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Saturday, January 15. 2011
Unforgiven — Wow, a Clint Eastwood western. That means it's got to be good, right? Yeah, except there was one gun fight in the whole dang thing, and probably the most unrealistic gun fight in cinematic history, at that. Yawn.
Appaloosa — Just can't go wrong with Ed Harris, Renée Zellweger and Viggo Mortensen, right? Yeah, except the writers spent 90% of the movie dealing with the intricate, puzzling, lurid, soap-opera relationship between Ed Harris, Renée Zellweger and Viggo Mortensen! As an additional plus, Hollywood was so afraid that someone in the audience might be shocked by actual gun play on the screen that they toned down the gun sounds to just below that of cap gun level.
3:10 To Yuma — Hey, Christian Bale and Russell Crowe, just can't go wrong with that duo, right? Okay, picture the following:
The movie opens with twenty bad guys chasing a stage, greed in their eyes. The guy on the stage riding shotgun (hence the term) is firing back with a big shotgun, picking them off here and there. This goes on for endless minutes. Then the camera is a quarter mile ahead of the stage as Russell Crowe drives a herd of cattle across the road, blocking it. The stage comes wheeling to a stop. All in all, a very effective, efficient way to stop a stage — EXCEPT THAT TEN OF YOUR BUDDIES ARE LYING DEAD ON THE ROAD BACK THERE!!
The rest of the movie was just some big 'war of wills' between Crowe and Bale — which was really the point of the movie in the first place; to display the writers' brilliant virtuosity — and the fact that it took place in western times was more or less irrelevant.
The Assassination of Jesse James — Hey, Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck, just can't go wrong with that combo, right? Actually, I have no idea. I was too busy heaving my guts into the toilet because of Affleck's acting performance — or lack thereof. Let me know how it turned out. Did Jesse live?
Silverado, Open Range, Wyatt Earp — For the love of God, won't someone PLEASE tell Kevin Costner to stop playing cowboys? I'm sorry — I honestly love the guy and think he's brilliant as a sports hero (Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Tin Cup, For Love of the Game) — but with those boyish cheekbones, weak chin and soft voice, he simply doesn't look or sound the part of the tough Westerner. By means of comparison, check out Kurt Russell's performance as Earp in the link below. That's what a Westerner looks and sounds like.
Tombstone — I'd give this thing an 'A' if it hadn't spent endless, interminable minutes bogged down in his wife's endless, interminable opium problem.
Wild Wild West — Both the critics and every decent movie lover in the world hated this thing, so naturally I loved it. The superb 'anti-chemistry' between Will Smith and Kevin Kline hasn't been seen since the unlikely pairing of Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro in Showtime. While not an outright 'Western' by genre (it would more properly fit in the category of 'Western Sci-Fi'), at least there were loud guns and galloping horses.
The Quick and the Dead — I actually thought this was a pretty good flick, but it wasn't a Western, as such, in the sense that it all took place in the middle of a street and, as a dueling event, could have taken place in Al Capone's Chicago or even today. Gene Hackman is such a badass that I made him #2 on my cinematic Tough Guys page.
So, all in all, I've been quite disappointed with Westerns in recent years.
Then up rode Jonah Hex:
"Cut muhself shavin'. What happened to yours?"
That pretty much says it all. Without giving anything away, it's a straight-up Western with one additional element of... (gropes for proper word)... spirituality that really makes it something special. Josh Brolin stars, John Malkovich is the merciless bad guy, and Megan Fox turns in a spectacular role as dragon bait.
Below the fold we'll take a peek at the new BBC presentation of the (ongoing) Sherlock Holmes story.
But, as you'll see in the clip, the guy who plays Sherlock — with the endearingly British name of Benedict Cumberbatch — is loads of fun, and the way the show gives us the same clues that Sherlock gets — but without his interpretation — sticks with the traditional Holmes standard of letting the readers in on the clues, but letting Holmes put them together when he's good and ready.
I'd add that they do a terrific job of developing Watson's character, from his hesitant first day with Holmes (above), to his jumping in at the end of the episode with his British Army marksmanship saving the day.
The bad news is that there are only three episodes, available on Netflix and presumably Blockbuster, but at least they're movie length at an hour and a half apiece. The Netflix description calls it the "opening season" so hopefully there'll be more.
