Blog update & big changes

Update

So yeah, it has been a few weeks since I last updated the blog here. I’d just like to keep my readers updated on what is going on and what to expect in the future.

First of all, Seeing Is Believing is not dead. My day job has kept me quite busy over these last few weeks, so I haven’t had the time to go see any new movies.

I did recently see “How To Train Your Dragon 2” but just haven’t found the time to write a full review on it. Short review: It was enjoyable, but not up to the level of the first film.

You also may have noticed that I have brought in a new contributor to the site, Jaime Williams. Jaime is a wonderfully creative person who I met at my time at my college newspaper. He was the online editor and web designer for the online version of the paper.

I have brought Jaime on for many reasons, but the main one is to help redesign the website. Now that I’ve been providing consistent content for this site for over a year and have over 120 articles, including reviews of nearly 100 movies, I’ve decided that its time for a better look for the site.

Jaime and I have collaborated for weeks now and have worked behind the scenes to update the website. So even though I haven’t been providing content, I have worked on making the blog into something new. In fact, here is the new banner for the site:

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But that is just the beginning of the many updates to this site.

I don’t want to show all the changes that will be coming, because I want to keep it a secret. What I will tell you is that I wish to expand my articles to more than just Blogger. I also wish to create a community within my blog, if possible. To allow my readers the opportunity to speak up and be heard on their opinions of movies. To let readers give their input on my work and say what they do or don’t like about my articles.

Because I wouldn’t have gone anywhere without you guys. I am entirely grateful to everyone who has ever read my blog. Without you guys, I don’t know where I would be. You allow me to do what I love and have so much fun with movies.

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But the last thing I will tell you guys is that I am working on adding ads to the site. I hope that when these updates finish up, I will have a higher traffic rate and more people will be reading my blog. Putting in ads to the site would allow me to bring in ad revenue and let me make some money in the process. I promise that they will not get in the way of my content and I will stay focused on providing you with articles and insight that people want to read.

With how much time I already invest into making articles, having an incentive like money would only push me to making even better content, as well as more often.

So stay tuned. Within the next week or so, Jaime and I hope to have everything up and running, and Seeing Is Believing will return better than ever before.

The Morale Of The Story Is… – Dreamworks Edition

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The morale of a story is one of the most basic fundamentals of storytelling. By the end of your story, the characters must change, usually by learning something about life that they did not know before. Like not following strangers or not going off into the woods alone.

So I feel it is important to establish what the morale of every story is. Because that is the final impression that the story wants to leave on you. Something that the audience should walk away knowing more than anything else. Which is why I’ve returned with another installment of “The Morale Of The Story Is…”

This time around, I’ll be looking at the library of Dreamworks animated movies, including their 2D and 3D works. Like the last one, these are fairly simple morals that even most children can figure out. Hopefully you were able to spot them as well.

Let’s get started with…

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“Antz” (1998)

The perfect compliment to the narcassitic Woody Allen is Slyvester Stallone. If this had been a buddy cop film about those two, this would easily overtaken “A Bug’s Life.” It could be called “Whine and Brash.”

“The Prince Of Egypt” (1998)

When all else fails in your reimagining of the story of Moses, you can always rely on Steve Martin and Martin Short to liven things up.

“Chicken Run” (2000)

Chickens will rise up to conquer us all some day. This world shall not become the planet of the apes, but the planet of the fouls. All hail our feathered overlords, for they shall conquer the skies and rain delicious pies on us!

“Shrek” (2001)

Smash Mouth is the true star of the movie. Because only shooting stars break the mold.

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“Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron” (2002)

That horse needed a cough drop or something, because his voice was raspy.

“Shrek 2” (2004)

“Prey for mercy from Puss In Boots!” just doesn’t have the same effect when you try to sound threatening in the real world. Trust me on this.

“Shark Tale” (2004)

Will Smith-fish is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in my life. It still haunts my dreams.

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“Madagascar” (2005)
Even zoo animals understand references to popular Charlton Heston movies. That’s how ingrained they are, not just into our own society, but all flocks of life.

“Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit” (2005)

We are one bad lab accident away from destroying ourselves. Whether through gene splicing, chemical explosions, bacteria exposure, or switching your brain with a rabbit. All are just as likely to happen, but mostly the rabbit one.

“Shrek the Third” (2007)

Justin Timberlake is the answer to every problem ever. Want world peace? Just throw JT at it and he’ll have it all sorted out. Crappy fantasy movie? Just make him King Arthur and something will work out.

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“The Bee Movie” (2007)

An entire movie about bees? What’s the deal with that?!?

Okay, the true morale is that a Jerry Seinfeld impression doesn’t work as well through text.

“Kung Fu Panda” (2008)

Don’t judge a movie by its title.

I’m serious on this one. What? I can’t throw in an honest one? Work with me, people!

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” (2008)

When your escape plan relies on a group of secret agents who are also penguins, it is about time for you to rethink your life. Either that, or find better drugs.

“How To Train Your Dragon” (2010)

All dragons are actually working for one gigantic bully dragon, so don’t pick on the little dragons because they get enough of that already from the pudgy one in the corner.

