This sequel to the 2012 original shows you the magic of Hollywood when it cuts up the best parts to put into a trailer and leaves you with a tired premise that is seen in every film about Vegas ever.It all feels like a poor excuse for the cast to splurge in Vegas with non stop celebrity cameos to keep the bored observer interested. Kevin Hart and the gang return to celebrate the wedding of two friends in the group (Regina Hall and Terence Cowrley) by going to Las Vegas and having the ultimate bachelor and bachelorette parties. It was strange to me just how similar this film was to Saved By The Bell : Zach and Kelly’s Wedding. As the scenes unfolded, i found myself able to predict each one almost comedically. By this point in his career, Kevin Hart has reached popularity of epic proportions for someone who started off as a quiet side character in many of his earlier films. In Man Too, he doesn’t have enough to do after exhausting his usual “Short guy” Schtick. By the time we are done with every possible joke that he has, his performance almost turns dramatic. This year’s About Last Night was a good example of what Kevin Hart can do when he is presented with a script that allows him to grow (No pun intended). That film was about a lot more than him flexing his comedic abilities; it showed his audience that this guy can be something more. It’s no secret that i am not a big Kevin Hart fan, and it’s mainly for roles like Think Like a Man Too. There are too many characters between the two groups which never gives leads like Hart and Regina Hall room to shine. If that wasn’t enough, we are treated to another movie with that one white guy in the group who is……..wait for it……WEIRD. Between Director Tim Story and other famously terrible director Tyler Perry, i wonder if these guys know how to write white people without being whacky. I am not kidding when i say EVERY SINGLE LINE that comes out of the guy’s mouth is the one that keeps the audience shaking it’s head in lunacy. I have to give this movie credit though, at least he isn’t racist. More craziness happens midway through the film when the female group stops the plot and everything around it to have a Bel Biv Devoe music video. I am dead serious that the movie stops for 5 minutes so the girls can go full R&B star with everything from camera talking to lip synching on a stage with a male dance club as it’s background. That scene is appropriate because that is what the whole film summed up felt like. It was just a bunch of scenes thrown together to see what stuck with no attempt at an ending that was shocking or even entertaining. If there was one thing i enjoyed about this film it would be that they at least attempted to give every character a decent storyline, and not lose them completely in the background. It’s not executed very well though, as it feels too crowded. By the final 20 minutes, we have been through every kind of emotion loud and desperate that we can’t help but look at our watches to see how much time is left. Think Like a Man wasn’t a movie i necessarily enjoyed, but it at least had a great almost novel like structure that was creatively done for the way it was telling it’s story. In this sequel, everything is thrown together on the same page, and it never feels like a sequel beyond the characters. The famous motto goes “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. In the forgettable presentation from this talented cast, lets hope that credo rings true. Avoid it like the plague
Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson star in this film about an Australian society ten years after the fall of civilization. Pearce is a man struggling for a reason to live, but that all changes when his car is stolen by a gang of thieves. The leader of which left his mentally challenged brother (Pattinson) on the side of the road to die. The Rover is blessed to have great performances from it’s leading two men. It’s just a shame that the film is riddled in little written dialogue and a very slow pacing. Peace is outstanding as Eric. He expresses his actions in every possible way, but spoken word. He is a wise citizen living in this world that has completely crumbled around him. He knows what to expect of people before it is ever done. There are so many looks that Pearce gives to the camera that are so powerful. It’s mainly because of him why this film is as high as it is to begin with. Pattinson plays a challenged man pretty well. He is never given a lot of screen time awake to accomplish the same rewards as Pearce, but he is a very welcome addition to bounce off of his co-star. The two men start off as strangers with Pearce wanting to kill Pattinson because of guilt by association, but it’s kind of nice to see what their friendship developes into. Other than the performances, the only thing i can really mention in the positives is the beautifully done camera work. The background of the Australian deserts serves as a self storytelling in the viewers eyes. We can see the face of this land that has crumbled around these characters so much, but director David Michod is smart enough to never let us in on too much of what happened here. I think that is very intelligent as no story will ever match what the viewer can come up with in their heads. After what i mentioned, it’s sad that the rest of the film cannot follow suit. For one, the journey of our two main leads to go after the gang never feels worth it. Because of the terrible pacing in between long shots of absolute silence, these scenes make us feel like we have been watching their struggles for over two hours when in reality the running time is slightly over an hour and a half. I feel like there are so many shots that didn’t need to be as long as they were with plain facial reactions. Shoot the reactions yes, but don’t leave the camera on for an unexpected length. A lot of this movie i kept waiting for the scene to end, but a shot would continue to stay on. It sounds like a very nitpicking problem, but i promise you that you will be bored by this film at the halfway point because it never knows when to initiate a successful edit. I mentioned the long journey a couple sentences ago, and how i don’t understand how they could be doing this all for a car when you are living in a society where it’s just as easy to steal one. Trust me, i fully understand that the car is symbolic for the last peace of the old life that Pearce’s character has, but it’s just hard for me to think that anyone would care about something so practical in this new world. The score is another thing that starts off decent enough with soft building beats that can be compared to old John Wayne films, but then is corroded by rap songs that have absolutely no place in a story like this. It takes the viewer completely out of the movie because you can’t help but laugh at why they would ever add that song in here to begin with. I personally would’ve stuck with the instrumentals that were perfectly capturing the emotion coming from Pearce when his car is stolen. The ending is done very sloppy as well. It happens quickly and we never feel fully satisfied from what happens. It’s more of the same from the last hour that has a good idea, but not enough direction to take The Rover over the dull grasp. The Rover is intentionally dry and shapeless. It doesn’t leave much of a lasting presence except for the performances of Pearce and Pattinson. I was hoping for so much more out of a movie that seemed destined to breakthrough from the independent film world.
