Reel Watchers: Dark Shadows

15 Feb



 While fans of the original goth drama may not find what they’re looking for in this reboot of the ’60s soap opera, everyone else is sure to have a familiar good time.

Johnny Depp stars as Barnabas, an 18th century playboy who is turned into a vampire after he betrays a beautiful witch, played by Eva Green.

After 196 years, he’s released from his underground chains and coffin by construction workers, only to find himself smack dab in the 1970s. (Complete with a cameo by Arizona’s own Alice Cooper.)

Since his transformation and burial a lot has changed in the world. Music, television, and of course, the people living in his now rundown Collinwood Manor.

Barnabas is quickly brought back into the thick of things as his once great fishing company is being threatened by none other than the same witch who cursed him.

The quirky combination of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp has been a memorable staple for more than 20 years. From Edward’s Scissorhands to Willy Wonka, these two have created icon after icon.

What works in “Dark Shadows” is Depp. Not just as Barnabas, but as a bigger-than-the-film personality. We’re so used to him playing these crazy characters that we’ve come to love them no matter how mad they are, or how underdeveloped the rest of the story is.

The real winners of any additional praise are the costume and set designers. Not only did they make this film look great, they gave it that familiar Burton-macabre feel we’ve come to look for.

“Dark Shadows” is a not-too-scary, kind-of-funny romp. I have to give it 2.5 out of 5 Miners.



Reel Watchers: Ted

13 Feb



If you are a fan of “Family Guy” and enjoy the sarcastic wit of Seth MacFarlane, then “Ted” delivers exactly what you’re looking for.

Being Seth’s first attempt to bring his small screen antics to a big screen near you, he’s made sure he didn’t veer to far from his core formula. And that’s alright with me.

You see too many times these creative types strike gold and then feel they need to try something new, not realizing that when you’re known for a particular brand of humor, I don’t want you to try to feed me a drama. (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Mike Judge.)

“Ted” starts with a young boy who has been singled out by the neighborhood boys as being unworthy of their friendship. This forces a young John Bennett, played as an adult by Mark Wahlberg, to turn to his favorite new Christmas present, a giant stuffed teddy bear, for companionship. But, when a magical wish brings Ted to life, John now has all the friends he needs.

By the way, Ted is voiced by MacFarlane.

Fast forward 28 years and John and Ted are still best buddies, only now John’s girlfriend Lori, played by Mila Kunis, has entered the mix. And while she understands and supports John’s friendship with Ted, she wants her boyfriend to grow up and stop spending so much time with his teddy bear.

Not only does Seth give Ted’s walking, talking, drinking, smoking, promiscuous character tons of tools to entertain, he also gives him something he very easily could have overlooked, and that’s a heart. Thank God he didn’t. It’s because of that added element, on top of a great story-line, that makes Ted so believable and fun.

As far as the other acting jobs, Wahlberg puts on a boyish charm that is not only funny in its own right, but consistent. I’m glad he didn’t sway on this element of his character. He very easily could have tried to play it straight and just made the whole thing awkward. Instead, we have magic and the big kid who knows it exists.

After it’s all said and done, Ted is a solid comedy for those with a childish sense of humor and an affinity for stoner humor. I’m giving Ted a 4 out of 5 miners.


Reel Watchers: That’s My Boy

11 Feb

That's My Boy


Anytime Adam Sandler puts out a new movie, the big name critics and reviewers seem to divide into sides to voice their split opinions. Because, after all, you either love or hate Sandler’s “Big Kid” humor.

Sandler’s previous shot at big screen success didn’t seem to go over well with anybody. But, I reviewed “Jack and Jill” and felt it had heart. (So relax, you uptight word-mongers!)

In “That’s My Boy,” Sandler returns to his roots. It’s the type of film made for those of us that like to feel, regardless of age, that we can return to a child-like state at any moment where fart jokes are funny. And that’s where this film shines, delivering the audience tons of “laugh out loud” moments.

In the film Sandler plays Donny, a washed-up has-been who was famous in the 80’s when, as a middle school student, he knocked up his gorgeous teacher, Ms. Mary McGarricle, played by both Eva Amurri Martino (younger) and her real-life mother, Susan Sarandon (present day.)

