A Million Ways to Die in the West – Movie Review

MacFarlane & TheronA Million Ways to Die in the West was one of those films that I was really looking forward to when I first heard about it. While I’m hardly a huge Seth MacFarlane fan you do need to give the guy credit where credit is due, he does have an extremely sharp wit to him and can make an audience laugh at some of the stupidest things imaginable.

Seyfried & NPHNeedless to say A Million Ways to Die in the West is a little bit too big for its britches. MacFarlane brings in an A-list cast of very talented actors including, but not limited to, Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi, Amanda Seyfried and a huge slew of hilarious and fun cameos. The only problem… the main cast really ends up being a letdown.

Hiding in the SheepA Million Ways to Die in the West follows Albert (Seth MacFarlane), an inept sheep farmer, whose lover, Louise (Amanda Seyfried), has just dumped him. In attempt to win her back he challenges her new lover, Foy (NPH), to a duel, the problem lies within when the audience learns that Albert has never fired a gun before.  Aided by Anna (Charlize Theron), the wife of notorious bandit Clinch (Liam Neeson), Albert learns about guns, love, and life in the West.

Silverman & RibisiWhile the plot isn’t the weakest plot by far, it is pretty standard. It’s a script that really needs something to punch it up so it becomes more than just subpar. Unfortunately the film never truly finds its groove. There are so many excellent cast members who I just felt were under-utilized. Silverman and Ribisi’s characters have a cute relationship going back and forth which could have played for laughs if written properly, but instead it becomes backdrop to the backdrop and is quite often forgotten about, making the punches weaker.

Getting HelpWhen it comes to the jokes in the film, there weren’t many original jokes in the entire movie. A lot of the jokes that are in the film are classic MacFarlane, where he seems  to realize there hasn’t been a laugh in awhile, and so rather than come up with something extremely witty he would throw in a fart, poop or dick joke to get a few audience members laughing, hoping that laughter would catch on and become contagious. Sometimes it was, most times it wasn’t.

Liam NeesonThe best part of the film were the great cameos which included Gilbert Gottfried as the most messed up Abraham Lincoln I have ever seen, Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown (yes that Doc Brown), Dennis Haskins (from Saved by the Bell days), Ewan McGregor, Jamie Foxx, Ryan Reynolds and the voice of Patrick Stewart. You have to give credit to MacFarlane; he knows a lot of actors who are willing to work with him, even if it’s just for a 10 second gag.

Shooting BottlesOverall as comedies go A Million Ways to Die in the West isn’t the funniest, by far, a lot of the jokes are cheap and base, but there are some really golden moments that make me not hate it. For a comedy, it was too long and really did drag on near the end, but overall, it was better than Neighbors.

Poster2.5 Parody Rip-offs out of 5

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Neighbors – A Movie Review

Rogen and ByrneNeighbors. When douches attack. This film actually looked hilarious in all of the trailers. Seth Rogen vs. Zac Efron. Hard R comedy. I guess I went in with higher expectations than I should have. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play Mac and Kelly, young parents, who just bought their dream house. The joy of this event is taken away when a frat known for partying 24/7, moves into the house next door.

EfronI was expecting a healthy dose of mean spirited pranks and hilarity back and forth between Mac and the frat-house leader Teddy (Efron), but instead found that most of the second act was boring filler. Any and all comedic moments are actually in the trailer. The knee slapping, laugh out loud, moments that really should have grabbed us in the theatre were what made us want to see the movie in the first place.

De Niro PartyThe film was lazy and uninspired drivel that rehashed every idea that’s ever been done in any sort of frat movie. The only difference is that instead of the party frat being the victim plagued by the “evil dean” trying to shut down the frat we have Mac and Kelly, two individuals who we are supposed to feel sorry for, despite their antagonizing antics, hoping desperately that this “evil” frat is shut down instead.

House PartyThe film sells itself on childish dick jokes, which include a scene where the brothers decide to make casts of their own penises to sell as dildos and eventually results in the end with Rogen and Efron slapping each other with said dildos.  And once again, the pranking back and forth, which could have been really well done, was instead showcased in the very first trailer.

Efron and FrancoI think I chuckled, not laughed, about four or five times throughout the film, but was more bored than anything else. There was one joke that I actually laughed out loud to, which involves a doctor played by Jason Mantzoukas who literally steals a joke from Family Guy. I shouldn’t have laughed at the stolen joke, but almost anything that Mantzoukas says is hilarious. If you had thrown him in the film as any sort of main character I can guarantee it would have been funnier, even as uninspired as it was.

Abercrombie and FitchThe film also gives away its ending within the first 15 minutes. There’s a scene where Efron and Rogen enter a bedroom in the frat room and Efron literally lays down the plan for how the film will end.  You would have to be an idiot not to see it coming.

Frat DanceSurprisingly I didn’t hate this film after seeing it. I was indifferent. I was going to give it 2.5 out of 5. I had thought of some nice things to say about it, but after seeing all of the Neighbors defenders out there who feel that this movie is cinematic gold I immediately started to hate it more than I originally did. Yes, to each their own, but as frat movies go, this is a piece of shit. Director Nicholas Stoller has done better and will do better.