Clint Eastwood directs this big screen adaptation of the Tony Award winning musical that tells the story of four friend musicians who came together to form the smash 60’s group The Four Seasons. This movie was everything and more to a viewer like me who doesn’t know much about The Four Seasons other than their music catalog. It’s not afraid to get dirty with the behind the scenes problems of guitar player and band founder, Tommy Devito. The thing i find the most impressive about Jersey Boys is that it takes the actors from the Broadway stage and puts them in the film. To me, Broadway acting and film acting are two different spectrums, so to have this great cast of John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda and Vincent Piazza really hit it out of the park, it’s extraordinary. These men were born to play these characters from the enchanted musical numbers to the attitudes that every member brings to the stage. Piazza in particular really impressed me as Tommy Devito, a man whose borrowing problems really put the band in an awkward situation that would normally kill other bands. Young is also outstanding as Frankie Valli. Some of his parts are a little corny with the dialogue, but i realize that in the 50’s and 60’s that was the times. It’s even more impressive that these actors recorded their own versions to classic hits like Big Girls Don’t cry, Sherrie, and Rag Doll. They sound very beautiful being restored to perfect crisp audio with today’s sound technology. The story itself is told very well with the narrative feel of the four characters. It never gets overdone with the way they look into the camera because that was one of the selling points of the original play. It’s each character telling their side of the story. One of the things that always brings me down about musicals is when the song is performed in an unlikely situation. Take Grease for instance. 10 badass guys in a group singing about summer love at the top of their lungs on a set of bleachers. Jersey Boys doesn’t have this problem as every musical number is set during a stage performance. The cinematography is done well, but it’s the wardrobe that really gives this movie the 60’s feel. Everyone is dressed accordingly with old button up suits for the guys, and long dresses for the ladies.. It almost feels like a Scorsese film with it’s glossy kind of look complete with wide shots of wet streets. The very few criticisms i have of the movie are so small that it didn’t really take much away for me. The running time is a little long. During the last 20 minutes i felt like i learned everything there is to know about these characters, and just kind of waited for the film to end. Another thing is that i would’ve liked to know more of the backstory friendship between Devito and Valli. The film starts off with them doing odd mob jobs and playing in this band. We don’t really know anything about them, and then are thrown into this right away. The story is about the band, but some background to fill in the blanks is always good to know. I also had a problem with the jump forward in time without explanation. One second we see Frankie marrying his wife and then 20 minutes later he has three teenage daughters. Some simple on screen text displaying “Fifteen years later” could accomplish this. There were times I was struggling to keep up with the age of the musicians at certain points, but it didn’t completely tear me away from the film. The ending credits were also something noteworthy. They feature the entire cast coming out for one big musical number Broadway style that acts as a final bow to the audience watching. It really ties it together to where it feels like you just sat through a 2 hour play. Eastwood has shown that his place behind the camera to tell a good story is exactly what you get with him. With films like J Edgar, Invictus and Letters from Iwo Jima under his belt, Eastwood continues to fully grasp the kinds of characters he is presented with. The man does his homework and spares no shame in showing his characters at their best and worst. Something i really appreciate in a director. In closing, i recommend this film to everyone. I have heard that some people who saw the stage show first were a little disappointed in the way some of the magic didn’t carry over to screen, but i honestly couldn’t tell you either way. If this is the first time around in the Jersey Boys experience, this film does a good enough job to not only get the facts right, but also have a lot of fun musical numbers with it’s audience. Jersey Boys is a B+ for me.
