A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)
One Line Description: A tongue in cheek western about a sheep farmer who falls for a girl married to an outlaw.
- Westerns tend to be pretty hit or miss for me. I really enjoy the 3:10 to Yuma remake, but did not enjoy Open Range. This movie is completely different, as it’s a comedy, and at times a parody of western movies. Seth MacFarlane wrote, directed and stars in the movie as a down on his luck sheep farmer who loses his girlfriend and then gets mixed up with the wife of an outlaw. There is a decent amount of MacFarlane-esque humor, but it didn’t seem as x-rated as Ted did. The supporting cast is very recognizable (Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Amanda Seyfried and Neil Patrick Harris), and all of them do just fine. The story is pretty standard, especially for a western, and the laughs are scattered about just enough to keep things interesting. It’s far from a great movie, but it isn’t bad either. My guess is that anyone who enjoys MacFarlane’s brand of humor will enjoy this, but if you hate that type of stuff you probably won’t find much here.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
One Line Description: Wolverine goes back in time to prevent a murder than changed Earth for the bad.
I was never into comic books as a kid, but loved the X-Men cartoon. I recall a couple of episodes that focused on this plotline of going back to change the past, but I don’t remember all the details of it. This was really well done though, and these last two X-Men movies using the younger cast have been great. The story here is that these robots, Sentinels, have taken over the world and are killing the remaining mutants (and humans?). In a very Back to the Future 2 kind of way, Professor X and his remaining cast of friends decide the only way to survive is to go back in time and stop the Sentinel program from getting approved by preventing their creator from being assassinated, which triggered the anti-mutant movement. Wolverine is either selected because his healing abilities allow him to survive longer in the past, or because he is played by Hugh Jackman.
Once he reaches the past he meets up with a lot of the characters/actors from X-Men: First Class, and the mission begins. It’s a really nice mix of action and drama and didn’t feel like it had too many overextended action sequences like tends to the norm in these comic movies lately. There were a few things that seemed like they glossed over quickly near the climax that forced me to have to try and process a lot all at once, but it didn’t take away from the quality of the film. I really enjoyed this, maybe even more than First Class, and I think that these latest X-Men films continue to be very good.
Sex Tape (2014)
One Line Description: A married couple tries to stop a bunch of people they know from seeing their sex tape.
Speaking of very good, this movie is not. I stumbled upon it one night while I was writing code and wanted something that wasn’t too distracting. Unfortunately it was also not good at all. While I knew the premise was that a couple made a sex tape and it got out, I had no idea it was the result of having given out a bunch of used iPads (major plot whole here, as why would a company let their employee just give them away?) which for some reason still had his login info on them (again, company iPads that don’t get wiped before being distributed? Weak). I guess I missed the fact that the film then turns into a wild caper where Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz run around trying to get all the iPads back. One particularly crazy, and overly long, sequence involves Diaz distracting her prospective boss, played by Rob Lowe, while Segel searches Lowe’s house while battling his dog. Lowe is one of the high points of the film, and his Disney obsession is one of the few amusing parts of the movie. By the time Jack Black mades an uncredited cameo near the end, the movie has reached full eyeroll.
Although I have missed some of Jason Segel’s starring roles, he continues to look like someone that can’t really carry a movie as a leading man. Much like his Apatowian friend Seth Rogen, he is great in short doses, but not as good as the main attraction. I have never been a huge Cameron Diaz fan, but even I have to admit that she might look better in her 40s than she ever has. She puts up a very typical Diaz performance. This movie didn’t get very good reviews, and it’s easy to see why. There isn’t much here. Definitely not worth wasting your time on.
The Longest Day (1962)
One Line Description: The story of the Normandy invasion shown from both sides, and may different characters points of view.
This famous movie about the D-Day landings at Normandy is very time appropriate, as I watched it on the 71st anniversary of the D-Day invasion. It’s got a ridiculous cast including John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Sean Connery, Red Buttons and many other famous faces of the era. Obviously a movie from the early 1960s is going to look and feel significantly different than something like Saving Private Ryan, but it still holds up pretty well. I joked that it should be called “The Longest Movie” because it’s over three hours long, but it goes by surprisingly quick. I imagine it’s at least reasonably historically accurate, although they really seem to make the Germans look like imbeciles. I couldn’t tell if this was just Hollywood embellishment, true to life or just the hatred for the enemy that still would have existed in 1962. Early in the film there are lower thirds provided to identify characters, but the uniforms and black and white color make it hard to remember who most people are. The Germans all speak German, with English subtitles, which is a nice touch.
It would probably be tough to make this movie now because it doesn’t focus on any specific characters for the most part, and there isn’t someone to get specifically invested in. Hollywood doesn’t seem interested in that kind of ensemble piece anymore, but it’s a shame because this is a great kind of movie. Obviously the special effects and the sets look dated, but there is plenty to like here. This is a good to great movie that lives up to the hype, something that a lot of movies from this era fail to do these days.