Tag Archives: Western

Cinema-Maniac: The Hateful Eight (2015) Review

Last time I wrote about anything related to Quentin Tarantino was when I reviewed Django Unchained back in 2013. I got bombarded with arguments for calling the film decent, and criticizing the writing. Like the time when I posted a negative review for the film Frozen I once again stood my post, and debated the best of my abilities on my position on the film. Unlike the arguments presented in Frozen, the counter arguments brought up were good in defense of Django Unchained, but seriously didn’t fixed what still is a broken premise movie. If you don’t believe me (speaking directly to Tarantino “fans”) that Django Unchained premise is broken; well Dr. Schultz simply could have had Django work on his, or his friend slave farm while Schultz goes off to buy Django wife. That’s a viable solution, but since the film itself never brings it up everything about the story ends up feeling convoluted as it is actively trying to ignore this huge gap in logic with several other gap of logic (like the opening scene in Django Unchained). Now once again I find myself in the same position of Quentin Tarantino writing a Western. While the setup is a not a broken premise repeats from Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight suffers from more serious issues. It is a premise that makes sure it’s a story that should be told, but not written in a way to show that conviction.

The Hateful Eight is set in post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunters try to find shelter during a blizzard, but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception. Upon entering the frame Major Marquis Warren (all rise for Samuel L. Jackson) sets up the atmosphere elegantly. His first lines of dialogue sets up the political climate of the era the film takes place in, the profession of Marquis Warren, his goal in the film, and his manner of speaking being very revealing of his personality. This same expertly done character establishment holds true when John Ruth (Kurt Russell) whose handcuffed with Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) are introduced into the film. Despite the fun personalities of these characters they do speak about each other bad deeds. These actions other characters speak on paint a grey in presentation of morality. If the film spend as much time developing the other characters like it did for John Ruth, Chris Mannix, and Marquis Warren then there would be a film worth showering with praises.

“You will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee”.

The film is set up into six chapters, and past chapter two the film fall apart from it own weight. This is mostly due to the unevenness in screentime from the characters, and the importance they hold in the story. For example, Daisy Domergue is a character whose defining characteristic is her bounty worth, and she’s a woman who killed. It takes the film over two hours to build on her character, and by the time she gets developed it’s no longer grey in presentation in the story. It gets established who is who, and why they perform the action they do by the time Daisy gets developed. The biggest shortcoming in the writing is showing favoritism in a film that intends for its audience to hate all the characters equally. For instance, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) gets very little to do in the story, and has no significant scene in the film that justified his creation. In Chapter 5, a brief moment is specifically written to present him negatively because the film story doesn’t know how else to use him. He’s simply a fodder character despite the writing claiming otherwise.

Then there’s also the character of O.B. (James Park) who despite having less lines of dialogue than Joe Gage is actually more significant to the story. O.B. is simply a background character who’s a stagecoach driver, and does not present any hateful traits even among the other characters. However, unlike Joe Gage where his hatred is force, O.B. positive presentation in the story serves as the only presence of a seemingly good, innocent person in the film. Being put to a greater use than a major character written in the film. Another fodder treated character is Bob (Demian Bichir) who’s main characteristic is he’s Mexican. His role in the story is treated like Joe Gage; no significance in any scene, and simply fodder in the cast. Now, there’s a character who doesn’t appear until around two hours into the film named Jody (Channing Tatum) who plays a far greater role in the film. He’s absent for a majority of the film, yet is given the importance of a major character. Not only does this affect the presentation of Joe Gage, and Bob as wholly useless in the film narrative, but further highlight the misusage of time spent on them.

Imagine! Squealing Pigs.

A double edge sword of the dialogue is how it’s delivered. It’s very evident that when a character reveals plenty about themselves to strangers on a whim it spells out expository dialogue. However, the flashiness of how the character speak can make the force exposition, and character development enjoyable to see unfold. What’s not is when certain plot points like Marquis’s letter from Abraham Lincoln, Daisy Domergue is a criminal worth 10,000 dollars, and fights in the civil war are repeatedly brought up. Marquis letter from Lincoln is an exception as its use to developed Marquis as a character. The significance of the letter makes Marquis three dimensional, and a complex character for how much values he places on it. It also serves an important character moment in the ending for how much value is placed on it, even after learning of its true origin.

The other topics that are brought up is the Civil War, the reputation of characters, and Daisy Domergue bounty. With plenty of characters these limited topics could fill up three hours’ worth of dialogue. Unfortunately, it becomes tedious when established facts like Daisy bounty worth, Marquis Lincoln letter, and character specific traits are repeated multiple times within the film. When no variation is applied, or adding something new to an established story element makes the viewing experience feel like it’s three hours, or longer in some scenes. Especially when seeing a small act of violence, and predicting the outcome of that scene. In order to withhold progress lengthy monologues are written into the film. Now, not the all the monologues are purposeless, but the ones that are simply prolonging the expected outcome of a scene.

