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Animated movies typically do nothing for me.

The cold cockles of my heart are not warmed by song and dance. If anything, the whole charade annoys the shit out of me. Maybe it would be different if I had children. But my hatred grows whenever I see a movie that’s supposedly made for children yet advertised as if it is also for adults.

The Book of Life masquerades as adult entertainment, but this is really a children’s movie at heart. All the pee and poop jokes make it easy to tell. Somehow, it still manages to not be so horrible.

As a story, The Book of Life is unremarkable. Situated as a story within a story, the opening introduces the audience to a ragtag group of misbehaved children arriving at a museum for a school field trip. However, the tour guide (Mary Beth voiced by Christina Applegate) leads the children through a special entrance and to a hidden room that houses the Book of Life—a tome containing every story in the world.

Book

Mary Beth tells the children about a struggle between the forces of good and evil. In this story, La Muerte (voiced by Kate del Castillo) rules over the Land of the Remembered while Xibalba (voiced by Ron Perlman) rules over the Land of the Forgotten. It doesn’t take a genius to find out which side is good and evil.

Like all great Mexican children’s stories, it’s all about gambling. In this particular piece of folklore, the focus centers around a bet between La Muerte and Xibalba over which young boy—Manolo or Joaquin—will win the heart of our young beauty, Maria (voiced by Zoe Saldana). If Joaquin (voiced by Channing Tatum) marries Maria, then Xibalba will reign supreme in the Land of the Remembered while La Muerte is banished to the Land of the Forgotten. If Manolo (voiced by Diego Luna) marries Maria, then La Muerte will rule over both realms and Xibalba must never interfere in human affairs again.

LaMuerteXibalba

Not exactly the most interesting stakes, but let’s forgive that fault from a children’s movie.

It’s all about managing expectations, which can get carried away when you learn about Guillermo del Toro’s involvement. The Book of Life is written and directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez, but you can certainly see Guillermo del Toro’s influence as a producer. While the story plays out in rather standard fashion, there are enough entertaining wrinkles that can capture the imagination of adults.

In particular, The Book of Life surprised me by not succumbing to the temptation of the song and dance routine. The story isn’t interrupted every few minutes by a light-hearted melody. Instead, there are only a handful of songs that sporadically break up the plot points and there’s mostly a reason for the song.

When Manolo breaks into a cover of “Creep” by Radiohead, I immediately bought into this movie at that exact instance. It was a perfect rendition of a widely recognized song that’s used to propel the story—elevating the sequence above more than the typical pointless song and dance dribble.

There’s nothing here that will escalate to Frozen’s “Let It Go” tune, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as The Book Life is an infinitely better movie than Frozen. Walking a fine line between schmaltzy and serious, The Book of Life brings vibrant Day of the Dead visuals to life that everyone should enjoy.

World

With the correct concoction to satisfy both children and adults, The Book of Life is the rare type of movie for everyone. Don’t expect this movie to be on the same level as the all-time classic Pan’s Labyrinth because it’s not a direct product of Guillermo del Toro. Blended with equal portions of elements from Nightmare Before Christmas and Romeo and Juliet, The Book of Life is a quality film with substantially better presentation and execution than most animated movies—including The Lego Movie earlier this year.

Now a generation of children will grow up with Ice Cube telling them to write their own story.

Churros

4 out of 5 stars

Overall: 64-41
Last Week: 8-7

Chargers @ Broncos

San Diego rolls into Denver on a short week with hopes and prayers to prevent Peyton Manning from further padding his all-time TD record. Peyton Manning doesn’t lose in prime time. While Manning has a history of fluky losses to Philip “Li’l Dick” Rivers, the Broncos are improving their balance with Ronnie Hillman running out of spread formations. Denver still needs Montee Ball back and healthy to add a power element to compliment Peyton Manning’s precision passing.

