“A Million Ways To Die In The West”: A Movie Review

A Million Ways To Die In The West

A Million Ways To Die In The West

Release Date: Friday May 30th, 2014

Running Time: 116 Minutes

Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman

MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material

Million Ways To Die In The West

With movies like “Blazing Saddles”, “Maverick”, and “City Slickers” (just to name a few) which have been enjoyed by audience members for decades, western comedies created today have pretty big shoes to fill. With the wide release of the newest addition to the genre hitting theaters today, moviegoers will have to decide if “A Million Ways To Die In The West” fits the bill.

A Million Ways To Die In The West Review

At first glance, with the number of cameos and the star studded cast, “A Million Ways To Die In The West” seems like a promising adventure in comedy. The story follows the life of Albert (Seth MacFarlane), an intelligent yet seemingly cowardly sheep farmer living in the dangerous wild west (Arizona in the late 1800s).

million ways to die movie review

After being dumped by Louise (Amanda Seyfried), the woman he thought was the love of his life, Albert is almost ready to give up on his life in Arizona until a chance encounter introduces him to the new girl in town, Anna (Charlize Theron).  The two become friends, bond over mutual hatred of all things dangerously western, and discover that maybe life in the old west really isn’t so bad afterall. That is, until Anna’s real identity comes to light and Albert is forced to muster all of the courage he can to save her.

In looking at the trailer for this film (which is at the top of this post in case you missed it), it seems so promising and I think that’s what will ultimately draw audiences this weekend. Unfortunately, however, the movie falls pretty flat. It’s just okay. Not good, not great, not the next best thing for its genre, just okay. I chuckled a few times, gagged once (just you wait), and cringed a lot during the film. It might be a decent rental if you’re bored at home one evening with absolutely nothing better to do with your time but, honestly, I think the admission price of your ticket is better spent elsewhere.

Overall, on the It’s An Ordinary Blog movie review scale from one to ten where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again I give “A Million Ways To Die In The West” a 8.95945021 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “That was equivalent to dealing yourself first in a game of poker which, I’m pretty sure, gets you shot in the old West.”

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“Blended”: A Movie Review

When it comes to on screen comedic romances, Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler are among those who do it best. From their first on screen kiss in “The Wedding Singer” to their performances in “50 First Dates”, the pair have dazzled audiences for more than a decade. In the more than fifteen (my god I feel old) years since their first movie together, so much has changed. Adam Sandler has gone on to star, write, and produce a variety of films some of which have been great and, some of which have not been so great. Drew Barrymore has also worked on several movies as an actress, producer, and director. Though much has changed in their careers over the years, one thing remains the same: When the two come together, people tend to love them.

blended

Release Date: Friday May 23rd, 2014

Running Time: 117 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language

Cast: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Kevin Nealon, Terry Crews

We’ve all had that one, horrible blind date that leaves you wondering what on Earth your friend was thinking when they set you up with that person. For single mom and professional closet organizer Lauren Reynolds (Drew Barrymore), a blind first date at Hooters with single dad and Jim Friedman (Adam Sandler) is that one, no good date. Unfortunately, unlike the rest of us who get to move on from the experience, Lauren’s nightmare date simply does not end. It gets worse. Much worse.  After learning about an opportunity to take their children on an African getaway over Spring break, the two unexpectedly find themselves in the position of sharing a suite for the duration of their African adventure. Little do they know, this particular resort specializes in blended family getaways.  The movie follows their story, the issues that they each have to overcome with their own parenting, and attempts to show audience members what it means to be a family.

I wanted to like this movie. I really, really wanted to enjoy it. I kind of enjoyed it. Sort of. The movie was cute. I laughed a little, cringed a little, and may have even shed a tear (don’t judge me). Overall, the storyline was great. I enjoyed the idea behind this film and, in understanding that it’s an Adam Sandler movie, I could appreciate it at face value. The problem that I had with it, and this is something that is consistent throughout most of the “Happy Madison” movies of late, is that they have a tendency to beat the dead horse. A half witted joke might get laughs during its first circuit but after the eleventybillionth time, it just gets old and eventually starts to take away from the movie. Had they stuck with their roots and not tried to go for it time and time again with the exact same joke, this film might have been a real winner but, unfortunately, that’s just not Sandler circa 2014 style.

Overall, on my scale from one to ten where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again, I give “Blended” a movie review rating of 1.3284 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “Well, humph.”

 

“Neighbors”: In Review

"Neighbors" Movie Review

Neighbors Release Date: 05/09/2014

Run Time: 96 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated “R” for all of the things.  Seriously, all of them. Like every single one.

