Archive for February, 2014

Western Watchins #67

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“Brother” is a strange powerful word. Whether related by genetics or something else, if you have a brother you’ve got either your best friend in the world at your side, or your worst enemy. Many times both. Most people in this world would fuck you over for a French fry then stick their saltly fingers in the wounds and family, extended or otherwise, is always closest to your plate. Ubisoft capitalized on this fact with it’s Call of Juarez prequel Bound in Blood riding that creeping paranoia all the way from Georgia to Arizona into Mexico and back again. It’s an old fashioned shooter filled out with a few open world style flirtations that makes for fun evenings when you might not feel like jumping into Red Dead spending hours hunting down and repeatedly killing some teenage shitbag who thought it would be funny to snipe you as soon as you spawned into the damn game.

That’s never funny.

But hounding you till you quit, your face covered in tears and Cheetos dust? That’s fucking funny.

Bound in Blood has a multplayer mode as well but I have not yet tried it. I can only assume there will be shitbags to gently educate. And speaking of that school of hard knocks, meet Thomas and Ray. With a choice between them as playable characters on most levels you’ll have two very distinct ways to get your learnin’ done.

 

 

Thomas looks like a slightly stoned Christian Bale and Ray looks like a man who’s currently holding in an entire life’s worth of farts. Thomas and Ray are brothers. The McCall brothers to be exact. In case you forget, they will both remind you almost constantly of their relationship. It must have looked good on paper but hearing “A little help here brother” and “nice shot brother” or “brother, brother cactus brother brooooother” gets old (brother) and fast. If Hulk Hogan had shown up with a writing credit at the end I would not have been shocked. There’s even a third McCall brother, William, who narrates most of the story as he’s not much use for anything else. At least he doesn’t say “brother” every other word like his older kin. And all the duplicative dialogue, annoying as it is, can be easily overlooked once all big brass balls start rolling.

And they’re rolling from the start, rolling all around the trenches of a Southern standoff set during the Civil War. Lots of heroism (by you) followed almost immediately by cowardice (not by you…by some fuck!) Your commanding officer didn’t hold to the promises he made you so you go AWOL off defending your nearby homestead comitting in his mind an act that will see him hound you the rest of the game. Ever had an agreement with someone only to have them renege and then think you’re the asshole? Hey asshole you’re the asshole, asshole! Undertand? I do. As I think you, my faithful readers, do also. I know you’ll understand the McCall’s pain.

And pain it is, the proverbial thorn in one’s side as the boys are just lookin’ to move past the war seeing as in a hundred and fifty years it’ll be forgotten anyway that many fine folks died on both sides of the Mason-Dixon to insure that everyone would be free to work towards the American Dream instead of sitting around collecting welfare. For an institution that was supposedly abolished centuries ago there sure seem to be a lot of slaves around these days to those healthy government handouts. So again, I understand the idea of just saying “fuck it” and heading off with the focus being on taking care of you and yours. The McCalls headed west to do just that and along the way stumbled onto the path of a legendary fortune.

But remember you can’t spell “fortune” without an “aw goddamit what the fuck Thomas, Ray and/or William I mean SHIT(!) Indians and that asshole Colonel from the last paragraph and some Mexican chick with a nice ass but no character development then more fucking Indians (!?) and explosions and horsies plus 3,211,420 uses of the word brother, wow I should be so lucky!”

And that’s the game. I mean it gets a little more involved but that’s pretty much it. Yet, since getting there is half the fun I will expand my exposition a bit for your sake. So you can pick Thomas or Ray depending on how you want to get after the revenge having and gold finding. You could loosely label them as long distance (Thomas) or up close and personal (Ray). Thomas can use a lasso and a bow while Ray has a dual wield option and gets to throw dynamite but other than those differences, and the cosmetic ones, nothing seems sets the brothers apart gameplay wise in my experience. I rarely used the dynamite (surprising and you can play any Gears of War with me to find out why) and fired the bow even less. I defaulted to Thomas most of the time just ’cause I thought Ray was a dick and not in that glance down at the dude next to you in the stall and say “nice job there fella” appealing kind of way but more in that “why are you looking at my dick” off-putting kind of way.