An Oscar worthy performance, a self conscious period piece, and a story about multiple predjudices are the culmination of Amma Ansante’s feature about the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle. Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a mixed race daughter of Admiral John Lindsay (Matthew Goode). Lindsay passes away in war, so Belle is Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet her status prevents her from the traditions of noble social standing. I felt this movie did a lot of things right considering it’s a period piece and i don’t get into those too often. Raw deserves an early Oscar nomination for the way her character goes through prejudices of not just outsiders, but her family as well. She takes a script that can be very vague with the emotions it is trying to convey and steals every scene with the kind of talent that a movie like this would be lost without. That’s not to say everything else about Belle isn’t enjoyable. It’s got a great cast led by Wilkinson, Watson, and one of my favorite actors Matthew Goode. It’s sad that Goode wasn’t in this movie longer than 10 minutes as it’s his readings with a young Belle that make for some of the most touching scenes of the movie. While watching this film, i was quite surprised to discover that this film isn’t just about racial discrimination but gender discrimination as well. England in the 1700’s became the catalyst for slave trading between many of the Admirals. For a movie like Belle to explore this early in slave history is something that is refreshing for once. I think last year’s 12 Years a Slave was the absolute pinnacle of what a racial prejudice movie could be about, but Belle does it in a way that is factual without being overdone. It’s true, there are no long shots of violence towards Belle or anything that makes us feel great terror for the character, but her situation still has us getting behind her because of the performance of Raw as i listed above. Belle is very polite considering the premise, and that is one thing i wish it could’ve explored deeper. Not every film about race has to be brutal, but it’s important to explore the kinds of hells that our characters go through, so that the payoff means even more at the end. The wardrobe is definitely the best i have seen this year, but i felt the wig designs could have been done a little better. It may be nitpicking, but i felt many of the wigs were giving away the real hair underneath of the actors and actresses. It took me out of a couple scenes where the suspension of disbelief is important. The dialogue was read very well ,and there are many scenes that i would love to go back and look at again on DVD. I think a film like this has great 2nd watch ability as there are many things that could be lost by the viewer in translational dialogue. The score is subtle, but make for enhancements to some of the best and worst moments of our main character. It’s light classical music that might be boring listening to it alone, but it fits so perfectly in a movie like this. Belle is a film that is average in most aspects, but it’s the performances that make this film a front runner in early Oscar favorites. Hard to recommend unless you are interested after watching the trailer. Many people aren’t into period pieces, but this one makes room at the top of the list.
Some would look at my rating for 22 Jump Street and think i liked it, but didn’t think it was amazing. That is true to a certain degree. I did enjoy this movie and thought it was a more than capable sequel. One thing that might surprise you however, is that i thought the film was very smart in the aspects of the way it mocks the first film and the Hollywood sequel in general. 22 Jump Street returns us to the world of two best friend cops (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) who go undercover at a college this time. It’s a sequel that is told to pack more of a punch because those are the rules that Hollywood instills. It pokes fun in many aspects like the natural progression of the script and how there are many things the same as the first film. If a movie is smart enough to realize that it is putting out the same movie and acknowledge it, then i believe that makes that movie acceptable to be a copy. I shouldn’t really use the word copy because there are a few differences in the sequel that make for fun entertainment. In this film, Tatum is the popular one of the duo, Jonah Hill is the one struggling in his police work, and the most obvious answer in the mystery isn’t the right one. The ladder is one of the things i liked the most about this film. It’s not just a bromance comedy, but a great mystery that had me guessing for a lot of the film. It all culminates in an amazing fast paced action chase scene that makes the last half hour of the film the best part of the movie by far. In fact, if the film didn’t have a slow and terribly paced opening forty minutes, 22 Jump Street would be closer to a 7.5 or an 8. It almost feels like two different directors took the helm of this movie and that makes sense because the co-directors were Phil Lord and Chris Miller. I personally think that the co-honors shows in the different tones and pacing between the first and second acts. It is in the 2nd act where the chemistry of Hill and Tatum return to the glory of the first film. We see their ability to play this duo that have basically become brothers, and the reason why no other relationship in their lives ever seems to fit. There is one shocking reveal in the middle of the movie that involves Ice Cube that absolutely gives the film the adrenaline shot that it needed. Speaking of Cube, he is the best part of the movie. On the surface it may seem like he is playing the typical angry man Ice Cube character that he always plays, but the mystery reveal will take his character in a whole new direction and help the viewer in relating to a character who we didn’t get much time with in the original film. The performances are hit and miss. Jonah Hill is a miss because his character doesn’t grow in the same kind of transformation that Tatum’s character has. Tatum does some parkour routines that make his character the same kind of guy he played in last year’s White House Down. 22 Jump Street even pokes fun at that movie in a scene where the two male leads are practically winking at the audience. I do like Hill in comedies, but i would like to see him get back to his straight roles more often. The guy has some deep acting chops, so i don’t think he needs to always be held down with the same comedic schtick. I could write a two page review on the end credits alone because they are among the best i have ever seen. I don’t want to spoil too much, but it pokes fun at anyone who goes to see the same movie over and over again (Like The Hangover films). It is so brilliant and so funny that no person will want to leave their seats because they will want to see how far this will go. There are some excellent cameos in that credits scene that will make every fan and non fan of the TV show happy they stuck around. Overall, 22 Jump Street is a more than worthy sequel that is definitely worth a look for anyone who liked the first film. I would be interested to know where people think it stands compared to the original. For me, it fell a little short, but 22 Jump Street is a welcome edition to a sequel world that is 50/50 at best.
