Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maleficent (PG/97 Min.)

To date, my all-time favorite movie in the history of ever has been Sleeping Beauty. Yes, I do mean the 1959 animated movie. It has true love. It has magic. It has fairy godmothers. It has singing. It has the coolest villain ever. It has dragons!!! What's not to love? Though this movie will always hold a place in my heart, it may have, quite possibly, dropped down to second place in my esteem. I loved Maleficent. LOVED IT!!! I just saw it a few hours ago and I'm ready to see it again. I was ready to see it again right after it was over. I AM seeing it again tomorrow night. I think that's a valid amount of time between viewings, don't you? I'm actually listening to the soundtrack as I type. Loved that too.

Maleficent is the basic story of Sleeping Beauty but with a twist as we get to see the tale from the villain's point of view. Simple. To the point.

I'm finding it difficult to tell you what I liked about this movie without telling you what happened. I'll start with the special effects. So good! Faerieland was amazing. And its inhabitants? Beautiful! Even the little squishy guys who like to sling mud. Literally. Not politically. The writers deserve tons of atta-boys/girls. This could have so easily gone cheesy but it didn't. Could you guys please tackle the Wonder Woman movie problem? Apparently cheese is a big reason it hasn't been made yet. But back to Maleficent... I almost forgot the costumes. Well done, wardrobe department! This movie needs to win awards.

I've liked Angelina Jolie since I first saw her in Hackers but now it's going to take quite a lot to even begin to knock her off my list of favorites after this film. No one else could have played Maleficent. Did she even have to audition? Did the powers-that-be know it had to be Angelina all along? Was anyone else even considered? This was a definite no-brainer. She played this role beautifully, from her chiseled cheekbones to the horns atop her head, to her deep, villainous laugh. I just can't say enough good things about her. Everyone else paled in comparison to Angelina. But that's as it should be, right?

Elle Fanning was cast in the role of Aurora. While I thought she was well-chosen, my friend Mack didn't agree. She thought Amanda Seyfried would've been better. We agreed to disagree. Neither one of us could think of anyone else who could've taken Elle's place so I win by default. Elle was one of at least four Aurora's in this movie. There was baby Aurora, toddler Aurora, tween Aurora and, finally, 15-year-old Aurora. My favorite besides Elle? Toddler Aurora. Why? Because she's the only child who could be found to play opposite Angelina Jolie's Maleficent. For those of you who don't already know, the studio had trouble finding a child who wasn't afraid of the star in full costume. Who did they find brave enough to share a scene? Angelina's own daughter, Vivienne. Perfect! And what a cutie pie!

There were too many characters in this movie to talk about each one so I'm going to move on to why this film received a PG rating. There was no cussing. No nudity. No sex. No drinking. No drugs. So, why the rating? That rests solely on the violence. There is a battle scene and a couple of skirmishes but the blood was kept to a minimum. The only blood I recall seeing was from a couple of scratches. Nothing gory at all. If you think your child can handle the Lord of the Rings series, they can definitely handle this. A good portion of the audience consisted of children and they were hooked from the get go. Except for a giggle from the young girl a few seats down from me, you wouldn't have known there were any kids in the theater at all. As soon as the movie started they settled down and that was that. A young boy sat in front of me and I don't think he moved during the entire film. I'm not making light of the violence at all. People do die in the movie. I just want to give you the basic facts so you can make decisions for your own young ones.

Was there anything I didn't like about Maleficent? One scene in particular was almost exactly like the animated version except for one slight change. I understand why they had to do it but I didn't care for it much. Other than that, I don't think I found anything wrong. This is a well-written, beautifully made movie.

I am definitely going to see this again...tomorrow night. And who knows how many times after. Guys, if you think this is a chick flick, you are so wrong. There were a lot of people of the male variety, both young and old, at this film and they seem to have enjoyed it. Enough action scenes were included to keep it interesting. Unless you just absolutely hate fairy tales, go see this movie. Even if you do hate fairy tales, go anyway. You just might enjoy it. I wish I could be there when my parents and niece see Maleficent. I know PT and my dad will like it but I feel pretty confident in saying that there is one scene that'll cause my mom to start clapping. I almost did that very thing. She is so fun to watch movies with because her filter isn't quite as strong as mine and she does the things that I wish didn't embarrass me when I do them (I think that made sense). She's just a very happy person that way.

Nothing happens after the credits. They do begin them with a song from the animated movie but sung by Lana Del Rey so you might want to stick around a bit for that. Enjoy!

P.S. Harry Potter fans may have issues with one of the fairies. Because Imdelda Staunton does such a good job of playing Dolores Umbridge in HP, I can't picture her as anything else. But, can you really blame me? Stephen King, during his review of the book, called this character the "greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter." And that's saying something.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Million Ways to Die in the West (R/116 Min.)

Let me begin by saying that I knew absolutely nothing about this movie save for the actors who took part in it. I didn't watch the trailers. I didn't read any synopses. I didn't look to see who wrote or directed it. I wanted to see it based solely on who was in it. BIG MISTAKE!!! HUGE! I will never ever never do that again.

