Westerns

Guardians of the Galaxy Starlord

The reaction to The Amazing Spiderman 2 has started an intense critical dialogue about superhero films, foremost in this Criticwire survey. I particularly recommend reading Glenn Kenny and Richard Brody’s responses – they represent very different types of reactions to the question ‘Are there too many superhero movies?’ (both of which are reactions I sympathize with). Many of the critics offer some variation of the old ‘The superhero genre is like the western, it’ll eventually get good if you get it time!’ argument. Comparing Superhero films to Westerns has become a cliché, a bit of received wisdom that has thus far been passed without much skepticism or examination. It has become a truism among the faithful that comic book films will become the next great chapter in American genre art, if only we have a little patience. While it’s hard to not see some superficial similarities between the two genres (they’re both largely action oriented, both involve elements of myth and morality play, and both began as adolescent entertainment), I think it’s clear that the western genre was (and is) varied and adaptable in a way that superhero films haven’t been. Matt Zoller Seitz offers an excellent critique of the “sameness” of superhero films. The Atlantic’s Tim Wainwright argues in response that what we need are more superhero films, not fewer. I can understand what he’s saying, but I’m not sure more films will yield the result he expects. The number of times something is made is much less important than how it is made, and what inherent values the […]

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Seth MacFarlane

Even though Seth MacFarlane’s animated shows for Fox, Family Guy and American Dad, have been hugely successful, MacFarlane himself still gets a lot of guff from critics for his shows being too formulaic and his talent being overstated. He relies too much on pop culture references and absurdist asides, people say. All of his characters’ voices sound the same, people say. But, in the last year or so, we’ve really seen MacFarlane take the first few steps toward branching out and proving that he has more to offer the entertainment industry than his critics would suggest. The biggest step toward that goal was proving that he can write and direct a successful feature film with Ted. Despite a few dissenting voices complaining that MacFarlane’s voice for Ted’s CG teddy bear sounded too much like his voice for Peter Griffin, most everyone was in agreement that MacFarlane had directed one of the year’s best feature comedies, and the box office results more than backed its positive reviews up. Ted brought in about ten times the coin that it cost to make. Suddenly, MacFarlane finds himself in the elite club of being a money-making filmmaker, and a whole new world of possibilities has opened up for him. So what’s he going to do with his newfound clout? Not rest on his laurels, that’s for sure. Not only is he all set to host this year’s Academy Awards, which should boost his profile in the culture even higher, but now THR is reporting […]

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Comic actor Adam Sandler, his production company Happy Madison, and Sony Pictures all have a rich history of working together. They’ve brought us a litany of steaming piles of comedy crap, including titles like Grown Ups, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, and the Kevin James-starring Paul Blart: Mall Cop. And, despite the fact that Sandler’s last horrible excuse for a comedy that he made with Sony, That’s My Boy, didn’t perform up to the standards of his previous films, all indications have been that the studio and Sandler were still perfectly happy in their relationship and ready to continue work on a Grown Ups sequel and then some sort of untitled Western comedy. But recently there was a glimmer of hope. Sony has been experiencing some money troubles, and has, as THR puts it in their report of all this inside baseball stuff, started, “actively seeking partners, divesting and abandoning specific projects.” This means that guys like Sandler, who may be showing signs of slowing down as an earner, are starting to look like a bigger risk to the studio, and that they’re less likely to fund risky projects unless they can get some sort of partner to come on board and split the cost. Suddenly, that untitled Western comedy was in trouble. Might it be possible that it could get put in turnaround, thus sparing us from having to see another terrible Adam Sandler comedy for a few years?

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Park Chan-Wook

Just as Hollywood was preparing to bid a tear-filled farewell to South Korean director Park Chan-wook after he finishes work on his English-language debut, Stoker, word comes out of Variety that he might be sticking around in the scene for a little while longer to direct a long-shelved Western script called The Brigands of Rattleborge. A product of screenwriter Craig Zahler, The Brigands of Rattleborge was a script that appeared on the Black List of best unproduced screenplays all the way back in 2006, and apparently it has remained unproduced up to this point because there’s just so much violence inherent to the story that making it would be seen as too big of a risk for anyone with balls less brassy than the guy who made Oldboy. What exactly is a brigand of rattleborge? You see, The Brigands of Rattleborge was titled in a kind of obsolete vernacular. Brigand is an old-timey word for someone who robs people in the woods or the mountains, and Rattleborge, well, your guess is as good as anybody’s on that one. There is a synopsis for the script though, and it says that the story is about a doctor and a sheriff who are looking for revenge against a group of bandits who terrorized a small town during a terrible thunderstorm.

