A Million Ways to Die in the West

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Released: Friday, May 30, 2014

[Theater]

Oh, Seth. Seth, Seth, Seth, Seth, Seth. . . . .

Seth MacFarlane. It’s a name a great many are likely tiring of by now, maybe for good reason, maybe for ones less so. Judge as you will, but I’ve tried to make a case for the guy for awhile. I’m on my last legs.

For me it’s never been an issue how stupid the comedy has been. . .and we have gone to some fairly asinine places. One need look no further than Family Guy‘s running joke about Peter and how whenever he trips and scuffs his knee he whines like a baby for about two solid minutes of their precious air time. Or beyond the show’s myriad other deliciously tasteless jokes that have offended every culture from here to Hanoi.

The guy loves what he does and the passion effloresces in virtually everything his pervy hands have touched. That it takes a brain running on nothing but gasoline and guano to understand most of the humor MacFarlane now barricades behind him, arms folded with just the yuppiest of grins plastered on his face, well that’s just no surprise. Family Guy et al aren’t particularly high-brow concepts, and that’s quite alright with me. I have laughed, and I have laughed hard.

I have little patience for lazy filmmaking, though. It’s also a phenomenon that makes even less sense. Of all qualities a director, producer, writer and star (and in this case, MacFarlane is all of these things) can possess when shouldered with the responsibility of producing content for an audience that he’s been comfortable with for years producing content for, the last thing one thinks of is apathy. A Million Ways to Die in the West is a sham of an effort from an entertainer who really ought to know better. Consequently, I can only shake my head and crap myself awkwardly. (Actually, I don’t know why I did the second thing, or why I owned up to it. Whatever. It’s too late now.)

Seth, where’s the motivation, man?

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“Nah, it’s alright. We’ll get the title right next time this movie comes through.”

Recycled gags and scatological humor run amok out here in the wild west, a theme that has stuck with the creator of Ted like a wet turd on velcro. This is the story of a lowly sheepherder, Albert Stark (MacFarlane), who eventually comes into his own as a proud, confident and respected member of the small dustbowl community of Old Stump.

Well, he doesn’t exactly come into his own by accident. No. That’s actually thanks to the sudden appearance of a mysterious woman named Anna (Charlize Theron) who rides into town one day with a band of baddies who are seeking gold deposits in the area and are led by one bad cowpoke by the name of Clinch (Liam Neeson).

As is the case in many a MacFarlane production, plot elements and developments are highly contrived and conveniently staged. His Albert sure didn’t have to do a whole lot of. . . .shepherding. . . to impress the new lady in town. It all comes together somewhat (in)organically, thanks to a script that might as well have been penned by a retarded sheep. The entire premise is one drawn-out and predictable affair, as Albert faces a series of gun fights in the center of town against multiple villains, none of which he’s had much preparation for. Not to mention, the story shockingly lacks the energy and enthusiasm typical of the man’s controversial work. Instead of being plump with brand-new side-slapping jokes, we get a different variation of the crass monuments the man has spent a lifetime erecting behind a microphone and hilarious animation.

Maybe the punishment fits the crime? My naïveté for hoping for something more original has landed me in a world of disappointment.

If he’s not careful, A Million Ways to Die in the West might well be the final frontier of MacFarlane’s live-action film-making career. It is not a good movie, and while disappointment might seem like an all but predictable conclusion to arrive at it is certainly the case here. A Million Ways to Die in the West. . .more like a million ways to yawn in your seat.

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2-0Recommendation: This isn’t a good film, even by Seth MacFarlane standards. The guy may have only made two live-action films, but his first stab at it still claims the higher ground. A Million Ways to Die in the West suffers from an uninspired premise and incredibly flat performances that are of no one’s fault but the script’s. Liam Neeson comes to work each day, this we can tell — and ditto that to Charlize Theron and Neil Patrick Harris. But the rest telegraph it in, including MacFarlane as a director and co-writer. Personally, I hope he sticks to animated TV shows more in the future.

Rated: R

Running Time: 116 mins.

