Monday, December 23, 2013

THE BIG GUNDOWN is finally here!!!

There are THE STAR TREK nerds.  There are THE STAR WARS nerds.  I am a Spaghetti Western nerd.  I have a bunch of them.  I have books written about them including an encyclopedia which I have read cover to cover to learn about as many as I can.  What I learned from my extensive research is that there are not too many good ones.  Let me tell ya something, folks.  THE BIG GUNDOWN is one of the good ones.  It is a must buy!

First off I just want to thank Grindhouse Releasing for putting out a comprehensive package for the THE BIG GUNDOWN.  You get the American version.  You get the European longer cut plus the soundtrack.  There is also a DVD of the movie in case you don't have Blu and a booklet explaining the film's past.  The transfer is near perfect.  I seem to recall some blurry shots here and there but not too many and barely noticeable.  Maybe I am just losing my eyesight.

The movie is about Lee Van Cleef a bounty hunter who is on the trail of Tomas Milan for a crime he didn't commit.  Milan's character is a peasant who we know nothing about the except that he has been accused of the rape and murder of a young girl.  We meet his character, Cochillo playing in a pond trying to convince a young girl to join him in the water.  Cleef shows up and tries to capture Cochillo but is shot in the back by the young girl thinking he is a bandit.  Whoops.  The movie plays out like a cat and mouse story where the two join forces at the end to take down those who are really responsible.

THE BIG GUNDOWN is excellent.  It is well filmed with creative angles and camera movements when needed which is a trademark of the really great Italian Westerns.  The director, Sergio Sollima recognizes Cleef's strong presence in the film shaping his sleek sharp profile into many dynamic poses.  Just check out that poster and the one on the bottom.  Very few westerns took advantage of his strong form.  See the horrible SABATA films for example.  Unlike the SABATA films, THE BIG GUNDOWN doesn't have annoying funny sidekick characters for comedic relief or acrobat circus hijinks.  The film has a sharp wit with any comedy being delivered through dialogue and not simple silly loud characters to deflate the film's quality.  This is a violent film with a good amount of shoot'em up scenes.  You won't get bored.  Cochillo himself doesn't carry a gun.  He uses a knife when he duels which is very unique for it's time.  You can see how this film tries to do different things with it's characters to stand out from the flood of Italian Westerns that were flooding the theaters at the time.

I have waited a long time for this film to come out on Blu.  Now if we can only get a version of DAY OF ANGER with the same care that Grindhouse Releasing gave to THE BIG GUNDOWN.  It would also be nice to get the same for BANDITOS and THE GREAT SILENCE.  One could hope.


He was the "Bad" not the "Ugly", Morons. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I am not one of those guys who reads books and, you know, learns new stuff.  I never claim that the book is better even though we all know nine times out of ten it is.  What I am trying to say is I don't judge a movie based on the book.  Just because the book is better doesn't mean the movie is bad just because it did something different with the source material.  I say that because I love the LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY.  I loved the first THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY.  I find little to fault.  If there is anything to fault it can be easily ignored with no sense of compromise on how I view films.  I can't say that for the over bloated, overly long for no reason other than to create another trilogy THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG.

I complained when they took the books THE HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS, THE TWILIGHT BOOK 4 and now MOCKING JAY and split them into two movies.  Obviously it was to squeeze every dime out of a popular franchise that was coming to an end.  The result was a not so great HARRY POTTER movie and an even worse than usual THE TWILIGHT.  Who knows right now if THE HUNGER GAMES will add a not so great movie in their series which has been very solid so far.  I did not complain when they announced that THE HOBBIT was going to be divided into three films.  The reason for my hypocrisy is that I trusted Peter Jackson and I like the idea of movies that would no doubtfully explore and expand the world of Middle Earth.  How cool, right?  After the first HOBBIT film I was assured of another great trilogy in league with LOTR.  AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY took its time.  It set a mood.  It had remarkable scenes that I can remember and most importantly of all it blended well into the original trilogy.  DESOLATION, however, would better fit in the STAR WARS prequels with it's heavy dependence on computer graphics and zany cartoony adventure scenes.

How many times do we need to see our band of merry dwarfs get captured just to start a new scene?  Time after time they are captured or are about to be killed by orcs, spiders or fresh ideas when all of a sudden in swoop the pretty elves shooting arrows at just the right time to save the day.  It happens at least three times.  I was starting to experience deja vu.  The adventure scenes are not necessary and for some reason feel the need to out due the previous one.  My only real complaint about UNEXPECTED JOURNEY was the escape from the goblin king.  It became a roller coaster ride that transformed the film into a cartoon.  DESOLATION goes far beyond that.  Have you ever noticed in kids films nowadays that every few minutes the film feels like it needs to catapult the main characters into a high flying, zippidy-doo-da, bounce around everywhere chase or adventure scene just to keep the kiddies interested?  That happens a bunch-ola in the second HOBBIT movie.  The adventure scenes involve water toboggan, platform jumping, hanging off ropes and swinging around constantly out of control, dodging arrows and spiders and so forth.  The adventure/action scenes go on and on exhausting my brain until it hurts from sensory overload.  I got the sensation I was watching a video game more than a film.  I swear that the elf guy from LORD OF THE RINGS jumps on two dwarfs' heads firing arrows while they are in barrels going down stream.  Is this SUPER MARIO BROTHERS?  At one point a barrel goes rolling along the river bank knocking down hundreds of orcs in a line just like Mario kicking a turtle shell through a bunch of Koopas racking up points until the dingle-lingy sound proclaims a new life.  It just gets really stupid, folks.

