Seth MacFarlane

Sherman

While it’s sold as a comedic Western, A Million Ways to Die in the West is not a very good Western at all. Oh, it may take place in the 19th century American frontier and feature pistol duels, saloon brawls and farming, but its story is completely 21st century romance. The movie is your standard “nice guy loses girl, tries to win her back and discovers a much better girl in the process” affair. The setting is nothing but window dressing. It isn’t even exploited for very many jokes, good or otherwise — and most of the jokes are bad. But there’s one upside to this misaimed move on the part of writer/director/star Seth MacFarlane. He’s put himself in similar thematic territory with an already existing film. And that film does relationships and humor much, much better. Sherman’s March is a supremely strange piece of work. Originally, director Ross McElwee set out to retrace the route General Tecumseh Sherman took on his March to the Sea during the Civil War. Sherman earned the eternal enmity of the American South by ruthlessly razing everything in his army’s path. But McElwee wreaks a very different kind of destruction, endless self-scrutiny. Early on in production, his girlfriend dumped him, and the documentary became something new. In the film, he interviews his family and friends, with a special emphasis on the women he has known and tried (and/or failed) to romance. This offbeat journey takes him and the people he meets through a wide variety of 1980s subject matter, from nuclear war to the career of Burt Reynolds. […]

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Seth MacFarlane in A Million Ways to Die in the West

You might think that Seth MacFarlane would be the perfect guy to make the boldest Western comedy since Blazing Saddles. After 40 years there’s still no topping Mel Brooks there in terms of genre parody, historical satire, sharp political incorrectness as social statement or even the lowbrow humors of slapstick, raunch and gross-out gags. But MacFarlane, who tackles all those areas of comedy in his TV series and movies, doesn’t even come close to being Brooks’ successor with his sophomore directorial effort, A Million Ways to Die in the West. What starts out as a funny guide to the Wild West and, as the title suggests, how dangerous that time and place was, the movie nosedives with a foregrounded rom-com plot, an underdeveloped and unnecessary villain and a retread of jokes recycled from the first few minutes. For an example of that last fault, and this is by far the worst offender, Giovanni Ribisi plays a guy whose girlfriend, played by Sarah Silverman, is a prostitute. She won’t have sex with him, though, because they’re Christians and are waiting for marriage. That’s a fine joke as an introduction to their characters, not terribly original but still played well and to the extreme with Silverman’s trademark smuttiness. But that winds up being their actual narrative arc, their only true purpose in the movie, so the constant bits where she tells him about her day at work and the gags involving what body fluids of her customers are still in her hair for him to find during their […]

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Life of Larry

Why Watch? For his student thesis at RISD, Seth MacFarlane created a cartoon short film featuring a schlubby guy, his sarcastic dog best friend, sweet wife named Lois and their fat son. Naturally, MacFarlane did almost all of the voices. The cartoon was called The Life of Larry, and its status as clear precursor to Family Guy goes far beyond the synopsis. The gags, the patter, the obsession with Star Trek and bizarre political commentary. It’s all here like an unvarnished artifact buried in hand-drawn ground. In a way, it’s like watching old stand-up routines from Jim Carrey in his too-big sport coat, where the jokes and rhythms are still raw, but the DNA for future success is clearly at work. It’s also fascinating to see a creator stick so directly to a project (not to mention a student film) that he’d massage it into a network show 5 years later. There’s a sense that he basically got it right on the first try, inventing what would become a ridiculously popular show the first year he could legally drink.

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death row stories cnn

Yesterday, Landon wrote about how serial television, particularly miniseries and ongoing shows working with closed season-long narratives and involving the prestigious talent of great film directors, are providing us with the best “movies” of today. The focus, once again, is on the current new “golden age” of TV, which for the most part has been limited to fiction programming. But what about nonfiction? Unfortunately, that other side of the small screen has remained for the most part in the rut of lowbrow and cookie cutter reality shows with few traditional exceptions here and there. This year could see nonfiction television joining its counterpart, though, as some are pointing out that 2014 is already filling up with highly anticipated new documentary series from prominent filmmakers and other major personalities. It’s in some of these shows that you’ll find the true true detectives in the new era of quality television. This Sunday night brings the premieres of two of these docu-series: Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, on Fox, and Death Row Stories, on CNN. The former is a 13-part sequel to the popular 1980 PBS miniseries Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which starred Carl Sagan and provided a sort of layman’s guide to everything then known about the universe. Sagan, who was the celebrity astrophysicist of the time and who passed away in 1996, has been replaced with host Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is now the celebrity astrophysicist of our time. The goal is for something even more mainstream in its presentation of scientific concepts, and the prominent filmmaker […]

