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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

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Emily Blunt and Jason Segel star in "The Five-Year Engagement," in theaters today.
Emily Blunt and Jason Segel star in "The Five-Year Engagement," in theaters today.

"The Five-Year Engagement" is a long but sweet journey

A five-year engagement seems like an eternity all on its own, so you'd think a nice, condensed two-hour version of one would at least have the advantage of picking around all the tedious, boring bits. You'd think.

Despite its 124-minute run time, "The Five-Year Engagement" has all of the length (or at least it feels like it) as the real thing, and -- just like it would play out in real life -- is both funny and kind of sad to watch for those who aren't involved. It follows groom-to-be Tom (Jason Segel) and his fiancee, Violet (Emily Blunt) as they face every conceivable hurdle and misstep imaginable. The setbacks run the gamut from the usual out-of-relationship temptations to people dying (Don't worry, they were sacrificed for a punchline, so it's OK.).

The movie picks up right where a movie about an engagement should -- at the proposal. There's the obligatory engagement party with all the usual suspects (over-emotional sister of the bride, idiosyncratic parents, inappropriate friend of the groom, and so on). And then, the fun starts.

Violet gets a job in Michigan and the couple opt to relocate from San Francisco (and postpone nuptial planning). Then, her stay is extended. The relationship is tested by Tom's lack of career prospects and temptations on both sides, and this is just what I can recall off the top of my head.

Nevertheless, "The Five-Year Engagement" can't help but be charming. Segel and Blunt's chemistry is a bit flat, but it's endearing enough to root for. And being piloted by writer Segel and producer Judd Apatow, it can't help but be over-the-top in terms of laughs. This is both an asset and a hindrance for the movie, which delivers legitimately laugh-out-loud moments mixed in with an unfortunate clutter of characters and side-scenes meant only for cheap giggles.

All in all, "The Five-Year Engagement" is hit and miss. It's busy and drawn out, but it's also so gosh darn cute audiences will be hard-pressed to hate it. Wait and rent it if you can, b…

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Pirate Captain and his crew in "The Pirates! Band of Misfits," in theaters today.
Pirate Captain and his crew in "The Pirates! Band of Misfits," in theaters today.

"The Pirates! Band of Misfits" puts the "Arrr!" in rollicking

Move over, Jack Sparrow – there's a new pirate captain in town, and his name is, um, Pirate Captain.

By the name, it would seem the animated action hero of "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" (voiced by a refreshingly un-annoying Hugh Grant) is destined for a life of high-seas adventure and booty plundering, if only it weren't for the lack of spoils to show for it.

To remedy this – and secure his place as a contender for the Pirate of the Year Awards – Pirate Captain and his band of merry men (and one Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate) set out to pillage a record haul in time to overtake rival pirates Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz.

Their comedic efforts prove fruitless until they stumble upon the expedition vessel of a novice scientist by the name of Charles Darwin (voiced by David Tennant of "Doctor Who" fame). Darwin discovers that Pirate Captain's prized parrot, Polly, is actually a dodo, and convinces the pirates to travel to the anti-pirate realm of Queen Victoria to claim the esteemed prize of Scientist of the Year.

The Wallacey-Gromitey flair of directors Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt certainly rules "The Pirates!" in both script and visuals. It embraces all the stop-motion goodness of their previous work, but more importantly does the same for the movie's quick humor and kid-friendly gags.

There's plenty to laugh at for all ages, from the sharp sarcasm and risque one-liners for the grown-ups in the audience to kooky British humor and slapstick absurdities for the little ones (Ham nite, anyone?). Parents should use some discretion, though: while most of the funny bits aimed at them will likely go over kids' heads, there are a few edgy-for-PG lines to watch out for.

Overall, "The Pirates!" is a worthwhile movie splurge with or without kids in tow. The 3-D, however, not so much, so steer clear of that if you can. Otherwise, see it soon. To borrow a line from the movie itself, it "makes electricity look like a pile of crap."

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Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling in "The Lucky One," in theaters today.
Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling in "The Lucky One," in theaters today.

"The Lucky One" can't say the same for audiences

Nicholas Sparks, most famously known as the author who created the source novel for the blockbuster tearjerker "The Notebook," "Dear John" and others, is returning to the big screens with "The Lucky One" this weekend. And, much like his previous offerings, this one delivers the similarly bland, vanilla romance security blanket moviegoers have come to expect from him.

In it, U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) finds a photograph of a girl in the midst of his third tour of duty in Iraq. After surviving a series of near-fatal events, he credits this anonymous girl with keeping him safe and vows to find and thank her. He finally finds the girl, Beth (Taylor Schilling) and takes a job at her small-town kennel, building on their relationship as coworkers to win her over.

It sounds nice, but it's nothing but an hour and a half of concentrated cliches and inspirational messages. Efron never falters in his position as the honorable hero. Schilling works well as the whimsical object of his affection, but even with a domineering ex-husband to contend with, her character lacks conviction.

The most entertaining parts of the movie, for me, were Blythe Danner as Beth's wise and sassy grandmother and Riley Thomas Stewart as Beth's precocious son. Yes, these are absolutely still cliches to the tee, but both actors infuse them with genuine energy that helps carry their scenes, but unfortunately their roles aren't substantial enough to give them the opportunity to save the movie altogether.

What bothers me most about "The Lucky One" is not the contrived script and predictable, one-dimensional characters, but the idea that this movie plays out like a parallel universe of Sparks' other stories. It's a perfect example of a cookie-cutter formula, and yet, the formula works (as far as the box office is concerned).

"The Lucky One" is completely transparent but, in a way, plays its part perfectly. It's a cotton candy flick – simple, sweet and mostly empty space devoid of any…

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Your mother (probably) doesn't work here. Pick up after yourself.
Your mother (probably) doesn't work here. Pick up after yourself.

Are you a gym jerk?

Recently I was delving through the esoteric "Notes" feature of my Facebook page and reliving some of the more un-P.C. moments in my literary history when I found a rant I threw together on the subject of going to the gym.

The note itself is just under three years old and I've since switched gyms and logged countless more hours in the public workout arena, but I still found myself empathizing with 2009 me on so, so much.

I decided to repost it, new and improved – and edited for delicate eyes, of course.

Things that Tick Me Off at the Gym

1. When the workers vacuum between the machines while I'm on one. Every time they come through, I feel like I'm going to elbow them in the back of the head.

2. Also, workers who vacuum around me in the locker room. While I'm changing.

3. People who actively look around when they're exercising. Especially when I accidentally make eye contact while I'm facing forward and minding my own business and they look at me like I'm the weird one, because apparently it's normal to keep 360-degree visual tabs on the room.

4. That one guy who, rather than using one of the other 14 open machines, chooses to set up camp right next to me. I suspect this is also the "takes the urinal right next to yours" guy, but I can't prove this, for obvious reasons.

5. People who covertly (read: blatantly) sneak glances at my little machine computer stats screen. Yes, triathlete, I'm probably going slower than you. Enjoy your schadenfreude.

6. Women who wear little coordinated outfits, full makeup and jewelry. I wasn't aware Fashion Week had a line for the athletic and self-involved.

7. Guys who wear hats to work out. (This one is more mystifying than annoying.)

8. People who don't wipe down their machines.

9. The 10-16-year-olds who are unleashed to run amok and futz with the equipment like they're at the playground. And then don't wipe it down.

10. People who think the gym has magical hand weight elves who return them to the racks after their care…

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