A Million Ways to Die in the West is a movie that got me hopeful a few years back. It had Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy and Ted fame. But most of his fans actually have never seen him in a starring role that wasn’t just his voice-only. It has an impressive cast especially with personal favorites of mine like Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, and many others in cameo roles. However the sad part about the movie is that critical opinion was unkind to put it in nice terms. Granted most films that try to cram in as many celebrities as possible tend stink fairly bad. Was A Million Ways to Die in the West really that bad or did it get unfair treatment?
The movie is about a man stuck in the wrong time period. His name is Albert Stark who lives in the Arizona territory in 1882. Albert isn’t like many in his town. He’s intelligent, kind, and not much for the life of the Wild Wild West. Albert Stark gets challenged to a duel with pistols, and chickens out of the fight. This causes his beautiful girlfriend Louise to break up with him and find someone else in the town. This causes Albert Stark to become even more bitter about life in his Arizona town and he hopes to make it to California.
However before he can pack his bags for a more civilized part of America, he meets the gorgeous and charming Anna Barnes. She really seems to like Albert Stark, and the two are quite the duo together, regardless if they are romantic or platonic. Anna Barnes makes Albert Stark’s girlfriend have second thoughts about the break-up which pleases Albert Stark. However as he starts to fall for Anna, there’s one problem. She’s really Anna Barnes-Leatherwood, and her husband is the notorious bandit Clinch Leatherwood. She doesn’t like her husband very much, and spent quite some time away from him as he went out causing havoc. However when he returns to find his wife, he might not be too pleased to meet Albert Stark.
Overall A Million Ways to Die in the West was a little better than I had expected. It’s a bit of a shame really the movie didn’t really work out. A lot of jokes I don’t have any doubts were written by Seth MacFarlane but a lot of them fall flat. Sometimes it doesn’t feel cheesy or dumb, but they seem to be delivered as badly as if they had been told by a new stand-up comedian. Also the movie drags on and it’s strange to see a comedy hit the two hour mark. I will say I really liked Charlize Theron in this movie as her character Anna Barnes-Leatherwood is just so likable, it’s too bad she can’t hold up a sinking ship.
Lady Bird is a movie I’ve been looking forward to for quite tome time now. Most Oscar-nominated movies slip by me until they get the nomination, which I think was true for Lady Bird. But Saoirse Ronan, I think is one of the most talented actresses alive so I always try to check out any work with her in it. I honestly thought from what I heard critics were saying that it’d walk away with many Oscars, but it walked away with…zero, which is quite surprising considering that Saoirse Ronan lost again.
The movie is about a high school girl named Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson. She goes to a Catholic school in California and is at that point in her life where (despite having more than most kids in the world) she is “unhappy” simply because her mother is “the tough parent” and economic hardships cause the family to live in common homes instead of fancy houses that many of her school peers live in.
Lady Bird is considering about going to college, but it has to be somewhere she wants to go. Her mother is really realistic and advises her to stay and study at a local college. But Lady Bird wants something fancy like an Ivy League school out on the East Coast. She is quite angry when she doesn’t get her way. The only people that seem to calm her down is her “nice guy” father, her best friend (sometimes), and the guy she likes at school.
Overall I was a bit disappointed by Lady Bird. It’s a coming-of-age comedy-drama which is something I dislike generally as I hated that period of my life and a reminder of it and the people just like the ones I knew don’t make me too generally happy. Ronan acts strong here but she certainly didn’t pull off my favorite role of hers, so I guess I’m not too bitter she lost the Oscar this year. While she’s only 23, I’d also advise her to avoid these high-school plots as characters like Lady Bird are often too childish and bratty for their own good. Despite my words, it’s a good movie, but if I had watch it before the Oscars, I wouldn’t have been shocked when it came up empty.
While Netflix has proved that it can produce quality TV shows of their own, it does seem rather apparent that they want to make movies their standard as well. They’ve had a bumpy road with that as they had more duds than successes. I suppose their best movie had been Mudbound which did make a minor splash at the Oscars this year. Bright is one of the bigger movies as it stars Will Smith and it did seem like it was expensive to make. Sadly, critics panned the movie quite hard but regular people seemed to like it a lot more.
The film is a mix of genres. It combines the fantasy land of a Lord of the Rings-like setting (elves, orcs, etc) and the world of a cop movie. It’s set in an alternate universe Earth where humans grew and evolved alongside orcs, elves, and other creatures. Orcs are mostly hated by humans, Nick Jakoby is the only orc who is a police officer and he’s equally hated by people and his own kind. His partner Daryl Ward was shot by an orc after Jakoby was eating lunch and let his guard down. Ward comes back to work and things are really tense.
However a group of renegade elves are searching for the last magic wand to revive an evil dark lord who would plunge the world into madness. The leader of the Inferni elves is Leilah, an extremely gorgeous but incredibly deadly woman who will stop at nothing to bring her dark lord back to life. The last wand is in the hands of a elf with PTSD, and her name is Tikka. She is found and protected by Ward and Jakoby, but when everyone in Los Angeles wants the infamous magic wand (very similar to the desire for the ring in Lord of the Rings), they’re going to have a heck of a time trying to just survive.