It’s what you don’t see in this picture that’s important. That’s subtlety.

No other scene in the film than Major Marquis Warren suspect deduction scene can better highlight the weakness of Quentin Tarantino writing in The Hateful Eight. In this specific scene, Samuel L. Jackson does a stupendous job for around ten, or so minutes performing the scene. His delivery, and body movement is over the top like the leap in logic being presented. Now in order for Marquis Warren suspect deduction to have worked certain facts had to be established before entering the scene. However, no such thing occurs in the film as the many conversations Marquis Warren has among the characters only one foreshadows a possibility of criminals in a room. That one scene doesn’t established that Minnie (the owner) was racist towards a specific group of people, the “cooked the stew” allegation doesn’t stand on much ground since anyone else who was in the cabin could have cooked it as well, and the owner husband love for his chair is only known to Marquis. These details aren’t alluded to, nor share among the viewers. It’s withholding information for the sake of forced tension. This is singlehandedly, the most convoluted piece of writing under Tarantino name, besides the premise to Django Unchained.

“From now no I see a red sash, I kill the man wearing it. So run you cur. And tell the others curs the law is coming. You tell ’em I’m coming! And Hell’s coming me you hear! Hell’s coming with me!”

What finally makes the film come around full circle is, well, the lack of hateful characters. If I were to push my morality aside, the uneven screen time, and uneven character development of the cast hinders what could have been a complex film. If the film started in Minnie’s Haberdashery the criticism of uneven portrayal for the characters would still stand. Joe Gage would still have little to his character, Bob would still just be a Mexican in the story, but it wouldn’t be as prominent as it is now. Another issue is Tarantino to maintain his signatures marks on the film even though it works against the film. I’m expected to believe that within the same movie a revolver is strong enough to blow up someone’s head at point blank range, yet when those same revolvers are fired in different scenes the amount of force from those shots don’t cause someone leg, hand, or even chest to blow up in the same over the top manner.

When the brief moments of blood, gore, and violence do appear on screen it’s entirely out of place. The moments of violence are over the top when the entire film is restraint in presentation. While the actors are hamming, and over the top what generally is not are the characters. They talked about the Civil War repeatedly, the bad deeds of the people in the cabin repeatedly, and at no point in the film establishes a tone that would work in over the top violence. It’s sloppily written which is the biggest shame. There are ideas in place for a great movie, but after chapter two it loses it ways, and is unable to find where its original destination in the first place.

“I’m getting too old for this shit”

This film redeeming trait are the performances from its cast. Samuel L. Jackson is easily the best actor in the cast stealing the spotlight in every scene. He’s over the top in line delivery, and mannerism on screen. Balancing serious dramatic with over the top antics without breaking character, or the tone of the film. His extensive monologue is where he shins going minutes at a times speaking by himself. In one scene, Samuel L. Jackson character Marquis tells a story in glorious fashion. As any story teller would Jackson raises his excitement, and changing his tone to fit the scene of his description. Jackson is performance is plain, and simple justifies the price of admission in checking out the film.

Kurt Russell also does a good job in the film as John Ruth. However, his performance doesn’t allow him the freedom of that of Samuel L. Jackson. Russell character is more rude, and crude in his personality. He’s able to sell his unflattering character convincingly as a leading actor. His performance is also worthy of another praise since it’s capable of misleading audiences, but revealing any specifics would ruin it. All I’ll say is I didn’t see it coming given how good Kurt Russell is in the film. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Daisy Domergue who is handcuffed to John Ruth for virtually the entirely film. Leigh character is also the most realistic since her character is written in a more restrained manner because of the position she’s in. Despite the constraint of being handcuffed to another actor she does allot more than expected of her. Through simple gestures she’s able to reveal much of her character hateful, and playful nature. She able to come across as manipulative, sympathetic, and funny with, or without dialogue. Add to the fact she does not have the same freedom of body movements since she’s handcuffed to Kurt Russell.

Walton Goggins plays Chris Mannix in the movie. His performance is very cheesy due to his best described “country bumpkin” accent. He is mostly in the film to play up the dark humor. To his credit he’s able to deliver on the jokes despite the tonal problem the film has. His comedic timing is spot on, but sometime it won’t get a laugh. However, that’s more of a fault with the material, and not Walton Goggins as an actor. Goggins, if anything, is also a spotlight in the film for his entertaining performance. The last standout performance comes from Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray. Despite his profession of hanging people for a living Roth presents himself as a gentleman. Flamboyant in the manner he speaks he emphasizes the best aspects of Tarantino dialogue. Tim Roth is entertaining for the whole film, and was perfectly cast in the role.

I’ll be here if you need me.

