Movie Review ~ Marry Me

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Music superstars Kat Valdez and Bastian are getting married before a global audience of fans. When Kat learns that Bastian has been unfaithful, seconds before her vows, she decides to marry Charlie, a stranger in the crowd, instead.
Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson, Maluma, Chloe Coleman, Sarah Silverman
Director: Kat Corio
Rated: PG-13
Running Length: 112 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review:  After more than twenty-five years in the movie industry, I think it’s fair to say that multi-hyphenate performer Jennifer Lopez knows what works for her and what doesn’t. Choosing her film roles selectively and with an eye on not just the exposure for her as an actress but as a musician and entertainer, Lopez is a global icon instantly recognizable wherever she goes. Early in her career, she entered the hallowed halls of romantic comedy queendom, scoring a hat trick with 2001’s The Wedding Planner, 2002’s Maid in Manhattan, and 2005’s Monster-in-Law.  Though she’s appeared in other popular films and earned good notices before, during, and after these releases, that trio of dependable winners is the most mentioned when speaking of JLo’s film endeavors.

It’s been a while since Lopez had that level of monster genre hit and despite barely missing out on an Oscar nomination for the career-best work in 2019’s Hustlers, other projects (even 2018’s Second Act, which is quite good) haven’t caught major fire. That tide could change with the release of Marry Me, the kind of return to form rom-com fueled by gargantuan charisma and star power that’s been missing in movies for eons. Lopez and co-star Owen Wilson (The Internship) are a refreshing, funny movie couple with effortlessly delightful chemistry. With its Notting Hill-ish flourishes (more on that later), Lopez easily moves from the A list to the A+ list, giving a performance that I was not expecting to be as deep as it turned out to be. 

Loosely based on a 2007 graphic novel (!) by Bobby Crosby, Marry Me finds beautiful superstar singer Kat Valdez (Lopez, The Boy Next Door) swept up in the whirlwind of preparations to wed hot heartthrob Bastian (Maluma, Encanto) during a joint concert in front of a worldwide audience and sing their rising pop single, “Marry Me.” Already married and divorced several times, the subject of much public scrutiny, Valdez is convinced (or has she just worked hard to convince herself?) Bastian is the one for her and puts aside her reservations about getting hitched in such a public forum. In the audience are a mild-mannered math teacher and divorced dad, Charlie Gilbert (Wilson), along with his daughter (Chloe Coleman, My Spy) and his colleague Parker (Sarah Silverman, A Million Ways to Die in the West). 

When Kat finds out from her manager (John Bradley, Moonfall) right as the vows are to take place that Bastian has betrayed her, she notices the unassuming man in the audience holding a sign emblazoned with the name of the song she’s about to sing. A split-second decision leads to a moment of clarity for the star and a life-changing agreement for the schoolteacher who still owns a flip phone. Married in front of a shocked crowd, Kat and Charlie must get to know one another, and both realize something they never thought possible; there’s a lot left to life and love they can learn from the other. All they have to do is get over their hang-ups. Easier said than done for a pop star with everything and an educator content with the simple life.

It’s impossible not to watch the movie and see the striking parallels to 1999’s Notting Hill, which is, to me, a perfect film. Even in the way the action develops, the narrative beats have a similar feel. While I wouldn’t say Marry Me is overtly copying that earlier film’s success story, it does use that as a blueprint to make the unlikely (and, let’s face it, unbelievable) fairy tale seem that much more plausible. Director Kat Corio and screenwriters Harper Dill, John Rogers, and Tami Sagher pepper the film with enough roadblocks and, strangely, supporting characters working against the best interest of their friends to believably keep the stars ever so slightly in a romantic danger zone. The inevitable third act “break-up,” comes from an internal place, not an external force, something I appreciated seeing because it was in keeping with the movie’s focus on the couple. It sets the stage for a comic cross-country down-to-the-buzzer race to express their feelings. 

Filmed in 2019 when Lopez was 50, it’s a grand showcase (but not a “showy” one) for the actress, with full-out singing and dancing to go along with the sharp comic timing she hasn’t fully embraced since her early Wedding Planner days. Also…I’m convinced Marry Me is being released simultaneously on Peacock TV as well as theaters for people who will certainly do what I did and pause it to scream each time Lopez reveals a new outfit. By the time we got to the red sequin number, I was entirely unconscious under the coffee table. Timed right for a Valentine’s Day release, say yes to Marry Me this weekend or any time of year. It’s undoubtedly going to be a new favorite of mine.

Movie Review ~ Ralph Breaks the Internet


The Facts
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Synopsis: Six years after the events of “Wreck-It Ralph”, Ralph and Vanellope, now friends, discover a wi-fi router in their arcade, leading them into a new adventure.