The affair hit the tabloids and made Donny a hero to fantasizing men everywhere. Unfortunately, the teenage Donny was also left to raise their son alone after Mary was sentenced to 30 years in jail.

Needless to say Donny was a horrible parent, and it’s not until 30 years later he risks going to jail himself that Donny decides to seek out his estranged son Todd, played by Andy Samberg. (Samberg not only took over for Sandler on SNL, he actually looks a lot like him!)

It then becomes the goofy journey of a goofy father trying to reconnect with his damaged son while secretly trying to stay out of jail.

That’s My Boy won’t win any mainstream awards, but it is a funny movie, full of the traditional entourage of outrageous characters Sandler’s films are famous for.

If you’re a fan, you’ll love it. If you’re on the fence, I say take a chance on this one and if you don’t like it go see “Grown Ups 2” next summer to make up for it.

I’m giving this one 3 out of 5 miners.


February 11th, 2013: JJ Abrams, Netflix Tools, and Box Office Stats in this weekz MLW Movie News

11 Feb

Identity Thief

The idea behind MLW Movie News is to bring the top SEVEN movie related news items together for you savor at your leisure throughout the week. Alright, enough chit-chat let’s get to the flippin’ newz.

In this weekz MLW Movie News we’ve got…

SE7EN.JJ Abrams “not looking to make movies in the game space”

We’re not looking to make movies in the game space. We’re looking to make great games that take the strengths of what we know – characters, world-building, creating a sense of emotional connection – and trying ways to try to exploit that in the gaming … (Click to continue reading.)

6IX.Get Reel: When good actors appear in bad movies

One can assume, or at least hope, that some of the actors, including Elizabeth Banks, seen here, who agreed to appear in “Movie 43″ knew the film was garbage but, for some reason, didn’t care. Perhaps they thought it would be a hoot to show their … (Click to continue reading.)

FIV5.Poll: Do you listen to movies or TV over headphones?

I suppose it’s still a fair assumption that more people listen to music than movies with headphones, but there has to be a growing audience listening to movies, TV shows, and YouTube videos via their headphones. Thanks to the booming popularity of … (Click to continue reading.)


FO4R.‘Paperman’: Watch the step-by-step animation process for Disney’s Oscar …

Disney’s charming short film up for an Oscar this year, Paperman, is a nostalgic return to the tradition of 2-D, hand-drawn animation that also embraces what modern 3-D animation technology has to offer. (Click to continue reading.)

THR3E.MOVIES: 2013 must-see list – ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’

MOVIES: 2013 must-see list – ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’. Posted on | February 10, 2013 | Comments. Nicholas Hoult stars in “Jack the Giant Slayer. (Click to continue reading.)


2WO.Netflix Movies On Streaming That Are Actually Good: 7 Tools To Help You Find …

On these long, cold days of winter — and with the menacing Nemo headed for the East Coast — many of you are probably planning on curling up with a loved one and a laptop to watch a movie or two on Netflix’s streaming section. But once you cycle … (Click to continue reading.)

1NE.Box Office Report: ‘Identity Thief’ Swipes Number One Spot

WINNER OF THE WEEK: Melissa McCarthy. New York Observer critic Rex Reed may have inadvertently sparked a minor media firestorm this week with his review of Identity Thief, in which he went beyond his dislike of the movie and McCarthy’s performance .. (Click to continue reading.)


What was your

favorite ‘MOVIE-themed’

story of the week?

(Try leaving your creative comments in the section below!)

We’ll be back Next Week with

more of the happenings in the

crazy world of FILM.




Two-parts popcorn, one-part chocolate,

and something cold to wash it down.

I’m ready for the movie!”

– Michael E. Esser

Michael E. Esser


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Reel Watchers: Warm Bodies

9 Feb



As a “zombie” author myself, I was excited to review the big screen adaptation of author Isaac Marion’s zom-rom-com, “Warm Bodies.” As a book, “Warm Bodies” was a game-changer. It took us inside the head of one of the walking dead while mixing in a new element, the power of love.

“R,” played by Nicholas Hoult, is not your average zombie. He has a tendency to ponder his existence, even if he can’t remember his real name – let alone his past. He is a collector of sorts, gathering remains from the ruins of the world while out searching for flesh and brains. On one outing with a couple of his undead friends, R runs into Julie, played by Teresa Palmer. After attacking and eating her boyfriend Perry’s brains, R gains some of Perry’s memories and ultimately a connection with Julie that has him rescuing her from his fellow flesh eaters.