Everyone else is unfortunately a victim of a thankless role. The only actor who goes mostly unscathed is Channing Tatum as Jody who mostly has to be charming in the short screen time he’s given. Michael Madsen as Joe Gage, and Demian Bichir as Bob are two actors that get short changed in their roles. Demian Bichir Mexican accent is the only noteworthy aspect of his performance. Too bad Bichir doesn’t get a scene to demonstrate his acting chops. Madsen on the other hand does get that chance when he’s introduce, but he has to stick with the tough guy persona. He’s unable to break from his mold which makes him another wasted addition in the cast. Then there’s Bruce Dern as General Sandy Smithers. For the character he played the less is more approach works in his favor. Dern is only in the film for his appearance working in favor of the character he is playing. Finally, there’s James Park as O.B. who does little speaking. As mentioned before with Dern, James Park role is simply for appearances purposes.

One pointless addition to the cast that was entirely unneeded was Quentin Tarantino himself. After the intermission is over he narrates a generalization of the events that led to the current event in the story. It’s about as pointless as much as it is self-indulgent. The camera shows the turning point of the story by itself, and the narration adds nothing to it. Tarantino simply states the obvious in the scene when the scene itself was all that was needed to get what he wanted across. It’s especially more self-indulgent when there’s no narration for virtually the entire film. I mean, Tarantino could simply state the obvious in every scene possible if he wanted as this brief narration proves. While on Tarantino his direction in the film is uninspired in the film. The performances show more personality than the cinematography itself. His biggest downfall is failing to use the background as part of a narrative tool. The cinematography is best at showcasing its actors’ performances, but if you’re expecting grand vistas you’ll be disappointed as the majority of the film takes place in door. Ennio Morricone (I bow down to this man’s legacy) score whenever in use is fantastic. Immediately upon hearing it sets up the atmosphere as soon as the first note hits. Morricone score isn’t used much in the film, but whenever it is the scene makes the most of its music.

The Hateful Eight is a very serious film from Quentin Tarantino who shares no serious intention to fix his shortcomings from his writing when he last venture in the Western genre. Why would he when the world of criticism, and his fans have already given him pedestal to stand on. Regardless of the criticism I, and anyone else might have with Tarantino films it will be overshadowed by those in the fan base that will accept his creation just because his name is on it. Django Unchained is a weak presentation of Tarantino writing. However, the tone of it made the leap in logic, and sometime cartoony events be forgivable. In The Hateful Eight not so much as its serious tone makes it shortcoming less forgivable. Here’s lies a film where signs of Tarantino only being able to make one of kind film shows. He wants to do a serious a film that discusses serious issues, but is unable to remove his personality in order to do so. That there is the sole reason why The Hateful Eight ends up being a film where uncertainty is prevalent throughout it.


Footnote on 70MM: Not Worth The Price of Admission

As mentioned in the review around 88% of the film takes place inside a stagecoach passover called Minnie’s Haberdashery, and the remaining 12% would roughly be outdoor scenes. Now here’s the problem, the film does not use the 70MM format to it’s advantage at all. It’s a film that emphasizes dialogue over grand vistas. The very few 3% of a three hour film (counting the 15 minute intermission) are massive shots of the frozen wilderness which not justified the format to see the film. If I were instead writing about, say, Mad Max: Fury Road in 70MM format I would say the extra cost is worth seeing (despite my thoughts on the writing) on the bigger screen because it went big on its visual. The Hateful Eight doesn’t go all the way. Instead you’ll just be paying extra to see a bunch of actor just simply talking in one location, which is unnecessary to see in its 70MM.

Anime-Breakdown: Trigun (1998) Series Review

I don’t know how to bring up a discussion on violence which is the main theme of “Trigun”. An anime series that goes into depth on the topic of violence and telling a compelling story with a great leading character. Despite the serious theme Trigun is also enjoyable dashing out humor through the course of 24 episodes. It’s as much of an enjoyable show as it is dramatically powerfully. If you’re a fan of Westerns, Madhouse Studio, or like a great leading character Trigun is the show for you.

Basic Information:

Episodes: 26

Available English Dub: Yes

Animation Studio: Madhouse

Good: Vash The Stampede

Trigun is only as it good as it protagonist and you couldn’t have asked for a better leading character than Vash the Stampede. He is deliberately introduced as this badass gunmen in the series intro that shows him dodging dozen of bullets from gunmen and wind constantly blowing his way in the lonesome desert getting across an uncanny, seemingly violent figure. Once the first episode starts you only get to know about Vash from secondary accounts that make him out to be this dangerous man. However, when actually seeing Vash for the first time you’ll find it difficult to imagine such a goofball would be worth so much money.

That’s one of the main reasons Trigun works. Vash has many characteristics allowing the series to go in different directions once establishing Vash and none is more evident than in his sense of humor. It doesn’t matter how dire the current situation or standoff might be. Vash can come out of it with his goofball side intact. Always seeking to find the best solution in a very limited amount of time when placed on the spot. Vash is a misunderstood hero you probably wouldn’t give a second thought towards. When advancing further in the series details slowly revealing Vash background are given. Suddenly there is new meaning behind Vash good nature in the desolate and violent world he lives in becoming more sophisticated. Analyzing the depth of Vash can be an engaging experience all on its own right.

