A Million Ways To Die In The West

A Million Ways To Die In The West is filled with moments of pure delight! Those moments are hilariously funny. Some moments are clever and inventive. Other moments are crude and cheap.

Unfortunately, AMWTDITW lacks cohesiveness as a movie. The plot is passable and provides a useful framework for Seth McFarlane to hang his moments on. But the script fails to get the rhythm necessary to keep the comedy moving at a good pace.

The problem is McFarlane. The man is mega-talented. He stars as sheep farmer Albert. He directs. And he is a co-writer of the film. But although he possesses arguably the best smirk in the business, he lacks the presence to prosper as a lead character on the big screen. (He may find ways to embellish that presence.)

As a director, he knows how to bring visual and verbal humor to a film while also telling a story. His 2012 film Ted works. A Million Ways delivers laughs and a story, but could have benefited from more judicious editing.

My favorite character in A Million Ways is Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), a dandy who runs a store that sells moustache-grooming supplies. He leads a wonderful musical number—written by Stephen Foster—about the importance of a man’s having a moustache. Foy later has a digestive system crisis that features low humor that leads to big laughs.

Anna (Charlize Theron) is the wife of gunslinger Clinch (Liam Neeson). Before Clinch shows up in the town of Old Stump, Anna has a platonic thing going with Albert who is heartbroken after being dumped by Louise (Amanda Seyfried). Louise has moved on the moustache man, Foy, amping up Albert’s dislike for the dandy.

The townsfolk also include Albert’s best friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) whose girlfriend Ruth (Sarah Silverman) refuses to engage in premarital sex, even though she is, by profession, a hooker.

The film has a few cool surprises, including cameo appearances. (There’s one bit that should NEVER have been included in a TV spot, but is. It’s huge spoiler.)

The soundtrack is classic. Joel McNeely brings an Aaron Copeland influence to many of his compositions. And Alan Jackson sings the closing theme song that has a classic feel.

A Million Ways To Die In The West, like Blazing Saddles, is a film that is likely to be enjoyed for decades. See it in the theater now and on TBS and TNT (with a cleaned-up dialogue version) in years to come.

 

 

 

 

Non-Stop

In Non-Stop, Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is an alcoholic federal air marshall who gets into a big mess on a flight from New York to London. He begins getting text messages from someone on the plane, threatening to kill a person on the plane every 20 minutes unless money is transferred to an account. Yes, it’s an implausible, likely impossible, setup for a story that gets stranger by the minute.

The steps you or I might take—such as disabling the plane’s onboard wi-fi—are dismissed. Of course, making such a move would prevent this caper from continuing. The result would be a very short movie.

Sounds like an “edge of the seat” nail-biter, no? Unfortunately, Non-Stop fails to generate the necessary tension to increase the pulse rate. A lengthy sequence of text message trading between Marks and the unseen culprit is downright boring. Non-Stop just isn’t in the same league as numerous well-known airplane tension/suspense flicks.

But as a mystery, Non-Stop has some redeeming qualities. It’s not exactly a “whodunit” but a “who’s doing it.”

As with many airplane crisis movies, the cast of passengers includes a number of possible suspects: a woman (Julianne Moore) who begs a guy to trade seats with her, a guy with a Middle Eastern look, an excitable NYC cop, among others. Even the crew is not above suspicion.

As the flight continues, some passengers develop reasons to believe that Marks himself is the perp.

Your enjoyment and appreciation of Non-Stop is likely to depend on how you feel about Liam Neeson as an action adventure guy. And how willing you are to buy into this film’s hard-to-swallow plot.

Lupita Nyong’o, who will probably win an Oscar Sunday night, has a small role in Non-Stop as a flight attendant. (As one guy tweeted, she’ll probably say more onstage Sunday night than she does in this film.) Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey fame plays flight attendant Nancy.

 

 

The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie is a pure delight! Colorful, clever and FUNNY! With a memorable song you might find yourself humming on your way home. And a story that springs from the dilemma that many Lego users face: do I follow the instructions or do I make my own creations?

The Lego Movie is my first “must see” film of 2014. Even if you’re a not a fan of silly stuff, you need to check it out for the visuals. Even if you never played with Legos or never had kids who played with Legos, the Lego movie will entertain you.

Emmet (Chris Pratt of TV’s Parks and Recreation) is an everyman Lego guy. But thanks to a series of unexpected events, he goes on a trip that’s almost as mindbending as Alice’s journey to Wonderland.

Emmet, through no effort of his own, is the chosen one, charged with derailing the plans of President Business (Will Ferrell) to glue everything in the universe together with something called “The Kragle.”

Along the way he meets a bizarre cast of Legos: a girl named WyldStyle (Elizabeth Banks), Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson), Vitrivius (Morgan Freeman), Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie) and Lego pirate Metal Beard (Nick Offerman).

Other Lego characters seen briefly are Abe Lincoln (Will Forte), Lando Calrissian (Billy D. Williams), Green Lantern (Jonah Hill), Wonder Woman (Colby Smulders) and Superman (Channing Tatum) among many others.

The various Lego universes seen in the film are universally spectacular. And The Lego Movie‘s coda (whose content will not be revealed here) is sweet and touching.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller shared directing and screenplay duties. The soundtrack is by Mark Mothersbaugh, best known as a founding member of DEVO, but also known for doing music for the Rugrats TV show.

\My first thought when walking out of the theater was: “I want to see it again!” And I will! Soon!