But this is no normal relationship. Something has been sparked in R, and as it grows it is spreading through the lifeless community faster than the virus that caused it.

Being that I read the book, which I highly recommend as it is an easy read and a real page-turner, I have to say they got it right and that doesn’t happen very often. Hoult and Palmer fit the lead roles perfectly and are just as I pictured them to be, delivering nearly perfect performances of the source material.

On the supporting cast side, Dave Franco as Perry was great, and even John Malkovich as Julie’s father was right on the money. But the standout performance is Rob Corddry’s version of R’s best zombie friend, “M.” Not only does he bring that sarcastic spunk we’re used to getting from him, but he brings an element of comedic machismo that acts as a bridge from scene to scene.

My only criticism of the film comes from elements that aren’t explained well enough to stand on their own on screen.

I guess that’s the case with any adaptation.

Other than that, I say go see this one with an exposed brain – er – open mind, and be sure to bring a date because I’m giving “Warm Bodies” 3.5 out of 4 miners.


Michael E. Esser


Reel Watchers: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

8 Feb

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted


 It’s a rare occurrence in the world of big screen entertainment for a movie’s sequel, let alone a third installment, to be better than the original. Let’s just say it’s as rare a find as running into a talking lemur with that much rhythm. But that’s just the case with Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.

When Alex the lion, voiced by Ben Stiller, becomes homesick for New York the gang decides it’s time to go home. The plan: Find the penguins and monkeys who took off to Monte Carlo weeks ago and have them use their “magical flying device” to take them back to the states.

Unfortunately, when they arrive in the gambling mecca the fact that they are wild animals sends out an alarm to the local animal control department led by the obsessively crazy Captain Chantel DuBois, voiced by Frances McDormand. Her arrival sets off the film’s incredibly entertaining series of chase sequences that are highlighted by an animal chauffeured car chase and a romp over the city’s rooftops that pays homage to action films like “The Matrix.”

Then, just as the pursuit almost comes to an end, Marty, voiced by Chris Rock, Melman, voiced by David Schwimmer, Gloria, voiced by Jada Pinkett Smith, and of course Alex are able to escape onto a circus train heading through France.

The catch is that to be on the circus train they must be in the circus – and it just gets funnier from here.

Not only was the story well-paced and extremely entertaining for the kids in the audience, the overall enjoyment had by the adults was on par as well. DreamWorks has delivered yet another truly worthy summer family film.

Highlight: When they put on their version of a circus show, watch the faces of the kids in the audience if you’re not mesmerized yourself.

For all this franchise has done to entertain and for how good this latest installment really is I’m going to have to give it a rarely seen 5 out of 5 miners.



Reel Watchers: Happy Feet Two

6 Feb

Happy Feet Two


High quality animation, a star studded cast, and the coolest little dancers Antarctica has to offer. That’s what you can expect from Warner Bros. Happy Feet Two as it hits theaters this weekend.

When Erik, the son of Mumbles (voiced by Elijah Wood) and Gloria (voiced by P!nk), has trouble realizing his talents as a dancing member of his penguin family, he sets out to join Ramone, voiced by legendary comedian Robin Williams, on a journey to find somewhere new that he can feel at home.

Meanwhile, the sudden moving of giant glacier blocks off the only entrance to their penguin home, trapping the population and threatening their survival.

Along the way the adventurers find a flying penguin, Ramone falls for the Sofia Vergara-voiced Carmen, and saving a giant elephant seal pays off big time.

If you have kids, this one is a no-brainer. The toe tapping music alone had my girls dancing in there seats on more than one occasion.

As far as pacing and story line goes, while it’s not heavy on plot, it does hit the mark for what it is, a family movie meant to entertain all ages.

Robin Williams is at his best. He steals every scene he’s in with another one of his typical bigger-than-life performances.

Oh, and there’s a subplot to the story about a couple of krill, voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, who rebel and decide to swim against the norm to find themselves and evolve into something more. It’s hilarious.

With the approval of my three young dates for the film, my daughters Alexis and Addison along my niece Rowan, we’re giving Happy Feet Two a unanimous 4 out of 5 miners.


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