On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 18, 2012

I never really knew how great of an impression Arnold Schwarzenegger left on Hollywood, but for at least the past four years there has been some type of summer blockbuster that either continued a series he began or a remake hoping to cash in on his originals success and widespread adoration. While Terminator Salvation, Predators, and last years remake of Conan didn't exactly live up to anyone's expectations set by those originals this years Arnie tribute is easily the best of the bunch. While I was aware of the original film I never had any real interest in seeing Total Recall until the other night in preparation for this Colin Farrell re-make. While I found it to be classically cheesy in the best ways the Austrian actor makes things over-the-top cheesy it did indeed ask some interesting questions and, as with any film based on a Philip K. Dick short story, delve into its interesting premise with entertaining action and clever techniques. While I enjoyed this years update of the film more than the original simply due to the look of the updated special effects and overall quality of acting I can see where loyalists to the original will find faults with what is ultimately an unnecessary remake. Though it may be without cause, it has come to be and so I will take it in with summer action glee. There is plenty here to enjoy, though it does run out of steam about half way through and from there on repeats itself with one too many chase scenes and ten too many Kate Beckinsale comebacks. C

Pitch Perfect is pure formula, but it is damn entertaining formula. Following in the footsteps of every great young adult comedy, this film that capitalizes on the success of Glee also succeeds in making singing competitions much cooler as the film realizes and understands that while a cappella groups can be some of the most fun and inspiring kinds of entertainment there is also an aspect to it that is slightly nerdy, but in the most endearing of ways. You can't blame the people behind this for capitalizing on the success of a show but you can applaud them for not attempting to make a knock-off of that show and instead spinning something completely new, with a fresh take that celebrates its well-established structure and wears its heart on its sleeve. With a great cast of seasoned Hollywood youths and some new faces that more than hold up their end of the bargain Pitch Perfect becomes one of those films that young girls will flock to and guys will hate to admit they enjoyed. It is one of those films that will integrate itself into sleepovers and dorm room all-nighters where every line will be a catch phrase and a part of the culture that makes up this generations youth. It likely didn't have such big aspirations going in, but with a consistent through line that references The Breakfast Club the film itself is well aware of what it is and the emotional (and musical) chords it needs to hit. Needless to say, it hits each of them perfectly delivering a fun, predictable romp through the adventures of being young and finding one's self while making great memories in the process. B+

Maybe it is that we have now grown accustomed to who Greg is that he doesn't bother me as much anymore, maybe the fact that Rowley keeps getting weirder makes me understand Greg more, but what I've really began to question, especially in this third outing for the Wimpy Kid series is why or how these two guys are friends in the first place. It is obvious that they are cut from two different cloths. Rowley is the more sheltered and privileged dork that at this point in his life still believes life is a bouquet of roses. Nothing wrong with that, but he's reaching the age that he's going to need to make a few of his own mistakes or his life is going to be a trainwreck (the kid has a fit here because he lied to benefit his best friend). On the other end of the spectrum is Greg, a middle class kid that is likely the average summation of every thirteen year-old boy out there. He loves video games, has a love/hate relationship with his older brother and is trying his best to stay on good terms with his parents. It speaks well for the series that the main protagonist is someone who the core audience of these books will be able to relate to and I have had pleasant experiences with the previous two films in this franchise, but there was something missing from the latest installment. Whether it be that Dog Days chronicles the adventures of summer rather than the events of the school year or that there is no sense of urgency to what is going on here. The film ends up feeling as lazy as the main characters desire to be during their summer break. C

How this slipped through the cracks I will never know. Especially considering it is the year of Channing Tatum and he (almost) headlines this nicely paced and very funny reunion flick. The cast may make you want to associate it with something like Valentine's Day or New Year's Eve but this is not a contrived piece of schlock only interested in name dropping this is a well rounded story with several well developed characters. It is a brisk experience, but it is fun to meet these people at the same time they are catching up with one another. Whether it be Chris Pratt's Culley who was a jerk in high school and spends his night trying to make up for it while his wife Sam (Ari Graynor) deals with his drunken state that gives an underlying look at their much advanced relationship as compared to their classmates. Their is a somewhat typical situation created between Justin Long and Max Minghella's character as they chase the life of the party from high school and discover everyone has their problems. I was especially hoping for a better story arc for Justin Long's character as I always hoped that guy would break out a la Jason Segel or Seth Rogen. Still, there is plenty to love here including a lovely written piece between Oscar Isaac's Reeves (a famous pop star) and Kate Mara's Elise (a realtor in a relationship going nowhere) as they bring things full circle with one another. The main focus comes back around to Tatum and his high school love Mary (Rosario Dawson). While each have grown up and become respectable adults with Tatum's Jake ready to propose to longtime girlfriend Jess (real-life wife Jenna Dewan-Tatum) and she married to a straight laced Ron Livingston. Their past goes more than just naive deep and in this writer/ director Jamie Linden creates a lovely set of consequences that are worked through is a refreshingly honest and mature way. B+