By the end of the film you wonder even though three hours have gone by with much left to be accomplished if the film would continue or stop so we can wait next year to see the finish.  After awhile you begin to wonder if they should have titled the film THE HOBBIT 2: THE NEVERENDING STORY.  Thankfully after a bunch of crazy zany adventure crap happened with nothing accomplished the second Hobbit film ended.  That is not a good sign when you want a film to end just so you can go home.  While the movie does explore a little bit more of Middle Earth and has some good character moments to prevent the movie from being totally bad not much really happens when all is said and done.  THE HOBBIT part 2 was just repetitious filler.  It could easily have been a hour and a half film that ended the HOBBIT movies and still be very good.  But no, nowadays every big movie has to be a trilogy unless it bombs like THE LONE RANGER.

Word of advice, folks.  For those of you seeing this in the theater be sure not to drink anything before you go in if you know what I mean.  At least I didn't and my bladder thanked me for it.  Of course others were drinking twenty minutes before the movie started and they had no problem not going to the bathroom.  Huh?  Maybe I should go see a doctor.....Nah!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The RED DAWN remake is a RED YAWN

I know the original RED DAWN was not the most realistic war movie ever made.  In many ways it was a naive fantasy war movie.  It was a movie that capitalized on the biggest fear of the 1980's which was the expansion of Communism through military might.  I remember watching RED DAWN on TNT with host Joe Bob Briggs.  He had a military expert explain how if something like RED DAWN did happened it would not happen the way the movie portrays.  The military would not be using the weapons that are being used in the movie and so forth.  Needless to say he tore the movie apart with it's depiction of war.  But that didn't mean the first RED DAWN was a bad movie.  Quite the contrary.  1980's RED DAWN was a violent, dramatic film that left an impression on those that watched it.  It was a shocking film for its time.  I remember a news report claiming that it was the most violent movie of all time.  High school kids forming a gorilla resistance group against the Commies and learning first hand the horrors of war was a good story.  I remember RED DAWN being a great movie.  It has been awhile so I may eat those words the next time I see it.  The point is that even though it has been awhile since I have seen the original I remember moments and characters from the film.  Old RED DAWN was a memorable film with an anti war message with one of the leading invading commanders questioning why they started the war in the first place.  On the other hand the remake is a blah, frantic mess of film making.  It is totally forgettable.

Who wanted to see a remake of RED DAWN?  Did the young kids of today want another RED DAWN?  Have they even heard of the original?  They probably haven't and that is why they made it.  It was catered to a younger audience.  It was made as a PG-13 action movie with young actors that never get too dirty and I do believe they make a mention of THE CALL OF DUTY games.  I am surprised they didn't take it a little further with the video game reference by having one of the Wolverines shoot and miss a bunch of bad guys then take his gun and throw it to the ground in anger crying out "LAG" in the middle of all the explosions, gunfire and dead bodies that surround him.  They could of had another character give the other a smile acknowledging the joke and the two comrades could have a laugh amongst the carnage.  Computer generated carnage of course which adds to the wannabe CALL OF DUTY look of the film.

The remake of RED DAWN is a film of compromise.  The R rated bloody violence is reduced to PG-13 computer generated explosions.  The movie was suppose to be about China invading but the makers changed it when the Chinese complained. Now it is about North Korea invading America which makes no sense.  If  North Korea invaded a country it would be South Korea.  The cinematography is shaky trying it's best to generate excitement.  Combine that with fast paced super hip music video editing and you are left with quick moments of confusion not knowing what just happened.

Striving to stand out and be different from the original the new RED DAWN makes all the wrong decisions.  In the original, one of their own knowingly betrays them forcing the young Wolverines to make a hard choice and execute someone that was their friend. This was someone that they had known growing up.   There is real drama and tension.  You are not sure until the firing happens if they are really going to go through with the execution.  In the new one we have some jerks be the betrayers at the beginning of the invasion and when it is time to kill them there is no hard choices only rejoicing because they deserve to die.  Then one of their friends gets implanted unknowingly with a tracker and he has to stay behind.  That could have been something of interest but by this time in the film's run time who cares?

Spoiler ahead if you care!

They kill off the wrong brother!  Can you believe they kill off Thor instead of the boring whiny kid that got one of their own killed.  Nothing happened to him.  If they wanted to make a different RED DAWN the makers should have built a friendship between Thor and the Special Forces guy who was the father in SUPERNATURAL.  That would have been a better move instead of developing the uninteresting high school quarterback who looks suspiciously like a 38 year old when he cries.

Worst of all they leave the movie open for a sequel.  I kind of had a feeling when watching the trailer that this was going to be a part one.  I don't know why I felt that.  It is hard to explain but it was like they were going for a young crowd that was really into both the Harry Potter and Twilight films who played violent first person shooters.  If they were going to do that however, they killed off the wrong brother.  The more marketable actor was the guy who played the Thor not scrunchy face kid.  Whoops!  I guess they could make the sequel more about that one guy who is in THE HUNGER GAMES.  Let us just hope the makers are too distracted by the latest CALL OF DUTY game to write a sequel.