22 posts categorized "Western"

February 09, 2016

JANE GOT A GUN

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ColeSmithey.comGiven America’s ongoing gun crisis related to daily mass shootings (many occurring in cinemas), this film’s provocative title gives more than a little reason for pause.

Perhaps all too unsurprisingly, “Jane Got a Gun” fulfills its title-hinted expectation of an exploitation western romance picture with barely a hint of any post-modern-proto-feminist intent that mature viewers might hope for.

The film is less a blend of genres than one big mess.

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Natalie Portman’s title as producer leads to some head scratching about why an actress of her caliber and influence would choose such a sub-par melodrama populated by cartoon villains.

The wobbly script (by Brian Duffield, Anthony Tambakis, and Joel Edgerton) gets the better of the otherwise reliable director Gavin O’Connor (“Miracle”), who seems content to take home a paycheck for a movie he won’t be putting on his resume. It’s notable that director Lynne Ramsay (“Morvern Callar”) unceremoniously walked off the film just days into its 2013 production, taking several crew and cast members with her.

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Natalie Portman gives a respectable performance as Jane Hammond, a hardscrabble prairie wife to Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich). Their New Mexico Territory farm home is built against a high bluff to ward against invaders, except from the front. “Ham” arrives home shot multiple times by a gang of outlaws called the Bishop Boys. Protecting her wounded husband sends Jane soliciting for help from her (jilted) former fiancé Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton).

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Intermittent flashbacks take the audience out of the action to make room for Ewan McGregor’s generic mustachioed villain Colin McCann. The only thing missing is a clip of Colin McCann tying Jane to a railroad track. Jane’s troubled past connection to McCann pretends to pass for motivation in a movie doesn’t know where to shoot.

Rated R. 97 mins.

2 Stars

Cozy Cole

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January 26, 2016

THE REVENANT

ColeSmithey.comGroupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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America’s snow-covered 19th century wilderness is the primary antagonist in director/co-screenwriter Alejandro González Iñárritu’s wildly ambitious adaptation of a novel by Michael Punke.

While the film has its flaws (it runs long at 156 minutes yet the ending feels rushed) Leonardo DiCaprio’s virtuosic (largely silent) performance goes hand-in-glove with the story’s brutal snowy set pieces.

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One such sequence, about a bear mauling, has Iñárritu using state-of-the-art filmic technology to create a startling depiction of violent reality. The visceral result is unlike anything you've seen before. This is hold-onto-your-seat scary stuff. Iñárritu’s regular cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki frames the almost exclusively outdoor action with a poetic visual sensibility.

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Survival and revenge make for a marathon storyline that follows a shrinking band of fur-trappers led by Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass character. Native American tribes launch repeated attacks against the white men who kill them, their animals, and steal their land. The year is 1823 in the territories now divided into the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska. Glass is a different type of interloper. He lives in the territory with his Arikara Native American wife and their son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). Caught between two worlds, Hugh Glass presents a walking contradiction, and not an entirely sympathetic protagonist.

Glass achieves “animated corpse” status after being twice mauled by a mother-bear.

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Tom Hardy’s opportunist trapper Jon Fitzgerald is hired to stay behind and look after Glass, alongside Hawk and another trapper. Needless to say, Fitzgerald has plans of his own that don’t involve playing wilderness nurse to Glass, whom he abandons. But Hugh Glass proves tougher than nails when left alone to survive in the harsh elements with revenge on his mind.

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“The Revenant” works better as a survival adventure story than it does than a revenge fantasy. The cautionary aspect of chasing revenge gets mitigated in a violent climax undermined by a pat element involving the Arikara tribe. That said, this is big-screen spectacle with plenty of heart and flesh at stake. Not since Kevin Macdonald’s “Touching the Void” has a film made its audience feel so cold and desperate. Dress warmly.

Rated R. 153 minutes. 

4 StarsCozy Cole

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December 12, 2012

DJANGO UNCHAINED — CLASSIC FILM PICK

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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ColeSmithey.comBack With a Vengeance: 
Tarantino Pushes Homage and Allegory to 11

You know from Tarantino’s audacious choice of intro music — the haunting theme song from Sergio Corbucci’s iconic 1966 Spaghetti Western “Django,” that the maestro-of-all-things-tasty has many surprises in store for his delighted audience.

Campy, funny, shocking, and seeping with sardonic social commentary, “Django Unchained” is Quentin Tarantino’s finest film to date.

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The madness of slavery, i.e. racism, hangs thick in the air of the American South circa 1858. Tarantino says of his film’s representation of the pre-Civil War South: “It can’t be more nightmarish than it was in real life. It can’t be more surrealistic than it was in real life. It can’t me more outrageous than it was in real life.” Indeed, groans of audience empathy arrive at intervals with the agony we witness on-screen. Tarantino’s allegory regarding the use of torture couldn’t be more obvious.

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In typical revenge-plot fashion, Tarantino establishes the nimble bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (brilliantly played by Christoph Waltz) as the kind of man who can get himself out of any situation. The retired dentist “purchases” freedom from slavery for Django (Jamie Foxx) to assist Schultz in identifying a trio of brothers named Brittle whose heads carry a hefty reward.

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Django proves more than qualified for hunting down and killing slave-owners. Working together as a team, Dr. Schultz and Django craft a complex plan to free Django’s enslaved wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from the evil clutches of Leonardo DiCaprio’s plantation owner Calvin Candie. “Candyland” is name of Mr. Candie’s plantation where he cultivates “Mandingo” slave warriors who fight to the death. DiCaprio’s centerpiece monologue — wherein the actor accidentally cut his hand and chooses to use the blood draining from his hand — is the stuff of cult movie legend.

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Tarantino’s plot acrobatics have never seemed silkier — or bloodier for that matter. Blood doesn’t just splatter — intestines explode from bodies. More than a pure Spaghetti Western homage, the overall piece is an exploitation cinema mutt. Every character name rings with a bell pulled from Tarantino’s vast cornucopia of movie inspirations. The big-kid auteur gives shout-outs to everything from Gordon Parks’s “Shaft” to martial arts action star Sonny Sheba. The effect is an onion-layered communal movie for film lovers to rally around. I dare say that all those involved in the making of “Django Unchained” had more fun making it than just about any other group of actors and filmmakers. The comic joys and dark delights are up there on the screen.

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As with all of Tarantino’s films, “Django Unchained” is filled with spellbinding dialogue and outstanding plot twists. One such sequence of steadily building suspense arrives after Schultz has freed Django. Our two heroes enter a bar where the white owner insists that they leave immediately for the obvious reason that they don’t allow black people. Schultz handily dispatches the man, and sends for the sheriff while he and Django take a seat with a couple of mugs of beer.

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Naturally the bigoted sheriff shows up with a chip on his shoulder that the good “doctor” is only too happy to permanently remove. Shultz sends for the town Marshall, who in turn shows up with a posse of gun-toting thugs. The scene culminates in a crescendo of character-revealing magic. It’s not too early to call “Django Unchained” an instant classic. Movie lovers rejoice; Q.T. is back in the house.

Rated R. 160 mins.

5 Stars SHOCKTOBER! KITTIESCozy Cole

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