Monday, February 28, 2011

DVD and Blu-ray Releases 3/1/11

127 Hours - #
Burlesque - #
Cannes Man - #
Cutting Edge: Fire & Ice
Faster - #
Genius Within - #
If Tomorrow Comes
Love & Other Drugs - #
A Marine Story - #
My Girlfriend's Boyfriend
Swat: Firefight - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

Bambi - *
The Cable Guy
Daughters of Darkness
Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia
Michael Jordan to the Max
Out of Sight - *
Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy
The Ultimate Wave: Tahiti
Waiting for Dublin

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar Winners

Best Picture: The King’s Speech
Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
Best Director: Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Best Original Screenplay: David Seidler, The King’s Speech
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Editing: Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter, The Social Network
Best Cinematography: Wally Pfister, Inception
Best Original Score: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, The Social Network
Best Art Direction: Alice in Wonderland
Best Costume Design: Alice in Wonderland
Best Visual Effects: Inception
Best Make-Up: The Wolfman
Best Sound Mixing: Inception
Best Sound Editing: Inception
Best Song: We Belong Together, Toy Story 3, Randy Newman
Best Documentary Short: Strangers No More
Best Live Action Short: God of Love
Best Animated Short: The Lost Thing
Best Foreign Language Film: In a Better World, Denmark
Best Documentary: Inside Job

4 for The King's Speech, 4 for Inception, 3 for The Social Network, 2 for The Fighter, 2 for Toy Story 3, 2 for Alice in Wonderland, 1 for Black Swan, and 1 for The Wolfman

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If I Had a Ballot

Will post the actual Oscar winners soon.

Best Picture - The Social Network
Best Director - David Fincher
Best Actor - Jesse Eisenberg
Best Actress - Natalie Portman
Best Supporting Actor - Christian Bale
Best Supporting Actress - Amy Adams
Adapted Screenplay - The Social Network
Original Screenplay - Inception
Cinematography - True Grit
Sound Editing - Inception
Documentary - Restrepo
Animated Feature - Toy Story 3
Art Direction - Inception
Editing - The Social Network
Visual Effects - Inception
Sound Mixing - The Social Network
Original Score - The Social Network

I don't have an opinion on the following categories:

Costume Design
Original Song
Animated Short
Live Action Short
Documentary Short
Foreign Language

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The King's Speech - B

Lawyer's original review is here.

Let me first point out that I called BS on Tom Hooper's directing "style" years ago with my John Adams review. He's still choosing pointless angles that draw attention to themselves. And characters are still distractingly placed in far ends of the frame demonstrating the relentless motif that characters are at odds with each other. (For a more subtle and challenging shot selection showing characters at odds, see The Social Network when Sean Parker calls Mark Zuckerberg to tell him about the cocaine bust). And when Lionel Logue and King George VI are finally on the same page in the last scene, Hooper botches it since their faces don't overlap exactly in the frame . . .

Let me also point out that The King's Speech is literally a filmed stage play which, like Driving Miss Daisy, makes in inherently un-cinematic. And some of the best scenes were filmed in the same place as a gay porno, which makes its Art Direction Oscar nomination laughable. And let's also say, that Timothy Spall (as Winston Churchill) gives one of the worst performances ever in a Best Picture nominee. He alternates his grimaces and squints between very constipated and acid reflux.

But the film succeeds despite its director and unfocused screenplay (the middle third meanders like crazy) because of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, who are terrific separately and together as the future king and his speech therapist. Rush's relaxed nature and Firth's elegance blend perfectly and their scenes are alive and well. So it's good they are the bulk of the movie. But other scenes including most with Helena Bonham Carter fall flat. And an opportune side plot with George's brother King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) and why he abdicated the throne are glossed over unsatisfactorily. B

PS: The music by Alexandre Desplat is instantly forgettable, blending in with dozens of scores released each and every year. There is excellent use of both Beethoven's Concerto No. 5 and Symphony No. 7 - II. If Beethoven were to win the Oscar over Trent Reznor, I couldn't argue. But not Desplat. Although Hans Zimmer is a perfectly acceptable choice this year.

