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Entries in westerns (34)


Review: "The Magnificent Seven"

by Chris Feil

Drawing on the original iterations of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and the 1960 American remake by John Sturges, Antoine Fuqua's The Magnificent Seven arrives as another attempt to reanimate the American western.

Denzel Washington leads this bursting cast as Chisolm, corralling a ragtag mini-militia to help protect a small town from a violent and overbearing tycoon (Peter Sarsgaard). There are familiar faces (Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt, Vincent D'Onofrio) and emerging talents (Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeier) rounding out the Magnificent bunch with more shared attention to each player than you might be anticipating...

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Review: Hell or High Water

by Eric Blume

With their new film, director David Mackenzie (Young Adam, Starred Up) and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) make one thing abundantly clear: they really, really hate banks.  Hell or High Water is a sort of southwest answer to The Big Short, a tale of rural Texas poor on a Robin Hood mission. 

Sheridan’s script was the winner of the 2012 Black List prize for best unproduced screenplay, a fact which feels surprising during the cliché friendly first half hour.  Brothers Toby and Tanner Howard are characters we’ve seen many times before, with a sibling dynamic that’s not new either.  Tanner (Ben Foster) is the wild bro released from prison, complete with a violent streak and true-blue redneck energy.  Toby (Chris Pine) is the tender brother, a taciturn and emotionally bruised man trying to make things right.  Together, they start robbing small Texas banks to secure money to save the family farm.  As Counterpoint we have two Texas rangers on their case:  Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), for whom this is the last big one before retirement(!), and partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham), the sage Native American sidekick. 

For about the first thirty minutes, you sit in fear that this is all the film will be, a simple chase to the inevitable populated with stock characters. The only hope it has is to somehow deepen.  Fortunately, it does...

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Q&A: I'm Not There. I'm Right Here With My Cat(s)

Your questions a few days back really got me going so you're getting two weeks of Q&As out of them. Here's the first episode with eight questions answered on Hamilton, I'm Not There style biopics, dinner with movie characters and more... 

IBIS: Cast This! The film version of Hamilton

NATHANIEL: Since they'll surely make us wait another 10 years for any movement on the film we'd have to suggest actors we've never heard of who maybe even haven't started acting yet so we can't think on this. I will say though that when everyone was so sad that the original cast was leaving the show I felt like hugging everyone and going "it'll be fine if you see replacements!" because the star of Hamilton is really the musical itself, if you ask me. Yes, the actors were great but it's one of those things that's so perfectly calibrated to be its best self, that the show is really the star. I swear to you. So please enjoy it when it goes on tour somewhere near you.

Plus the wait for a Hamilton movie gives Hollywood time to invest in some actors of color as future stars so that they don't panic when it's time to cast the movie and realize they don't know enough of them to fill this sprawling movie. 

my favorite western RED RIVER (1948)SONJA: What is your least favorite genre?

I try to love all genres since they're all capable of greatness. My answer to this when I was younger would have easily  been "westerns" or "horror" but I've seen enough classics now from each of those genres that I have newfound respect. I guess I will say "war films" in general. Yes, there are great ones... but too often it's just an excuse to indulge in manly violence for manly violence's sake, which is never really a thrill for me.

But if I can extend to television throw out that entire answer and just say "medical procedural". While watching TV the other night I saw a commercial for Chicago Med which I guess is a new show? And I was like REALLY? ANOTHER MEDICAL PROCEDURAL? AND ALSO: ANOTHER MEDICAL PROCEDURAL SET IN CHICAGO WHERE HALF OF THEM HAVE BEEN SET?!?" It actually made me angry. The showbiz community is sometimes just entirely allergic to trying new things... which is strange considering it's a profession which can only exist by harnessing creativity.

RYAN T: Since the Olympics is happening in Rio, do you have a favorite Brazilian film, actor, or filmmaker?

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On this day: Billy the Kid, The Dark Knight, Hello Nasty

Happy Bastille Day! Isn't it weird that violent/bloody days often become holidays later on?

On this day in history as it relates to the movies...

Howard Hughes The Outlaw (1943)

1862 The Artist Gustav Klimt is born. Later Dame Helen Mirren will fight for custody of one of his most famous paintings in the bad movie Woman in Gold (2015).
1868 Explorer Gertrud Bell is born. Nicole Kidman played her in an ill-fated unreleased Werner Herzog movie Queen of the Desert
1881 Outlaw Billy the Kid is shot and killed outside Fort Sumner. Numerous stars have played him in movies including Roy Rogers (Billy the Kid Returns), Kris Kristofferson (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid), Emilio Estevez (Young Guns), and Paul Newman (The Left-Handed Gun). The most famous film version of his story may well be The Outlaw (1943) the Howard Hughes film which starred Jack Buetel as Billy and Jane Russell, in her star-making role, as his girl. You'll probably remember the funny scenes about this scandalous film (and Jane Russell's controversial cleavagae) within Martin Scorsese's The Aviator (2004)

more after the jump including Harry Dean Stanton's 90th birthday...