One of the best all around animated films that i have ever seen. This might come off as a boring review because i simply have nothing bad to say about the film. Beautifully animated, powefully in depth characters, and war scenes that remind me of Lord of the Rings. I will explain more within the review. How To Train Your Dragon 2 picks up where the 2010 original left off with dragons and humans living in perfect harmony. Hiccup (Voiced by Jay Baruchel) and Toothless are best friends flying through the land side by side when the dragon population is threatened by Drago (Possibly the best voice casting of DJimon Hounsou), a vicious ship master who befriends the Alpha Dragon who commands the other dragons telepathically. Drago is absolutely the most menacing villain that i have ever seen in a Dreamworks film. His actions are never limited, and he shows no fear what so ever when dealing with his enemies. He is the perfect villain to go toe to toe with the viking community. It’s not often where you get a villain who you can’t wait to see them get what they deserve, but Drago takes us back to the characters that terrorized our childhoods. The rest of the voicing is casted perfectly with performances by Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill, and the newest addition, Cate Blanchett as Hiccup’s mother, Valka. It was perfect to introduce a character like Valka because it showed us more of the backstory from our main character, but also introduced us to a romance that is so beautifully written between her and Stoick that it will make romance genre films in 2014 weak by comparison. I never thought i would be talking about chemistry in a voiced only film, but the magic between Butler and Blanchett carries the movie into a war scene that carries the pace perfectly. In those war scenes, the camera shots are dominated by artfully colored dragons that stretch as far as the eye can see. However, it’s the little things that amazed me the most about Dreamworks latest masterpiece in the world of animation. The things like the volume of a characters beard, movement of water, and distinguishing marks on a characters skin. It’s impressive to see how far we have come from the days of Shrek. I can only imagine the future of Dreamworks in 5 years. I mentioned before how i don’t have much negatively to say about this film and that is because everything clicks on all cylinders. It’s clear to see that they didn’t make a movie too quick (Planes, Cars) and actually took 4 long years before making a sequel that could live up to the great original. In my opinion, not only does this film live up to the original, but it soars a lot higher. It’s no secret that i am not a big fan of animated sequels, but this film actually has a great chance to match up against Toy Story for the best animated trilogy of all time. It’s that good, and director Dean Deblois is the perfect person for the job if there was a 3rd film. Besides the Dragon films, he made Mulan which is one of my all time favorite Disney films. Dean’s masterpiece (in my opinion) comes in the form of Dragon 2 though. He has taken animated characters and dragons that rarely ever say anything and made them relatable. It shows movies like Cars and Planes that you don’t have to make these material things human for people to relate to them. Rely on emotion and the crowd will come to the theater in dozens. The last three weeks have been amazing for movies. It’s rare that we have a time where 80% of the films out are at least good or better. This really is a good time to get to the movies, and if you have a family then this is the film for you. It’s got something that even the adults will find well produced. I hope the kids will enjoy it because for once they aren’t treated like idiots. They are getting a look at real characters that we meet in our everyday lives, and that is what pays off the most for How to Train Your Dragon 2. A very inspiring piece of escapism that is among the year’s best not only in animated, but in film in general.
Every once in a while there will come a film in the romance department that a man and a woman can equally enjoy and it not be a one sided occasion. The Fault in Our Stars is that film for this decade. It stars Shailene Woodley as a cancer patient struggling for a reason to live. She meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Egort) who becomes romantically interested in the girl, and gives her life for the first time in a long time. On the surface, Stars is one of those films that is just another romantic teenager movie about self loathing and love being the only key to happiness. But it takes a deeper look into the 2 hour film to understand that this film is about living for today because tomorrow might not be there. I really enjoyed this film for it’s superior acting, brilliant soundtrack and it’s heartbreaking attitudes without resorting to too much exploitation of the genre. I am happy to say that i did successfully predict the ending of the film, but that didn’t take too much away from it. Stars has something that everyone can enjoy, and a lot of that resorts to Egort who is absolutely fantastic as Augustus. He gives the film the charm and the life it needs from what would otherwise be a depressing teenage tale. This is only the first film i have seen him in, but i think he is a young actor with a bright future. Some actors can just give you a look to make you smile back at the screen, and Egort is one of those lucky few. This review would be pointless if i didn’t talk about how good Woodley is in it as well. I kind of didn’t have an opinion on her before this movie. I liked Divergent, but didn’t think she needed to be a strong actor to play that part. She was good in The Spectacular Now, but was outshined by Miles Teller. Stars is finally her movie. She proves that she can provide the viewer a scope of a character that they can hope the best for without 100% feeling sorry for her. She is very witty as Hazel Lancaster, and speaks and acts in a way that all teenage and young adult females can relate to. Examples even as small as waiting for the boy you like to call you early on in the relationship, or not having that confidence in yourself until someone else makes you see it. Woodley captures superbly the awkwardness of being a teenager and the never say die attitude in being a cancer patient. The only slight problem i had with the acting was Laura Dern as Hazel’s mother. Most people will watch the film and think i was nitpicking, but i just didn’t feel she was cast right for the role. I have never