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First Friday – Redbox Reviews

With storms and chilly weather, it’s nice to spend a night at home. Check out what we’ve been watching this week!

Morgan – Need For Speed
Okay so if I’m being honest, I didn’t rent a movie this week because I saw that Need For Speed had become available on Redbox. I saw it in theaters when it first came out and I never got to tell anyone how great it was! I seriously enjoyed this movie, even though at first I wasn’t super stoked about it. Aaron Paul is what got me sitting down in the theatre. Otherwise, it would have been just another racing movie to me. Basically, Toby (Paul) is framed and goes to jail. After he is released, he makes it his mission to get invited to this super exclusive race to get his revenge. If you win the race you win the opponents’ vehicles, which ends up being like, billions of dollars altogether. I like this movie a lot, mainly because it is realistic as far as racing movies go, and you can tell Paul is actual driving, which is rad. Also, Kid Cudi is in it and is hilarious.
Bottom Line:
 it’s your typical action movie, but better than usual and definitely worth a rent. Plus, Aaron Paul ❤
Rating: 4/5

Jordan – Belle:
I have been wanting to see this movie since it came out earlier this year. The story centers around a girl named Dido Elizabeth Belle (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw). When her mother (a free black woman) passes away, her estranged father (a captain in the Royal Navy) brings her into his family. He leaves Dido with his uncle and aunt to be raised alongside her cousin Elizabeth of the same age.
As the two girls grow up, we see tension arise around Dido’s ethnicity. She is welcomed as a full member of the family until guests visit. Even though she has a larger dowry compared to Elizabeth, men are hesitant to court a “mulatto.”
The plot takes a very predictable turn when a young clergyman’s son takes an interest in Dido. He is idealistic, radical, and blunt (did someone say Fiddler on the Roof?). He is lobbying on a high-profile case involving the treatment of slaves.  Dido has to deal with the Sophie’s choice of picking between a pretty decent guy and the right guy.
All of the actors played their parts well. There is a lot of tension and depth that they all have to deal with. However, I’m not a big fan of the fluffy talk of some period pieces – this can get very Pride and Prejudice at moments. 
Bottom Line:
All in all, I liked the movie. History, race relations, romance, Draco Malfoy. It had everything I like.
Rating: 3.5/5

Kurtis – Oculus:
Since it’s October, I thought it was the perfect time to rent a horror movie for this month’s Redbox post. Oculus came out last year, but is back in Redbox with Halloween coming soon. The plot device is a little over done; there’s an object (in this case, a mirror) that causes someone to go crazy. Tim Russell was just released from being in protective custody after ten years for the murder of his parents, but his sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) is determined to finally prove that it was the new mirror their father bought that caused their parents’ deaths. Kaylie tracks down the mirror, investigates its past owners and learns of their similar fates. Tim and Kaylie eventually find themselves fighting off the malevolent powers of the mirror. Like I said, the device of a “haunted” object tearing a family apart is pretty overdone, but directors Mike Flanagan and Andy Ross mix current day scenes with flashbacks of the family’s first go-around with the mirror and that helps to keep the movie fresh. I really enjoyed that Oculus doesn’t rely on “jump out” scares but attempts to really mess with your mind, playing tricks with perception. Oculus leaves the door open for sequels, and this could a good first film in an even better series of films.
Bottom Line: Oculus is a subtle horror movie, gradually building with dread, suspense and psychological tricks. It’s a quality entry into the genre and horror fans will be satisfied once this one’s over.
Rating: 3/5

What have you been renting lately? Have you tried Redbox Instant yet?

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“First” Friday – Redbox Reviews

Man, summer movie fun has started off with a bang! We’ve had birthdays, a ride-along, and plenty of superhero movies. But now we’re going to take things easy with a night in and a Redbox movie. Check out what we’ve been watching this week!

Morgan – How to Train Your Dragon
In honor of it’s highly anticipated (at least if you’re me or a seven year old) sequel, this week I watched How to Train Your Dragon. It is literally impossible not to like this movie. Hiccup is a young, kind-hearted Viking under pressure from his father to become a meaner, more viking-like Viking. He does his best and ends up wounding the elusive Night Fury, a rare and dangerous dragon. He slowly gains his trust, names him and becomes his friend. Then they conquer the giant dragon’s nest and are free to live with the Vikings happily ever after. Toothless is obviously the best part; he’s cute and cat-like and hates eels. In a word, he’s adorable. Toothless is also impossible to not like. The cast of voices for this movie is also great; Gerard Butler, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, and even David Tennant.
Bottom Line: This movie is cute and great and I’m super excited for the second one.
Rating: 4/5

