You might not believe it if I tell you that when I walk through the streets of that town too tough to die, Tombstone, Arizona, there are folks who readily recognize me and many I recognize as well. It’s a ghost town that’s still breathing, it’s insular and has just as much love and consternation between all who dwell there as any fandom I’ve ever been involved with. But instead of whining about the benefits of painting on your abdominals to look better as a Spartan with tough-guy internet talk, the denizens of Tombstone are all true badasses born of the desert and not terribly keen on bullshit or those who like to sling it. I’m proud to know a handful of ‘em and even moreso to call a select few pals.
It wasn’t much of a surprise then as I watched Ambush at Dark Canyon and saw someone I actually recognized but rather one of those holy-shit-I-know-that-dude-who-just-took-a-nice-roll-down-that-rock-face kind of moments we’ve all certainly experienced. Seeing Lee take a bump was one of the highlights though as sadly this movie only delivered in fits and spurts not unlike an aging pornstar’s trembling and time-worn penis. Here’s Kix Brooks!
One half of the now disbanded country duo of ”Brooks and Dunn”, Kix has recently been dabbling with an acting career. Yes, one of the men who brought us “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” is now singing rather a different tune. Or several of them to flesh out Dark Canyon‘s soundtrack. On their own after a long day’s ride with your feet propped up by a campfire and a glass of whiskey in your hand they’d be just fine. Layered over painfully clichéd montages that barely moved the story along however, Mr. Brooks’ oblique words had all the expository grace of being clubbed into unconsiousness by a Charles Dickens novel. Which is to say none. Dickens is an overly wordy and literarily useless motherfucker. Unlike every single story he ever wrote, I’ve outright enjoyed other works that many of the writers and producers involved with Dark Canyon were a part of in the past such as The Gundown and Ghost Rock but this one failed to capture the authenticity of the former or the humor of the latter. While our hero had the look and sound of a badass down pat he squandered those attributes almost as if on purpose. Kix came off so green in most scenes that had he donned a leafy singlet and tried to sell me vegetables it would not have seemed odd.
Ho-ho-ho-ly crap Ambush was a rough one to sit through. The story of a man who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time who must then get to a place and time wherein he can take a shot at putting everything right again before time runs out has been done before and with better results. The script screamed “lazy”. It felt as if it was striving to be little more than utterly mundane. If there were public assistance programs for screenplays this one would be on all of them. Even the tagline you see above is stupendously dull:
“Revenge has Six Bullets”
Jesus H. and W.T.F. Christ? Really? Westerns are suffering in the current movie market because many feel they’re played out, tired and unoriginal. This catchphrase does not help. It may sound cool at first but once you give it even one solitary second-thought you realize it’s as ridiculous as farting in someone’s face and calling it perfume. Might as well go with any of the following:
“Death is coming…and it’s about to get deadly!” or
“You Can’t Spell ‘Vengeance’ without ‘Retribution’!” or
“When the sun sets, get Ready for it to be Dark!” and of course
“He’s Gunning for You…with a Knife!”
Sounds all full of nifty but there just ain’t no substance to any of ‘em. And the beautiful alternate poster fucks up even more callously by invoking all the Mummy movies. “Every kiss begins with Kay” would have made just about as much sense. One rough ride like I said, but bumpy as it was much of the cast gave it a hell of an effort to smooth the trip as much as possible. People like these two:
Meet Abraham Benrubi and Ronnie Gene Blevins. Abraham looks like, and has played, Santa Claus which means he’s a jolly old soul. Ronnie was a cement truck driver in Dark Knight Rises which means he did more to build up that story than any of Bane’s dialogue. Both are veterans you’ve seen over the years more than you’d recall and bring that experience to bear as much as the script and direction allowed. Abe is solid enough while Ronnie has this yearning and stress behind his eyes that betrays an effort deep within him to carry the film with every line he speaks. The pair work as guards at Yuma’s Territorial Prison under the equally adept Timothy V. Murphy.