For those of you who feel the need to comment about what a poor movie critic I am, let me cut you off at the pass. If you liked Neighbors or This Is the End or Ted (I'm told), you'll probably really enjoy A Million Ways... If you thought any of those movies were crass, stay far, far away from this one. There. If the comparison to the movies mentioned above made you decide that you definitely are going to see A Million Ways then you can just stop reading now because the rest of this review will, more than likely, make you mad. And then you'll send me rude yet anonymous comments which I've decided not to post. Now, if you disagree with me and feel like politely telling me why, I'll be more than happy to share that with the general population. I might even share the rude comments if the commenters don't hide behind anonymity. Own it, people! As always, if you cuss at me, I most definitely won't post your comment. Woo! Sorry for the tangent. Just wanted to get that out of the way. By the way, I took my friend Mack with me and she didn't think it was as bad as I did. So, to each his/her own.

Back to the movie. A Million Ways to Die in the West is the story of a sheep farmer named Albert who will never be mistaken for a gunslinger...or a sheep farmer. I've seen some summaries label him as cowardly but if you know you can't hit the broad side of a barn with a gun (or the bullets in one)but can talk your way out of getting shot I see that as a good thing! But that may be just me. Anyway, poor Albert has been dumped by his girlfriend, Louise, and he's decided that life in the West pretty much sucks without her. Along comes Anna, wife of the notorious (dun dun daaaaaa!) gunslinger, Clinch. Anna takes a liking to Albert and a friendship ensues.

That's the very basic plot. So much more happens but I'm trying to keep this relatively short. The acting wasn't bad considering what they had to work with. I think I enjoyed the cameos more than the main actors.

As for the rating, I wish theaters could enforce a no children at R-rated movies policy. I still can't believe there were kids at this screening. Some parents are going to have some explaining to do. There was cussing and cussing and more cussing. We got to hear people having sex. Loudly. We got to see way more body fluid/waste than I EVER wanted to see. Poor Mack very nearly got puked on. I truly couldn't help it. It's bad enough to hear someone have explosive diarrhea. I most certainly don't want to see it. I'm trying to remember but I really don't think there was any nudity. Shocking! The only "parts" we saw were sheep parts and though no one wants to see that, I'm glad that's as far as they went. There was drinking. There were drugs. There was racism. There were several jokes aimed at Christians. If it could be insulted they pretty much did it.

For those of you who are wondering what others in the audience thought of this film, I'll say that most of the laughter sounded uncomfortable. There was one woman who would, on occasion, yell things like, "That's hilarious!" Most of the racist jokes fell flat. Thank goodness. The girl next to me, who decided to join in the dancing during the town dance scene, really enjoyed the kissing. Any time anyone locked lips I heard, "Aaawwww!!!" She was such a joy.

I will not go see this again. As mentioned before, if you liked those other movies, you'll probably like this. If you didn't, you won't. If you do go see this, stay through the credits. There's a very short extra.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (PG-13/142 Min.)

A lot of people say that the sequel is never as good as the original movie. This held true for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I enjoyed the first movie so I was excited about the sequel. I have to admit, it was a bit of a letdown. Now, before anyone gets their knickers twisted, I’m not saying Spidey 2 was horrible. It just wasn’t great. Has everyone I’ve talked to who saw the movie last night agreed with me? Absolutely not. A couple people said they loved it. My advice, if you’re reading this, is to read other critiques to help make your decision. Or ignore it altogether and go with your gut.

In Spider-Man 2, Peter is struggling to keep his promise to Gwen’s dad while continuing to date Gwen. Gwen is trying to be understand but it’s not always easy. Max Dillon, an electrical engineer for Oscorp, is feeling a tad invisible and grasps at the knowledge that anyone might need him for anything, much less remembers his name. After a terrible, but predictable, accident, Max becomes Electro and being cranky with the world in general and having super powers does not make a good combination. Meanwhile, Norman Osborn, owner of Oscorp, dies of a not so great disease (genetic, of course) and leaves the company to his son, Harry. Unfortunately for Harry, not only does the disease start showing up in his own body but the powers that be at Oscorp want him gone. Another not so great combination. So much stuff to fit in to nearly two-and-a-half hours. And we felt every minute of it.

Why didn’t I like it more? I hate to say it but a big reason was the acting, which kind of confuses me. I liked both Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the first movie so why didn’t I like them in the second? Was it because of the writers? Or the director? I have no idea. The movie opened with a lot of silly lines. It got to be tedious. It was too comedic and people stopped laughing after a while. Then Emma just didn’t seem to have the same oomph she’s had in other films. She just wasn’t the Emma we’ve grown to know and love. The only acting I cared much for was that of Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro. He didn’t get to talk much so that may be why. He didn’t have many lines so maybe his writer decided to make them count. Who knows?

I almost forgot to mention what I did like about Spidey 2.  I thought the special effects were neat-o.  Especially Electro.  I've always thought the Spider-Man effects were cool but it's expected now so it's easily overlooked.  The one effect I thought was seriously overused was the slow motion.  They wanted to make sure that no detail slipped by us.  I would have liked it more if they'd used it less.

The only reason I can think of that this received a rating of PG-13 was the violence. The cursing was limited. I only recall one scene in which alcohol was imbibed. The film does include a few death scenes that are a tad emotional. The transformation scene was kind of creepy. There were several fight scenes but none of the very young children in the audience seemed to be much affected by them. The blood was kept to a minimum so no gore. Yea! While I think the rating was deserved, the fighting was no worse than any other of the recent super hero movies.

If you liked the first Andrew Garfield Spidey movie, I’d give this one a chance. You just might like it better than I did. If you weren’t that thrilled with the first, I’d skip this one. It’s definitely not better. Unless you just like reading the credits, there’s no reason to stay. No teaser trailers on this one.