“Shrek Forever After” (2010)

Shrek backwards is Kerhs. The more you know.

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“Kung Fu Panda 2” (2011)

Don’t release your awesome animated movie on the same weekend as a crappy remake to a comedy. Because then everyone will overlook your movie and no one will talk about how great it is.

Sorry, I’m still upset about that.

“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” (2012)

All you need to be in the circus is an afro and bright colors and then sing about having a circus afro. Thanks Chris Rock. Truly you are the wisest of us all.

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“Rise Of The Guardians” (2013)

Santa is Russian, loves to fight, has giant tattoos of the naughty and nice list on his names and sounds a lot like Alec Baldwin. The more you know.

“Mr. Peabody & Sherman” (2014)

Dogs are naturally smarter and better than humans. Give them a week and they will invent zumba and auto-tune.

So really, the morale of all Dreamworks films is that animals are superior to humans in every way. From the chickens in “Chicken Run,” to Gromit, to Donkey and Puss in Boots, to the endless hordes of dragons and even Mr. Peabody. These animals will lead the charge against the humans who will never see them coming. No longer will they be subjegated to our every whim but be free to live their beasty lives to their hearts content. The creatures of the world shall unite one day, so prepare for the worst.

With that being said, those are the morales to the many Dreamworks movies out there. If you don’t see these morales, then I don’t know what else to say. It’s not that I’m reading too deep into the film, because these are simple lessons. I’m surprised everyone doesn’t get these lessons out of the movies.
But I’m an open kind of guy. So if you have a morale to a film that you’d like to share with me, send it my way and I just might use it in the next edition of “The Morale Of The Story is…” Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to prepare myself of the animal apocalpyse, which will surely be led by its front of pandas that know kung fu.

Movie Review: "Maleficent" (2014)

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“Sleeping Beauty” is one of the classic Disney animated features for a few different reasons. One is the artstyle and how drastically different it was from any other animated film at the time, going for more of a medival tapestry look. But the main reason most people remember the film, including myself, is the villain, Maleficent.

She is everything that makes villainy exciting to watch. She is quiet, subtle, manipulative, but can also be quite boisterous, loud and over the top. She can have her way with either a flick of her wrist or by turning into a fire-breathing dragon. She loves everything she does and takes great pride in her power. This makes her one of best, if not the best, Disney animated villain.

Notice that I said villain. If she were trying to be anything else, Maleficent would not work. In “Sleeping Beauty,” her motivation to become a villain is lame: She wasn’t invited to a party, so now she’s going to make the whole kingdom suffer. But we forgive this motivation because of how effective she is at being the villain.

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When you try to take that motivation and develop it further, fleshing her character out, suddenly you take away one of the things that made her character so great in the first place. The ambiguity of what she’ll do next and the lengths that she’ll go to. We don’t know why Maleficent has it out for Sleeping Beauty, just that she’ll make sure Aroura will fall into that deep sleep.

This is part of the reason why the new Disney film, “Maleficent,” only holds up for so long. The movie works for a while with its detailed world and character development, but over time it loses coherence and gets lost.

A long while ago, there were two kingdoms that lived adjacent to each other, one of greedy men and other of mystical creatures and fairies. The watchful protector of this kingdom is the mighty winged fairy Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), as she guards the kingdom from men who wish to snatch the vast treasures and magical objects.

One day though, the human love of her life returns to Maleficent, only to be betrayed and have her wings stolen. This leads her former love to become king, with Maleficent vowing for revenge. When the king’s daughter is born, Malficent shows up uninvited to her festival and casts the famous curse upon the baby, setting off a cascade of events and the king promising to slay Maleficent once and for all.

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Angelina Jolie is both menacing and comforting as Maleficent. When she wants to be villainous, she goes all out and often looks gleeful when being the bad guy. Her wide eyes work to full effect here, because when you see the whites of her eyes she looks like a shark about to strike.

Over the course of the film, Maleficent takes a liking to Aroura and her kinder side shines through. This gives the audience a good idea of why the magical creatures came to appreciate Maleficent and why they accept her as their guardian.

When the film is focusing on Jolie, it is at its best. She is able to capture the charm of the original character while still making it feel like her own creation.

It’s just too bad that the film spends so much time on other characters who don’t add anything. The other fairies, for example, are tasked with protecting Aroura until her sixteenth birthday, and are reduced to petty slapstick that clashes with scenes of Maleficent being maniaical. By the time she does get to that spinning wheel, the fairies storyline is all but forgotten.

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This becomes a problem for many characters throughout the film, with subplots being created but ultimately forgotten by the end. The king, for example, starts out as a boy with nothing but a friendship with Maleficent who becomes a greedy king. That friendship is lost by the end of the movie and means pratically nothing. It is never mentioned during the climatic battle, nor do either characters feel remorse for what they are doing.

Other characters, like the prince who saves Aroura and the queen are thrown away as quickly as possible and add nothing to the movie. Much like with “Sleeping Beauty,” Aroura and the prince have zero character. They are merely vehicles to move the plot along instead of feeling like people with emotions and desires. The best we get is that Aroura is curious about the world, and that’s it.