I knew him from Sons of Anarchy as an Irish gangster and it turns out he’s actually Irish treating his job as the prison warden like the true O’Bastard he is. His in-role intensity is perfectly balanced by Kix’s no-tensity. Every scene they share is like someone who can act talking to someone who can’t. And that’s just as entertaining as it sounds. Still better than Dickens. Rounding out the grey bar hotel’s main staff is Ernie Hudson.
You remember him as being the most famous black Ghostbuster. Ernie’s a swell guy in real life and uses that easy nature to craft comfortably believable characters effortlessly. He’s wasted for most of the film and having him ride alongside Kix towards the final showdown makes that fact even more painful. With an affable and unfussy style Ernie makes Kix look terribly erratic by comparison. Ernie looked real, Kix looked real bad even though he was obviously trying real hard. It was his first time playing a part after all and like most of our “first times” I reckon it was filled with confusion, awkwardness and sobering self-awareness. He’s got “the look” I just hope he can get some legs under him fore I have to suffer too many more performances like this one.
2 rounds for Ambush at Dark Canyon. All the ball bashing was deserved but now it’s said and done and I have this to say as well: I sit at a desk all day and can only dream of being in a pretty shitty Western. I can guarantee you no one got rich making this and everyone came home with a few bumps and bruises but next to those scars will rest the memories of doing what you love when the rest of the world is demanding you do something else entirely. Folks will drive themselves into the grave or slit your throat and leave you in one all for the sake of getting the most out of life but end up with nothing in their hands and even less in their hearts. They’ll leave behind only a list of those they betrayed when they go and top on that list will be their own names. Are you making art or making love or making anything out of your days more than just a paycheck and a few more hours past?
What do you really want amigo?
Answer yourself that honestly, and then get to riding.
Would you believe this week’s title comes from a bible verse? Something along the lines of the good Lord coming to judge “the quick and the dead.” It’s in the New Testament three times, probably interspersed between those parts that remind us all that being gay is evil, that black people shouldn’t speak unless spoken too and Jews are terribly Jewish. All that fallacious fire and brimstone can get a man’s blood up so much that he might wander off into the desert towards a town called Redemption and, once there, enter a shooting contest run by a crooked bastard simply to settle his trembling spirit. Or he might be a woman and feel the same way. And if he is that woman, he might be Sharon Stone:
She’s called “The Lady” because she’s mysterious and because no one in town had seen Basic Instint yet. She has a bone to pick with someone from long ago and her smokewagon is itching to start that bitching. She enters the single elimination style tournament as the classic underdog amidst a slew of stinky, sweaty and gun savvy slingers all vying to show off their talents and out live the competition. Of course she’ll have a little support and advice along the way even if it is from an inexperienced kid like say for instance this ”The Kid”.
It’s hard to tell from this shot but that is none other than fabled star of Critters 3 Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s fast, cocky, fast, overly confident, fast and real damn fast too. He takes an immediate liking to “The Lady” and keeps asking her to play good cop/bad cop for some reason but any highschool horniness takes an abrupt back seat to his real purpose in life and that’s getting daddy to love him. It’s never really phrased that way but that’s what Leo’s subplot is past all the braggadocio and bullets. He’s looking for some respectful acknowledgement and he’ll kill anyone that’s in the way of him gettin’ it including the de facto ruler of Redemption John Herod, who is also perhaps his father, played mercilessly by the ball swellingly bad ass Gene Hackman.
Here he is with the Oak Ridge Boys right before they bust out their classic ”Gene Hackman’s Gonna’ Shoot You Then Fuck Your Corpse!” Such a great song. Whether that happened in the movie or not all the players involved quickly realize that Herod isn’t playing a game in which any of them are likely to best him. And those players include Keith “I’m not David Keith he’s a white dude” David, Gary “It’s only a bit part but still better than all of Basic Instinct 2″ Sinise and Lance “Only one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met in real life no shit it was at New York Comic Con and we hung out while he had a smoke and then his cab came and he turned and said ‘See you on down the road!’ and I thought sure as fuck I will Lance” Henriksen. The talent is stacked in this film but life is still cheap. Guns blaze and the light in several sets of eyes goes dim. It’s killing time all the time and if you don’t have a watch there’s always this giant clock to remind you to grab a good seat for the show.
