The Bottom Line: May 30, 2014: Seth MacFarlane does battle with Maleficent

Seth MacFarlane A Million Ways to Die in the WestAngelina Jolie Maleficent

Today marks the beginning of a new weekly column on FilmBook: The Bottom Line.

Each week yours truly will discuss the week’s theatrical releases, dissecting the hype, hedging on their chances of success, and giving you the bottom line about which movie(s) is/are worth your time. The aim is to keep it light, fresh, and fun, providing you with only the information you absolutely need to know when battling it out with your companion(s) over which must-see film to see first with a bit of helpful insights and trivia thrown in. The column will be written with an open mind as it is a work-in-progress and will evolve over time, hopefully with your feedback.

Before I get started, I’ll introduce myself. I’m Drew, a twenty-something Millenial based in Salt Lake City with an intense love for all things film. I’ve been this way from an early age, and I’ve never known anything different. I remember the first movie I ever saw in a theater: a re-release of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in July 1993 at age 3 (soon followed by a beloved cult-classic of my generation, Hocus Pocus). As I grew older, I naturally gravitated towards anything cinematic: not only the films themselves, but the behind-the-scenes trivia, Hollywood politics and trends, awards season, film history, and the truly painstaking art of creating film. Much of my life revolves around this passion of mine: becoming an active member of the Utah Film Center and the Salt Lake Film Society; attending the Sundance Film Festival annually; poring over thick, cherished archival books chronicling film history; beginning my time at FilmBook, and, most recently, having won two tickets to the Oscars Red Carpet Fan Experience this past March through the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The bottom line is this: you can trust me when it comes to film.

Now, let’s get started:

This week’s wide theatrical releases pit one of Disney’s most-feared villains, Maleficent (2014), against the the creator of Family Guy and infamous 2013 Oscars host, Seth MacFarlane, in A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014), his directorial follow-up to Ted (2012).

Maleficent comes into play this weekend as the obvious choice to win the box office. Its marketing has relied heavily on Angelina Jolie, the still-bankable star whose last film (Salt) was four years ago. Her stock has risen since then, most notably garnering respect of men and women alike by sharing her choice to have a prophylactic mastectomy to avoid a most-assured breast cancer diagnosis in a NY Times op-ed a year ago. She’s got the acting chops to pull this role off, and audiences love to see an actress play against type. I viewed Maleficent last night, and it wasn’t pretty. I can tell you that the film’s marketing is misleading, unfortunately, and its true demographic target hasn’t hit puberty yet. Also, the film just isn’t that good; what has drawn people to Maleficent for fifty-five years – “her stature, presence, and measured menace” – are neutered to the point of heresy. What was Disney thinking? Sigh. Disney will still makes loads of money (ever heard of a little film called Frozen (2013)?), but having financed the film to the tune of $200 million, it better hope that the film doesn’t experience the dreaded second-weekend drop and/or bad word-of-mouth. Although the film is rated PG, it may frighten your young ones, so make sure to hire a babysitter if you choose to pay top-dollar for this mediocre letdown.

A Million Ways to Die in the West comes to us from forever-adolescent Seth MacFarlane. He wrote, directed, and stars in the film, a spoof of westerns, which don’t have a great modern track record in Hollywood. But Hollywood showed up anyway, and he’s accompanied by such stars as Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, and Sarah Silverman, all of them hoping, undoubtedly, that it will capitalize on the success of Ted. It’s geared toward the same audience and may provide an alternative to those – provided they are of age (the film is rated R) – who show up to see Maleficent only to find it sold out. The film has attempted to lure the Judd Apatow crowd with a few red-band trailers, but it’s also battling bad word-of-mouth and may struggle to rise against the tide even among its target demographic. You can read Film-Book’s review of it here.


The Bottom Line is this: when Seth MacFarlane laughs in the face of evil, don’t expect Maleficent to pity the fool.

Leave your thoughts on The Bottom Line, Maleficent, and A Million Ways to Die in the West below in the comments section. For more Maleficent and A Million Ways to Die in the West photos, videos, and information, visit our Maleficent and A Million Ways to Die in the West Pages, subscribe to us by Email, “follow” us on TwitterTumblr, or “like” us on Facebook.

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About the author

Drew Stelter

Drew is a 26-year-old film buff. A native Utahan, he attends the Sundance Film Festival annually. He is a member of the Salt Lake Film Society. In a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he attended the Oscars Red Carpet on March 2, 2014, after winning an essay contest through the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. At any given time he can be expected to be conversing via movie quote GIFs.

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