Win: Denver Broncos

Lions @ Falcons

Matthew Stafford isn’t the same QB without Calvin Johnson. Injuries are piling up for the Detroit Lions, and the team has had a fair amount of issues heading to London this week. Matt Ryan is due for at least a decent game. While Detroit has been riding their defense, Atlanta’s defense has been wholly unremarkable. However, the Lions probably don’t have the horses to run with Julio Jones and keep him contained. Atlanta’s only chance of winning is Julio Jones dominating Detroit for double-digit receptions. Something needs to happen for the Falcons, but it’s hard to imagine Atlanta actually putting things together on the road in a new country.

Win: Detroit Lions

Ravens @ Bengals

This division grudge match will be one of the better games on Sunday this week. The Red Rocket premature ejaculated all over himself last week as the Bengals fell silently against the Indianapolis Colts. Without any momentum heading into this important swing game, it is going to be difficult for Cincinnati to move the ball consistently if Dalton is going to goof in his pants. Cincinnati is struggling to find rhythm offensively while Baltimore has been surprisingly steady the past few weeks. Look for Joe Flacco to exploit Cincinnati’s secondary and elevate the Ravens past the reeling Bengals.

Win: Baltimore Ravens

Texans @ Titans

TEN - Trash 'Stache

Zach Mettenberger looks like a 70s porn star with his trash ‘stache. Your 2014 Tennessee Titans, ladies and gentlemen! Facing J.J. Watt in your rookie debut is not the dream scenario for a quarterback. Mettenberger has a big arm, but he will make his fair share of mistakes. All Ryan Fitzpatrick needs to do his hand the ball off and not make more, worse mistakes than Mettenberger in his debut.

Win: Houston Texans

Rams @ Chiefs

Kansas City has stayed surprisingly competitive this year with the Regression Monster looming in the distance. While the Chiefs are the slow and steady type, the Rams have been boom or bust all season. Coming off an improbable victory against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, Jeff Fisher’s bag of tricks might need to be restocked by some Halloween trick or treating. With this matchup at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City should take full advantage of home-field advantage in this nail biter that will be decided by whomever makes the back-breaking mistake in the final moments.

Win: Kansas City Chiefs

Bears @ Patriots

CHI - Forte

So much for that bromance between Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler. Everyone in Chicago is pointing fingers and Smokin’ Jay Cutler is deservedly earning the most blame. Jay Cutler just has not progressed since he’s entered the league. The ever expanding gap between Cutler and elite QBs can be seen in this game as Tom Brady will show off great footwork in the pocket and get rid of the ball in a timely manner. Meanwhile, Cutler will take a sack-fumble because he can’t make a decision. The Bears only have one hope to pull off the road upset and his name is Matt Forte.

Win: New England Patriots

Bills @ Jets

The mediocrity of the AFC East will be on full display as Kyle Orton’s Neckbeards face off against Geno’s Jets. New York can win this game if they jump on Buffalo early, but the Jets are just not the same team playing from behind. Expect New York to bottle up Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon (No. 3 and 4 respectively on the RB depth chart), which means the game will swing back and forth like the dick between Kyle Orton’s legs. This is essentially a coin toss game that favors the better defense and smarter QB.

Win: Buffalo Bills

Vikings @ Buccaneers

No one gives a shit about this game. Fans in Minnesota and Tampa Bay are already waiting for the season to be over so they know where the team will be drafting. Since both teams are evenly miserable, I’m going to side with the team who has the more experienced quarterback. That means you, Golidlocks. Show us what’s just right.

Win: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Seahawks @ Panthers

Words cannot explain how the Carolina Panthers are remaining competitive. It’s all Cam Newton at this point. During any given Sunday, Cam could shed his street clothes and put on his cape to carry Carolina past any opponent. Don’t be surprised to see that happen here at home against the Seattle Seahawks. Coach Double Rainbow cannot contain the chaos and controversy in his own locker room. After trading Percy Harvin to the Jets for some frequent flyer miles, it is clear that everyone is on edge in Seattle. While I hope beyond hope that it all blows up entirely, the smart money is on a Seattle rebound.

