"NOW, THIS I'M TRAINED FOR!"

Archive for the ‘Western’ Category

Forty Guns

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

tn_fortygunsIn the great opening scene of Sam Fuller’s FORTY GUNS, three brothers are coming down the trail on a wagon and collide head on with a menacing army of gunmen on horses, marching two by two in a long column, all following a woman on a white stallion (a “High ridin’ woman with a whip,” according to a song we hear later). They have no choice but to stop and just sit there watching, somewhat amused as their horses freak out. The camera follows the woman and her army and the title comes onscreen. Those must be the forty guns.

One of those brothers on the wagon is Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan), “a legal killer for hire” working for the Attorney General’s office. The other two brothers are his second gun Wes (Gene Barry, WAR OF THE WORLDS), and their little brother Chico (Robert Dix), who wants to help too but Griff won’t let him. I’m not sure why he brought him. Was he supposed to be babysitting? (read the rest of this shit…)

High Noon

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

tn_highnoonI’m still lacking in my knowledge of westerns. I know some of the bigger spaghetti westerns and some of the modern ones, but not many of the original ones those are playing off of. And I know every once in a while I oughta school myself on the basics and the classics so here I am watching 1952’s HIGH NOON directed by Frederick Zinnemann.

This is the story of a pretty bad wedding day. Marshall Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is marrying Amy (Grace Kelly) who, let’s face it, is WAAAAAYYY out of his league (and less than half his age). But this is the movies so somehow he ties the knot and he’s gonna retire and be a househusband or something, but about one minute after he literally hangs up his star he gets handed a telegram saying that his murderous nemesis Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) has been pardoned (for what, THE SPIRIT?) and what’s more word is three of Miller’s thugs (including Lee Van Cleef, the first face you see in the movie, and not a welcoming one) are waiting at the train station for him to arrive in town at noon. (read the rest of this shit…)

Posse

Monday, February 16th, 2015

tn_posse“You talkin bout a black KKK raid on a white town? That’s crazy!”

Recently I wrote about the Mario Van Peebles movie PANTHER, and talked a little bit about that time in the ’90s after Spike Lee hit it big and other black directors were starting to get a shot. At the same time hip hop had bled into pop music, and therefore rappers were starting to appear in movies. In the few preceding years the most respected rappers had been political or pseudo-political. Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions struck revolutionary poses, and even the so-called gangsta rappers like N.W.A. and Ice-T considered themselves rebels against the establishment (mainly the police, then the politicians above them). There had been a high commodity put on “dropping science” or “reality” and/or “positivity,” consciousness was encouraged, people had temporarily traded their gold chains for Africa medallions, were interested in reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X and knowing the names of the Black Panther founders and shit like that. For a time it was at least as important to act smart and enlightened as it was to be tough. And that’s why Van Peebles was able to make PANTHER and before that, in 1993, POSSE.

About six months before POSSE was released, Dr. Dre’s The Chronic came out, and it was so undeniably good that, you know, that was the end of that. But before Van Peebles knew that visions of blunts would be bouncing on hydraulics in our heads he made a western for the Knowledge Reigns Supreme era.

There’s a couple reasons why this fits into the trend. One of them is that about a quarter of the cowboys in the old west were black. TV and movies make it seem like it was a hundred white guys for every Cowboy Curtis or Lord Bowler, and Van Peebles wanted to correct that. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Outlaw Josey Wales

Monday, January 5th, 2015

tn_outlawjoseywalesBack in 2013 I started a new old wives tale that it is good luck for a critic’s first review of a new year to be a Clint Eastwood movie. I continued the tradition for 2014 and I ended up having a really intense year that was not fuckin around when it came to either highs or lows. It was a year that included a funeral, way too much time spent hanging out in hospitals and job-related fears like losing my health insurance. But on the other hand I finally published that damn novel and I had a great trip to Tennessee and of course my TED talk or whatever at Cinefamily was a great blessing and the highlight of my career so far. It was also just an evolutionary step for ol’ Vern because I learned I could actually make a public appearance without ruining everything, as far as I could tell. So in honor of my miraculously retained Outlaw status let’s start off 2015 with THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES. I haven’t seen this one in forever and a day and a half.

What we have here is a badass western revenge story. Clint directs and plays the titlational Josey Wales, who at first is just a regular non-outlaw family man. Then “redleg” raiders come through raping and pillaging, kill his boy and his wife, burn down his house, scar his face. Who knows how many days later he’s still just sitting there brooding on his patch of land when a squad of Confederate guerillas come by, tell him they’re at war with the bastards who did this. “I’ll be comin with you,” Josey says. (read the rest of this shit…)

Comin’ at Ya!

Friday, December 19th, 2014

tn_cominatyaSometimes something you never thought would happen happens, and you can hardly believe it. For example when they finally freed Mandela, or a couple days ago when Obama announced he was normalizing relations with Cuba, or in this case when they re-released the legendary 1981 3D movie COMIN’ AT YA! in modern digitally projected 3D.

This is a very limited release I’m afraid, I doubt it’ll come to too many of your cities, if any, and I know most of you are like me and don’t have a 3D TV if it ever comes to that. But if you like seeing things poke out of a screen then definitely check and see if it’s possible to catch this one. It’s a treasure.

The title COMIN’ AT YA! is not a lie. Especially the exclamation point. The stereoscopic mission statement of this movie is in extreme opposition to the modern conventional wisdom that it’s bad for 3D to have gimmicks and things reaching out at you. The philosophy here is to stick knives in both eyes of the modern limp 3D and then pull them out and then jab them in and repeat and repeat and repeat. To date I think my favorite 3D experiences have been FRIDAY THE 13TH 3D and the three Robert Zemeckis mocap movies. Even compared to those, this is by far the 3Dest movie I’ve ever seen.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Chino

Friday, September 19th, 2014

tn_chinoor “What I Did With Charles Bronson On My Summer Vacation”

CHINO is the last western by John Sturges. Here’s the director of GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL practically making a spaghetti western – it’s a Dino De Laurentiis production, but filmed in Spain. I guess I don’t really know what kind of noodle that would be. But he reunites with his MAGNIFICENT SEVEN / THE GREAT ESCAPE star Charles Motherfuckin Bronson in his prime.

