A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Not that I want to start sounding like a broken record but I’ve often thought Seth MacFarlane is my ideal man. He’s clearly hilarious, likes classic musicals and sings like fucking Frank Sinatra. Due in part to my continuing romantic delusions, I was very much looking forward to his latest film A Million Ways to Die in the West. To be honest though what isn’t there to be excited about? Wild West setting, Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron, and a shit ton of gratuitous violence: sounds ideal. 

A Million Ways to Die came about after an off the cuff remark about how shitty it would have been to live during this deadly time period. MacFarlane set about researching American history and a full script was created with the help of his regular collaborators, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. After the huge success MacFarlane and co had with Ted in 2012 there was a great deal of anticipation for this star studded follow-up. 

Unlike his decision with A Million Ways’ predecessor in which only his voice was featured, MacFarlane steps into centre stage and casts himself as our leading man. Albert is a mild mannered sheep farmer who is not only bad at his job but also ill suited for life in the Old West. After losing his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried) to his moustachioed nemesis Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), Albert challenges him to a gunfight. With some help from the mysterious and beautiful Anna (Charlize Theron) Albert montages his way to becoming a successful cowboy. 

Anyone who knows of MacFarlane’s back catalogue will know that his sense of humour often falls on the wrong side of crude or risqué. Unfortunately for A Million Ways, the humour also falls, at least predominantly, on the wrong side of lazy. There are a fair few laughs to be had along the way but there is little to get inspired by. The film has delusions of grandeur and believes itself to be something akin to Blazing Saddles. Sadly though, MacFarlane’s second-feature film just comes across as one of the dribbling patients in the corner of a mental hospital dreaming that they’re someone else. 

I doubt the humour is helped by MacFarlane’s performance. We all know he has a pretty tight grasp on comic timing but place him in a live setting and everything becomes awkward. He just looks uncomfortable on screen and there is never any sense that Albert is anything other than MacFarlane but surrounded by sheep. 

Thankfully the rest of the cast are on steadier ground and both Sarah Silverman, playing a pious prostitute, and Alex Borstein, as the whorehouse Madame, offer us some straight shooting comedy in an otherwise aimless affair. Also, for the limited time he gets to do anything, the great Liam Neeson is a standout as the fearsome gunslinger Clinch. However, he is relegated to an underused side note with no real drama and even fewer jokes. 

This isn’t the tightest script ever written and the action gets lost in a great deal of unnecessary subplots. Unfortunately, we are also presented with undeniable proof that MacFarlane’s trademark patchwork narratives doesn’t work in a normal full-length feature. There are some funny moments that pop in and out but the often take precedence over the main story. More effort is put into creating singular moments, sight gags and pop culture cameos than there was put into creating a clever and logical storyline. 

I wanted to like this film but ended up being incredibly disappointed. There was very little that I could celebrate in the end. Although, there is no denying that the visuals of A Million Ways are good enough to rival any classic Western and Joel McNeely’s musical score is something pretty magical. 

It’s just unfortunate that this whole project is just tainted by MacFarlane and co’s vanity post-Ted. It was a fun idea to begin with but it seems to have spiralled out of control. With a plot that makes several detours through Native American Communities and group dance routines and a leading man who is clearly overwhelmed by the role, A Million Ways to Die in the West just feels like an amateur film students hastily written Western parody which, for some stupid reason, wasted many of its greatest moments on the trailers.

R.I.P.D (2013)

R.I.P.D (2013)

It’s really difficult to like Ryan Reynolds these days. I’m sure that there’s a good actor in there somewhere but he just keeps agreeing to star in shitty films. Just take a look at some of his past credentials (The Green Lantern, The Change-Up, The Proposal, Just Friends, The Amityville Horror remake) and it’s a sorry list of bland blockbusters and insipid romantic-comedies. Certainly, it’s a huge change from his early days when his presence would be a welcome addition to any cast-list. These days it’s starting to look as though his two major talents seem to be his rock-hard abs and his ability to get blonde women to marry him. Surely there’s got to be something fantastic hidden away and he’s just waiting for the right film to come along? Unfortunately, that film was never going to be R.I.P.D. Yes, number 3 in this week’s surprise buddy-cop season. Upon release in the US it was universally panned by critics and even given the title of worst film of the year… even with a full 4 months worth of terrible films still to come. So of course I had to check this out for myself. It surely can’t be that bad… can it?


