Year 2, Day 234
Movie #307~1,023: A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)
Who taught you to shoot? ~ Your wife.
Plot: As a cowardly farmer begins to fall for the mysterious new woman in town, he must put his new-found courage to the test when her husband, a notorious gun-slinger, announces his arrival.
Review: I don’t understand how there are negative reviews condemning the type of humor utilized in this movie. I mean, I understand that this type of humor is not everyone’s cup of tea but at this point in Seth McFarlane’s career, don’t we all know what kind of jokes will be made? Watch a couple episodes of Family Guy or check out Ted and you’ll have a good idea at what kind of direction this comedy will go in.
Now, saying all that, is A Million Ways to Die in the West a great comedy? No. But I think fans of McFarlane’s will find the jokes funny enough and the over-the-top story entertaining. I laughed out loud enough times for me to call this a decent comedy but it ran a bit too long and relied too much on dick and poop jokes to be downright hilarious. Also, a lot of the best parts of the film were ruined by the trailers (although there are a couple of great cameos that were real bright spots and were the most memorable scenes for me).
While the humor is crude and lowbrow and borders on sexist and racist a few times, I actually found this movie refreshing. It is certainly different and I was never bored. It’s no Blazing Saddles but A Million Ways to Die in the West was a decent movie and McFarlane fans should check it out before judging it.
Year 2, Day 232
Movie #306~1,022: Contracted (2013)
What’s wrong with your eye? You have to get that looked at because it’s super gross, dude.
Plot: A young woman contracts what she thinks is a sexually-transmitted disease - but is actually something much worse.
Review: This was a horror movie that had real potential (if a small budget) but the story went off the rails in the third act and never really recovered. It is different and has that in its favor but I think the writers took the easy way out by not really explaining anything and letting the audience make up their own mind as to what is really going on with Sam and her mysterious disease.
I will say that even though I didn’t necessarily like the character of Sam (too whiny and self-centered for my taste), I really appreciated the acting of Najarra Townsend. She portrayed her character realistically, being just dramatic enough to be believable. All the other actors were pretty unremarkable, which made her performance stand out even more.
The progression of this mysterious disease is intriguing and there is enough gore to satisfy most horror fans but not enough to be distracting or unnecessary. The makeup is by far the best part of the film and it’s a shame that all of the ingredients were there to make an above average horror movie but the combination of them all just didn’t come together successfully - the script could have been tighter and there could have been more likeable characters. All in all, I didn’t think Contracted was a waste of time but I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good horror movie.
Year 2, Day 229
Movie #305~1,021: Our Idiot Brother (2011)
I like to think that if you put your trust out there; if you really give people the benefit of the doubt and see their best intentions, people will rise to the occasion.
Plot: A carefree idealist unknowingly throws the lives of his three sisters into a tailspin.
Review: This is a film I have been meaning to check out since it was released so I had pretty high expectations. And I’m happy to say that they were met, for the most part. I am a fan of basically every actor involved - from Paul Rudd as the clear shining star to his onscreen sisters, each embodying a different personality (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer) to the strong supporting cast of Adam Scott, Steve Coogen, Rashida Jones, Hugh Dancy, and Kathryn Hahn. They are each talented actors in their own rights and they all had wonderful chemistry together, making for a heartfelt movie that never came off as forced or overly trite.
It is easy to watch this movie and call Rudd’s character Ned a clueless idiot, someone who is unaware of how the world works but I found him to be a refreshing character to watch. Yes, he is oblivious and doesn’t think of the consequences of his actions but it is his blind idealist attitude and the belief that other people are just as honest and nice as him that makes him a person you want to root for. As he moves in and out of his three sisters’ lives, wreaking havoc before eventually showing them the light, you just want to hug him every time they lose their temper with him or try to take advantage of his trustworthy personality. A big part of the success of the character is the affable nature of Paul Rudd himself, his everyman persona and overall ‘nice guy’ look makes it very easy for the audience to like Ned.
