With “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” Seth MacFarlane blissfully (and frustratingly) stays right in his comfort zone

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Scarcely a scene goes by in Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West without some joke related to the baser functions of the human body. Some are fairly simple—the passing of gas here is, of course, inherently funny—while others are far more elaborate. The most notable may be an extended bit of physical comedy on the part of Neil Patrick Harris, who takes a lowest-common-denominator gag involving the rather dramatic effects of laxatives and sells it harder than Daniel Day-Lewis could ever imagine. As far as gross-out jokes go, it’s an effective one—so much so that many audience members at my screening, myself included, literally gagged at what was being implied—but its impact might have been even greater had MacFarlane showed a bit more tact leading up to this poop de grâce. There’s something admirable and almost charming about a film so unpretentiously determined to live in the gutter, even though its effects can ultimately be numbing. Continue reading

Viewing Diary (5/19/14)

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Nothing but new releases in the ol’ Viewing Diary this week, as I discuss a busy week featuring Godzilla, The Disney sports film Million Dollar Arm, Jon Favreau’s Chef and an early look at Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West. If you’re aching for older movies, fear not! Next week’s diary will feature not one, but two black and white films! Try to contain your excit– wait, come back! Continue reading