Western Watchins #112

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I saw this movie a long time ago, then I saw it again recently. Enjoyed it both of those times and will enjoy it again on other somedays I’m sure. It’s not a movie you should ever have trouble understanding but one you should always struggle to completely grasp. Bleak, weird, passionate, funny and unsurprisingly bittersweet Dead Man is the biggest downer of an uplifting movie I’ve ever seen. If The Cure and Hieronymus Bosch had ever made a movie it was probably this movie. Like life, the story is perfectly Point A to Point B and, again like life, ultimately inexplicable to any but the one actually on the journey. A complex simplicity, it’s mental but not meaningless. There’s abundant meaning here even if not all of it can be described, quantified or precisely understood. And it all starts on an LSD trip of a train ride from Cleveland headed towards an unknown heart of western darkness. Unsettling, and then Crispin Glover sits down. 

 

 

Crispin Glover played Marty McFly’s dad in 1985’s Back to the Future and now makes his own movies including WHAT IS IT? and It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. If you’re interested in those films follow these two easy steps for more information:

#1 Google those movies

#2 Don’t blame me

The guy is bat-fuck crazy. As in a bat biting your balls while you’re fucking would be less crazy than this guy. The fact he appears as one of the first folks you meet in Dead Man should convince you beyond the shadow of a ball-biting bat that this film is very different from most you’ve probably seen. Johnny Depp’s William Blake shifts uncomfortably in his seat, I was soon shifting uncomfortably in my soul. You see, Blake is a greenhorn dork with glasses from Ohio who’s about to find the emptiness in his heart filled with the vast terror and beauty of the American frontier. Hits kinda close to home.

 

 

Blake arrives in the Town of Machine with the promise of a lame-ass office job exciting him to no end but soon runs afoul of John Hurt, Robert Mitchum and Gabriel Byrne. He meets a sweet girl, she makes a swift exit and then this one awkward accountant leaps out a window and headfirst into an adventure he would have never counted on heading his way. Covered in filth and guilt, with a death sentence hanging over his head, William Blake is reborn just in time to die. Maybe.

 

 

That’s Nobody, played to humorous and gentle perfection by Gary Farmer. He’s healer, guide and casually comedic foil to Depp’s bruised and befuddled Blake. Finding a true friend is one of the most important life quests any of us will ever hope to complete. Someone who can help you get to where you’re going even when you don’t know where you’re going to. Someone with vision well beyond the horizon who is never blind to your immediate, intimate needs. Someone who would take a bullet for you or give you a hand if you’ve already found a bullet of your own. Everybody needs a Nobody. The more selfless and sarcastic the better.

Dead Man is a buddy pic then on both sides of its odd little coin. Depp and Farmer are on the run from their past lives sprinting slowly towards that next one. Hot on their heels are some right frightful mother fuckers:

 

 

When Bishop, Top Dollar and an angry black man are after you either you’re at DragonCon or just outside of Imgollygodddamnfuckedville. Our emergent heroes aren’t at DragonCon. Two dudes runnin’, three dudes gunnin’ and all kinds of funnin’ along the way. This Western has a lot of traditional settings, familiar themes and standard participants but these tropes are mostly there to keep you slightly grounded to a film with its head high in the clouds. Blink and go from “oh, I’ve seen that” to “now what in the hell is this?” We spend time in a stereotypical saloon but soon enough find ourselves gathered around a campfire with Iggy Pop, Billy Bob Thornton and Jared Harris:

 

 

Bad ass punk hero, Bad Santa and the big bad from Fringe? This can’t, won’t and didn’t end well as once again Dead Man messes with any notions you were trying to have about what this movie was saying. And speak it does. I’m not much for art house fare, finding odd for odd’s sake the mark of a poor or lazy storyteller, but this film doesn’t suffer from lack of effort or of heart. Oh its art most certainly farts but never in a useless or overblown fashion.

 

 

I could continue, explaining, extolling, philosophizing, convincing, but this trip has to be, must be, yours. This is a beautiful film, one of the comeliest I’ve ever seen, and sounds beautiful too with a minimalistic soundtrack composed off the cuff, in seclusion, by Neil Young and a giant mound of narcotics. Bold imagery and bold listening both accompany William Blake who, like his namesake, was a tortured traveler learning that discomfort is one of life’s greatest teachers and one of its greatest blessings. I ran a marathon a few months back and as I slogged on that pain and despair unique to 26.2 miles gifted me a deeper understanding of myself. If either Blake or I had quit the paths we were on our revelations would have been lost. You ever gone through anything like that and you’ll know what it takes to go from this look in your eyes…

 

 

to this one…

 

 

You will damn well know and, past the tears and the losses, be glad you do.

