And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

Currently browsing the "western" tag.

Review: The Power of the Dog

Set in the gorgeous wide open expanses of 1925 Wyoming, The Power of the Dog from Oscar-winning director Jane Campion (The Piano, Angel at My Table) is downright suffocating a lot of the time. This sure to be in the Oscar pool psychological thriller/western tells the story of a pair of rich ranching brothers, Phil and George Burbank, who are as different as night and day. Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch, TV’s “Sherlock”, The Courier) is the walking embodiment of toxic masculinity, violent and mean to everyone in his path. George (Jesse Plemons) is more gentle and less rugged. But when he marries the local widow Rose (Kirsten Dunst, Spiderman, Melancholia) and brings her and her teenage son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road, X-Men franchise) home, Phil is anything but the welcoming brother-in-law, leaving no opportunity behind to ridicule them all.

Review: News of the World

Why does Tom Hanks make everything just a bit more comforting? In his latest, he plays Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Civil War veteran who travels from town to town in 1870 Texas reading the news to crowds as a form of entertainment. But one day between towns he comes upon a stagecoach that has crashed and he finds the only survivor, 10-year-old Johanna (Helena Zengel), with a note about how she was taken from her parents six years ago by the Kiowa, but that the government has taken her back. Kidd escorts her to the nearest town to hand her over to the authorities, but they won’t take her. And it becomes his job to deliver her to a family 600 miles away who she doesn’t know. She speaks no English, she’s somewhat feral and she’s not sure she trusts him, but as they make their way across desolate Texas, they grow closer while fending off bad guys, dealing with life-threatening weather, and learning bits of each other’s languages. It’s a familiar feeling story, but with Tom Hanks at the rudder, it makes for a solid family-friendly ride.

Review: First Cow

Sometime in the early 19th century somewhere in the Pacific Northwest two men meet in the woods near a trappers’ encampment. One of them is naked. What follows is the story of their friendship and entrepreneurial malfeasance. It’s a tender tale in about a couple of kindred spirits in an inhospitable place helping each other get by with their wits and their hearts.

Review: The Sisters Brothers

It seems the western will never die. The allure of rugged men out there slinging guns and making their fortunes panning for gold was too much for French director Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone, The Prophet) to pass up. And he didn’t’ even have to come to the US of A to shoot this his adaptation of Patrick deWitt’s rambling, sometimes funny novel. Who knew Spain and Romania could stand in for the American West? What The Sisters Brothers has going for it mainly is a great cast — Jake Gyllenhaal, Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly and Riz Ahmed — and you’ll have to decide for yourself if that’s enough to make it worth your while.

The Magnificent Seven

A remake of a remake has a lot to live up to. The original was the Japanese film Seven Samurai, shot in 1954, considered one of director Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces starring the legendary Toshiro Mifune. Fast forward six years and Hollywood makes a version substituting cowboys for Samurai, starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn. Now we have another one with Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Peter Sarsgaard. All three films follow the same essential plot. A village is being preyed upon by outsiders, so they hire Samurai/Cowboys to defend them and mayhem ensues. So is the new one magnificent?

The Lone Ranger

Too long. Too boring. Too convoluted. There you have it. The Lone Ranger in a nutshell. I really tried to like this movie, at least a little bit. After all, I don’t have anything against westerns, I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to Johnny Depp shtick, and I think Armie Hammer can be quite endearing. And yet, I just could not get into this big-budget, big-screen take on the legendary masked lawman (Hammer) and his Native American sidekick, Tonto (Depp). The Lone Ranger is “Pirates of the Caribbean in the Wild West” – sans the ‘fun factor’ that made the Disney/Depp Pirates franchise such a huge success.

Cowboys & Aliens

If you like westerns and you like sci-fi then trust me, you’ll like Cowboys & Aliens. It really is that simple. This movie is a strange hybrid that somehow works, mostly due to its stars (Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford) and its director, Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf) who knows how to make a crowd-pleaser. The best way to describe it is True Grit meets Independence Day. Chew on that for a while.

True Grit

True Grit is a chick flick wrapped in a western. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin may be the higher-profile actors in this period piece, but it’s teenage newcomer Hailee Steinfeld who drives the plot and exhibits the “true grit” that the title refers to.