Pat Hingle is perfect as a guy who looks like an Old West guy. Everybody in the cast looked perfect eating up all the shit Hackman was constantly giving them with looks on their faces to match the taste of self-loathing in their mouths. This movie was written as a tribute to all those great Westerns that had come before and with a serving of spaghetti on the side. Director Sam Raimi, blessed with a quirky sense of vision, played perfectly into this new bowl of pasta. Spiderman 3 might have been one colossal pile of crap but this flick was the shit. To say he soundly embraced the particulars of Cinema Italiano style would not be nearly vulgar enough so let me add that he rode every technique so hard and so well that every technique was screaming for more and for medical assistance at the same time. He must have left the set everyday covered from stem to stern with his delicious directorial drippings, a Rami remoulade on everyone’s lips including the livestock!
Now, Sam’s style is already heavy on the extreme closeups, fast to the point of unforgiving cuts, Dutch angles and moments of steady build followed by whiplash inducing freneticism but given free reign in Leone’s playground he manages to out do himself even to the point, regrettably, of over doing it. I love excess. Wine and women and toy robots, one can never have enough. Yet, by the end of this movie, I was filled to uncomfortably distracting with cowboy movie cliches. Like those “in your face” shots of faces for instance.
Oh yeah, here she goes! “The Lady” is gonna lay down some pain, you can see it in her eyes can’t you? Well if not, here’s another lingering shot! And just when you think she’s about to shoot, something like this happens:
Okay. Yep. I got it. Intensity and intrigue all rolled up into twenty-nine different looks at the same set of peepers. There’s sweating and staring and music crescendoing followed by more staring and then looking real hard and then that clock then back to staring but let’s not forget she’s looking at somebody right? Well what do his eyes look like? Show me Sam!
Wow, either the tension is building something fierce or I need to fart worse than I ever had in my entire life. And all before any gun even thinks about leaving a holster. Fuck sakes man. No! Not that goddamn clock again! But then there’s Pat Hingle so it’s okaaaaargghhhhh EYEBALLS! MIne and theirs! Now I’m getting nauseous and scared and
I can’t take it anymore, I’m freaking out! In the shower…I’m afraid to wash my hair, ’cause I might open my eyes and find someone standing there! You’re only paranoid if they’re not watching you right?
Many of the action pieces, particularly near the end, are comparably ridiculous to what I have just made you sit through. Think for a moment of the faultless finale from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Now go strap on an Oculus Rift and drop some acid right after you attach live jumper cables to your taint. You would then have a small glimpse of how this film left me feeling. That bit of overzealous direction is my only gripe of any consequence with this film.
Aside from those ramshackle roller-coaster moments much of the film is wistfully quiet and beautiful.
It’s CGI sweetened sure, but I could tell what was going on so I knew I wasn’t watching Age of Extinction. Another clue that this wasn’t Age of Extinction? I was actually entertained.
Did I not mention that Russell Crowe’s in this one too? He is, but more importantly, so is the LeMat revolver.
Created for Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption this unique firearm was subsequently used in the American Civil War or so the internet tells me. You might dispute these facts but what you might not and certainly can’t dispute is the fact that having nine large caliber shots wrapped around a 20 gauge shotgun shell makes for one wicked weapon. The LeMat gets no love though because it was a Confederate sidearm and therefore racist. Anytime then one makes an appearance I’m pleased as pie. To spy one, albeit briefly, was an unexpected pleasure during this viewing.