Win: Seattle Seahawks

Dolphins @ Jaguars

Although I didn’t have the guts to call it outright, I hinted at the possibility of Week 7 being the first victory of Blake Bortles’ career. Bortles Service delivered against Cleveland Browns, but a repeat performance against the in-state rival Dolphins is a wholly different challenge. If Jacksonville is to win again on the back-to-back, the Jaguars need Denard Robinson to shed his shoelaces and run all over Miami. Unfortunately, the probability of that happening is unlikely. Expect Miami to put together a complete game offensively and defensively at their home away from home.

Win: Miami Dolphins

Eagles @ Cardinals

PHI - Shady

Arizona has somehow remained competitive despite mediocre talent and a smorgasbord of injuries. The credit for the Cardinals’ surprising season goes to Bruce Arians, who has made a world of difference in the desert. However, Arizona gets a real test at home with Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles looking to spread their wings. The Eagles have issues on their offensive line, but Philly can fill the stat sheet when LeSean McCoy is gaining chunk yards on the ground. If Arizona contains the Eagles on the ground, then the pressure will be on Nick Foles to move the chains. At some point, I still expect to see Mark Sanchez, but Foles could keep Mr. Butt Fumble at bay with an impressive performance against a stout, swarming defense owned by the Arizona Cardinals.

Win: Philadelphia Eagles

Raiders @ Browns

The Browns really shit the bed last week against the Jaguars. Cleveland needs to rebuild momentum if the team is going to compete for a playoff spot. On the other side, Oakland has quickly become Derek Carr’s team as the rookie QB is cagey enough to carry the offense on his back for broad stretches. Unfortunately, there’s no one on Oakland’s defense that can do the same. Here’s to hoping Brian Hoyer can keep Johnny Manziel on the bench with an impressive performance against the Raiders.

Win: Cleveland Browns

Colts @ Steelers

If there is any cosmic justice, Andrew the Giant will defeat Rapistberger on the road—even if he has to pull a horseshoe out of his ass again. Indianapolis has had incredible defensive performances recently, but the Colts’ secondary will be put to the test by Antonio Brown. While Pittsburgh could turn back the clock against mediocre talent, the Colts have been playing well as a team and they possess the ability to bottle up the Steelers’ running attack. Big Ben doesn’t typically turn the ball over while Luck overcomes a multitude of his team’s mistakes. What’s another 4th quarter comeback for Andrew Luck?

Win: Indianapolis Colts

Packers @ Saints

GB - Relax

New Orleans has become well-versed in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. With a shitty defense and inconsistent supporting parts on offense, Drew Brees continues to try to do too much—only compounding issues for the Saints. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers is relaxed like he’s getting regular blowjobs from Olivia Munn. Green Bay is growing more complex on offense, but the problem for the Packers is their defense. Expect a shootout in New Orleans. My money is on the Green Bay Gunslinger.

Win: Green Bay Packers

Redskins @ Cowboys

Colt McCoy’s pop gun arm gets to literally play Cowboys and Indians on Monday Night. That matchup never ends up well for the Indians. On a proverbial season-long Trail of Tears, the Redskins are eagerly anticipating the return of RG Knee as their savior. But he’s not walking through that door this week. Expect Dallas to keep rolling at home with a decisive win against this division foe.

Win: Dallas Cowboys

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When and why have teenage post-apocalyptic books and movies become so popular?

The Maze Runner is another movie in a long line marketed towards young white children. I’m about 10 or so years past the target demographic, but I’m known to enjoy the moving pictures and I’ll see nearly anything. With potential elements to make for an interesting sci-fi environment, The Maze Runner offered just enough promise in trailers to threaten to be an entertaining movie.

And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Dylan O’Brien plays the lead character, Thomas. I bought stock in O’Brien’s career immediately after watching him steal every scene in High Road. Without O’Brien’s performance in The Maze Runner, this movie would feel even more flat and wooden. Fortunately, Dylan O’Brien provides some dimension and gives the audience a reason to care about the story.

In the opening scene, Thomas wakes up in a moving elevator shaft that seemingly leads to nowhere.

However, the shaft opens to a mysterious world (called The Glade) and Thomas is greeted/surrounded by a sizeable group of strange young men. Thomas immediately does what any sane individual would do: run away as fast as possible. But you can’t really go far when you’re trapped in a maze.

