Archives for posts with tag: Western

Grade A

From the talented and eccentric mind of Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained” is a violent, surreal story of an ex-slave (Jamie Foxx) teaming up with an extremely well-spoken bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to get back the wife of Foxx who was sold to a barbaric slave owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).   This being a Tarantino movie, going from point A to point B is done in an unconventional way which makes it hard for the audience to guess exactly what happens to the main characters (this is a good thing).  Along the journey, we are treated to Tarantino’s style of writing and directing: mimicking some camera movements of the 1970s; copying the look of the film stock of the 1970s; and the rich, expansive, mostly witty  dialogue.

Although Waltz and Foxx are the main characters, it is the relationship between DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson (DiCaprio’s head slave) that is the most interesting.  The roles of master and slave seem to switch back and forth at various times, and I believe many viewers will be very puzzled by this; but it’s really simple — the DiCaprio and Jackson characters go way back, and the decades spent living together obviously led to a mutual respect, trust and love for each other.  They have essentially become father and son.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Django Unchained” is the scene when Foxx is hanging upside down, completely helpless; and one of the bad guys is about to castrate Foxx using a red hot knife!

Tarantino fans won’t be disappointed with this movie, as it has everything you’d expect from a movie written/directed by him.  Although part satire, and therefore cannot be completely taken seriously overall, the movie’s depictions of punishments of slaves are very disturbing; and disturbing people is something Tarantino doesn’t shy away from.

— M

 

Grade B

Director Antoine Fuqua teams up again with Denzel Washington to remake “The Magnificent Seven,” a story of farmers and miners who are being forced out by a rich, vicious gold miner (played by Peter Sarsgaard).  Those who take Sarsgaard’s deal are given the short end of the stick; those who refuse the deal will wish they had taken the deal.   But a handful take an alternative route: hire their own gunmen to fight Sarsgaard and his henchmen.

The townspeople end up with seven hired men: a peace officer extremely fast with a pistol; a sneaky gambler who likes to use magic to get the upper hand on his enemies; a notorious killer; a sharpshooter; an Asian who is fast with guns and knives; a legendary tracker; and a Native American deadly with a longbow.  Seven against a hundred.  But the seven have an edge…they have time to fortify the town and set up their defenses; and they have dozens of civilians at their disposal to train and help in the upcoming fight.  The good guys are confident of their chances to win; unfortunately, Sarsgaard has his own surprise for the seven and the rest of the townsfolk.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Magnificent Seven” is the scene when Sargaard brings out a Gatling Gun (an early machine-gun) to bring hell to those who dared oppose him.  This scene gives a major wow factor, and it also gives its biggest shenanigan.  Why did Sarsgaard wait until his men were getting their asses kicked to bring out his special weapon?  Also, at the range the Gatling Gun was used for in this movie, I wonder how effective the bullets would have been once they reach the town.

The Western movie, as far as I know, is an art form originally created in America.  As long as entertaining movies such as “The Magnificent Seven” keep getting made every few years, this American art form will never die.

— M

“The Warrior’s Way” combines somewhat successfully the Western and Samurai movies.  Only Dong-gun Jang doesn’t play a Samurai — he plays a ninja.  After wiping out all but one of a rival clan (a baby girl), Jang has a change of heart and decides to let the girl live.  Of course, this makes his own clan, The Sad Flutes, very upset, and they now target Jang and the girl for termination.  Jang goes to the American West with the girl, where he encounters a small town populated by circus freaks, a sniper who swore to never pick up a gun again, a woman (Kate Bosworth) whose family was murdered by bandits, and assorted rubes and rednecks.

There are two sets of enemies that add tension and drama to “The Warrior’s Way”: the bandits, numbering about 50 to 100; and about 3 dozen Sad Flutes.  It should be one hell of a battle and one hell of a movie; and it sort of, kind of is, but it ultimately fails.  And here are the reasons why.

“The Warrior’s Way” is not a completely serious movie.  Rough guess…it’s 30% comedy.  Most of the comedy blends decently with the movie, but unless the writer and director are extremely talented at combining comedy with action, the results tend to be that the action parts lose their intensity, leading the audience to become less engaged in the story and characters.  And that’s what happened with me.