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Amanda Seyfried

Lovelace and Les Misérables actress Amanda Seyfried has been tapped to join Mark Wahlberg in Seth MacFarlane’s Ted 2. 2012’s Ted, which featured Wahlberg as best friends with an anthropomorphic, filthy-mouthed stuffed bear, voiced by MacFarlane, scored big with audiences, becoming the highest grossing R-rated film of the year, and also the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever, nailing a final box office haul of 549.4 million dollars worldwide. Markedly absent from the conversation is MacFarlane collaborator Mila Kunis, voice of Meg Griffin on his Fox animated series Family Guy, and co-star of Wahlberg in the previous film as Mark’s love interest, Lori Collins. From what has been reported, there’s no conflict between the Black Swan actress and her network television boss, but rather, MacFarlane has simply decided to take the story in a new creative direction. There is still a chance she will appear in a limited role, but as the story is still being plotted, nothing can be definitively confirmed just yet.

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Can Seth MacFarlane carry a film to which he lends more than just his voice? Where his whole personage appears onscreen, rather than just his voice? We won’t find out for a few months, but this first trailer for his A Million Ways to Die in the West plays it very safe. Just in case MacFarlane’s charisma doesn’t extend beyond his voice, that damn talking bear still shows up for a few seconds. It’s just long enough to make a hand sex joke and then beat a hasty retreat. The millions upon millions of bros who saw Ted can rest easy. But unlike Ted, where MacFarlane more or less transplanted his Family Guy shtick into a bear-shaped package and called it a day, A Million Ways to Die calls upon the funnyman to venture outside his usual crass voice-acting turf. Here, he neither sounds nor acts like any of his staple cartoon character personas; instead, he’s Albert, a meek and unassuming sheep farmer in the old West. Albert shies away from a gunfight and loses his girlfriend  in the process. Yet when a new love (Charlize Theron) comes along, Albert sheds his cowardly exterior and begins learning the ways of the manly-man cowboy- that is, until her husband (Liam Neeson) rides into town, vowing revenge.

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Mark-Wahlberg-and-Seth-MacFarlane-in-Ted

Copying and pasting Seth MacFarlane‘s Family Guy schtick into the mouth of a teddy bear was an idea worth a half-billion dollars at the box office. With that in mind, it’s not surprising in the slightest that MacFarlane would be at it again, and thanks to Twitter, we can put an official stamp on things. When asked about a Ted sequel, Macfarlane had this to say: RT @JohnnyMctardo: @SethMacFarlane when is Ted 2? // We’re aiming for a 2015 Passover release date. — Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) August 14, 2013 Knowing MacFarlane, it’s easy to assume this was just a cheap shot at members of the tribe, but Screen Crush has confirmed that this is the real release date (in 2015, the first night of Passover is April 3, so that seems to line up). Those who enjoy MacFarlane’s particular brand of mockery are probably high-fiving at this very moment. Those who don’t have surely learned to ignore him at this point, so unless Ted 2 goes on to win a wheelbarrow full of Oscars, this shouldn’t be too painful. Presumably Mark Wahlberg will return, along with a plethora of jokes aimed at every race, creed, and color under the sun.

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Keri Russell

What is Casting Couch? Casting news, all in a list. Yesterday we asked the question of who would be playing the egotistical front man in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s next film, Birdman. Today we already have our answer, and it happens to be a familiar face. The casting for Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes seems to be coming along nicely. Not only does he have Andy Serkis coming back from the first film to play the ape leader, Caesar, but he’s also been picking up some talented folk to round out the human side of the equation as well. Recently he’s signed Jason Clarke, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Gary Oldman, and now Variety is reporting that you can also add Dark Skies star Keri Russell to the list. Reeves and Russell have worked together before, as he was the co-creator of J.J. Abrams television drama Felicity, which was her first big break. Their’s is a pairing that’s worked well in the past, so long as Russell has kept a healthy head of springy locks, so let’s hope that Apes doesn’t call for Caesar to take any of the human characters prisoner and give them haircuts. One shaved head could ruin the momentum of the whole franchise.

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Oscars

As the roar of responses to Sunday’s Oscar ceremony dies down, it’s important to keep in mind that the award, while not nearly the only avenue to cultural immortality, is still important to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars and untold cache with movie-loving audiences. Film is the center, the core beneath all the bright lights and flash, but it would be foolish to think that the production itself doesn’t lend credence to the weight of the award and, thus, the weight of the propulsion that the statue can lend to the names inside the envelopes. But the landscape is changing. There are other awards developing their own prestige, the way we watch movies is shifting, and audiences are diversifying far beyond where the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can currently manage. Since the future is unclear, we need an expert. Someone who knows what the future holds. Fortunately, I know someone.  I’ve called upon a media expert named Molly (using Kurzweilian technology) who lives and works in the year 2023 to talk about the Oscar ceremony they just watched and what we past-dwellers might expect to see in the next ten years.

