Last of the Netflix Streaming Releases for June

Before I cover the huge influx of catalog titles for July, here are the remains of June.

Action: XXX: State of the Union, Prisoners of the Sun

Comedy: Gambit (2011), Bad Grandpa 0.5 (NOT Bad Grandpa)

Hey Bartender

Documentary: Hey Bartender, Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq, Ayahuasca: Vine of the Soul, Breath of the Gods, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, Hava Nagila: The Movie

Drama: My Girl, My Girl 2, On Golden Pond, Sophie’s Choice, Lawless

Tarzan

Family: Tarzan, Tarzan 2, Agent F.O.X., Dragon Guardians, Lucky Dog

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Asteroid vs. Earth

Foreign: Faust, Mauvais Sang, Total Siyappa, Two Lives, Gunday, Journey to the West

Horror: Wolf Creek 2

Television: Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, Red vs. Blue, Witches of East End, and new episodes of Transformers Rescue Bots, Life with Boys, and assorted WWE videos

Thriller: The Unlikely Girl

Disney’s Bears Build Brick Mansions

We splurged this weekend and took the kids to Disney’s Bears. Later I snuck off to Brick Mansions.

Disney's Bears

 

Disney’s Bears (2014) – Rated G

A documentary that follows an Alaskan bear family as its young cubs are taught life’s most important lessons.”

Obviously this documentary is a bit whitewashed, being from Disney and rated G. The cinematography is wonderful and I can imagine this being a good film to run in the background on your high-definition television. There are fabulous timelapse shots of avalanches and the tide coming in and covering mud flats. There are incredible mountain vistas and wonderful wildlife shots. This is not limited to the titular Bears as a wolf, raven, gulls, deer, and many unfortunate salmon are also part of the picture.

Unfortunately, as is often the case with Disney Nature films, the movie is haphazardly narrated. The script varies wildly from adult perspective to teen approach to young child enticement. Bears attempts to be all things to all people and succeeds at none of them. This is not narrator John C. Reilly’s fault but rather the script which even tells us when to laugh at the bears’ antics.

Still it is very pretty, will entertain small children, and runs a very brief 77 minutes.

Brick Mansions

 

Brick Mansions (2014) – Rated PG-13

An undercover Detroit cop navigates a dangerous neighborhood that’s surrounded by a containment wall with the help of an ex-con in order to bring down a crime lord and his plot to devastate the entire city.

It’s not a surprise that this movie was dumped right before summer. Brick Mansions is just awful. It shouldn’t be but it is.

Brick Mansions is the American version of the futuristic thriller District B13. District B13 was a high energy action film that first brought parkour to film audiences back in 2004. Two years later, it would be popularized in Casino Royale. Now, ten years later, the American version comes out. Unfortunately for Brick Mansions, that ensuing decade has been filled with action movies that have used this martial art, including District 13: Ultimatum (2009).

David Belle, co-founder of parkour and star of District B13, repeats his role here as Lino (Leito in B13). Changing the setting of the script to Detroit seemed a no-brainer. David Belle is not a particularly good actor but his parkour skills are still amazing. His co-lead here is the late Paul Walker, who is engaging and has the physicality for his role.

What went wrong? I have to lay all blame at director Camille Delamarre’s feet. There are some amazing stunts here, particularly the parkour but Delamarre doesn’t capture any of their power. He jump cuts and slices his way through to make all the action incoherent. This is Delamarre’s first feature as a director but he was the editor on Transporter 3 (the bad one), Taken 2 (the bad one), Lockout (how do you make a prison in space movie boring?), and the equally awful Columbiana. Delamarre is set to direct Transporter 4 next. Ugh.

Also ruining Brick Mansions are a weak script (the original script is over a decade old and District B13 was not a strong script to begin with) and RZA. RZA plays our lead villain Tremaine and it feels like nails on a chalkboard every time he is onscreen.

Just avoid this. If you want a parkour fix, re-watch Casino Royale or check out District B13.

Muppets Most Wanted

Yay! After some rather dismal movie trips (“a bad day at the movies is still better than a good day at work” – K.S.), I got to take my wife and granddaughter to Muppets Most Wanted.

Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted (2014) – Rated PG

Flush with their revival’s success, Kermit the Frog and his friends are approached by Dominic Badguy to go on a world tour. Unknown to them, this is all part of the sinister plan of Constantine, the world’s most evil frog, to become the greatest thief of all time. After making sure that Kermit is jailed as himself, Constantine impersonates him to use the Muppets’ tour as cover for his scheme. While Sam the Eagle and Inspector Jean Pierre Napoleon investigate, the Muppets find their boss seems strangely changed even as Kermit desperately attempts to escape to stop the impostor.

One Line Review: More fun than good but isn’t fun what you are looking for?

Huge credit needs to be given to Jason Segel for reviving this franchise. The Muppets was not perfect but was highly humorous, full of heart, and was the first to feature a human character that mattered. It was the best Muppet movie since the original, The Muppet Movie. After The Muppet Movie, subsequent Muppet outings were increasingly dependent on gimmickry and had less heart.

Obviously a successful relaunch begets a sequel and thus Muppets Most Wanted was born. I hesitate to call Muppets Most Wanted a good movie but it is certainly an enjoyable one, particularly if you have a little one with you.

James Bobin, who directed The Muppets, returns as director as well as co-writing Muppets Most Wanted with Nicholas Stoller (who was also a writer on The Muppets). They clearly have a love for The Muppets. There are nods to earlier Muppet films and several nods to the original television series.

Comedians Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, and Tina Fey are the main non-Muppet actors and they handle the comedy well, delivering good lines and pratfalls without taking too much from the Muppets themselves. There are a slew of hilarious cameos with my favorite being Danny Trejo. Look for Tony Bennett, Sean Combs, Ray Liotta, Salma Hayek, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, and a host of others.

Besides focusing on Kermit and Miss Piggy, the script finds ample time to highlight Sam the Eagle, Animal, The Great Gonzo and Walter. Fozzie seemed a little shortchanged.

Muppets Most Wanted is not as good as The Lego Movie but it is a lot of fun. If you go, don’t forget to submit your ticket stubs for Disney Movie Rewards points.

Best part: The Seventh Seal joke

Worst part: The preview scene where Danny Trejo says “wokka-wokka” wasn’t in the movie (unless I missed it when I took the four-year-old to the bathroom).

 

FREE Movies Everywhere – Disney, Divergent, 300

Disney

 

* Disney has launched Disney Movies Anywhere. It is not only a platform to sell their digital movies but you can connect it with your iTunes account to have all of your iTunes Disney movies available. If you do so, Disney will give you The Incredibles for FREE.

* Disney Movie Rewards will give you a FREE Blu-ray ($3 S&H) if you enter three movie codes (from DVDs or Blu-Rays) by the end of March. Titles to choose from include Cars, Dumbo, Secretariat, and Tron Legacy.

* NOT YET so don’t enter them until it goes live but Disney will have a promotion for the upcoming Muppet movie. Once it goes live, entering a Disney Movie Rewards number from a Muppet DVD or Blu-Ray will net you a ticket to Muppets Most Wanted.

Divergent

* On Friday, Best Buy will have movie money to see Divergent on The Hunger Games and Catching Fire steelbooks. Target also has this deal on some of their Twilight titles.

300 Rise of an Empire

* Best Buy also has movie money to see 300 Rise of an Empire on select blu-rays like 300, Clash of the Titans, Braveheart, Gladiator, Troy, Alexander, 10,000 B.C., and Wrath of the Titans. Amazon and Target also have this deal.

Just When I Thought I Was Out, FREE Movie Tickets

I have been making a conscious effort to attend fewer movies to save money. While nowhere near as large as a movie screen, I have a very nice television. I can drink my own brewed tea at home instead of a coke at the cinema. My snacks and homemade baked goods are certainly better than anything I can get at the theater. Top all of that off with home release windows narrowing to three months and you really don’t have to wait long to watch something at home.

Jack Ryan

Then a certain retailer (Curse you, Best Buy!) had The Hunt for Red October blu-ray (and others) on an endcap for $9.99 with a FREE movie ticket to Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Other titles included Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, The Sum of All fears, Top Gun, Minority Report, and the Mission Impossible movies.

