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A Million Ways to Die in the West(2014)
A cowardly farmer seeks the help of a gunslinger's wife to help him win back the woman who left him.
For more about A Million Ways to Die in the West and the A Million Ways to Die in the West Blu-ray release, see A Million Ways to Die in the West Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 26, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi
Director: Seth MacFarlane
» See full cast & crew
A Million Ways to Die in the West Blu-ray Review
Maybe more like Billowing Embers Saddles.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 26, 2014
What would be the first adjective you'd use to describe Seth MacFarlane? Hilarious? Hackneyed? Genius? Juvenile? MacFarlane is an unusually eclectic creative force who seems to delight equally in the sorts of boorish behaviors frequently on display in his long running animated series Family Guy while also being simultaneously intrigued by the wonders of the universe as revealed in Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a series he helped to guide back onto the airwaves. And perhaps for that reason alone, no single adjective may be able to adequately capture the breadth of MacFarlane's interests and approaches. That said, whatever side of the line between enjoyable prankster and annoying jerk you come down on will probably determine whether or not you feel MacFarlane's latest feature film A Million Ways to Die in the West, hits the bullseye or simply is a stray bullet ricocheting off of John Fordian landscapes. Like most MacFarlane outings, A Million Ways to Die in the West is a grabbag of ideas and comedic approaches, and there's absolutely no denying that some of the gags land, producing giggles if not outright guffaws. But in that grabbag are just as many lame moments, with the result being that MacFarlane's kind of weird combination of snark and innocence only fitfully manages to deliver the Wild West goods.
Before even one lame or effective gag can traipse through the frame, MacFarlane announces he's going to at least refer visually to the great western directors like John Ford and Howard Hawks with some gorgeous deep focus shots of incredible American vistas stretching as far as the eye can see. In fact A Million Ways to Die in the West is easily MacFarlane's most scenic film, filled with grand crane shots establishing various locales and providing an epic sweep that is (probably intentionally) comically at odds with the faltering, stumbling demeanor of the film's hero, sheep farmer Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane). The film begins with one of the hoariest tropes in the annals of the western, the high noon showdown on Main Street, with Albert literally tripping into the scene, evidently late to what may very well be his own execution.
That sets up one of the central comedic tenets of A Million Ways to Die in the West, where a standard genre convention will get tweaked by a considerably contemporary delivery. While everyone else in this scene seems at least more or less at home in their Old West countenances, MacFarlane's Albert is a distinctly modern creature, full of psychobabble and other ironic sensibilities as he attempts to talk himself out of a gun battle he already knows he has no chance of winning. Later, other characters like female bandit and eventual love interest Anna Barnes-Leatherwood (Charlize Theron) will join Albert in repeated droppings of the F-bomb and other au courant language that provides much of the film's verbal humor. It's the tension between setting and depiction that repeatedly forms the basis for much of MacFarlane's comedy throughout the film, and as with most attempts of this ilk, it leads to both spotty and, ultimately, diminishing returns.
Albert's shirking from the gunfight at the head of the film and Theron's Anna turn out to be the two major motivators of A Million Ways to Die in the West's bifurcated plot. Albert has been seeing Louise (Amanda Seyfried), but Louise is status conscious and doesn't want to be seen with a man thought to be a coward. She soon takes up with the foppish Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), a local entrepreneur who runs a mustache shop (he sports a rather villainous one himself).
Anna enters the picture soon thereafter, though originally not in Old Stump. She is in fact the wife of vicious bad guy Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), and their introduction comes courtesy of a highway robbery where they take an old prospector's gold. Clinch has bigger plans, though, and he sends Anna and one of his henchmen to Old Stump to hang out until the appointed time. When Anna arrives in the dusty town, circumstances of course pull her into contact with Albert, and when Albert and Anna run into Louise and Foy at the local fair, things go from bad to worse until Albert finds himself challenged to another gunfight—this time by Foy.
In the meantime, Anna's skill with firearms has been revealed (and is in fact one of the reasons Albert now finds himself challenged by Foy), so she takes her neurotic would be boyfriend under her wing and attempts to teach him to shoot. MacFarlane follows a fairly predicable story arc here, letting the romantic sparks start to kindle between Anna and Albert while reserving the reappearance of Clinch in the third act to cause a wrinkle or two and keep the lovers apart, if only for a little while.
