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Seth MacFarlane is a comedic genius, who has succeeded in everything from musicals to fart jokes, but could he pull off a romantic comedy, taking place in the wild west? MacFarlane plays Albert, a sheep farmer, who has a reputation for being a coward. After backing out of one duel, he is forced into another, after falling for a woman he didn't know was married to a psychopath. With Seth MacFarlane, you know there is going to a range of comedy from ingenious to low-brow, but this recent film is completely the latter. It is impressive that he got such a large cast to star beside him, but unfortunately they all have very little comedic experience and it shows. Writing, Directing, Casting, and Starring in a film is an admirable feat, but it is completely wasted when the film is a stupid as this one. If your film is going to be rated R, why not go all the way with it? If you take out the sheep fornicating and the fowl language, A Million Ways To Die In The West, is nothing more than an awful kids movie, full of potty jokes, and misleading heroes. The story here is very simplistic and half the time it's not even funny. The parts that are meant to be humerus, turn out to be little more than jokes for the young teens that watch Family Guy. When I saw this film, I was hoping for another unique MacFarlane comedy, like Ted. That film was hilarious and extremely unique. By comparison, A Million Ways To Die In The West is about fifteen minutes of content, and an hour an half of complete and utter nonsense. I suspect some of the big stars in this cast wish they could remove this film from their IMDb page, because it really was that bad.
It really bothers me when I like a film that is clearly a rip off of another film. 13 Sins is nothing more than a horror writers take on 12 Rounds. There are no wrestlers in this one, although I'm pretty sure Ron Perlman would have made a great one. This film is about a game, millionaires have played for decades, a game that has become more prolific and a lot more fun, with the advent of modern technology. A seemingly random person receives a call telling them that they've been selected for a game show. The subject completes simple tasks and starts earning money, but as the prize goes up, so does the danger. Once the subject is a wanted felon, they must finish the game and earn the grand prize or they could be spending the rest of their lives behind bars. Veteran character actor, Mark Webber, stars in 13 Sins and he was a very odd choice for a leading man. Webber is this small nerdy guy, who seems like he wouldn't be the type to play this game, no matter the reward. Like many others, Webber is suckered in an soon becomes a wanted man, he is being chased by a local detective, played by Ron Perlman. The casting created a very awkward dynamic, as the "good guy" is this huge scary guy, and the "bad guy" is this little nerdy guy, but somehow it works. 13 Sins is certainly more horrific and crazy than 12 Rounds was, however the similarities between the two are so similar that I'm surprised WWE Films didn't attempt to halt it's release. I loved the idea of 12 Rounds and 13 Sins is just taking the same idea to an extreme, but despite the clear similarities, and the odd choice of casting, it's still a thrilling film that was definitely entertaining.
Comedian Daniel Tosh calls Snowpiercer, the worst movie he's ever seen. I however disagree, as it is both highly original and highly imaginative, but set in a very odd location. When global warming has become too much for the planet, top scientist create a cure, a new chemical that will stabilize the planet, however there is a miscalculation leading to a global ice age, which kills off most of the planet. Earth's remaining inhabitants are left stranded on a single luxury train that is forced to continually circle the earth. I understand that this train was a billionaires dream and has this state of the art engine that will last for decades, but why a train? I'd think if the world was ending, these people would put their money into an underground civilization or some super generator for the worlds largest building, because too me, a train doesn't make a whole lot of sense. When the engine fails, you're dead and if the ice causes a derailment or an avalanche crushes the tracks? There are so many things that could go wrong with this idea, that it's virtually impossible, that for 18 years, nothing has gone wrong. Captain America, Chris Evans stars and he is really terrific. I can't believe I never heard of this guy until a couple of years ago. He leads as if he's been doing it for years and Evans is assisted by a unique cast of characters, one stranger than the next, but their goal is all the same, to leave the crowded, filthy, back of the train, for the luxurious front. Every car brings with it new challenges and they must fight for their lives, before they can even worry about their freedom. The fact that this whole movie takes place on a train is intriguing and makes from some pretty unique scenes. Snowpiercer is one of the most imaginative films to come along in a long time and it features a huge cast of talented actors, that span multiple generations and ethnicities. To even my surprise I really enjoyed the film and couldn't wait to see what lay ahead in the next boxcar, but for as much as I liked the film, a thought kept gnawing in the back of my mind, why a train?
