“People die at the fair.”
Plot: What’s it about?
I have to admit that as many films and television shows I watch, I always find time to squeeze in an episode or two of Family Guy in on any given day. Why? It’s brilliant. Why? It makes me laugh. And I love to laugh. Granted, Seth MacFarlane’s humor isn’t for everyone. Some find him offensive, abrasive and downright immature, but with all that said he’s also extremely intelligent and a very rich man. Put it this way – the guy hosted the Oscars so I’d say he’s done something right. While animation has been MacFarlane’s bread and butter for the past decade or so, the last few years have found him branching out into feature films. In 2012 he wrote and directed (and voiced the main character) Ted, which ended up grossing more than $200 million at the box office. If there were any doubts about the allure of MacFarlane or his works – they were put to rest. The success of Ted paved the way for his second feature film, A Million Ways to Die in the West. Sporting another top notch cast that included Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson and Neil Patrick Harris, this spoof on the classic Westerns was a risk. Did it pay off and, more importantly, what exactly is it about?
Sheep farmer Albert (Seth MacFarlane) has just been dumped by Louise (Amanda Seyfried). Louise wants someone who is more successfully and feels that Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), owner of a mustache store, is the man who will fit the bill. As Albert goes about his abysmal life, he meets Anna (Charlize Theron), a sultry gunslinger and wife of notorious outlaw Clinch (Liam Neeson). Anna and Albert form a plutonic bond, but after Albert challenges Foy to a duel, he realizes one thing – he has no idea how to shoot a gun. Now Albert has to learn how to become a gunslinger and must also find a way to avoid Clinch as he heads to the town of Old Stump.
And essentially – that’s it. However, being a Seth MacFarlane film, there are always tons of things going on in the background. There’s a side story about an unmarried couple (Sarah Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi) and an elongated drug trip that takes Albert through the heavens. Fans of MacFarlane’s work will be right at home here as this is literally packed with stars galore (more on that in oe of the supplements), obnoxious and foul jokes as well as many pop culture references. A Million Ways to Die in the West is no Blazing Saddles, but I found it equally as funny, mainly because I get what MacFarlane is trying to do. There’s modern dialogue, though the look and feel of the film is pretty authentic (there are several sequins shot in Monument Valley). Moreover, the film is an homage to the Westerns of the 50’s and 60’s with an obvious nod to classics like Shane or High Noon. While the vulgarity is sure to offend many, those that stick with it will be summarily entertained. Recommended (though not for the weak of heart).
Video: How’s it look?
Presented in a 2.40:1 AVC HD image, A Million Ways…looks stunning on Blu-ray. I really can’t imagine this being shown in a smaller scope as some of the sweeping visuals really are beautiful. As MacFarlane mentions in the commentary track, they really were trying to pay homage to the films that inspired this and wanted to shoot the film as a drama. The picturesque landscape looks spectacular, with the earthy tones taking the lead in nearly every scene. Flesh tones seem warm and natural and detail is on par with what we’d expect for a new to Blu-ray film (though, admittedly, that’s not always a good thing with some of the visual gags in the movie). I’m at a loss for words here, this is anything and everything you’d expect from a new movie and despite a few tidbits here and there, it’s a winner.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The soundtrack to the film has a very unique tone to it, though I have to admit that there are some catchy tunes. By and large, this is a front-heavy mix but the surrounds do come into play mainly in the form of bullets whizzing by. Vocals are rich and crisp and I just can’t help picturing “Brian” from Family Guy every time I hear MacFarlane’s voice. Neeson’s gritty vocals sound consistent with, well, every other film he’s in. The general ambiance is light and playful, though there are some sequences that really make use of the atmosphere. All in all it’s a nice mix, but nothing that’ll shake the room.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This Blu-ray combo pack contains a wealth of extras, though the most robust is the commentary track. There are some Blu-ray exclusives to be found as well, so let’s check everything out.
- Audio Commentary – I’ll be honest – I didn’t listen to this feature commentary, rather I opted for the “Unrated” commentary with the same participants on the Blu-ray. But if you’re looking for the audio commentary on the theatrical cut of the film, here is is.
- A Fistful of Dirt…In Your Mouth – The look and feel of the movie is examined and how a realistic environment was created. The filming in Monument Valley and the creation of the town of Old Stump were also explored.
- Gag Reel – As you might expect in a film of this nature (with this cast), plenty of on and off screen shenanigans were present.
- Audio Commentary – Ok, now this the track I listened to. Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild sit down for a nice, uncensored (literally) track that’s all over the map. However I enjoyed it and there’s actually a lot of interesting information about the shoot, some of the things that I missed while watching the film and plenty of backhanded remarks full of four letter words. This is a must listen (I assume the theatrical version is as well).
- Unrated Cut – Featuring nearly twenty more minutes of footage, this is the version I initially chose to watch. There’s nothing mind-blowing with this “Unrated” cut, but just a few longer scenes and some scenes with a bit more, uh, character in them.
- Alternate Opening – Nothing too major here, just MacFarlane’s character verbally abusing the person who has shown up (late) to the gunfight.
- Alternate Ending – This is actually pretty close to the original ending, with a few minor things changed here and there. Again, nothing too mind-blowing.
- Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes – Seven total, with the most robust being the extended dream sequence with some rough and fully finished CGI.
- Once Upon a Time, in a Different West – Your standard EPK featurette with some behind the scenes footage with the cast and crew. Running around ten minutes, it’s a good warm up to viewing the film itself, though it plays out like a 10 minute glorified trailer.
- The Good, the Bad and the Increasingly, Decreasing Population – A look at some of the famous faces found in the film with Bill Maher, Ewan MacGregor, Jamie Foxx, Ryan Reynolds, Christopher Lloyd, Gilbert Gottfried, John Michael Higgins, Kelly Cuoco – you get the idea.
- DVD/Digital HD Copy