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Weekend Box Office: 2/25/11-2/27/11


1. Gnomeo & Juliet: 14.2 mil / -26% / 75 mil
2. Hall Pass: 13.4 mil / NEW
3. Unknown: 12.4 mil / -43% / 43 mil
4. Just Go With It: 11.1 mil / -40% / 79 mil
5. I am Number Four: 11 mil / -43% / 38 mil
6. Justin Bieber: 9.2 mil / -31% / 63 mil
7. Big Mommas 2: 7.6 mil / -54% / 29 mil
8. King's Speech: 7.6 mil / +17% / 114.5 mil
9. Drive Angry: 5 mil / NEW
10. The Roommate: 2.1 mil / -48% / 36 mil
11. True Grit: 1.9 mil / -20% / 167 mil
12. The Fighter: 1.6 mil / +2% / 90 mil
13. Eagle: 1.5 mil / -59% / 18 mil
14. No Strings Attached: 1.45 mil / -53% / 69 mil
15. Black Swan: 1.35 mil / +2% / 104 mil

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Independent Spirit Awards

Best Picture: Black Swan
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Actor: James Franco, 127 Hours
Best Supporting Actress: Dale Dickey, Winters Bone
Best Supporting Male: John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Best Screenplay: The Kids Are All Right
Best Cinematography: Matthew Libatique, Black Swan
Best Documentary: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Best Foreign Film: The King’s Speech
Best First Feature: Get Low
Best First Screenplay: Lena Dunham, Tiny Furniture
Truer Than Fiction Award: Marwencol, Jeff Malmberg
Someone to Watch Award: Mike Ott, Littlerock
Producers Award: Anish Savjani, Meek’s Cutoff
Robert Altman Award (ensemble): Please Give
Cassavetes Award: Daddy Longlegs

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Piranha - C-

Rated R for gore and graphic nudity.

And the award for worst ending ever goes to - this. As Spring Break begins, a small Arizona town sheriff (Elisabeth Shue) has plenty to deal with as hundreds of kids descend on the local lake. And that's before her 17 year old son breaks his promise to watch his two smaller siblings. And just after prehistoric piranhas have been released by a seismic event. The film begins interestingly enough with Richard Dreyfuss essentially reprising his Jaws character - 35 years later (though their last names differ). But the way he's dispatched informs the gory, senseless, and occasionally tense film that follows.

Ving Rhames, Eli Roth, and Christopher Lloyd have fun in self-parody mode. Jerry O. Connell gives the film's "best" performance as a Girls Gone Wild type douchebag producer. His debauchery is disgusting, hilarious, and uncomfortable. As the sheriff's budding love interest, Adam Scott thinks he's actually in a good movie, which makes the abrupt ending all the more shocking. Too bad the ending is as tacked on as it gets, subverts everything that comes before it - including fossil records, and puts the lives of children in danger without resolution. C-

Note: For all you atheists out there, see Kelly Brook.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Odds and Ends

1) Amazon is now offering movie-streaming Netflix-style. All you need is to be a "Prime" member ($79/year), which has been for free 2-day shipping until today.

2) EW's list of best working directors is here. If I'm posting it, it ain't because Tom Hooper's #1. Full list after the jump.

1. David Fincher
2. Christopher Nolan
3, Steven Spielberg
4. Martin Scorsese
5. Darren Aronofsky
6. Joel and Ethan Coen
7. Quentin Tarantino
8. Terrence Malick
9. Clint Eastwood
10. Pedro Almodovar
11. Paul Thomas Anderson
12. Guillermo del Toro
13. Roman Polanski
14. Danny Boyle
15. Kathryn Bigelow
16. David O. Russell
17. David Lynch
18. James Cameron
19. Peter Jackson
20. Edgar Wright
21. Spike Lee
22. J.J. Abrams
23. Brad Bird
24. Mike Leigh
25. Wes Anderson

I would have dropped # 9, 10, 12, 14, 18, 19, 21, 22, 24, 25 for Michael Mann, Alfonso Cuaron, Ridley Scott, Sydney Lumet, David Cronenberg, Rian Johnson, Peter Weir, Fernando Meirelles, Sam Mendes, and Steven Soderbergh (no particular order).

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DVD and Blu-ray Releases 2/22/11

Alien vs Ninja - #
All-Star Superman - #
Due Date - #
Fish Tank - #
Get Low - #
The Killing Jar
Megamind - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

48 Hours - *
The Last Unicorn
Memento - *
Senso - Criterion
The Stieg Larsson Trilogy
Sweet Smell of Success - Criterion - *

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Machete - D+

Rated R for graphic violence and language.
On Blu-ray and DVD

In a Texas border town, native Texans (including Don Johnson and Robert De Niro) kill helpless pregnant illegal immigrants while conspiring with drug dealers to ruin the lives of Mexicans living in Texas. Enter Machete (Danny Trejo), a former Mexican cop done wrong by the biggest drug dealer in Mexico (Steven Seagal). He'll eventually take all the bad guys down and right all wrongs.

