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Archive for the ‘Western’ Category

The Revenant

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

tn_revenantRight now THE REVENANT (from executive producer Brett Ratner) is being marketed as an Important Awards Contender type movie. It’s the year’s most Oscar-nominated film and the winner of the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama, so until THE BIG SHORT won the Producer’s Guild award the other day it seemed like the frontrunner for the coveted title of Answer To Trivia Question About Which Lesser Movie Got Best Picture Instead Of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.

It’s the latest from Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the least fun of the Three Amigos, but the one who got best picture, director and screenplay last year for BIRDMAN. He’s also a guy who talks real passionately and is charming in interviews, but in print or out of context can sound like a pretentious asshole, for example when he said that his excellent new western is not a western because it transcends pathetic human genre:

“Western is in a way a genre, and the problem with genres is that it comes from the word ‘generic’, and I feel that this film is very far from generic.”

(Genre actually comes from the French word for ‘kind’ or ‘type’.)

But fuck all that. That’s a distraction. On its own, THE REVENANT is the kind/type/genre of pure, undiluted, immersive filmatism that I love. Unafraid to go long stretches without dialogue, or to have the minimal exposition mumbled through an unintelligible accent, it plunges us into a world (1823 fur trappers and hunters under siege by Arikara Indians) and doesn’t give us any instructions on how to get home. It trusts that the dense atmosphere and simple, action-based narrative will lead the way. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Bone Tomahawk

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

tn_bonetomahawkBefore THE HATEFUL EIGHT, Kurt Russell first teamed with his crazy mustache on a different ensemble western with bursts of outrageously brutal violence. BONE TOMAHAWK is kinda like a John Wayne movie that happens to bump into CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST for a minute. But don’t get too excited about that high mash up concept. For the most part it’s a straight up western, for people who enjoy westerns. It’s just that it’s got a scene or two that might make a few of those guys spit out their coffee.

In the opening scene two murderous bandits, Buddy (Sid Haig) and Purvis (David Arquette), trespass on some kind of skull-decorated burial ground that Indiana Jones might be able to tell them about. They were just talking about what’s proper to do with the Bibles of the travelers they murdered on the road, but they do not show the same concern for this particular culture. Anyway, they get into some trouble, you could say.

Purvis escapes and makes it into the town of Bright Hope, where he is not welcome, and quickly ends up shot and arrested by Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Russell). But during the night some kind of savages attack the jail, tearing one man apart and abducting Purvis, a deputy (Evan Jonigkeit, Toad from X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST), and a local doctor (Lili Simmons, who I guess is on Banshee, but I honestly thought she was Katherine Heigl). She was at the jail to attend to Purvis’s bullet, and yes, for the record she drops the slug into a metal canister. Anyway she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, she gets abducted. Most of the movie is about the rescue party traveling to cannibal territory to try to get them all back. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Hateful Eight

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

tn_hatefuleight(SPOILERS. This is a don’t-read-before-seeing-the-movie review.)

Quentin Tarantino tries out a couple new tricks in his new one, THE HATEFUL EIGHT: he shot in extra-wide 65mm Cinemascope, and helped hook up a bunch of theaters with 70mm projectors (and projectionists, I assume) to show an early, longer version of the movie complete with an overture, intermission and program. He got Ennio Morricone to compose and orchestrate some new music for it (Tarantino’s only previous original scoring was some bits by RZA and Robert Rodriguez for the KILL BILLs). But it also feels pretty familiar: his second extreme-racism western in a row, with chapter titles like KILL BILL, full of conversation suspense scenes like INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, mostly one location like RESERVOIR DOGS, some non-linear jumps like most of his movies, and a cast with plenty of his regulars (Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, James Parks, Zoe Bell, Waltong Goggins [I almost forgot he was in DJANGO UNCHAINED). Just as INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS got away with some out-of-the-blue, seemingly incongruous narration by Jackson, HATEFUL EIGHT follows up its intermission with some omniscient narration that you suddenly realize is Tarantino himself. I can see why some people would hate that, but I loved it. I mean, who are we fooling, we all know it’s this guy talking to us through this movie anyway. And it helps kick off the second half with an energy the first was lacking.

