Friday, July 31, 2015

6 Unconventional Westerns

Westerns do not have to be set in the mid-to-late 1800s America. Sometimes, a story set in the distant future or other lands can still contain elements of a classic western. Those are the type of movies and TV shows that I highlight today. Also, this is not a list, but rather a collection of fiction that portrays a different take on the western genre.

Firefly / Serenity
Firefly and Serenity are an obvious pick for an unconventional western. Taking place in the distant future where humanity has spread across the stars, space is like a wild frontier with outlaws and smugglers. Everyone knows Firefly as the TV show that ended well before its time. While its short run is unfortunate, we will always have Joss Whedon and company's brilliant first season of television and the feature film, Serenity.

Back to the Future Part III
The third and final part of the madcap time-travel classic, Back to the Future Part III is a fun adventure through the old west with Doc Brown and Marty McFly. It might not be a stellar film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is full of classic western references and witty humor.

The Good, the Bad, the Weird
A South Korean film set in 1800s Korea, The Good, the Bad, the Weird is inspired by Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Much like the original film, it features a memorable cast of cool and zany characters, with Song Kang-ho as the "Weird" being the standout. This South Korean take adds an eastern action flare with lengthy action sequences with practical stunts and superb direction. If you enjoy westerns, foreign films, or entertaining action comedy, give this one a watch!

Yes, I know what you are thinking: "An anime? Who would watch that weird Japanese stuff?" But hear me out. Trigun is a sci-fi action comedy set on a new plant that humanity colonizes, and it is a barren wasteland, just like the Wild West. The series follows Vash the Stampede, a man with a 60 billion "double dollar" bounty on his head. What makes Trigun unique is that it starts out as an action comedy with wacky characters and fun action, and then shifts gears to a serious series with complex themes of heroism. Interestingly, the writer of the original comic (manga) that the anime was based on is a Christian, which is evident by the themes expressed. It explores the consequences of a hero that refuses to kill, like Batman, and how that can lead to even more deaths of innocents.

Cowboy Bebop
Another anime, Cowboy Bebop, a classic that everyone should have at least heard of by now, is set in the future where humanity is spread across the stars where bounty hunters, referred to as "Cowboys," roam the galaxy in search of their targets. That's the premise of Cowboy Bebop, but that is only the beginning. The series is heavily influenced by American filmmakers, and the soundtrack varies from smooth jazz to classic rock with each episode being titled after a style of music. Once you get past the slow start, Cowboy Bebop is an unforgettable classic that should be watched by all; I even own the Blu-Ray set! If you are not sold on it after episode 1, skip to Episode 5; that should sell the show to you.

An animated film starring Johnny Depp, Rango is one of the funniest animated films of the last few years. The plot is a fun twist on classic western stories with animals and shockingly detailed 3D animation.

What are some of your favorite Unconventional Westerns? Have you seen any of the films on this list? Please let me know in the comments, and do not forget to check out my Top 10 Westerns list in the following links: Part 1 & Part 2.

Unless I think of one final post tomorrow for Emma, Plain and Tall's Legends of Western Cinema week on A Lantern in Her Hand & Meanwhile, in the River...., this is the end of my western posts. Thanks everyone for reading, and I hope you have found a few new westerns to watch. My Top 25 Sci-Fi Movies list continues next week, so be sure to check back for that!

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

New Deadpool Images

New images for Deadpool continue to be released! As far as being faithful to the comics, this Deadpool movie is nailing it! However, in my honest opinion, the film is going a little too vulgar. I watched a bootleg version of the Comic-Con trailer, and while it was funny and full of meta-humor, it seemed unnecessarily vulgar, even for Deadpool. Of course, that is just me. Otherwise, Ryan Reynolds is fantastic, and the costume is perfect. What do you think? Please comment below and check back tomorrow for my 5 Unconventional Westerns list, where I wrap up my Western Week.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Top 10 Westerns: Part 2

My Top 10 Westerns list concludes today with my Top 5! And here is Part 1 if you missed it.

5: The Magnificent Seven
As you may know from my recent Versus post, The Magnificent Seven is based on the Japanese film Seven Samurai, and if you want to read a comparison of the films, click here. For the film itself, it tells the classic story of seven gunmen hired to protect a village from bandits, and of all the remakes, this is, undoubtedly, the finest. From the all-star cast to the fun action and adventure, The Magnificent Seven is a classic that should never be forgotten.