The film's politics are even simpler than Avatar, which I didn't think was possible. All Mexicans are good and all white people are bad. The bad aspects of illegal immigration aren't mentioned, of course. And white people are blamed for all the problems currently existing in Old Mexico. Writer-director Robert Rodriguez sets up the story pretty well (as usual), but he runs out of steam after the first act (as usual). Like Rose McGowan's machine-gun leg in Planet Terror, Rodriguez also has a knack for memorable imagery. In this case, Michelle Rodriguez's torso first and foremost, but also Trejo on a motorcycle mounted with a machine gun.

But it's all so stupid and unbelievable. The bad guys make howlingly asinine decisions and we're expected to believe the 65-year old Trejo gets to ride off into the sunset with Jessica Alba. The film is also depressing as hell, with De Niro continuing to debase his legacy and Johnson and Seagal sputtering in their comeback attempts. The Hispanic cast members fare much better, especially Cheech Marin as a gun-toting priest. But the whole thing feels like a bunch of individual scenes thought out way ahead of the script - and no idea how to connect them. D+

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekend Box Office: 2/18/11-2/20/11


1. Unknown: 21.8 mil / NEW
2. I am Number Four: 19.5 mil / NEW
3. Gnomeo & Juliet: 19.4 mil / -24% / 50 mil
4. Just Go With It: 18.2 mil / -40% / 61 mil
5. Big Mommas 2: 17 mil / NEW
6. Justin Bieber: 13.6 mil / -54% / 48.5 mil
7. King's Speech: 6.6 mil / -9% / 103 mil
8. The Roommate: 4.1 mil / -50% / 33 mil
9. Eagle: 3.6 mil / -59% / 15 mil
10. No Strings Attached: 3.1 mil / -46% / 66 mil
11. True Grit: 2.4 mil / -37% / 164 mil
12. Sanctum: 1.6 mil / -72% / 22 mil
13. The Fighter: 1.5 mil / -32% / 88 mil
14. Green Hornet: 1.5 mil / -61% / 95 mil
15. Black Swan: 1.3 mil / -38% / 102 mil
16. The Rite: 1.1 mil / -66% / 31 mil
17. The Mechanic: 1.0 mil / -67% / 28 mil

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Friday, February 18, 2011

New Radiohead Drops a Day Early

The new Radiohead album The King of Limbs, originally scheduled to drop tomorrow, has been made available a day early. Go here to download it and here to hear the first single. Sounds like a song that would be right at home of In Rainbows.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

DVD and Blu-ray Releases 2/15/11

Game of Death - #
Glorious 39 - #
Kites - #
Let's Eat
Stag Night - #
Summer Wars - #
Unstoppable - #
Waiting for "Superman" - #
White Lion - #
You Will Meet a Talk Dark Stranger

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

All the President's Men - *
Big Daddy
Kansas City Confidential
Last Tango in Paris
Mr. Deeds
Network - *
Moonstruck - *
Rain Man - *
The Stranger - *

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Song of the Day - Need You Now

by Lady Antebellum

Song of the Year last night at The Grammys.

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New Radiohead Album Out This Saturday.

Go here to find out downloading instructions and other details on the forthcoming "King of Limbs".

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weekend Box Office: 2/11/11-2/13/11


1. Just Go With It: 31 mil / NEW
2. Justin Bieber: 30 mil / NEW
3. Gnomeo and Juliet: 25.5 mil / NEW
4. Eagle: 8.6 mil / NEW
5. The Roommate: 8.4 mil / -44% / 26 mil
6. King's Speech: 7.4 mil / -4% / 94 mil
7. No Strings Attached: 5.6 mil / -30% / 60 mil
8. Sanctum: 5.1 mil / -46% / 17.5 mil
9. True Grit: 3.8 mil / -19% / 160 mil
10. Green Hornet: 3.6 mil / -40% / 92 mil
11. The Rite: 3.2 mil / -42% / 29 mil
12. The Mechanic: 3.1 mil / -41% / 25 mil
13. Black Swan: 2.2 mil / -36% / 99 mil
14. The Fighter: 2.2 mil / -24% / 85 mil

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Song of the Day - Born This Way

By Lady Gaga

First heard way back in 1989 in this video directed by David Fincher, this is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta's latest. Sadly, I can turn anything into a discussion about Fincher's overall awesomeness.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Takers - B

On DVD and Blu-ray
107 minutes, PG-13 (!)

A bank robbery crew (Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen, Paul Walker, Idris Elba, and Michael Ealy) reunite with a former member (T.I.) who's just been released from jail. He plans a huge score for the crew but things don't go accordingly. Meanwhile, two cops (Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez - both excellent) are trying to put the crew away . . .

