The closest star is not always the brightest

A few years ago a movie called Slumdog Millionaire came out and most people could see nothing else. If art movies have dreams then to keep their integrity while being embraced on the scale of a superhero blockbuster must be one of them. And this movie lived that dream to the detriment of better movies.

Now, I saw Slumdog Millionaire and it was not a bad movie. But it was not the best movie that came out that year. That same year The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Seven Pounds, Milk, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Doubt, and countless other movies came out. I saw a lot of amazing movies. I was stunned into a depressed shell of emotion by many of them and some of the endings still haunt me in a way only a brilliant moment can.

But these movies were overshadowed by the most public star of the cinema. And it is going to happen again. And while the movies from the previous cycle were dark and heavy the movies that are in danger of being obscured this year are warm and powerfully hopeful, potentially an even greater loss to the person who does not view them.

Interstellar might not be an underdog art movie but it is playing the same role. It will probably win awards, awards that other movies should get. This is just a brief plea to please not overlook some of the other stars. Interstellar will not fade for years. Please don’t let amazing movies like The Theory of Everything, Beyond the Lights, Rosewater, and The Hundred Foot Journey dim and faster. I’m not asking you to change what you like. But give less flashy movies a chance if you have the time.

And remember that just because a star is further away doesn’t mean it isn’t worth gazing upon. There is room for the sun and the stars in your life. Find the celestial balance you need.

Movie Review: Maleficent (2014)

Yes, I did see two movies this weekend. (Take that the one person who answered the poll and said to see neither movie.)

I liked this movie but I will warn you from the start it is definitely more of a kid’s kid movie than other recent options. It is not a kid’s movie like The Lego Movie that adults basically hijacked. And it is not a princess movie like Frozen that united the world in literal harmony. What it is is a large step above the classic Disney princess tale. If I had to compare it to something I would say Mirror Mirror which is based on the tale of Snow White and came out around the same time as Snow White and the Huntsman which is probably why you might not know it.

I will start by addressing the biggest factor in this movie: Angelina Jolie. She was an executive producer as well as the title character. She was heavily featured in advertising. This movie was going to succeed or fail based on her. And I loved her in it. She has a face that is impossible to mistake but they were smart with her makeup. They played up her cheekbones and in the end it wasn’t Angelina I was watching but Maleficent. It helps that even if she was a nobody she looks a lot like the cartoon character. She was fully clothed and did little hand to hand combat which helps as well.

The changes to the story were beautiful. Gone is the good vs. evil, black vs. white, old vs. young flat palate of the original. Instead we have a villain that is also a hero. The characters were dynamic and grew. We had justification for the hate and the war. We had complex relationships and back stories. And we had a strong but relatable female lead. Plus the princess looked her age. Continue reading

Movie Review: A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

I was worried about seeing this movie but I am glad I did. It was kind of like a live action episode of Family Guy (one of the really good episodes, not one of “road to…” ones). It started off fast and funny.

There was a joke early on that I thought was a miss. Seth’s character is wasted and about to get on his horse. The line was, “Don’t drink and horse.” Obviously, this was a play on ‘drink and drive’. It didn’t land with me for one reason. In my mind it should have been “Don’t drink and ride.” Drive and ride are both verbs. Horse is a noun. We don’t say ‘drink and car’. If the word ride didn’t exist and or share similar phones I wouldn’t mind. Now whether it never occurred to them or they thought of it and dismissed it, possibly for being too easy, I don’t know. This was the only joke that didn’t land for me though.. the rest of the jokes were well done and delivered perfectly.

The cast was nicely utilized. Even the cameos were elegant.

The thing that sets this apart from other recent male-humor driven movies (Neighbors) was the tone. Where Neighbors tried a little too hard to be more than just a funny movie this movie embraced its identity. It didn’t take itself seriously. It didn’t drag things out. It was focused on its theme and was really able to explore a lot of facets through its farcical lens. Continue reading