There are some genuinely funny moments but I would categorize Our Idiot Brother more as a dramedy than an all-out comedy. It is a charming little movie about the importance of family and being yourself in a world that is constantly trying to change you. The plot unravels in a fairly predictable manner but it doesn’t detract from the overall success of the movie’s message. It is an easy film to watch and one that most people will hopefully learn a lesson from.
Year 2, Day 228
Movie #304~1,020: The Trials of Cate McCall (2013)
You know what your problem is? You can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys. ~ It used to be a lot easier to tell the difference.
Plot: In order to be reinstated to the bar and recover custody of her daughter, a hotshot lawyer, now in recovery and on probation, must take on the appeal of a woman wrongfully convicted of murder.
Review: While it aired Lifetime, The Trials of Cate McCall is not a made-for-TV movie and has a decent budget and cast to back it up. It is certainly not perfect and the writers ask you to strain credulity at multiple points but overall, this is a decent legal drama that will keep the viewers’ interest.
Kate Beckinsale is Cate McCall (I wonder whose idea it was to change the K to a C?), a lawyer who is struggling with sobriety after being put on probation by the bar and losing custody of her young daughter. She ends up taking the case of a woman who is accused of killing a romantic rival and she finds a slew of evidence that the prosecutors had suppressed in the original trial.
Now, did this film serve as a realistic example of a criminal trial? Probably not. I had a lot of questions as to how Cate reached the conclusions she did and how she was able to get away with some of her more questionable decisions but if you are able to suspend your disbelief and watch the movie more as a character study than focusing on the legal aspects, you will certainly be entertained.
I think it was a good idea balancing out the courtroom/legal scenes with Cate’s personal life - both her struggles with alcoholism and her meetings with her sponsor and support group as well as her strained relationship with her daughter and ex-husband. It fleshed her out and really got the audience behind her, making her a sympathetic character and one that we wanted to see succeed. It also gave Kate Beckinsale the material needed to shine. I’ve always been a fan of hers and I think this film shows that she’s not a bad actress, she just needs good writing to work with.
The Trials of Cate McCall uses a lot of cliches to tell the story but it is still told surprisingly well. I wish the ending wasn’t as predictable as it was but I was surprised with how much I enjoyed this one given the trouble it’s had finding a wide release.
Year 2, Day 226
Movie #303~1,019: All Cheerleaders Die (2013)
Are you okay? ~ No, I’m sluggish. Being dead sucks.
Plot: A rebel girl signs up a group of cheerleaders to help her take down the captain of their high school football team, but a supernatural turn of events thrusts the girls into a different battle.
Review: I enjoyed Diablo Cody’s dark supernatural comedy Jennifer’s Body and I expected this film to follow that same route. And for the most part it did - for starters, playing up the high school stereotypes of the bitchy cheerleaders, creepy goth girl, and overly macho football players and the over-reliance on both sex and gore to tell the story. But by the end of the movie, there were so many different elements, I felt like the writers lost control of the script and just threw in the kitchen sink to end it - on a cliffhanger, no less, leaving the door wide open for the inevitable straight-to-cable sequel.
Honestly, this is not a bad movie if you go in with the right expectations. It is not meant to be taken seriously (and luckily, the writers and the actors both got the memo and played up the camp appropriately) and the genre combination of high school sex comedy and supernatural thriller really works. Yes, things go slightly off the rails by the end but I wasn’t expecting an Oscar winner so it didn’t really bother me.
If you’re a fan of Jennifer’s Body and similar dark horror comedies, All Cheerleaders Die will fit right in your niche. It somehow manages to seem fresh despite following basically ever horror movie cliche (perhaps intentionally) and there is enough humor sprinkled throughout to balance out some of the more gory scenes. I could have done without some of the hokey special effects with the gemstones but all in all, this is a great choice for a fun horror movie night.
Year 2, Day 224
Movie #302~1,018: They Came Together (2014)
Can I ask you a question? How do you sleep at night? ~ I usually jerk off and then sleep pretty soundly.