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Jane Got a Gun has been an attractive package from the very beginning, seeing as it pairs a Black List script with a talented director in Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin) and a huge movie star lead in Natalie Portman (Mars Attacks). But now, as the production inches closer to a start date, it’s going to have to start filling out the rest of its cast, and a report from Vulture says that Ramsay and crew are looking to get that process started off with a bang. The story of the film is said to follow a woman (Portman) whose husband comes home one day riddled with bullet wounds and barely breathing. It turns out that her low-down dog of a hubby has gone and got himself involved with some criminal Confederates, and now they’re hot on his heels and looking to finish the job they already started. Seeing as said man is seemingly on his death bed, it falls on said woman to reach out to an ex-lover and ask him to help her defend her farm, a proposition that sounds ripe with dramatic stickiness.

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There’s no shortage of complaining about Hollywood’s over-reliance on remakes in the film blogging world, but that’s probably because there’s no shortage of new remakes being proposed either. And this latest one, it just feels like somebody’s messing with us. Variety reports that MGM is dipping into their back catalogue and pulling out The Magnificent Seven as a new starring vehicle for Tom Cruise. The Magnificent Seven was a 1960 cowboy film directed by John Sturges that starred names like Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson, and the fact that it’s being remade by MGM is especially egregious for several reasons. The most obvious of which is that the original Magnificent Seven was already a remake of sorts, as it took the plot of Akira Kurosawa’s classic 1954 film Seven Samurai and transplanted it into a Western setting. But that’s not the real reason this plan is so insulting.

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Right from its very beginning, Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming spaghetti Western wannabe Django Unchained was a project whose casting rumors involved far more actors than could have actually been included in its cast. In addition to names being thrown around that just turned out to be wishful thinking, actors like Jonah Hill and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were said to be close to taking roles in the film, but ultimately never signed up due to scheduling conflicts. Even Kevin Costner, who had signed on to play the role of Ace Woody, eventually had to be replaced by Kurt Russell because of scheduling issues. What’s the deal with all of these scheduling issues? What does Tarantino have going on out there in the desert? There may be no hard and fast answers to that question coming, but what is clear is that, even though shooting on the film has commenced, two more names have now dropped out of the cast. The Film Stage brought to our attention that, during an appearance on Howard Stern, Sacha Baron Cohen announced that he wouldn’t be able to make his planned appearance in the film due to promotional commitments for The Dictator. Soon after, Variety’s Jeff Sneider broke the news on Twitter that Kurt Russell had also left the cast.

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Over Under - Large

Once upon a time, Hollywood was king of the Western and the idea of anybody over in Europe making a movie about the American Southwest as successful as something like High Noon was laughable. Italian-produced films about the west, or Spaghetti Westerns, were largely low budget knock-offs where fading Hollywood stars went to die after their careers had peaked. But the work of Sergio Leone changed that viewpoint. His “The Man With No Name” trilogy wasn’t just a worldwide financial success upon release, the films have gone on to be seen as some of the greatest Westerns produced anywhere, throughout the history of film. And the final installment of that series, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, has especially become an important part of the fabric of pop culture. More than any other Western I can think of, it’s stood the test of time and achieved a level of awareness that rivals any other classic film in any other genre. Often it’s referred to as not just the definitive Spaghetti Western and Leone’s masterpiece, but as the definitive Western, period. That’s all fine and good, because I think The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is largely a great film; but I think he actually improved two years later when he made Once Upon a Time in the West, my pick for the greatest Western of all time.

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Drinking Games

Just in time for the gift-giving season, the studios have dropped a large number of big name DVDs and Blu-rays on the marketplace. Many of these are the would-be blockbusters from this past summer, including the Jon Favreau sci-fi Western Cowboys & Aliens. It may not have been the biggest hit, but now you can check it out in the comfort of your own home, watching either the theatrical version or the extended one. So pull up a bar stool, as if you’re in your favorite saloon, and knock back a few drinks with James Bond and Indiana Jones in the old West. Though we’d suggest a cup of suds over the harder drinks, or you might not make it through the movie.