Overall Bright was a bit better than I expected so I can see why a lot of people liked it. That being said, I can also see why people hated it as well. It’s directed by the same guy who did Suicide Squad which I also thought fell short of potential. The action can be a bit of a boring mess, and they do a terrible job at explaining the backstory. And it’s really stupid how many times Jakoby and Ward dodge instant death too.
When it comes to animated movies, Pixar is the best…most of the time anyways. 2003’s Finding Nemo was one of their best and it’s rather peculiar that it took like 13 years to make a sequel. I was only 15 years old when the original came out. I also remember it being one of the last movies I really saw be available on a VHS tape as DVD had pretty much made it virtually obsolete by the time. Back when Finding Nemo came out, Pixar had not made a mistake. A few years later Cars came out and their track-record could be a little hit or miss. A decade and a half is a little scary for a a sequel to be in limbo. Especially as the title suggests a tale of deja vu. Is this oceanic tale another memorable classic, a worthy sequel, or an embarrassing disappointment?
Finding Dory is set a year after the events of Finding Nemo. While Nemo and his dad Marlin are reunited and happy, Dory also lives with them too. Though she still can’t remember that as a royal blue tang that she can’t enter the sea anemones that protect clownfish from big bad fish such as the one that eat Nemo’s mother and the rest of his egg-siblings in the original movie. Marlin still has to deal with Dory’s terrible short-term memory. While the two clownfish consider her to be family, others like Mr. Ray the schoolteacher who is a spotted eagle ray considers her to be a headache. And Nemo’s classmates thinks she’s rather dumb. And to be fair, they’re for the most part right about Dory because she can’t remember anything long enough to do her much good.
But one day Dory starts to remember something. Which is something that happened long ago. Something that is…her parents. Dory realizes she must of had parents, but faded memories of them reappear in her head from the times where she was a tiny baby fish. She recalls that they were from California which is not even close to where they are. Marlin asks the sea turtle Crush for help on traveling all across the Pacific ocean so they can find Dory’s long lost parents. But bad things happen, and Dory is separated from her clownfish friends. She encounters an octopus named Hank who wants nothing more than to take her “place” at an aquarium in Cleveland, Ohio as he hates the actual ocean. But they make a deal where if he helps her find her parents, she’ll help him get across the country to Ohio.
Finding Dory is a little worse and a little better than I expected. I did get hyped up for the film a few months ago but I didn’t think it quite met up with the excitement. But it is far better than the deja vu adventure I was expecting originally when the movie was announced. To be fair it does a feel a little similar at times, but Dory and the clownfish don’t really stay separated for that long and it’s more like Finding Dory’s Parents than it is Finding Dory. I still think the original is the far better film. But this one is a good sequel to it. Certainly not one of Pixar’s best movies though. Now I wonder if they’ll try to make it a trilogy or not.
The Wicker Man is a movie I’ve been trying to avoid for quite some time. Around 2009 or so I saw the original The Wicker Man that was made back in 1973. It was a horror movie but a different kind of horror. It was almost like a British Stephen King had wrote the thing. The 2006 remake with Nicolas Cage was what made me know of the original movie. Fans of the original and newbies did not like this one with a passion. I also remember people mocking the movie with stuff about a bear suit and bees. But since it’s close to Halloween now, I figured it was time to see this train-wreck…or was it? Could this remake actually be redeeming? Or was it just another dumb idea Hollywood had that could have been much more with more talent behind it?
The story is set in the mid-2000’s with a police officer named Edward Malus. Even though he works in California, his former love Willow Woodward writes him a letter for help. Her daughter Rowan has been missing from the island of Summersisle for quite some time. The island is very remote and not more than a handful of outsiders really know what it is. Edward catches a plane-ride to the island by chance and arrives there. When he gets there, none of the inhabitants give him much help. Most claim that Rowan Woodward doesn’t even exist. While he makes sure they know he is a policeman, they don’t take him seriously. Though one lady is smart enough to know that a cop from California has no power in the state of Washington.
Edward gets even more frustrated when his help finding Rowan keeps getting worse. He knows there is some big mystery and nobody (and I mean nobody) is going to just let him in on it. He even reunites with Willow who is almost helpless herself. The leader of the island is Sister Summersisle whose grandmother founded the commune in the 19th century after fleeing from the Eastern half of America and her ancestors from Europe. Summersisle is an interesting place because there is no law and order. Just a community of people who act like they are living a different century. The only thing that connects them to the outside world is their honey production which was considered a disaster the year prior. But sooner or later Edward is going to learn the truth, and he isn’t going to like it.
The new Wicker Man is pretty much the joke everyone says it is. It can be a semi-interesting tale at times, but I found it rather boring. I also thought it was weird how the story in this one changed the community where females are not only leaders but they are the dominant gender by far like the Amazonian of legend. Part of the greatness of the original was the clash between the deeply devout Christian in a world of neo-pagans. Religion is rarely made a point here as Edward never really brings it up, and the neo-pagan thing isn’t as apparent as early on as it was in the original. I also thought the story was not very believable to be in a 2000’s era of modern America than it was in a 1970’s Scotland. The movie’s only real fans seem to be the ones who like it as an unintentional comedy rather than a horror/drama.