A Million Ways to Die in the West has some effective bits, but much of the verbal humor comes from the deliberate clash of a contemporary patois colliding with Old West clichés. MacFarlane is of course not above (repeatedly) using potty humor (a big gag toward the end of the film has to do with diarrhea—hilarious) and sexual situations (Sarah Silverman portrays a local "working girl" involved with a nebbish played by Giovanni Ribisi). MacFarlane's own peculiar brand of deadpan works best in bits like the big SFX laden hallucination Albert experiences while on a "Vision Quest" with the local Native Americans. At other times, he seems to be attempting to channel a neo- modern version of Woody Allen, a tic filled neurotic not quite able to cope with the "modern" world, but ending up with the impossibly gorgeous girlfriend anyway.
That turns out to be a somewhat risky gambit for a performer who has a certain likably smarmy element to his personality, something that's distinctly different from Allen's own patented brand of fumfering, stammering panic. Still, MacFarlane has an undeniable charm that fuels a lot of the film's momentum, and he seems to genuinely charm (and crack up) Theron, looking here like an updated version of Sharon Stone in The Quick and the Dead. The supporting cast (which frankly includes Neeson) is great, and MacFarlane engages in several pieces of stunt casting and blink or you'll miss them cameos.
A Million Ways to Die in the West Blu-ray, Video Quality
A Million Ways to Die in the West is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1. This digitally shot feature boasts an extremely strong and well defined image, with absolutely incredible depth of field in several awe inspiring outdoor establishing shots. The production design of the film doesn't really pop, and so colors are somewhat muted, but appear very accurate. There are exceptions to the generally drab palette, including the outrageous hallucination sequence that caps the film. Some of the CGI is quite subtle (MacFarlane discusses some of the minor animated elements in the commentary). There are a couple of odd moments that look like they were green screened for some reason, including shots of MacFarlane in the two gunfights that bookend the film. Contrast is generally very stable, though there are some passing moments of crush in a couple of nighttime sequences. Otherwise the image is sharp, stable and very precise looking.
A Million Ways to Die in the West Blu-ray, Audio Quality
A Million Ways to Die in the West's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is a fairly boisterous affair, one often buoyed by the vibrant score by Joel McNeely, music which utilizes typical western and Americana cinematic tropes in the Aaron Copland or Elmer Bernstein traditions. There are some convincing effects scattered throughout the film, including the requisite amounts of gunfire and galloping horse hooves. There's also good attention paid to spatial differentiation, as in the whorehouse scenes where much of Silverman's material is happening out of frame. Dialogue is very cleanly presented, fidelity is excellent and there are no issues of any kind to cause worry.
A Million Ways to Die in the West Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
A Million Ways to Die in the West Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There's a great moment toward the end of A Million Ways to Die in the West where MacFarlane's Albert is speaking to Native Americans in their own language. They can't understand how a white "asshole" (as they term the settlers) can speak their language, to which Albert replies, "I'm a nerd asshole." That may indeed be a fairly accurate description of MacFarlane himself, and how much tolerance individuals have for a hugely disparate array of humor, some relatively smart, some inescapably stupid, some snarkily self-aware, some dumbed down and almost naive sounding, will determine how much actual laughter will result from watching the film. A Million Ways to Die in the West may not be consistent, but it's relentless, and that may actually win the war of comedic attrition. Technical merits here are very strong, and A Million Ways to Die in the West comes Recommended.
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A Million Ways to Die in the West Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: October 7-14 - October 5, 2014
For the week of October 7th, Warner Home Entertainment is bringing Edge of Tomorrow to Blu-ray. Other titles include Universal's release of the dire Seth MacFarlane comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West, Disney's dual Sleeping Beauty and Million Dollar Arm ...
• A Million Ways to Die in the West Blu-ray: Exclusive Giveaway - October 3, 2014
Blu-ray.com and Universal Studios Home Entertainment are offering members the opportunity to win a Blu-ray copy of A Million Ways to Die in the West. Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy and the blockbuster comedy feature Ted, directs produces, co-writes and ...
• A Million Ways to Die in the West Blu-ray - August 5, 2014
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray release of A Million Ways to Die in the West. Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy and the blockbuster comedy feature Ted, directs produces, co-writes and stars alongside Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, ...
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