Jordan – Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit:
This movie is definitely uncharacteristic movie for me. Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is discharged from the Marines after he is almost paralyzed when his helicopter is shot down. A CIA operative (Kevin Costner) approaches him during his recovery to join the CIA, but only after he returns to school for his PhD in Economics. Ten years later, he’s working covertly as a stock broker. SNOOZEVILLE! I mean, one diplomat threatens another with “economic war.” And the lead action star is working on Wall Street… Not off to a good start.
Things finally pick up when Jack finds some suspicious trading by one of his Russian clients, Viktor Cherevin. He travels to France to meet Viktor, and within five minutes, his driver tries to murder him. Jack has to defend himself and his Marine training kicks in. In desperation, he drowns the driver in a sad and creepy sequence.
The rest of the movie Ryan has to come grips with the new dangers of the mission – only heightened when his super annoying girlfriend (Keira Knightley) surprises him for a romantic weekend.
Bottom Line: A decent action movie, but I imagine the plot and characters make more sense in the book.
Rating: 2.5/5

Kurtis – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty:
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) has been working for sixteen years at LIFE magazine as the manager of the film negative assets and leads an unremarkable life. He is a daydreamer, escaping into a world of fantasy many times a day to make himself a hero. He has a crush on his coworker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) but he is too shy to invite her on a date, however, she quickly becomes the catalyst for Walter’s transformative journey. The magazine is preparing to release the last print edition, and with downsizing looming for Walter and Cheryl, Walter decides he needs to travel to Greenland to track mysterious photographer Sean down to find the missing negative to be used for the final cover. That decision, at Cheryl’s suggestion, begins an unbelievable adventure that even Walter couldn’t have dreamed up. I really wanted to love this movie, and at times, I really did. But overall, this film just kind of falls flat. The adventure scenes look amazing and do a great job of turning this movie into the spectacle it was meant to be. Unfortunately, nothing in the storyline develops into a strong enough anchor to bring it all together. I really appreciated the way The Secret Life looked at the themes of loneliness, the desire to be long, and the search for love and meaning; very touching without being overly sentimental. It’s a fun movie with some good underlying messages, but it never takes that all-important step to make you fall in love with the characters or the story.
Bottom Line: Honestly, you can probably skip this one. It falls short of expectations, and is pretty inconsequential compared to some of the other great films that came out in 2013.
Rating: 2.5/5

What have you been renting lately? Have you tried Redbox Instant yet?

First Friday – Redbox Reviews

Another month, another rental! We watch the movies, so you don’t have to waste your money (and if you’re like me, it’s usually around 3 times what I planned by the time I remember to return it).

Kurtis – Inside Llewyn Davis:
Inside Llewyn Davis follows a week in the life of Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) battling the New York winter as he searches for success as a folk singer in 1961. His life is a tragedy: his former musical partner has committed suicide, his solo album is underperforming (to say the least) due in part to an incompetent manager, and he’s bouncing around his friend’s couches to escape the cold of winter. When he needs money right away to help his friend’s girlfriend (Carey Mulligan) get an abortion (because she and Llewyn had sex behind her boyfriend’s back) he opts out of getting royalties for a song that’s sure to be a hit. Just another bump along the road for the seemingly cursed Davis. The movie features scene after scene of Llewyn’s life unraveling all around him, and the Coen brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men) seem content to give Davis no semblance of hope, no silver lining. While the cinematography is absolutely beautiful and the songs for the film fit perfectly with a sadness and sweetness that only folk music can provide, the story fails the viewer by hitting just one depressing note. For me, the fact that you walk away from the movie without a resolution, which at times can be a great filmmaking device, leaves the whole thing feeling empty.
Bottom Line: It’s as if the Coen’s were just really hellbent on ruining the viewer’s day by refusing to provide even a glimmer of success or happiness for the film’s main character. BUT they should be commended for making you care so much for Davis in the first place.
Rating: 2.5/5

Bryson – Blue Jasmine:
Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine follows the story of a rich, Manhattan housewife, played by Cate Blanchett, whose life seemingly crumbles from beneath her. Jasmine depicts the disasters that life can unfortunately bring and shows how it affects the people that surround it. A movie based on relationships and the things that come with it; Woody Allen will have you on an emotional roller coaster throughout. As Allen shows his amazing writing and directing skills, Blue Jasmine wouldn’t be what it is without Jasmine herself. Blanchett delivers an exhilarating performance, which often can overpower the story, and will have you enthralled with the mess of a character she plays. Blanchett’s acting allows one to get past Allen’s slow moving style as well as the flaws that the movie may give. Blue Jasmine won’t leave you jumping for joy or even at least satisfied but it will certainly leave you with the reality of life itself and the sometimes unavoidable pain it may bring.
Bottom Line: A movie worth seeing just for Blanchett’s Oscar winning performance but also for the way Woody Allen depicts how relationships shape our lives; for good or bad.
Rating: 4/5