been a fan of Dern’s and i don’t feel this movie did her any favors as well. Her scenes feel so fake whenever she delivers a very important role. It slows down the movie and makes us remember that we are just a viewer in a story and not actually there with the characters. The only other problem i had with the movie was it’s pacing. The first hour is one of the best opening hours in film in 2014 because there is so much packed into that hour. Once we get to the halfway point, we feel like we have been watching the movie for 90 minutes, but that is where the movie starts to show some of it’s problems. The second hour is good, but by that point you know where the film is heading, so it’s hard to stay as excited for a movie that already has a set direction. If the first hour of the film could’ve withheld some of those events and saved them for the early part of the 2nd hour, i think it would’ve made for a smooth transistion into the tearjerking 2nd hour. Speaking of tears, the ladies were absolutely bawling during my showing. I heard several sniffs during the emotional scenes, and plenty of reaches for the tissues. It’s in that area where Stars delivers at it’s best. You know you are coming into a sad movie, and this one never fails to deliver on that promise. I mentioned before that the soundtrack was something very noteworthy. It’s hip, but gives a different kind of feel for everyone from electro pop to indie rock to beautifully constructed piano backgrounds that greatly compliment the struggles that our characters go through. The Fault in Our Stars is one of the biggest surprises of the year for your favorite film critic. The thing i liked the most about it is that it shows that you don’t always need vampires and factions to show teens in all of their angst driven journeys that cultivate into hopeful glory. Well recommended for a good date night. It’s nice to see a weekend that comes out with two can’t miss choices in this and Edge of Tomorrow.
Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star as two soldiers dying over and over again while living through the same day in Warner Brothers newest sci fi smash, Edge of Tomorrow.I really enjoyed this film. It was clever, funny (For the right reasons), and surprisingly very well acted. Cruise returns to top form playing a character that is different than anything he has played in 15 years. He plays Major William Cage, a soldier who has risen the ranks without ever actually getting his hands dirty. It’s in that aspect that gives Cruise the vulnerability to show the fear of the soldiers going into this war. Many war films only show the soldiers acting like emotionless machines while going into battle. In Edge of Tomorrow, it’s our main character who is the most afraid. We feel sorry for this man as he doesn’t even know how to remove the safety from one of his weapons. For anyone who has seen the trailer, we know Cruise dies over and over, but what makes seeing the movie special is the comedic undertones of the way every death is played. There were some points in the movie where i got some legitimate laughs that i haven’t gotten from most comedies this year. It’s in that kind of screenplay that Christopher Mcquarrie can bounce all kind of ideas that a film with a similar premise like Groundhog Day only began to touch on. The deaths themselves aren’t played for laughs like Groundhog Day, but rather the situation and the fact that Cage has to memorize every single little thing about his day or he will end up in the same place. Once he has gone so far and dies, we feel the pain of the character because we went through it with him, and we can’t help but smile. Emily Blunt is absolutely the best part of this movie. She plays war machine, Rita Vrataski. She acts as kind of a symbol for the human revolt against the machines that have laid claim to foreign countries. It’s nice to see a woman engage as the toughest character of the film. As Rita, Blunt stands tall and trains Cruise to be the kind of soldier they need him to be to win the war. Her turn in 2012’s Looper showed her range of acting, but it’s in Edge of Tomorrow that Emily shows she has great ability to do her own stunt work. Her performance alone should inspire any female moviegoer who is on the edge of seeing this film to see it. Bill Paxton also hands in a great performance as a tough jerk general who is always the first person to greet Cruise day after day. One of the things i really enjoyed about the movie was the robot creatures. There are some real original takes on the designs of the robots from razor sharp teeth to the way they move around. The moving alone of the creatures kept every fight scene from ever tiring out. I can watch these fight scenes over and over again because i tried to keep my eyes peeled for a new robot every time. The design of the armor suits that the soldiers wear were also very futuristic and original for a motion picture. It did remind me a lot of the Titanfall game and it’s armor, but it’s nice to see it come to life in an actual suit, and not played off as CGI. The pacing of the movie is well done for at least the first 90 minutes. It’s in the final 20 minutes that the movie starts to drag on a little long. By this point in the movie, you know where it’s heading so the surprises are already long gone. The ending was one of the only things i had a tiny problem with and that is because it’s not fully explained all the way. I am not going to spoil it for you the readers, but i wish they would’ve stuck with the ending and the way things appeared to be going. When compared to the Japanese Manga, the movie is completely different. The only similarities are Rita’s name and character, and the premise of the war repeating day after day. Other than that, it’s a completely original screnplay. I can’t really decide on the book or the movie being better because i think they both have their place because they aren’t exactly one in the same. I did like the ending in the book better, so i kind of give it the edge on that front. It was great to see these powerful war battles come to life on screen from the beautiful pages of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel. Edge of Tomorrow is refreshing for it’s comedic tones and not having to rely on action movie cliches that most of Cruise’s last 15 years has relied on. It’s easily his best starring movie since 1996’s Jerry Maguire. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and i definitely recommend it to everyone who watched the trailer and was even remotely interrested. It doesn’t disappoint.