The choice is yours though and like I said do not seem to effect anything other than a couple of in-level route deviations that are forgettably minimal. Whoever you choose you’ll still get to duel with bosses:

 

 

And ride all over the comfortably expansive-for-a-shooter landscapes:

 

 

Plus, you’ll get to stare at this ass!

 

 

One might I add that, no matter if it’s through Thomas’ or Ray’s eyes, will still appear awkwardly animated to the point you’re thinking they might have gotten a tantalizingly passable tranny to mo-cap that intriguing sashay because, while not quite feminine, you are still getting an erection. And if being attracted to chicks maybe with dicks isn’t enough for you, feast your eyes upon the inexplicable appearance of multiple Wes Studis!

 

 

I tried to track down any information that Wes was involved with this game but found nada. That’s totally him though right? Totally three of him in the same scene it looks like to me and it looks like us white devils weren’t content with just taking all those poor bastards land so now we’ve started stealing faces too. It’s like America stood next to the Indian Nations at a urinal and it was all “nice job there fella” but then they went ahead, reached out and took that dick for themselves becoming an ever bigger dick in the process of befouling both original dicks.

History is terrible sometimes and full of dicks always.

Always something out there to learn right amigos? I wouldn’t say that Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is the preeminent text on the Reconstruction Era in these United States but, albeit not without flaws, it’s not a bad game either. I’ll load 3 rounds into the cylinder for this one but realize I picked it up on sale around Christmas. For $12 to $15 you’ll feel you got a fair shake, even a bit more than that and you’ll feel shorted. If I’d paid full launch retail for Bound in Blood I would not be happy with the expenditure and would have given this title a 2 or worse depending on how drunk I was. The story is alright but the dialogue is pretty bottom of the barrel and the voice acting at times can make your taint cringe. The finale and denouement are wholly gratifying but a shiny button looks out of place when the rest of the garment is moth-worn. Gunslinger gives me hope that developer Techland is headed in the right direction with the Juarez franchise so there’s that but I’d go back and play ‘Slinger or Rango or GUN again before I’d be likely to pour too much additional time into this one. Good and sturdy but not great, the Western genre deserves more effort than Bound in Blood is willing to offer.

So now it’s time to ride on and do it the only way I know how: true amigos, true.

Haikuesday

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Thick sludge under foot

Trudging slowly if at all

The future won’t budge

 

Western Watchins #66

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If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai must be the most ass kissed piece of film ever produced. Besides The Magnificent Seven it would go on to inspire every other thing you have ever seen in your life. I’m sort of not kidding. That original was set in Japan right after we bombed them and all they had was swords and straw hats to respectively fight each other and the radiation poisoning with. I’m guessing because I’ve never seen it but that’s probably what happens. I can however tell you exactly how the literally and figuratively Westernized remake went. And it went like this!

 

 

The plot is pastorally plain and simple: seven hired guns get hired…to gun! And gun it up they do, all over not-as-old-as-it-is-nowadays-but-still-not-new Mexico. Seems some poor peasants (also literally and figuratively) are getting bullied by Eli Wallach and his gang who see fit to ride into town whenever they want to wave their dicks around and steal corn. But then Yul Brynner shows up with seven dicks of his own! I mean he doesn’t have seven dicks (that I know of) but among his collected entourage I am fairly certain that at least more than six and assuredly less than eight dicks could be found. So the good dicks (seven), the bad dicks (more than forty) and the ugly dicks (I don’t know I didn’t actually see any dicks goddamit!) are all headed for a showdown. How many dicks is that Eli Wallach?

 

 

A lot! But remember this amigos, no matter how many dicks are headed your way you keep swinging you hear me? Never let anyone put you down or if they do never let them keep you there. Bullies exist because people do not stand up to them. Bullies exist because of the ease of bullying. Mouths can spout off time and again about what’s best for you and how you should keep yours fucking shut. But knock a few teeth out or break a few jaws and all that talk grows quiet right quick.

