A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (2014)
I’m not a big fan of Seth MacFarlane’s ‘horny 13 year old’ sense of humor and I don’t watch Family Guy. I was actually pleasantly surprised by Ted, though and so, went into this, his new flick, with an open mind. But sadly, despite some nice sentimental moments here and there, this western/comedy is a constant barrage of boring sex jokes and bodily function bits that are vulgar for vulgars sake. MacFarlane ignores actually trying to tell his cliche’ story and fills this overlong movie with an endless and tiresome parade of gross-out humor that wears out it’s welcome in the first half hour or so. How he dragged Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron and Amanda Seyfried along with him in this predominately unfunny mess is a mystery.
While I wouldn’t outright say that Neighbors is a bad film, it’s just that it is such a routine and cookie cutter, Hollywood situation comedy that is instantly forgettable once the credits role. Flick has a frat house moving in next to yuppie couple Mac and Kelly (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) and the resulting war between them and the Zac Efron led frat boys. The flick really isn’t that funny and it actually makes the couple appear far more childish and irresponsible than the ‘kids’ they start a feud with. It also was a bit disturbing that these two ‘adults’ leave their infant daughter alone in their house numerous times to party with/make war with the boys next door. A few funny bits and Efron gives his character a little depth but, it’s hard to root for Mac and Kelly when they seem like bigger jerks than the partying frat guys who the film can’t decide are the bad guys or not. Kind of a mystery as to how this was such a big hit.
Brett Ratner directed flick is based on a graphic novel that portrays the legendary Hercules (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) as a powerful yet, very mortal mercenary whose 12 labors and lineage of the gods is just embellished PR fables to drive fear into the hearts of his enemies. Herc and his crew are summoned to help an embattled king (John Hurt as yet another ‘old king’) free his country from invaders but, is duped into aiding a tyrant. Betrayal and vengeance ensue. This is another flick that passed the time alright but, is so by-the-numbers and forgettable that it barely justifies existing in the first place. The Rock seems like he’d rather be somewhere else with an uninspired performance as one of the world’s oldest heroes and the rest of the cast are all operating on a paycheck grab level as well. Competently made but, when all is said and done, routine, cliche’ and uninspired.
Decided to focus this double feature on two charming and very entertaining indie comedy/dramas that might have flown a bit under the radar but, have familiar faces, good performances and are refreshingly un-Hollywood…
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (2012)
Safety Not Guaranteed is a really entertaining and offbeat romantic comedy from director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly that tells the story of Darius (Aubrey Plaza) an intern at a high profile Seattle based magazine whose first assignment is to assist self-centered reporter Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) in writing a piece on a man who placed a personal ad looking for a time travel companion. While Jeff uses the story as an excuse to look up an ex-girlfriend who lives in the area (Jenica Bergere), Darius befriends the placer of the ad, Kenneth (Mark Duplass) and soon finds a bond with the eccentric and lonely man. Director Trevorrow crafts a sweet and quirky tale of two loners who find each other over some very strange circumstances. And while the film sometimes plays like a drama, there are some laugh out loud bits and there is always an offbeat humor running underneath. The cast do really well in bringing their eclectic characters to life with Plaza and Duplass doing a great job of showing the progression of two people learning to trust each other and then discovering much deeper feelings as they get to know each other. We get to watch a sweet relationship form between these two lost souls all the while being teased with the notion that maybe Kenneth may not be so crazy after all… or maybe he is. The other subplot between Jeff and Liz also shows a sweeter side of the cocky Jeff and possibly humbles him a bit as well and is nicely realized by actor Johnson. To elaborate anymore would be to spoil a really nice indie flick that has some pleasant surprises. Also stars Kristen Bell as woman with ties to Kenneth and Karan Soni as accompanying intern Arnau, who Jeff decides to motivate out of his shell. A quirky, original and entertaining indie.
3 and 1/2 hearts!
TAKE THIS WALTZ (2011)
One of my favorite things about this charming indie drama was that I really enjoyed was just how real the relationships in the film came across. Writer/director Sarah Polley creates a freshness and realness to this story of a happy young married couple Margo (Michelle Williams) and Lou (Seth Rogen) whose happy life is challenged when Margo meets and falls for neighbor and artist, Daniel (Luke Kirby). Margo thought she had what she wanted but, the free spirited Luke makes her question whether she is really happy with Lou or just thinks she’s happy. As Lou becomes focused on writing a cookbook, Margo begins to explore what she really wants… or is it. And that’s the thing that I felt was so real about this charming little movie. Margo’s answers are never clear as in life they sometimes aren’t. Are we really happy or just convincing ourselves to settle for what we have? Is it human nature to always think there is something better for us out there and thus were never are truly content or satisfied? These are true life questions and questions we ask ourselves as we watch Margo pursue a course which could cost her everything. And, of course there is the age old question, of the grass always appearing greener. I really enjoyed how director Polley gave the film a very refreshing style and really made the characters seem like real people. They all have their little quirks and habits and they make decisions based on emotions and are sometimes selfish and not careful about hurting those around them… and they don’t always know what they really want. The performances are strong across the board with Michelle Williams giving another great characterization of the almost childlike Margo, who’s very likable despite her selfish pursuits. Seth Rogen surprises as Lou, a man who obviously loves Margo but, has his own goals and is a little too focused on such to notice his wife is troubled. Luke Kirby is good as the artist Daniel who, much like Margo, decides to selfishly pursue their attraction despite knowing she is married and he will likely undo that. Rounding out the main characters is a perfectly cast Sarah Silverman as Lou’s sarcastic alcoholic sister Geraldine. All in all, this is a refreshingly un-Hollywood indie that takes a look at real people with real emotions making real and sometimes selfish and stupid decisions. Something we are all guilty of and that’s why we can identify with these people and how love or, what we think is love, can be such a confusing factor in our lives. And, most of all, is there such a thing as true happiness or is it an illusion we create ourselves? A very interesting drama that does have a quirky sense of humor to go along with the more serious moments. Also loved director Polley’s visual style and how she made use of the film’s charming Canadian neighborhood locations.
3 and 1/2 hearts!