 

Movie Poster1.5 homemade dildos out of 5

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Robocop (2014) – A Movie Review

RobocopRobocop. Another unnecessary remake. If you’ve seen the original Robocop there is no need to bother with this “reinvention”. While the story itself is not a direct remake, there is no new territory covered, and nothing worthy of considering this to be a needed film.

Before the AccidentFor those who are unaware of the Robocop lore, Alex Murphy (this time played by Joel Kinnaman), a Detroit cop, is almost murdered. He barely survives, and the only way he will make it is he becomes part man/part machine, which is convenient since Omnicorp, an international organization hell-bent on creating a complete robot-police force, convinces Murphy’s wife to sign on to allow him to become the first “Robocop”.

Michael KeatonThe backstory of Murphy ended up in this dire situation is overshadowed by the malicious intents of Omnicorp and its evil overlord Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), yet it’s the most interesting part of this very dull film.  The whole good cop vs dirty cop is an overused cliché in any film that features cops, yet if done well, they have a chance because everyone likes a wolf in sheep’s clothing tale. Too much of nothing is happening to allow anything to really happen throughout this entire film.

Without the suitThis is Joshua Zetumer’s first writing credit, and it’s evidenced through its lack of character and plot development and a whole slew of unnecessary characters and scenes. If we cut out all the drivel we could fit this entire film into a 42 minute episode for television… which as a pilot episode wouldn’t get a series picked up to order.  I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing any of director Jose Padilha’s films, despite the f act that I recently picked up a copy of Elite Squad to watch when I have a few minutes. After watching Robocop I doubt Elite Squad will be worth the time though.

Sam JacksonWhen it comes to actors, it was, mediocre at best. Kinnaman was dull and boring. Keaton is just happy to be in a movie again. Barachul was underutilized, but also felt way out of place in this film. Oldman gave a half-hearted performance. I don’t even know why Jackson was even in this film.

TrainingThe reason people love the original Robocop is because of the campy, over the top violence with hard hitting punchy quips and playfulness that goes hand in hand with the graphic content. By watering down this remake to what it became we lose all of that. The film was just absolutely boring. There was nothing fun about it. There was no playfulness. No real action scenes I can bother remember. And overall, a complete and utter mess.

robocop poster1.5 Remakes that Should Never Have Been out of 5.

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Knights of Badassdom – A Movie Review

Dinklage & KwantanI sat down to watch Knights of Badassdom because I was on a high from Ottawa Comiccon, the one weekend a year where I let myself go full nerd. I figured what better way to unwind after a great weekend, which included meeting the beautiful Summer Glau, than to settle down and watch a movie about LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) starring Summer Glau. Big mistake. What a buzzkill it was. You could probably stop reading here and know that the review isn’t going to really pull any punches.

Mysterious GemJoe, played by Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) is a mechanic who sings doom metal and is dumped by his girlfriend. To help him get over it his buddies: Hung (Peter Dinklage) and Eric (Steve Zahn) get him high and drunk and then take him to a LARP event where they accidently conjure a demon from Hell and have to find a way to send it back or die trying.
DemonI guess I should have really read more into the description before starting the film, because really – it doesn’t seem to have the same type of charm as Role Models did when it addressed LARPing. This film actually just made almost everyone look like a giant asshole. The script was wretched. It was nonsensical. The summoning of the demon as a gag wasn’t really explained, it just kind of happened… and then it started to kill.

LarpingNone of the actors seemed to care about this film. I know that by the midpoint I had a hard time caring. Summer Glau, as beautiful as she is, could not save this movie. When you look at the credits it’s obvious that this wasn’t made by a director who has made quality before, the only director Joe Lynch has done before that I recognized by title was Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, and once again that recognition is by title only. This is also the first writing credits for both writers Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall. It wasn’t finessed. Had a lot of unnecessary dialogue and perhaps had one of the worst endings I have ever seen before.

Possessed DinklageSpoilers below.

So – the ending has Joe get on top of a car and sing a doom metal ballad that he had originally written for his ex-girlfriend at the beginning of the song. By singing the song he summons the spirit of Hung (who is killed by the demon midway through the movie) who slashes the demon, what appears to be quite softly, and kills it.

GlauStupidest. Ending. Ever. To a movie that rivals The Hungover Games on how bad it really was.

There shouldn’t need to be reasons as to why you shouldn’t see this movie more than it’s just horrible. Don’t. Skip.

Poster1 Severed Demon Head out of 5.

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Three Poems: A Short Film – Movie Review

Three PoemsThree Poems is writer/director Jake Houston Harris’ debut short film. The short is exactly as it sounds, a trio of poems, put to a cinematic backdrop which accents Australia’s beautiful landscapes, exploring themes of pride, arrogance, weakness and stubbornness. As the short opens we are greeted to an engaging visual display which draws in the viewer while the words “And then Man created time and spent eternity trying to outrun it” appear on the screen. The ominous music, an original score by Zayd Thring, sets the tone as we enter the first cinematic poem. Before continuing I have to simply say that the score and the music for this film are phenomenal. The short is worth the view to hear the music alone.