4: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Arguably Humphrey Bogart's best film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is an enduring tale of greed and gold and how it can turn friends against one another. Unlike the other westerns on the list, the film does not have gunfights, traditional cowboys, or the other tropes, but it a film about the thing that drove people to go west: gold! John Huston's direction creates a sense of tension as the characters begin to distrust each other and Bogart's role as Fred Dobbs is one of his most layered and complex. If you have yet to see this classic, what are you doing!? Go watch it!

3: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is not like other westerns. In fact, it is almost similar to many modern day flicks with its witty script and chemistry between the leads. Paul Newman and Robert Redford played one of film’s first "Bromances," although I don't like that term. If the old fashion westerns in John Wayne's error do not appeal to you, check out Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; you just might enjoy it.

2: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
After watching Sergio Leone's other Spaghetti Westerns, which, while good, were a little disappointing, my expectations for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly were rather low. To my surprise, however, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly turned out to be one of the best westerns and films of all-time. Sergio Leone used his unique directorial style to great effect throughout the film by creating the sense of tension between these witty outlaws. Clint Eastwood’s cool demeanor and humorous wit added to the film as well. 

1: The Outlaw Josey Wales
One of Clint Eastwood’s earliest directorial efforts, The Outlaw Josey Wales is my favorite western of all-time. Following a Confederate soldier directly after the end of the Civil War, The Outlaw Josey Wales is the pinnacle of revenge flicks, and a unique spin on the western genre. Sure, it might not be everyone’s favorite, and that’s fine, because there are so many fantastic westerns. Unfortunately, they are rarely watched by today’s audiences. 
*Warning: Despite the PG rating, it would be R by today's standards.*

What are your favorite westerns? Please comment below and let me know!

Honorable Mentions: Unforgiven, Hondo, The Westerner, Destry Rides Again, High Noon, The Naked Spur, Pale Rider, Rooster Cogburn, True Grit (2010), 3:10 to Yuma, A Fistful of Dollars, Dances with Wolves

While this list concludes today, my westerns posts are not over! A "5 Unconventional Westerns" is on the way to continue Emma, Plain and Tall's Legends of Western Cinema week on her blog A Lantern in Her Hand & Meanwhile, in the River....

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Movie Music and More #20: "Tombstone" (1993)

Hamlette here to discuss another delightful soundtrack with you.  When I think of awesome modern western film scores, one name instantly pops into my mind:  Bruce Broughton.  Sure, he's composed for plenty of non-westerns, like The Blue and the Gray (1982),  Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) and Homeward Bound:  The Incredible Journey (1993), but he's done such a masterful job scoring westerns like Tombstone (1993), Texas Rising (2015), and Silverado (1985) that I can't help but connect him with them in my mind.  (Of course, a lot of this is because I love westerns -- your mileage may vary!)

So today I'm focusing on the soundtrack for Tombstone.  I'm going to start things off slow and easy, with "A Family," a tender track that highlights the bond of kinship between Wyatt Earp and his brothers as they reunite in Tombstone, Arizona, looking ahead to a happy and peaceful life with their wives.  It's hauntingly sweet, especially since we know their dream of peace will be short-lived.

Much of this soundtrack is minor, sometimes strident, and distinctly modern in flavor.  Here's a good example of that:

Although that sort of music usually leaves me edgy, sometimes annoyed, I do like the chaotic flavor of this because it accurately portrays the lawlessness depicted in Tombstone.

This last selection is from the very end of the movie.  It begins tentative and hopeful, then transitions into a joyous and frolicksome romp.  This is my favorite track from the whole soundtrack, because it has all the major themes in it, and because at 2:30, in comes that chilling, wonderful drumbeat, those triumphant trumpets -- it's a fanfare, a call to arms, and a celebration all at once, and I love it.  This plays while the end credits roll, so it's pretty long, and that is A-OK with me.  Eventually, it ebbs back into quieter music, then ends with a bold flourish.

I could listen to that theme over and over and over again.  In fact, I have done just that many times.  Enjoy!