6 rounds fired in memoriam for this Dead Man. I sat stymied in a haze of my own fear watching this while realizing that doubt will forever plague the human condition. To be truly brave is to accept that you will never be completely ready for anything but to go forth anyway. This movie isn’t for everyone. It might just be for me and that might just be the point. What anyone gets from Dead Man is directly proportional to what they bring to it. A black and white mirror like the surface of a strange body of water whose depths you can’t know until you plumb your own. It’s bleak and weird and so sad sometimes but it still makes me smile. To ride true is my highest ambition in life, through those bleak and weird and so sad sometimes but still with a smile on my face. Being honest with yourself is the only way to live like that.

Because we’re all dead men.

Western Watchins #111

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Two of my favorite comic book heroes have always been the Punisher and Daredevil. Over the years these guys have been mishandled across nearly every imaginable form of media. Some of the lowlights being when Frank Castle turned into a horrible Frankenstein monster or when Matt Murdock turned into a horrible Ben Affleck. I loved these characters, knew them inside and out, so I sat open to be traumatized by the many representations that couldn’t even grasp essential qualities much less live up to my heightened expectations. Like your anguished butthole moments after washing down too much Taco Bell with just enough castor oil, I watched those beloved comic chums of my childhood be so vigorously abused as to become nearly unrecognizable and of barely any further use. I count it then as a blessing that I know relatively little of one Jonah Hex.

Hex has been around as long as dirt having left scores of punk assess sleeping down in it. His face is mightily scarred and his soul even more so. He’s a Western anti-hero who while derivative never comes off as caricature. He’s fast on the draw, probably one of the fastest ever, and he’s a Confederate so he knows that Abe Lincoln was a douche. That’s it. That’s just about all I know of this tremendous, storied icon and that I believe is why I’ve been able to enjoy him every time our paths have crossed. Yep, even that live action version starring Thanos and the pair of boobs from that first Bayformers movie. As to the Hex I am naive and thus blissful, to the point I didn’t even know this showcase existed until a friend gifted it to Ang and I unexpectedly. It was originally released as an extra along with Batman: Under the Red Hood but has now been collected with a few other “we’re never gonna get a movie of our own” kind of working class rogues gallery types. Like a young naked Danny DeVito it’s short, violent and gorgeous to behold. And to be-hear as well! The voice cast of this production reads like a who’s who of who I fucking want to perform in every cartoon. Michael Rooker (America’s favorite redneck stereotype), Linda Hamilton (America’s favorite mother of the savior of humanity besides Mary I guess) and Michelle Trachtenberg (awesome sister on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and awesome snatch on Gossip Girl) play a scuzzy drifter, scuzzy madam and possibly scuzzy whore respectively. Plus, Ron Perlman isn’t officially in this but I’m almost sure he played a staircase bannister in one scene.

And then there’s the main man himself, Jonah Mother Fuckin’ Hex, given life by none other than Thomas Mother Fuckin’ Jane. That’s a lot of fucking but your ears will take all of it then ask for seconds. Jane’s voice is a silky smooth phantom riding a razors edge down a gravel road through a ghost town. Haunting you with a calm surface that you know is just barely containing a rage, and the hell-honed abilities to see that rage to completion, one quick breath below the surface. I could listen to this man read me whole warehouses of IKEA instructions and that shit doesn’t even have words. That’s how talented Thomas Jane is. And as good as he is, he’ll need some right offensive folk to square off against. And one or two scrotes, like this scrote.