I can imagine just how the first pitch for the R.I.P.D script must have gone: “Well it’s like the type of film you’d get when you mix Men in Blackwith Ghostbusters starring that cowboy from the remake of True Grit, and the Green Lantern… oh and it’s based on a comic book.” You can see why it was snapped up. The world was crying out for a film focusing on the Rest in Peace Department: a supernatural law enforcement agency that hunts down those pesky deceased souls who just aren’t ready to call it quits yet.

It is the unfortunate Boston detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) who finds himself as the newest member of the secret group when he is killed on duty. I say on duty but he is actually killed by his despicable partner, Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon), after Nick gets cold-feet about the pair helping themselves to stolen gold. Rather than finding himself in whatever afterlife awaits him, Nick is recruited by Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker), given a special Deado killing gun and introduced to his new partner, Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges). Roy is straight out of the Wild West and a bit of a lone wolf. He reluctantly accepts his new partner and delights at throwing the rookie in at the deep-end. Which is where find themselves in possession of evidence pointing to a plot to bring utter chaos to the living world.
Instead of being a refreshing new take on the Men in Black format, R.I.P.Dis haphazard and certainly not breaking new ground. It’s the same old story that has been churned out in Hollywood time and time again: grizzled veteran cop meets cocky rookie in an utterly bewildering computer-generated world. The flimsy plot serves as a means to move the story forward but few of the characters or narrative components are given any time to develop beyond their basic function. It serves as nothing more than a means to hold together the various CGI sequences that are constantly being thrust in our faces.
A fact that would be less of a problem if the CGI was actually well-crafted. CGI has come a long way in recent years but R.I.P.D sets the entire area back at least 20 years. If it weren’t for the lead actors you could easily believe that this was an example of the plasticky creatures seen in films throughout the late 90s. Despite having a reportedly large budget, the effects just lack the polish of modern CGI and the longer sequences move at great speed in order to cover up these inadequacies. The downside is of course that everything just becomes so confusing and frantic that an audience will be unlikely to follow, let alone appreciate, any of the unfolding mischief.
Everything about this film just screams laziness. The script is littered with bland humour, awkward character interactions and general weirdness. When it comes down to it, R.I.P.D has only two real things going for it: Bridges and Parker are both fun to watch and do the best that they can with the material they are offered. She gives an interesting spin to the prim and proper manger figure and is the perfect foil to Bridges’ over-the-top Roy, who is pretty much an undead version of Rooster Cogburn. Bridges once again does his best cocky cowboy impression but whilst constantly being under threat of getting upstaged by his eyebrows and facial hair. He’s generally the most interesting character on screen (although that isn’t exactly a compliment in this crowd) and puts considerably more energy into the script than it really deserves. Constantly punctuating the lacklustre action with his physical comedy and comic timing, Bridges ensures that this film doesn’t fall on its face in the first 10 minutes.
Certainly it wouldn’t be able to hold itself up on the strength of Reynolds’ performance. He never really finds his place on screen and finds himself being consistently overshadowed, whether that’s by the much-more talented Bridges and Parker or the shocking CGI. Despite being the necessary plot-point that introduces the audience to the R.I.P.D, this film would have been much better off without Nick moaning about his death and mooning over his widow.  He has almost no personality and none of the stand-out material that Roy gets to play with. Kevin Bacon’s dismal villain aside, Nick is the most forgettable character in the entire movie… a huge triumph for both Reynolds and the writers considering just how long he is on screen for.
Overall, R.I.P.D. is a weak example of the action/comedy genre and will never stand-up against previous releases. It never finds high ground and offers a limp and rarely funny script, underdeveloped characters and awful visuals. Not even the energetic attempts of Jeff Bridges can breathe life into this film but, with the help of Mary-Louise Parker, he does offer some glimmers of joys to help you keep going. Whilst this may not be the “worst film of 2013”, it certainly isn’t making up for Hollywood’s recent filmic misfortunes. 
The Lone Ranger (2013)

The Lone Ranger (2013)

