Category Archives: Western

“The Dark Tower” Movie Review

Well, isn’t this just the year of Stephen King adaptations? Unfortunately, not all of them can be a hit. This science fantasy western from director Nikolaj Arcel was released worldwide on August 4th, 2017, earning back less than half of its $60 million budget. The film was in development hell for many years, with directors like J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard attached as director at one point in time. Howard stayed on as a producer, while Arcel was hired to take his spot. Then the cast was officially announced in March of 2016, and the product was finally moving forward. Based on the titular series of novels, the 95-minute story follows a young kid from New York named Jake Chambers, played by Tom Taylor. He dreams of another world other than this one where an order of peacekeepers called the Gunslingers are trying to protect a mythical Dark Tower and is accidentally brought into it. Becoming the apprentice of the last Gunslinger Roland Deschain, played by Idris Elba, the boy and Roland must trek across Mid-World to protect the center of the multiverse, the Dark Tower, from the evil Man in Black. Look, I fully know about the depths of crap this movie has been dragged through over the course of the last year. Before the marketing campaign even started, it already went through a laundry list of production problems and setbacks. The trailers were pretty bad, there wasn’t a huge leadup to the release, and King himself oscillated between supporting the film and maligning it. But, as a big fan of the books, essentially the series that got me into the author in the first place, I remained ever the optimist. Now to start out, The Dark Tower is not as awful as some critics would lead you to believe. There are some moments that are genuinely entertaining. And I was actually okay with the announcement that this would be a sequel to the first novel rather than a full-on adaptation. The book is so massive and complex that adapting it is virtually impossible. But it also took elements from the third and fourth novels and threw them in an hour-and-a-half blender. And the resulting product we’ve been given is barely coherent at all and hardly does justice to King’s source material. Former Luther star Idris Elba plays Roland Deschain and does pretty well on his part. He’s not in the film as much as you might think, but he turns out to be a badass shooter. A training scene where he recites his order’s Creed is rather inspiring. The real star is newcomer Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers, who honestly carries the film on his back. You can actually care for his problems and pulls off some real emotion during some scenes. He comes off as annoying sometimes, but he’s not the problem. The problem lies with Matthew McConaughey’s performance as the Man in Black. A recurring villain in most of the author’s work, he is supposed to be this frightening yet charismatic trickster who’s wholly unpredictable. In this movie, he’s been reduced to an omnipotent wizard acting like Grand Moff Tarkin. I honestly can’t tell if McConaughey didn’t care about his character or if he got bad direction from Arcel. And while Arcel is clearly a great director of dramas given his filmography, he needs to learn how to film action scenes better. The editing job from Dan Zimmerman and Alan Edward Bell is very choppy, even during some of the tamest scenes. Sometimes, it seemed like it was trying to hide the bad CGI. Other times, it looked like they were under pressure from the studio to keep it at a PG-13 rating. It also doesn’t help that the cinematography by Rasmus Videbæk is too washed-out and murky to appreciate the fascinating world on display here. There are endless landscapes in this place, but they look so dull that you’d never want to see it again. The musical score by Tom Holkenborg A.K.A. Junkie XL, is a decent but ultimately forgettable one. And similar to a few other movies released in 2017, The Dark Tower is desperate to launch a shared-universe franchise. For those unfamiliar with Stephen King, virtually all of his stories take place in the same universe with little Easter Eggs hidden in them. This movie tries to take advantage of that but forcefully shoves in references to The Shining and IT. That is, of course, when things are actually happeningA story like this deserves a serious treatment with a runtime of at least 2 hours and 15 minutes. Instead, Columbia Pictures took what’s essentially The Lord of the Rings set in the brutal Wild West and turned it into a half-baked action movie served cold for the slump of August. While there are some nice moments, The Dark Tower wastes a powerful story in favor of incomprehensible action and bloated franchise-building. It’s too incoherent for newcomers and it’s too simplistically far-off for established fans. Here’s hoping that someone can actually take this failure away and do the books justice in the future. Now that’s a reboot I’d pay to see. But until then, any man (or woman) who defiles this series has forgotten the face of their father.

