Western Watchins #68

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I get a nice little perk at my job that comes in the form of awards for staying active. I run and lift weights anyway because I like being healthy for when this world eventually goes the way of Thunderdome so an Amazon gift card to buy fun things with is just bonus. And thus I had a bit of indulgent spending to do with last quarter’s fit funds and spend I did on, among other things, BraveStarr: The Movie. Alternatively called BraveStarr: The Legend and Bravestarr: Aw Hell Yeah it’s a BraveStarr Movie! Wait, What? The Series got Cancelled? Well Fuck my Ass Sideways with a Steamroller! it’s the movie that started it all…debuting after the series had already wrapped. Filmation was floundering so you can’t blame them for scheduling or production fiascos and I for one actually applaud them for putting out such a memorable and surprisingly mature title as the whole company was gutshot and riding off into the sunset. BraveStarr: The Movie is one giant origin story. The origin of New Texas, its precious Kerium deposits, the locals, the settlers, the good guys, the bad guys and the one guy they’re all looking to: Marshal BraveStarr.

 

 

Here he is now, riding his best friend! That probably sounds weird but it’s really not when you realize that his mount, Thirty-Thirty, is a sentient techno-horse that can run on all fours or morph to stand upright on his hind legs at which point he can use firearms and presumabley buy beers and condoms for “Craigslist night.” If you’re still concerned about this groin-grinding bromance rest assured that feelings are mutual tween the two as tastefully expressed in one of the first scenes they share together that I will now transcribe as faithfully as memory allows:

BraveStarr: My apologies for just hopping on back there, it’s awkward I know and I don’t want to presume.

Thirty-Thirty: Ah shucks amigo, no shame, you can mount up anytime!

BraveStarr: Hell yes, I’m gonna mount up big pard! You’re a goddamn robot-horse!

Thirty-Thirty: Best of both worlds and I can stand upright too. I got your back in a firefight and when we go out drinking.

BraveStarr: Talk about a wingman. Best ever!

Thirty-Thirty: Well, I am hung like a me after all.

BraveStarr: Uh…that might not be so great for my dating prospects…

Thirty-Thirty: Sheeeeit, don’t let that worry you none I’m the last of my race.

BraveStarr: Wow…that’s really sad…I’m sorry.

Thirty-Thirty: Better to burn out than to fade away mother fucker! Jump on, let’s ride!

BraveStarr: Yeaaaaah, goddamn robot-horse!

 

 

And the two would go on to have many adventures together drawing strength from their friendship. While their first meeting may have not gone exactly like that, the fact that both the marshal and his mighty steed found someone they could trust their lives with is indisputable. This movie didn’t shy away from breeching adult situations and all the complex emotions, decisions and ramifications that come with them. It’s not Watership Down but it’s well beyond what other syndicated shows were attempting to do at the time. Public service announcements and moral lessons pervaded all the product shilling productions of the 80s including this one but the non-chalant integration of those kinds of teaching into this movie (and series as a whole) make it stand out among its peers. Being a Western didn’t hurt the easy wholesomeness of the presentation none either. I mean sure, Gung-Ho wanted to make sure I wasn’t sniffing glue while I touched myself and stared longingly at a Baroness action figure but what was he doing in my closet watching me sniff glue and touch myself anyway? Ah what the hell, he’s a real American hero and he can watch me anytime!

And besides what are heroes without villains (glue-based or otherwise) to stand up against? BraveStarr: The Movie lets us peek into the hideous hidden history of Tex Hex and his evil henchmen. Hex is Skeletor with a cowboy hat and like that famous skull-faced scalawag he too collects a colorful (and highly collectible, kids!) gang of goons to help him get his ass kicked by the good marshal and his buds. One’s a robot gunslinger, one’s a saucy serpentine seductress, one might be a sex doll and one is a cactus. Holy shit those are some goofy fucks! But their boss is up there on the shit-your-pants scale as far as cartoon villains go so it all balances out I reckon. Big Bad’s name is Stampede. He’s like if Chernabog fucked a robotic cow and had a baby and that baby went out into space to rule as a demonic, robo-steer, demi-god thing with no legs.

 

 

Even with his old timey prospector mustache he does come across as rather nightmarish and undeniably threatening. A few times he’s drooling all over and thrashing all about while making noises like that goddamn AT-ST skeleton thing from Poltergeist and it’s absolutely terrifying! Not to mention I just had to Google that fucking Poltergeist image and even though I’m an almost 40 year old man that fucking thing still gives me the heebs to the point that I may just have to pee in a corner behind my desk unless my wife gets home soon ’cause goddammit that thing could be in the bathroom!

Happy thoughts, happy thoughts…like the fact that, again like Skeletor, Tex Hex is one of those wacky rogues who despite his planning and preparing fueled by a diabolical need to dominate any and all do-gooders he always stumble flubs his way into an embarrassing defeat. Plus he kind of looks like an old drag queen.

 

 

In fact he queens out a lot.

 

 

But the balance between the light-hearted and heavy-hitting is pulled off well in BraveStarr: The Movie and in addition to the main storyline establishing the titular lawman and his compadres as the saviors of New Texas the movie seeks to answer many questions you might have. Like how much ass can an alien bartender with a handlebar mustache and a bi-pedal horse dude kick? 

 

 

The answer is “dump trucks full of fuck-tons.” It also answers many you would probably have never asked even at your most bored like just where did Judge J.B. McBride get her tight-fitting space judge outfit complete with matching hat? 

 

 

Answer: some guy with down syndrome who works at Big Thunder Mountain gave it to her! And then it gets really deep when it answers things you didn’t even know to ask. Like if secession was constitutionally legal when the Confederate States of America decided to go their own way how then would you best portray one of Lincoln’s blue bellied bitches who crammed an illegal war down Southern throats?

 

 

Wow, BraveStarr: The Movie allow me to salute your subtlety. You could say it’s all open to interpretation and you’d be right, even though I’m dead-on with Porkins there.

We can argue history all day but I doubt you could find issue with me stating that BraveStarr: The Movie lands 4 rounds in the cylinder and that’s without nostalgia bias as I didn’t see too much of this series when it originally aired and never saw the movie. As a Western that will stand the test of time against so many others it does come up a bit low yield in certain areas but as an example of the cartoon adventure genre out of which it was produced it’s a mighty rich strike. You can forgive the re-use of many animated segments over and over because everyone did that back then to save on the budget and where Filmation stood apart was that they rotoscoped a lot of the action giving the whole show a more realistic feel despite its fantastical premise. With his eyes of the hawk, ears of the wolf, strength of the bear and speed of the puma, Marshal BraveStarr vanquished the outlaws as easily as he won our hearts. He was a last shot at re-imagining the Lone Ranger for a new generation. A generation that would quickly grow up to be very, very selfish and have their own kids that were even more so. The sun may have set on this, Filmation’s swan song, but that mystic man from afar and all his heroic friends will live on in countless childhood memories…and even a few adult ones as well.

Ride on then amigos, and always ride true.

 

 

Haikuesday

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Immobility

Damned chains of your own making

So break them today

  

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.

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