Director and star of the movie Seth Macfarlane returns to the silver screen with the anticipated follow up to his 2011 smash hit, Ted. The most surprising thing about A Million Ways to Die in the West is the fact that it’s not a very funny movie. It has it’s cheap laughs, but my biggest problem with Macfarlane’s comedy has always been that his jokes are too drawn out…..FOR WAY TOO LONG. Macfarlane stars as Albert, a sheephearder living in the wild west of Arizona in 1898. Macfarlane is dumped by his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried), but falls head over heels for new girl, Anna (Charlize Theron). The problem? Anna has a husband who is the most famous gunslinger in the west, Clinch (Liam Neeson). As i said before, jokes feel drawn out for way too long ruining some legitimately good laughs. The kind of fast paced talking smart man schtick with jokes also doesn’t mix well with the visual slop usually seen in Adam Sandler movies. In this one, there is a vicious diarrhea scene, fecal matter on a child’s pillow, and even being urinated on the face by a sheep. The biggest sin with the laughs that actually work is the fact that they are rendered powerless by a nearly 2 hour run time. By the time the final 20 minutes hit, these jokes feel overused and even exhausting by this point. Macfarlane himself isn’t the kind of guy we can get behind. The underdog story is a good one to use in a old west setting, but Macfarlane is very unlikable and at times annoying. He is the kind of guy who has commentary for everything going on in the town, but has no desire to change any of it. The more a character complains, the more the viewer will roll their eyes. Thank God for his co-stars though, because there are some good performances to recognize. Liam Neeson is by far the best part of this movie. He plays a villain that doesn’t play for jokes once. Neeson is the best when he is himself, and that is exactly who he plays as Clinch. He is every bit the man you see hunting for his family in the Taken films. Neil Patrick Harris is very charasmatic as the rebound man for Macfarlane’s ex-girlfriend. He has a musical number at the saloon that is about moustaches that will be stuck in your head for days. Harris is cocky, but knows how to always look through the screen at the viewer and wink for a smile out of us. Giovanni Ribisi also hands in a buzzworthy performance as Macfarlane’s best friend, Edward. It’s the little things that Ribisi does that has us chuckling. Things like playing a comedic straight man to Macfarlane’s comedic banter. He brings out the best in every scene that he is in. It’s just unfortunate that there aren’t more of those scenes to go around. There is a beautiful score by Joel Mcneely that really takes you back to westerns like Blazing Saddles and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. He does his magic behind these long shots of beautiful mountains that play to twangy guitars and rusty violins. The setting and wardrobe are very complimentary, so no complaints there. It’s a shame that a movie like this didn’t fully deliver with a trailer that was very well done. I saw this trailer almost every time i went to the movies and was so psyched to see it. It’s not nearly one of the worst movies of the year, but i can’t give a pass to this one. As great as Ted was, A Million Ways to Die in the West will always be known as Macfarlane’s clunker. At times, it tries to be Blazing Saddles with creating the kind of racist and degrading religious jokes that would be taboo 40 years ago, but don’t carry the same weight in a Family Guy society that has already explored that avenue. Saddles was a film that at it’s time was so shocking because it was a white and black male leads that were going nose to nose with slander jabs that didn’t often make it to the big screen. It’s a different age in a different era, and A Million Ways to Die in the West is a long joke about how it sucked to live in the wild west…..A very long joke.
