Peter Clines
Former Contributor

WRITTEN BY Peter Clines

Haywire

If this sounds like a standard action/revenge thriller to you, well... that’s because it kind of is. There’s nothing in Haywire that’s going to rewrite the way action movies are made or make your head spin from a twist you never saw coming. But it does have a couple interesting things going for it.

What's Your Number? (EX-tended Edition)

I like Anna Farris. I really do. Ever since I first noticed her in the Scary Movie series I’ve thought she was funny, attractive without being Hollywood-pretty, and a decent actress. I wanted to like this movie for Anna. I really did.

Drive

I’ve got to be honest. When I first started seeing ads for Drive it just struck me as a thinly-veiled remake of The Transporter. While there’s a decent number of similarities between the films and their lead characters, they’re two remarkably different movies. And that difference is all in the execution.

Burke & Hare

I really wanted to like this movie. How could I not? It’s the director of An American Werewolf in London making a horror/dark comedy movie with the very talented stars of Shawn of the Dead and Lord of the Rings about Britain’s most notorious mass-murderers after Jack the Ripper. I was surprised I hadn’t even heard of this movie until it got offered for review.

Colombiana

The big catch here is that, like many non-stop action films, Colombiana doesn’t hold up well to close examination. There isn’t much tension because Cataleya’s motivation is pure revenge. And revenge is kind of timeless. The only ticking clock is her quest to get to Don Luis before he dies of old age or someone else kills him.

Hanna

Hanna is your typical 16-year-old girl. She’s been raised in complete isolation, she hunts and kills her own meat, and her father tries to kill her two or three times a day. Oh, and if she tries to leave her arctic-forest home, lots of other people are going to try to kill her. Okay, maybe she’s not that typical.

The Task

It doesn’t help that the contestant who makes it to the big finale is the one we’ve spent the least amount of time with. It’s kind of like watching the kids get picked off in a Friday the 13th film (assuming none of them got picked off until an hour into the movie) and then, in the last 20 minutes, a new character gets introduced who spends the rest of the movie running from Jason Voorhees. Once she realizes Jason isn't the camp’s hockey coach.

The Roommate

Alfred Hitchcock told us that suspense is when the audience knows there’s a bomb under the table, and the characters don’t. But if the bomb has a bright red flasher, ticks louder than Big Ben, and the characters still don’t know about it, that isn’t suspense. It just means they’re idiots.

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Volume1 and Volume 2

Just in time for a certain thunder god’s appearance in theaters, the Avengers assemble to take on some classic supervillians who will probably never rate the silver-screen treatment themselves. While it’s not the worst bit of animated storytelling Marvel’s ever been involved with (Thing rings, anyone?), it’s definitely not the greatest.

Love and Other Drugs

It shouldn’t be too surprising to hear that a movie about a drug pitchman -- loosely inspired by the book Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman by Jamie Reidy -- doesn’t do exactly what the sales pitch promised. Plus, while the end results are favorable, there are a few side-effects which aren’t life-threatening, but which may possibly cause some discomfort.

The Last Lovecraft:  Relic of Cthulhu

The Last Lovecraft doesn’t suffer from the same problems as so many dirt-cheap films that take on big topics. The monsters look fantastic and the special effects are pretty great. Without spoiling anything, the closing sequence is on par with films that get major theatrical releases and honestly gave me my own little moment of fanboy glee.

Futurama: Volume 5

Being marked for death again and again has let the show retain the sharp edge that has dulled on The Simpsons over the years. It takes sly (and not so sly) jabs at gay marriage, censorship, creationism, civil rights, furries, Facebook, and the Cult of Mac (or would that be the iCult these days?).

Archer: The Complete Season One

Archer isn’t so much about the missions and the spy work as about the stuff that happens between missions with all the support folks back at headquarters. They compete with inter-agency rivals for contracts. They waste time with “kill, bang, marry” websites. They drink a lot and have inter-office relationships. They even go on strike while they’ve got agents out in the field. It’s like The Office with spies, where the last thing anyone seems to care about are the jobs they’re supposed to be doing.

Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics

These days we’re all used to groups trying to rewrite history (one bozo tried to tell me last month that Hitler was actually very liberal and didn’t lean to the political right at all), but it still takes some serious cajones to cherry-pick interviews with Alan Moore and leave the impression that his time with DC was something he looks back on with satisfaction and contentment. And yeah, I’m fully aware of the irony of falling back on a Hitler analogy to show how extremely they’ve distorted this view of Mr. Moore, everyone’s favorite anarchist.

Superman/ Shazam: The Return of Black Adam

If I had to have a complaint about the story itself, it’s that they never go into the origin of the name “Shazam.” Any comic book geek worth his mylar bags knows the word is an acronym. Bonus points if you remember what it stands for.

How To Train Your Dragon: Dragon Double DVD Pack

At first glance, How to Train Your Dragon is a fantasy version of the classic "boy and his dog" story, but it’s really just as much about a boy and his father. Hiccup spends the first act of the film desperate to win Stoick’s approval, and the entire second act trying to hide the fact that the one thing he turns out to be good at is something his father would never approve of. That’s part of the reason this film soars, because there aren’t any low-brow, goofy motivations that were just made up to fuel the story. Hiccup isn’t any different than hundreds of thousands of real-life kids who want their parents to be proud of them, and that’s the kind of honest character beat both adults and kids can instantly relate to.

Fringe: The Complete Second Season

“There really isn’t a point where things just can’t get weirder, is there?” says Olivia at the end of the first episode. You couldn’t ask for a better summary of this show, and I do mean that in the best possible way. Every time you start to think Fringe is slipping into a familiar rut or treading ground we’ve seen before, the creative team pulls out a new twist or character angle that makes it all fresh again.

Chuck:  The Complete Third Season

Chuck is that rarest of things these days: a show that just tries to be fun. Oh, there is some fantastically clever writing and action scenes in these 19 episodes, the cast has a phenomenal chemistry with each other, and there are a few plot twists that would make a recently ended island show jealous. The real point of Chuck, though, is simply to have fun. The series never tries to burden the audience with melodramatic characters, thought-provoking stories that tug on heartstrings, or monologues that smell of wannabe Emmy clips. A “very powerful episode” of this show involves Sarah in a bikini or Chuck getting to fight Ring agent “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in the cargo hold of a plane with a pair of nunchucks.

Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season

All that space where Clark isn’t growing up and becoming Superman has to get filled with something else, and that something else includes time-travel and government conspiracies and multi-colored kryptonite and younger clones of older characters and other characters who switch sides every episode. Seriously, 21 episodes and I still have no idea what motivates Tess Mercer to do anything. At this point Smallville has a convoluted mythology and interwoven cast of characters that makes you long for something simple and straightforward like LOST.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians:  The Lightning Thief

Percy Jackson feels like a cheat on a bunch of levels. Too many of its beats and scenes are copied right out of the Hogwarts playbook. Most of the challenges and obstacles in the story are overcome by Percy’s friends and family, not Percy himself. Even his dyslexia is a cheat. We’re supposed to feel sorry for him and identify with his struggles because of it, except then we find out he doesn’t actually have dyslexia. His brain’s just hardwired for ancient Greek because he’s a demigod.

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