In a Boat - CopyThe first poem, That Ominous Water, has a lyrical tone whose cadenced rhythm draws you in and captures you. A lone woman sits in a row boat whose mooring is coming undone. She has the chance to pull herself in, and instead watches the rope slide off the dock and into the water. The poem starts off with the tone of hopelessness we know the character will feel by the end: “The waters rise about her drift… her old mesh satellite dampens thoughts, unheard, into inauspicious whispers.” The most despairing moment of this short within a short is when you realize that hope is so close, yet despair is so prevalent and looming that there can be no happy ending. What happens on the screen goes hand in hand with the lyrics and they manage to accent each other, while being able to maintain their uniqueness as individuals.

Man Burying Woman - CopyThe second poem, Rose Arcadia, is a lesson in futility. We join two, presumed, lovers, lying in the dirt, burying each other. It’s easy to understand that this is the end of a relationship, yet the image of them burying each other sticks with me. It reminds me of a quote my high school English teacher used to say many years ago about this form of self-destructive behaviour in literature or any sort of arts medium: “they are immolating themselves on a pier of their own construction.” It’s a haunting quote that has stuck with me to this day and I watch as it plays out with no way to stop it. I can’t even remember the actual poem for this short as the imagery supersedes any lyrical association.

Stand Off 2 - CopyThe final poem, The Grey, carries a political message around the tensions between European and Indigenous populations within Australia, but it can carry its message to any country.  This poem features the most exquisite of the imagery and overall accents the amazing cinematography throughout this entire short.  This third poem is a stand-off, and the intensity goes hand in hand with the feelings of desolation, loneliness, poverty, racial separation, and the need to come to terms with differences.

Woman Burying ManOverall this short is highly engaging and is doing quite well on the festival circuits. Harris premiered Three Poems in Manhattan at the 23rd Magikal Charm Experimental Festival and was accepted into the Cannes Court Metrage Short Film Corner Festival in France. It made its Australian debut at the Reel Good Film Festival in Melbourne in April. Three Poems also won the Gold Remi at the Houston Worldfest for Best Dramatic Short.

Stand Off 1 - CopyThree Poems is an exercise in surrealist film and is quite experimental, but it works. There are philosophical interludes between the poems themselves, which heighten a sense of pretentiousness to the short, but not in the way where pretentiousness is a bad thing. There is a niche audience for this kind of short film. Many will find it unnecessary and, dare I say it again, pretentious. But that’s the joys of experimental film making, it’s not for everyone, and those that do enjoy it are guaranteed to enjoy this feat.

Three Poems Poster - CopyI can’t wait to see what Harris has up his sleeve next.

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Oculus – A Movie Review

Kaylie and Tim MirrorOculus is your typical horror movie with slight variations on a theme. The film follows a set of siblings between two decades as they confront a demon living in a mirror that feeds off of life sources. The siblings, Kaylie and Tim, call out the evil forces which destroyed their family years in the past. The story flawlessly jumps back and forth between decades showing glimmers of the past and reconnecting the past with the present entwining the paranormal with abnormal psychology.

ChokingI don’t do well at horror movies. I watch over half of the film out of the corner of my eye, yet I still find myself at every one that comes out. Oculus is different than other horror movies where it doesn’t work its scares into the film through the regular “jumps” but creates an intriguing and engaging atmosphere or terror and dread. Rather than shield my eyes in prelude to a big scare I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.

Young Tim and KaylieThe acting was superb. Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites, as older Kaylie and Tim (respectively), hold most of the screen time and carry their own very well. Their counter parts, Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan, as younger Kaylie and Tim (respectively), shine as two very uniquely talented young actors. The actor that stole the show though was Katee Sackhoff, who plays Kaylie and Tim’s mother, whose complete and utter descent into psychological and parapsychological madness was just pure perfection.

Katee SakhoffThe film Oculus is based off of a 2006 short-film by the same writer and director, Mike Flanagan, Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan. The execution of the remade feature length film puts enough excitement in me to want to check out the short.

Tim with the GunThe only thing that is really wrong with Oculus is its ending. I’m not going to give away spoilers but this film had an awesome opportunity to go in a much more unique and psychological twist ending, yet the ending we got was foreshadowed very early on and is by far the most obvious ending. As the story plays closer and closer to the end I just kept my fingers crossed hoping for anything but the observable ending… unfortunately the last five minutes of this film are by far the biggest let down of the movie.

I actually hated the ending so much that it tainted the way I saw the film and I had to let it all saturate for a few days before writing this review because I think I would have unfairly judged it much harsher if I had gone ahead and written the review immediately. The people I saw the movie with felt the same.

Over all there are good bumps and chills in Oculus. It’s well acted and cleverly scripted and if it weren’t for an ending you can see coming a mile away this would have been the perfect horror movie… it’s just a shame that that ending bears so much weight on everything else in this film!

Oculus Poster3.5 haunted houses out of 5

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