Define by his ideology and the constant challenge to stick to it in difficult situations, there is never a moment Vash is not challenged. Because of his pacifist nature, it leads him into trouble in the west from dangerous gunmen. By no means is Vash an incompetent shooter as proven in several episodes he has obtain pitch perfect accuracy. Understandably that would ordinarily make for a boring lead, but because of Vash ethics to not kill anyone it makes every approach to conflict unique. With his beliefs preventing him from simply killing those after him results in creative solutions. Whenever simply shooting a gun off your gunman just doesn’t work, it branches out how the setup will play out. Since Vash ideology prevents him from killing in confrontations will have you wondering what the breaking point will be. Living in a world and people that influence him to think like common folks over achieving peace. What Vash does isn’t simply for survival, but spreading an ideal that he must represent by any means.

Good: A Riveting World

Trigun takes place on a desert like planet named “Gunsmoke” that is cover by sand, decaying cities and towns, and steampunk technology. The world of Trigun is common to overlook in a film, but in the form of a TV series you get a better opportunity to understand and see it developed. It’s not an ideal world to live in. As made evident with the extensive world building that is put into crafting this world. We benefit from seeing Vash travel to different destinations and experience a bit of chaos in that city or town. Each visit gives you insight on how differently people lives are affected by the world they live in. In episode 5, an entire city is attempting to capture or kill Vash in order to save the city from bankruptcy. Immediately you understand that the city is in desperate need of money in order to survive. Hinting that even in a world that’s barren like “Gunsmoke” money still present power over instinctively helping the common man. Within the same episode you get to hear voices lashing directly at Vash to give up his life while Vash on other hand opposes their opposition with reasoning. Needless to say, good nature people doesn’t equal positive decision making. Neither does it mean that a doomsday aftermath will eliminate the rules we currently live by.

Trigun takes place on a desert like planet named “Gunsmoke” that is cover by sand, decaying cities and towns, and steampunk technology. The world of Trigun is common to overlook in a film, but in the form of a TV series you get a better opportunity to understand and see it developed. It’s not an ideal world to live in. As made evident with the extensive world building that is put into crafting this world. We benefit from seeing Vash travel to different destinations and experience a bit of chaos in that city or town. Each visit gives you insight on how differently peoples’ lives are affected by the world they live in. In episode 5, an entire city is attempting to capture or kill Vash in order to save the city from bankruptcy. Immediately you understand that the city is in desperate need of money in order to survive. Hinting that even in a world that’s barren like “Gunsmoke” money still present power over instinctively helping the common man. Within the same episode you get to hear voices lashing directly at Vash to give up his life while Vash on the other hand opposes their opposition with reasoning. Needless to say, good nature people doesn’t equal positive decision making. Neither does it mean that a doomsday aftermath will eliminate the rules we currently live by.

Good: Exploration On Violence

The element of violence I keep mentioning is what the series tackles thoroughly. Our protagonist is a pacifist, and those he encounters generally are not in the same mindset. Simply holding all life sacred isn’t as simple as withholding one self from pulling a gun trigger. It’s a perspective that is elaborated upon, even if the answer you received might not be entirely acceptable. Characters in the world will question them with the hero or villain quick to refute their criticism with their own reasons. The philosophy is obvious, but understanding why anyone would stick to their beliefs is difficult to fully grasp or get behind. Sometime it can be as simple as a person who inspired a character or in another case a life that influences choices.

As a blunt contrast to Vash we’re given the traveling priest and smooth operator Nicholas D. Wolfwood. Despite being a follower of the holy lord, Wolfwood is far more pragmatic in his treatment of human life, and the arguments between him and Vash, as well as Wolfwood’s eventual confrontations with redemption, make him a particularly interesting character. He a highlight of the examination of Christians principles. Sure many religions value love of life, forgiveness, and redemption, but clearly Nicholas D. is geared toward the Christian side given Wolfwood background. Am I reading too much into the character? Maybe, although Yasuhiro Nightow (the creator of Trigun) is a known Christian. Much like Vash, we wonder what Wolfwood breaking point would be when it comes to his religion. Can a man who follows the word of the lord really be able to abide by them? The answer to that it provides might come across as clear cut, but much like Vash, there is various shades to each answer given.

Another contrast to Vash are Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, who are agents of the Bernardelli Insurance Society sent to evaluate claims regarding Vash the Stampede. In the series they serve the purpose of comedic reliefs as well as being the bridge to natural characterization. The insurance girls are a good pair on the entertainment and story. For me, the relationship between Meryl and Milly evolves from the two simply doing their job to doing what they feel is right. As I see it, this is an evolution to being realistic and adds a subtle take on a working person in the world of “Gunsmoke”. Finding the meaning behind what you do beyond a simple paycheck. What drives a person to keep their job, no matter how dangerous and why. It’s never truly brought to the forefront in the series, which makes it a small nice touch in the background. Passing no judgement on whatever your motivation as it demonstrates sometime the reason can go beyond your judgement as demonstrated with Meryl and Milly following Vash despite the harm they are put into.