Related image

Advertisements

“Bone Tomahawk” Movie Review

Who knew that a Western starring Kurt Russell could be so damn brutal? Produced on a modest budget of $1.8 million, this western-horror hybrid premiered at the Alamo Drafthouse Fantastic Fest in September of 2015, before receiving a simultaneous release in theaters and video on demand on October 23rd. This likely led to it only grossing about $232,800 worldwide, despite it’s relatively stacked cast. The film marks the directorial debut of western and crime novelist S. Craig Zahler. He apparently had experience in screenwriting beforehand, but this was the first one under his singular vision. Set somewhere around the turn of the 20th century, the story follows a small town called Bright Hope which is being terrorized by a mysterious tribe of cannibals. After a few townsfolk go missing, Sheriff Franklin Hunt assembles a hunting party to track down the savages and bring their people home. In my search of horror films to review in the time of Halloween, I decided to shake things up a bit and add a little interesting flavor to the mix. We don’t get to see many Westerns anymore, let alone ones that are hybrids of other genres. The latter examples that do exist are mostly just mixed in with sci-fi, but they’re usually terrible like Jonah Hex and Cowboys and Aliens. But I had heard some positive buzz about this little gem as well as the director’s newest film Brawl in Cell Block 99, so I was very curious to see what he could cook up with this particular recipe. And I finally had a chance to sit down and watch it by myself in the middle of the night on Amazon Prime. It is truly disturbing but my God is it entertaining and fun to watch. By far my favorite aspect of Bone Tomahawk was how well-written and believable the dialogue was. Being written by a novelist, Zahler has a clear understanding of how people in this time period talked. The civilized folk uses fancy words while low scumbags speak like they have only a few words in their lexicon. There a few lines that I still remember and think about quoting in casual conversations. It’s that great. A veteran of Westerns like Tombstones and The Hateful Eight, Kurt Russell is a perfect fit for the lead role of Sheriff Hunt. With the usually gruff and rugged nature of a Western protagonist, he is a decent man forced into a terrible situation. Richard Jenkins plays his backup deputy perfectly, proving yet again why’s such a great character actor. Being the eldest member of the party, his wisdom is very welcome in the darkest of moments. One particular monologue he gives about his past at a flea circus is one bit of levity audiences will need. Patrick Wilson plays an understated foreman with a broken leg, desperate to save his wife, Lili Simmons, from these monsters. Lastly, former Lost star Matthew Fox is surprisingly excellent as John Brooder, a gentleman with an ego looking for an opportunity to boost. Although some of the things he says and does make him seem unlikable, we grow a certain admiration for him, thanks in no small part to his charisma and looks. The technical aspects of it all are fairly impressive as well, given its modest budget. The cinematography by Benji Bakishi chooses to mute certain colors to make the film look more desolate. It captures all of the action in wide shots, especially because of the Roger Deakins-esque use of lighting. And while it’s edited very well and precise by Greg D’Auria and Fred Raskin, it sure does takes its sweet time with some long takes. But the costumes and sets are all authentic, truly capturing a lived-in environment of a time long gone. Each of the actors seems comfortable in their outfits and seeing them riding through the desert landscape on horseback is pretty enticing. Alongside Jeff Herriot, Zahler himself composes the musical score, which is very sparse. In fact, to my knowledge, there are only 3 or 4 separate tracks in the entire movie, only used when needed. It’s mostly just a background compilation of moody violins and off-kilter percussion that really sell the vibe of the story. Most surprisingly, the two of them are pretty unsentimental in the music department, but still, keep the viewer engaged in a thoroughly oppressive atmosphere. Did I mention that this movie is brutal? That would be an inappropriate word to accurately describe the whole experience. Synonyms such as dirty, harsh, unforgiving, cold, gross, horrifying, and vile could also potentially work. It is by far the most violent Western I have ever seen and that’s because you really grow to hate the villains. They are cannibals without any compassion who do utterly repulsive things to our heroes. There is one scene near the end of the movie which is truly, unimaginably evil. I’m glad I didn’t eat anything beforehand, and I’m curious to show it to friends and family who haven’t seen it yet. I won’t spoil it just in case, but if you had seen my face when it happened…*shudders* Although its slower pace and unusual genre blend won’t be for everyone, Bone Tomahawk is a bold fusion of stark genres that’s utterly remorseless yet captivating. Despite its graphic content and harsh tone, you can’t help but hope for these characters no matter what. Featuring one of the most climactic endings to any Western I’ve seen, don’t let it slip by on Halloween season. It’s not for those seeking something completely tame in content, but maybe give it a shot.