It's clear early on that director John Luessenhop is shamelessly ripping off Heat, both with subject matter and with style (the cold blue and silver colors) and then he "borrows" this song from The Insider for a crucial scene. And this couldn't be more up my alley. But the film is woefully lacking in character development and some actors (like Zoe Saldana and Christensen) seem to have the bulk of their work left on the cutting room floor. The film just scratches the surface on some important characters - so the emotional impact is dampened.

But what's left is a tough, entertaining, and exciting modern crime drama. You really feel the punches and gunshots. There are 30-40 terrific minutes beginning with the armed truck heist, continuing with a foot chase, and ending with a True Romance-style hotel room shoot-out. It appears to be made for a generation who haven't seen any movies older than Wedding Crashers. The music is good, especially the opening track that sets the mood perfectly. Takers is Michael Mann-lite, but I happen to love Michael Mann, and these homagers don't embarrass themselves at all. This will get a ton of play on cable TV. B

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Multi-Culturalism = Fail

Sorry for the political post, but British Prime Minister David Cameron recently gave a spot-on speech about the failures of multi-culturalism and its contribution to terrorism. Its worth your time to read the full text here.

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DVD and Blu-ray Releases 2/8/11

Beauty & the Briefcase
For Colored Girls
I Spit On Your Grave
It's Kind of a Funny Story
The Last Play at Shea
Life as We Know It
Middle Men
My Soul to Take
Ong Bak 3
Paranormal Activity 2
The Romantics
Tamara Drewe
Wild Target
You Again

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

Amarcord - (Criterion)
Five Corners
Legends of the Fall
Meet the Robinsons
The River Wild
Still Walking - (Criterion)
Thelma and Louise
Uncle Buck

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Weekend Box Office: 2/4/11-2/6/11


1. The Roommate: 15.6 mil / NEW
2. Sanctum: 9.2 mil / NEW
3. No Strings Attached: 8.4 mil / -37% / 52 mil
4. King's Speech: 8.3 mil / -25% / 84 mil
5. Green Hornet: 6.1 mil / -46% / 87 mil
6. The Rite: 5.6 mil / -62% / 24 mil
7. The Mechanic: 5.4 mil / -53% / 20 mil
8. True Grit: 4.8 mil / -37% / 155 mil
9. The Dilemma: 3.4 mil / -39% / 46 mil
10. Black Swan: 3.4 mil / -34% / 96 mil
11. The Fighter: 2.9 mil / -27% / 82 mil
12. Yogi Bear: 2.3 mil / -26% / 95 mil

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Nowhere Boy - B+

Rated R for language

15 year old troublemaker John Lennon (a terrific Aaron Johnson) lives with his aunt and uncle when one of his friends finds out where John's estranged mother lives. Turns out it was just around the corner. They strike up a relationship that challenges the one with his aunt. Meanwhile, Lennon discovers Elvis Presley and starts a rock 'n' roll band. He meets someone named Paul McCartney and they bond over music and lost mothers . . .

The great thing about Nowhere Boy is that it focuses on the mother-son-aunt relationships and the music is just the backdrop. Suppressed emotion and secrets slowly bubble to the surface ultimately leading to deep bonding. Kristen Scott Thomas brilliantly plays the bitchy aunt, whose love for John is shown with her eyes and the occasional nice gesture. Her use of "tough love" is finally understood by John toward the end. Anne-Marie Duff plays Julia, John's free-spirited mother, whose flirtatious manner draws him in, but ultimately makes him uncomfortable.

The movie opens well with a smart homage to A Hard Day's Night and director Sam Taylor-Wood's engaging visual style shows plenty without getting too flashy. I particularly enjoyed the sun going behind a tree during a late scene. The costumes and sets transport the viewer back to the 1950s easily. And the music, while not everyone's cup-of-tea, is used exceptionally well. My favorite musical moment was the use of "Maggie Mae", which would later show up on the Let It Be album.

But, the movie isn't really about the music - it would have been just as riveting if the guy didn't become famous. The best scene in Ray didn't feature Jamie Foxx's mimicry - it was little Ray Charles at his childhood home discovering his sense of hearing. Likewise, by focusing on the family matters - a love triangle of sorts - Nowhere Boy works much better than your average biopic. B+

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The A-Team - C-

You're thrown into this horrible mess in the very first scene as Hannibal (Liam Neeson) is about to be executed in Mexico. Of course, he escapes and immediately meets BA (Rampage Jackson), who just retrieved his cherished van from a body shop. Hannibal is on his way to save Face (Bradley Cooper) from execution at the hands of a Mexican druglord. When they escape, they meet Murdoch (Sharlto Copley) at a safe local hospital. They have to escape one more time. And that's the first 20 minutes - absolutely void of subtlety and restraint - like the rest of the film.