Good: All Shades of Villainy

The series advances with a villain of the week formula. In nearly every episode has Vash and sometime his company defending themselves from a new super power villain or ordinary thugs. In the very first episode Vash goes up against a large cyborg named Descartes. He possesses a giant cybernetic arm with an attached boomerang. Despite appearances Descartes doesn’t last more than a single episode as Vash easily gets rid of him.

Villains personalities are varied offering some that are sympathetic with reasonable motivation while others are solely evil. It’s refreshing to see a series that doesn’t attempt to make every villain come across as a tragic story. Because of this we’re able to see the lowest depths thugs in this desolate planet can sink too. The most memorable confrontations are those that expose a different side of Vash psyche. These intellectual battles require Vash to be a quick thinker to find a peaceful resolution, even though simply shooting the villain is an easy way to survive. Sometime Vash doesn’t even need to use his gun to win making preventing standoffs from becoming stale.

One noteworthy villain is Legato Bluesummers. Legato best fits the part of a villain with long blue hair covering one eye and wearing an open trench coat showing off his imposing figure. Smiling when torturing others with his sadistic personality. Ultimately going as far as choosing his purpose in life is to help his master wipe out all of humanity and making Vash as long as possible. When it comes to villains not many within the series can surpass Legato in dedication to his single cruel purpose.

Good: A Distinctive Vision

The animation is spectacular while the art and the background art isn’t wildly creative with the barren, dusty world nearly eliminating scenery variety. On the plus side character designs are classic-yet-memorable, and the quality of the production is always high to carry the story. Vash’s spiked blond hair, signature sunglasses, and long, red trench coat, give him a distinctive look as the hero of a Western. Nicholas D. Wolfwood looks suitably cool with his massive, cross-shaped gun makes him among coolest priests in animation. There are impressive over-the-top fights displaying various degrees of bullets piercing and the dynamic gun choreography is always fun to see with superpowers gunmen requiring characters to change tactics. In particular the final standoff, which easily ranks among one of the best choreographed finale to have ever graced animation.

Trigun soundtrack is noteworthy from aggressive electric guitar to a few very mellow Western-themed tunes and a pretty song that factors into the story. Supporting a scene instead of telling the audience how they should feel in a particular scene. Like Legato’s chaotic industrial-sounding theme that fittingly goes along with Legato even more chaotic nature in mentally torturing Vash.

The Japanese and English voice acting is another of Trigun’s strong points. Vash goofball side and antics mesh well with the dramatic parts of his persona. Never is one aspect of Vash personality ever become overshadowed by the other. Wolfwood is also smooth, fun, and generally likable sharing many similarities to Vash. Hiromi Tsuru does a great, lively Meryl, although there’s not much depth to the role. She’s balanced by Milly an equally likable and generally believable when she gets serious. The English dub has none other than Johnny Yong Bosch in the lead role who does an excellent job. Playing up Vash comedic chops during the comedy scenes while always sounding human whenever discussing the value of life. All the actors in the English dub sound natural balancing the vastly different tone that it starts out with to what it eventually becomes. Much of the same praise that can be given to the Japanese cast can also apply to the English voice cast. Either way you can’t go wrong with reading subtitles or watching the English dub.

Final Thoughts:
Trigun has high brow writing and thoroughly explore themes on violence without shy away from dishing out a sense humor along the way. Coming across as a prime example of how to do gritty story and delivering a meaningful message without having to be serious all the time.

Protagonist: 2/2

Story: 2/2

Themes: 2/2

Villains: 2/2

Production: 2/2

Possible Complaints (no points value):
Vash numerous pacifism speeches
Sand, Sand, and more Sand
Depending on your taste the soundtrack isn’t as memorable without the series

Rating: 10/10 – Trigun is the best kind of anime that takes the establish western genre and reinvents it with a unique world which has yet to be match in the industry. A must see for any fan of great anime, for those looking for intellectual departure, or anyone who likes western.

Cinema-Maniac: Unforgiven (1992) Review

Whenever the word “Western” pops up the first person that comes to my mind is Clint Eastwood. As an actor he’s center stage in several of my favorite Westerns and as a director understands the genre like no other director. Ever since his first directed western, Eastwood showed an interest in the duality of the hero, taking a special interest in the archetype of hero portrayed in the classic 1953 Western, “Shane”. Eastwood has explored this theme in many ways in the past: first as a true antihero (“High Plains Drifter”), then as a man becoming legend (“The Outlaw Josey Wales”) and later as a true mythic hero (“Pale Rider”); all this culminates in “Unforgiven” as the ultimate demythologization of the concept, and his final ode to the Western genre.

