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A Million Ways to Die in the West

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Scott Roberts
A Million Ways to Die in the West
on Jun 6, 2014 at 2:03:05 pm
Last Edited By Scott Roberts on Jun 6, 2014 at 2:03:57 pm







I wasn't keeping tabs, but here's my best guess at the tally of the jokes from this film...  Twelve erection jokes, seven poop jokes, two pee jokes, five unexpected celebrity cameos, six random cutaway jokes, five kick in the groin jokes, and about seven people-falling-down-to-end-a-scene-with-a-laugh jokes.  Probably about equal to what I was expecting in a Seth MacFarlane movie.  At one point, as the characters entered a barn dance, I got up and slowly walked to the bathroom (wasn't in much of a hurry to get back), and upon re-entering the theater, I caught the last 10 seconds of what appeared to be a classic MacFarlane forced song and dance number where everyone was singing about mustaches.  Just people singing "Mustache!" "Mustache!" over and over again.  Sorry I missed the genesis of that gem of a sequence...

The plot was about as by the books and standard as they come.  Guy gets dumped, guy meets new girl, guy tries to win back old girl, guy falls for new girl, new girl's husband tries to kill guy, guy gets new girl in the end after old girl finally realizes he's great.  How do you even write a movie this plain and expect it to be memorable in any way?

And oddly enough, it did seem like MacFarlane wanted to make a real movie in there somewhere.  Entire scenes will go by where not even a joke attempt was made (I think).  For example, there's a whole scene with MacFarlane running away from bandits on his horse, and then he manages to get on the other side of a train, and then ends up on the train and gets away.  Liam Neeson says "He'll be back." and the scene ends.  It was like a three-minute scene and not a single attempt at comedy was made.  So did MacFarlane just want to make a real western?  But he's bogged down with this stigma of being the master of the low hanging fruit?  (And boy does this fruit hang low.  It's at that perfect height where you don't even have to lift your arm up to reach it, it just lazily grazes your palm as you walk with your arms by your side.)  I really don't think MacFarlane wanted to just make a laugh-a-second comedy.  The problem is, he can't have it both ways in a film when one character spends 45 seconds of screen time grunting out enough diarrhea to literally fill two cowboy hats.

So many jokes are painfully self-referential, too. "Hey, we're in the west!"  "Isn't this time period crazy?"  Like characters are literally saying those words out loud.  I think the line "The west f*cking sucks, right?!" was spoken verbatim three times.  Yeah, we get it, you've made a movie about how bad it was to live back then.  So, now actually do something with it, and don't just explain the title of the movie to us fifteen times like we can't comprehend the material.

MacFarlane has a really bad habit of over-explaining jokes for comedic effect in this film.  At one point, a character says a line along the lines of, "I can buy her things like dresses, shoes, and wrapped candies."  Then as if we didn't hear it or needed it beaten over out heads again, the character follows it up by saying, "You heard me...  Wrapped candies."  Later in the film, the main character says a pretty good insult about his ex-girlfriend's lady parts, only to walk off-screen, immediately walk back on-screen and then explain the joke in excruciating detail.  I know that the point of the joke was for it to be over-explained, but it didn't need to be and then it wasn't funny when he actually did it.  Either the jokes are terrible to begin with, or he really doesn't have much respect for his audience's intelligence.  This falls in the same category of overuse of reaction shots.  People get killed by things a lot in this movie, and it's almost always followed by a cutaway to MacFarlane's character going "OH MY GOD, THAT WAS TERRIBLE!"  These reactionary jokes are like the cinematic equivalent of an "Applause" sign, trying to force the audience into laughter about the ridiculous nature of the joke before it.  "Hey, look at my joke!!!  Did you see my joke?!?!?"

And then there's stuff like the Doc Brown Back to the Future 3 joke.  I don't care if I'm spoiling anything, because at this point I'm just trying to save you $8.  Anyway, at one point of the movie, MacFarlane's character wanders over to a barn, and when he looks inside, Doc Brown is covering up his DeLorean, and says he's working on a weather experiment.  Then MacFarlane's character leaves.  Doc Brown is shown one more time, where he says "Great Scott!" for no particular reason other than it’s his catchphrase, and the movie continues as if it didn't happen.  But...  C'mon...  The entire joke is that Doc Brown is a movie character who exists.  The only way that anyone laughs at that scene is if they go "Ha!  I've seen that character before!"  It's the same kind of stupidly empty reference that masquerades as an actual joke that spurs the same kind of people to cheer when someone on a talk show says a city they live in.  "Hey, I've been to that city before!"  "Hey, I've seen that character before!"  People just like to relate to things they can recognize, I guess, and then clap like idiots.  In reality, no joke of substance has actually been made.  Same goes for the credits scene when Jamie Foxx shows up in full Django attire and shoots a racist guy we were introduced to earlier in the movie.  The joke is that Django is a character from another movie that we can recognize.  Ok...  Again...  DO something with it, Seth.  It would be like if a stand-up comedian said "Remember what Monica Lewinsky did to the president?"  And then moved just on with his act.