From Philip K. Dick, the mind behind the Terminator, Blade Runner, & Total Recall, (just to name a few) comes one of his most abstract and best reviewed novels, Radio Free Albemuth. Since being released in the early 80's, Science Fiction fans and literary scholars alike have analyzed it over and over again. They seem to think there is a deeper meaning, but to me the meaning of the story is simply that every single person can make a difference and change the world, if they are inspired to do so. Radio Free Albemuth is Philip K. Dick's biography, only in an alternate universe. Dick is a Science Fiction writer and the narrator of the film, who tells the story of his friend Nicholas Brady (Jonathan Scarfe). Brady is an ordinary guy who one day starts receiving visions of the future. Most people think Brody is crazy, especially his wife, until all of his predictions start to come true. Brady moves his family to L.A., where he becomes a record executive and that's where the story really takes off. The world these people live in is a police state, cause by the hysteria brought on by terrorism and The Cold War. Brady comes to realize that he is the key to changing the world for the better. All he has to do is find out how to do it and who or what is instructing him to do so. The alternate Phillip K. Dick, played admirable by Shea Whigham, is a witness to the events and makes it his mission to chronicle the work of his friend. Like most writers, Dick was known for being more than a little eccentric and many have questioned where this story came from, and weather or not Dick believe he was experiencing the same types of messages that Brady was. As for the film, it is just so well done, and I've always love stories that take place in alternate realities. The story is as much political as it is scientific, and when you throw in the inspirational message that anyone can change the world for the better, you've got one hell of a story. From beginning to end, the cast is terrific, especially the mysterious Sylvia, played by Alanis Morrisette of all people. I knew she was in Dogma, but I had no idea just how good and actress she could be, isn't it ironic? Radio Free Albemuth has everything I look for in a movie and then some, and it is written by one of the best there ever was, I can't possibly recommend it enough.
Many fans of The Simpsons Movie were very critical of it. While I understand why, the fact is that many of them just don't realize that this film wasn't made for them. Criticism range from the film not being edgy enough, to the fact that the film didn't take place in Springfield and didn't utilize the side characters much, but again, the film wasn't meant for the die hard Simpsons fan. While the show has been on for more than a quarter century, prior to the films release, ratings for the show were in the toilet, and it was only being kept alive by syndication and merchandising money. The point of the film was to be childish and geared towards a younger audience. While fans of the show were expecting the film to be extreme like the South Park movie, what they got amounted to little more than a children's movie. The fans were upset, but the studios gamble paid off, as the ratings went up and have continued to be much better. For those who didn't see it, the film focuses on Homer, who made the mistake of polluting the town, to a point where the EPA put a big dome over Springfield to separate it from the rest of the country. As angry town folks form a mob, intent on getting Homer, the family escapes and goes on the run. The film is far from being the best the Simpsons has to offer, but it served it's purpose in attracting younger viewers and raising the ratings. Fans may have been upset with Matt Groening, but what he did saved the show for who knows how many future seasons. The film isn't spectacular, but it was good for introducing new fans to the characters we all know and love.
Based on the novel by award winning writer, Dean Koontz, comes the wildly successful Odd Thomas. This story was so popular, that it's become an entire series, one that Koontz has worked on almost exclusively since it's release. This unique story focuses on a unique man, with a unique name. Odd (Anton Yelchin) is a short order cook in a small California town, where he lives a relatively normal life with his girlfriend, Stormy. Odd is no different than any other twenty-something in town, except for the fact that he sees the dead, specifically people who died prematurely and under suspicious circumstances. They can't talk to him, but the spirits lead Odd to the evidence he needs to find the truth. When a strange man comes to town, the spirits lead Odd to be suspicious, and with good cause. Anton Yelchin stars and once again shows off his lovable charisma. There is something about him that makes Yelchin the guy that everyone wants to be friends with, an ability that comes across in every character he plays. Odd is no different, as he is this complete weirdo, but with an innocent quality, that just makes people want to like him. Here he's more than just a lovable goofball, but he's also an unofficial detective and hero, that people turn to in there time of need. Everyone knows he's weird, but few know his secret, one of those being the Chief of Police, played by the legendary Willem Dafoe. Dafoe usually portrays the bad guy, and it was interesting to see him take on a different challenge. Odd Thomas is smart and extremely well written, with a terrific cast, that really brings the story alive with their own unique style. The story may seem like it's a little out there, but it's not just science fiction, it's a story that crosses many genres and has something for everyone, an easy choice for our list of must see movies!
Retreat is one of those rare instances, of a film that is slow moving, with a simple story, but strangely fascinating. Films like this are completely reliant on the cast and most times simply don't work, but for some reason, I was really into Retreat and had to know if it was going to end the way I thought it would. As I said, the story isn't that unique, as it features a young couple, who try to reconnect on a secluded island off the cost of England. The island is a rich persons retreat and features one large cottage, that is occupied by one couple at a time. Martin and Kate think that it will be the perfect spot to reconnect, after the recent loss of a child, but the ideal retreat, soon becomes a hell on earth. A member of the army, a man named Jack (Jamie Bell) shows up in bad shape. When he wakes up, Jack informs the couple that a virus has taken hold over the mainland and if they leave the cottage, they could catch it. At first the couple goes along with Jack, but as his behavior becomes more irrational, the couple starts to question weather or not he's actually telling the truth. When you break the film down, it's three people in a cottage on an island, which doesn't sound very interesting, and the only reason this film works is Jamie Bell. The young star who got his start in Billy Elliott almost 15 years ago, has become a modern day Da Vinci in Hollywood, as he is seemingly everywhere and takes on all kinds of roles. Bell is as much an enigma as this film, as the last film I saw him in was some comedy, that was so bad I turned it off. A few months later, he's in this film and outshines everyone. If it wasn't for Bell's character and the fascination in finding out, what's in his head, this a film that would have gone nowhere. Jamie Bell is the key and really does give one of his best performances. Looking back and thinking about this film, it really wasn't anything special, except for one actor who makes all the difference. If you're into great performances, then Retreat is for you, but if you're more into the story then you might want to skip this one.