 

 

 

As soon as Jonah Hex blows into town this jackass tries to blow smoke up his ass and if you ever try to blow smoke up someone’s ass make sure it’s not Jonah Hex. He has a strict no smoke up my ass at all sort of ass-smoke policy. You know this guy was going to mouth off as soon as you saw him right? You could argue it’s his youth that gave it away but allow me to illuminate the fact that he’s also wearing a bowler. I have a bowler, my wife loves the way I look in a bowler, I don’t even really mind a bowler but, goddamn, just about every time you see someone wearing a bowler in a Western he’ll always be a pile of turds stacked on a pile of crap directly downwind from two piles of shit. Bowler wearers (besides positive role models like Butch Cassidy or Billy from Young Guns) include the smarmy Sheriff, price gouging merchant, town drunk, obvious coward dude, backstabbing bastard and/or insane rapist hatchetman dude. Am I exaggerating? Search for “westerns bowlers” and try to explain why this shows up in the results:

 

 

It shows up because God obviously hates bowlers. He’s called up this fucking thing to make sure, should you dare seek one out, that it’s the last thing you’ll ever do before your soul and sad attempt at period fashion is dragged down into Beelzebub’s bloated bowel there to sit for all eternity swearing you thought it’d look cool while the insane rapist hatchetman next to you says “yeah, I thought so too!”

That kid, that bowler wearing goddamn kid, starts Jonah’s visit to town off on the wrong foot. And it just get’s worse from there. Sure he gets a taste of whiskey and a little polite conversation from Michelle Trachtenberg’s standard I-don’t-know-where-I-went-wrong-but-I’m really-just-working-my-way-towards-something-better-in-the-meantime-a-rimjob-costs-two-dollars sort of girl:

 

 

He’s all like “wait, aren’t you that vicious slut from Gossip Girl” and she’s all like “you mean Chuck Bass?” No one except my wife will get that joke but man it’s still a good one. Mysterious madame Lorraine is telling jokes too, in Linda Hamilton’s sultry voice to boot, but no one’s figuring out her punch lines either. Except Jonah. And he’s not laughing.

 

 

She’s hot, but play with her and you’ll get burned and not in that “it sure felt awesome getting gonorrhea” kind of way as much as the “I think I’m shot and dying” other not as sexually awesome way.  What a devious doxy she is, ready to lie to your face before she fucks you in the ass. Again, the bad kind of ass fucking going on here not the fun don’t you judge me kind. Well she sure seems scummy, heartless and conspiratorial. If Wanted taught me anything it’s that anybody acting thus, male…female…centaur, anybody acts like that and they deserve to get punched. In the face. Hard. Madame Lorraine doubts our hero has it in him to go to those lengths. Bert from Sesame Street disagrees.

 

 

So fists and floozies fly, then the horse shit really hits the fan. There’s more discernible and engaging action in ten minutes here than in all four live action Transformers movies combined. Hex is no nonsense and this short doesn’t make any attempts to change that as veteran writer Joe R. Lansdale pens a piece that shows both respect for, and knowledge of, the source material. Jonah Hex lives in a nasty world and does nasty things to stay above ground every damn day. Here he is blazing his way out of a saloon (note Ron Perlman in the foreground):

 

 

Every syrupy cell in this DC Showcase drips down from a different time, the colors, costuming and set design are immersive to the point that after not even a quarter of an hour you realize this world is much richer than you’d expected it to be. You stepped into a kiddie pool but found yourself in the deep end of an Olympic sized one as you watched this solemn story unfold filtered through an old pane of amber glass and whatever’s left in that old bottle of whiskey you were nursing. It’s a ripe and hopeless affair and therefore as perfect a place as any for Jonah Hex. 

 

 

5 rounds in the cylinder for this brief but wonderfully grizzled production. I had little idea what to expect beyond some things likely hardcore and some things possibly offensive. DC Showcase: Jonah Hex delivered both with fantastic efficiency. You can rent it for a few dollars or just buy the collection for a few dollars more. It’s worth a watch and worth your support. Of course there’s always creator non-compensatory versions to be found on YouTube if you want to go that route.

Just make sure to wear your finest bowler when you do.

Western Watchins #110

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I’m home sick from work with a high fever and a peculiarly upset stomach. I’ve slept more in the past two days than I normally do in a week. My body is a litany of soreness buttressed by stiffness. All of this though is not as painful or discouraging as watching the above film. It’s aptly titled because about as soon as it began I wanted it to stop. Not much to say this week, I’m beat up, but my pride and dedication to you select few and loyal readers won’t allow me to leave you high and dry when at once y’all come looking for these weekly reviews. Still, this movie is hardly deserving of too much effort so I’ll move on past the first hour and a half, past nothing new you haven’t seen before, past boring upon bland after the uneventful and get right to the last fifteen minutes or so. All of the former gets 1 round in the chamber, that last quarter hour earns itself a 5. Long story short (because I’m on borrowed time before the next bout of narcolepsy or nausea comes a calling) this Western is your standard “a guy gets framed for murder so he and his buddy have to find exoneration before a rope finds his neck” kind of story.  