That moment Thomas (who doesn’t remember his name) looks up and realizes he’s trapped behind giant walls with a group of strangers might just be the best moment of the movie.

The Glade

Basically, it’s Michael Jackson’s wet dream version of heaven. But it’s hell for the boys.

The first act of The Maze Runner is actually an impressive achievement. At the core of this movie is the mystery of how and why they are all there. No one remembers anything. But then Thomas starts recollecting bits and pieces. Getting bitten by a Griever (the mechanical monsters patrolling the maze) also brings back fading memories for the victim—if they can handle the painful bite.

The de facto alpha male in this group is Gally—played by Will Poulter, who was the best part of We’re The Millers. Second in command is Newt—played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, probably best known as Jojen Reed from Game of Thrones. For a fleeting moment, I had hope that this movie would touch on some themes similar to Lord of the Flies, but that angle never truly comes to fruition.

However, it is an interesting narrative setting up the second and third acts of The Maze Runner.

But then it all starts to fall to shit.

For the first time, a girl—Teresa, played by Kaya Scodelario—is brought into The Glade through the elevator shaft with a note that says she is the last one ever. That same night, the heavy doors that always close off The Glade from the maze don’t close like usual. As a result, the Grievers can enter The Glade at any time and attack everyone, which forces the group into the maze to try to find an exit.

Griever

A convenient escape hole is uncovered and some die, but the remaining survivors of the group get out. The ending is so fucking convoluted and fails to actually end the movie. Instead, the story is just carried over into the sequel. I cannot explain how frustrating and unsatisfying that is because it feels like you wasted nearly 2 hours of your time for the promise that there will be a resolution at the end of the next 2 hours.

As a stand-alone movie, the story arc of The Maze Runner doesn’t work.

It is only an experiment in empty promises…like McDonald’s.

Dylan O'Brien

2 out of 5 stars

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“I imagine cracking open her head, unspooling her brain, trying to get answers.” — Nick Dunne

Gone Girl is an exceptionally well-made movie that I will never see again.

With David Fincher at the helm directing this movie, anyone can easily notice the meticulously crafted nature of the movie. The acting is top-notch and up to the same level as the writing and directing. Even the score by Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame) creates incredible tension to compliment the complicated story.

Unless a wave of high quality films pour into theaters this fall, Gone Girl will be on the short list for award season.

Rosamund Pike

I can only remember previously seeing Rosamund Pike in last year’s The World’s End (an Edgar Wright-Simon Pegg-Nick Frost venture) as the central object of affection. Despite a relatively low profile, Rosamund Pike is deservedly earning praise for an impeccable job as Amy Dunne. While Ben Affleck is first billed as Nick Dunne, Rosamund Pike outshines the megastar in this movie with her performance as an extremely popular writer known as Amazing Amy.

I’m not the biggest Ben Affleck fan, but I’ve found myself defending Affleck on more than one occasion. I blame Jennifer Lopez and Gigli for derailing Affleck’s career and making him a joke for a short stint. By no means is Ben Affleck a great actor. But Affleck is suited for this role as the hapless husband. In fact, Affleck’s sometimes controversial, often conflicted public perception actually adds another dimension to the character and this movie.

Affleck isn’t exactly likable by design, but it’s impossible not to feel his frustration. Almost none of these characters are likable. However, you understand their motivations and the decisions made that craft the character of their character.

Tyler Perry

Sadly, I would have to say Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt is the most likable person in this movie. I think my brain just exploded after writing that sentence. But it’s true. Tanner Bolt steals the thunder in every scene as the high-profile, high-powered defense attorney, which can be credited to David Fincher’s directing.

Several other solid performances come from the various supporting roles. Neil Patrick Harris plays Desi Collings, the creepy controlling ex-boyfriend to Amazing Amy. Patrick Fugit (most famous for his leading role in Almost Famous) is surprisingly solid as Officer Jim Galpin, the right-hand man to Detective Rhonda Boney, played by Kim Dickens. Even Emily Ratajkowski does a respectable job in her limited role as the other woman, and she’s basically just some random slut with a bouncy set of boobs who is famous for being naked in Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines music video.