Here’s something brand new for a Tarantino movie: I didn’t immediately love it. I’m honestly still trying to figure out how I feel about it. I’m not sure I get it. I remember that with both INGLOURIOUS and DJANGO I had misgivings on the first viewings that later seemed completely irrelevant. With the former it was thinking that Brad Pitt seemed like Brad Pitt playing a funny character, he didn’t inhabit the character the way previous Tarantino leads had. With the latter it was that Tarantino had never done a movie that followed one character chronologically, and it seemed kinda too simple for him. Both of those seem like dumb complaints to me now, and I loved both movies without reservations on subsequent viewings. Even so, their first times I liked better than this first time. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Return of Josey Wales

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

tn_returnofjosey“He’s crazy. He’d charge Hell with a bucket of water.”

10 years after Clint took his acting/directing to new heights with THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, the less known character actor Michael Parks (DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH, KILL BILL, TUSK) took over the role for his one go behind the camera. He was, uh… less successful than Clint was.

When I was reading about Forrest Carter, the Klansman turned acclaimed Native American author who wrote the book that THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES was based on, alot of the bios mentioned that after the success of the movie he wrote a sequel called THE VENGEANCE TRIAL OF JOSEY WALES and tried to turn it into a screenplay. They did not mention that the screenplay had been turned into this.

At the start of the movie Josey is off somewhere living a life of peace thanks to everyone who conspired to pretend like he was dead at the end of Clint’s movie. But some of his friends from the saloon, Kelly and Ten Spot, are still around, and reminisce about him sometimes. If I didn’t look it up I’m not sure I’d know they were connected to the first movie, since they’re not the most memorable characters and they’re played by different people this time. But I’ll survive. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Los Locos: Posse Rides Again

Monday, September 21st, 2015

tn_loslocosOkay, first thing’s first: although this western starring Mario Van Peebles is sometimes subtitled “POSSE II” or “POSSE RIDES AGAIN,” it is not a straight sequel to POSSE. If it was really intended as a sequel it was in the weird way of “what if we did another western starring Mario Van Peebles?” His character is named Chance this time (it is not specified whether or not his mama took one) and although at first he’s kind of a mystery man, people start referring to him as a “half breed” (explaining his long, straight hair) which I don’t believe he was in POSSE. At the end there’s a part where he puts a stick of dynamite in his mouth like a cigar, which could possibly be a reference to something he does in POSSE. But otherwise it really doesn’t seem like it’s supposed to be the same guy as Jessie Lee.

Anyway, Chance makes a great entrance. He’s coming over the horizon, something looks weird about him, he’s got a strange silhouette. As he gets closer you realize it’s ’cause he’s been tarred and feathered and run off into the desert in handcuffs. Ah shit, this guy is not having a good day.

He comes across a caravan of a couple nuns, some mental patients they’re taking care of and a couple guys on security. The mean Mother Superior (Jean Speegle Howard) has them clean him off but figures he’s a convict and treats him as their prisoner. So she’s not Mother Teresa. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

High Noon Part II: The Return of Will Kane

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

tn_highnoonpartiiThis is gonna sound crazy, but HIGH NOON PART II: THE RETURN OF WILL KANE, a 1980 TV movie with Lee Majors replacing Gary Cooper as the hero from the 1952 classic, is a damn good sequel in my opinion. It’s directed by Jerry Jameson, who IMDb says was an uncredited director on that Burt Reynolds movie I like, HEAT. I don’t know what the story is on that, but he definitely did AIRPORT ’77 and a bunch of TV shows ranging from The Mod Squad to Walker: Texas Ranger.

So it’s some TV guy directing. More significant in my opinion is that the teleplay was written by Elmore Leonard, and it shows. It has his knack for interesting language and casual conversation, humor in the face of danger, bonding between lawmen and outlaws, and a sort of rambling turn of events that reflects something about the ridiculousness of life. In the original HIGH NOON the freshly-retired marshal got into trouble because his arch-nemesis had been released and was coming into town for revenge. In this one the trouble starts because he and the Missus (Katherine Cannon, THE HIDDEN) are trying to buy some horses.

It’s a year after he shot Frank Miller and left, and he comes back to Hadleyville for this transaction. At the same time Ben Irons (David Carradine) and his men just got off a train, probly the same one the bad guys came in on last time. We know they’re trouble because a deputy recognized Irons’s face and went to check out the wanted posters. They show up wanting to buy the same horses that Kane just paid for, and they try to convince him to let them have them. It’s a tense conversation because Irons tries to act friendly, but Kane lets him know he remembers him from his days in law enforcement.

“Must’ve been during my wayward youth,” Irons says.

“It was a couple of years ago,” Kane says. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

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…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

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…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

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…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

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…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.