Related image

“Django Unchained” Movie Review

Not only is it set in the Old West, but it’s the first official “southern.” Released worldwide on Christmas of 2012, this American revisionist Western soon became writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s highest-grossing movie, with a total intake of about $425 million at the box office. Continuing his streak of critically-acclaimed epics, the film also earned 5 Academy Award nominations and remains in the top 60 highest rated films of all time according to IMDb. A highly stylized tribute to Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960’s, the R-rated story follows a slave named Django, played by Jamie Foxx, in the Deep South during the Antebellum period. After being freed from captivity by bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz, he is shown the ropes of handling fights and taking down targets. They agree to free Django’s wife, Broomhilda, from a sadistic and selfish slave owner. Django Unchained marks a departure for Tarantino in a few different areas. Namely, this is his first attempt at a straightforward genre movie, when his previous works have combined many tones and genres into a single movie. Following the success of his 2009 war thriller Inglorious Basterds, much of the narrative is told in chronological order, with the exception of a couple flashbacks that illustrate what’s relevant about Django’s backstory. Jamie Foxx is an excellent choice for the titular protagonist. It’s very engaging to watch him grow from a really shy, timid slave to a gun-wielding badass. Like a scene where he’s told by Schultz that he can wear whatever he wants, followed by a smash-cut to him dressed in a bright blue French valet suit. Not to discredit him, but the fantastic supporting cast steals the spotlight from right under him. In particular, Christoph Waltz follows up his incredible breakout with another stellar performance that won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Almost the complete opposite from Col. Hans Landa, he bears all of the kind traits of mentorship and courage that you would want out of a hero. As the character with the most lines of dialogue, for all intents and purposes, he carried a large passage of the movie. Despite being entirely absent for the first hour and a half, Leonardo DiCaprio is simply stunning as the main antagonist. A major departure from his previous roles, Calvin J. Candie has no redeeming qualities; extremely racist, hot-tempered, and sees all other people as toys. DiCaprio was apparently so off-put by the character, that he hesitated to deliver some of the film’s many N-words. But he gave in, injuring his hand in the now-famous dinner scene and delivering one of the more impressive examples of on-screen improvisation. Continuing his nearly two-decade long relationship with the auteur, Samuel L. Jackson costars as an Uncle Tom-like, decrepit house slave, who is utterly indifferent to the suffering of his own people everywhere. Watching one of my favorite actors dropping F-bombs while hobbling around on a cane is nothing short of enjoyable, even if his character seemed to lack 3 dimensions. While it may sound that this is a completely dark experience, one of the most enjoyable aspects of a Quentin Tarantino film is that he never takes himself too seriously. His Oscar-winning screenplay is loaded with his trademarks of brilliantly written dialogue and highly stylized violence. One scene sees a group of Ku Klux Klan-like hate mongers arguing over bags that can’t fit their eyes, just before committing a raid on our protagonists. This is a moment we would normally be afraid of, but instead is nothing short of hilarious and unexpectedly quotable. And yes, like the rest of his filmography, Django Unchained is an extremely violent movie. The gun battles between slave owners and bounty hunters are exciting, with ridiculous amounts of blood gushing from the bullet wounds as men are getting wasted. It gets to be a bit indulgent at times, but watching men flying through the air from a gunshot to the chest does put a smile on my face. As much as I could go on about these individual scenes, it’s the technical side of everything that also impresses me. Robert Richardson’s excellent nominated cinematography contrasts static anamorphic shots with sudden close-ups and zoom-ins. It also brings out the beauty of many different colors, most notably bloody red and bright white cotton in fields. The film is also laced with a deliberately anachronistic soundtrack with songs that truly fit the moment. However, like many of Tarantino’s recent efforts, this film could have definitely been trimmed down, as the story begins to lose sight of itself at the beginning of the final act. It lasts about 2 hours and 45 minutes, which works for the most part. Except for a cameo from the director himself very late in the film, which felt like a completely shoehorned excuse for him to say N-words and get away with it. Thankfully, he’s taken care of quickly, and the pacing comes roaring back in the last 10 to 15 minutes of the movie. Despite those pacing issues, and some “black-and-white” characters, (no pun intended) Django Unchained is still a supremely entertaining and satisfying Western adventure. A damn fun time, it’s hard to think of a film from 2012, aside from The Avengers and Skyfall, that I enjoyed watching more. Easily one of Tarantino’s best films.