Plot: When Joel and Molly meet, it’s hate at first sight: his big corporate candy company threatens to shut down her quirky indie shop. Plus, Joel is hung up on his sexy ex. But amazingly, they fall in love, until they break up about two thirds of the way through.
Review: I really wanted to like this movie. I love Amy Poehler. I love Paul Rudd. I love romantic comedies. I love satires. And I love New York City. But I thought the jokes (while clever) went on for too long and there was too much parody and not enough genuine story for the film to really work.
The writing is smart and practically every romantic comedy cliche is covered hilariously. From the stereotypical leads (Rudd is “Jewish but not in a threatening way” and Poehler is adorably clumsy) to the blatant You’ve Got Mail ripoff, there is plenty of material to snark on and for the most part the writers and actors both do a great job pulling it off. However, some of the humor felt forced and unnatural (as much as he is nice to look at, I could have done without Christopher Meloni’s character - especially during the Halloween party scene) and I expected to laugh a lot more than I did.
Maybe I’m used to the more slapstick satire a la Airplane or the Naked Gun films but They Came Together wasn’t as funny as I expected. I chuckled several times but there isn’t one particular scene that I can recall being the best. The cast has great chemistry and I loved all the famous cameos but sometimes I found the spoofing to be too obvious and some of the scenes dragged on for too long (the scene with Rudd and the bartender nearly gave me an anxiety attack, it went on so long). This isn’t a bad movie but with all the talent involved and the freedom that comes from satirical humor, I was expecting much more.
Year 2, Day 218
Movie #301~1,017: Angel on My Shoulder (1946)
All I know is wherever you’re going, I want to go too. ~ You don’t belong where I’m going, honey.
Plot: A devil sends an ex-con back to Earth as a respected judge after he is murdered.
Review: I don’t know if it’s because I’m burnt out on classic films (on only the sixth day of the month) or it’s because I thought this was going to be a comedy and not the dark crime drama it turned out to be but I had some trouble getting through this one. I could see this film appealing to a wide range of viewers but I just wasn’t feeling it and I’m not exactly sure why.
There is an interesting mixture of genres from crime to romance to supernatural making Angel on My Shoulder a one-of-a-kind type of classic. The story certainly doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny but on a superficial level, it is entertaining and different enough to work. I wasn’t impressed by the acting or dialogue but neither stood out for a negative reason so I would describe the whole film as average. Maybe if I watched it on a different day, I would have a different reaction but today, I was kind of underwhelmed.
Year 2, Day 217
Movie #300~1,016: Breakfast for Two (1937)
When you break in a horse, you should be the one to tie on the feedbag. Otherwise, he might get attached to somebody else.
Plot: An heiress saves a playboy from a gold digger.
Review: This is a short and sweet classic rom-com. It is pure fluff, a movie that is perfect to watch if you want to turn your mind off for an hour or so. There are romantic moments, slapstick scenes, and the inevitable pairing of two people who couldn’t stand each other in the opening scenes. In other words, the perfect classic film.
There are some great acting performances that really brought Breakfast for Two to the next level. Herbert Marshall is a carefree playboy whose partying ways come to an end with the news that he is practically broke and that he needs to sell his family’s shipping business. Enter Ms. Stanwyck as an heiress who buys his company with the plan to let him maintain control, teach him responsibilty and eventually marry him. Marshall is not pleased at being played and rebuffs her at every turn. But don’t worry, we all know how this story is going to end.
Marshall and Stanwyck had wonderful chemistry and comedic timing but I have to say that Eric Blore as Marshall’s butler stole the show for me. From his nonsensical charades to his reaction to finding Stanwyck in the shower, he was on point from beginning to end. What I love about these films from the 30s and 40s is that the supporting cast is given just as much opportunities to shine as the stars and that certainly comes into play here.
Breakfast for Two might be too silly for the more modern, sophisticated film watcher but this is a quality comedy with drool-worthy sets and humor generated more from the talented cast than the zany antics. And at only a little more than an hour in length, it is a quick, easy watch for those days you need a little comedic pick-me-up.