Cast: That Guy From “Knocked Up”, The Australian Chick from “The Internship”, The Kid From “High School Musical” Who Is All Grown Up, & Baby Franco

As any homeowner will tell you, there’s always that one neighbor that nobody wants to live next door to.  You know, the one that never mows their lawn, refuses to fix the issues on the outside of their house, or sports his man sweater all summer long (please, for the love of all that is holy, put on a shirt!).  With the release of the new comedy “Neighbors”, which hit theaters nationwide this weekend, screenwriters Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien aim to prove to you that it could always be worse…You could be living next to these guys:

Neighbors Movie Review

After settling into their new home in a quaint neighborhood along with their adorable daughter Stella, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are excited about the prospect of new neighbors.  That feeling, however, quickly subsides as the pair discover that the house next door will be occupied by a fraternity.  Not wanting to seem ‘old’ or ‘out of touch’ these 30-somethings make a valiant effort to connect with their new neighbors, kindly asking them to “keep it down” so their new daughter can sleep through the night (because, of course, they wouldn’t otherwise have any problem, whatsoever, with the noise).  Once the frat brothers have had the opportunity to get acclimated to their new pad, Mac and Kelly realize that their “keep it cool” attitude towards their new neighbors will be short lived. Antics ensue and the situation rapidly spirals out of control in an outrageous, over the top series of events that leave you thinking that your neighbors might not be so bad after all.

This movie is crazy and outlandish but the best thing about it is that it’s exactly what it’s intended to be.  Like any good Rogen film, “Neighbors” doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are parts that are downright ridiculous but will leave you laughing throughout the movie. Overall, on my scale from one to ten where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again: I give “Neighbors” a solid 4.20 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “Ha! Did you see what I just did there?!”

“Under The Skin”: A Mini Movie Review

Under The Skin

"Under The Skin" movie review

Run Time: 1 hour 48 minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated “R” for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language

Cast: Scarlett Johansson

If you’ve been following along with my blog for a while, you know that I see a lot of movies (and I mean a whole lot) but it isn’t often that I get out to see a sci-fi drama like “Under The Skin”, which opens in the Kansas City market this weekend.

The film, which is accurately depicted in its official trailer (which you can take a peek at below), is an interesting take on what it means to be an alien learning about life in the human World.

“Under The Skin” follows the journey of Laura (played by Scarlett Johansson “The Avengers”, “Her”), an alien who preys on lonely men in Scotland, as she attempts to break free from her life as a huntress to explore what it means to be human.

The movie makes sense without actually making a lot of sense (if that makes sense). It gives away a lot without actually giving away anything. It will confuse you, intrigue you, and leave you in a thought induced transient state like only a good sci-fi drama can do.

Overall, on my movie review scale from one to ten where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again: I give “Under The Skin” a 4.3876 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of: “Wow. That was interesting!”

Side Note: “Under The Skin” would be a GREAT drinking game movie. When it comes out on DVD (or if you happen to go to a theater that has a bar) use this as a reference:

1 Shot: Every time Laura attempts to pick up a man in her creepy van but fails.

2 Shots: Every time Laura looks really, really confused.

3 Shots: Every time you’re really, really confused.

1 Shot: Every time Laura attempts to pick up a man in her creepy van and succeeds.

10 Shots: If you understand EVERYTHING you see in this film.

0 Shots (at all): If you don’t enjoy it because, honestly, you’re just not into sci-fi films.

Reflections on “Heaven Is For Real”

Heaven Is For Real

Release Date: Wednesday April 16, 2014

Run Time: 100 Minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

As you might remember from my previous post on Parenting Without Faith, religion is something that we think a lot about in our household. I think it’s for that reason that I was so excited to discover “Heaven Is For Real”. The movie (and adapted screenplay of the book with the same name), which has a release date just in time for the Easter holiday, is based on the true story of the Burpo family. After Nebraska born Colton, the son of Todd and Sonja, apparently has what is commonly referred to as a “Near Death Experience”, he begins to recount his journey to Heaven and back rocking his family to the core.

I will be the first to admit my skepticism regarding the accuracy of the story. It’s hard to digest the possibility of a young child actually spending time in the afterlife and one has to wonder whether or not his experiences were influenced by the religion in which he was raised or if he would have witnessed the same regardless. I was also a little bothered by the fact that they kept bringing up the financial situation of the Burpo family throughout the film. As a natural skeptic, I thought they would have had better luck without those details. Regardless of my personal feelings, doubt, and questions regarding the storyline, the movie was very well done.

What I appreciated most about the film was the way that the cast portrayed the familial relationships that were such a huge part of the story. From the performances of Greg Kinnear (Todd Burpo) and Kelly Reilly (Sonja Burpo) as a loving couple who puts Christ at the center of their family to Margo Martindale (Nancy Rawling) and Thomas Haden Church (Jay Wilkins) who perfectly portray the most caring and loving friends a family could ask for, every cast member worked together to bring this story to life.