Image result for django unchained

“Blazing Saddles” Movie Review

In continuing my crusade of critiquing Westerns, I decided to see one that is much funnier than anything else I’ll talk about in this genre. This satirical Western comedy from legendary laughing man Mel Brooks premiered on February 6th, 1974, earning back over 50 times its small budget of $2.6 million. Co-written by Brooks and controversial comedian Richard Pryor, the story is a parody of any classic Western you can think of. Literally opening the film with the sound of a cracking whip, Cleavon Little stars as Bart, the newly appointed black sheriff in an all-white town. As part of a scheme to take over the surrounding land, a Governor and business mogul plot to use Bart as a means to pave the path. Here is a film that came at the tail-end of not one, but two pivotal periods of American history. In this case, it would be the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and the dominant era of Westerns before they faded away. It parodies the ideologies and concepts behind both of them, which, in a way, shows many similarities between the two periods. Cleavon Little is an excellent choice for the role of Bart. Charismatic and witty to a fault, he’s also apparently the smartest man in the town. The day he arrives, after a long silence from a stunned crowd, he holds his own gun to his head and pretends to take himself hostage. By his side, Gene Wilder plays the drunken, washed up gunslinger the Waco Kid. Despite keeping his dignity in check and providing memorable bits of dialogue, he doesn’t feel right in a supporting role. His immense energy and near-unpredictability gives the idea that he’s more fit for the role of a protagonist, a role which he later received yet again with Mel Brooks in 1974’s Young Frankenstein. The rest of the cast includes regular collaborators like Harvey Korman, Dom DeLuise, and Madeline Kahn, along with comedic/Western legends like Slim Pickens, John Hillerman, and even Brooks himself in a dual role as a Yiddish-speaking Indian chief and a dim-witted governor. Everyone turns in performances of exaggerated or goofy caricatures commonly seen in the genre. Perhaps the biggest drawback of the film is that it is simply too silly in most parts. It completely deconstructs the blatant racism of the time period, something that Hollywood has often obscured in its accounts of the mythic Old West. In fact, the N-word is said aloud so many times by so many characters, that Mel Brooks has publicly expressed doubt that the film could ever get remade in the modern era. I actually met someone who couldn’t finish Blazing Saddles because they said it was the most racist movie he’d ever seen. Not just that, the film also incorporates nearly a dozen or so deliberate anachronisms into a story that is supposed to be set almost 200 years ago. In one particular scene, when the bad guys are getting ready to enact their final move, they’re holding an open call for different types of evil doers from history. Biker gangs, Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, Confederate soldiers, you name it. And near the end, as the climax comes to a head, the cast of the movie literally breaks the fourth wall before crashing onto a separate housing on the Warner Bros. studio lot before finishing at the iconic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Joseph Biroc’s camera work also deserves some commentary. Mimicking the works of iconic Westerns, there are numerous wide anamorphic shots of the landscape that paint a vast and beautiful picture of the desert- at least the illusion of a desert. John Morris’ musical score is a nice, rousing bit of music that keeps the viewer in the mood. But it isn’t very memorable beyond the moment of viewing. Accompanying it are a series of original songs, most of which were penned by Mel Brooks himself. And thankfully, they are much more memorable than the score, and even scored one this film’s 3 Oscar nominations. Speaking of songs, another anachronism worth noting is earlier on when jazz icon Count Basie is playing a cover of the song, “April in Paris.” It should be noted that there not many action scenes present here. But for the few that are, they are enticing and fun. Rather, the focus of Blazing Saddles– and for that matter, the comedic content -is set on the character interactions and dialogue. So many comedies attempt to have their jokes rely on toilets and sexual activity, but Mel Brooks knows better. Granted, it does have a lowbrow joke now and again, and was actually the first comedy to be submitted to the American Film Institute for a fart joke. Go figure. It’s a miracle this film actually saw the light of day given the production problems. Casting almost went to Richard Pryor for the roll of Bart, and the filmmakers faced numerous complaints from white audiences for the racism parodied. In fact, studio executives almost decided to cancel its theatrical release entirely. But Brooks, with the help of Wilder and Little, managed to make the movie he wanted. Regarded as the grandfather of the modern-day comedy, Blazing Saddles is a highly influential and enjoyable Western for older audiences. It may be too silly and audacious for some of the more reserved audiences, but it keeps me coming back to watch and quote it.