I'm normally amused by Seth MacFarlane's projects (I liked Ted, and I've enjoyed Family Guy from time to time), but A Million Ways to Die in the West was just awful.  It was boring and slow-paced, it was full of CBS-sitcom quality jokes, and it had a punishing duration of 115 minutes.  I almost felt bad that I disliked the movie so much that I began to wonder if I was being a snobby jerk for not laughing at it?  Am I above this movie?  Did it shoot too low, even for me?  But I like watching YouTube videos of people slipping on ice…  I felt the desire to watch a something funny when I got home from the movie just to make sure I hadn't gone dead inside and become numb to laughter earlier in the day.  

I guess I had a few legitimate chuckles at Sarah Silverman's prostitute character, but nothing more than a "Heh".  Actually, the only time I outwardly laughed was at probably the stupidest joke in the movie, when MacFarlane is hiding from the bandits under his flock of sheep, and he looks up and sees a detailed human man parts on one of the sheep.  We look at it for a few seconds, then it starts peeing on his face.  And the movie just goes on from there.  I shook my head, looked at my fiance, and started laughing at the sheer embarrassment of everyone involved; from the director, to the audience, to the prop department who got the order to make a working sheep penis for a film.  I wonder how that joke came to be?  Did MacFarlane write himself into too serious of a corner, and needed to insert that terrible joke to ensure us this is a still something of a comedy?  Or was the sheep groin the original plan, and MacFarlane needed to somehow *get* his character under a sheep?  Either way it was, by far, one if the worst, laziest jokes I've ever seen.  In that regard, I say "bravo".  It's always just as impressive to see the very bottom as it is to see the very top.

2.5 out of 10


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Mark Suszko
Re: A Million Ways to Die in the West
on Jun 6, 2014 at 2:30:38 pm

Off-topic for a minute, but what is it with your bladder and reviewing movies? I dunno, it's just not in my DNA to leave a film and come back in, in the theatre. At home, if you need to go, or the chips-to-hummus ratio of the snack plate dips too low, and you pause the show, it's a minor derailing of the pace and flow of the film, but in the theatre, I paid for every G.D. frame and I'm gonna sit and watch 'em. How would I know, if I walked out and came back a few minutes later, if I'd missed something good or important? So, I just make sure I don't over-hydrate before the show, and I visit the Little Reviewer's Room at the theatre, before I fond my seat. If you're gonna walk out of a show because it is really bad, go all the way and commit; don't come back in.



As to the movie, I think Seth was trying for a modern-day "Blazing Saddles". Might as well try to pitch (insert timeless classic, un-repeatable performance or piece of art reference here). If that was what Seth was going for, and he didn't want to push the racial envelope, like Brooks did, then all that's left are the pratfalls and gutter humor.

I'm not as huge a fan of Family Guy as many. What I glean from watching it occasionally is that it's really pitched at the very short attention span type audience; it's really designed from the outset to be de-constructed, excerpted into tiny slices. I wonder if you think this movie works better if you saw it as random ten second clips? Basically, as the trailer. Maybe Seth should have just made a trailer:-)


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Scott Roberts
Re: A Million Ways to Die in the West
on Jun 6, 2014 at 3:28:01 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Off-topic for a minute, but what is it with your bladder and reviewing movies?"

Well, there's a couple factors that play into that. I do often go to the lavatory right before the movie (not every time though), but I do like to get a medium drink at the theater (or sneak in my own soda, if I have one laying around the house) so I don't feel parched. As we all know, a medium theater soda (for $5.50) tends to be rather large, and if I drink too much of it too early on, I start to get that magical feeling about two thirds into the movie. For the record, no, I can't really control how much beverage I drink, it just kinda happens.