One of the central themes of The Magnificent Seven is to be assured of who you are and what you’ve set yourself about doing. It’s a beautiful message and there are numerous scenes that express it beautifully. When Charlie Bronson can make you cry, goddamn, that’s one memorable message. And so much of this movie is memorable, so many scenes rank among the finest ever put to film. One in particular finds most of the main cast both lamenting and relishing the dangereous lives they’ve chosen and as they sit calculating what their combativeness has brought them you realize that you’re on to something special here. Something really damn special.

I challenge you to watch this film and not be changed. The frank discussions of fear, mortality and self-worth are among some of the most effortlessly written moments I know of across any medium and the characters who wear their flaws on their sleeves are all the more noble for it. There’s a young guy and a funny guy and that one inexplicably unnerved guy along with some cocky guys even though most of them are unsure guys. The Seven are someone you know, or someone you want to be, or the person you are right now. They take the easy and all too often seen banality of the Western genre and envigorate it with comedy, courage and compassion. There are few times when “cool” has looked this approachable. And fucking cool!

It’s one thing if you watch The Magnificent Seven and aren’t motivated to alter the course of your life in some major way, each his own I reckon, but if you watch this and don’t think it is, without a doubt, one of the fucking coolest movies you’ve ever seen then you can go fuck yourself this many times:

 

 

Now, like many eventual “classics” this one was not too terribly well recieved back when it first hit theaters in 1960. It floundered stateside but made up for it overseas spawning a number of sequels and homages including Battle Beyond the Stars which I watched no less than 4.9 quadramazillion times during my elementary school years. Little did I know then that one day I would whole-heartedly embrace the wild and western roots of that silly sci-fi flick.

Looking back to the days like those portrayed in The Magnificent Seven has helped me a great deal to imagine what my own future will hold. I used to set so many limits on myself whether by ignorance or design but embracing the responsibility of self determination…man…that’s real liberating. I can see past the deadwood now and I see my destiny. For me that’s the desert. It’s what I want and what by God I shall have. For you it’ll be something different, but when you find something worth fighting for you’ll have found it. Might be a person or a place or both but you’ll stand up, maybe for the first time in your life, and you’ll fight for it. Realizing that the strength to do so is within you will rock your face off!

 


Oh Yul, you kill me! Or at least you’ll try when you go crazy. Like I did for this week’s movie. 5 rounds in the cylinder for this most Magnificent Seven. Almost a perfect film that could have benefitted from a little more enunciation and dialogue volume (particularly from Mr. Brynner) and a few, very few, pacing issues. The set-up comes slowly then you’re rushed into the finale but wanting more is always better than being bored. And any sound quality or time sensitivity issues are miniscule in comparison to the heroic effort this film puts forth on the whole. It’s a bad-ass and bittersweet ride, we should all be so brave and fortunate in our own lives.

And I’ll tell you what…you ride true and you will be. See ya soon amigos.

Haikuesday

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Me am troglodyte

You know tech but me know stick

Me still win in fight

 

Western Watchins #65

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If you don’t already have the perfect Sunday morning eating bacon and flapjacks while hungover movie then might I suggest to you one that will fill the void admirably: Jeremiah Johnson. Robert Redford takes on Nature with nothing but his determination and about one page of dialogue. A man grunting, huffing, yelling, screaming, staring and beard growing his way through an entire film may not sound like it’s amazing.

But it’s fucking amazing. 

The whole thing starts with our hero arriving on the shores of some rustic outpost before gearing up and heading out into the unknown. And that opening scene is backed by about the most nut twistin’ get on off your ass and go have, for good or bad, one hell of an adventure folk song you’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing as your head aches, your eyes tear up and bacon falls out of your mouth because your nuts just done got twisted! It’s a descriptive yet mesmerizingly mysterious ballad not unlike R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet save for the fact that when Jeremiah Johnson was done I thought “what an inspirational story” while as soon as Trapped in a Closet finished all I could think was “stereotypes exist for a reason!” 

