Category Archives: DVD

The Hunger Games (2012)


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The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to compete.

Confession: I never read the Hunger Games books. I knew only that Hunger Games readers seemed to enjoy making fun of Twilight readers, which is a positive in my book* 😉

Which is to say, my main interest in this flick was as the anti-Twilight. Jennifer Lawrence in the lead was a bonus, as I pegged her for a star when I first saw her in The Burning Plain (2008) On both of those fronts, this movie is a roaring success.

It is also fantastical and visually stunning. And sometimes quite a bit ridiculously over-the-top. That is where it falters for me. That…and Woody Harrelson. How he keeps getting cast is one of life’s great mysteries for me. He hasn’t been convincing or inhabited a character since Cheers, and so always takes me out of any movie he is in.

The Hunger Games was entertaining, but it didn’t leave me anticipating Catching Fire (2013). On the Word of Mouth Scale, I’ll give it a 2.5. The teens & young adults in my circle will likely enjoy it – the rest, not so much.

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 84%; Audience 81%

* To be fair, I haven’t read those books, either. I am a bit old for the genre. However, using the movies as a gauge of quality, Twilight does not impress…but that may be the abominable acting

The Five-Year Engagement (2012)


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The Five-Year Engagement

My first introduction to Jason Segel was in his movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, where he introduced us to 2 wieners – his penis, and Russel Brand’s persona. I have held those missteps against him ever since. Not that it keeps me from watching his films – he’s a funny guy. He just doesn’t know where to draw the line.

This movie was enjoyable; good script, good cast, good direction – to a point. At which point you are just left a bit disgusted, or disappointed, or embarrassed. Leading to losing 1.5 stars because, let’s face it, what could have been a charming story is now something I couldn’t recommend to my mom. Like many movies these days, it seems the over-the-top raunchiness is added merely for shock and cheap laughs.

The story is…sweet. And predictable. And not nearly interesting enough to justify a full 2 hour run time. Still, the quality cast gives us memorable moments. The chemistry between Segel and Blunt is warm and believable. The Elmo & Cookie Monster debate is goofy. There are some kind of lovely points about romance.

Worth seeing, as a rental. But be prepared for unnecessary raunch – you may not want to watch it with the kids. Or your parents.

Also of note, The Five-Year Engagement was even less popular with audiences than it was with critics.

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 64%; Audience 58%

Drag Me To Hell (2009)


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Drag Me To Hell

Drag Me To Hell

A loan officer who evicts an old woman from her home finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse. Desperate, she turns to a seer to try and save her soul, while evil forces work to push her to a breaking point.

Not much to say on this one. What could have been a creepily-fun horror flick is ruined by ridiculous grossness aimed at making the audience nauseous. Gets one on the Word of Mouth Scale because some (mostly teenage boys) are into that sort of thing.

It does well with critics & audience reviewers, so…you may enjoy it.

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 92%; Users 79%

The Conscientious Objector (2004)


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The Conscientious Objector

If Hollywood were to make a feature based on the heroics of Desmond Doss during World War II, most viewers would dismiss it as far-fetched nonsense. Terry L. Benedict’s documentary about Doss, “The Conscientious Objector”, illustrates how truth can often outdo fiction.
It’s hard to imagine a greater combination of morality, religious faith and courage than that which emerges in this story of an aging Virginian who received a Congressional Medal of Honor from President Truman.

D has a great talent for finding small movies, indie gems and documentary gold. This week he found the compellingly told story of a Medal of Honor winner that NetFlix was streaming. When he put it on, I didn’t expect to be sucked in to the narrative. Boy was I wrong.

I found myself exclaiming “Wow” out loud, more than once. Truly a story that sounds like the stuff of a dime-store WWII paperback novel, told here by the men that actually lived through it.

If you want to know the specifics of the CMH citation, you can read it here, but I would recommend watching the film. So much more compelling to make the full journey with Doss from childhood through “outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty”.

A rare 5 of 5 on the Word of Mouth scale because I can’t imagine anyone in my circle who would not appreciate this well made flick.

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics N/A; Audience 88%

Up (2009)


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By tying thousands of balloons to his home, 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America. Right after lifting off, however, he learns he isn’t alone on his journey, since Russell, a wilderness explorer 70 years his junior, has inadvertently become a stowaway on the trip.

This gets a rare 5 of 5 rating for me, as there is something for everyone. Romance, adventure, comedy, drama…all well done and all palatable to young, old, male, female. You’ll remember that my ratings are based not only on the quality of the product, but on the likelihood of my recommending it to my family and friends. A perfect score of 5, therefore, doesn’t mean I think this is a perfect movie – just that I believe it will appeal to most everyone I know.

In tracking down the Rotten Tomatoes rating, I found this review by Ian Freer that tells you all you need to know. Here is an excerpt:

It’s a character study of a cantankerous old git. It’s a buddy movie where the buddies are separated by 70 years. It’s a love story where the love transcends death.


If it had lived up to its golden first five minutes, Up would have been the film of the decade. As it is, it remains the best animated flick of 2009, a funny, moving, beautifully made argument that dreamers can move mountains.

In that golden beginning is one of the most touching montages, animated or otherwise, you are ever likely to see.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98% critics; 94% users

Shirley Valentine (1989)


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Shirley Valentine

Shirley’s a middle-aged Liverpool housewife, who finds herself talking to the wall while she prepares her husband’s chip’n’egg, wondering what happened to her life. She compares scenes in her current life with what she used to be like and feels she’s stagnated and in a rut. But when her best friend wins an all-expenses-paid vacation to Greece for two, Shirley begins to see the world, and herself, in a different light.

One of my favorite flicks for many reasons. It completely reinforces my trip to Greece fantasy. It illuminates the drawbacks of a small life, and highlights the options. It makes being “of a certain age” seem a bit more palatable. It has several laugh out loud lines, along with all the chuckles. It also has a great message and some very touching moments. It has gorgeous scenery. It has Tom Conti 😀

Shirley Valentine is an anthem to the freedom of the soul–with a generous dose of salt of the earth.

I have yet to see Mamma Mia, but I doubt it will replace Shirley Valentine on my “chick flick set in Greece” list. The only reason it doesn’t get the full five stars is because of the chick-flickiness….and some bad language…and nudity.

If you haven’t yet seen it, rent it soon. You may not love it as much as I do, but you are sure to be entertained.

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 73%; Users 76%

Pursuit of Happyness (2006)


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Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith stars in the inspirational true story of Chris Gardner, a San Francisco salesman who’s struggling to make ends meet. When his girlfriend Linda (Thandie Newton) walks out, Chris is left to raise their 5-year-old son Christopher (Jaden Smith) on his own. Chris’ determination finally pays off when he lands an unpaid internship in a brutally competitive stockbroker-training program, where only one in twenty interns will make the cut. But without a salary, Chris and his son are evicted from their apartment and are forced to sleep on the street, in homeless shelters and even behind the locked doors of a metro station bathroom. With self- confidence and the love and trust of his son, Chris Gardner rises above his obstacles to become a Wall Street legend.

~ from Amazon


One of my favorite movies from 2006, and one of the best performances from that year, as well. Truly, if not for The Last King of Scotland, Will Smith would have been the clear favorite at Oscar time. I loved the plot driven movie with a strong message of hope and personal responsibility, and the interaction between Smith and his real life son was quite believable and moving. Perhaps a bit too syrupy for some, I non-the-less recommended this to almost everyone in my circle.

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 65%; Users 88%

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