Quoted: “Please don’t shoot us on sex night!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

TBT: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

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I love the TBT of this week. Few contemporary flicks seem to really be able to pull off the right amount of raunchiness and sentimentality. Most end up being too much of one or the other, which isn’t to dismiss them as ‘bad’ films, per se, but it just seems a large number of films in the rom-com genre favor sensation over sensibility. In other words, rom-coms typically are forgettable experiences. But when these kinds of films err on the side of being more ‘sensible’ — in terms of actually caring about the plights of their characters and finding a satisfactory conclusion for him/her/them — an entirely new experience emerges and we get movies that make us think twice about things.

Today’s food for thought: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

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Release: April 18, 2008

[DVD]

Poor Peter. He’s just been dumped by his Red Carpet-worthy girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) — the star of a raunchy and ridiculous murder-mystery T.V. series, Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime. At first, Peter (Jason Segel) shows some sense of emotional fortitude when he first hears the news from her when he claims he wants to hear what her reasons are and what he can do to make her stay. Then he becomes naked and everything falls to pieces when he learns of the real reason — “the other guy” reason — and thus, the opening shot of the film.

Segel goes from starring in hit T.V. shows to writing his first (hit) film with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a romantic comedy that tells of a man who’s just been heartbroken and doesn’t see any point in trying to date again anytime soon. . . that is, until the next amazing girl (Mila Kunis) walks into his life and changes his outlook for the better, forever.

In his devastated state, Peter strikes out to find happiness (if it exists) elsewhere. After embarrassing himself at a club one night, he finally goes to Hawaii to shake off the gloominess, and hey — what are the odds! Sarah is vacationing on the same island with her new boy-toy. He immediately wants to leave but then realizes that would make it seem like he’s running away from her, so stubbornly he decides to stay put even when he catches her fooling around with the other guy more than a few times. Just when things seem to be as depressing as they’ve ever been, Peter slowly starts to make friends with some of the locals, including the gorgeous woman who works the front desk at the hotel in which he’s staying. His misery has become so public that she offers him the most expensive suite in the building, a room typically reserved for “people like Celine Dion and Oprah,” and says that he can stay there so long as he cleans up after himself. Clearly it is a gesture out of pity. Peter awkwardly obliges.

However, the longer he stays around the island, the more he finds himself truly connecting with this new girl, Rachael (Mila Kunis), and it’s not long before he finds himself falling for her. She’s cautious about Peter’s forthcoming interest since her past is not exactly free from complications, despite the fact that she lives on the incredible Hawaiian beachfront. Regardless of circumstances — in fact, part of the intrigue here is that maybe it’s in spite of them — the two form a friendship that ends up going much deeper and is one that’s genuinely romantic and believable. There’s a great chemistry between the two actors that should and could afford them more opportunities to work on other projects together in the future.

Perfectly satisfying on most levels, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is both sweet and painfully funny, in equal doses. It has a host of funny supporting roles, the most memorable of which belongs to Russell Brand, as he introduces a character which would end up spanning a couple of films (Get Him To The Greek being the other). His loose-cannon, sex-obsessed and incredibly egotistical Aldous Snow is incidentally the one Miss Marshall cheated on Peter with. Jack McBrayer plays a man unsure of his recent decision to get married; his wife (Maria Thayer), however, is obsessed with him and the two form a highly uncomfortable pair that is both hilarious and somewhat disturbing to watch. They represent something of an anomaly when it comes to thinking how newlyweds might behave on honeymoon. . . in Hawaii. . .

Predictable as it may be, the film is successful in rising above the deep, trope-filled waters of the rom-com genre by providing a sharp, witty script, affable characters in Peter and Rachael, and gorgeous settings. That, and a very strange, albeit memorable, ending. For a first-time writer cred, Segel’s name could be attached to much, much worse. This movie, and later his writing of The Muppets, seem to be the promising beginnings of a career in film writing for the man as well.

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3-5Recommendation: For those who haven’t already checked this out, it’s practically a must-see (if you are into the romantic-comedy, that is. . . this likely won’t change your mind if you’re firmly opposed). Segel and Kunis offer great laughs and some heartwarming moments together, and the supporting cast is very capable as well. One of 2008’s best comedies.

Rated: R

Running Time: 118 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com