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Oscars Zizek

When Seth MacFarlane, creator of The Cleveland Show and director of the “Pitch” segment of Movie 43, had to bow out of his Oscar-hosting duties at the last minute as a result of a mild case of whooping cough, ABC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences raised eyebrows when they chose Slovenian philosopher Slovoj Zizek at the last minute to sub in as host of the annual ceremony regularly watched by over 40 million Americans. While an obscure name in most American households and an unlikely choice to emcee the 85th Annual Academy Awards, Zizek is a celebrity in academic circles known for his provocative critiques of Marx and Lacan as well as his prolific production of monographs including Welcome to the Desert of the Real, Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism, and The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity. The typically abstruse scholar turned out to be one of the most entertaining and downright stressful hosts the Oscars have featured in decades, besting recent standard-bearers like James Franco and Paul Hogan. Zizek avoided typical decorum as he strutted out on the stage to tepid applause, wearing a baggy pair of jeans and a brown T-shirt with a discernible ring of sweat under the neckline. It wouldn’t be until the closing song and dance number with Kristin Chenoweth that he deigned to put on a tux.

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Nicolas Cage

What is Casting Couch? It’s your daily dose of casting news. Today we find out what Helena Bonham Carter is up to with McNulty. It’s that time of the month again. What time? When Nic Cage takes another job, of course. You’ve got to feed the monkey. This time around he’s agreed to star in an upcoming thriller from Spanish director Paco Cabezas called Tokarev. According to Deadline, it’s about a former criminal whose daughter gets kidnapped, which forces him to go looking for her kidnappers, and threatens to make him slip back into his devilish old ways. None of the particulars really matter as long as Cage is going to have some sort of ridiculous hairdo and act all weird and intense and stuff though. All we needed to know was new Nic Cage movie. High five!

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Tom Hardy

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news roundup that’s bursting at the seams after Hollywood had a very gabby twenty-four hours. Dig in. Tom Hardy: quite simply, he’s awesome. But can he do a Russian accent? We’re likely to find out now that he’s signed up to co-star alongside the also awesome Noomi Rapace in a new film called Child 44. Deadline reports that this one is about a Soviet war hero who uncovers a mass murder and is suddenly faced with doubts about the country he’s spent his life believing in and fighting for. Michael R. Roskam will be directing the film, which is an adaptation of the first in a trilogy of Tom Rob Smith novels. So, if you like bleak Soviet Union-set murder stories, you might be getting sequels!

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Lucille Ball Milkshake

During a conversation about television icons, a buddy of mine said that Matthew Perry is on track to achieve legendary status (and she wasn’t talking about his legendary knack for starring on shows that get canceled). Lucille Ball, Andy Griffith, Carol Burnett, Matthew Perry–one of these things is not like the others. What this friend of mine failed to understand is that there is a difference between an icon and someone who is simply a prolific and perhaps beloved television actor, a difference that may be harder to identify when it comes to this medium than it is with film. Perry certainly possess many of the qualities that go in to making an icon–he’s charismatic, his particular set of comedic gifts are perfectly suited for the sitcom format, he’s been on TV for as long as I can remember. But he (on his own and not as a member of the Friends cast) hasn’t had the same kind of impact on the medium or the culture that someone like Jerry Seinfeld has–Seinfeld’s influence is still felt today in shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and he is so cherished by the public that we don’t hold The Marriage Ref against him. So, if not Perry, who is poised to join the pantheon of TV gods?

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Drinking Games

When you grew up, did you have that special toy that you believed was actually alive? We all did, but usually those toys didn’t follow us into adulthood, at least not for those of us who aren’t schizophrenic. Seth MacFarlane explores what would happen if that toy grew up like you did, probably having more sex and smoking way more pot than you do, in the film Ted. Available on DVD and Blu-ray this week, Ted pours raunchy jokes and inappropriate humor. Knock back a couple during the course of this film, and you might just believe that your teddy bear can talk. Knock back more than a couple, and you might just believe that you’re in the Flash Gordon film from the 1980s. Either way, it will be a magical night. (And if you feel up to it, you can watch that movie and play our Flash Gordon drinking game, too.)

