Crushed by a giant block of ice, set on fire by a malfunctioning camera, run through by a bull, splinters: these are just a few of A Million Ways to Die in the West, and they're all featured in the red band trailer for Seth MacFarlane's latest film. The Family Guy creator stars as Albert Stark, a sheep farmer who's just trying to stay alive in a time and place where everything that isn't you is trying to kill you. After his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried), leaves him as a result of his cowardice, he teams up with a gunslinger's wife (Charlize Theron), to try and win his former love back. The only problem is that to do so, he must face off against her husband, the deadliest sharpshooter in the west. The film also stars Neil Patrick Harris as Foy (the man Albert's girlfriend left him for), Giovanni Ribisi as Albert's friend Edward, and Sarah Silverman as Beth, the town prostitute.
Based on the trailer, it seems like A Million Ways to Die in the West will be a cross between Blazing Saddles and MacFarlane's last film, Ted, although it seems to be aimed at a slightly wider audience than that one was. MacFarlane was able to win over a lot of hesitant moviegoers with his previous film, which should be beneficial in helping A Million Ways to Die in the West repeat that box office success. Even if people aren't too interested in seeing MacFarlane's character, as he seems to basically be playing himself, but in 1800s Arizona, the rest of the cast has enough star appeal to help attract an audience. Plus, they almost all have a great deal of experience carrying a film, which should help in case the premise or the jokes start to wear a bit thin.
However, even if you're not a fan of MacFarlane's, A Million Ways to Die in the West seems like it just might be funny enough to lure you into the theaters. He and Theron appear to have a good amount of chemistry, with her playing the tough straight-man to his nervous wisecracker. However, the supporting cast might be the real reason to see the film, as both Harris' moustache-twirling jerk and Liam Neeson's terrifying sharp-shooter looked poised to steal the show. Neeson's not known for his comedic chops, but he seems pretty comfortable in his role, a send up of all of the threatening action heroes he's played over the past few years. If nothing else, it might be worth catching A Million Ways to Die in the West to see Neeson transform from making unintentionally hilarious phone calls to purposefully showcasing his comedy skills.
A Million Ways to Die in the West will be released in book form on March 4, and in theaters on May 30 - if you can survive that long without dying in a freak ice-block accident.
If you were wondering what Hollywood will look like in the next five or 10 years, look no further than this talented group of young actors. Their impressive performances have put them on the map, and it doesn't look like they'll be going anywhere anytime soon. With a talent pool that includes film festival darling Ezra Miller, serious drama actor Dane DeHaan, and quirky ingenue Juno Temple, the future of film has never looked brighter.
Mackenzie FoyYou probably know her as Bella and Edward's half-human, half-vampire baby, Renesmee, from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, but Mackenzie Foy also appeared in this summer's The Conjouring with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. Next up, she'll star in the coming-of-age movie Wish You Well with Ellen Burstyn and Josh Lucas, and is signed on to voice a character in the film adaptation of French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's famed novella The Little Prince. Not bad for a 12-year-old.
Dane DeHaanAfter churning out haunting and powerful performances in the supernatural thriller Chronicle and cop thriller The Place Beyond the Pines, Dane DeHaan is officially on our radar. He's also appeared alongside Hollywood heavyweights in Lawless and Lincoln. Currently, DeHaan is bringing his Beat Generation movie, Kill Your Darlings, to the film festival circuit. DeHaan plays darkly alluring musician Lucien Carr opposite Daniel Radcliffe as Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Both the film and DeHaan's performance have earned rave reviews from critics. Next up, he'll star in Reese Witherspoon's dark murder drama Devil's Knot. We're sensing a theme for this talented young actor.
Bella ThorneAt just 15, Bella Thorne is already a seasoned pro in the industry. She's been making appearances on TV and in film since she was only 6 years old. Since 2010, she's starred on the Disney Channel dance show Shake It Up, which helped her score a record deal with Hollywood Records. Next up, she'll star in the film adaptation of popular kids book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day alongside Jennifer Garner and Steve Carell.