Related image

“Logan” Movie Review

Franchisees should end more often these days. This comic book superhero drama was released on March 3rd, 2017, following its critically successful debut at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival in late February. It has since grossed over $250 million worldwide against its $97 million budget, becoming the 2nd biggest opening for an R-rated film screened in IMAX theaters. And I’ll touch on that in a second, but let’s get to the plot. Set in the dystopian-like future 2029, most of the mutants, including the X-Men have been wiped out for some amount of time. The superhero the Wolverine, who now goes by Logan, (or James Howlett, as he tells several humans) is living in a desperate state of old age and financial strain. His quiet life is interrupted when a little girl named Laura comes knocking at his door, begging for protection from a group of shadowy corporate lackeys wanting her for medical experiments. I want to make this clear from the get-go: Logan is not just a superhero movie. This is the fist film of the genre I’ve seen in many years that actually compares with The Dark Knight. With that one, it was a fantastic epic crime saga and psychological dissection of intriguing characters that just happened to have comic book names in it. It’s almost the same case with Logan. This one feels more like an old Western tale, specifically that of George Stevens’ 1953 Technicolor classic, Shane. In fact, director James Mangold borrows some of the same aspects of that film- a gruff cowboy trying to hang up his guns who keeps getting pursued by trouble -in this movie’s narrative to great effect. In the title role, Hugh Jackman is absolutely stunning as Logan/Wolverine. His “I’m-no-hero” demeanor is perfect for the bleak and desolate environment of this future setting he’s in. Laying beside him in his electric wheelchair is Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier, who is nothing short of marvelous here. Allow me to put some minds at ease: for those of you who saw him drop the F-bomb in the red band trailer, it’s okay. It totally works for the context of everything in the story’s progression. Meanwhile, Boyd Holbrook, star of the acclaimed Netflix drama Narcos, is convincing as the main villain Donald Pierce. A cyborg security director, he sets himself apart from other supervillains due to his refusal to become over-the-top evil and wry sense of humor. He’s a mutant-hating mercenary, for sure, but he just has a fun personality that makes you both like him and long for Logan to murder him when the opportunity presents itself. Other supporting players include Eriq La Salle and Elise Neal are nurturing parents on a farm, Elizabeth Rodriguez as a fearful surrogate mother and medical doctor, Richard E. Grant was methodical and calculating as the head of a shadowy corporation, and Stephen Merchant as the senile yet endearing albino Caliban. They’re all given enough to say and do to add something different to the film as a whole. But in terms of scene-stealing talent, newcomer Dafne Keen is positively brilliant as Laura. Even though she’s barely a teenager, she proves that she can hold her own against older acting veterans. This is especially impressive considering her character has very few lines of spoken dialogue; most of her screentime is spent scowling at either the enemies or her mutant guardians. Technically speaking, it’s very impressive. The sound design is well mixed in every scene, even during the quieter moments. From the crunching of bones to the gushing of blood to the sound of nature, the audience can hear damn near everything that happens. Meanwhile, the camera work from John Mathieson is equally visceral. The contrast in colors like red and green feels like a perfect opponent to the grim reality of the world built within. And while yes, it does move into the cliches of comic book film with shaky movements and quick action cuts, these moments are thankfully sparse throughout the 137 minute-long runtime. Marco Beltrami, who previously collaborated with Mangold on 3:10 to Yuma and The Wolverine, composes the film’s score. It foregoes the bombastic, orchestral battle tracks of previous films, and instead uses influences of horror and Western movies. Various motifs and minimalist instruments are used throughout and fit perfectly for the tone and story. And now we get to the much-hyped  R-rating. Dear God, isn’t it completely warranted and justified? It had been apparently clear from minute-2 alone that this was going to be a very different kind of superhero movie. One that is brimming with chopped limbs, excessive swearing, gushing blood, and disturbing skin/body damage. I urge you not to take your little kids or your grandparents to see Logan, as they will probably walk out when it all goes down. Even without all that, the story is still very dark, grim, mature, and not very uplifting. Just look at Jackman and Stewart for further proof. You’d think after playing these roles for 17 years, they’d be exactly what you expected them to be. But they are old, weathered down, exhausted, and rather pessimistic on life. Even Wolverine is like a 60-year-old man, because of something I have to tell you. It’s a very minor spoiler and isn’t THE THING in the movie. With his constant drinking, his adamantium bone structure is deteriorating, poisoning his healing factor. That really makes the audience think, “Dude… give it up man. It’s okay.” But that just demands further praise for Jackman’s acting, which many speculate could earn him nominations in the coming award season. Logan is not only, the best Xmen movie to date, but it’s also one of the best superhero films ever made. This is the most perfect, poignant, and beautiful sendoff Hugh Jackman could have possibly gotten. It sounds like I’m being a fanboy, but the fact remains- I kid not -Logan almost made me cry.