Stars: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer, Taraji P. Henson, Gal Gadot

Director: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore

Rated: PG

Running Length: 112 minutes

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review: I have to be honest and say that I wasn’t a ride or die fan of Wreck-It-Ralph when it first was released.  It took me a while to find my way to the movie in theaters and though as a child of the ‘80s I appreciated the nostalgia its 8-bit arcade game lead character stirred within me it doesn’t sit high on my list of favorite Disney films.  Though the sequel was hotly anticipated I didn’t even take the time to re-watch the original before taking in this colorful follow-up that I wound up having fun at.  This one seemed to push the envelope more than its predecessor and was stuffed with enough rapid fire jokes to keep your head spinning.  There are a plethora of Easter eggs to be found, especially for those that remember the early days of the World Wide Web and recall the way you would hold your breath when AOL would attempt to connect.

John C. Reilly (Holmes & Watson) and Sarah Silverman (A Millon Ways to Die in the West) are back to voice our two lead characters with Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) joining the cast as an ally to Silverman’s character. I also got a huge kick out of two scenes featuring every Disney princess that has appeared on film, most voiced by the same women that originally brought them to life.  Slyly commenting on their storybook lives in this #TimesUp brave new world we’re living in, they were the highlight of the film.  While the animation is wonderfully eye-popping I don’t feel the movie sticks in your brain like the best of the Disney animated films do.

Movie Review ~ A Million Ways to Die in the West

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The Facts:

Synopsis: 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.

Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris

Director: Seth MacFarlane

Rated: R

Running Length: 116 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (2/10)

Review:  The posters for A Million Ways to Die in the West tout “From the guy who brought you Ted”…that should have been enough of a warning for me to head for the hills.   For the “guy” in question is Seth MacFarlane and Ted wasn’t exactly my favorite film of 2012.  Though I’ve come to a point of forgiveness with MacFarlane after his arguably unforgivable job hosting the Oscars in 2013, I got saddle sores while sitting through his attempt to make a Blazing Saddles for his Family Guy audience.

I realized while watching (more like grimacing through) MacFarlane’s latest directorial effort that Westerns don’t often get a new spin but when they do, more often than not they work.  Blazing Saddles from 1974 and Django Unchained from 2012 are the first examples that come to mind.  While Saddles was a Mel Brooks exercise in comedic buffoonery, Quentin Tarantino’s spaghetti western revenge epic was bloody good fun.  A Million Ways to Die in the West is an example of the wide, wide chasm that exists between films like Saddles and Django and MacFarlane’s raunchy and ribald supposed comedy.

There’s a good laugh right off the bat but sadly, like the roles played by Sarah Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi, the funny stuff all but disappears for more than half the film.  In place of actual laughs is MacFarlane’s ill-advised attempt to Woody Allen-ize every paranoid, fatalist diatribe he’s written for his character.  His clueless sheep farmer in 1822 speaks like an overindulged frat boy from Yale and looks like he got lost on a back lot tour of the set of Gunsmoke.  MacFarlane is so pasty white and healthy looking that when he’s in crowd scenes with his fellow dust bowlers he stands out like a sore thumb…either he didn’t want to get dirty or he’s going after an endorsement deal with Noxzema.

In Ted, MacFarlane only provided the voice for the naughty bear and that was somewhat tolerable.  This film makes it clear that he’s better suited doing his various voices behind the camera than being front and center.  Previously mentioned team players Silverman (Wreck-It Ralph) and Ribisi (Contraband) don’t have much to do but make voraciously explicit sex jokes that had the college age guys sitting next to me literally falling out of their seat with laughter.  Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables) spends the entirety of the film rolling her eyes (possibly mimicking the audience?) and Liam Neeson (Non-Stop, The Nut Job) provides another cinematic example of why needs to learn to say no to every role he’s offered.

Rounding out the cast is an unusually game Charlize Theron as bandit Neeson’s wife that takes a head-scratching interest in MacFarlane’s character.  Theron (Snow White and the Huntsman) hasn’t done much in comedy and if she isn’t entirely successful here, I hope she gives it another go with a better script, director, and leading man because she has good instincts.  Neil Patrick Harris (Gone Girl) is overexposed.  There, I said it.  Even more in love with himself than MacFarlane, Harris’ broadly drafted mustached louse is a painful sight to behold — especially when he’s seen defecating in not one but two hats.

The defecating (and its fully visualized aftermath) is just one example from a film filled with an endless supply of gross out gags, aroused animal genitals, rogue bodily fluids, and rancid jokes that are lingered on and even explained for good measure.  I don’t doubt that the population in the early 1800’s knew how to swear a blue streak, but I have mixed feelings that the phrase “Let’s get f***ed up!” was popular at the time.

