Movie Reviews

Movie Reviews

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A Fistful of Dollars

A Fistful of Dollars

A Fistful of Dollars is one of those Clint Eastwood classics as he portray his now legendary “Man With No Name”.

Almost every cliché every associated with Old West Stories was thrown into the character of the cool and mysterious gunslinger who arrives from nowhere into a town with an evil story to tell.  He takes on the wicked, the evil, the greedy and the deceitful, showing nerves of steel like the famous Wyatt Earp up against the cowboys.

Although shot mostly in Spain, the backgrounds and scenery carry the mystery of the old west quite well.

The man with no name rides into town looking for work as a hired killer.  He sets himself up in the battle between the warring families, the Baxters and the Rojos.  The families are locked in a seemingly never ending feud that doesn’t progress for either side and gives no-one control over the smuggling trade.

The movie misses one classic ingredient of the best of the Old West Stories. Although the lone crusader almost eradicates the population of the town and protects the beautiful woman, he doesn’t exude the moral virtue of the best of the wild west hero, the lawman.  He shows his icy soul and cynicism and couples that to a gun hand swifter and more accurate than the legendary picture of Billy the Kid.

He quickly checks out the situation and comments “There’s money to be made in a place like this,” and then he sets about making it from both sides.

Man With No Name Stands Alone

At first he guns down four of Baxter’s men and looks to be throwing in with the Rejo’s.  It soon becomes apparent though that he is playing both  side and his standing alone at every moment, not just as he is in this picture.

His secret and personal activities includes both sides and he plays them against each other with the skill of an expert politician.  After he has started off a holocaust in the little town and destroyed the last of his employers, he casually rides out of town, carrying his fistful of dollars.

Old West Stories does not rate this as the best of western stories but Clint Eastwood is.  Without him this picture may have failed but with him, the cool and fearsome hero of the wild west is enhanced another notch.  When the men he is betraying find out he is playing both sides he is captured and beaten.  Any normal man would have died from the beating he took but this hero of the old west is tougher than the normal man.  He not only survives but recovers quickly and takes on his tormentors.

Although he might not have the classic lawman capacity to fight for what is right, he is not completely without scrupples.  He does free a woman and child from the clutches of a man bent only on their domination.

When his friend is captured this leads to the penultimate scene where he puts his life on the line for another.

The Man With No Name

 

Clint Eastwood (Sorry, the man with no name) stands alone against the infamous Ramone and his rifle.  He challenges Ramone to “Aim for the heart” which was his comment earlier in the movie when telling Clint how to kill a man.  When he reveals a metal plate under his clothes there are seven shots right near the heart but not causing harm.

He then stares down four men (including Ramone) and kills three of them with his pistol in an awesome display of the quick draw and accurate shooting from the hip.  He then challenges Ramone one on one and gives him a chance to kill him.  He tosses his pistol one the ground and then both men scramble for their weapons to reload a single shot.  Of course Clint wins and then kills his brother who tried to shoot him from an upstairs window.

A classic movie, worth a watch.

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Beyond the Trail

John Wayne stars in this tale of two rough adventurers who journey to the Northwest insearch of gold.  Their plans are temporarily sidetracked when they happen on a kidnapped girl.

Review of this movie coming soon to Old West Stories.

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Blue Steel

Sheriff Jake sees a manat a safe and then learns the payroll is missing.  He trails the man intending to arrest him but then that man saves his life.

Review of this movie coming soon to Old West Stories.

 

RANGO

Old West Stories - Rango

This Nickelodeon movie lives up to the movie maker’s reputation for story telling and visual expertise.

The main character in this plot (the Hero, of course) is a pet chameleon with an over developed flair for the dramatic, who finds himself a victim of circumstance and lands in the middle of the desert with no water or chance of rescue.

He has no idea what to do but stumbles into an Armadillo who exhibits the wisdom of age and experience.  His new friend is named “Road Kill”, a completely suitable name for a character who has somehow survived being flattened by a passing vehicle.  Road Kill tells our hero to seek out the “Spirit of the West” and sends the chameleon on a desert trek toward a town in the desert with the unlikely name of “Dirt”.

On his way he meets Beans, a female lizard who is trying to save her missing father’s ranch.  Beans becomes the love interest that is absolutely essential to any good story of The Old West.

The classic nature of all Old West Stories now becomes entirely apparent as he enters the Wild West town and finds a strange gathering of creatures who are battling a crisis in their old west town.  All of their water has mysteriously disappeared and the townsfolk are in a desperate condition.  As he tries to fit in and find his place in the town, his dramatic tendencies came to the fore and he builds a story of being a gun packing hero who goes by the name of “Rango.”

The town mayor is a tortoise and he makes Rango the sheriff.  The townsfolk applaud and hope that Rango is their salvation but the mayor has appointed him for his own means.  Rango promises the people that he will protect them and find the missing water but he has no idea how.  He has always wanted to be a hero but now he has to live up to his lies.

In the tradition of Old West Stories this stale proceeds at quite a pace as Rango bumbles from one situation to another.  Finally he does find the water and for those with knowledge of Old West History, there are similarities to water wars and outcomes that really occurred.  Water is being moved from one place to another without the consent of the original owners or any thought of the consequences to those people.

The movie has a lot going for it. These things include:-

  • Tremendous Animation – The motion is fluid and seamless and there are moments you can believe the characters a live animals and not cartoons.  That does not apply to the hero Rango of course, a chameleon walking on his rear legs carry a Colt .45 takes something away from the realism;
  • Genuinely interesting characters that create the rich fabric of a town that could really exist and creates the feeling of the Wild West with Mexican flavor of the border states;
  • Clever humour served up in liberal servings.  I found the owls in the Mexican Mariachi band to be a highlight.