Robocop

Best Buy also had an endcap of $7.99 blu-rays with FREE tickets to the new Robocop movie. Titles included the remastered edition of Robocop, Ronin, A-Team, Red Dawn, Die Hard, The Terminator, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Walking Tall, Roadhouse, Predator 2, Escape from New York, Navy Seals, Commando, and Immortals.

Sadly I am a sucker for FREE movie tickets. I finesse them with the theater’s rewards program to earn more new items (popcorn, soda, tickets). Never forget to use your theater’s reward card with these. Also if it is a Sony or Disney release, save the ticket stubs to submit for their rewards points.

Disney offer

Speaking of Disney Movie Rewards, they are currently offering a FREE movie if you enter three DVD/Blu-ray codes. Choices include Cars, Secretariat, Dumbo, and Tron Legacy. You will have to pay shipping and handling but that’s a small price to pay.

300: Rise of an Empire has an upcoming FREE ticket promo on select copies of 300, Braveheart, Gladiator, Alexander, Troy, and either Clash of the Titans.

Frozen and Catching Fire

Being at opposite ends of the temperature scale, one might expect these two movies to be vastly different and they are.

Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – Rated PG-13

Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem.”

I really enjoyed The Hunger Games. I have not read any of the books but Jennifer Lawrence is hugely likable and Katniss is a real heroine. She does her best in the face of adversity while staying true to her ideals. She is neither a wilting flower constantly in need of rescue nor is she a parody of a female buttkicker.

The world was well-realized and the supporting players quite good. The only problem was that the direction was just awful. Supporting characters weren’t fleshed out properly. The action was absurd with shaky cam all over the place to hide the seams in the budget.

Catching Fire has a much bigger budget and a better director. The action is clear and concise (there was only a moment or two where I couldn’t tell what was going on). The acting is much better and the characters are fleshed out quite a bit. Effie, while quite bizarre, no longer seems the caricature she was in The Hunger Games. Costuming and set design are wonderful.

Catching Fire is an enjoyable romp through a dystopian landscape. I am very much looking forward to the two MockingJay movies.

Frozen

Frozen (2013) – Rated PG

Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna’s sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter.”

Disney boardroom:

Exec #1: Sales in our princess line are sagging. Toy sales are flat and revenues in our music division are falling.

Exec #2: I’ve got it. How about we throw together a movie with a princess, a cute sidekick character to turn into a toy, and have lots of songs so we can sell the soundtrack. We can even get a big singer to sing the credits song so we can qualify for an Oscar.

Exec #1: No, no. That’s why you’ll always be Exec #2, you’re thinking too small. Take your idea but let’s have TWO princesses and TWO cute sidekicks. We can sell twice the toys. Also let’s make them sing all of their dialogue so we can sell a double soundtrack.

Yes, this appears to be what happened. Sven the reindeer is cute. Olaf the snowman is even cuter. Sadly the movie is not about them. Even the scene in the teaser where Olaf and Sven fight in a lake over a carrot is NOT IN THE MOVIE! Maybe it would have been too cutesy to make the movie about them. I feel certain they will return in direct-to-video sequels.

Instead the movie is about Anna and Elsa. Their parents are dispatched surreptitiously – blink and you’ll miss it. Everything is strictly by the numbers. Disney really appears to have skimped on the voice-casting. Wreck-It Ralph was filled with recognizable names and voices as are most Disney animated movies. The songs are banal, so much so that my daughter and I were singing our dialogue for the next hour or so after we left the theater. It was more interesting.

All of this is not to say that Frozen is bad but more that it smacks of assembly by committee. The only thing memorable was the adorable Mickey Mouse short in front of Frozen, which will no doubt be nominated for an Oscar.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Turkey Day, Y’All!

Okay you’ve eaten that massive sleep-inducing meal but it’s way too early to go to bed and you have no interest in the football games. What to do…what to do.

Sharknado

You can watch some truly awful turkey movies – anything by Asylum should suffice, say Sharknado?

Pocahontas

Optionally you can watch a Disney double feature of revisionist history, Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World though if you are a history buff then it might upset that nice meal in your tummy.

3 Musketeers, The Three Musketeers, Musketeers Forever – Alexandre Dumas week

3 Musketeers, The Three Musketeers (2004), and Musketeers Forever (1998) are currently available on instant Netflix.

3 Musketeers

3 Musketeers (2011) – Not rated

Unlike the big-screen swashbuckler of the same name, this B-movie takes a modern twist as NSA agent Alexandra D’Artagnan rounds up three famous spies to foil an assassination plot on the president of the United States.”

