Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Posts tagged “Western

Westworld Season 2 – Teasers

As we near the start of Westworld Season 2, the marketing machine has clicked into gear, teasing with a new teaser , revised new website HERE and cool poster with hidden binary code. Producers Jonathan Nolan spoke to EW today:

“We don’t like to endlessly build mystery; we like to settle our debts by the end of the season,” Nolan said. “We want to feel like the show is rocketing ahead. The first season was a journey inward; this is a journey outward. It’s a search for what else is in the park, and what else is beyond the park.”


As this show attempts to question our understanding of reality, we still haven’t explored outside the confines of this manufactured theme park.

“If we were to describe the show as one camera angle, it would be a steady pull out revealing more and more context,” Nolan says. “So as the hosts learn more about their world—and other worlds, and the real world—the audience is doing the same thing.”

While the creators were hesitant to say if they’d be spending much time in Shogun World, they do confirm that it will take place outside of Westworld.

“This year is much more of a road show—Sweetwater isn’t home anymore,” Nolan tells EW, teasing that leaving behind Westworld is only the beggining into where and when the real world begins. “These hosts don’t live on the same time frame we do and don’t have the four-year life span of replicants [like in Blade Runner]. If left to their own devices, they could live forever. So our story has some real scope to it.”

Certainly they’ve left it open for the inevitable Seasons 3-7, but for now, I can’t wait to see where Season 2 takes us next month.

Powers Boothe R.I.P

029-deadwood-theredlistPowers Boothe, a character actor who appeared in films like Sin City and TV shows including Deadwood and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., died Sunday morning in his sleep of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles. He was 68.

His rep told The Hollywood Reporter that a private service will be held in Boothe’s home state of Texas, with a memorial celebration under consideration as well. Donations can be made to the Gary Sinise Foundation, which honors the nation’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need.

Boothe, who grew up on a farm in Texas, began his acting career in the theatre, playing in a number of Shakespearean productions including Henry IV. He made his Broadway debut in the late 1970s in Lone Star & Pvt. Wars.

In 1980, Boothe won an Emmy for lead actor in a limited series or special for playing cult leader Jim Jones in CBS’ Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones. He won that award during an actors strike and chose to cross the picket line to accept his trophy, saying, “This may be either the bravest moment of my career or the dumbest.”

On the strength of Guyana Tragedy, he was cast in Southern Comfort, one of my favourite movies of the 80’s. His character, Corporal Hardin was described by Director Walter Hill as “the rational, hardworking, self made individual” a description you believe could be applied to the subsequent casting image of Boothe.

He starred in A Breed Apart (1984), the John Boorman Amazonian adventure, The Emerald Forest (1985), again for Walter Hill in Extreme Prejudice (1987). He was unforgettable as the wicked gunman Curly Bill Brocius in Tombstone (1993). Excellent as Alexander Haig in Nixon (1995) and a sheriff in another Oliver Stone film, U Turn (1997).

Boothe gained a reputation for playing villains with memorable roles in the action film Sudden Death (1995), Bill Paxton’s Frailty (2001) and the nefarious Senator Roark in Sin City (2005). Perhaps his most famous villain role was Cy Tolliver, the ruthless saloon owner on HBO’s Deadwood. 

Boothe also was nominated two ensemble SAG Awards, first in 1996 alongside the cast of Nixon and then again in 2007 with the cast of Deadwood.

More recently, Boothe took on the role of Gideon Malick as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, debuting the role in 2012’s The Avengers and reprising it on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.


Michael Parks R.I.P

Michael_ParksMichael Parks, a character actor who enjoyed a career renaissance in recent decades thanks to high profile roles in films by Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith, died Wednesday at the age of 77.

Parks made his acting debut in a small role in 1961 on the sitcom The Real McCoys, and, racked up dozens of roles on both television and feature films, most notably as the casino owner and drug runner Jean Renault on the second season of Twin Peaks.

After years playing bit roles in made-for-TV movies, Westerns and slasher films, Parks was cast as Texas Ranger Earl McGraw in Rodriguez’ 1996 vampire flick From Dusk ’til Dawn. Quentin Tarantino, an associate of Rodriguez’, then cast Parks in a dual role for Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Volume 2; in the former, he reprised the McGraw role, while the latter found the actor playing Mexican pimp Esteban Vihaio.

Parks would portray McGraw once more for Tarantino and Rodriguez in the directors’ Grindhouse films. Tarantino also recruited Parks for a small role in Django Unchained.

