Movie Review: “A Million Ways to Die in the West”

Starring
Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Liam Neeson
Director
Seth MacFarlane

There’s a reason why there aren’t many comedy Westerns, and even fewer that are actually any good, and that’s because the subgenre as a whole is very difficult to pull off. So you have to credit Seth MacFarlane for not only having the cojones to follow up “Ted” with such an offbeat genre hybrid film, but actually succeed where so many others have failed. “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is probably his most ambitious project to date, and although that may sound strange for a man who made a movie about a talking teddy bear, it’s nice to see a filmmaker with that kind of confidence. Like most things in MacFarlane’s career, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is guaranteed to divide audiences, but it’s a really solid comedy with more than enough laughs to offset its minor shortcomings.

MacFarlane stars as Albert, a cowardly sheep farmer who’s astutely aware of just how horrible life is in 1882 Arizona. After weaseling his way out of a gun fight, Albert’s embarrassed girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him for Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), the arrogant owner of the local moustachery. While contemplating leaving town for a fresh start, Albert saves a beautiful woman named Anna (Charlize Theron) and they immediately bond over their shared hatred of the Wild West. When Albert challenges Foy to a duel in the hope of winning back Louise, Anna agrees to help him become a better gunfighter, falling for the lovable loser in the process. But what Albert doesn’t realize is that Anna is married to a dangerous outlaw named Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), who rides into town upon hearing of Anna’s infidelity to kill the man that stole his woman.

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Movie Review: “Lovelace”

Starring
Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Chris Noth, Hank Azaria, James Franco
Directors
Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman

1972′s “Deep Throat” was the porn flick that took blowjobs out of the closet and put them on “The Tonight Show.” It’s star was by far the most famous pornographic performer of all time and, it turns out, a victim of shocking abuse.

The only surviving film of a pair of planned projects about the woman who will forever be known as Linda Lovelace, “Lovelace” stars Amanda Seyfried as Linda and Peter Sarsgaard as her first husband, sexual Svengali and tormentor, Chuck Traynor. The most interesting thing about “Lovelace” is its structure. The film breaks down pretty clearly into two parts: one largely comedic, the other brutally tragic.

Part one is mostly a shockingly cheerful porn biopic that will please those who are longing for a less weighty “Boogie Nights” follow-up. It shows us how a sleazy but nevertheless charming and love struck Traynor seduces sweet and only slightly damaged 21-year-old Linda Boreman away from her unpleasantly rigid, super-traditional Catholic mom (Sharon Stone), her low-key security officer dad (Robert Patrick) and her understandably suspicious best friend (Juno Temple). The tone grows more blackly comedic as skeezy Chuck gets involved with pornsters and sells them on his wife’s borderline disturbing ability to suppress her gag reflex. Linda Lovelace is born.

Sometime after we see Hugh Hefner (a miscast James Franco) suggest that life should imitate art in a very specific way during a screening of the now hugely successful “Deep Throat,” “Lovelace” abruptly takes us six years later into 1980 as Linda Marchiano – she’s now married to apparent good-guy cable installer Chuck Marchiano (Wes Bentley) – passes a polygraph test and promotes her book, “Ordeal,” on the “Phil Donahue Show.” Just as abruptly, the film circles back to give us Linda’s very personal point of view of the events surrounding “Deep Throat.” It’s no prettier than the visible bruises on her legs.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Eight Years of “House” Guests

With “House” coming to its conclusion on Monday after an eight-year run, it’s fair to say that quite a few regular cast members have seen their way in and out of the doors of Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, but their number can’t hold a candle to how many guest stars – we’re talking people who were on the show for a single-digit number of times – have turned up over the years. This isn’t all of them, but it’s a start…

Season 1

Robin Tunney (Ep. 1.1, “Pilot”)
Character: a kindergarten teacher who becomes dysphasic and starts having seizures. Turns out she’s invested with tapeworms.

Sam Trammell (Ep. 1.4, “Maternity”)
Character: the father of a baby girl that’s not even out of the maternity ward and already on death’s door from a virus.

Elizabeth Mitchell (Ep. 1.5, “Damned If you Don’t”)
Character: a nun who looks like she’s suffering from stigmata but is later discovered to be suffering an allergic reaction to a copper cross IUD left over from her, uh, wilder days.

Dominic Purcell (Ep. 1.6, “Fidelity”)
Character: a husband whose wife – the Patient of the Week – turns out to have been unfaithful.

Amanda Seyfried (Ep. 1.11, “Detox”)
Character: girlfriend to the Patient of the Week.

Scott Foley (Ep. 1.12, “Sports Medicine”)
Character: a baseball player suffering cadmium poisoning from all the pot he’s been smoking.

Joe Morton (Ep. 1.17, “Role Model”)
Character: a senator suffering the after-effects of an epilepsy treatment from childhood

John Cho (Ep. 1.20, “Love Hurts”)
Character: a guy who, after spilling apple juice on House’s clothes, ends up being diagnosed by him as having had a stroke. Upon further investigation, it’s determined that he has a trauma-induced aneurysm as a result of a preference for sadomasochism.

Carmen Electra (Ep. 1.21, “Three Stories”)
Character: While begrudgingly lecturing a classroom of medical students about a past patient who is depicted as looking like Carmen Electra playing miniature golf. In reality, the patient was actually a male golfer…and he played regular golf, by the way. (Who knew miniature golf could be so sexy?)

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