Bronson plays Chino Valdez, a loner who ran with the Cheyenne Indians in his youth and now lives all by himself on a ranch catching wild horses, training and breeding them. One day this blond kid named Jamie (Dick Van Patten’s youngest son Vincent) rides by looking for work and Chino – first seen in scary silhouette – lets him sleep in his barn. He keeps calling him “boy” and is the opposite of friendly, almost scares him away by chopping meat in front of him, but then shames him into staying so he doesn’t look like a sissy.

Of course they form a sweet friendship as Chino keeps getting a little nicer to him. He talks gruff but offers him things like letting him borrow a horse to ride into town and help him with different tasks. He makes him smile by threatening to cut his ears off. After a couple days he admits he likes having the boy around and hires him, even though he’s Chino, for fuck’s sake, why would he need anyone to help him with anything? Ridiculous. (read the rest of this shit…)

Man and Boy

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

tn_manandboyMAN AND BOY. Ha ha, yeah I know, I noticed that too. The name sounds inappropriate. I bet if it was called THE SEARCH FOR JUBAL or something it would’ve played on cable more and we all would’ve heard of it before. Instead I had to just stumble across it by accident in the western section at the video store. It’s from 1971 and it stars Bill Cosby (The Cosby Mysteries) as Caleb Revers, an ex-Union soldier who, after the Emancipation Proclamation, holds his head high and owns property despite what some of the white folk around might think about it.

I mentioned Jubal ’cause that’s the name of their horse. Being the Cliff Huxtable of the Old West, Cosby is a horse doctor who is going to put some white guy’s injured horse down, but then his son Billy (George Spell, THE NAKED KISS) cries so much he makes a deal with the farmhand or whatever to take the horse if he can get it to walk. It’s like WAR HORSE for a minute, they nurse Jubal back to health and then force him to haul a giant boulder. These people in movies sure do talk a big game about how much they love a horse before they enslave and torture the poor thing. No wonder those big bastards dream of one day fucking all of mankind to death, yelling “Remember Enumclaw!” (see ZOO). (read the rest of this shit…)

The Bronze Buckaroo

Friday, February 7th, 2014

tn_bronzebuckarooIn North America, February is Black History Month. I mean, it’s debatable how real of a thing it is. Every year we note that black history oughta be taught in other months also, and of course you got the “why is it the shortest month?” jokes. The U.K. musta foreseen that, ’cause they have theirs in October. But really 28 days of Black History Month is 21 more than the original “Negro History Week,” which was celebrated in February because of the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. It was intended to encourage teaching about African-American history in schools, which I guess did not go over great when it started in 1926. But 50 years later an expanded month long version was officially recognized by the government. So suck on that, 1926.

I don’t know what goes on in the schools today, but in the world of grownups it seems like the month isn’t that meaningful to most people. It seems more common to see it used for flimsy, borderline offensive corporate promotions than for any kind of legitimate attempt to fulfill the goal of bringing awareness to aspects of American and world culture that don’t tend to get enough recognition. (read the rest of this shit…)

Gallowwalkers

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

tn_gallowwalkersThis has been a source of mystery for a couple years now, the weird sounding horror-western that Wesley Snipes filmed right before he got convicted. In fact the prosecutors tried to accuse him of running when he flew to Namibia to film it. Were they just trying to fuck up his life, or did they really believe he was crazy enough to start over there, become the African DTV Roman Polanski? I mean, that would be kinda cool though.

From the early descriptions it sounded like they were trying to do Cowboy BLADE, the promotional materials were amateurish, the director is an unknown and there was always the possibility that “Andrew Goth” was not his real name but a fake one that he actually thought sounded cool. Also, there was reason to believe Wesley needed money and was not necessarily being picky about which projects to do. And then it didn’t come out for six years. So I never had any faith at all that this would be good.

And yes, it’s a mess. First and worst example is the narration, which could be Snipes sounding really weird, but I’m pretty sure it’s a Steven Seagal OUT OF REACH situation. I just thought it was a third person narrator until the last sentence of the opening chunk, where it sounds like a pretty good Blade imitation. Later he’s saying “I” and it’s clearly supposed to be Snipes’s character Aman talking, but it sure doesn’t sound like his voice. (read the rest of this shit…)

Summer Movie Flashback: Cowboys & Aliens

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

tn_cowboysandaliens

2011
2011

COWBOYS AND/OR ALIENS starts out great. Daniel Craig wakes up with an apparent gunshot wound and a weird metal device locked to his wrist. He doesn’t remember who he is or what the fuck happened. He does remember how to fight, though, so when some guys try to rob him he kicks their asses, steals their clothes TERMINATOR style and heads into town. (And all this without talking.)

Other than that metal thing it plays as a straight western for a while. Paul Dano is a crazy asshole who terrorizes the town, shooting his guns off and demeaning innocent people because his dad (Harrison Ford) is the cattle baron and he thinks he can get away with anything. But when he picks out Craig, a random bystander, to flip some shit at, he finds himself crashing nose-first against a wall of badass. This stranger doesn’t know who the little shit is and can’t pretend to be scared of him, so he knocks him on his ass. In the scuffle the kid accidentally shoots a deputy, a crime the sheriff can’t overlook despite who his daddy is, so they both get arrested, to be transferred to federal custody the next day.
(read the rest of this shit…)