Image result for logan

“Once Upon a Time in the West” Movie Review

It’s February, the beginning of a new year. I want to get reviews of older movies. Return of the Jedi will get it’s time soon enough, as will The Terminator, I SWEAR my life on it. But ever since the Red Dead Redemption 2 reveal, I’ve been in a western mood. Let’s start with a true classic. This epic spaghetti western was released on December 21st, 1968 when it barely broke even with its $5 million budget. Though not as popular as his acclaimed Dollars Trilogy in the U.S., acclaimed director-writer Sergio Leone gives us another memorable epic in the mythical period of the Old West, sans Clint Eastwood. After a recent wedding to a kind landowner, former prostitute Jill McBain, played by Claudia Cardinale, returns to her new homestead to find that her husband and 3 step-children have all been murdered. Seeking vengeance against the railroad tycoon that orchestrated it all, she hires the bandit Cheyenne, the prime suspect who was framed for the massacre, and a mysterious harmonica-playing gunman played by Charles Bronson to track down his whereabouts. All the while, they are hounded by a violent mercenary named Frank, whose bloody reputation proceeds him. For the past couple of decades, there has been an ongoing battle between lovers of cinema. Which is the best Western of all time? Once Upon a Time in the West or The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly? As proven with my post on Marvel vs. DC, I tend to stay out of those types of arguments. But I do have an opinion on the matter, which I will mention at a later review for another time. For now, let’s divulge everything that’s great about this film. For the most part, the whole cast gives a round of great performances. Jason Robards is great as Cheyenne. As one of the finer character actors of the last century, he appears to be enjoying himself in the role of a scoundrel with a heart of gold. By his side, before he was slaughtering suburban goons in the Death Wish franchise, Bronson is excellent as a mysterious gunslinger, a trait common in Leone’s films. He is out to kill Frank, whom he feels robbed him of all he held dear before he was even an adult. Even though little is known of him, his devilish charm makes him a likable guy to root for in the ambiguous American West. And while Claudia Cardinale is great in her role as the reluctant protagonist, it wasn’t so memorable like the rest of her co-stars. However, Henry Fonda steals the show as the villain Frank, in a role that cast him against type. Up until this point, Fonda had been primarily known for portraying everyman heroes, like the one man in 12 Angry Men that fought for a convicted man’s innocence. Or when he captivated millions with his role as Tom Joad in the acclaimed 1940 adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath. But now in this movie, he is a violent and selfish mercenary who will kill anyone involved with the job at hand. Let’s move over to the technical scale of everything; it’s breathtaking. Although it was primarily shot and produced in Italy, the beautiful mountain landscapes look like perfect renditions of the canyons from states like Utah or Arizona. Many static, anamorphic long shots from a distance are nicely contrasted by a number of close-ups. This is especially present during confrontations between the characters in the final act. And yes, like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly before it, Once Upon a Time in the West features a climactic Mexican standoff that’s presented as a duel. Though not as tense as that movie, the one here still keeps viewers on the edge of their seats thanks to nothing but the amazing score by Ennio Morricone. The beautiful theme song, mixing harmonica, electric guitar, and violins, is extremely memorable. Any time I start to feel confrontational with someone else, this will be the song playing in my head when it all goes down. Hell, I might even drop a hand to my hip in an attempt to draw my 6-shooter out to trade some fire. In an age where characters have to constantly do some worldbuilding via clunky expositional dialogue, Sergio Leone bucks this trend. There are long periods of verbal silence throughout the movie, without a single word spoken aloud. This, rather ironically, speaks more volumes to its sophistication and requires the viewer to remain fully engaged. Unlike the Dollars Trilogy, this is not a sardonic look at the Old West with in-jokes to sprinkled everywhere. Rather, it’s a more serious but still fun Western that acknowledges some of the darker aspects of that mythical time period. And, like the Dollars Trilogy, that means sitting through its entire runtime, which clocks in at about 2 hours and 55 minutes long. I have no problem with a movie being long as long as, in the end, I can walk out of it feeling that it was completely warranted and justified by the story. While I have this feeling overall, I feel like some parts of it could have been trimmed down just a bit. Despite that, Once Upon a Time in the West is an effortlessly sprawling Western epic that stands up even today. Beautiful, tense, and intriguing, this has to be one of the best of the genre that comes highly recommended from damn near any critic you’d find on the internet.