BUT, for a really engaging movie, despite how long it is or how bad I have to pee, I usually just tough it out. Cloud Atlas, for example, was a movie so long that I inevitably had to pee, but was cut in such a quick fashion that I knew if I got up I'd miss an entire scene or two. So I held it. Django Unchained for another example, was 2 hours and 40 minutes long, but I was so engaged the thought of peeing never crossed my mind. Yet, with a turd of a movie like A Million Ways to Die in the West, that I wasn't even particularly enjoying all that much, if I feel the urge to pee in the middle like I did, I'll just get up relieve myself and not feel that bad about it. Why be in pain over a movie as disengaging as this one? So, it's a lot of different things weighing in. Also, most of my friends tell me I have the bladder of a little girl.

ANYWAY, I think Jurassic Park said it best:







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Mark Suszko
Re: A Million Ways to Die in the West
on Jun 6, 2014 at 3:44:47 pm

I'll know you're serious about a movie premiere when you start buying Depends:-)


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Scott Roberts
Re: A Million Ways to Die in the West
on Jun 6, 2014 at 3:47:55 pm

Can I get a Star Wars Episode 7 logo on those Depends?

Marketing opportunity!


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Mark Suszko
Re: A Million Ways to Die in the West
on Jun 6, 2014 at 4:53:30 pm

This is why we have to sit on opposite sides of an aisle.


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Mike Cohen
Re: A Million Ways to Die in the West
on Jun 6, 2014 at 5:22:31 pm

[Scott Roberts] "Can I get a Star Wars Episode 7 logo on those Depends?"

Is Episode VII supposed to be really long?

Apparently a full 15 minutes will be devoted to a gratuitous tour of the Millenium Falcon, a full game of holo chess, a 10 minute pod race and numerous Jedi Council scenes with lots of talking and sitting in chairs. Lots of opportunities to use the toilet.

And look, there is one on the Falcon (see the red square, which surrounds the bedroom. Presumably Chewbacca sleeps on the floor because those are standard sized bunks.):



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Mark Suszko
Re: A Million Ways to Die in the West
on Jun 6, 2014 at 7:19:06 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Jun 6, 2014 at 7:19:55 pm

Somewhere in my nerd reading, it said the protuberances on the front of the Falcon are clamps to attach to large exterior cargo pods, making the Falcon something like a space tugboat ( well, push more than tug). And like a tugboat, if flown without pushing a lot of deadweight exterior cargo pods, she would have a much higher than usual thrust to weight ratio, translating to high speed. So, there wouldn't be a lot of cargo deck space on the Falcon; it would all be fuel and drive space, with living space for the crew jammed in here and there wherever it could fit.


Somewhere, SW nerds are sensing a disturbance in the Force right now. Patton would chime in but he's on sabbatical for the summer.

(/Still has the giant-sized plastic model kit from the first issue. Never finished, painted but still in box, never had the right lighting for the engine area... until NOW....)


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Mike Cohen
Re: A Million Ways to Die in the West
on Jun 6, 2014 at 7:42:16 pm

You are correct Mark. In the incredible Cross Sections book they show the cargo claw has a loading door in the middle. Needless to say the crew entry ramp would not be used to load and unload large amounts of cargo. Assuming the posterior half of the saucer section is not filled with engine parts, there is a lot of space back there for cargo, with another upper or lower cargo hatch.

You are right Mark - if not being used as a tugboat to push spice around the galaxy, the Falcon must have a huge amount of power, which in the smuggling world would be especially useful.


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Mike Cohen
Re: A Million Ways to Die in a galaxy far far away - threadjack
on Jun 6, 2014 at 7:52:53 pm

this is my fault for somehow transitioning to a SW thread, although Han Solo is basically a Space Cowboy, so I think we are ok.


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Scott Roberts
Re: A Million Ways to Die in a galaxy far far away - threadjack
on Jun 6, 2014 at 7:58:45 pm
Last Edited By Scott Roberts on Jun 6, 2014 at 7:59:17 pm

Don't worry, moving the conversation away from A Million Ways to Die in the West is exactly the right thing to do.

Also, I never knew this stuff about the Falcon, and I'm loving hearing about it! Did you guys learn about it through those super detailed Star Wars diagram books that were mentioned in a thread from a long time ago, on a page far far away?


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Mark Suszko
Re: A Million Ways to Die in a galaxy far far away - threadjack
on Jun 6, 2014 at 9:15:16 pm

Both the art books and some of the "expanded universe" books, like Han Solo At Stars' End.