Unforgiven follows retired old west gunslinger William Munny reluctantly taking on one last job, with the help of his old partner and a young man. It’s a film about the manipulating influence of legends as much it is a dissection on the western genre position on violence. Built on a hollow facade of the western genre it removal of any heroes and villains slowly envelops the film. Broadening the depiction of the wild west eliminating the charming hero, the righteous sheriff, the violent outlaws, elaborate shootouts, climatic stands off, and the helpless everyday person caught in the middle in life in the old west. Becoming more thoughtful in showing every step of a character motivation by an outside force to an internal decision. Internalizing the classic Western theme in which violent men are “civilized” by schoolmarms, preachers and judges. It is in the use of violence as the main theme of the story that such varied views are made possible. Munny is escaping from his past’s violence while the Kid is eagerly awaiting the next chance to prove his masculinity by the use of violence. The duality between man and myth is explored not only via the relationship between the Kid and Munny, but also in the shape of a character who writes novels about the wild west, and sees the figure of the gunslinger as an idolized modern hero. Reality constantly collides with legend with many characters and their relationships exhaustively explored, resulting in a character driven revisionism of the western.

Clint Eastwood as a director reflects a passing era in its genre even in its visual style. The set design and cinematography provide viewers with visual cues they will be conversant with a genre whose conventions are deeply rooted in American cinema. The dusty, barren streets and ramshackle buildings are necessary to impart a sense of familiarity that the storyline takes pains to deconstruct. Our first views of Big Whiskey establish a set of expectations, reinforced by the way the town has been erected and the way the early scenes are shot, that are necessary for “Unforgiven” approach to have its full impact. Many of the film’s exteriors are widescreen compositions showing the vastness of the land. The daytime interiors, on the other hand, are always strongly backlit, the bright sun pouring in through windows so that the figures inside are dark and sometimes hard to see. Living indoors in a civilized style has made these people distinct.

As William Munny, Clint Eastwood is simply perfect in what at first sight looks like an extension of his earlier “Man with no name” persona. William Munny has a name, and a past he wants to escape from, and Eastwood captures the image of guilt and regret to the letter. But his voice lacks conviction, and we sense unfinished business in the air displaying the uncertainty of Eastwood to stick by his guns. Eastwood personifies the weariness of a man of violence who’s trying to fight against his nature. A lot of the conflict is internal, but we catch enough glimpses of it to know it’s going on. We also see the point at which the surrender of the new man to the old one occurs. In other words Eastwood has visually and through his portrayal created one of the most sophisticated westerns. Morgan Freeman plays the wise old friend role which he perfected. Gene Hackman does an excellent job bringing out the good and the bad in Little Bill, refusing to allow the character to become a one-dimensional antagonist. His standout scene is the one in which he instructs Beauchamp about the real Old West.

Unforgiven is another classic western by one of the master of genre himself Clint Eastwood. Deconstructing the western with shades of grey and thoughtful statement on its genre violence. Bolstered by strong performances from an great assemble cast create individuals that aren’t simply black and white. Showing far more depths in the characters in their delivery. It’s in the same vein as “Seven Samurai” tackling it’s respective genre with a depiction that challenges characters, it’s environments, morals, and realistically deconstruct many norms of it genre. It’s not just great filmmaking, but an essential work of art.


Cinema-Maniac: Django Unchained (2012) Review

So I didn’t love Django Unchained as much as my friends. I admire the bold move of Tarantino to accurately present the once common despicable crime that is slavery. Aside from the acting I cannot give the same level of praise to everything else in the film. So let’s talk about “Boss Nigger“, I mean “The Wild Bunch“. No I mean Sergio Leone’s, wait, he’s not involve. Combinations of several westerns is more like it.

Django Unchained is about a German bounty hunter helping a freed slave rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner. Now this might come as a shock, but this movie is not about the title character Django at all. It’s about Dr. King Schultz who gets the most dialogue, the most development, and has most the focus in the plot until the climax. It baffles me why Tarantino didn’t just make Dr. Schultz the protagonist. He represent the people who weren’t racist during this time and his bold actions to help a black man that comes with no social reward. He is often criticize for the unorthodox way in which in he treats Djanog. Therefore always constantly putting his life in danger, but I might be reading to much into it. Even despite the era of thought during this time Dr. Schultz helps Django become who he is. If it wasn’t for Dr. Schultz Django would have flat out fail in his revenge scheme.

Now lets talk about Django who I felt wasn’t fully thought out. The motivation of a man wanting to save his wife is nothing new, but it is a solid motivation in which an entire movie can revolve around. The problem with Django motivation is his wife is not developed. I need more than the fact that she’s Django wife and is a slave. She could be Django child hood lover? She could have prevented Django from committing suicide in the harsh reality presented? Without that one thing that brought them together ever mentioned or shown it feels more like a long sub plot. Another thing I didn’t like was this character was not fleshed out. I know he was a former slave, he learned how to shoot from Dr. Schultz, has a wife, is somewhat literate, and that’s it. Am I suppose to assume his family were slaves. If I am then this is an area that is unexplored. We see what slavery does to Django as a adult, but what about through the eyes of a kid. There must have been something that triggers Django to act maturely in his racist environment. Surely Django wasn’t meant to be the protagonist because if he was then he pales in comparisons to Dr. Schultz whose is the film actual hero.