 

 

There’s “the guy” Gary Ryan, played by Giuliano Gemma from The Price of Power and several other movies you should never watch. That’s “his buddy” Martin Heywood on the left hand side played by no one you’ve ever heard of (not important) but what he’s about to do most certainly is (important) so stay with me! Evelyn in the middle is also significant in that she’s the only one who can reveal the truth about the conspiracy to send Gary to the gallows. She lied in front of the judge and now an innocent man is going to swing unless she somehow decides to recant. She’s a horrible person willing to end an innocent just to improve her position in town. That’s why when she invites Martin up to her room for some sexy shenanigans it’s wonderfully refreshing when instead he just brutally beats a confession out of her.

Outrageous Tentacle Chris! Violence against women is never justified.

Wait. A woman wrongfully accuses some dude of a capital crime in order to cement her status as the territory’s preeminent kept woman and you’re cool with that? Fancy dresses versus a fucking life? You can say you’re a feminist and I’m a misogynist all you want. In reality you’re goddamn naive and, upsetting to you as it is, I’m completely right. When that Doc Holliday looking mother fucker took it to that backstabbing bar babe over and over and over again we all cheered, men and women both. You reap what you sow and this cruel harvest was well deserved. Also entertaining as hell. We rewound it four or five times because watching vengeance dished out and justice served never gets old. The fact it all happened in the boudoir was just bonus.

So not much to see here this week but as always there are lessons to be learned. Lessons like “be careful who you trust” and “don’t be a lying bitch.” Not necessarily the strongest review to start out the year amigos but truth here nonetheless.

See you all in a week, less sick and more savvy I’ll wager.

Western Watchins #109

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Today is a special day for many people. It’s the day when a savior was born. Sent from Heaven to die for mankind’s sins. One of those being this movie. I’m not sure where to begin, how to end or even if I want to write this at all. But I must, and certainly after watching it I’ll take a few moments in the name of good will to convince you that you should probably avoid this film unless you’re a Lee Van Cleef completionist or just hate yourself. Known as La Brute, Le Colt Et Le Karate in France, The Stranger and the Gunfighter or Blood Money in the United States and Fuck No Don’t Watch That in my personal collection, this movie surely made sense in one country or another at some point but by the time a brutally converted and amateurishly edited version was released for home viewing on our soil the plot holes contained therein were more gaping than a whore’s gaping asshole. Here’s a critical scene where Van Cleef asks his Celestial traveling companion if he has any goddamn idea what’s going on:

 

 

The answer is a resounding “why are you still reading this?” The central plot of this movie revolves around finding a hidden treasure by tracking down one dead dude’s four different mistresses in order to gather the presumably important information said dead dude left tattooed on their butts.

 

 

Like our heroes, I also sat staring at ass for nearly two hours. No promise of a payoff for me though, oh no. Instead of gold I got an evil deacon named Yancey Hobbit and his henchman, an Indian named Indio. I’ve found myself more engaged during a casual bowel movement than I was at any time during this film. It’s always disappointing to see the Cleef wasted as gratuitously as he was here getting only one sweet moment after he found a Gatling gun, strapped it between two horse and then rode around shirtless dispensing vengeance with panache and more ammunition than was logically available. Sadly the rest of the film was all about sucking ghost dick:

 

 

He’s not really sucking a ghost’s dick but this movie is almost so unwatchable he might as well be. The holidays are a time for giving after all and this movie gives it to you good and ghost balls deep.

1 round in the chamber for this directionless Eastern/Western. The Cleef (one of America’s best) and Lo Lieh (one of China’s) had little to do but act wacky and forget how it was they were tracking down literal and figurative booty in the first place. They still couldn’t recall by the end of the film and neither could the director so it all just wrapped up with an alternate, non-secret ass code involving solution to the missing treasure riddle, an impossibly accurate shot from a derringer, one laughable wardrobe choice for Van Cleef and a reason defying romance for his new Asian best friend. At the end of it all you might say “now where did that come from?” And I’d reply “the romance, or the ghost dick you’re about to choke down?”

Time to go wash that taste away with some whiskey and eggnog. I suggest you go and do the same whether you need it or not. And amigos, have yourself a merry little Christmas along the way as you do.