And a decent view it was, 4 rounds for The Quick and The Dead starring Lex Luthor and a LeMat. Not as crisp or refined as many of it’s predecessors but by no means dreadful either. Tons of characters and even more carnage including the judicious use of every stick of dynamite in the territory makes this movie a sight to behold even if some of those sights are fast-slap flurries that can leave you a bit dizzy in the soul. A few minor hitches along the way but none enough to derail the whole narrative get-along. So get on out there and ride true amigos. It never hurts to look at life a little closer than is comfortable every now and then. You look close and the close looks back.
You learn something.
You get stronger.
Your adventure continues.
This line is waiting
The deeper you dig right now
The more you will live
Films are released for all sorts of reasons. Kurt Russell likes to be awesome so Tombstone was produced. Michael Bay likes to suck so he makes Michael Bay movies. And singer Rita Pavone’s agents wanted a piece of that sweet silver screen pie that triple threats Frankie and Annette were gorging on during the 60s so flicks like Little Rita were pumped out to push the Italian pixie out onto the world stage. Rita went on to moderate success here in North America but damn well owned Italy and Spain during her heyday and how could she not? Look at how cute she is!
She has that whole innocent/maybe slightly naughty style all figured out with those casual ”oh goodness, aren’t I adorable eyes” alongside a coy pose that obviously says ”I think I’ll chop your dick off while you sleep!” After looking at her, and hiding your dick, you might then wonder what her singing voice sounds like and I’m here to tell you it’s somewhere between Alvin and the Chipmunks and a banshee getting a bleach colonic. Is it unbearable? Not by any means, but it is uniquely aggravating to your inner peace and this is important because Little Rita is a mother fuckin’ musical! Annie get your gun and grab me some whiskey while you’re at it because it’s as soon as the I-should-have-seen-this-coming credits finish that Rita runs into this cross-eyed rabbi looking dude who just happens to play piano (and probably isn’t a rabbi) that the hell raising and harmonizing get going full swing. After a smoke break of course.
Obviously smaller than average Rita has big plans you see. She’s out to stop evil in it’s tracks by gathering up all the gold in the world and then burying it under a mountain. Fuck the redistribution of wealth this is total asset obliteration. So somehow she’s worse than a Democrat but no one’s going to argue with her:
Hey little Miss Morissette, you’re carrying a golden gun to threaten people and make your point about the evils of gold. Are you high or what?
Now don’t be too harsh on Little Rita there. All that altruism can really stress you out and substance abuse is both goddamn refreshing and pleasantly distracting. Plus this is a musical comedy after all, a send up of Spaghetti Westerns themselves send ups of American Westerns so if things seem watered down and weirded out you shouldn’t find yourself thunderstruck. In fact, keeping a keen eye out for homages is amusing and gives you something to do between the times you’re crying blood and covering your ears with pillows as Rita “sings” her way through yet another number. “Shrill” is one word you could use to describe her distinctive sound. “Oh God help me that vibrato is causing everything I was, am or one day will be to shudder with such uncontrolled vehemence that I’m leaking fluids from every orifice at an upsetting speed” would be another. The transfer I saw was of poor quality and venerable age and none of the lyrics were dubbed like the rest of the dialogue so combine that knowledge with the assumption that Rita’s unprocessed voice must make most sopranos sound like James Earl Jones and you can understand how every song became an exercise in endurance.
And she sings.
Meet somebody new? Sing a song! Find some gold? Sing a song? Hide that gold with your Indian friends? Ask them to sing a song with you! Shoot somebody? Have the whole town come out, dance, and sing a goddamn song! Find and hide even more gold? Fuck it! Let’s sing that same mother fucking song with those same mother fucking Indians from twenty-six mother fucking minutes a go!