The positive about the plot is showing slavery for what it was. A part of history that we can not ignore. The film boldly shows slavery instead of covering it up. There are scenes dedicated to illustrate how sadistic some of these slave owners were. The harsh reality of slavery is presented in front of our eyes. This is how the world was and in some part still is. If you dare complain about the usage of the “N” word, the brutal treatment of slaves on screen, and so forth you might as well complain about the Holocaust. I’m getting into touchy territory here, but simply put if you can’t look at this film content with an open mindset. You are choosing to ignore what is an essential part of human history whether or not you choose to accept that is your own decision.

Allot of people already said this, but this could use some better editing. I liked the hysterical KKK scene in which the Klansmen question the efficiency of their mask. Though did that add anything to the plot? No, it could been left out and it would have not made a difference. Some scenes could have been removed and made the film stronger. Some issues are brought up and solved very quickly. It feels like watching a collection of several movie serials edited together. I didn’t like the choice of music here. Not that the songs were bad, but it kept reminded me of other westerns I have already saw. The opening credit sequence led me to believe that I was watching Sergio Corbucci’s “Django”. The choice of music can add allot to your movies, but taking music from other westerns makes it difficult to concentrate of the one your currently viewing. It makes for a good tribute though, but that too also reminds you of what you possibly already seen.

After viewing this I do question the Oscar nominations? Why didn’t Christopher Waltz get a nomination for best leading actor. He clearly surpassed his co-star Jamie Foxx in every conceivable way. Waltz felt like the film gripping hero whereas Jamie Fox felt like his underwhelming sidekick. I never for once thought Jamie Fox was the leading actor. Though that’s more of an issue with the writing then his acting. Leonardo DiCaprio is among the best of the supporting cast. I know some of you are thinking “you moron Christopher Waltz is a supporting actor”. That might be the general census, but from what I saw Christopher Waltz is the leading man not Jamie Foxx. DiCaprio perfectly embraces his twisted, but yet charismatic antagonist. He’s the best kind of villains, the ones you love to hate. Some hated Quentin Tarantino appearance, but I didn’t mind. I enjoyed watching what happened to him. It’s as if he knows deep inside he should made Christopher Waltz the protagonist. Top notch acting here helps a great deal to get engross in the film film too. Many great lines are utter and line delivery nothing short of terrific.

Now I know that mostly complained about this movie, but that’s only because I’ve seen this kind of stuff in other westerns. The body count is not that big. It is bloody, but that doesn’t make it as violent as other Westerns I saw. Here it’s just for fun. The dialogue still has it charms, but to many scenes are far too familiar to me. I didn’t expect anything original from Tarantino, go look up “City of Fire” to know what I mean. I expected him to deliver on a film that showcase his own vision not his inspirations. All in all I found this disappointing, but it is a good film. Not a great Western though since I’ve seen many of those and what I saw here didn’t impress me as much. Take “Django Unchained” for what it is. A collection of Western films, music scores, and style of several filmmaking role into one film. Not a bad deal, but the director own vision is nowhere to be found.


Cinema-Maniac: Boss Nigger (The Black Bounty Killer) (1975) Review

Much for the same reason I saw “The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies” film is that its title caught my attention. Much to my surprise this western is well made and makes time fly by fast.

Boss Nigger is about two black bounty hunters that ride into a small town out West in pursuit of an outlaw. They discover that the town has no sheriff, and soon take over that position, much against the will of the mostly white townsfolk. They raise hell, chase women, and milk the locals for cash, while waiting for the opportunity to get their man. Let me start with the negative since there is not much those. The film lacks any three dimensional characters, even the movie central characters lack development of any kind. The romance aspect are forced, secondary are nothing more than plot devices, and a simple villain. Now that we got the flaws out of the way it times to talk about the positive. It’s well pace, contains tons of gun fight, a good sense of humor, and plot that is very deep. It accurately depicts racism in its time yet does not make it the driving force of the plot. It’s because of this the film plays out well and despite it racist dialogue does not discriminate against a particular race. If anything, the racist dialogue is there is a key trait in showcasing that our heroes are more concerned with bringing justice in the west than worrying about discrimination.

The acting is very good and Fred Williamson who plays the title character (yes, that’s his name according to the closing credit) is very cool. Fred Williamson portrayal is reminisce of Clint Eastwood “Man With No Name” protagonist from the Dollar Trilogy. Also, if you like the style of the Dollar Trilogy than you’ll find plenty love about “Boss Nigger” filming style. Even with a very notable nod to Clint Eastwood iconic character. I have to mention that this western an awesome theme song and unconventional funky score that gives this its own identity.