Angelina Jolie has given the performance of her life as the title character in a re-imagining of Disney’s 1959 animated feature, Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent is narrated by the sleeping beauty in question, Aurora. It is from that point of view that kind of makes me question some things. The first is how she knew about everything that went down before she was born and even when she was a baby. How does she know these things? The common answer is that she was told them by other people, and to that i ask if we know that even this story can be true. That is one thing that is a blessing and a curse with these two films; you never really know which one to believe. It’s nice to leave it completely up to interpretation, but for my money i think Sleeping Beauty is the better and more logical film. As a film by itself, Maleficent is a solid film that has a lot going for it. Lets get it out of the way first, Jolie is was and will always be the best person to play the queen of Disney villains. She gives us a performance that makes us yearn for her whenever she isn’t on screen, and gives us some great one liners with her sinister smile to compliment. God forbid, when Jolie leaves this mortal coil, this will be the film that people will remember her for the most. It’s easily her best performance since 1998’s Gia. The direction of the film is also done well by first time director Roger Stromberg. Stromberg shows a lot of promise considering he has never stood behind the camera. The characters are all pretty well written by Linda Woolverton, and she has a lot of room to stretch these characters beyond their original means because this is a re-imagining. The CGI is something that i loved and hated. I loved it for reasons like the scenary and long shots of the beautiful enchanted forrest. The colors of fairies and lightning bugs give many shots of the characters a beautiful glow that particularly brings out the green in the eyes of Maleficent. The one thing i didn’t like about the CGI is when it’s pointless. You have many CGI animals in the form of a raven and a pack of wolves that could’ve easily been real. Wolves are hard to train, and i undertstand that, but i feel that too much CGI will take a viewer out of the movie and make the humans in the film feel like the only real effect of the movie. I also wasn’t fond of shrinking actresses down to play the three fairies that watch over Aurora. It’s a similar effect that they did in the 2006 bomb Alice In Wonderland. What makes little sense to me is that the ferries can also be full human size. The three are good in their roles when they play it in human form, but look almost too wooden like to be taken seriously as the ferries. I get that it’s a Disney movie, but the ferries look like dolls when they are small but normal human beings when they are big. It didn’t ruin the experience for me, but i wouldn’t be opposed to more creativity when it comes to the look of the film. The movie is nearly perfectly casted with lots of noteworthy performances. Sharlto Coplay plays King Stefan drunk with power and a touch of fear for everything Maleficent opposes him with. Of any character, this is definitely the biggest 360 turn in direction. Sam Riley plays Maleficent’s sidekick Diaval with loyalty to his commander. There is nothing he won’t do for the person who saved him, and i can’t wait to see more from Riley as i feel he has a bright future. Elle Fanning as Aurora was probably the only slight problem i had with the casting. It’s not that she did a terrible job with the character, but the writers of the film did her no favors in getting her across as lovable to the crowd. She did about the best that she could have with the material written for her character, but i would’ve liked to have seen Jaimie King step into the role. She is an actress with a little more emotional depth to bring to a character who learns that her world falls around her at the mercy of a curse. The idea of having the movie shown from the perspective of the villain is something that i would like to see a lot more of from other Disney villains. When i compare it to Sleeping Beauty, i think i appreciate Maleficent more as the villain because of her actions and the personality that she shows. Even in this movie, she was still a very ruthless character when it came to disliking babies, smacking ferries and silencing anyone who gets on her nerves. I give a lot of respect to the writing of the plot with the only scene being similar to Sleeping Beauty was the cursed cristening. They literally wrote a completely new film that deserves a lot more respect than being called a remake. With some tightening of characters, and a little less CGI work, the film could be one of Disney’s best live action features of the 21st century. I would recommend the movie even for Jolie’s performance alone. If you have seen the actress at her worst, it’s time you see her at her best. Maleficient is a story about the mistakes that people make and the guilt that plagues them after those mistakes. Recommended for a matinee showing, but i don’t think it’s worth a full $11 showing.
A deliciously welcome addition to the world of comedy. Chef’s charming cast and sharp, funny script add enough spice to make this feel-good comedy a flavorful treat. Jon Favreau dives in again as the star and director of this story about a chef who has a passion to cook who loses his job after getting canned by a food critic (Oliver Platt). Chef is a lot deeper than a story about food. It is just table dressing for the main course with Favreau being a less than stellar father to his child. Infact, it’s in the 2nd half of the film that the movie takes a more serious turn with our lead going out on the road with his best friend (John Leguizamo) and son (Emjay Anthony). He finds himself finally getting the relationship with his son that he never had all of these years. The cast is totally a work of art when you think about how many a-listers they packed into this movie. Besides Favreau, Leguizamo and Platt, there is Scarlett Johansson as receptionist and Favreau’s girlfriend, Sofia Vergara as Favreau’s ex-wife, Robert Downey JR as a business associate, and Dustin Hoffman as a jerk of a boss who fires Favreau. All of these characters are mixed together to create a delicious stew of feel good moments. Ok, i promise that is the final food reference i make in this review I will say that this is not the movie to go into if you are hungry. This movie is like pornography for your stomach with the way it presents the delicious trays of food that he places right in front of the camera. The only minor problem i had with this movie is that it is about 15 minutes too long. There are a couple of scenes that didn’t necessarily need cut, but rather shortened. The chemistry is definitely there with the characters, so i understand why there are long takes in the editing. It’s just something i felt could only hurt the film. I will say that there is nothing wrong with the ending, but the movie did end just as the movie was starting to lose some of it’s steam with the predictable direction it was heading. With everything said, Chef is definitely one of the best feel good movies of the year. It’s one of those movies that just puts you in a good reason every time you watch it. It’s in that aspect why i feel Favreau is a terrific film maker. You can always relate to the characters he plays, but i would like to see more of what he could offer as the man behind the scenes. I am sure people would be surprised to realize how many good films Favreau has directed. The first two Iron Man’s, Elf, Made and Chef show that this is a guy with a reputable past, and i look forward to seeing more from him. The setting of California and Miami were two great choices for the film. It’s in those atmospheres where food thrives with mostly cuban dishes. The soundtrack was also something that was fun and trivial at times. Every song featured in the film is given kind of a cuban spice to it, so it’s not always recognizable. When the lyrics finally hit, it’s fun to see the crowd say “Hey, that’s Sexual Healing”. It compliments the scenary of the movie well, and takes our characters across the country with some of the best moments of the movie. Leguizamo has always been one of my favorite actors, so it was nice to see him at the top of his game again. Too many of his films lately haven’t let him shine as the diamond actor he is. Chef is a movie that will give you no choice but to put you in a great mood. I can also predict that many people will eat within an hour of the credits hitting the screen. Well recommended.