Tagline – “All for one. Guns for all.”

This starts with “The Asylum Presents”. Nothing more need be said. There was a credit for Line Producer. I think that is what Asylum calls a director as their movies are simply assembly line productions.

I could take an entire review detailing what is wrong with the first fifteen minutes of this movie. For example Aramis has a gun trained on a character. She then high kicks the character before shooting them twice. Just avoid this typical piece of Asylum garbage.

Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers (2004) – Rated G

In Disney’s take on the Alexander Dumas tale, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy want nothing more than to perform brave deeds on behalf of Queen Minnie, but they’re stymied by the head Musketeer, Pete, who secretly wants to get rid of the queen.”

Okay look at the photo – that tells you all you need to know. My granddaughter Dorothy enjoyed it. This is not really much of a Three Musketeers adaptation but better than the one from Asylum certainly.

Musketeers Forever (1998) – Not rated

A group of ex-secret agents open a jazz club in Las Vegas. One of them falls in love with a Native American and finds out that the local Reserve is threatened by the greed of a powerful gangster. So, like three modern musketeers, they start to act.”

Ouch! The film opens with a poker scene done in close-ups with an ear-splitting, nails on chalkboard score. When Ben O’Connor (Lee Majors!) wins a bunch of money, he throws all the chips in the air with the camera focusing tightly on that shot.

We then cut to a scene with Irina (Sylvie Varakine) and her companion, involved in a shady deal with two other characters. Irina places herself between the two characters (something no one would ever do). She hits the one in front of her and the one behind pulls a gun. She turns around, pulls a gun, grabs his gun with other hand, and after pausing, kills him. Please note this is not done with any particular artistry or skill.

We have a very brief obligatory nude scene and then there’s the fixing up the club we just bought montage. Every one of the first few scenes screams low-budget, direct-to-video and that’s all before we are even introduced to D’Artagnon (Michael Dudikoff).

This is just really bad. They try to shoehorn various Musketeer references in even though only D’Artagnon is named after the Dumas classic.

Who Framed Roger, the Adventure Time Rabbit?

Sometimes I have my granddaughter with me and that puts things like Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan and The Bay on hold. What have I watched with her recently on Netflix?

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?tWho Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) – Rated PG

Director Robert Zemeckis seamlessly mixes live action with animation wizardry in this cinematic groundbreaker featuring Bob Hoskins as gruff gumshoe Eddie Valiant, who agrees to take the case of Roger Rabbit, a zany cartoon star framed for murder.

I love Netflix’ deal with Disney. It was not that long ago where the only thing Miss D wanted to watch with me on Netflix was Rango. It was quite cute and filled with the usual Depp quirkiness but I watched it too many times. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? shows a little wear at the seems (the groundbreaking effects look quaint and clunky now) but still holds up quite well.

Bob Hoskins gives an excellent performance and the film would not have worked without him. Christopher Lloyd is suitably manic here. He gradually pushes the dial to 11 but it works.

The real stars are of course the toons. Not only do we get original toons such as Jessica and Roger Rabbit but classic Disney characters (Mickey Mouse, Goofy) AND classic Looney Tunes characters (Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam) AND Betty Boop. Where else are you going to see Daffy and Donald Duck perform a combative duet?

Adventure TimeAdventure Time (2010) – TV-PG

Young Finn and his shape-shifting dog buddy, Jake, have a series of surreal adventures as they journey through the postapocalyptic Land of Ooo, encountering odd situations that involve even odder characters in this quirky animated series.”

Look at the above description: surreal, odd, odder, quirky. That certainly sums up Adventure Time. From the very first episode, where an experiment gone wrong causes zombies to crawl from the grave in search of sugar in the Candy Kingdom, the surrealism is delightful. I have watched this series from beginning to end twice with Miss D and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Listen for George Takei in a cool cameo as Ricardio! Other guest voices include Neil Patrick Harris, Miguel Ferrer, Erik Estrada, Henry Rollins, Ming Na-Wen, Cloris Leachman, Mark Hamill, and so on. I am very much looking forward to future seasons when Netflix gets the rights.