“Boss Nigger” might have a racist title, but if you’re open minded and tolerate the accurate racist language you’ll find a quality western. One fill with excitement, cool heroes, plenty of laughs, great drama, and a kick-ass theme song makes this are the more reason to check it out.


Cinema-Maniac: The Wild Bunch (1969) Review

This is by far one of the greatest Western I’ve ever seen. Movies like this are the reasons why I love watching movies.

The Wild Bunch is about an aging group of outlaws look for one last big score as the “traditional” American West is disappearing around them. The story is masterfully told and gets more involving the more we learn about our outlaws. Though my only complaint would be that the story doesn’t include one strong female character, yet despite this issue, I still found the movie to be flawless in execution. Never have I been so invested into so many characters like any other Western and never have I been so glad to sit through a Western, this is truly a masterpiece in film-making.

Every actor performance as the main outlaws were so great that they made me forget they were actors. The score of the music must be praise, it’s tense, it’s thrilling, and it adds more excitement to the experience. Now since this is a Western with allot of bloodshed, I will say I was both amazed and blown away on how powerful these scene of bloodshed were. There truly not enough praise given to this movie. I would go as far as to say that this is the Lawrence of Arabia of Western movies.

The Wild Bunch is great Western that I would recommend to any movie lover. This is a movie with memorable characters, memorable lines, memorable performances, with a memorable story that everyone should experience


Cinema-Maniac: High Plains Drifter (1973) Review

If there’s ever an actor that would sell me in watching a western, that man would be Clint Eastwood.

A gunfighting stranger comes to the small settlement of Lago and is hired to bring the townsfolk together in an attempt to hold off three outlaws who are on their way. The best thing about western is that they have good story, and this one is no different. I was mostly satisfied by the story as the more it went on the more I got interested. The small supernatural elements made it more interesting in my opinion as it added a more unique feel as I was watching this. One thing about the story that’s bad is that the town people are represented as cowards for the whole movie and they don’t exactly improve though the at the end either.

As always, Clint Eastwood performance is spectacular as “the stranger” or nameless cowboy as he known for. Whenever Clint Eastwood is given a unnamed Cowboy you better expect nothing but the best. The direction was great, the cinematography was great, and cast fit well into there characters.

Now this may not be as good as some of Clint Eastwood other western, especially Unforgiven, but it’s still a nice alternative and a unique take on the western genre from the man who is the best in that genre.


Cinema-Maniac: Shanghai Knights (2003) Review

Wow, what a shocker, I didn’t expect Shanghai Knights to be as good as the original. Though while it may not be well put together as the first, I stilled had some laughs and fun.

When a Chinese rebel murders Chon’s (Jackie Chan) estranged father and escapes to England, Chon and Roy (Owen Wilson) make their way to London with revenge on their minds. I got the idea that the sequel could have been better, different location, more characters, and Donnie Yen. Unfortunately what we get is to much ideas in a movie that don’t work well together. At points some scene feel out of place or to long. Story wise, the original does a better job with a good pace that not to crazy.

What the sequel does improve on is the action. My personal favorite being Jackie Chan against Donnie Yen, though short, it’s rewarding to see these two legends in the same movie together for Martial Art fans. Though the most spectacular action sequence has to be the fencing match in the clock tower, a reference to what Chan did in his classic film Project A.

Like the original, it has references to famous icons. Like Charlie Chaplin as a kid being portrayed as a crook or Detective Arthur Doyle who wrote the Sherlock Holmes novels being an actual detective in this movie. I found the reference to Jack the Ripper to be the best, probably because I hate famous killers that got away.

So this is a rare case in which both films in the franchise are equal. If you want a good pace story with good humor, Shanghai Noon is the way to go. If you wanting good humor and action, Shanghai Knights the way to go. Though I don’t think you can go wrong whichever you choose to watch.


Cinema-Maniac: Shanghai Noon (2000) Review

Shanghai Noon brings us the pairing of Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson together in a movie. This could’ve have gone bad in my opinion, but what we get is a hilarious and enjoyable Western.

Jackie Chan plays a Chinese man who travels to the Wild West to rescue a kidnapped princess. After teaming up with a train robber (Owen Wilson), the unlikely duo takes on a Chinese traitor and his corrupt boss. The story was well crafted, I found myself laughing and getting more interested as the story progress. Both Chan and Wilson work well on screen and makes the movie that much more fun to watch with a good pace script.

The issue I have in this movie is the action, while it delivers the humor. It fails in the action department, while it’s still entertaining to watch, it’s nothing special. Though the cinematography is spot on in every scene and every actor does there job.

I enjoyed this movie, while it may seem weird to pair a China man and a cowboy in a movie, Wilson and Chan pull it off and brings you one hilarious and enjoyable movie.