Westworld

Ed Harris in Appaloosa

HBO’s Westworld remake has been on a roll when it comes to casting, nailing down Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright and James Marsden in the last few weeks. Take a lesson, everyone else in Hollywood: if you’re going to remake something that really has no business being remade, the least you can do for everyone is throw in a few actors that can make it palatable. The latest addition to J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan‘s robo-cowboy epic is better than all those other schmucks combined (no offense, Sir Hopkins, but your role is almost 100% guaranteed to be non-robotic, so we’ve had to dock you a few coolness points). According to Deadline, HBO has snagged Ed Harris for a key role in the series (currently at just the pilot stage), as “The Man in Black.” Another actor was announced via The Wrap at the same time: Ptolemy Slocum, who had a recurring role on the HBO series Looking. But all we know is he will be playing a man named Sylvester. 

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Culture Warrior

A genre nearly as old as filmmaking itself, the western thrived throughout the years of the studio system but has zigzagged across rough terrain for the past forty or so years. For the last fifteen-ish years, the struggling, commercially unfriendly genre was either manifested in a neoclassical nostalgic form limited in potential mass appeal (Appaloosa, Open Range) or in reimagined approaches that ran the gamut between contrived pap and inspired deconstructions (anything from Wild Wild West to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). But last December, True Grit – a bona fide western remake that relied on the opportunities available in the genre’s conventions rather than bells, whistles, or ironic tongues in their respective cheeks – became a smash hit. Did this film reinvigorate a genre that was on life support, as the supposed revitalization of the musical is thought to have done a decade ago, or are westerns surviving by moving along a different route altogether? Three westerns released so far this year – Gore Verbinski’s Rango, Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff, and, as of this weekend, Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens – suggest mixed directions for the dusty ol’ genre.

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Hollywood is already clamoring for more sci-fi to remake, and a lot of it seems to come from the 1970s and 1980s. What else should they go ahead and add to the list?

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