Another reason why this movie isn’t successful is that the ninja action and violence are too stylized and over the top to the point that they are cartoonish.   It looks nice, but it lacks substance.  Also, The Sad Flutes are supposed to be bad-ass assassins; but when they go up against the gun-toting bandits, they mostly come at them using a frontal attack.  Huh?  You have swords and the enemy have guns and you charge at them head on?  Oh, and The Sad Flutes never use shurikens (sharp objects thrown at the enemy).  This is just lazy screenwriting and bad direction.

Want another reason why this movie isn’t that good?  Jang’s acting.  This is the first time I’ve seen Jang’s work, so I don’t know if he can act and he just downplayed his abilities to be a silent, brooding character, or if he really can’t act.  Whatever the case, his acting in “The Warrior’s Way” doesn’t help the movie.

And it doesn’t help that the leader of The Sad Flutes looks a lot like Cheech Marin.  I really did think it was him, wearing prosthetics to look Asian.

(Sigh) If this was done seriously, and the action was realistic, I think it would’ve been a hit.  But instead it’s a slightly entertaining movie that should be watched as a rental — or in my case, I watched it for free (thanks, Library!).

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Warrior’s Way” is the scene when Jang and Bosworth were sparring with short swords, and Bosworth had one of her swords against Jang’s neck, and she thought she won.  Jang tells her that it’s not over until the opponent’s heart stops beating, then shows her that he has one of his swords against her stomach.  Bosworth suddenly kisses Jang, which surprises the hell out of him, and then she asks him if that stopped his heart.   Even though I guessed she was going to say something like that, I was still very impressed with that scene.

Now, for those of you with cheaply made swords, nicknamed “wall hangers”:  that’s all they should do — hang on walls.  Why? Because the blade is most likely made of stainless steel, and stainless steel becomes brittle when it’s too long.  Also, cheap swords usually don’t have a full tang, meaning the blade doesn’t extend all the way into the handle; and therefore, if you start swinging your wall hanger around after seeing movies like “The Warrior’s Way,” there’s a chance the blade will fly out of the handle and stab one of your kids.

M

Ever heard of the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover?”  Well, don’t judge a movie by its title.   I thought this movie was part comedy due to the title, and I was wrong.  Yes, there are some funny moments here and there, but overall this is a serious, Western/Sci-Fi movie.  The opening scene sets the tone for this movie, where several men are quickly killed in a brutal fashion.  That pretty much ruined my notion that I was watching a Western/Sci-Fi/Comedy.

“Cowboys & Aliens” is about an alien race that comes to the western part of the U.S. back in the 1800s to seek that which they deem to be rare and valuable.  The humans get in their way and so they are killed or kidnapped for experimentation.  Cowboys, being rough and tumble and not taking crap from anyone, decide to look for where the aliens are holed up and lynch every single one of them.  There’s a problem with that idea though.  The aliens are much more advanced technologically and physically.

The movie stars Daniel Craig, and we first see him waking up with a nasty wound to his side and wearing a gaudy looking bracelet on his left wrist that even Liberace wouldn’t wear.  Is he human?  Is he an alien?  Is he a Western fruit cake?  Even Craig doesn’t know, as he has amnesia.  We find out later that the Chandler Bing, Liberace House of Crap bracelet is actually an alien weapon that he got by accident.   How Craig got the weapon is one of the stupid things in this movie.  Basically an alien takes off his bracelet weapon and places it next to the wrist of Craig, his prisoner.  Why?  You tell me, dude.

How can an alien race so advanced as to build spaceships do something so retarded as leave their weapon next to the hands of their prisoners?  It makes no sense right?  But then again having advanced technology doesn’t always come with common sense.  We humans have built spaceships.  And we do the most stupid things like: believe what our politicians promise us; readily give up our freedoms that millions have fought and suffered for just to feel a little more safe; ingest things that we know will give us cancer; buy more than what we need and so we end up in debt for the rest of our lives; spend so much of our free time watching tv shows that keep us distracted from the real news that is happening all around us, etc., etc.

So, Craig teams up with Harrison Ford (who plays a mean, old fart who always looks like he’s trying to pass hard stool) and other cowboys and one cowgirl and a bunch of Chiricahua Apaches to rescue the people who have been kidnapped, get payback, and keep the aliens from invading the rest of the U.S.  There are a lot of action, a body count of maybe 3 dozen and  vicious and gory kills.  This movie is not for the rugrats.

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene where — spoiler alert here — one of the main characters comes back to life.  It turns out this person is not human, but part of an alien race that has been invaded and almost wiped out by the aliens invading Earth.

