Seth MacFarlane and Charlize Theron in A Million Ways to Die in the West (Universal Pictures)
Sony’s promotional 4K screening of A Million Ways to Die in the West – which was written, produced and directed by the creator of the popular TV show “Family Guy” and feature film Ted, Seth MacFarlane – took place last night at Paramount Studios as part of this year’s Cine Gear Expo.
Before the film began, Sony brought some of the post-production team that helped to make the film on stage. Trent Johnson and Scott Ostrowsky, both senior colorists for Colorworks and Sony Pictures Entertainment, talked about how they had to adjust and color the film to give it a sepia Western feel and the challenges that were involved.
A Million Ways to Die in the West (rated R, 116 minutes) begins in Old Stump in 1882, as Albert (Seth MacFarlane), a cowardly sheep farmer, is dumped by his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried), after backing out of a duel. Albert’s hate for the frontier has him preparing to leave for San Francisco in the hopes of finding a better life.
The film transitions to the infamous, gun-slinging outlaw Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), who shoots a gold prospector and orders Lewis (Evan Jones) to take his wife, Anna (Charlize Theron), to Old Stump while he continues his plundering of the frontier. Disguised as brother and sister, Lewis and Anna arrive at Old Stump pretending to want to build a farm. Lewis is arrested for inciting a bar fight. During the brawl, Albert saves Anna from bringing crushed by two of the bar-goers, and their friendship begins.
Albert and Anna attend the annual county fair, and while there, they run into Louise’s new boyfriend, Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), who challenges Albert to a shooting contest. Anna helps Albert after he fails to defeat Foy at the shooting contest, causing Foy to make fun of Albert and resulting in Albert’s impulsive decision to challenge him to a duel in a week’s time.
During a dance, Anna slips a mickey (a laxative) into Foy’s drink. Later that night, Albert and Anna share a kiss. Unbeknownst to them, Lewis has escaped prison and witnesses the kiss, reporting it to Clinch.
The day that Foy and Albert are supposed to duel, Foy shows up late and in extreme convulsions, resulting in Albert retiring and saying Louise isn’t worth the duel. Albert returns to the saloon in the hopes of relaxation, but it turns out to be the opposite with Clinch showing up and demanding to know who kissed his wife.
Clinch threatens to kill people if someone doesn’t come forward to tell him. Anna is forced to tell Clinch that Albert was the one who kissed her, but knocks him out to buy Albert some time to escape. After succeeding from running from Clinch, Albert is knocked out by Native Americans, who initially threaten to burn him alive until they discover that due to his vast amount of reading he can speak their language.
Offered a bowl of drugs, Albert travels back to his traumatic past, and when he returns to the present he realizes that he does indeed love Anna. He goes back to Old Stump to challenge Clinch to a duel.
It was a unique experience to see in the film 4K resolution. The quality and sharpness of the image, coupled with Dolby’s 5.1 surround sound made the movie really come to life. In typical MacFarlane fashion, the humor throughout was crass, blunt and, often times, verging on offensive. If one has watched “Family Guy,” “American Dad!”or Ted, this nothing new. There was the MacFarlane staple of having a song-and-dance number that had the star-studded cast moving in sync in the film.
There were also supporting characters that added to the laughter among the crowd, including Ruth (Sarah Silverman) who is dating Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and prostitutes herself out yet refuses to have sex with Edward because they aren’t married and God wouldn’t be happy.
Overall, the film takes the typical Western approach but punches holes in the structure with jokes and other cutaways that keep the audience laughing, including Doc from Back to the Future and the last scene when Django Freeman (Jamie Foxx) attends the county fair and utters the closing line, “People die at the fair.”
A Million Ways to Die in the West
Currently in theaters
Films are rated on a scale of 5 stars (must-see), 4 stars (exceptional), 3 stars (solid), 2 stars (average) and 1 star (unworthy).