Movie Reviews

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A Million Ways to Die in the West: Wasted Potential and Disappointment

By Sandra Olmstead

About the only thing “western” about this travesty of a movie is that it was beautifully shot in Monument Valley by cinematographer Michael Barrett; however, it would be nigh impossible to make Monument Valley look bad. Given the rest of this movie’s problems, it’s surprising that this iconic landscape, made famous by director John Ford in Stagecoach, looks good.

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Maleficent: Truly Fairy’s Tale

By Sandra Olmsted

In this compelling tale, Maleficent, actually a beautiful young fairy with strong wings that allow her the freedom and joy of flight, has her heart broken by a human, Stefan. Then and only then, Maleficent’s good and kind heart turns dark, and even those who love her are afraid of her. Maleficent, the film, chronicles the tale of two countries which dwell side by side but could not be more different. Ruled by a king, the human kingdom thrives on ambition, greed, and war while the magically country has no need of a ruler because they trust each other and joy and kindness reign until Maleficent’s darkened heart twists the magic to evil and revenge. In Maleficent, director Robert Stromberg and screenwriter Linda Woolverton weave a tale worthy of the Brothers Grimm and ponder whether a heart so broken can ever mend.

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Blended: Family Fun from 2 Always Good Together Actors

By Sandra Olmsted

Blended, the first of the truly family films for the summer, delightfully deals with the problems of adults raising children on their own, and Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, together again in this family-friendly comedy with more than a few dramatic undertones, have great chemistry and comic timing.

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Belle: An Austen-esque True Story of Race, Class, and Gender

By Sandra Olmsted

Director Amma Asante successfully makes the big leap from TV series to feature films with Belle, which is based on a true story. Belle, played exquisitely by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is the illegitimate daughter of an enslaved African woman and Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode), a British Navel Officer, who brings young Belle (Lauren Julien-Box) to his family to raise in England when her mother dies. Although having a mixed race child and family member scandalizes their society, the gruff but kindhearted Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson), England’s Lord Chief Justice, and the equally kindhearted but practical Lady Mary Murray (Emily Watson) immediately like young Belle, and while raising her with their other illegitimate young niece, Elizabeth Murray (Cara Jenkins as a child and Sarah Gadon as an adult) find ways to cope with the challenges of preparing Belle for the world she will live in as the “mulatto”  lady with the privilege of class and the complication of race in a segregated society with a slave trade economy.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past: A Delightful Do-Over

By Sandra Olmsted

Since director Bryan Singer left helming the X-Men franchise, the story line has fallen into what could be called disrepair, and the characters trapped in a battle they cannot win, even in superhero logic, against the Sentinels, giant transforming, mutant DNA sniffing robots. The newest installment reboots the series by using time travel and changing history to give the franchise a fresh start and new storylines to explore in the characters’ new future. Based on the 1981 Uncanny X-Men comic “Days of Future Past” and the story by Jane Goldman, Simon Kinberg, and Matthew Vaughn, the Simon Kinberg script solves the problem of total X-Men annihilation in the dystopian future, but the new, utopian, total acceptance future might equally be the death nell for the franchise.

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Godzilla: Sixty is the New Terror

By Sandra Olmsted

Godzilla, the star of 29 feature films turns the big SIX-ZERO this year, and with maturity comes a complete remake of the myth and the body. In the director Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, there are no zippers to look for in these monsters although the monsters in this version do have the anatomic look of being a human in a monster suit, which is only fitting considering the history of the monster himself. Still an object lesson about the dangers of the nuclear age, Godzilla’s opponents in this film are Muta, a giant creature struggling to procreate with a mate and drawn to the energy of a nuclear power plant.

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