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It’s been a long, winding road to get Disney’s new version of The Lone Ranger to the big screen. We went through the whole casting process, we went through a phase where everybody was waiting to see if Gore Verbinski would come on to direct, we were told that Disney had canned the movie due to its budget being out of control, and then there was a whole series of will-they-won’t-they back and forths where Verbinski kept trying to cut money from the budget to save the film and nobody knew whether or not each cut would be enough to do the job. But, finally, after what feels like years of reporting on this movie already, Deadline Tioga is saying that it’s actually set to go in front of cameras in February. The amazing thing is, despite all of the delays and uncertainty, The Lone Ranger still has the original cast it put together in place. Armie Hammer is still going to be the title character, Johnny Depp is still going to be Tonto, and they’ve even now got Tom Wilkinson signed, sealed, and delivered to play the film’s villain, Latham Cole, and Ruth Wilson locked in to play the female lead, Rebecca Reid. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, there’s also a strong supporting cast featuring names like Barry Pepper and Dwight Yoakam that are still on board.

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All throughout the casting process of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained we’ve watched the director recruit big name actor after big name actor to fill out the male roles in his script. But there was one character who kept getting named, danced around, but never announced as being officially cast. We got news of the man who would be playing Django, the titular character and husband to Broomhilda. We got news of who would be playing Calvin Candie, the slave owner that kept Broomhilda under lock and key. Everything that happens in this movie seems to hinge on the character of Broomhilda, yet their hasn’t been much speculation as to who would be cast to bring her to life. Today that oversight ends, and most of the principle casting of Django Unchained seems to get wrapped up, with the casting of actress Kerry Washington in the Broomhilda role. Washington is a pretty face, who’s been known to do things like appear in L’Oréal ads, but she has a pretty lengthy film career behind her at this point as well. Perhaps most memorably she played the role of Kay Amin in The Last King of Scotland, and she’s even already had some experience playing Jamie Foxx’s significant other in Ray. Apparently the role took so long to fill because Tarantino was interested in casting an unknown for Broomhilda, but try as he might he just couldn’t find anyone to top Washington’s auditions. Despite the fact that Tarantino won’t be able to wow […]

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The casting news for Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming foray into the Western genre, Django Unchained, just keeps getting better and better. Like a sports nerd amassing the perfect fantasy baseball team, Tarantino has been looking over the stats and picking out the most rock solid actors to fill key roles on his squad. Like a seasoned Dungeon Master, he has been amassing the Hollywood personalities with the most awesome points to accompany him on his quest. And Variety is reporting that the man is nearing yet another blockbuster acquisition. Now he’s in talks with Joseph Gordon-Levitt to join an already-excellent ensemble. Apparently Gordon-Levitt has every intention of working with Tarantino and joining this increasingly awesome-sounding movie, but there are some scheduling hiccups to work out. You see, JGL is a busy, busy man, and he’ll probably have to shift some stuff around in order to get his skinny little hinder on set when Tarantino needs him. If the two parties are able to work things out, it will see Gordon-Levitt joining a cast that already boasts names like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Johnson, and Kurt Russell. That’s almost enough to make what Stallone is doing on The Expendables 2 look girly in comparison.

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While 3D is all the rage now, and thankfully its death knell may be sounding, it can be easy to forget that 3D is not a new Hollywood trick to get butts into seats. There have been 3 distinct periods of prevalent 3D films in cinemas, one in the 50s, one in the 80s, and the one in which we currently find ourselves. And one of the films that helped kick of the 3D revival in the 80s was a spaghetti western called, rather appropriately, Comin’ At Ya 3D. It should be stated upfront that Comin’ At Ya 3D is first and foremost about the 3D gimmick. I won’t go so far as to say it’s not a film, but it’s definitely a case of style over substance and the story always takes a back seat to the in your face 3D effects. That’s not to say that the 3D doesn’t at times enhance the story being told, but it’s clear that the 3D is the big selling point here. No one was expecting Oscars for acting on this one. That said, Comin’ At Ya 3D is a lot of fun. If there’s something that could conceivably be thrown at the screen given the confines of a period Western, you can pretty much bet that it’s going to be thrown at the screen. It definitely takes a kitchen sink approach.

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It was recently reported that Kevin Costner was dropping out of Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming revenge Western about slaves and slave owners, Django Unchained. Costner was supposed to play a mean old snake named Ace Woody who oversees a plantation and keeps the slaves in line using not so nice methods. It seemed like a great opportunity to give Costner a meatier, or at least more interesting role than he has had in a while, and I was pretty disappointed to hear that he wouldn’t be able to work with Tarantino. Sometimes I’m astounded at how fickle I can be.