Parks’ career revival also resulted in roles in Ben Affleck’s Argo, The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford and a pair of Kevin Smith horror flicks, Red State and Tusk.

“Michael was, and will likely forever remain, the best actor I’ve ever known. I wrote both [Red State] and [Tusk] FOR Parks, I loved his acting so much,” Smith posted on Wednesday. “He was, hands-down, the most incredible thespian I ever had the pleasure to watch perform. And Parks brought out the absolute best in me every time he got near my set.”

At the time of his death, Parks was cast in the upcoming Christian Bale film Hostiles.

The Salvation – Trailer

I love westerns, always have, Clint Eastwood has a lot to do with my love of the genre. I love the classics, I love spghetti westerns and I also love the grittier ‘revisionist’ westerns like The Long Riders, Eastwood’s own Unforgiven and the Nick Cave penned Australian western The Proposition. Now we Mads Mikkelsen staring in Scandinavian western The Salvation, a Cannes Official Selection title which promises more of that… can’t wait.

Directed by Kristian Levring, the 1870’s-set pic also stars Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Mikael Persbrandt, Eric Cantona and Jonathan Pryce. Levring co-wrote the script with Susanne Bier’s frequent collaborator Anders Thomas Jensen.

The large-scale drama follows Mikkelsen’s settler John and his arrival in the American West. When his family is murdered, he kills the culprit, unleashing the fury of notorious gang leader Delarue. Betrayed by his corrupt and cowardly community, the peaceful pioneer must turn vengeful hunter, slay the outlaws, and cleanse the town’s black heart.

Django Unchained – Poster Art by Matt Butkus

Matt Butkus_Django Unchained_poster 1Matt Butkus_Django Unchained_poster 2

The Backwater Gospel

As long as anyone can remember, the coming of The Undertaker has meant the coming of death. Until one day the grim promise fails and tension builds as the God fearing townsfolk of Backwater wait for someone to die.

Check out The Backwater Gospel (2011), an animated – Horror/Thriller, Produced at The Animation Workshop. Check out their website HERE

Howard Hawks

Howard Winchester Hawks (May 30, 1896–December 26, 1977) was an American film director, producer and screenwriter of the classic Hollywood era. He is popular for his films from a wide range of genres such as Scarface (1932), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), Sergeant York (1941), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Red River (1948), The Thing from Another World (1951), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and Rio Bravo (1959).

In 1975, Hawks was awarded the Honorary Academy Award as “a master American filmmaker whose creative efforts hold a distinguished place in world cinema,” after the Academy did what it has a reputation of doing, not recognising exceptional talent at the time, although he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director for Sergeant York in 1942.

The Thing from Another World (often referred to as The Thing before its 1982 remake), is a 1951 science fiction film based on the 1938 novella “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell. It tells the story of an Air Force crew and scientists at a remote Arctic research outpost who are forced to defend themselves from a malevolent plant-based alien being. It stars Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan and James Arness, who played The Thing, but he is difficult to recognize in costume and makeup, due to both the lighting and other effects used to obscure his features. No actors are named during the film’s dramatic opening credits; the cast credits appear at the end of the film. In 2001 the film was deemed to be a “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant motion picture by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

There is debate as to whether the film was directed by Hawks with Christian Nyby receiving the credit so that Nyby could obtain his Director’s Guild membership, or whether Nyby directed it with considerable input in both screenplay and advice in directing from producer Hawks, although Hawks denied that he directed the film.

Cast members disagree on Hawks’ and Nyby’s contributions. Tobey said that “Hawks directed it, all except one scene” while, on the other hand, Fenneman said that “Hawks would once in a while direct, if he had an idea, but it was Chris’ show”, and Cornthwaite said that “Chris always deferred to Hawks, … Maybe because he did defer to him, people misinterpreted it.” Although Self has said that “Hawks was directing the picture from the sidelines”, he also has said that “Chris would stage each scene, how to play it. But then he would go over to Howard and ask him for advice, which the actors did not hear … Even though I was there every day, I don’t think any of us can answer the question. Only Chris and Howard can answer the question.”

