Anna (CHARLIZE THERON) and Albert (SETH MACFARLANE) try not to die at the fair in “A Million Ways to Die in the West”, the new comedy from director, producer and co-writer MacFarlane, who plays a formerly cowardly sheep farmer who must put his newfound courage to the test. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures Copyright: ¬© 2014 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
1 Seth MacFarlane’s loopy cowboy farce “A Million Ways to Die in the West” gives us a sarcastic, modern-minded hipster in an 1880s Western town. This raunchy, affectionate parody has a classic frame, with grandiose Monument Valley cinematography and a sweeping symphonic Western score. There’s also a story, a rarity in this era of arbitrary, chaos-driven comedies. A knock-kneed yellow-belly (MacFarlane) has to man up and confront the Arizona territory’s deadliest gunslinger (Liam Neeson). It’s good to see serious actors like Neeson and Charlize Theron letting their hair down and still carrying every scene they’re in.
2 Kiss fans know by now they have little reason to watch HBO’s “2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony,” but Nirvana worshipers really can’t miss the overdue telecast of the April 10 marathon, which finally premiered over the weekend. The smartly played all-female Kurt Cobain tribute with Lorde, Joan Jett, Kim Gordon and St. Vincent (left) hits almost as hard musically as it does emotionally. There’s a similar perfect balance to the dramatic Linda Ronstadt montage. Cat Stevens, the E Street Band, Peter Gabriel and Hall & Oates also get inducted with mildly intriguing results.
3 Ammon Shea’s “Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation” is an eye-opening examination of pet peeves of grammar and usage — split infinitives, prepositions, the modern habit of turning nouns into verbs (such as “I will office”). As it turns out, many of these egregious violations of language aren’t violations at all. Shea discovered not only that “impact” has been used as a verb since the 17th century, but also that Dan Quayle wasn’t necessarily wrong when he added that extra “e’’ to the end of the word “potato.”
4 Maybe it was unloading all that baggage in his autobiography or putting together the best band of his career, but Bob Mould is officially on a tear again. The ex-Minnesotan of Hüsker Dü and Sugar indie-rock fame came roaring back with 2012’s “Silver Age” and went straight off the road into the studio with bassist Jason Narducy and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster to craft “Beauty & Ruin.” From the melodic “Forgiveness” to the Motörhead-like “Little Glass Pill,” it’s more varied than its predecessor but no less vicious. Out Tuesday.
5 Bachelorette parties have long been ripe for the kind of woozily surreal sendup that playwright Adam Bock delivers in “The Drunken City” at a found space in a St. Paul apartment complex. The play makes palpable the jitters a woman feels over her impending nuptials. There are so many small but potent things in this 75-minute one-act that a frequent theatergoer can find himself thinking that this Dark & Stormy production is more than it actually is. But the performances are outstanding, especially relative newcomer Adelin Phelps. darkstormy.org
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