On an additional Holmesian note, my thanks to Marianne for suggesting in the comments of my review of 'Sherlock Holmes' (with Robert Downey) that I check out the Holmes TV series played by Jeremy Brett. It's terrific and Brett plays the eccentric Holmes to perfection. I put my favorite episode online here.
Movie Review: True Grit, Toy Story 3, Shrek 4
I thought it appropriate to group these three movies together since they all have that same warm, fuzzy feel to them. Not to mention a hot chick! Or, at least in the case of True Grit, hot under the collar! True Grit Doc's List Of The T
Weblog: Maggie's Farm
Tracked: Feb 09, 17:30
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I detested "Unforgiven" -- couldn't see what everyone saw in it.
I enjoyed the new Sherlock Holmes, too, which surprised me. I hope we'll get more episodes.
But unlike you, I liked "Appaloosa." Chick thing, I guess.
I loved Unforgiven. Good westerns are about interesting characters, not how many bad guys or injuns you shoot. I thought the remake of 3:10 to Yuma was very good too. By the way, in the opening scene Russell Crowe runs a herd of cattle in front of the stage, causing it to overturn. Silverado, The Quick and the Dead, Wyatt Earp, Tombstone are all throw aways in my book. Wild Wild West is supposed to be a comedy. Young Guns 1 and 2 are just awful. I am guessing you won't like the remake of True Grit because there is really only a couple of shooting scenes but I think the characters and the acting are terrific.
Ah, right, a herd of cattle. I've updated the post, and thanks. I never got to Young Guns -- praise be. I heard they were pretty bad. I'd be curious why you didn't think much of 'Tombstone', though -- outside of his wife's endless, interminable drug problem.
Off the themes, but anyone seen Machete yet? It's tonight's Saturday Night Stupid Movie.
Or, should I watch the rubber crocodile that ate Cleveland?
I haven't seen Tombstone for ages, but I do remember that Val Kilmer sort of stole the show, and that the actual gunfight at the corral was brilliant -- very smart understanding of how smoky a lot of black powder gunfire can make the scene, and how that would affect the combatants.
BK - I almost cried with Danny Trejo died in "Once Upon A Time In Mexico". With that lovable mug? How COULD they!
TKT - "I'll be your daisy". Yeah, Kilmer was outstanding as a wheezing Doc Holiday. I have the OK Corrall scene from each movie here if you want to compare.
The whole point of "Unforgiven" wasn't guns and gun fighting - it is a post-noir noir film in that it was ambiguous plot with morally questionable atmosphere - think Phillip Marlowe in 1880. The gunfighters were supposed to be not heros but victims of their own character flaws in service to a morally righteous revenge.
It is also, in a way, patterned after Eastwood's own life as a movie star - "Rawhide" (TV), The trilogy and post trilogy westerns, graduating to Dirty Harry and moving on from there.
Some critics called it a eulogy to the western movie as critical and audience tastes have changed. I'm not so sure about that, but certainly, the recent westerns have sucked pond scum.
Finally, with respect to your complaint about the final denouement: Munny's desire is to avenge the death and public humiliation of his friend whose body is displayed in outside the saloon. It is at this point we see where Eastwood Leone and Siegel, masters of the long sustained action sequence, have influenced Eastwood. A story told using a precise and deliberate strategy in which events may not be possible, but are somehow plausible. Eastwood's Munny character has been transformed into the efficient, omniscient and I would say omnipotent figure of vengeance similar to that played in "High Plains Drifter" and "Two Mules for Sister Sarah".
Finally, I would like to point out that westerns have that implacable moral balance and statement in which good eventually silences evil - it is at the heart of every western Eastwood made and his uses it here with the final words of the sheriff - "I didn't deserve this - I'm building a house" and Munny replies "Deserve's got nothing to do with it" meaning that good eventually triumphs even if the good is flawed and morally skewed. (Good, Bad and Ugly anyone?)
- And as we all know from watching Mythbusters, plausible is as good as confirmed. :>)
Stick with Cleveland. Machete is nothing more than an advertisement for La Raza.
RE: Tough guys - which one was the tough guy, Bill, Ted or the weird guy with the robe?
Well, I loooooove Westerns so while your reviews are fair, I still enjoyed pretty much all of these films a lot.