Rio Bravo is a 1959 American Western film, directed by Howard Hawks, starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Ricky Nelson. Rio Bravo is generally regarded as one of Hawks’ best, and is notable for its scarcity of close-up shots. The film was made as a response to High Noon, which is sometimes thought to be an allegory for blacklisting in Hollywood, as well as a critique of McCarthyismWayne called High Noon “un-American”, and as a riposte, teamed up with director Howard Hawks to tell the story his way. In Rio Bravo, Wayne’s character Chance is surrounded by allies—a deputy recovering from alcoholism (Dude), a young gunfighter (Colorado), an old man (Stumpy), a Mexican innkeeper (Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez), his wife, and an attractive young woman, and repeatedly turns down aid from anyone he doesn’t think is capable of helping him, though in the final shootout they come to help him anyway.

Hawks’ directorial style and the use of natural, conversational dialogue in his films were cited a major influence on many noted filmmakers, including Robert Altman, John Carpenter, Quentin Tarantino, and Brian De Palma, who dedicated his version of Scarface to Hawks.

Will Sampson

Will Sampson (September 27, 1933 – June 3, 1987) was an American actor and artist. A Native American Muscogee (Creek), Will was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. His most notable roles were as Chief Bromden in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and as “Taylor the Medicine Man” in the horror film ‘Poltergeist II’. He had a recurring role on the TV series ‘Vega$’, as Harlon Twoleaf and starred in the movies ‘Fish Hawk’, ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ and ‘Orca’.

Sampson was also an artist. His large painting depicting the Ribbon Dance of his Muscogee people is in the collection of the Creek Council House Museum in Okmu;gee, Oaklahoma. His artwork is currently displayed online by The Kvskvnv (“kuskuna”) Association. Sampson also appeared in the production of Black Elk Speaks with the American Indian Theater Company in Tulsa, Oaklahoma where David Carradine and other Native American actors like Wes Studi and Randolph Mantooth starred in stage productions.

In an interview in TV Ontario’s series Film 101, “Hollywood Asylum, Explored or Exploited?”, film actor Brad Dourif (who played Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) stated that Sampson had been imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. After he was pardoned, after serving ten years,his release came without apology or compensation. Sampson reportedly observed the cast on set and noted, based on behavior, that only he and Dourif truly understood what it meant to be institutionalized.

In need of a heart and liver transplant, he died on June 3, 1987, of post-operative kidney failure and pre-operative malnutrition problems. Sampson was 53 years old. He was buried in Hitchita’s Graves Creek Cemetery.

The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower, the ultra-ambitious adaptation of the Stephen King 7-novel series that was going to encompass a trilogy of feature films and two limited run TV series. The studio has said, No Thanks. Universal has passed on going forward with the project, dealing a huge blow in the plan for Ron Howard to direct Akiva Goldsman’s script, with Brian Grazer, Goldsman and the author producing and Javier Bardem as gunslinger Roland Deschain. Now, the filmmakers will have to find a new backer of what might well be the most ambitious movie project since Bob Shaye allowed Peter Jackson to shoot three installments of The Lord of the Rings back to back.

This stunning development comes after Universal in May pushed plans to start production this summer on the first film. The studio claimed to be on track for a February, postponing to reduce the budget. This temporarily dispelled rumors that Universal was putting the project in turnaround, rumors that cropped up when the studio put workers on hiatus. But it was only a temporary respite. I’m told that this time, the studio reviewed Goldsman’s script for the first film and the first leg of the TV series, and would only commit to the single film. That wasn’t good enough for the filmmakers, who had already hired comic book and Heroes and Battlestar Galactica writer/producer Mark Verheiden to co-write the TV component with Goldsman, which was to be made for NBC Universal Television (studio insiders deny that the studio was only willing to make the movie and not the series). I know the filmmakers planned to make it all part of the first shoot while they had the cast in place and the sets erected. I’d heard back in May that Warner Bros–where Goldsman’s Weed Road is based and which is fully financing two installments of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit–was a possible landing place for the adaptation of King’s 7-novel epic that is that author’s answer to Tolkien’s LOTR novels. The Dark Tower is about the last living member of a knightly order of gunslingers, with Deschain becoming humanity’s last hope to save civilization as he hits the road to find the Dark Tower. Along the way, he encounters characters, good and bad, in a world that has an old West feel.

For whatever reason Universal decided not to go forward, they weren’t saying, at this point.  Nor were the filmmakers. Universal has put big money on the table for several tent pole films and maybe that has something to do with it. Universal also recently passed on green lighting At The Mountains of Madness, which Guillermo del Toro was to direct with Tom Cruise starring, based on HP Lovecraft horror tale. That time, the studio balked at funding a $150 million film that gave del Toro the latitude to deliver his cut with an R-rating.