Jordan – The Bling Ring:
To be honest, I only picked this movie because of Emma Watson. And she portrays someone entirely opposite of Hermione Granger. The Bling Ring tells a fictionalized version of true events. In 2008, a group of friends who would cyber stalk celebrities, and then break into their houses while they were on vacation. They steal clothing and other personal items, but never enough to be noticed. The premise is pretty simple, and even though I’ve never seen a Sofia Coppola movie, I doubt this is her best work. I will say to her credit that she knows how to contrast the adult lifestyle the Bling Ring emulates and how childish they really are. They want to wear heels like Paris Hilton and snort coke in their sports car, but the moment they get in trouble, they cry for their mommys.
Bottom Line: This feels more like a reality TV special than a movie. But that’s probably what the real Bling Ring would want.
Rating: 2/5

Morgan – Enough Said:
While looking through the Redbox options this week, nothing seemed to strike much interest. That’s why this movie was a pleasant surprise. The plot is simple. It’s the story of a divorced mom, Eva, who simultaneously starts dating Albert (Gandolfini) and becomes friends with his ex-wife. Eva’s friendship with the ex-wife causes her to second guess her relationship with Albert, and slowly sabotage it. The dialogue, one of the movie’s great strengths, was witty and right on point. Enough Said was funny and clever, without being unrealistic. I liked it because most romantic comedies make getting involved with someone again seem so much easier and happier than it really is.
Bottom Line: It’s really cute, but not really a date night movie. It’s a really great movie to watch with your mom.
Rating: 3.5/5

First Friday – Redbox Reviews

Bryson – Prisoners:
Prisoners is a movie about a man in search of his abducted daughter while at the same time fighting both internal and external forces. Dark and heavy, Prisoners won’t give you that happy-go-lucky Friday night Redbox movie you might be looking for. Instead it gives you a challenging and sometimes uncomfortable viewing that keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times. It sports an all-star cast set with Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano who all do an amazing job of wrapping us into this powerful story. Beautifully shot and superbly directed, Prisoners is a challenging yet strangely satisfying movie.
Bottom Line: Not even close to a comfortable viewing and definitely not a movie for everyone, Prisoners is still worthy of a rent for most.
Rating: 4/5

Kurtis – The Purge:
This one might not be in Redbox much longer so hustle up if you want to catch it. This week I rented The Purge starring Ethan Hawke. The Purge came out late last year to less-than-stellar reviews from critics and audiences, and they weren’t too far off. The story follows a family through a 12 hour time set up by the government during which all crime
is legal. Hawke’s family is locked up in an ultra secure home in a quiet neighborhood to protect themselves from the crime happening outside but their hopes of a peaceful night quickly fades as their son lets in a homeless man who’s being hunted down by a group of purgers. The group threatens to break in and kill everyone inside if the homeless man isn’t returned to them and the family is faced with a difficult moral decision. It’s really a disappointing take on the classic thriller plot line where you never feel scared, never feel on edge, you’re just kind of waiting for things to be over. The bright spot in this movie is Rhys Wakefield’s role as the smiling, polite leader of the group threatening to murder Hawke’s family. His wry smile is just unsettling, considering what he wants to do to everyone inside the house.
Bottom Line: It is what it is. A boring attempt at a thriller that has no clear purpose or direction. Recommended only for those of us that can know a horror movie’s going to be bad and still find enjoyment in it, but that’s about it.
Rating: 2.5/5

Morgan – R.I.P.D.:
Before I even rented this movie I knew it was going to be terrible. But I thought I’d give it a try because 1: Jeff Bridges and 2: Ryan Reynolds. Turns out, you should trust your instincts. Summed up, this movie was a semi-interesting idea that was poorly executed, with a plethora of cheesy lines and terrible graphics. It makes me wonder how, or if, this movie made any money at all. I’m sure I could look it up, but I’m too lazy. But this movie was so awful that it compelled me to write my review immediately, so I wouldn’t forget how bad it was. And that’s saying a lot, considering how much of a procrastinator I am. Also, Kevin Bacon as the bad guy. I mean, come on.
Bottom Line: I would’ve been super angry if I spent money on this in the theatre. $1.20 still might be too much. Not worth your time. Unless you find a way to turn it into a drinking game.
Rating: 1.5/5 (Only because I HAD to give it more than Only God Forgives.)

Jordan – The World’s End:
The final installment in the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy, directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The World’s End starts out with a simple premise: Simon Pegg’s character is stuck in the past and needs to get the gang back together. His four former best friends humor him and go to their hometown for one last pub crawl. However, aliens attack! I felt totally underwhelmed when the aliens finally arrive. Sure, the action scenes are insane and well-crafted, but I don’t think it forgives the plot. Maybe I’m wrong for thinking “These characters have no grief!” or “How did it end so crazy when it started so normal?”
Bottom Line: I think I’m in the minority with my opinion (critics on Rotten Tomatoes love it). If you like Bill and Ted and Shaun of the Dead, you’ll probably like this too.
Rating: 3/5