of his best roles (Gruber and Severus Snape of Harry Potter go head to head for me), and his debut film role. It is one of the most impressive debut performances as one of the greatest terrorist masterminds; Gruber is cunning, often funny, and overall pretty intimidating. It is so well done when Gruber just comes on screen and doesn’t even say anything for ten minutes or so. It makes a great mystery out of his character. In this guy’s presence, I wouldn’t challenge him…
There are a few bad characters, though. They’re sort-of important to the film, but they’re just irritating. Paul Gleason’s Dwayne Robinson was absolutely stupid, but Gleason does play a good dumbass. And the FBI agents were just silly. They all do seem necessary for the plot development, though.

The thriller is taut and extremely fresh, and there’s never a dull moment. One really wants John McLane to come out of there alive, but we all want the bullets to fly and explosions to wreak havoc. It’s suspenseful and an eerie thought of being the only person who could save a building of people. Well, McLane does have Sergeant Allen Powell on the outside talking to him. However, it’s nowhere near the same as being in there with those crazy men. This is one of the attributes that makes McLane’s bravery and courage to never give up so damn admirable. This, folks, is what a practically perfect action film looks like.

Score98/100