Just a few months ago, Quentin Tarantino was showing us exactly how you can update the old Western for a modern audience. However, it would show questionable parenting skills if you happily took your 10 year old with you to enjoy the bloody revenge saga. So this can only mean there is a gap in the market for a good, old fashioned family friendly narrative set in the Wild West, right? Well maybe but even if audiences were crying out for a new cowboy hero it certainly can’t have been the Lone Ranger. The original radio series started in 1933 and the television show was popular in the 50s. Not exactly the typical Disney demographic. Nobody has been patiently waiting for this character to get a new outing and, quite frankly, it was always going to be difficult to translate it for a modern world. This isn’t like getting the same freedom you would making a film out of a pirate theme park ride. With something like the Lone Ranger you are forced to stick to certain traditions… even the questionably racist ones. You have to ask who exactly were Disney creating this film for.

Although the answer to that is painfully obvious: Johnny Depp. After director Gore Verbinski put the idea into his head that he could play the Lone Ranger’s Native American sidekick there was no stopping him. We sat on the sidelines of a production full of drama with its apparently limitless budget, expanding schedule and almost free reign for one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. It’s a horrible example of everything that’s wrong with the industry: throwing money, CGI and big names together with the aim to make nothing more than a bucket load of cash. I’ll admit there was always a part of me that hoped this film would fail as it might start a chain of events to change all that. It is with only a slight amount of joy that it seems my wish was granted. The Lone Rangerwas torn apart by critics and opened to disappointing numbers in America. So have audiences simply fallen out of love with Johnny Depp or was it that the Lone Ranger, unlike other recent rebooted franchises, simply has no place in the heart of a modern audience?