The intended audience (Christian families in search of a feel good Easter film) will love the message this season. Overall, on my scale from one to ten where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again: I give “Heaven Is For Real” a 7.839 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “Hallelujah!”

“Enemy”: In Review

Enemy

Release Date: Friday March 21st, 2014 (Kansas City Market)

Runtime: 90 minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated R for some strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon

Sometimes in life, there are films that are so unique, so intense, and so well done that they become timeless works of art. “Enemy”, which opened in the Kansas City market on Friday, is not one of those. Rather, it is a film with grand aspirations.  Unfortunately, it is a film that just doesn’t quite deliver.  Several weeks ago, when I was looking at upcoming films for review, I took a peek at the official movie trailer for “Enemy” and had chills.  In looking back, the film’s trailer was its best attribute.  It had suspense and a build up that left me nervous and wanting more.  The film itself, however, could not maintain that same momentum throughout its entirety despite its relatively short runtime of only 90 minutes.

Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam, a professor at a local university who lives a relatively mundane and simple life.  Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal plays Anthony, a local movie star who lives a seemingly happy existence with his pregnant wife.  After spotting his exact double in several small local films, Adam becomes weirdly obsessed with uncovering the mystery behind his doppelganger.  Once Anthony discovers Adam’s existence, he, too, becomes awkwardly obsessed.  The two meet up in a dark hotel room (honestly, who just meets a complete stranger an hour away from home in a remote hotel room?! WHO?!) for a confrontation that is supposed to be intense but just falls flat. Afterwards, the plot takes you through a series of twists and turns that seem a little forced and leave audience members more confused than interested before providing an ending that leaves you questioning whether or not the cashier at the concession stand put something in your drink.

“Enemy” has so many twists that it ties itself into a knot it cannot undo.  It asks far more questions than it answers, and I left feeling confused and unsure as to what I had just seen.  A good twist is one that you don’t see coming, but after it happens you feel like you should have.  “Enemy” substitutes needlessly complicated for clever and throws enough at you in hopes that you don’t notice.  Gylenhaal does a fine job in playing two distinct characters, but it is not enough to make up for the shortcomings of the screenplay.

On the It’s An Ordinary Blog scale from one to ten, where one is the worst, five is the best and ten is the worst again, I give “Enemy” a 1.23574 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of: “Ummmmmm, whhhhaaaaat?!”

“Divergent”: In Review

Divergent

Divergent

Release Date: Friday 21 March 2014

Run Time: 140 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn

“The Hunger Games”, “Twilight”, and “Harry Potter” are all examples of popular young adult novel series turned wildly successful films.  Given the incredible success of its predecessors, it would stand to reason that “Divergent”, which opened in theaters across the nation yesterday, would follow suit.

“Divergent”, the first in a series of three (books), follows the story of Tris Pryor, a sixteen year old living in the futuristic dystopian society that was once Chicago.  After a series of wars and societal problems, the city divided into five factions based on qualities that they believed maintained peace.  At the age of sixteen, children in this society are tested to see with which of the five factions their instincts most closely match.  With their results to guide them, the children must then choose a faction to live in as they become official members of society.  Not everything is as it seems and during her initiation into her chosen faction, Tris’s life is turned upside down.  Conflicts within the city and plans to overthrow leadership put the bravery of Tris, her friends, and her loved ones to the test in a series of twists and turns that keep the audience focused on the story.

For those reasons, the first book was an incredible read.  It was a captivating page turner that kept my attention right until the very last page.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the film.  My biggest complaint about the movie is that the screenwriters diverged (see what I did there?!) a little too much from the book.  They failed to provide any substance to the characters that readers came to know and love through the books, and they put too much on the table taking some of the suspense and drama out of the story.  I cringed at the changes that were made to the plot, the fact that they simplified the story, and that they failed to capture some of the things that were so great about the first book.  Although the movie was mildly entertaining (ignoring the fact that I’d read the books), it was truly disappointing.

Would be fans with a few hours to burn will find that their time is better spent reading the books, which are far superior to the first film.  Overall, on the It’s An Ordinary Blog movie review scale from one to ten where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again, I give “Divergent” a 1.39025 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “Facepalm”.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”: In Review

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Release Date: Friday 21 March 2014 (Kansas City Market)

Run Time: 100 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated R for language, some sexual content, and violence.

Cast: Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Jude Law

Happy Friday, Folks!  Director and screenwriter Wes Anderson has done it again in his newest film “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, which hit theaters in the Kansas City market today. Anderson, who is well known for his work on hit films such as “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, (forgiving “The Life Aquatic”) always hits the mark with his quirky, witty films that engage and sometimes mildly confuse audience members.  Going along with that theme, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” does not disappoint.