But if you lived the life of high pitched adventure that Little Rita led you’d be singing every once in a while too I reckon. And of course when you’re four foot nothing with crazy damn ideas in your head what, besides being Tom Cruise, would you do? You can’t just get into fights with ordinary outlaws. Oh no! You need to take on a poorly cosplayed “Man with No Name” knock-off named Ringo and a dead-on to the point of infringing copyright version of Django named Django! Ringo gets his ass kicked in a kung-fu bar fight (I warned you this was wacky right?) but decides to take another shot before Rita takes the last shot. With a rocket propelled grenade:
She uses those more than should be allowed in any movie set in the 1880s. At least Django-Not-Django didn’t take it face first from any anachronistic explosive devices. The filmmakers needed him talking come the conclusion of his run in with Rita so that he could wax poetic about the not so subtle subtleties of American cowboy cinema in what was one of the film’s best laugh out loud moments. And before you go getting offended that everyone involved with Little Rita was simply out to skewer other beloved Western icons remember that a) this is a spoof and b) it could always be more offensive.
See?! Rita Pavone actually worked for the Nazis during World War II! Or maybe she just made another tongue in cheek historical parody called La Feldmarescialla. I have a feeling only one of these statements is true though I have heard a rumor that Rita worked as a gremlin during the war disabling Allied pilots with the severe sounds from her throat and their aircraft with a variety of comical wrenches. No definitive proof exists however that Little Rita Pavone has ever been anywhere near that most traditional of gremlin trouble making locations, a jet engine. Now that I’ve cleared that up we can get back to singin’ dancin’ and smokin’ weird Injun herbs.
Oh, Chief Sitting Bison. You gold hating, dance loving bastard. Played by Gordon Mitchell with unnerving stoicism, his performance makes you feel like a hungry lion is staring you down from the bush, or a pedophile is staring you down from a park bench, or a pedophile seated on a lion between a bush and a park bench is already touching your dick! Jesus, I’m sorry but stamping out gold’s supposed wickedness isn’t worth that Rita. And was it the lion or the pedophile touching my dick? Or more importantly, why are you even still reading my blog at this point? For quality reviews of questionable films Chris. Aw gee, thanks folks.
This week’s retrospect may have veered in a direction you weren’t expecting but that’s Little Rita for you. Little Rita is an unexpected patchwork of ridiculous shit but once you’re all wrapped up in the crazy quilt that is this utopian leaning, tune belting, Western stereotype baiting potpourri you may find that you’re oddly enjoying yourself. Hell, maybe that’s why the lion and his buddy were watching you in the first place. 3 rounds in the cylinder for Rita Pavone and pals. An absurd premise fleshed out with a preposterous plot played out by a diminutive Europop star, the guy (Terence Hill) who went on to be Superfuzz and an Indian chief who once made a movie called Porno-Erotic Western. It’s a damn near perfect concoction of “what the fuck” and “ah, what the hell” that’s abundant in mirth if light on deep meaning. Even Rita’s braying pipes don’t sound as bad in the end as say sitting in the parlor of a goat whorehouse on free whiskey and goat whore night but only because I’m not sure if goat’s even have whorehouses. Yep, some movies aren’t worth spit but Little Rita is worth your time if just to say “oh I saw it and god…damn…that was just fuckin’ odd wasn’t it?”
Yeah amigo it was, ride true long enough though and you’re bound to see some of that fuckin’ odd every now and then.
So keep your eyes open and enjoy the ride.