Throughout his whole career, Robin Williams was known as the guy who could carry a film simply by being a part of it. Good Morning, Vietnam is once again an example of this extreme talent. Not all of Williams' films were great, and as was the case with Dead Poets Society, when you break down Good Morning, Vietnam to the basics, it's simply a story about a raunchy radio DJ pissing off his superiors. The story isn't very deep and there isn't much to go out aside from an out of this world performance by the late Robin Williams. In this film, Williams portrays armed forced radio DJ, Adrian Cronauer, who in 1965, took a job with the Army as a radio host. In the 60s there was no satellite radio or TV at the touch of a button, so stations like this were the mens only connection to home. Most of the time these stations played soothing music and gave the news, but Cronauer gave the men something they desperately needed, some humor in an otherwise terrible situation. He was definitely one of the first shock jocks to ever hit the airwaves and Williams portrayal was absolutely terrific. Much of the radio bits featured in the films were never written in any script, as Williams simply went up to the microphone and did what he does. The rest of the story is unfortunately not as interesting, featuring Cronauer befriending the local populations and falling for a young Vietnamese woman. Good Morning, Vietnam is another one of Williams films that you must see simply because it was one of the best performances ever recorded on film. In all honesty, without Williams, this film would have fallen flat on it's face. This is why, films like this would pay Williams to come in and do his thing, because he took films like this one from ordinary to extraordinary.
Texas Killing Fields is a movie that should have been a TV series instead. There is way too much going on here for a simple two hour movie, leaving things confusing and unsettled. Based on a true story, Texas Killing Fields tells the story of an area outside of Texas City known as the highway to hell. Since 1970, more than 60 bodies have been found dumped in this desolate area and most of the crimes have never been solved. This film follows the arrival of a New York City Homicide Detective, who has moved to the area and starts investigating a recent series of crimes. If this film had stuck to the story, it would have been terrific, because there was a lot to work with. Instead, the film jumps between three different crimes, in two different jurisdictions, which leaves a team of detectives separated and working on their own things. There is absolutely no background story on the detectives, the victims, the suspects, or the fields, and when the cops are talking to people, it feels like you've missed a whole lot of background information. Everyone knows everyone in these small towns, but the writers seem to have forgotten that we don't know anyone and were left extremely confused. There are a dozen suspect and a new victim every half hour. With each cop working on his own, we are thrown back and fourth to the point where the film becomes unwatchable. Avatar's Sam Worthington stars and as with that film, he's really nothing special. The guy is an interesting side character at best, but definitely not ready to be starring his own film. His partner is played by Jeffery Morgan, who eerily looks like he could be Javier Bardem's twin. Morgan was somewhat better than Worthington, but again the performance was uneven and hard to judge, because it was simply impossible to keep up with what was going on. Texas Killing Fields had a real life story to play on, but too many good ideas for it's own good. The producers try to pack in as much as they could into 105 minutes, which wasn't enough time to tell the story, and left the audience scratching it's heads.
On the surface, McCanick is a simple story of a cop going after an ex-con who he has a history with. As the film progresses, the lines begin to blur, leaving the audience to question who is really the good guy and who is actually the bad guy? This film is notable, as it is the last thing Glee star Cory Monteith worked on before he died, and it was a definite change in direction for the young star. The story starts on Eugene Wellington McCanick's birthday, a happy day that should mark a reunion with his son, but instead marks a day where he learns that the biggest bust of his career, acquiesced killer Simon Wells (Cory Monteith) had been paroled. McCanick is ordered to leave the situation alone, but he can't rest while this man is on the street and McCanick goes looking for trouble. This is a very dark and methodical drama that really seems to have no depth whatsoever, until you see both sides of the story presented in flashbacks. David Morse stars as your typical tough loner cop, whose life is all about the job. The kind of cop that takes his job personally and will do whatever it takes to bust the people he sees as a threat to his city. When I think tough guy, David Morse is not the first person who comes to mind, but he has a history of playing both the good and the bad guy, making the role of Eugene McCanick perfect for him. He's paired with Cory Monteith, who as a teen heartthrob, has never really been seen as more than a sweet, lovable guy. Simon Wells is anything but sweet an lovable, as he's been severally damaged by a life on the streets, but the question becomes just how bad a guy is he? McCanick is the kind of film where everything seems to be laid right out in front of you, the kind of film where you're not expecting a surprise, but that's the whole premise of the film. The whole purpose of the film is to make you question everything you believe and it really turns into to something very unique and special. McCanick doesn't have a cast or a preview that screams out to you, many people are just going to skip it, but if you do, you'll be missing that special kind of movie that leaves you thinking about it long after it's over.
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