A Million Ways to Die in the West

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I don’t know Seth MacFarlane. I’ve never seen Family Guy, or Ted, or his apparently squirmy presentation at the Oscars. I’ve never seen him interviewed or read an opinion piece on him. So I came to A Million Ways to Die in the West with no expectations whatsoever. Which was a good thing, I think. The movie’s basically a 90 minute running gag about the sheer awfulness of life in the Wild West where life is nasty, brutish and short (who said that?)

MacFarlane plays a cowardly sheep farmer who runs up against Liam Neeson, the nastiest man on the frontier. Charlize Theron is Anna who has to teach him to shoot. Charlize – who’s got a bit of a reputation for ill-humour, this side of the pond – is the biggest surprise here; her good-natured banter is perfectly timed, and the growing friendship with Seth is totally winning – their chemistry is actually delightful. Aside from that, the humour is expectedly coarse and smutty, and the western movie sets in and around Santa Fe look like studio sets, but whatever. It’s not Jane Austen, but if you can set aside your preconceived prejudices about moon faced Seth, it’s a fun way to pass an evening.

Young Adult

In Young Adult, Charlize Theron plays Mavis, a self-destructive, alcoholic, emotionally-stunted ghost-writer of teen novels, who travels back to her home town in Minnesota to try to win back her own teenage sweetheart Buddy. The fact that he’s happily married with an adored new baby is narry a problem for the manipulative Mavis. Her full throttle descent into humiliation as she tries to woo him is not always easy to watch.

“Young Adult” could have played as a kind of grim Fatal Attraction (25 years old this month!). Instead it’s a cringe-making black comedy and the laugh-out-loud moments come when Mavis’ own filter is turned to off. (“I like your decor. Is it shabby chic?”) Patton Oswald plays her counterfoil, sardonically punching holes in her imagined love affair. He’s great too. Without giving too much away, it all finally builds to a crescendo of mortifying embarrassment, following which Mavis finally has to accept growing up.

Mavis’ home town of Mercury, Minnesota doesn’t exist, and although the movie did shoot on location in Minnesota, New York State took advantage of most of the stand-in. Four key scenes were shot at Woody’s Village Saloon on Park Boulevard in Massapequa Park on Long Island. Newsday has a sweet tale about the Woody’s manager who ended up an extra in some of the scenes.

Written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman, Young Adult all hangs together rather well. Charlize is excellent, something of a tour de force – Oscar chatter abounds. However, in my jaded mind, the success of the film rests or fails, ultimately, on if you believe Charlize is actually acting, and isn’t herself a mad-crazy psychopath who has to learn to fake her emotions from a board. I’ll leave it at that.

Snow White and the Huntsman

Having recently sat through the Julia Roberts Snow White tale, Mirror Mirror, I was a bit meh about whether to bother with another version of the same: the much more widely anticipated Snow White and the Huntsman. But I’m not a Kristen Stewart hater, so I thought I’d give it a bash.

Well, obviously I’m not going to bother telling you the plot, but it filmed in the UK, without being particularly exciting in its choice of locations: Bourne Woods, Burnham Beeches and Frensham Ponds have all appeared in recent productions. What else to tell you? Well it’s pretty to look at and it tries very hard to be exciting, without actually being very good. Charlize Theron eats the furniture like she believes her own press, and Chris Hemsworth’s Scottish accent is so all over the place, not even his muscles can save him. Verdict? Wait til it’s downloadable.