The Wild Bunch – released 42 years ago

“Suddenly a new West has emerged. Suddenly it was sundown for nine men. Suddenly their day was over. Suddenly the sky was bathed in blood.”

Pike (William Holden) is the leader of the wild bunch, a group of mercenaries living in the dying days of the west. They are hunted down by Thornton (Robert Ryan) who was once part of the Wild Bunch himself. Pike realises that the Wild Bunch lifestyle cannot last forever and wants to do a “last job”, stealing weapons for a Mexican general, that would make them wealthy. One of Pike’s partners is Angel (Jaime Sánchez), a young Mexican who doesn’t feel comfortable with the idea of giving guns to someone who is oppressing his people. So a deal is secretly worked out whereas they will allow Angel to take one crate of rifles to the freedom fighters. But the general finds out, and then all hell breaks loose.

Released 42 years ago today, The Wild Bunch changed the western genre forever. Director Sam Peckinpah’s movie was accused at the time of being overly violent (and glorifying that violence), macho and mysogynistic, not exactly alien terms to Pekinpah. It is a violent movie, but it is also so much more than that. The first movie is beautifully shot, especialy in the dersert vistas and more importantly from a historical point of view, it was the first film to really utilise slow-motion in action sequences, and has been rarely equalled since. The Matrix, John Woo, Tarantino and a slew of action film makers owe a huge debt to this film.

Warner Brothers are (obviously) planning a remake although there doesn’t appear to be anyone attached to the project at present. The success of the recent ‘True Grit’ remake will no doubt hasten them to get it out asap. 

Here’s a cool stat: The wild bunch used over 90,000 rounds of blank ammunition. “More than was used in the entire Mexican revolution” Warner publicity would later claim.

The Dark Tower

Javier Bardem has been cast as ‘The Gunslinger’ in the big screen adaptation of Stephen Kings ‘The Dark Tower’ series of books. Oh, and it’s to be directed by Ritchie Cunningham… oh dear…

Rango ****

The best two movies I’ve seen at the cinema so far this year are Westerns, True Grit and Rango.

In the latter, Johnny Depp provides the voice of the title character, a pet chameleon unceremoniously thrown from the back seat of a car travelling in the Nevada desert. The opening scenes set the tone for the rest of the movie; the film makers don’t shy away from their reference points, with nods to Hunter S. Thompson, Spaghetti Westerns and Chuck Jones on display. Most of these and some of the dialogue will be lost on younger audiences although they will still laugh at the visual humour.

After an amazing series of set pieces our ‘hero’ wanders through the desert to a town called Dirt. Here he is greeted by an odd assortment of characters, the look and personality of whom are much grittier than in the average animated movie.

Rango is named as the towns new Sheriff and he revels in his new role. There is a problem though, the town water supply is drying up and no one knows why… Rango decides to investigate.

At every turn, Rango and his actions are narrated in song by an on screen mariachi band, much like the mice in ‘Babe’ but less annoying.

This is the best thing Gore Verbinski has done since Mousehunt. Everyone involved clearly has great affection for spaghetti westerns, flagged so blatantly during the ‘Spirit of the West’ scene.

The movie is a stunning visual feast. The characters and backgrounds are photorealistic but not in that horrible ‘Dinosaur ‘or unnecessary close-up way we’ve become used to in so many CGI movies over the last few years. The detail is not there to show off the studios R & D talents (feather detail in ‘Guardians…’ perhaps..?).

The animation is excellent and the quality of design and texture in the animal characters is exceptional. They are incredibly gritty and almost ugly, much like the array of extras in the original spaghetti westerns. The sets and backgrounds wouldn’t be out of place in a big budget Hollywood western and the depiction of heat through dust, haze and lighting leaves you feeling as parched as the characters. I noticed in the credits that Roger Deakin’s was the cinematography consultant; the man can do no wrong.     

The voice talent are perfectly cast; it would be unfair to single anyone out but Depp is obviously enjoying himself, Ned Beatty follows up his sinister ‘Lotso’ from Toy Story 3 with another great turn and Bill Nighy as Rattlesnake Jake is outstanding.

There’s an underlying environmental message here but we’re not being beaten over the head with it which is a refreshing change.

Not quite Pixar but almost as good as… and that’s high praise indeed.

Quality: 5

Good Fun: 4