Adam Sandler’s latest off screen vacation shows him making a movie in the setting of Africa. Sandler stars as a widowed father to three girls while trying to step back into the dating world. Drew Barrymore is his first date, and she carries two boys of her own. When you get past the obvious Brady Bunch kind of storyline that this film has to it, there is a lot of positives and negatives to talk about. After coming out of it, i have to say that i didn’t hate the movie as much as i thought i would. With that said, it’s still not a good film at all. It just has a lot to appreciate. One of those things is that it’s not as terrible as three of his latest efforts in Grown Ups 2, That’s My Boy and the painfully awful Jack and Jill. Blended is a two headed dragon that is trying to be two kinds of films at once and only succeeding at one. It fails as a comedy for a lot of the typical reasons Sandler films do these days. It’s childish, slapstick, and loses any kind of moral compass by the opening frame in a toilet (appropriate eh?), or the scene an hour in when rhino’s are having sex. There are many convenient openings for jokes that will make the clear headed viewer roll their eyes. One scene in particular has a character named Dick dating Drew Barrymore’s best friend, Jen (Wendy Mclendon-Covey). Adam Sandler comes across an online rumor of Barrymore and Covey being lesbian lovers, and the joke comes when Jen tells Barrymore “I am done with dick”. Get it? it’s funny because Sandler just called her a lesbian two minutes ago.Every joke just feels like it was written in a board room with the most juvenile setup. I also don’t understand how Sandler and Barrymore are able to take their family of 7 on Sandler’s bosses trip to Africa when his reservation was only for 6 total people. A Sandler fan will say “Well it’s easy to make those reservations change”. And while that may be true for a plane ride, the WHOLE TRIP has already been planned. I am talking hotel, activities and even chairs at the dinner table. I laughed about 5 times total throughout the whole movie and those were light chuckles. Most of the laughs come from Terry Crewes as the entertainer in Africa who follows the families everywhere they go on the trip blending his african music with comedic lyrics. Other than Crewes who is always electric, the kids of the families provide the other laughs. It’s cute little kid laughs that add to the second head of this beast. More on that later. The one part that gave me a legit laugh was a cameo by Allen Covert as Ten Second Tom. For those of you who remember 50 First Dates, that character makes a funny cameo that sort of draws the two films worlds together.. That second head that i referred to is the one that succeeds as a family movie. I knew the film was rated PG-13 coming into my screening, but i was very surprised with how tame this movie was considering all of the crude parts were used for the trailer. Underneath the crude, there is a genuine heart felt story just dying to be told. Barrymore carries the load for this genre as she has a deep bonding with Sandler’s kids. Even Sandler’s backstory with his wife’s passing puts the pieces in place for you to root for these two characters to get together by the end. There are two things that ruin this. One is that Sandler is still a jerk as he is in all of his movies. He once again insults family, friends and anyone else in order to be the hip guy of the film. It makes the viewer wonder why someone as great as Barrymore would ever get with him. The second problem is the chemistry of Sandler and Barrymore. Plenty of Sandler-holics will tell me that the chemistry of the two leads are still there and it was just as good as 50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer. To that, i say they are correct……kind of. The chemistry is definitely there, but it feels like more of a friendship chemistry than a romantic one. I understand that these characters don’t really like each other when they go on the trip, but they don’t even kiss till the final 10 seconds of the movie. Drew is leagues above Adam in the romantic family genre, and if she had a leading man who could give her the performance that makes that relationship believable, then Blended would be a 6 or a 6.5. I promise you that i am not being picky about this movie at all. I go into every film with open eyes even if i don’t want to see it. I expected the world out of Godzilla and that kind of disappointed me. This is kind of the opposite. I expected the absolute worst out of Blended, but it actually was a lot better than i thought. As it stands, it’s nowhere close to my 20 worst films of the year. Blended is a film that any Sandler fan will think is a great movie. If you don’t mind tasting the same food for 15 years in a row, then it will always taste the way it did on day one. But if you go into Blended with a clear mind, you will think it’s an easily forgettable movie, and that is kind of sad. It’s sad that movies like Jack and Jill will be remembered more because of how bad they are ,and Blended with all of it’s heartfelt family sentiments will be forgotten because it’s only in the middle of Sandler’s filmography. Blended is two styles of movie that can never really fully commit one way or the other. recommended for Sandler fans, but everyone else can wait for DVD.