Neil Patrick Harris

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Hear that sound? It’s the sound of critics and bloggers stoking up the fire and getting ready to burn the wicker man. And who’s the latest sacrifice? Well, it sounds like Brian the dog from TV’s popular Family Guy… Oh wait, no, it’s Seth MacFarlane from TV’s popular Family Guy.

Since its release, MacFarlane’s foul-mouthed western has been getting a shoeing from all areas. MacFarlane is shy sheepherder, Albert Stark, who loses his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfreid) to the town’s lothario (Neil Patrick Harris). Though its not all bad as here comes Charlize Theron as Anna, who, unknown to Stark, is the wife of hardened outlaw, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson). Anna and Albert’s new relationship is put to the test when Leatherwood comes back to town.

A Million Ways to Die in the West certainly doesn’t stand up to MacFarlane’s previous effort, Ted, but it doesn’t deserve the critical mauling it’s been receiving. The humour is crude and deeply offensive, but it’s also very funny. Sometimes breathtakingly so. Sarah Silverman as a virginal prostitute (yes, you read that right) is a particular standout. However, there’s only so far the shield of irony can protect you and some of the more racial jokes are dubious at best. Just because you’re taking potshots at everyone, doesn’t mean you should.

There’s also the problem with the third act when McFarlane tries to insert some emotion and drama into the proceedings. Slowing down the film to a snail’s pace, it could easily have been jettisoned in favour of some, you know, jokes.

With a stellar performance by Theron and the catchiest song about moustaches you’ll ever hear, A Million Ways to Die in the West is not the vanity project its been branded with (Let’s save that kind of thing for After Earth, guys!), but it is by no means his best work.

Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)

The plot loosely follows the Red Hood storyline as Batman finds himself up against a new mobster in town. Who is the mysterious Red Hood and what is his need for vengenace? Well, if you know your comics, then you already know the answer. And if you don’t, then no worries. Unlike their live action movie, Green Lantern, DC make sure they signpost all their exposition with the subtlety of being accosted by a rhino.

Woah, and boy, did someone got out of the wrong side of the bed. That’s the only way to explain how moody this film actually is. Everyone is so angry. Batman, Robin, Nightwing, the Joker… Clearly trying to mimic Christopher Nolan’s efforts, Red Hood tries to cling to grim reality. This only serves to make the genuine comic book moments stand out like a sore thumb; robot ninjas, Neil Patrick Harris, ability to leap ONTO church roofs… Nolan undestanding that you can’t have any of of these if you want to make the story of a man who dresses up as a bat as real as possible, ignore robot ninjas.

There’s much else to say about Under the Red Hood. For all it’s grittiness, it’s as light and fluffy as Ben 10. It’s the cinematic equivalent of Scotch mist. If I have to say something good, then I will leave you with the one stand out scene which shows that Futurama’s John DiMaggio is no Mark Hamill, but he makes a pretty okay Joker.

G’night folks.