A few years later, the team is in Iraq and recruited by a CIA agent to recover a plate that produces $100 bills. What follows is a ridiculous plot that is simultaneously obvious and too complex. Needless to say, the gang keeps escaping from prison, danger, airplanes, tanks, everything. Instead of focussing on character, the film strives to keep the audience's attention by throwing something at the screen every 15 seconds. The cast is likable enough, but poorly managed by director Joe Carnahan. There's no rapport or chemistry and you wonder by badasses like Hannibal and Face would keep the other two around since they have major liabilities. This A-Team supposedly is in life-threatening situations are they're keeping clinically insane people around who don't add anything to the missions. Carnahan's action scenes are disorienting and careless with senseless camera angles and they're chopped together with brief, confusing expository scenes that consist of actors yelling at each other. Jessica Biel's presence saves it from the D-pile. C-

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

No Strings Attached C-

In Theatres. Rated R. 106 Minutes.

What No Strings Attached has going for it: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. What it doesn’t have going for it: dialogue, believable characters, good editing, a single original thought. Now, I know my co-bloggers will bust my chops for tossing Kutcher up there in the “going for it”- list, but I think Ashton is pretty good when he wants to be, and he really is likable in a film that desperately needs a likable person.

Here’s the basics: Portman is a doctor in residency and doesn’t have time for a real relationship (or is she just emotionally stunted because of the death of her father?), but does need a bit of a release from time to time. Kutcher, a guy she knew from junior high camp, is a male and, as such, allows a doctor that looks like Natalie Portman to dictate the terms of the arrangement. Kevin Kline plays his older movie star father, who is now diddling his son’s ex (I told you you’d be struggling to find someone likable in this mess). Luda’, as the kids are calling Mr. Bridges these days, plays the funny bartender who dishes mind-numbingly misogynistic advice (the female empowerment messages, no matter how misguided, that once accompanied these films seem almost quaint in this post-feminist, hook-up culture). Kutcher falls for Portman. Portman rebuffs him. Kutcher moves on. Portman regrets the decision, and subsequently changes her very DNA to that of a 1960’s housewife.

I asked Girlfriend-of-Priest, who accompanied me to both this and The Mechanic (you can probably figure who picked which), which of the two films were the best for their genre. We both agreed The Mechanic. No Strings is that bad. C-

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The Mechanic C

In Theatres. Rated R. 93 minutes.

Not only is Jason Statham slumming in another Jason Statham movie, this time he’s talked Ben Foster (The Messenger, 3:10 to Yuma) and Donald Sutherland into joining him. I wish this one was by-the-numbers, but, alas, it doesn’t make quite that much sense. Statham plays the “mechanic”—a hitman—who takes out high profile targets when a deft touch and patience is required. When not working, he lives completely removed from human contact, save the occasional prostitute, in a man cave stocked with high-end indulgences wrapped in minimalist casings. The one person he cares for is his handler Donald Southerland. Unfortunately, it appears that Donald is skimming off the top, and Statham is tapped to use his connections to rub him out. Sutherland’s screw-up son (Ben Foster), shows up and comes to Statham looking to recover daddy’s effects and avenge him by becoming a hitman himself. Needless to say, Statham pulls Foster under his wing, setting up an inevitable showdown when Foster realizes his father’s true killer.

I love Statham, but there’s just so many Transporter sequels and drivel like this before the memories of The Bank Job and Snatch get a bit hazy. The action here is reasonably well shot, especially the opening killing, and there are a couple interesting scenes, but the plot and dialogue is too bad to be overlooked but not bad enough to be camp. Foster, quickly establishing himself as one of the strongest young actors in Hollywood, actually does some pretty solid acting, but everyone else is picking up a paycheck. Just tolerable if you have to have an action flick. C

*Of note, this appears not to be a remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson film of the same name, a film I have not seen. I'm just guessing based on synopsis, although it also involves a hitman and his protege.

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Happy Groundhog Day

This guy has more time on his hands than me. Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow which means an early spring. I'm glad Phil's OK after the avalanche.

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Go Packers!

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

DVD and Blu-ray Releases 2/1/11

Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 - #
Chain Letter - #
Conviction - #
Hatchet II - #
Hurricane Season - #
Let Me In - #, *
Mean Girls 2
Monsters - #
Never Let Me Go - #
Night Catches Us - #
The Tillman Story - #
Welcome to the Rileys - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

An Affair to Remember
Alice in Wonderland
All About Eve - *
Bad Boys
Boys Don't Cry
The Double Life of Veronique - *
Out of Time
Ray - *
Walking Tall
You've Got Mail

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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