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A Million Ways to Die in the West - Blu-ray Review

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A Million Ways to Die in teh West - Movie Review

4 stars

Blazing Saddles, the penultimate western comedy, has been unseated by Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West. This take-no-prisoners comedic assault is both a farce of the western genre and of our consistently inconsistent human nature. Do not attempt entry into this motion picture without a strong stomach, a sense of humor, and a willingness to be offended because MacFarlane will take everybody – including farm animals – down in the satiric rip of everything we love to hate about how Hollywood has presented life in the old west.

Unfortunately, comic spoofs seldom survive the critical commentary. All you Rotten Tomatoes subscribers be prepared for the film to take a critical nosedive. This may be one of the few positive reviews you will ever come across. MacFarlane – who writes, produces, directs, and stars in the film – has done everything correct; he even gets a face full of urine. There is but one self-acknowledged weak point in the narrative; the rest is well-mined comic gold. It is not simply a rehashing of Family Guy jokes as was part of the issue some people had with Ted.

A Million Ways to Die in the West tackles the western genre with a post-modern zest shared by MacFarlane as Albert Stark, a low-rent sheep farmer, and love-interest Charlize Theron starring as the most attractive woman in the world. He’s luckless; a nerd with a sharp sense of humor and little else in the way of survival mechanisms. And recently, he’s been dumped by doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried who wants a real man; the kind of man that can grow a fine moustache.

Enter the angst as he wails against the west and how it is the worst place to live. People die at the doctor’s office, who has a blue jay peck at raw flesh. People die in the street as bulls run loose. People even die at the fair; a point illustrated rather successfully more than once (especially if you stay for the post-credits scene). The film continues to make this point in various subplots. And it is these points that critics will hammer to death for being episodic. Film critics still hate Seth MacFarlane for being himself. Consider it blowback for his Oscar hosting. They are a protective bunch of folks. This review; however, is not like the others.  I actually really liked the film.

Death is everywhere and Stark – with various and violent examples (including his elderly parents) – makes this point. Especially when Liam Neeson as the outlaw named Clinch arrives in town to claim back his runaway bride. Co-starring Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi, and lots of sheep, A Million Ways to Die in the West continues in the MacFarlane tradition as it certainly is not for everyone. Even the surprise cameos will cause some to scratch their heads.  Was that really Ryan Reynolds?  As for me, I applaud MacFarlane’s fearless quick-witted meta-minded commentary throughout the film.

A Million Ways to Die in the West is a lot of things; a self-righteous bore - as some are suggesting -  it is not. Offensive? Hell, yes!  Vulgar?  Of course. The world's best joke about a vagina is included.  There is a storyline – something Blazing Saddles suffered from not really having – and it isn’t just a string of gags. The sweet-natured center, while outlandish, is part of its charm. At the screening I attended, several jokes were missed due to the audience still laughing at the previous joke; it is this full-force gusto that drives MacFarlane’s picture forward.

And yet the picture will have its detractors. Some won’t find any bit of it funny. Some will, like me, be laughing throughout as MacFarlane and his co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild tackle the mythologized aspect of the west and deconstruct it via a satiric, scatological lens. Personally, I have little use for people who can’t take a joke. Film critics tend to be the latter; regarding comedy as somehow a lesser art form but in a summer bound to blast us all into oblivion with earth-shattering special effects bonanzas and ear-splitting sound, MacFarlane’s sweet little western farce is perfectly … harmless.

A Million Ways to Die in teh West - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material.
Runtime:
116 mins
Director
: Seth MacFarlane
Writer:
Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin
Cast:
Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson
Genre
: Comedy | Western
Tagline:
From the guy who brought you Ted
Memorable Movie Quote: "The American west is a terrible place and time"
Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site: http://www.amillionways.com/
Release Date:
May 30, 2014
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 7, 2014
Synopsis: After Albert backs out of a gunfight, his fickle girlfriend leaves him for another man. When a mysterious and beautiful woman rides into town, she helps him find his courage and they begin to fall in love. But when her husband, a notorious outlaw, arrives seeking revenge, the farmer must put his newfound courage to the test.

A Million Ways to Die in teh West - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - October 7, 2014
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French (Canada): DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: A

Presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios, A Million Ways to Die in the West, looks strong with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1.  This digitally shot feature comes with detailed images and awe inspiring outdoor shots. Contrast is good and the colors – while not the brightest – are suitable to its western setting.  The Aaron Copland tradition continues with the Jel McNeely’s Americana score which is presented in a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. 

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • The Blu-ray also has a commentary by MacFarlane, Theron, and the movie’s co-writers and co-executive producers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild.  This commentary track is nearly as entertaining as the movie, in large part because the four of them are in the same room at the same time and can’t keep a straight face.

Special Features:

First up on the Blu-ray is “A Fistful Of Dirt…In Your Mouth,” a fun but informative ten-minute making-of featurette that largely centers on how seriously they took the shooting of the movie, its sets, and props.  This is followed by a very funny gag reel that has the cast screwing up for nearly six minutes (and includes a fun little bit for Ted fans).  The Blu-ray also has a unrated version of the film that adds fifteen minutes of fun.  There’s “Once Upon A Time, In A Different West”, a ten-minute-long making-of featurette that’s not only informative, but also a bit of a parody of these kinds of things.  Then there’s “The Good, The Bad, And The Increasingly Decreasing Population,” which spends six-and-a-half minutes on the movie’s many cameos.  But the most interesting extras on the Blu-ray of A Million Ways To Die In The West are the just-as-funny alternate opening, an also funny alternate ending that’s actually better than the one in the movie, and the seven funny deleted, extended, and alternate scenes, which last nearly eleven minutes.

A Fistful of Dirt…In Your Mouth (10 min)
Gag Reel (6 min)
Once Upon A Time In A Different West (10 min)
The Good, The Bad, And The Increasingly Decreasing Population (6 min)
Alternate Opening (3 min)
Alternate Closing (1 min)
Deleted Scenes (11 min)

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