The film follows the life and adventures of Gustave H, played by Ralph Fiennes (well known for his role as Lord Voldemort in the “Harry Potter” series), the most attentive and incredible concierge who ever existed and his trusted friend and lobby boy Zero Moustafa (played by Tony Revolori).  The two join together after the death of a wealthy hotel guest and lover of Mr. Gustave who leaves some of her fortune to her favorite concierge.  The adventures that follow and the people they encounter along the way will leave moviegoers laughing right until the very end.

If you enjoyed the weirdness of “Moonrise Kingdom”, you’ll surely not be disappointed by this film.  Overall, it’s an enjoyable ride with beautiful scenery, a fun and easy to listen to score, and a cast that plays together nicely.

On the It’s An Ordinary Blog movie rating scale from one to ten where one is the best, five is the worst, and ten is the best again I give “The Grand Budapest Hotel” a glowing 9.3546 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “That was seriously enjoyable!”

“Labor Day”: Movie Review

Labor Day

Labor Day movie review

Release Date: Friday January 31st, 2014

Run Time: 111 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic material, brief violence, and sexuality.

Cast: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Tobey Maguire

For years, Kate Winslet has dazzled fans on the big screen with her incredible talent.  Her latest film, “Labor Day”, hit theaters nationwide on Friday.  Starring alongside Josh Brolin (“W.”, “No Country For Old Men”) and Gattlin Griffith (“Changling”, “Green Lantern”, “Couples Retreat”), Winslet plays reclusive single mother, Adele, who struggles with her inability to cope with the outside World. Adele and her son Henry (played by Gattlin Griffith) live in a picturesque small town where everyone knows their neighbor.  While on a rare trip to the store for supplies, the pair encounter injured escaped convict Frank (Josh Brolin) who pressures them into providing him refuge in their home.  Left with no other choice, Adele takes him in over the Labor Day weekend.  The remainder of the film follows their story and the events that unfold changing their lives forever.

The portrayal of late 1980’s life in a sleepy town is where this film succeeds. The beautiful imagery, combined with an emotionally charged score, help to elevate this otherwise flat screenplay.  The film, which was adapted from a novel, was the second book turned screenplay for author Joyce Maynard.  The problem with translating a story from a print novel to the big screen is that it’s hard to capture every detail in the way the author intended.  In the spirit of giving the benefit of the doubt, let’s just assume this is the case with “Labor Day”. Overall, the story line is sweet and interesting but it falls short on the screen in that it it’s anticlimactic.  Audience members who are expecting a pay off will be sorely disappointed.

On my scale from one to ten where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again I give “Labor Day” a 2.6235 with an emoticon based sub ranking of “Well, maybe the book is better?!”

“The Nut Job”: In Review

“The Nut Job”

Release Date: Friday January 17th, 2014

Run Time: 86 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild action and rude humor

Cast: Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson

Sometimes an idea that is clever in theory is not so clever in execution. This is one of those times. “The Nut Job” follows the adventure of Sully (voiced by Will Arnett), a mischievous squirrel who has been banished from the his park.  Sully, with the help of his friend, Buddy, and with the eventual help of love interest Randie (Katherine Heigl) and arrogant dummy (Brendan Frasier) attempt the job of a lifetime as they try to steal the nuts from a local nut store.

A furry critter version of Ocean’s 11 sounds like a lot of fun, but the end result did not live up to the promising premise. There was very little wit, and not a ton of action.  What it did have was flatulence jokes, and plenty of them. There were also puns along the lines of, “you’re nuts!”. Well done, writers.

Despite its many flaws, the movie is not without its charms. Maya Rudolph, as the voice the ineffective guard dog Precious, delivers some genuine chuckles. The movie also shows the importance of working together and caring about more than just yourself.

Since Pixar came along (and with some of the more recent Disney animated pictures like Wreck it Ralph and Frozen) parents of small children have been spoiled by animated movies that are able to capture the hearts and tickle the funny bones of kids and adults alike. When “Toy Story” happened, I imagine parents must have considered it a pleasant surprise to bring their kid to a movie and understand some jokes that their kids might have missed. Now, it’s become an expectation for animated movies to have universal appeal and I’m not sure that is fair. Obviously, it is preferable (and profitable) to make a movie that appeals to everyone, but is also ok to make a kids movie that is mostly for kids. Grownups, this movie is not made for you. You may grown at the 4th “nut” pun and all the slapstick but your kid (providing he or she is between 5 and 10 years old) probably loves it, and that is what really matters.

On my scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the worst, 5 being the best and 10 being the worst again, I give “The Nut Job” a 2.25 with an emoticon based sub ranking of: “Oh, Nuts!”