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Spanish director Mateo Gil’s look at the last days of Western legend Butch Cassidy, Blackthorn, has been picked up for distribution. The film made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, and is set to play at Cannes as well, but Magnolia Pictures has already scooped it up and is prepping it for a theatrical release later this year. The film stars Sam Shepard, who is no stranger to screen westerns, as Cassidy, and sees him supported by names such as Stephen Rea, Eduardo Noriega and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau. This is Gil’s first English language film, and the first feature length film that he has directed at all in 12 years. He is a prominent screenwriter, however, and has written things you might have heard of like the Javier Bardem film The Sea Inside, and the basis for Vanilla Sky called Abre los ojos. Why is Magnolia taking a chance on this film? The man who negotiated the deal, Tom Quinn, explains, “With an amazing cast and incredible locations, Mateo Gil has created a Western for the ages. Sam Shepard is unforgettable as Butch Cassidy, with a command performance that is a high point in an amazing career.” That sounds exciting to me, but I imagine that Magnolia picking up this film has a little something to do with the fact that True Grit just made a jillion dollars at the box office as well. Is this some early indication that the Coens’s success in the Western genre could be bringing […]

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If you’re like me, you watch the Super Bowl for one reason: you can eat as many fried mac ‘n’ cheese balls as you want without so much as a dirty look. If there’s another reason to watch, it’s because Puppy Bowl has gotten repetitive. If there’s a third, it’s the commercials – specifically the movie trailers. Most of the movie trailers this year gave just a bit more insight into trailers we’ve already seen, but a select few (like Transformers 3 and Super 8) gave us our first look into the worlds being created for the big screen. Fortunately, like the PSAs that get to air for free during the big game, these movie trailers also taught us a lot. Especially about the trends of 2011 that are already emerging. Here are just ten things we learned.

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Boiling Point

While I’ve talked about shitty CGI before, and countless others across the world of media have as well, there’s always time to take a few minutes and remind the world that CGI can often suck monster donkey balls. I’m not just talking in a made for TV SyFy kind of way either. Or a TV show stretching itself a little too thin. Or The Asylum. I mean, sometimes CGI does make sense. It saves actual shooting time. If done correctly, you may even save some money. It can definitely let smaller films do bigger things. A practical Sharktopus would never be able to run around and populate a shitty movie. A CGI one can, and does. Horribly. But I’ll give it a grab. Mainly my gripe today is big movies. Or movies with a budget. Movies that can take the time to use practical effects. Or pay for better CGI. Or just make smarter decisions because there are theoretically a lot of savvy and experienced people on board. I guess that means I’m still pretty naive when True Grit, the disappointing film that somehow garnered 10 Academy Award Nominations (Oscar loves some Coen shaft), takes the road most traveled by throwing in a few dozen CGI rattlesnakes that look like digital, wet spaghetti.

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Yesterday we took you out into the middle of New Mexico and behind the scenes of Cowboys & Aliens. Today, we continue our week-long set visit report by talking with director Jon Favreau. I’m standing in the middle of the desert, and Jon Favreau is holding an alien arm up toward my face. There’s this look in his eyes that reads as a mix of sheer excitement and a hopefulness that the group surrounding him approves of his alien arm. From the amount of questions buzzing him like airplanes taking a pass at a giant ape on the top of a tall building, it seems like they do. Favreau has navigated a jungle-like career (which started in earnest when he met Vince Vaughn on the set of Rudy) in order to stand in front of some sun-stroked journalists with a piece of painted plastic in his hand. That career has taken him from the college of PCU to the fighting style of Friends and through indie acclaim, Comic Con domination, and into the metal suit of Iron Man which, of course, led him to New Mexico in more ways than one.

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Drinking Games

Who says you need to have an English-language film to have a drinking game? All it takes is a kick-ass movie and some great cues. This week, the Korean homage to westerns, The Good the Bad the Weird, hits DVD and Blu-ray, and it’s definitely worth a look. And if you’re going to head out to the video store, why not swing by the supermarket for some other supplies to enjoy this drinking game.

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Comic book writer, video game scribe, and movie inspirationalist (that’s totally a word) Jimmy Palmiotti took time out of his busy schedule to informatively answer a few of our questions and delicately dodge around when we tried to get him to call the movie shit.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B


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