Based on a novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, this story bears a close, striking resemblance to the real-life case of Scott and Laci Peterson. Let’s be honest, Gone Girl is a fictionalized account of that true crime story with a clever twist.

Therein lies the problem: Gone Girl feels like it is trying to be too smart for its own good.

Smile

Although I can acknowledge Gone Girl is a film masterfully crafted by a director at the height of his power, it’s not an exceedingly interesting story without the artful presentation. The dialogue can feel stilted and unnatural at times, but the twists and turns of the story propel the action (or non-action).

While I enjoyed the experience, I can’t say I was always entertained during Gone Girl. The pace of the movie ebbs and flows with those twists and turns in the story. As a result, I felt every minute of the 2 1/2 hour runtime. Removing 30 minutes and tightening the pace would have remedied the extended ending and added an entire star to this rating. The good is exceptional, but the bad parts of this movie are painful. Don’t inspect the Jenga-esque construction of this story or a loose block could bring the whole damn thing tumbling down.

Near the end, you’re just begging for a resolution whether you like it or not.

Mercifully, Gone Girl eventually ends and is now gone forever from my memory bank.

Deadpan

4 out of 5 stars

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Dracula Untold is the story of Dracula that did not need to be told. In early October, my wife won free tickets to an early screening of Dracula Untold, but I still want my money and time back.

It’s a struggle to find anything worthwhile about this movie.

The best film comparison to Dracula Untold has to be Hannibal Rising. I know the character has had too many iterations to keep track of, but fabricating a backstory in a historical setting is just an ill-fated attempt to ground the unreal in reality. I don’t need to humanize Dracula and understand his intentions.

Dracula Untold is the story of Vlad the Impaler single-handedly destroying the Turks because he makes a deal with the devil…well, Dracula. This is not a story that needed to be told. Instead of Dracula serving as the main villain in the movie, that arc is more of the side story with the Turks acting as the antagonist.

In case you were wondering, this different approach doesn’t add anything.

Luke Evans does a decent job as a reserved Vlad before breaking free as Dracula. I’ve never seen Luke Evans before in any another movie, but then again I’m not exactly a big fan of movies like The Three Musketeers, Immortals, The Raven, or Fast & Furious 6. From my perspective, the best thing Luke Evans has going for his career is that he so closely resembles Dominic West—James McNulty from The Wire.

Imagining McNulty as a drunken Dracula was the most entertainment I mined from this movie.

Charles Dance

Speaking of iconic TV characters, Tywin Lannister apparently didn’t die on Game of Thrones, he just became Dracula. While makeup obscures his face for the most part, I immediately recognized Charles Dance’s deep gravelly voice. It’s unfortunate nothing more was done with Dance as he’s largely relegated to voice work.

Dracula Untold is much more in the vein of Van Helsing, which isn’t exactly a compliment. However, at least this version of Dracula isn’t quite so gay and doesn’t require a werewolf to kill him. But this version of Dracula is a reluctant killer with incredible remorse for being forced into defending his family.

Who knew Dracula was such a sentimental family man?

In a nutshell, Dracula Untold is an origin story that’s not very original.

Horrified

1 out of 5 stars

Luke West

Luke Evans | Dominic West

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is an ode to odd decision-making. Nearly a decade after the incredibly inventive original, this movie is a poor excuse for a sequel. Or is it a prequel? Whatever the fuck this movie is, it isn’t good and its most glaring issue is the chaotic direction that stockpiles confusion.

While Robert Rodriguez made the Sin City universe come to life on film, it feels like Frank Miller had considerably more input this time compared to the original. For whatever reason, the stories chosen from Miller’s comic books—or the new material written solely for this movie—do not translate this time around. At best, the stories could be best described as bland and boiled down, which just makes it feel like you’re watching recycled shit. Plus, the fucked up timeframes of these stories don’t help solve any confusion.

