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Entries in Charlize Theron (2)

Tuesday
May272014

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST

Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Christopher Hagen and Wes Studi.
Writers: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild.
Director: Seth MacFarlane.

Rating: 1/5

If there is a contender to wrestle the 2014 Worst Picture Razzie from Adam Sandler and his much maligned non-com Blended, it may well be Seth MacFarlane for his starring debut, A Million Ways to Die in the West. One of the most misguided and flagrantly self-indulgent vanity projects in recent memory, ‘The Man Who Killed The Oscars’ puts his talent front and centre with this crude, witless western spoof that reaches its comedic peak when Doogie Howser kicks over a hat full of diarrhoea. Hooray for Hollywood.

MacFarlane refuses to take a backward step from critics who label his brand of shock-schtick frat-boy level puerile; the very first joke is a misogynistic slur, followed by a steady stream of body fluid gags, some homophobic stereotyping and lots of very modern cussing. His on-camera appearance is itself a non-concession to the conventions of the dustbowl melodrama, with his pearly white teeth, gelled hair and man-scaped features entirely at odds with…well, everything. Which, as was evident from his hosting of the Academy Awards, is the essence of his comic persona; MacFarlane looks the dapper traditionalist, but only to the extent that it allows him to infiltrate the establishment  and amuse himself by setting light to a bag of poo on their doorstep. A Million Ways to Die in the West represents his latest bag of poo.  

The widescreen lensing of DOP Michael Barrett captures the landscape imagery associated the genre, yet MacFarlane does very little to engage on a comedic level with the setting. In one seemingly endless rant that feels pilfered from an outdated stand-up routine, the shrieking actor rattles off all the negatives of the frontier life in 1880’s Arizona; surely some of these could have been explored in greater depth had the script been less reliant upon the auteur’s bottomless well of faecal references.

MacFarlane plays sheep grazier Albert, a whining nobody who loses his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) when she tires of his general unmanliness. Albert finds a (very) patient ear in his virginal best friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and his lovable Christian-whore Ruth (Sarah Silverman), but Albert is near the end of his tether. Things begin to brighten up when Albert saves the beautiful Anna (Charlize Theron)during a bar brawl and an entirely unfathomable romance blossoms, until it is revealed she is scouting the town for her gunslinging bad-guy hubby, Clinch (Liam Neeson, looking nonplussed). On the periphery is moustachioed creep, Foy (the film’s biggest asset, Neil Patrick Harris), who is wooing Louise and remains at odds with our anti-hero.

The solid cast is shunted aside for long passages, allowing MacFarlane underserved centre stage for most of the film’s inexcusable 116 minute running time. Deft comedians like Ribisi and Silverman are left floundering with weak, obvious gags before disappearing entirely; Seyfried’s career takes a backward step in a role that feels brutally truncated, as if the majority of it will bulk up the DVD extras package. The most awkward player is clearly Oscar-winner Theron, who good-sports herself for the benefit of her co-star’s project but is clearly uncomfortable. Broad comedy is not prevalent on the actress’ resume and her casting seems less to do with her comedic skill (despite her natural likability onscreen) and more to do with MacFarlane’s over-seer role; if given the power of veto as writer/director/producer on your first studio pic starring role, why not cast the world’s most beautiful actress, regardless of her suitability, as your love interest?

MacFarlane falls back on his well-worn trick of abstract pop-culture references, the likes of which sometimes worked in his overvalued TV series, Family Guy; the IMDb credit list spoils the surprise factor for fans of Christopher Lloyd, Gilbert Gottfried and Ewan McGregor, but there are some other A-list cameos, all affording the overall production no particularly advantage. Some druggy humour and shock-effect gore is employed, the likes of which may raise a goofy smirk amongst stoners, but the scenes are so devoid of inventiveness or context as to have no impact.

The failure of A Million Ways to Die in the West falls entirely at the feet of Seth MacFarlane and one hopes he wears the blame with the same enthusiasm with which he accepted the accolades for his surprise 2012 hit, Ted. In hindsight, the strength of that film was not the foul-mouthed CGI bear but the warm point-of-entry that its star Mark Wahlberg provided. MacFarlane’s follow-up lacks any connective tissue to human realness, preferring cartoonish coarseness and random excess; it is as if that twisted, needy sociopathic soft-toy was given a one-picture deal as reward for his success, and this is the end result.

Friday
Jun292012

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN

Stars: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, Sam Claflin and Eddie Marsan.
Writers: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini.
Director: Rupert Sanders

Rating: 3.5/5

An expansive retelling of the Brothers Grimm classic, Snow White and The Huntsman takes its most impactful beats from such post-modern literary adaptations as 1998s The Man in the Iron Mask and Peter Jackson’s …Rings trilogy, as well as vivid fantasy imaginings such as Willow and Ladyhawke. That it doesn’t really nail a flavour all its own is ok; it mimics the best bits of other movies so well, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had even if none of it substantially resonates.

There are incongruities that should sink first-time director Rupert Sanders’ big, ballsy mash-up of feminine generational conflict and throne-room treachery. Kristen Stewart is both too old to convince as a virginal vision of purity and too small to be an armour-clad leader of misfit revolutionaries, but she makes it work; there’s a lean mid-section to the film that belies its meagre fairy tale origins, but the padding-out of these scenes is expertly done; and, as the evil witch-queen Raveena, who yearns to consume the essence of her fairer foe, Charlize Theron chews the scenery like a termite plague – and is all the more awesome for it.

An opening sequence that steeps the film in ruthless royal intrigue and murderous betrayal sets the tone for a narrative that may prove a little too dark for the wee ones who were enchanted by Disney’s “hi-ho-ing” animated take. A stepmother usurping the kingdom of a monarch she murders and imprisoning his princess, rightful heiress to the land, then existing in youthful perpetuity by sucking the rich soulfulness of her subjects certainly makes for a compelling set-up. But parents, beware; under 10’s will spend more of the 125 minute running time averting their eyes than you may have expected.

As a blossoming Snow White, It-girl Stewart affords us glimpses of the compelling screen actress she is destined to become. Her strong presence and china-doll bone-structure recalling a young Nicole Kidman, she exudes a teary innocence in the film’s early stages before transforming into a warrior princess. One can’t dismiss her mousiness – she is definitely not physically right for the role – but it is impossible not to be compassionate for her plight, so engaging is her star power. As The Huntsman, Chris Hemsworth confidently continues his ascension to stardom, his brawniness recalling a young, in-his-prime Nick Nolte.

Tech credits, especially the work of the visual effects team, are superlative. The morphing of full-size actors such as Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsan, Nick Frost and Toby Jones into a feisty band of dwarves is seamless; an extended sequence set in a fantastical netherworld, whilst thin on plotting, is a sight to behold. Grandly-staged battle sequences that lead to the film’s denouement are suitably exciting.