It is important to note that I am not an avid watcher of How I Met Your Mother and was unaware that Josh Radnor (star of the CBS sitcom) was even dipping his toes into writing and directing film. After having seen Liberal Arts though I am anxious to take a look at his previous work including Happythankyoumoreplease which I'd noticed on the rental shelves but never had the urge to check out. In saying all that is to say it bodes very well for what I thought if Radnor's second outing into feature film. The writer/director/lead has gathered together a wonderfully pleasant cast that includes Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney and even a wonderful little out of character bit for Zac Efron. In this complete piece that captures a moment in time so nicely we see Radnor's Jesse Fisher in his mid-30's going through the day-to-day as an admissions officer but jumps at the chance to return to his old alma mater when invited by his second favorite professor Peter (Jenkins) for his retirement celebration. The set up is obvious, boy meets girl but boy is to old for girl thus complications ensue yet it is the way in which Radnor so skillfully weaves his Jesse through the thought processes of what he is, what is now but more importantly what is to come and how that moment of now will reflect upon that. It is a very adult dramedy that involves young people. Radnor, the writer, has a way with words as his character is a lover of literature he seems to be as well as the dialogue is very strong here, characters oozing lines of clarity for such complicated thoughts. There is a study of that time in life when one is in college in the throws of figuring it all out while having the time of their lives without stooping to obvious, immature levels. I appreciated the film as I recognized the world it existed in but moreso I seemed to understand the people and every thought they had, every motivation they took from and that is something to be applauded when working more from the visual than the word. A

Sleepwalk With Me is not a great film, but it is certainly an interesting one. A very interesting one that takes on many subjects and conquers them all with up-front, honest interpretation. A brisk and funny film told through the mind of comedian turned playwright turned filmmaker Mike Birbiglia. Birbiglia is a standard guy, but he has a knack for the mundane and making zingers of assessments out of everyday life and the choices we all face that we will always question in the back of our minds. The title comes from the through line joke that has Birbiglia suffering from a rare disorder known as REM. During REM sleep the brain is highly active, causing our protagonist Matt Pandamiglio (Birbiglia) to act out his dreams and in turn putting himself in some pretty dangerous situations. These actions during his sleep get increasing worse as his fears in dealing with longtime girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose) and her need to get married and start a family put more and more pressure on Birbiglia who desperately wants to be a comedian but finds himself going nowhere fast. Birbiglia chose to address the audience directly at certain segments in the film which provide an insight into his side of the story that the film couldn't provide otherwise. It is a nice call as it allows us to get a sense of the man and endear with him through his trials as a stand up and his faults as a boyfriend. The inside look at stand up comedy is surely the highlight for me though. Watching Matt go from a timid stage presence to perfecting his delivery and realizing his strengths as he develops his act. It is a fascinating world and to see it fleshed out on film like this is reason enough to see this film. B+

Orlando Bloom is an interesting case. He has always come off as a prestigious type of actor who peaked early and has since been unable to deliver a successful film that wasn't a part of The Lord of the Rings or Pirates of the Caribbean franchises. He'll get a bit more exposure of course this winter as he reprises the role of Legolas, but in the mean time he has starred in and produced this small indie film that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The Good Doctor is a simple little psychological drama that is straightforward in the way it approaches its story allowing the real focus of the film to be on the odd principle character. The way in which I interpreted the film was more in the vein of a character study rather than any kind of commentary on the healthcare system or any allusions to what is wrong with that system. The film actually cares very little about commenting on those types of issues, if at all, but is instead more invested in the idea that someone with such knowledge and power will abuse it for personal gain. That is of course nothing new, people do it all the time, yet the angle the film takes on the idea the person with that power might not be of the right mind; that they would abuse that authority to the point it affects the entire life course of those who willingly submit themselves and their welfare to that person is what's instilled in the audience. It is enhanced by the films creepy tone and a rather impressive performance from Bloom who becomes increasingly dependent on this need for praise and respect he feels he rightly deserves. He believes it so much we can only hope he lives up to the reputation he's given himself and will be able to cure his own serious condition. C+

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