Greetings! Have you ever wondered if a movie's worth blowing the money on to see at the theater or what to add next to your NetFlix queue? Then you've come to the right place! Enjoy!

"The Prestige" Blu-Ray Review

Made in between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan's 2007 film about dueling Victorian-era magicians, The Prestige, seems to be mostly forgotten despite it starring Batman, Wolverine, Black Widow, Alfred and Ziggy Stardust. Perhaps it was because the title didn't convey what it was about unlike The Illusionist, which came out a year earlier and is also similarly sorta forgotten despite being a good film itself.

Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are up-and-coming magicians and friends who are torn apart when a stage accident kills Jackman's wife setting off an escalating series of tit-for-tat attacks that lead to more death and misery for the participants. Bale's act features an illusion called The Transported Man which obsesses Jackman as to how it's done and when Bale thwarts his version, he heads to Colorado Springs where Nikola Tesla (David Bowie with one of cinema's greatest entrances) is making scientific magic and makes the apparatus for Jackman with the cryptic admonition about whether he's considered the cost of the thing. Jackman thinks he's referring to the price tag; he isn't.

I'd forgotten how out-of-hand things got in their war in the years since first seeing it. It's also a profoundly different experience watching it a second time as you realize that from the very first frames the Nolans (Christopher and his co-writing brother Jonathan, whose Person of Interest is a really cool TV show) are foreshadowing everything. Just as The Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects read differently upon their second viewing, so it is with The Prestige and that extends beyond the big reveal at the very end. It can get a little too cute with the flashback structure revolving around encoded diaries, but overall The Prestige earns its applause.

The Blu-ray's image is nice and sharp, but there are very few extras - just 20 minutes of light behind-the-scenes discussion of the themes. There's no commentary. For some reason you can't stop the disc from the menu screen. I had to punch into a scene to be able to stop. Weird.

Score: 8.5/10. Buy it.

"The World's End" Review

The team behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz - director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost - reunite for the conclusion of their "Cornetto Trilogy" with the oddball drinking dramedy-slash-alien invasion flick The World's End, whose title refers both to a pub and the plot.

In 1990, five school chums attempted "The Golden Mile" - drinking a pint at each of 12 pubs in their hometown - but didn't complete it for various reasons. Now in the neighborhood of 40, Pegg, who is an alcoholic who still dresses in the Sisters of Mercy t-shirt and black trenchcoat of his youth, cajoles the old gang to leave their comfy, boring lives to attempt the Mile again. While drinking and catching up on old times and grievances, they discover that alien robots(!) have replaced many of the townsfolk. Hijinks and much combat ensue.

There are a few contrary themes going on about being responsible vs. being a free spirit and some of the beefs the fellows have with each other aren't explored as deeply as they could've been, but then again they had that robot invasion thing to deal with. Pegg gets a good showcase as the talky Gary King (he co-wrote the script with Wright) and it's odd to see Frost as a more buttoned-down type after his usually being the slobby buddy as he was in Shaun and Paul.

What's cool as that they didn't bother to make the lingo and culture friendly to us Colonists; it's very British; and the soundtrack is packed with circa-1990 "Madchester" tracks. The use of The Housemartins' "Happy Hour Again" as the closer is inspired.

Score: 6/10. Rent it.

"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" Review

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone came and went with little critical (a paltry 35% RT score) and commercial (only $22.5 million) notice despite having Steve Carell and Jim Carrey in the cast. While not a comedy classic, it's a decently entertaining little flick.

Carell is the titular Wonderstone who has been resident at Bally's in Las Vegas for a decade with his childhood bestie played by Steve Buscemi. Their act is cheesy and losing audience and Burt is an egomaniacal jerk who beds comely female fans (illustrated by Community's Gillian Jacobs) while sporting enough bronzer to coat those giant Oscars you see outside the Kodak Theater. Pressured by a hot street magician (Carrey taking the piss out of David Blaine and Kris Angel), the pair attempt their own Xtreme stunt with spectacular failure, splitting the pair and sending Burt hunting for redemption.

The reviews were pretty lethal, so I was surprised that it was actually LOL funny in spots and not totally drenched with pathos and formulaic tropes, especially when he connects with the magician who inspired him as a boy, played by Alan Arkin. While the terrain is familiar, the path taken is off the usual paved areas. I think some were offended by just how crass Burt is, but Carell manages to make him not totally reprehensible. (Maybe some people are wimps, like the one critic who whined about the massive illegality of their comeback trick.) Carrey's character is literally nuts and not really doing "magic" so what happens to him makes sense.

With good supporting performances from Arkin, Buscemi, Olivia Wilde (as their long-suffering assistant) and James Gandolfini (the casino owner), while The Incredible Burt Wonderstone may not be totally "incredible," it's above-average and worth a watch.

Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable.

"2 Guns" Review

Based on a graphic novel that most people probably never heard of, 2 Guns stars Denzel Washington and Marky Mark as a pair of wisecracking robbers who knock over a bank and as they head into the desert to split the take, discover that each is actually a lawman seeking to take the other down - Denzel a DEA agent and Mark with Naval Intelligence. Mark wounds Denzel and leaves him in the desert, but as things proceed the nagging fact that there was $43 million in the vault when they expected only $3 million means that the owners of that money are going to be hunting for them, too. (One guess as to who the 3rd party is.)

While it starts off like a breezy lark, 2 Guns can't decide on a tone - gritty crime or comic romp - and quickly just got noisy and dull. The hoot is that Marky Mark is supposed to be Naval Intelligence but doesn't show much of the latter. The "twist" as to who the third party involved was predictable and once you realize everyone is double-crossing everyone it's easy to spot the backstabs coming a mile away.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.

"The To Do List" Review

It's been a while since there's been a good teen sex comedy and frankly I'm drawing a blank on any told from the female's perspective. (i.e. It's a girl trying to get laid. Superbad, Sex Drive, Road Trip, etc. were all about boys seeking poonanny.) Seeking to fill this gap (double entendre totally intended) comes (heh) The To Do List, the feature debut by writer-director Maggie Carey who is former SNL star Bill Hader's wife.

Snarkalicious nerd hottie Aubra Plaza stars as her Idaho high school's valedictorian in 1993. She's heading to college in the fall, but is concerned that her utter lack of sexual experience will be a problem for her in the big city. Her sister (Rachel Bilson) is an oversexed idiot, so she decides to make a to do list of sexual activities to check off before leaving. The montage of her assembling this list and trying to look up in the encyclopedia various terms (and noting to ask the librarian about some of them) under her framed Hillary Clinton photo is a hoot, though just how this smart girl could be so sheltered as to have no idea why a pearl necklace isn't elegant strains credibility even in pre-Internet Idaho.Working as a lifeguard at a public pool, she's got her eyes on a hunky co-worker to punch her V-card, but there are others interested she's overlooking.

The shaggy story ambles from one episode to another delivering laughs with decent regularity. Pitching in with extended cameos are Donald Glover (Community), McLovin (Superbad) and Andy Samberg as an Eddie Vedderish grunge singer. Hader gets plenty of screen time because he slept with the director. (You go, boyeee!)

But the star is Plaza and I like her a lot. She manages to walk the line between fizzy sassy sarcasm and off-putting bitchiness. Perhaps I'm missing the old, pre-insanity Janeane Garofalo, but Plaza equally grounded Safety Not Guaranteed last year. The shortcomings of The To Do List aren't her fault and her charm helps smooth some of the creepier bits over.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable.

"Detropia" Review

As a life-long Detroit area resident, I'm always interested to note how the loudest cheerleaders for the benighted hellhole are those who wouldn't actually be caught dead living withing the city's borders. For these scolds who perch in their safe suburban homes, documentaries like Detropia allow them to scratch their itch to preen their civic-mindedness.

A loose amalgam of overly arty lo-fi footage and interviews with people scraping by in the ruins, there are very few insights to be garnered other than outgoing Mayor Dave Bing's observation that as soon as anyone gets the scratch up to get out of town, they do. Looking at the ruins and watching a UAW Local President musing about past glories while seeking scapegoats for the ruination of the auto industry is old hat to a local, but there's little here for outsiders to learn from.

Shortly after watching this, Anthony Bourdain aired an episode of his Parts Unknown series which was far more enlightening. Hunt that one down instead.

Score: 5/10. Skip it.

"Monsters University" Review

Man, Pixar has fallen off. There's no denying it - they've managed to throw away their reputation for consistent excellence and are now just churning out lazy sequels and now a prequel to the terrific Monsters Inc., the "When Mike Met Sully Meets Revenge of the Nerds" mashup, Monsters University.

Did you ever wonder about how besties Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) first met and how they hated each other at first because Sully was a lazy jock and Mike was an over-achieving social pariah and they had to form their own misfit fraternity (a la The House Bunny) in order to win a competition against all the other frat houses and stop me if you've seen this story several times before? No? Me neither, but Pixar felt it was necessary and it's definitely not because of any toys or Disney Infinity videogame tie-ins or anything like that because that would be cynical or something.

Pixar has announced Finding Dory. Oh joy. Can't wait. (Note: Sarcasm.) Monsters University looks great, but that's just technology advancing. Storywise, Pixar's lost the plot.

Score: 4/10. Catch it on cable.

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