“Maleficent” has many of the same problems as “Sleeping Beauty” but also introduces several new problems. The story is all over the place, with characters motives and goals wildly changing for no good reason, subplots and characters going unaddressed and many scenes serving no point at all other than to pad out the film. Near the end, Maleficent must traverse a maze of iron, as fairies are weakened by iron. But she gets through it with no problem and this maze is never brought up again.

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While Jolie is great as Maleficent, she can only take this film so far. Too much focus on other characters who aren’t as interesting drags “Maleficent” down. It starts out well enough with the relationship between the two kingdoms, but by the end the movie has lost its point and forcibly drags from scene to scene.

If you’re a fan of “Sleeping Beauty” or the character of Maleficent, or like Angelina Jolie, then give this one a try. But if you go in expecting a medival tale of knights and witches, this probably isn’t the film for you.

Final Grade: C-

Movie Review: "A Million Ways To Die In The West" (2014)

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I don’t care for Seth MacFarlane at all. While I do believe the first three seasons of “Family Guy” were well-made and consistently funny with clever character writing, MacFarlane has decided to drop that style of comedy and instead go for something along the lines of “South Park” by insulting whoever is popular with cutaway gags that have nothing to do with the show.

Like “South Park,” I decided to keep watching “Family Guy” long after it stopped being funny. But unlike “South Park,” which just became insulting and disrespectful, “Family Guy” got repetitive and relied way too much on cutaway gags and turning its diverse cast into caricatures of their former selves. Which is why I stopped watching the show around season seven in 2009.

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Since that point, MacFarlane has created several new shows that try desperately to do the exact same thing as “Family Guy” by taking character tropes and making them as obscene as possible and going overboard in the process. This would include shows like “The Cleveland Show” and “Dads” as well as the movie “Ted.”

However, the one bright spot in all of this is that MacFarlane has relapsed into his older self, especially with his other animated show “American Dad.” In that show, MacFarlane can actually have characters be themselves without coming off like clichés or stereotypes. Essentially, he is recapturing the comedy of the first three seasons of “Family Guy” and showing that he still has what it takes to be funny, instead of obscene.

MacFarlane’s latest comedy, “A Million Ways To Die In The West,” finds a way to reach a middle ground where it is sometimes fresh, while other times is a rehash of his other work, leaving an overall feeling indifference.

Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) is a sheep farmer in the old Arizona west, around 1882, and is a complete coward who is quick to point out how much this time period sucks and that everyone and everything is trying to kill you. This attitude becomes grating on his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried) and breaks up with him to get together with the local mustache guru (Neil Patrick Harris).

But when a new family rolls into town, the sister, Anna (Charlize Theron) takes a liking to Albert and teaches him a few things about how to shot a gun. This surprises everyone in town, but not as much as when the most vicious gunslinger in the territory, Clutch Leatherwood (Liam Nesson), comes to town to look for his wife.

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The biggest complaint against this film is that it does not try to be funny as much as it should. Oh, there is plenty of comedy, but there are also many scenes where there are two people will talk normally and have a rather rational conversation. This is then broken up by Albert and Anna talking about how black people like women with huge rear ends.

There is no sense of continuity in this film, and as a result the pacing is all over the place. Sometimes the jokes will come hard and fast, like when Albert has his life flash before his eyes or talks about how the west is terrible, while other jokes take their sweet time to pan out, such as when they are at the town fair or Albert and Anna share a pot cookie.

You are often left wondering if you were supposed to laugh at that scene or not and whether it had a point to it at all.

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In a similar film, like “Blazing Saddles,” another comedy about the old west, that film takes every opportunity to cram a joke in there. The film never slows down to give the characters depth, because their jokes become their character.

But here, the characters are nothing new. We’ve seen people like Albert, Anna, Louise and Clutch a million times in other movies before this. The coward who has to step up for himself. The shallow girl who wants to be with the popular guy. The skilled bully who thinks he is the best around and wants to prove it to everyone.

So when there are so many scenes devoted to fleshing these overdone characters out, it just puts the audience to sleep rather than being dramatic. They merely serve as a distraction from the comedy.
That being said, there are plenty of worthwhile jokes throughout the film. Like I said, when the comedy comes at you fast, it usually hits the mark. When Albert describes why the west is so bad, there are many gags of people dying right before their eyes, including a guy dying of his own farts and face-planting right onto a poker table.

But the best one has to be the body of the mayor just lying in the street, with no explanation of why it is there, but no one doing anything about it. This is made even better by MacFarlane’s over the top reaction, realizing that the leader of this town is a corpse, and having his body get dragged away by hungry wolves.

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These jokes prove that there is a worthwhile sense of humor out there, but that the film keeps getting bogged down in other distracting details, like an unnoteworthy story about cliché characters. When the film wants to be funny, it can be hilarious. When it tries to do anything else, it drops the ball.

If you like “Family Guy,” “Ted” or any other work by Seth MacFarlane, then you’ll enjoy “A Million Ways To Die In The West.” You will know what to expect from MacFarlane by now, and this is more of the same.

Final Grade: C