Ezra MillerAfter his star-making performance in We Need to Talk About Kevin, everybody was talking about Ezra Miller. The movie was a hit at Cannes and Miller became an indie sensation overnight. He saw success again when he starred in last year's film adaptation of beloved teen novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Next up, you can catch Miller as Léon Depuis in Sophie Barthes's adaptation of Gustave Falubert's masterpiece Madame Bovary.
Juno TempleJuno Temple has had steady work since her childhood, appearing in acclaimed movies like Notes on a Scandal, Atonement, and The Other Boleyn Girl. Recent movies have shown that Temple is more than comfortable with her sexuality, such as Dirty Girl, Jack and Diane, a horror romance about two women who are lovers, and the Linda Lovelace biopic Lovelace, in which Temple plays Linda's best friend. Next up, Temple will appear in Malificent with Angelina Jolie, and the highly anticipated sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
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If there's a cinematic alchemy award to be given this year director Bill Condon deserves to take it home after magically turning the tedious Twilight franchise into entertainment gold. 2011's Part 1 was a horror camp romp that turned the supernatural love triangle — the naval gazing trio of Bella Edward and Jacob — on its head. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 continues the madcap exploration of a world populated by vampires and werewolves mining even more comedy thrills and genuine character moments out of conceit than ever before. The film occasionally sidesteps back into Edward and Bella's meandering romance (an evident hurdle of author Stephenie Meyer's source material) but the duller moments are overshadowed by the movie's nimble pace and playful attitude. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will elicit laughs aplenty — but thankfully they're all on purpose.
Part 2 picks up immediately following the events of the first film Bella (Kristen Stewart) having been turned into a vampire by Edward (Robert Pattinson) to save her life after the torturous delivery of her half-human half-vampire child Renesmee. She awakes to discover super senses heightened agility increased strength… and a thirst for blood. One dead cougar later Bella and the gang are able to focus on the real troubles ahead: Renesmee is rapidly growing (think Jack) and vampiric overlords The Volturi perceive her a threat to vampiric secrecy. Knowing the Volturi will travel to Forks WA to kill the young girl (a 10-year-old just a month after being born) The Cullens amass an army of bloodsucking friends to end the oppression once and for all.
Packed with an absurd amount of backstory and mythology-twisting plot points (some vampires can shoot lightning now?) Condon and series screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg mine revel in the beefed up ensemble of Breaking Dawn - Part 2 and thanks to a wildly funny cast it never feels like pointless deviation. Along with the usual suspects Lee Pace adds swagger to the series as a grungy alt-rock vampire Noel Fisher appears as a hilarious over-the-top battle-ready Russian coven member and Michael Sheen returns has Volturi head honcho Aro and steels the show. Flamboyant diabolical and a steady stream of maniacal laughter Sheen owns Condon's high camp vision for Twilight and he lights up the screen. There are a few throw away nations of vampires — the oddly stereotypical Egyptian and Amazonians sects are there mostly there to off-set the extreme whiteness — but the actors involved bring liveliness to a franchise known for being soulless. Even Stewart Pattinson and Taylor Lautner give personal bests in this installment — a scene between Bella and her dad Charlie (Billy Burke) is genuinely heartfelt while Jacob's overprotective hero schtick finally lands.
Whereas Breaking Dawn - Part 1 stuck mostly to the personal story relying on the intimate moments as Bella and Edward took the big plunge into marriage and sex Part 2 paints with broader strokes and Condon has a ball. Delving into the history of the vampires and the vampire world outside Forks is Pandora's Box for the director. One scene where we learn why kids scare the heck of the Volturi captures a scope of medieval epics — along with the bloodshed. Twilight might be known for its sexual moments but Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will go down for its abundance of decapitations. The big set piece in the finale is something to behold both in the craftsmanship of the spectacle and in its bizarre nature.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 had the audience hooting hollering and even gasping as it twisted and turned to the final moments. There's little doubt that even the biggest naysayer of the franchise would do the same. No irony here: the conclusion of Twilight is a blast.
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.