The Lone Ranger, in the current cinematic tradition of origin stories, sets out to provide an insight into the histories of John Reid (played by Armie Hammer), the Texas lawyer who is about to become better known as the heroic Lone Ranger, and his devoted sidekick, Tonto. This back-story is clumsily placed within a framing narrative that takes place years later in 1933 as a young Lone Ranger fan is touring a museum in San Francisco. He wanders through the various Wild West exhibits before stopping to look at a dummy portraying ‘The Noble Savage in His Natural Habitat’. This dummy comes to life before his very eyes and, after orchestrating a swap to get his hands on the boy’s bag of nuts, reveals himself to be none other than Tonto (Johnny Depp in really terrible old man make-up). The elderly Tonto goes on to explain how he came to meet the Lone Ranger and, in doing so, reveal the story of the man behind the mask. This narrative, whilst not terrible, is probably fairly unnecessary. It adds little to film aside from the reference to 1933 and the year the radio series was first broadcast. If anything it just raises more questions. I mean what is Tonto doing there anyway? Am I meant to believe that a museum in San Francisco would hire the ex-sidekick of a legendary defender of justice to simply stand still for hours? Or is the director suggesting that they actually have possession of a magic Tonto mannequin? In reality the framing narrative is a way of giving Tonto more of a pivotal role and ensuring that the proceeding 36 hours of film (oh sorry was it actually only 149 minutes?) is as much (if not more) about the second fiddle as it is about the masked horseman himself.
As unnecessary as it may be, I don’t wish to suggest that this framing device is to blame for the painfully long running time. Really it adds as little to the length of the film as it does to anything else. No, the main problem is the same thing that was to blame for the messy production: self indulgence. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a big budget blockbuster that has such an inflated sense of self importance before. Verbinski can discuss as many of his cinematic influences as he wishes but, the fact is, this film takes far too long to get to where it’s going. It is always nice in an action packed blockbuster to have quieter moments to regroup and calm everything down but Verbinski is so keen to give his audiences time to breath that you could easily believe he’s found a way to make every second last for at least 2 minutes.
Then again this sedate storytelling would be less of a chore to sit through if we were dealing with a leading pair that had any kind of on screen chemistry. At times it feels as though Hammer and Depp were making two different films and, in an effort to create a final product, the two were simply stuck together during post-production. On the one hand, you have Hammer getting very little to do except talk about how much he loves the law, wear a mask, ride a horse, and do stupid things so Tonto can admonish him all the time. For a film that steals his name for its title, the Lone Ranger is quite clearly an after thought. Even the vaguely interesting moments, like his brother’s death and his love for his sister-in-law, are not given as much focus as they deserve. I’ve seen a fair amount of criticism for Hammer but I think he does the best he can with the material he was given. No longer the brilliant hero but instead something functional and horribly predictable.
There was never any point in pretending that this film was ever going to be primarily concerned with the man it should have been about. This was Depp’s show and he was the only one that mattered. Perhaps if Verbinski had gone down the Eddie Murphy route Depp could have played every character and the Lone Ranger would have ended up with more to do? To give him his dues, Depp is pretty strong in the role and provides a great deal of the films humour. Although, no matter how many comparisons you make to Tonto and Buster Keaton to distract people it will always be slightly uncomfortable to think that Depp is playing a Native American. He can bring up any number of Native American ancestors to justify it and discuss wanting his performance to bring about some form of justice as much as he wants. The fact remains that watching Johnny Depp parading around doing his best Captain Jack style performance whilst wearing a dead bird on his head and speaking in broken pidgin English doesn’t feel quite right. I understand that Depp has worked (I was initially going to write hard here but thought that statement was a bit too bold) to make Tonto a well-rounded character and give him a back-story of his own, which is a fantastic idea in theory. Making Tonto the driving force and brains behind the double act is a interesting idea but to suggest that Depp’s performance will erase years of misrepresentation is insanity. Coincidentally ‘insanity’ is also the answer to the question ‘how exactly does Depp flesh out the character?’ I can already feel the old wounds healing nicely.
This is a film that, like its co-stars, just doesn’t gel. It’s pretty schizophrenic to be honest. At times it tries to be the typical Disney children’s film full of immature humour and horses appearing in trees (seriously what were they thinking when it came to that fucking horse?). The next moment focuses on a man ripping out and eating the heart of his nemesis. So what is this film? Is it a big budget family film, a dark and gruesome tale of life in the Wild West, a romance or is it a campaign to fight the wrongs done to Native Americans? Well why bother deciding on just one theme when you can cram it all in together. This film changes tone quicker than the guy Katy Perry was singing about in Hot n Coldchanges his mind for fucks sake. It tries to master everything yet barely succeeds in establishing a single idea. Forever fighting against itself and never quite reaching anything it strives to be for fear of pushing it too far away from everything else.
With a shorter running time and a much clearer focus I’m almost certain that this film would have been given a warmer welcome by both critics and audiences alike. For there are some things to actually get excited about here. The rest of the cast come across fairly well during the rare moments when Depp ceases to be the main focus on screen. Helen Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, and William Fichtner are all given a small amount of space to show their considerable talents but they, like the criminally underused Ruth Wilson, deserved to get more material to really get to grips with their characters.
On top of this, the film is as beautiful to watch as you would expect a film that has had so much money thrown at it to be. The backdrop is the most pure and traditional Western setting and becomes a key character in its own right. It’s amazing and the design is just exquisite. Added to that are some rather exciting action sequences including not one but two train showdowns. If you ignore some of the more questionable computer generated moments (for example the rooftop ride of the masked avenger on horseback which stood out as some of the worst CGI around at the moment) the final chase, set to Hans Zimmer’s reworking of The William Tell Overture, is pretty darn good. If Verbinski had focused on more moments like this instead of padding out the story with excess detail and history this film would have been the ideal Summer blockbuster.

So all in all not quite the horrible mess that I was hoping for but there is no doubt that this film is really far from perfection. An overly long, confused and egotisticalfilm whose impressive backdrop and allusions to the past are not enough to push a mediocre narrative out of the shadows. If a film’s basic function is to entertain then The Lone Ranger, despite a selection of impressive set pieces and performances, doesn’t always manage to deliver let alone surpass this primary aim. Whilst I’m still unconvinced that The Lone Rangerneeded to be made, this film has suggested that in the hands of better film-makers the source material could have been crafted into a Western feast for all the family to enjoy.
Django Unchained (2012)

Django Unchained (2012)