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Judy by the Numbers: "On The Atchison Topeka And The Santa Fe"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

Though we last left Judy Garland in 1944 crooning from a trolley and cementing a (troubled) place in Hollywood history, this week we must catapult two years into the future to rejoin our musical heroine. The reason has to do with the odd nature of the Studio System in general and this series in specific. Judy Garland actually shot two movies between 1944 and 1945, but because one was delayed due to reshoots (therefore getting bumped to next week) and the other was a straight drama (therefore not fitting a series focused on musical numbers), we must travel through the end of WW2 and the beginning of Judy Garland's marriage to Vincente Minnelli. Thus, in 1946 we arrive in... the Old West? 
The Movie:
 The Harvey Girls (1946)
The Songwriters: Johnny Mercer (lyrics), Harry Warren (music)
The Players: Judy Garland, Angela Lansbury, Ray Bolger, Cyd Charisse, & John Hodiak, directed by George Sidney 

The Story: In 1946, Judy Garland hopped off the trolley and onto a train for a Western-style musical entitled The Harvey Girls. I have to admit, while this is by no means Judy Garland's best musical, it remains a personal favorite for three reasons:

1) Judy Garland sings on a train. 
2) It's a musical western genre mashup that misses Oklahoma! by three years and and one saloon fight.
3) Angela Lansbury plays a chorus girl/prostitute named Em. In fact, the movie is a veritable Who's Who of MGM & the Freed Unit, since it also stars baby Cyd Charisse, the return of former Scarecrow Ray Bolger, deadpan alto Virginia O'Brien, and the delightful dulcet tones of Marjorie Main and Chill Wills!

More importantly for Judy, though, this movie shows the Freed Unit's ability to find a winning formula for its tiny Technicolor titan and stick to it. Like Meet Me in St. Louis before it (and many Freed films after it), The Harvey Girls was a musical that leaned heavily on nostalgia; a period piece mixing authentic songs - conveniently taken from the MGM catalogue - with new insta-classics provided by a rotating stable of songwriters. The plots of each of these movies revolves around Judy meeting, loathing, then learning to love a confounded-but-charismatic man; providing ample opportunity for musical numbers, slapstick, and a brightly-colored battle of the sexes. Though this decision may seem limiting, it also further defined Judy Garland at MGM: Judy's image would embrace the tension between modern stardom and nostalgic Americana, a potent symbol of post-war America.


Podcast: Whodunnit and Whydtheydoit... "The Hateful Eight"

When the cats away the mice will play? Something like that. This week's two part podcast marks the very first without your host (none of you needed to hear me whine about The Hateful Eight again! -- plus I was sick the day of the recording). So let's see what Nick, Katey and Joe think of it in this sure to be exciting conversation; I only have a vague notion of what they each thought of it so can't wait to listen with all of you! 

24 minutes 
00:01 Introductions & Teasings
02:00 Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight: moviegoing crowds, racial & gender controveries, Agatha Christie mysteries
19:00 Reader Question: Three comedy performances that went wildly underappreciated this past year. Nick, Katey and Joe each pick a favorite. 

Part 2 will be up shortly

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes

The Hateful Eight. Intermission and All...


The Revenant's Costume Designer Jacqueline West on Terrence Malick, Ben Affleck, and... Anaïs Nin? 

Jacqueline West at the premiere of The Revenant.© Frazer Harrison for Getty ImagesClothing was always in her blood though Costume Design came later. Two time Oscar nominee Jacqueline West (Quills, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), the daughter of an avante garde designer, originally pursued fashion. After building a successful clothing line of her own her career made a sudden fate-filled turn in the late 80s via a favor for a personal friend, the director Philip Kaufman.

Her filmography in the subsequent 25 years has been a grab bag of film genres --  her latest The Revenant (2015) is a 180 from Henry & June (1990) you must agree -- but the consistent throughline is that she's in demand with the auteur set. She's worked repeatedly with Terrence Malick, David Fincher, Philip Kaufman, and Ben Affleck. The Revenant marks her first, though one assumes not last, collaboration with Alejandro González Iñárritu. To get in the right mindset, she drew on her personal history -- she was intimately familiar with the Hugh Glass story before Inarittu and Leo were all about making it for the screen-- and eventually read a ton of journals by fur trappers, including the invaluable "40 Years as a Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri.

Our conversation starts with The Revenant but you know yours truly won't let this talented woman go without talking Henry & June and other more glamourous gigs...

NATHANIEL R: You've designed many gorgeous movie costumes over the years but for The Revenant your challenge is so different. I imagine a lot of your job this time was making the clothes look disgusting!


NATHANIEL: They're overworn. They're muddy. They're bloody. [More...]

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