Image result for once upon a time in the west

2016 in Film: Retrospective Superlatives

I know what you’re probably thinking right now. You’re expecting me to publish my list of the Top Ten films of the year. Rest assured that is coming, but as a bit of a prelude, I decided to give some superficial awards to other movies deserving to be recognized. To be clear, almost none of these will appear on the Top Ten list to be published in a day or so. Rather, I just had fun because I saw more movies released this year than any previous one. So let’s get down to business.

Most Original Film: “The Lobster”

Never before has a vision of the future been so terrifying yet hilarious. Yorgos Lanthimos’ black comedy revolves around a newly single man who has 45 days to find a new mate before he’s turned into any animal of his choosing.. in his case, it’s a lobster. Collin Farrell is subtle and low-key as the main character, in the most absurd situation possible. How many other films can you say feature a man who may have the possibility of becoming a crustacean? The answer should be none.

Most Overrated Film: “Hail Caesar!”

Some may remember my overall appraisal of this film in m review back in February. And for the most part, I still stand by it. However, upon a second viewing, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pointlessness in the story. The fantastic cast and sharp script, aside, the Coen Brothers have certainly done better in the past, and I believe they can still do better in the future. A good love letter to fans of classical cinema, and decidedly nothing more.

Most Underrated Film: “The Magnificent Seven”

Despite the criticism it received for its unoriginality, it’s important to remember that this is technically a remake. Going into the theater, all I wanted to see was a reminder of why I love the Western genre. An excellent leading titular crew who share great chemistry, lead by Denzel Washington himself, make this a fun adventure for a modern era. And that final gun battle was really some exciting stuff to behold.

Most Overlooked Film: “Midnight Special”

Overshadowed by other, much larger films released during the Spring, it’s a shame that Midnight Special didn’t see many viewers in the theater. However, that absolutely doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the time to watch it. Jeff Nichols’ beautiful science-fiction drama is a gorgeous blend of emotional family drama and action spectacle. A truly original “modern sci-fi,” I implore you to find a way to watch this by any means.

Most Disappointing Film: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

To be clear, I’m not saying this film is outright terrible. It’s just nowhere near as good as the hype had told us it would be. A real tragedy, considering this is the first feature film where the titular heroes and Wonder Woman all appear on-screen together in live-action. The action scenes were undoubtedly enjoyable, but the substance of the story and the relevance of various subplots is still lost on me.

Funniest Film: “Keanu”

Predictable? Yes. Funny as hell? Yes. As a fan of Key and Peele’s sketch show on Comedy Central, I had been looking forward to their first theatrical movie together. And boy, did they deliver on the laughs? Remaining 100% self-aware the entire time, the chemistry between the two leads, alone, is worth the price of admission. All of the pop culture references hit the right chords, and the scene where Key is tripping balls in the club was probably the hardest I laughed all year long.

Worst Film: “Now You See Me 2”

They can’t all be good, though, and that’s why my pick for the worst film of 2016 is Now You See Me 2. At what point after the first one’s release did they see the need to produce a sequel that’s somehow even less comprehensible than its predecessor? I was all set to give this spot to Meet The Blacks, but I remembered this movie and just became infuriated. Numerous plot holes and forced acting aside, the magic tricks are condescendingly and unbelievably explained, making me just mentally check out. Avoid this.

Do you agree with my picks? What was the worst or most overrated movie of the year to you? Whatever it may be, be sure to leave a Comment below and Like this Post. And if you’re interested in seeing more content like this, be sure to Follow my blog and I’ll see you in the future.