I have a couple more odd-ball Western offerings for you - "Dead Man" with Johnny Depp, probably one of my favorite films ever, certainly my favorite Jarmusch film - and I just saw this really weird, low-key Western horror film called "The Burrowers" - which was surprisingly good, if a bit slow. I keep telling people about it - it's a sleeper for sure!
Well said Tom! Unforgiven is interesting on many levels and you covered most of them.
I thought 'Unforgiven' had great scope, vision, dialogue, some terrific acting, excellent cinematography, good music score, and featured Gene Hackman, my favorite bad guy. In short, it could be argued that it was the 'perfect' Western.
Now go ahead and explain how an old guy who hasn't fired a gun in two decades, is sick with fever and has just been beaten within an inch of his life -- outdraws a room full of healthy, vigilent men. What was that secret of his again? You have to "know who to shoot first"?
Having watched the Jeremy Brett shows so often I can repeat huge chunks of the dialogue, I started watching the modern-day Sherlock Holmes with 'how dare they?!' firmly in mind. To my surprise and pleasure I was a goner by Watson's, "Yeah, I've got the blanket."
Sure hope they make more.
If you aren't signed up with Netflix (I'm not) have a look around BBC, sorry, I didn't bookmark, where you can watch two of the episodes online. Or buy the three episodes as a package from Amazon for a reasonable $23.
Black Orchid - Thanks, I'd never even heard of that Depp flim. It's in the Netflix queue. I'll pass on the other one, though. Just call me groundophobic.
Retread - I became a believer in the cab ride to the murder scene after Watson claimed "the police don't hire amateurs". Holmes then proceeds to explain in depth how he came to his numerous conclusions about Watson, and then says, "You're right. The police don't hire amateurs." Cumberbatch carries Holmes' haughtiness and confidence to perfection. Let's, indeed, hope there's more to come.
Gotta agree with you Dirk. Tru Grit was excellent. Strong charactors, story line, actors. I really liked the original too. The only complaint I have with the new remake was the ending.....it may follow the story line of the book, but its godawful compared the original movie.
I also enjoyed Unforgivin but agree it wasn't one of Eastwoods best. Speaking of which.....I'll throw down the gauntlet is "The Outlaw Josie Wales". I'll even go as far as to say it's the best western ever made..... IMHO.
TombStone was another favorite. I usually like the older original versions of stories but in this case I thought Tombstone better than "My Darling Clementine". I'm not a big Val Kilmer fan but agree he was just exxxcellent as Doc Holiday.....and I think the line was 'I'll be your Huckleberry" and "youre no daisy....youre no daisy at all".
Consider the gauntlet thrown. The initial problem is deciding if 'Wales' is actually a Western or not. It took place in Missour-uh and might more properly be put in the popular "Post-Apocalyptic Civil War" genre.
But yeah, of all the Eastwood Western(ish) movies, I'd put 'Wales' at the top. I actually watched all of his old spaghetti westerns a while back and in most cases the "element of drama" was WAY overplayed, both by the camera and the music track. 'Wales' was on a much cooler level than that. I have two scenes from the movie here if you're interested, "PETA" and the following one.
Johna Hex was just plain silly. The remake of True Grit had Jeff Bridges uttering indistinctly. It would have been better with closed caption.
I wish I could remember which John Wayne movie it was where he explained to someone how it was that he had stayed alive through numerous gunfights in spite of his lack of speed. His answer was something along the line of how most men would hestitate to kill someone, whether out of fear or just not having the stomach, and it didn't bother him. I think that would explain your question concerning Will Muny.
While the acting in the new Sherlock Holmes is worthwhile, the stories are dreadful. I saw them all and they seemed tired retreads of US detective shows. No better or no worse than the Basil Rathbone contemporaries, which I also find watchable, and superior to many of pastiche movies of the 1970s and 1980s. The new Sherlock Holmes shows were superior, I think, to the poor pastiches with Jeremy Brett: the Sussex Vampire comes to mind; but they were not better than Brett's Hound of the Baskervilles or Sign of Four.
"I can repeat huge chunks of the dialogue"
Some of the dialog is lifted almost intact from the stories, including my favorite, the confrontation between Moriarity and Holmes at Baker St.
The Shootist, Wayne's last film. And Eastwood's last film, Gran Torino, is in many ways a remake of The Shootist.