Western Watchins #108

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I may spend most of this review working to figure out why I mildly enjoyed this movie when I should at first, second and every glance thereafter dislike it as much or maybe more than a porcupine hair jockstrap. Of course, like you I’m sure, I just googled “porcupine jockstrap” and was bemused when only one image caught my attention:

That’s a logo for a minor league baseball team out of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre called the Rail Riders. I was in a rough’n’tumble Western mindset though, blogging as I was, and took that name and pic to represent some kind of brutally enforced Pennsylvanian public transit system. Sure, that bat wielding bastard asks nicely for your tickets but only after he beats you near to death with his blood red bludgeon. None of this paragraph has anything to do with Buddy Goes West by the way but neither does Buddy Goes West when you get down to it.

Odd” is a good way to describe this movie, also “how fucking hard did that porcupine hit me” would be acceptable. Like Little Ritathis film frolics in a funky no-man’s land between authentic cowboy romp and asinine cowboy pomp. I wasn’t familiar with lead actor Bud Spencer or his likeable partner in crime Amidou, but it seems both gathered a respectable European following over their careers playing pretty much exaggerated versions of themselves. Here they are, Spencer playing a genteel giant of a man, Amidou as a friendly Indian and some drunk Irish guy playing a drunk Irish guy. I’ll let you figure out who is who:  

 

 

Not so much a movie with a plot as it’s a collection of scenes meant to drive home several not-as-hilarious-now-as-they-must-have-seemed-back-then set pieces, Buddy Goes West still manages to show off a sweet heart behind all the overzealous slapstick and overreaching attempts at situational humor. A film that endeared itself to me in the final five minutes with an unforced tip of the hat to finding happiness in making sure others are happy revolving around a lost gold mine (aw, how sweet!) also contains at least thirty minutes of farcical fisticuffs including a musical tune played out with frying pans upon the noggins of several ne’er-do-wells (aw, what the frosty fuck?) A film that has this bud risking his life, more than once, for that one also features a nonsensical Native American who for the most part only says “Chanukah, Chanukah, Chanuuuuuuukah!” because Indians love themselves some motherfucking Festival of lights right? A film that manages to espouse personal sacrifice over personal gain also features the line “Hooray! My bowels are liberated!” But hey, it could have been worse.

 

 

Smokey and the Bandit, Children of the Corn and Mac and Me jump headfirst into a blender. What is whatever the hell that is, Alex? For $200 Chris, you are correct! Buddy Goes West really then isn’t terrible and certainly not by traditional Western Watchins’ standards. It’s not boring, overly illogical, painful to behold or directed by Peckinpah. Despite all the scripted shenanigans both main protagonists were portrayed as largely competent, resourceful and loyal. The story, though simplistic, is nonetheless complete and throws you a nifty curve ball that even justified an earlier gripe I’d had with the film. All of that plus this bandanna:

 

Is that a fake Indian? Or Buddy? Or an Indian’s buddy? The answer to all of these could be “yes” but you’ll just have to watch and find out for yourself which no one reading this is actually going to do so I’ll just tell you the answer to all of those questions is indeed yes! But why you have to now ask yourself and then not go watch this movie. The “why” isn’t explained as much as it’s felt, implied as only a large burly man faking a doctorate who hangs out with a Morrocan dude with a great tan playing an Indian dude with his regular skin tone who only talks in Jew-bberish can. Man, two insensitive jokes in one sentence of the review? I’m getting real good at this. Being insensitive I mean, the reviews are still moments of brilliance hanging around Average Town but you’re all still here so either you enjoy it or just want to see how big a creative dick I can manage to be each week.

This week I’ve got 3 rounds for Buddy Goes West. Unexpected and moronically charming, it’s a mess of a movie that ends wrapped up neatly and with a bow to boot. It doesn’t hurt that Ennio Morricone scored the film either. One of Morricone’s most absurdly interesting scores but still Morricone. Always, always Morricone. You can find this film in a Western collection at Wal-Mart, K-Mart or on that aisle no one ever goes down at your nearest Big Lots. From the 80s looking like it was made in the 60s with jokes as dated as its production values Buddy Goes West isn’t for everybody and I’m still not sure it’s even for me. But I can always find a little treasure among the trash and amigos, you live long enough, you’ll find that’s a valuable skill to hone.

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