I like this movie.  Not enough to buy it, but enough to watch it one or two more times.   It’s not “Unforgiven” nor is it “Alien,” but it is good entertainment.

M

“Geronimo: An American Legend” is based on the true story of a fierce, Chiricahua Apache warrior who waged war against the Mexicans and Americans in the 1800s.  With names such as Walter Hill, Jason Patric, Wes Studi, Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, Matt Damon and John Milius attached to this movie, you would think “Geronimo: An American Legend” would be a very good movie.  Not so.  In the words of Daffy Duck in one of his old school cartoons, this movie is, “dare I say, mediocre!”

I’ve seen many Walter Hill movies.  “48 Hours/Wild Bill/Extreme Prejudice/The Long Riders/The Warriors/Southern Comfort.”   These are very good, very entertaining movies that had great pacing and very good direction.  The man knows what he’s doing.  So I don’t know what happened with “Geronimo.”  We all have our off days, that I understand.   But to have an off movie?  On average it takes months to produce a Hollywood A-movie.  And that doesn’t take into account pre-production and post-production.   So having an off movie means a director was off his game for almost a year.

But it’s not all Hill’s fault.  The screenplay was also mediocre.  And that is also shocking as John Milius is known for writing good scripts.  “Geronimo” is simply not an exciting script.  The pacing is off, it’s not structured well.   For those of you who don’t write screenplays, or never bothered to really analyze the pacing of a good movie, there’s a level of tension that keeps rising to the very end.  Of course, there are moments when the tension decreases, but when it starts again, it gets higher than the previous high.  So if you were to graph it, it would be a jagged, upward climb from left to right.   If I were to graph the pacing/tension of “Geronimo” we would see flatlines and severe dips all throughout.   A script that has that will translate into an uneven, boring movie.

There’s another person to blame here: Jason Patric.   His performance is one dimensional.   No matter what is happening around him, he has the same expression.   There’s no energy or excitement to his performance.  He goes about his role as if he’s vacuuming a carpet.

What the hell!   Was everyone suffering from heat exhaustion during the making of this movie?   If that was the case, I can understand.  It takes me almost 2 hours to properly clean and protect all the exterior parts of my car, including putting all my supplies away.   The last time I did it was last Friday, when the temperature was 95 and sunny and humid.  By the time I was done, I was like a zombie for a little while because the sun just sapped most of my energy.

Okay, let’s move on to Matt Damon.  He gave a decent performance despite a small and underdeveloped role.   His talent simply wasn’t used properly.  Maybe it was because he was still considered small fry at the time the movie was made (around 1993).   He was so young in this movie that he looked like he was 15!

Wes Studi, the go-to Native American actor Hollywood chooses when they need someone to play an intense, Native American character, also does the best he can with the mediocre script given to him.   You can almost see the frustration in his face from being trapped in a movie that doesn’t unleash his full potential as an actor.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted to scalp Hill and Milius and Patric.

Overall “Geronimo” feels like a direct to video B-movie.  I don’t know how long it lasted in the movie theaters.  Back then we didn’t have the speed of information available to the masses like we do now, so a movie like this, if hyped up enough, can sucker people into paying to watch it for a few weeks.   I’m happy to say I was not one of the suckers.  I waited until it was available at Blockbuster.

Ahh, Blockbuster.  I remember when they came into NYC/Long Island.  They made the mom and pop video stores virtually obsolete.   Porn was the only thing keeping some mom and pop stores alive, as Blockbuster refused to carry porn —  I never understood that;  a video store without porn is like a shoe without laces.   In the 90’s, Blockbuster was like the U.S. government and mom and pop video stores were like the Apache.   About a decade later, Blockbuster became the Apache, and the internet and Netflix was like the U.S. government.  How fitting.

And now we get to the most memorable movie moment in “Geronimo”:  the scene where Damon, Duvall, Patric, and an Apache scout come upon a Native American village that was massacred so that scalps can be had to exchange for money.   Duvall says something like “must be Texans…the lowest form of white man there is.”  Ha ha!  I have nothing against Texas or Texans.   I simply find white people disparaging certain groups of white people hilarious.

In second place for most memorable movie moment is the scene where the Apache scouts, who work for the U.S. Army, are disarmed, discharged, arrested and imprisoned when their services are no longer needed.  To add insult to injury, an Army officer thanked them for their service on behalf of Uncle Sam.

I don’t know about the rest of you; but when I get a good screwing, I’m the one who does the thanking!

M

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