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Seth MacFarlane

Even though Seth MacFarlane’s animated shows for Fox, Family Guy and American Dad, have been hugely successful, MacFarlane himself still gets a lot of guff from critics for his shows being too formulaic and his talent being overstated. He relies too much on pop culture references and absurdist asides, people say. All of his characters’ voices sound the same, people say. But, in the last year or so, we’ve really seen MacFarlane take the first few steps toward branching out and proving that he has more to offer the entertainment industry than his critics would suggest. The biggest step toward that goal was proving that he can write and direct a successful feature film with Ted. Despite a few dissenting voices complaining that MacFarlane’s voice for Ted’s CG teddy bear sounded too much like his voice for Peter Griffin, most everyone was in agreement that MacFarlane had directed one of the year’s best feature comedies, and the box office results more than backed its positive reviews up. Ted brought in about ten times the coin that it cost to make. Suddenly, MacFarlane finds himself in the elite club of being a money-making filmmaker, and a whole new world of possibilities has opened up for him. So what’s he going to do with his newfound clout? Not rest on his laurels, that’s for sure. Not only is he all set to host this year’s Academy Awards, which should boost his profile in the culture even higher, but now THR is reporting […]

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Magic Mike

It feels more and more like we’re on the cusp of a cultural change in the types of movies that studios make. Or, at least, there are more signs that studios should be paying attention to. This week’s edition of Movies Aren’t Just For Teenage Boys comes in the form of a record-breaking R-rated feat. As the LA Times points out, Ted and Magic Mike (which sounds like a morning radio show duo) have become the first R-rated movies to open on the same weekend with more than $21m a piece. And they made a lot more than that. Ted scored $54.1m, and Magic Mike came in second with $39.2m. Seth MacFarlane‘s directorial debut featuring a totally ethical teddy bear had a near even split with 56% of its audience being men, but women dominated Magic Mike with 73%. So here it is, studios. Proof that adults go to movies, that they enjoy strippers, and that women buy tickets too. Maybe these aren’t the high-minded examples that everyone would have hoped for, but they display a challenge to the new-found wisdom that toys and comic book properties are the only way to make money with moving pictures.

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Seth MacFarlane is one of those hit-or-miss type guys who seems to have been missing a lot more than hitting lately. Though his big TV show, Family Guy, started off well, the most recent seasons have succumbed to format fatigue. The show’s penchant for cutting away to complete non sequiturs has worn out its welcome and, even worse, it’s committed the cardinal sin of comedy – it’s just not funny anymore. Add to that his attempts to recapture the original Family Guy magic with shows like American Dad and its spin-off The Cleveland Show, and it would be easy to say that MacFarlane is kind of stuck in a rut. So why not try a feature film? MacFarlane’s predominantly a TV guy, and one who’s been down on his laughs recently so, despite its hilarious trailers, the odds seemed to be stacked against his new film Ted. In case you happened to have missed the aforementioned hilarious trailers, Ted is a movie about a young boy who wishes for his teddy bear to come to life. John Bennett is not exactly the most popular kid on the block. Even the little Jewish kid who gets his ass kicked every day hates John Bennett. The poor kid just doesn’t have any friends. So when his parents give him a big stuffed teddy bear for Christmas, he names it Ted and wishes that Ted could come to life and be his best friend forever.

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Summertime at the cinema is most commonly associated with big budget action and adventure movies, and this summer is no exception. But amidst the bombastic blockbusters there are also a few big name comedies to look forward to including Dark Shadows, That’s My Boy and Neighborhood Watch. One of the most anticipated though just might be Seth MacFarlane’s feature directorial debut, Ted. The movie stars Mark Wahlberg as John, a man whose best friend is a walking and talking teddy bear named Ted. The furry beast originally came to life during tough times in John’s childhood, and now the pair are roommates. Others can see and hear Ted too, and when John starts to get serious with a cute girl (Mila Kunis) his relationship with the bear begins to complicate the romance. Check out the red-band trailer below.

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Although the real question keeping Hollywood awake in 2012 is “Does Winston Wolf clean up dead hookers on Yom Kippur?”, the fine folks over at HitFix have put forth a handful of queries of varying importance which filmmakers, studios and fans might have on their minds this year. It’s their 15 Questions Keeping Hollywood Awake in 2012. With concerns from Lindsay Lohan’s possible last chance to Joss Whedon’s first real shot with The Avengers, it’s an intriguing list that might prove 2012 to be both an endlessly fascinating and completely irrelevant year in the stories behind the movies. Will Smith, Found Footage, Hunger Games, Dark Knight Rises and more. HitFix has questions, and here are the answers:

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that has no problem closing out another fine week of coverage. Why? Because it’s got a hot and heavy weekend planned with its new girlfriend, Siri. It even used her to book a quality hotel, make restaurant reservations and order adult party props. You know, just in case she’s into that sort of thing. We open this fine, crisp Friday evening with a shot of Ecto-1, the vehicle driven by everyone’s favorite guys to call if you is, in fact, afraid of some ghosts. It was captured by our friends at Primer Magazine at the Arclight in Los Angeles in celebration of Ghostbusters returning to theaters. It’s one of four original production cars used in the films, fully restored to its former glory. And glorious, it is.

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