There is no way anyone with a deep knowledge of film can ignore the influences that have prepared the director for his latest work and there are plenty of sneaky in jokes for them to pick up on. The film would comfortably sit within the history of blaxploitation cinema (with links to films like 1975’s Mandigo amongst others) and, no matter what Tarantino tries to tell us with his talk of “Southerns”, there is little to suggest that Django Unchained would be uncomfortable within the world of Spaghetti Westerns. From the opening credits using the old Columbia logo to the blood-red titles and the whip zooms, the whole thing screams Western. There is an obvious homage to the 1966 film Django thanks to the use of the theme song over the opening titles and a brief cameo by the original Django’s Franco Nero. The final credits of the film utilises music from another influence They Call Me Trinity from 1970. The two films have dramatically different tones with Django being a gruesomely violent melodrama whilst Trinity is a more comic affair where the hero prefers to forgo violence for cheekiness. These two pieces of music sum up the slightly bipolar tone of Tarantino’s latest historical epic. We are treated to an outrageously violent, gruesome Western/blaxploitation hybrid alongside a keen sense of comedy and fun. Although, is this kind of duality the correct setting for a film dealing with such a controversial and risqué topic?

Django Unchainedopens to find our hero, scarred but not yet broken, chained to his fellow slaves before a life changing encounter with German born bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). In need of Django’s help to track down three of his targets, the eloquent stranger offers him the chance to be free. Luckily the recently released slave proves to be a natural at this killing for money malarkey and they go into business together. Years in captivity don’t really seem like the usual training ground for a gifted assassin but Django could easily be up there with the best bounty hunters; standing as an equal alongside Rick Deckard, Boba Fett and Dog. The films first act, following Django and Schultz chasing bounties across the snow covered mountains and plains of Tennessee is incredibly enjoyable and, though not all of it is relevant, is full of genuinely funny moments. Their brief encounter with an inept band of the KKK is pure Mel Brooks.