EDIT:  By the way, A Lantern in Her Hand and Meanwhile, in Rivendell are hosting Legends of Western Cinema Week right now, and this post is one of my contributions for it.  Follow the links above for lots of western movie fun!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Top 10 Westerns: Part 1

Westerns, a genre of film that is now long forgotten in the depths of cinema history. Back the 40s, 50s, and 60s, westerns were big money makes; essentially the equivalent of summer blockbusters. Today, however, you are lucky if one western is released a year, and ever since the Lone Ranger bombed, it seems that there is little hope for the genre's revival. Thankfully, we will always have the classics, and today I rank the Top 10 Westerns that you need to see. Even if you are not a fan of westerns, maybe I can convince you to check out a few of these classics.

Today's post is the first of three Western themed posts for Emma, Plain and Tall's "Legends of Western Cinema Week" on her blog A Lantern in Her Hand & Meanwhile, in the River....

10: Tombstone
What Tombstone lacks in historical accuracy, it makes up for in being fun to watch. Not only does it contain one of the best shootouts in cinema, it is full of memorable quotes and an entertaining quest for revenge. Val Kilmer is the real star of the film as the always entertaining Doc Holliday. He is what makes the film so much fun to watch.

9: Rio Bravo

Director, Howard Hawks, teams up with legendary actors, John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, and Walter Brennan to create one of the finest westerns of the era! It tells the tale of a sheriff arresting the brother of a powerful rancher, so the sheriff and other characters band together to defend the town. Some say that Rio Bravo is a direct response to High Noon, because the story mirrors the events with townsfolk abandoning the sheriff in time of need instead of helping. Rio Bravo's more optimistic outlook on humanity is my favorite of the two.

8: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Starring two of the best actors of the era, James Stewart and John Wayne, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is the first film where you can see both legends in a film together. The film is a departure from the typical Shoot 'Em Up westerns, and the result makes it one of the best. James Stewart gives his reliably superb and likable performance as as Ransom "Ranse" Stoddard, and John Wayne plays off him well with yet another classic performance.

7: True Grit (1969)
Some may prefer the 2011 Coen Brothers remake, but for me, John Wayne's original will always be my favorite. Sure, the remake is more accurate to the book and contained better performances, but you cannot top the classic charm of the original.

6: The Searchers
John Wayne is known for playing the typical straight-laced "good-guy," but not in The Searchers! Wayne plays a darker, more troubled character on a quest to find his niece, who was kidnapped by Indians. Even if you don't like old movies or westerns, if you love movies, The Searchers is a must-watch, as Wayne gives his finest performance of his career. 

What do you think of the list? Are these some of your favorite westerns? Please comment below, and check back in the following days for more Western themed posts.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jurassic World Sequel and Release Date Set

Not surprisingly, Jurassic World is getting a sequel! And it will be released on June 22, 2018. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard will return to reprise their roles, but Colin Trevorrow is not guaranteed to direct the film. However, Steven Spielberg will executive-produce the film.

The problem with any sequel in the Jurassic franchise, including Jurassic World (my review here), is that there is no way to logically create a scenario for the film to make sense. After the failure of the original Jurassic Park, the Jurassic World park should have never been greenlit. However, I can give it a pass since this is a semi-reboot. So, what absurd scenario is going to be created for Pratt's character to return to working with dinosaurs? And how can the screenwriters bring something fresh to the Jurassic franchise? Since the first film, the writing for the Jurassic films have been poor, so I am skeptical whether or not they could accomplish something that writers have failed to do three times already. Well, I will go see it, and so will many others. I wonder if this will become the next Transformers franchise, by which I mean it makes a ton of cash regardless of quality. But then again, Jurassic World was a lot better than any of the Transformers films. Still, Jurassic World is now the third highest grossing film of all-time, which proves that quality isn't everything, because we all know the original Avengers is far superior. What do you think? Please comment below and let me know!

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

X-Men: Apocalypse New Pictures

New pictures from X-Men: Apocalypse have been release, and they give us our first good look at the characters. If you do not already know, the film is set in the 80s and will feature Apocalypse as the main antagonist. Below are the pictures with my commentary.
Oscar Isaac will no doubt be a fantastic Apocalypse, and the use of practical makeup is an excellent idea. However, he looks a little strange, but then again, this is a production picture, if I am not mistaken, so the final product will be different. The use of the classic Mohawk look for Storm is a fun idea considering that this is the 80s. Psylocke, one of my favorite, yet underused, characters, and she looks great in the almost 100% comic book accurate attire. The heavy use of purple for all of the characters fits the 80s and Apocalypse theme well.