Why wait so long to create something so mundane?

By now, we’ve had a decade of technological advancement, which has resulted in so many movies copying Sin City’s same exact style and artful exposition. Somehow, the effects are significantly less impressive in this effort. Maybe it’s just Mickey Rourke’s fucked up face, but Marv’s makeup looks drastically different.

Without Mickey Rourke as Marv, I question whether or not this movie would have been made. Marv is just around to sprinkle in some comedic value and remind you of the original movie…y’know, the one where Marv dies. The choice to include Marv again appears to be an uninspired, cheap attempt to fool the audience into liking this sequel/prequel. There are just not a lot of new things to enjoy.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Unquestionably, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny is easily one of the best parts of the movie. Johnny is a gambler that can’t lose who is hell-bent on revenge. The immovable object to Johnny’s irresistible force is Senator Roark, played once again by Powers Booth. I lost count of how many times Powers Booth said “power” in this movie, but it seemed like at least 6 times in the poker scene alone.

About 30 minutes into the movie is when we’re introduced to the titular character Ava, A Dame to Kill For. And I do mean titular. Eva Green’s boobs are undoubtedly the best part of this movie. Eva Green is pretty spectacular as Ava, but the character itself is less substantial than her boobs.

Eva Green

Speaking of a set of boobs, Jessica Alba might be a very nice, sweet person, but she is just atrocious as an actress. Jessica Alba is back as Nancy—everyone’s favorite sexually abused child turned into a stripper…only she never actually strips, but she does have a heart of gold. While several other stories take place prior to Sin City’s original events, Nancy’s timeline takes place afterwards as she’s lamenting the loss of Hartigan (whose ghost is still being played by Bruce Willis).

In case you don’t remember, Bruce Willis eats a bullet in the picturesque ending of Sin City after saving Jessica Alba. Little Nancy is still on the pole in A Dame to Kill For, and it is painful to see her try to act sexy yet again. It’s just so damn awkward and fake.

Jessica Alba

Everything is just so damn awkward and fake. In a nutshell, the issue with A Dame to Kill For can be seen in the recasting of three significant roles—Josh Brolin replacing Clive Owen as Dwight; Jamie Chung replacing Devon Aoki as Miho; and Dennis Haysbert replacing Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute.

It’s hard to fault them for casting a new Manute since Michael Clarke Duncan passed away, but I would have retired the character instead of searching for another monstrous black man with a deep voice. The same could be said for Miho since Devon Aoki was pregnant during the time of filming. But the most egregious decision in this entire fucking movie is the decision to replace Clive Owen.

Josh Brolin is a great actor, but he was miscast and misused. Clive Owen embodied the character of Dwight and brought it to life. The seed was sewn in the original Sin City with the convenient line that Dwight just recently got a new face. Reconstructive facial surgery is one thing, but a British accent is another.

Dwight

There’s a scene towards the end where they plaster Josh Brolin’s face in makeup appliances and put a mop of hair on him to make him vaguely resemble a retarded Clive Owen. It’s a bewildering decision that seemingly had no thought put behind it.

While Sin City had snappy writing with several quotable lines, A Dame to Kill For features embarrassing dialogue. There’s literally a sequence in the movie where Josh Brolin (playing the pre-British accent version of Dwight) delivers a string of clichés—including the following:

“I forgive you, you got your wish. Go home, sleep tight.”
“I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night.”
“You made your bed, sleep in it.”

Did a 12-year old write this script? I’m almost certain this movie was conjured up in the mind of a pre-pubescent adolescent that can only think of buckets of blood and plenty of boobies.

Oh, and Stacy Keach looks like a breathing testicle with spectacles. So there’s that.

Testicle with Spectacles

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t all bad—maybe half of everything works. But the bad is fucking horrific. The biggest fault with this effort is that it’s so forgettable that it might actually hurt how people remember the original. It’s easy to mix up which events belong to which movie considering the self-referential nature of the broken intertwined timelines between both movies.

Let’s just hope it ends here and we all agree that this movie never actually happened.

2 out of 5 stars