It is during his winter as a professional killer that Schultz discovers his companion is married to fellow slave, Broomhilda (a mishearing of the German Brünnhilde by her ignorant subsequent captors). The pair was separated as part of a cruel punishment after an escape attempt so, with the help of his new friend, Django vows to free his love (Kerry Washington). This takes them into Texas to Candyland, the plantation owned by the despicable Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), where slaves are forced to fight to the death for their owner’s amusement and punishments include being torn apart by dogs. Not that it were really necessary but the audience are given a sneak peek into the future narrative thanks to Schultz’s retelling of the old German myth of Brünnhilde and Siegfried. It becomes clear that Django must become a real-life Siegfried and slay the dragon that holds his wife captive.
Jamie Foxx gives a great performance as our hero and fits the part perfectly. He has all the needed swagger and cockiness that is necessary for the leading man in a good Western. He takes to the role of the avenger cowboy with ease and he looks every bit as heroic and deadly as any cowboy thanks to his cool leather costume and shades. He has the swagger and the bravado but he has the all-important heart and just cause that even his more inhumane actions seem acceptable. However, he is surrounded by much better characters so he often seems like something of a bit-player in his own story. Foxx plays Django deadpan which often jars with his more laidback cohort. His is a very serious story sure but he often comes across as too serious and straight that he gets lost.
For it is his companion that demands much of our attention for the first half of the film as Christoph Waltz is simply incredible as Schultz. He shares director Quentin Tarantino’s love of long, flowing dialogue and he delivers his beautifully formed speeches with ease and a certain amount of glee. It is here that we see an obvious separation from traditional Westerns, which put the focus on action above words. Whilst Clint Eastwood went through the script to A Fistful of Dollars removing dialogue, you can easily believe Tarantino went through his adding more in. As you would expect there is a shedload of extreme violence in Django but it is with words that the real conflicts are fought. The key showdowns between our two heroes and their villainous counterparts only go to highlight their immeasurable skill to offer up a fantastic speech. It is words that are important here and notably the vast majority of the white Americans portrayed here are dim-witted and inarticulate.
Well, all but the disturbing and seemingly charming Calvin Candie who portrays himself as the perfect Southern Dandy whilst he simultaneously forces his slaves to fight to the death. DiCaprio really lets go as Candie and sinks to the utter depths of depravity and villainy. It’s spectacular and wouldn’t have worked had he been too afraid to go that far. Candie is one of Django’s greatest pleasures. He is the childish dictator controlling his vast empire when he’s not having a tantrum because someone failed to call him Monsieur. He is portrayed perfectly and goes to highlight that DiCaprio is only getting better. Candie has the sugary sweet outer layer of Southern charm and civility to hide his dark and poisonous centre. Whenever he is on screen there is a very real threat of violence. The dinner table scene that takes place at Candyland is all the evidence you need to show just how volatile this Southern dandy is. It’s a fantastic scene made all the more impressive thanks to DiCaprio’s injury during filming.
However, as awful as Candie is he probably isn’t even the main villain of the piece. Alongside him is his faithful servant Stephen (Samuel L Jackson), an awful Uncle Tom figure who limps after Candie like the slave owner’s own evil Igor. Jackson plays this role in a way that you can accept no other actor could pull off. Stephen appears as the world-worn, white-haired and limping old slave but there is little doubt how much power he holds. Stephen knows how to work the system. He has the brains and the anger to keep all of Candyland in check. Interestingly, it is only Stephen who is able to see beyond Schultz’s artistry with words that provides a mask to his true identity. Whilst his counterpart Django prefers to shoot first and ask questions later, Stephen prefers to see people slowly suffer whilst letting other people carry out his dirty work. Samuel L Jackson does a wonderful job and, along with Waltz and DiCaprio, easily takes focus away from our more reserved hero who often falls into the background.
But what a background it is. Thanks to the work of cinematographer Robert Richardson, who was last seen winning the Oscar for his work on Hugo (a film so beautiful I cried because of the opening shot – FACT!), Django Unchained is an absolutely stunning film. With some amazing shots of picturesque mountains and Southern plains this films is constantly offering a treat for your eyes. These visuals play alongside Tarantino’s use of cinematic clichés like crazy zooms and grainy flashbacks to ensure the end results are incredibly stylish and fresh.
Django Unchainedis Tarantino’s first film since the death of Sally Menke his long-time collaborator which could explain its ever so slightly rough finish. The slave’s road to retribution is a long one with the running time reaching 168 minutes and it doesn’t quite have the overall polish that Inglorious Basterds did. There are a few plot strands and cameo appearances that don’t really go anywhere. (I’m mostly thinking of the mystery behind the woman with the red bandana. What was that about?) Don’t get my wrong, it is fantastic to listen to characters lose themselves in lavish runaway speeches but it does drag everything out a fair bit, especially when it has the tendency to repeat itself. Whilst I did not necessarily find the film lagging a great deal I couldn’t help but feel that it could have been sharper and more refined.
Still I’m not really complaining. I thoroughly enjoyed Django and was kept engrossed in the narrative for the entire 2 hours 45 minute running time. In fact, my only real criticism was the director’s misjudged cameo towards the end of the film. There has been much debate about the use of violence in the film. Of course violence is a major focus for the narrative but it is played out in such an over-the-top way that it simply feels cartoonish. Django’s quest for revenge results in much death and bloodshed but it is so ridiculously unrealistic (it’s the sort of violence that you see in GTA where you shoot a man in the head and it explodes) that it simply adds to the comic effect and the reference to old fashioned Westerns. It’s all relative and in keeping with Tarantino’s main aim. I think it works.
As for the suitability question, I’m not sure. I think there is a sense that the two tones of the film (comic and dramatic) don’t play well with such a big topic. Placing such horrific and realistic acts of violence towards slaves alongside the indulgent and silly deaths of everyone who crosses Django’s path maybe doesn’t sit well. However, Tarantino isn’t attempting to give us a thought-provoking new insight into slavery in America. Instead he has gone back to that time and, in his typical bloody and brash style, has decided to show it what he thinks of it. And perhaps that is exactly how the issue of slavery should be dealt with in Hollywood. What better way to show the absurdity and horror of slavery than placing it in a loud, extremely bloody, self-indulgent and completely ridiculous narrative? We all know that slavery is bad at this point so why allow it to have any more credence by dealing with it in a sophisticated and reserved manner? Let’s just shoot all the bad guys, throw fake blood over everything and blow shit up. This isn’t Taranino’s well thought out argument against slavery. This is him saying ‘slavery sucks so let’s have some fun at its expense’. And fun, dear reader, I did have.
I’m glad I liked Django Unchained because it means I can end on this soundbite: Django Unchained is off the chain. Oh yeah!