Jeremiah’s pretty stereotypical too for a disgruntled Civil War vet out to leave the calamities of life behind. Or maybe he was just sick of working on the Nautilus.

 

 

Either way he quickly secures some supplies and rolls out into the coming winter. Before long he finds out that the Great Outdoors is a harsh mistress. She’s wearing a strap-on named “cold and hungry” which Jeremiah services until he’s near death at one point going so far as to try and become Jesus just to save himself. 

 

 

Eventually another more experienced man of the mountains comes to his aid and like a beaver-clad Ben Kenobi takes the unseasoned soul before him and fashions him into one fine frontier fella. From almost freezing to death while he starves all the way to this:

 

 

Redford disappears into Jeremiah so when you see that “I’m eating something off a stick I killed earlier while wearing this bad-ass bear hat” look in his eye you believe every second of it. The source material is well deserving of this attention to detail though and doesn’t come across as over the top. Jeremiah Johnson is a fictional accounting of the life and legend surrounding one “Liver Eating” Johnson. Depending on who you ask or what you read Johnson was a hard drinking and harder fighting barrel chested bastard who once cut the leg off from one of his captors as he escaped an encampment and survived on that flesh as he traversed nearly two hundred miles of wilderness to make it back to his camp. He also supposedly had a blood feud with the Crow Indians. He killed a lot of Crow. According to the research I just made up he killed them all. Now whether any or all of this is bullshit we may never know for sure but gaze upon the face of old L.E.J here and realize why the line to call old Johnson a liar is rather goddamn short.

 

 

He has a kind look in his eyes and it’s a look I recognize. I’ve seen it often in my own face and feel, although I’ve never shot any critter, wouldn’t even know where to start on skinning one or lived for longer than a week at a time in the woods, I feel like we’re kindred spirits. Those eyes, my eyes, filled with a healthy tenderness and beneficent respect in them say joyfully “we can all get along just fine until you try to hurt me or any of mine at which point I will hunt you down and pull your head out of your asshole so you can choke on all the shit I am kicking out of you.” All of that said without uttering a word. It’s beautiful.

Jeremiah Johnson is a beautiful and almost mute masterpiece. Between Redford’s quietly strong performance and director Sydney Pollack’s choices behind the camera too many words would have only gotten in the way. It’s a movie about a man finding his own way and when there’s not one to be found he damn well makes one. The grand locations you’ll come across in this film would swallow lesser characters but Jeremiah and those select few in his close orbit measure up well against it all. 
 

 

You can smell the snow, the dirt, the adventure. And you’ll feel bones break and taste blood in your mouth too, some of it’s even yours. The calm moments soothe you just as the violent ones beat you upside the head unapologetically. The dustups you’re privy to during Jeremiah’s vengeance ride don’t seem choreographed and come off unpolished by today’s perfectly executed Hollywood fisticuffs. But they look outstanding, fresh and bitterly genuine. When Jason Bourne and James Bond look beauteous, Jeremiah just looks brutal. Every fight has the frankness of two angry hobos rabidly clashing over who get the last sip from a shared bottle of Mad Dog 20/20. Jeremiah could be hip deep in a bone chilling brook struggling to catch a fish or panting for breath as he strangles the last one from a foe, either way, you…are…there.

Jeremiah Johnson is moving and majestic. It’s simple, hand in hand with the sublime. 5 homemade rounds in the cylinder this week for another personal favorite of mine. I love this movie even while confessing that it unsettles me. Admitting that it stoked a fire deep down in my heart, admitting that it began a thirst in me, admitting that it called out and challenged me, all of this, is really harrowing. My eyes looked out the window of my cubicle at work just now to see what the weather was like for running later. My soul looked out to see what was beyond this cubicle. And typing that line just now has tears coming into my eyes and my heart beating fast because I know my own adventure is coming and for once in my life, I am ready to embrace it.

I saw Jeremiah Johnson right when I needed to. Am I glad it worked out this way? And for whatever tomorrow brings?

 

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