If you are a parent thinking of taking the kids, there are a few items in the movie that are not exactly aimed at solely the child audience.  SOme of these for you to consider include:-

  • In keeping with the Old West Stories format, the folks of Dirt hang out in the saloon drinking.  Although it is cactus juice several references are made to drunkenness;
  • Some of the characters smoke or chew tobacco;
  • A few jokes are made in the movie that whilst not overtly rude, are full of inuendo including sexual references;
  • A few words and terms are used that may not be for the younger viewers either, including the word damn being used degradingly, trollop and floozy thrown in and the bad guy Jake (a rattle snake) threatening to drag our hero “straight down to hell”.

I am not saying these things don’t belong in a story of the old west, the certainly do.  In the other highly published western movie of 2011 “True Grit”, these themes are present but then, True Grit is not presented as a children’s movie.  The rating is PG but some might consider the use of some themes and words in this movie don’t really fit what we have come to expect PG to reflect.

One of the highlights I think is Johnny Depp’s verbal portrayal of our hero.  A big step up from his previous animated work as “Sponge Bob”, Rango highlights his verbal acting skills and brings the action hero of the old west to life whilst allowing him a wistful humour that works well.

Now for me, the movie did have one absolute highlight.  As a fan of almost all Old West Stories, I was flabbergasted when the “Spirit of the West” turned out to be “Clint Eastwood” riding a golf buggy with his four Oscars along for the ride.  “How in the world did they get Clint Eastwood to do a cameo?” was racing through my mind.  Timothy Olyphant’s voice and the visual presentation were so convincing as Clint Eastwood I had to have a second look to be sure it wasn’t him.  The fantastic humour in the story line leading to this point is fantastic and I won’t give that away. 

The movie is worth watching but I don’t think this will go down as one of the greats.

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The Lucky Texan

A young Texan, Jerry Mason helps old Jake Benson on his ranch and they become partners.  A classic chase scene but with cars involved leads to an exciting climax not to be forgotten.

Review of this movie coming soon to Old West Stories.

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True Grit (2011)

When I first saw the True Grit advertisement, I didn’t want to go.  John Wayne had made this movie a legend and I didn’t want to see the legend destroyed.  Too many times have I seen a remake fail miserably.

Well I swallowed my reticence and headed off, ready to walk out early if it didn’t go well.

To say I was pleasantly surprised is a massive understatement.  Geoff Bridges has not simply copied the great John Wayne, he has created a new legend of his own.  I will be buying this movie as soon as it comes out.  If you are into old west stories, then you have to see this.  It depicts the classic lawman of my childhood dreams that, full of flaws and short comings, beats the odds in the interests of enforcing his own version of pure justice.

True Grit is a cinematic work that accomplishes everything it needs to do so well, you won’t notice it happening and you can just sit back and enjoy old west stories being told in  style.  Rooster Cogburn leaps off the screen and becomes the man you knew personally just before these events occurred.

The new characterisation detracts nothing from the 1969 version.  So don’t hesitate to go back and revisit the original.

The characters in this film are introduced smoothly and with purpose. 

I am certain there will be people that do not like this film.  It is aimed at the officienado of old west stories. Guess what, if you are reading on this web site, that is you.

The protrayal of the old west in this new movie seems very real.  Characters have been created to accurately reflect the realities of a harsh life style in a harsh time. 

The movie will keep you entertained from the first moments through the thrilling climax.

Geoff Bridges is brilliant and seems born to the role.  I almost guarantee that within 15 minutes of the movie starting, you will be so totally engrossed in the new Rooster Cogburn, the 1969 version will leave your mind completely until after you walk out of that cinema.  Bridges menaces you from the screen in the way that Butch Cassidy menaced the innocent or Wyatt Earp menaced the outlaw.

This Truly is a Classic Retold in True Old West Stories Style.

For a more comprehensive review, go to the special Review Page for True Grit.

A classic tale begins as 14-year old Mattie Ross has her father murdered by Tom Chaney.  He was a range hand working for her family but also an outlaw with a past.

Mattie has a strength that belies her youth.  She is strong willed and determined to exact revenge for her father’s death.  Knowing she can’t do this herself she sets about finding someone to help her along.  In her quest she finds Rooster Cogburn and manages to bring his unique talents to her aid in bringing the murderer down.

A local Sheriff suggests she offers a reward for bringing Chaney to justice and she approached Cogburn with her offer.  She is told he is the meanest U.S. Marshal available and has been told that Reuben J Cogburn, alias “Rooster”, has true grit and that is what will be needed to bring Chaney to the noose.

The story weaves through a series of incidents where the youthful 14-year old girl demonstrates her capacity to tackle any task required to get the job done.  Deceptive business men, Texas Rangers and others that stand in her way find out that treating her like a child is not so easy.

After a wilful exchange with Cogburn, he finds he has no choice but to agree to her demand to accompany him on the quest and they are soon joined by Texas Ranger La Boeuf.  The two lawmen never get along but suffer each other in the interests of Juctice and the Reward.

The three remain ill at ease with each but push on over rough terrain and through the worst kind of Midwest weather.  Mattie refuses to stop until juctice is provided for her father’s death.

If you didn’t see the original, then the ending will come as a complete surprise.  O.K. so maybe it won’t be a surprise for after all, this is one of those classic old west stories that have to stick with certain rules.  What is a surprise is the lengths this old west stories lawman will go to protect a 14 year old girl.  In the climactic moments he drives his horse to its death and nearly does the same to himself to get her the help she needs.  He is the quintessential law man of the wild, wild west.

So then, in brief, my recommendation is, go and see this movie, you will love it.

West of the Divide

A young cowhand returns to his boyhood home only to discover tht his brother is missing and his father has been murdered.

Review of this movie is coming soon to Old West Stories.

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