Tuesday, 27 January 2015


Tuesday, 27 January 2015
★½ (out of five)

I really liked the relationship between Seth MacFarlane's acerbic sheep farmer and Charlize Theron's gunslinging outlaw, which develops plausibly from friendship to romance. In particular, Theron's a joy to watch as a sexy tomboy who starts to fall for MacFarlane's cynical, cowardly character.

There were also some sight gags and comic ideas that worked (like how nobody in the Old West would smile in photographs because it's insane), but A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST couldn't overcome some substantial flaws: the story's too simplistic for an epic TWO-HOUR+ runtime, Liam Neeson was completely wasted as the black-hat villain, and MacFarlane's direction was pedestrian at best.

There were moments that worked and made me giggle (mainly when the script felt like a live-action FAMILY GUY skit), but after the success of TED this has probably set MacFarlane's big-screen career back a few pegs. It's a FUNNY OR DIE viral that got out of hand.

★★½ (out of five)

Who knew Dan Stevens from DOWNTON ABBEY could be this good in such a very different role, playing a mysterious U.S army veteran who visits the family of a dead comrade and ingratiates himself into their lives? He's the main reason to watch this love-letter to 1980s exploitation cinema, treading similar ground to THE STEPFATHER. (The second reason is the awesome soundtrack.) It's no spoiler to reveal Stevens' character is a bad 'un, whose easygoing charm soon slips into outright psychopathy.

Achingly '80s, in an enjoyable way, but severely limited in reaching a bigger audience because of it, THE GUEST struck me as an average movie that could have done with a better script. Adam Wingard's YOU'RE NEXT was a much cleverer subversion of its genre, whereas this just plays like a movie from 1984 with a heavy coating of 21st-century paint.

★★½ (out of five)

This film's been a blind spot for me since its release in 1992, and I'm not entirely sure why. The title's a little misleading, as DEATH BECOMES HER evokes horror/afterlife expectations Robert Zemeckis's movie doesn't really tackle. It's an oddly small-scale affair, resembling a TWILIGHT ZONE half-hour stretched to feature length and blessed with then-cutting edge special effects.

Indeed, this movie was a clear gateway drug for Zemeckis eventually abandoning flesh-and-blood actors onscreen in the pursuit of the digitised avatars seen in THE POLAR EXPRESS, BEOWULF and A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

It's a fun movie, for awhile, with a lingering '80s vibe to it, but it begins to drag and the action's curiously limited to a mansion for much of the running time. Bruce Willis is also completely miscast as a middle-aged nerd. It's actually more interesting on a technical level, to see how they combined CGI with makeup effects (which actually creates a more realistic feel than many of today's all-CGI sequences) to twist and contort the bodies of Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn.

I also appreciated how the film has a good moral message about youth and beauty not equalling happiness, and the somewhat abrupt and unsatisfying climax at least ends on a memorably weird visual.

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