Film Review Round Up: A Million Ways To Die In The West, Maleficent and Godzilla (2014)

A Million Ways To Die In The West

A surprisingly faithful Western showing a real love of the genre combined with the peculiar sharpness of Seth MacFarlane’s writing style. The film is at its best in montage (a decidedly odd victory) and when killing people off in many entertaining ways.

Seth MacFarlane as the lead is a bit wooden – the guy is an amazing voice talent, but his face doesn’t really move unless he’s smiling. It’s a little like watching Frank Sidebottom. Neil Patrick Harris is a fantastic contrast, masticating with scenery and a fine moustache throughout. The other cast members flesh out the modern Western vibe nicely, with Liam Neeson growling his way as a bad guy and the tough independent romantic interest Charlize Theron getting some decent action and gags.

The very, very best scene is the barn dance Moustache song with its superb synchronised dance routine. Such a shame they don’t have either Harris or MacFarlane singing – I would have loved this to be a musical. Sure, some of the gags are far too drawn out, just like in Family Guy sometimes he doesn’t know when to put a joke down, or shoot it in the head.

Ah hell, you’re not going to bother seeing this at the cinema, so here’s that best bit:


Maleficent

This should have been splendid – Angelina Jolie‘s got horns, razor sharp cheekbones and magic. Instead it’s a weirdly dull and pointless rehash of Sleeping Beauty.

The start of the film is a lovely dash around faerie land with sprites, flying fish and assorted beasties. When they go to war (briefly) with mankind the huge dryad warriors are brilliant and it feels like it might be a good film, y’know, like The Chronicles of Narnia could have been. Instead it wimps out and follows the love-scorned and abused Maleficent as she curses the king’s kid, then looks after her while she grows up and *yawn* regrets her curse, but it gets fulfilled… for all of about ten seconds before Maleficent gives her the True Love(TM) kiss… and for some reason that’s the film.

Jolie’s a dragon for a bit. Poor, confusing and aimless despite being occasionally pretty.

(if the whole film had been like this trailer it would have been good, but only five minutes long)


Godzilla

An enduring hero of cinema, usually ruined by Americans who don’t get it – the original Godzilla only made palatable to Western audiences by splicing in a pointless storyline for Raymond Burr. Thankfully it seems that Hollywood has learned something since letting Joel Some Bloody Roland Emmerich ruin the giant monster for a generation with his weak-ankled and terrible version. This one’s still rather hit and miss.

The problem, I think, is feeling that we need a human character based story to accompany Godzilla’s destruction of cities. It’s a mistake, especially when you can’t really be arsed to do a good job of it. On the other hand, the human element is completely forgettable, involving just cliched moments of sadness (dad gets killed, taking Bryan Cranston out of the story far too early) and heroism (rescuing a child). It’s a shame, because the rest of the film is awesome fun.

They start with the opening credits being the video files and archives of Godzilla sightings, the words being redacted as soon as they appear – a very satisfying introduction. They’ve stuck to the atomic roots of Godzilla and his giant pals, although the emphasis on Godzilla’s role being that of balancing out the mega-megafauna feels unnecessary and oddly saps credibility.

The monster smash ups though are brilliant. Its main competition is Pacific Rim of course, which redefined how much of a spectacle a monster movie can be. Godzilla manages to hold its own.

 

 

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