But just looking at the ship, it's shape makes little sense unless you figure that thing on the front is a claw or grapple unit, and the cockpit is offset to the side so as to see around that payload. As SW movies progressed, their art direction vis-a-vis the spaceships tended to play more and more with asymmetrical design. Which makes no difference in vacuum, but makes huge trouble in an atmosphere.


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Mike Cohen
Re: A Million Ways to Die in a galaxy far far away - threadjack
on Jun 6, 2014 at 9:24:36 pm

while the Naboo fighters and Jedi A-Wing/pre-TIE fighters from the prequels had a semblance of aerodynamic design, and the X-Wings to some degree with the S-foils closed, most of the other ships would have to rely completely on anti-gravity technology and engine power to maintain lift.

Understandably this is fantasy and we are not supposed to be having this conversation.


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Mark Suszko
Re: A Million Ways to Die in a galaxy far far away - threadjack
on Jun 6, 2014 at 10:01:42 pm

But considerations like this inform the art direction of a film, and set the background "rules" of that imaginary world. It's no different from discussing the wheel bearings of Connestoga wagons as they relate to the filmic world of a Western.


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Mike Cohen
Re: A Million Ways to Die in a galaxy far far away - threadjack
on Jun 9, 2014 at 8:32:41 pm

good point Mark. The X-Wing, Y-Wing and Blockade Runner have pretty hefty engine blocks, while the Falcon has a bright emitter of light at the back and one assumes the whole back half of the ship is the engine. However we know there is a lot of interior space for cargo, leaving little space for engines. So maybe the Falcon has some special type of propulsion.

Then take a TIE fighter. TIE stands for twin ion engine (a real technology being used in deep space probes) however you can't discern any engines, and the "solar panels" seem to serve little purpose.

But let's remember, the design of the Falcon is based upon a hamburger with an olive on the side. Good thing George Lucas didn't shape any of his ships like a slice of pizza!


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Mark Suszko
Re: A Million Ways to Die in a galaxy far far away - threadjack
on Jun 9, 2014 at 9:41:19 pm

This happens because some artists think about realistic engineering and physics, and others do not. Guys like McQuarrie and Syd Mead, they would think about proportions of flying machines informed by the real proportions of actual flying machines, and the relative volumes of structure that represented engine, fuel, and payload. In any "modern" aircraft or spacecraft, engine and fuel take up the bulk of space, and crew room or cargo space is a fraction of the overall volume. Those artists made things that looked like they could work, because they had an underlying design ethos, a logic, an engineering and scientific framework, even if fictional, it was at least internally consistent... The more fanciful the artist, the less attention would be paid to things like what volume of notional fuel tankage would make "sense" for a certain size of ship, for a certain type of mission.

If you look at the Falcon, the modeler obviously was thinking "space tugboat": all-engine, cramped quarters. The entire rear half of the thing looks like engines, leaving most of the forward hull for fuel, and very tiny space for crew. There wouldn't be "holds" for anything but very small loads, if any.

Then come the art directors with a list of internal scenes that have to be shot: now the model design is re-rationalized to accommodate additional areas for shooting purposes, but the model hasn't really been re-configured: you have artists who just look at an overall shape and make up rooms and spaces, after the fact, that couldn't exist on the "real thing". They all then "hand-wave" the dichotomy as explained-away by "magic technologies" that require less internal fuel volume or smaller yet more powerful engines, etc. When really, it boils down to: "they like the way the model looks and that's locked-in, but we do what we want for the interior".

John Scalzi refers to this in his hysterical book: "Red Shirts" as "serving the demands of The Narrative".


Then again, practical design always takes a back seat to coolness: during the design phase for the Star Trek TOS, designer Matt Jeffries showed Gene a final Enterprise design that looked "upside-down", compared to how we see and think of it today. In space, of course, what's upside-down is relative and wouldn't matter, but in the model it meant flipping the floors and ceilings 180 degrees. In that design, the entire saucer section was to detach and land on planets every week, leaving the "drive section" in orbit. Roddenberry told him to flip it over and shoot it the other way. And the saucer separation was cut for budgetary reasons, and only ever referred to as a "desperate emergency measure" until the era of TNG series. Since TNG had a higher budget, they separated the saucer several times, as well as in one of the movies.


I stack my nerd cred against anyone.



http://www.trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=199948


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