Pochi Dollari Per Django isn’t so much a movie as it is a series of things that happen for eighty five minutes of your life. Alternate titles included Drango: A Bullet for You and Some Dollars for Django but Django: You Know Who Isn’t Even in This Movie? Django that’s who! would have also been accurate. Pochi Dollari is one of those films post April 1966 whose producers were wise to blatantly ride the coat tails of the original and vastly superior Django that had been released earlier in the year. Django starred Frano Nero so you know the acting and ponchos were top notch. That performance couldn’t be duplicated but that didn’t stop almost thirty other movies from trying. It was so bad that Stanley Kubrick almost titled his futurist masterpiece 2001: A Space Django. This is the only knock-off I’ve seen so far but I can already tell these movies will be remarkable for the fact they are not at all remarkable. I had to go back and re-watch, mercifully fast-forwarded, this entire film because only two things stuck with me. The first was this sombrero:
It reminds me of one of those heavily iced character cookies you get at airports or theme parks. Just set your gaze on all that tasty, slightly imperfect, decorative scroll work set along the edge! That’s a delicious looking rim-job right there! I would eat that hat, even after using the words “delicious looking rim-job” to describe it! Oh yeah, I love the hell out of those cookies. Bounty Hunter Regan wears this most intriguing hat in the very first scene as he rides a tiny burro towards some surly looking muchachos. He’s after them and some gold they stole because he’s the main character. But Chris…you said his name was “Regan”? That’s right! But then…Chris…who’s “Django”? Who the fuck knows! Django doesn’t appear anywhere in Some Dollars for Django. But neither does Montana nor do any cows and this movie is about a range war in Montana between farmers and cattle ranchers. Not one cow. And “Montana” looked like Ireland.
There’s even a rainbow at the end of the movie to confirm that, whether it was shot on the Emerald Isle or not, the filmmakers totally supported equality for gay leprechauns. Everyone should be free to live as they see fit long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. You should be able to date who you want, I should be able to soon forget that I ever saw this movie. Except of course for those two things: that savory sombrero and this guy.
The guy on the left I mean. I knew I’d seen him somewhere before and it sure seemed like it was in only the greatest goddamn Western of all time. And I was right, that’s Frank Wolff who played Brett McBain in Once Upon a Time in the West!
Sure it was really only a bit part but I’d have taken a role as horse number four’s sagging scrotum to be in that film. And Frank was perfect in it and did the best work in Some Dollars too as mysterious twins Jim and Trevor Norton but before you get ahead of yourself just take that shit you were about to give and shove it back up your ass, there to wait for something, anything, more deserving. Frank was good but he’s not movie Jesus and therefore could not save this film. And again I say “film” as my eyes roll harder than any Tex Avery wolf’s ever did. Heaven’s Gate was loosely based on a range war too and featured, not surprisingly, a range war. Some Dollars is loosely based on a stack of postcards from someone’s trip to the Four Corners thrown about on the writers desk scripted out by three partially filled in volumes of mad-libs. Even after two viewings all I know for sure is that Regan faked being a sheriff until he really became the sheriff and that no one knew for sure if Jim was really Trevor or not. Not even Jim/Trevor. If it sounds confusing I can probably explain it best to you in three easy steps:
1) Scoot back from your desk
2) Beat your head on that desk for a while
3) Stare at this Danish poster for Some Dollars for Django and make up a story
Go ahead. Any story will do and will do so better than the actual story. Check out Regan “Not Django” MacThespianfuck as he actually gives himself a stroke in an attempt to act but still manages to shoot his lightsaber pistol into the balls on that inordinately large man standing above and behind him. But wait, the action doesn’t stop there! Where would any great Western be without a horse ridden by a man with blankets for legs, or no, he’s a goddamn genie! And then you can just see at the top of the poster two dudes punching each other because one of them stole all the cows in this movie! Meanwhile Sally Sue is tending to a dying desperado or if you look at it another way she might be sitting on him using his soon to be corpse as an impromptu squattin’ spot to try and squeeze out anything at all more interesting than the movie she’s involved with.
That is without a doubt better than Pochi Dollari Per Django aka Some Dollars for Django aka I Can’t Pretend I Care Anymore! 1 round for this one. All you need to take from this review? That cookie hat and Frank Wolff. Oh and German lobby cards I suppose. Those bastards had about as deft a touch with cell colorization as they did with race relations in 1938.
That guy on the left is wearing a Confederate kepi. Grey you Deutsch dicks, not orange. And Gloria Osuna was like late 20s when she made this one not late 90s. Ugh, I’d work for at least one more joke here but remember…
Till next week then, and a better movie I promise, ride true amigos.