The Long Ranger – Oh, the Humanity!

Thanks to purchasing Oz the Great and Powerful (Blu-Ray combo pack) for my daughter and granddaughter, I had a FREE ticket for The Lone Ranger.

One-line Review: Depp has lots of fun in The Tonto Show, movie just meh.

The Lone RangerThe Lone Ranger (2013) – Rated PG-13

Native American warrior Tonto recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid, a man of the law, into a legend of justice.”

The Lone Ranger is such a shame.

My wife’s major complaint with the film is that Johnny Depp essentially plays the entire film in ‘redface’. There would certainly have been outrage if Johnny Depp had played a quirky African-American in blackface but apparently it is still okay for Caucasians to take leading roles as Native Americans away from actual Native Americans. My wife chose not to attend.

Admittedly this is a century old problem for Hollywood. Jeff Chandler (born Ira Gossell) practically made a career out of playing Cochise, assaying the role three times in four years (1950-4). 1962’s Geronimo cast Chuck Connors (aka The Rifleman) in the titular role. A decade later, Charles Bronson went native in Chato’s Land. Sitting Bull has been portrayed by actors as varied as African-American Noble Johnson (1926), J. Carrol Naish (1950, 1954), and Michael Pate (1965). Later films ‘solved’ the racism issue by casting a leading Caucasian as a white man among the Indians (“Little Big Man”, “Dances with Wolves”).

Leaving that aside, there are still more opportunities for outrage. The new movie is clearly an affront to anyone who values the old Clayton Moore series (1949-1957). I doubt anyone even remembers the Klinton Spilsbury outing (1981). In our latest outing, Armie Hammer plays John Reid aka The Lone Ranger as a cross between a gibbering idiot and a total git. Honestly, the film would only have been a half hour long except that every time someone else was going to be a hero, Reid stepped in and bungled everything. This skewering of a pop culture hero can be done as farce (a la The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu) but here it is just a given that Reid is absolutely hopeless (albeit with phenomenal luck).

If you aren’t outraged yet, how about releasing a big budget Disney film during the summer (with all the cachet and family members that brings) and finding out that the villain is not only sadistic but a cannibal as well. Butch Cavendish pulls out and eats the heart of a still living (okay, not for long) heroic sheriff. Some of this is offscreen to preserve the PG-13 rating but they show as much as they can and then you can hear more. If you still missed it, don’t worry they will explain it in detail later.

Still not outraged? The wholesale slaughter of Comanches is perpetrated but it is so insignificant as to be relegated to an almost missed sideplot save for a key dialogue exchange during a standoff. Not being a subtle movie, our dashing cavalryman Fuller is made up to look like George Armstrong Custer. Christianity takes a beating throughout the movie as well.

Okay, I give up. If I can’t outrage you, let me tell you that The Lone Ranger clocks in at an excruciating two hours and twenty-nine minutes. I love epics and some movies need over two hours to develop their plot and/or characters. The Lone Ranger could easily have chopped half an hour, probably an hour without losing much.

Having typed all of that, there is much to like about The Lone Ranger. Johnny Depp’s performance is as wonderfully quirky as ever, though it will remind you of Jack Sparrow from time to time. It is to the film’s credit that it realizes that Depp is the star and the film should be titled Tonto. Helena Bonham Carter is her usual eccentric self but the role is rather a one-trick pony.

Sadly none of the other actors are given much to do. Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, and Barry Pepper are all very capable character actors but strangely don’t make much of an impression here. James Badge Dale is suitably scruffy and heroic but isn’t in much of the movie. Armie Hammer comes across as rather bland, when he isn’t being a prig.

There are elements of the unreliable narrator here that are very amusing. The outrageous stunts and setpieces are entertaining. The Lone Ranger borrows a lot from other better films, particularly Little Big Man, so if you haven’t seen the films Lone Ranger references, then you might think it quite imaginative. There is a particularly wonderful dialogue exchange during a standoff.

Mild spoiler ahead:

The climactic setpiece is cleverly set to the tune of the William Tell overture. Of course, because this is an overblown blockbuster, director Verbinski has to have Hans Zimmer add to the classic tune as well as recycle it. The climax just goes on forever.

Oh, and Verbinski, we get it – Indians trade.