I’d like to say I’m not the target audience for the film…but that just isn’t true.  I’m all for dumb humor and the kind of time wasting that movies allow and provide excuses for enjoying…but this just takes things too far.  Thanks to MacFarlane’s major miscalculation that he knows from funny, A Million Ways to Die in the West should D.O.A. by high noon the day it opens.

Note: If you simply MUST see this film, there are several cameos that may make it worth your while.  One cameo in particular is brilliant…you’ll know it when you see it.

The Silver Bullet ~ A Million Ways to Die in the West

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Synopsis: A cowardly farmer seeks the help of a gunslinger’s wife to help him win back the woman who left him.

Release Date: May 30, 2014

Thoughts: Tough call, friends, tough call.  On the one hand, A Million Ways to Die in the West is headlined by Seth MacFarlane, a comedic presence that I’ve never really warmed to.  Complete annoyance as Oscar host aside, I’m not a devotee of Family Guy and felt Ted had some snuggle up and laugh moments but ultimately was a one-trick teddy bear of a film.  On the other hand, MacFarlane has assembled an impressive posse of actors that are worth their salt when it comes to wry comedy.  Charlize Theron didn’t get the credit she deserved for her bitingly funny turn in Young Adult so it’s nice to see her stretching her funny bone again.  While MacFarlane seems to be aiming for a next-gen Blazing Saddles, his go big or go home attitude assures us that like it or not this will rise or fall in a blaze of glory.

Movie Review ~ Wreck-It Ralph

The Facts:

Synopsis: A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.

Stars: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Ed O’Neill, Mindy Kaling

Director: Rich Moore

Rated: PG

Running Length:  101 minutes

Trailer Review: Here and Here

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  Nostalgia filmmaking is not for everyone.  As much as something can seem like a slam dunk on paper, movie studios tend to tread carefully with films that might appeal to audiences that don’t go to the movies quite as often as they used to.  If they get it wrong, they’ve alienated your base demographic and the repeat business is a bust.  If they get it right, they guarantee their product has a longer shelf life.  Thankfully, the makers of Wreck-It Ralph fall into the latter category and have delivered a high gloss animated comedy that is a mostly winning treat.

I’ve always appreciated that the Walt Disney Studios haven’t been afraid to look for anti-heroes when creating new work.  The central character in Wreck-It Ralph is the ‘bad guy’ in an 80’s style video game that longs to be a winner.  Now, he’s not asking to be good necessarily…he just wants to win the coveted medal that his nemesis Fix-It Felix achieves every time he defeats Ralph.  We are given an inside look at the world inside Ralph’s game and see what happens when the arcade closes and the work day ends for the inhabitants of the game.

Yeah, there is more than a passing connection to Toy Story in that aspect but the similarities end there.  When Ralph goes “Turbo” (explained in greater detail with a neat-o double twist) and leaves his game for greater glory, he sets off a series of events that threatens to pull the plug on several games.  Along the way he enters a first person military game and then winds up in a Candy Land-eqsue racing game (Sugar Rush) where he meets a mischievous glitch that may hold the key to salvation.

The film is a candy color-ed adventure that works on several levels.  It’s quite creative in its employment of familiar characters to anyone that ever had an Atari or Nintendo growing up.  There are enough in jokes and references that don’t go too far over the heads of youngsters that adults will get a kick out of things as well.  It’s also (per usual Disney fare) a strong morality tale of being happy with yourself for who you are, not what people may label you as being.

Reilly is a nice choice to voice Ralph…his genial lunk headed-ness comes across well in an easy-going delivery that allows audiences to feel empathy for our nice-bad guy.  Silverman goes wild as glitch Vanellope and Lynch does her normal shtick as a hardened soldier that falls for Felix (McBrayer).  Tudyk channels Ed Wynn as the crazed King Candy who is intent on keeping Vanellope out of a big race that the film speeds toward.

With the added benefit of some swell 3D and a perfected Disney sheen, Wreck-It Ralph is an enjoyable film that probably goes on ten minutes too long.  It’s in these extra ten minutes, gathered from various scenes along the way that you start to feel a bit bogged down by some unnecessary restatements of thoughts/ideas the film has already made clear.

With a curious lack of strong family fare this holiday season, it’s no wonder that Wreck-It Ralph has cleaned up at the box office the past few weeks.  It’s getting some competition in the next few weeks but expect this one to stay on top of them all a while longer.  It’s typically strong Disney fare that has its heart and brain in the right place.