Cyclops’ appearance is exactly what I would expect, which is great! Hopefully, this time around, he will actually have some personality.

 Eh, I am on the fence about Jean Grey visually, but I am hopeful.
 Now this is perfect! Jubilee looks exactly like the 80s comic and the 90s cartoon version of the character!
 Not much to say other than Fassbender returns! 

For a young Nightcrawler, this is a good look for the character. I hope he is just as entertaining to watch use his powers in this film as he was in X2.
 Is it just me, or does Professor X look a little strange? Otherwise, this is what the Cerebro will look like, and I like it.
At first, the goggles on Quicksilver's head looked like a dumb headband, but now knowing that those are goggles, I can't wait to see more of the character!

What do you think? Please comment below and let me know! And are you excited for this new X-Men film?


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Friday, July 24, 2015

New Muppets TV Show for Adults!?

That's right, The Muppets are returning to television on ABC with a TV Show that is "more adult." Honestly, this sounds like a bizarre idea for prime time television, but at the same time, it might actually be work. From the Comic-Con presentation, which you can watch above, the show is already poking fun at comedies like the Office, while also using its style. 

Despite the Muppets' popularity as a brand, almost anytime something originally aimed at children attempts to target an older audience, the results are complete failure or a small following by as an almost "cult classic." Animation is a perfect example since the mainstream never has been able to take any mature animated series seriously. However, maybe The Muppets can find the perfect balance of adult oriented humor that does not go too far. Either way, I will be sure to give it a shot when it airs on September 22th on ABC. Do you plan to watch it? And do you think it will succeed? Please comment below and let me know! Check back tomorrow for more movie news.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Top 25 Sci-Fi Movies: Part 3

Part 3 of the Top 25 Science Fiction Movies list continues with several more entries in the list! If you missed Part 1, click here, and here for Part 2.

17: Planet of the Apes
One of my favorite sci-fi films since childhood, Planet of the Apes tells the iconic story of man like apes being the rulers of a mysterious new world. For the era, the ape makeup effects are revolutionary, and if not for the film, many later sci-fi, horror, and other FX films would never have come into existence. Even today, the makeup holds up incredibly well, and it is so much better than the mediocre Tim Burton remake.

In regard to the movie itself, Planet of the Apes is an interesting adventure. Despite being several decades old, there is nothing really like it. Not even the recent Apes films have been able to top the original. 

16: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Steven Spielberg's E.T is among the best family films ever made. For me, a truly great "family film" is one that adults can enjoy just as much as kids and E.T. definitely succeeds. In fact, my first viewing of the film was not until I was 17 or 18. Spielberg is a masterclass director. He can make the most mundane things interesting to watch, and E.T. is a perfect example of his skill.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is also one of the few films that stars a child where the kid does not detract from the film. Henry Thomas's performance off of the lovable E.T. special effect is excellent for his age. My only issue is that the movie does not do all that much in grand scheme of things, but that's fine for what it is.

15: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
One of my favorite time-travel stories, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, is based on a 1967 novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui. It tells the story of a girl, who can travel-through-time by jumping from a certain height. However, she eventually discovers that time-travel cannot fix everything as problems arise. 

What separates this film from other time-travel stories is that it does not follow the usual "dangers of time-travel." The main character actually uses the time-travel as you would expect a teenager would use it, and yet she is not an annoying teenager like almost every teenage character in recent memory. The mix of comedy and drama is effective, and in the end, the film is a must-see, especially for fans of Studio Ghibli and time-travel.  

14: Alien
Ridley Scott's classic is the principal of science fiction horror! Despite knowing who would ultimately survive, the film manages to create a strong sense of tension. What surprised me the most is how unnerving the alien "Facehuggers" and "Chestbursters" are to witness. My skin crawls just thinking about them. The first scene with the Chestburster remains one of the few times where body horror works to forward the story without seeming over-the-top or unnecessary.

Alien's special effects are yet another highlight as it is some of the best from classic sci-fi. The creature design for the Xenomorph is superb, as it too is one of the best creatures in film history. Lastly, the film set the foundation for one of the best heroines in film, Ellen Ripley.

What do you think of the list so far! Are many of these your favorites? Please let me know in the comments, and if you missed it, please check out my review of Interstellar by clicking here.

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