Posts Tagged by western
|November 3, 2011||Posted by Ariadne under Westernfilms||
It’s difficult to choose the most attractive aspect of the animated western-comedy Rango, but it is easy to proclaim it an intelligent piece of entertainment that will amuse adults and children alike.
The beginning of the film is deceivingly colourful and slow paced – here we are introduced to a lonely pet chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp) that spends his time acting in his terrarium and dreaming of adventures. Soon, a real adventure ensues: he finds himself stranded in Mojave Desert after his terrarium falls off his owner’s car.
At this point the film picks up the pace, and once Rango steps foot into Dirt, a real Western fills the screen. Dirt is an Old West type of town, populated by desert animals. The town is inexplicably at the edge of a complete draught, and soon our unlikely hero takes up a Sheriff’s duty of finding out what’s going on. Of course, it is not simple for a city pet to become a confident hero, and Rango will go not only on a quest for water, but also on a quest to discover his true identity…
Although it is an animated film fit for younger audiences, Rango is far from being populated with cute or cuddly characters. Desert animals in Dirt perfectly evoke hardened characters we often find in classic Western films. In fact, gunslinger Jake (voiced by Bill Nighy) is done so well that smaller children (or anyone with a snake phobia) might get scared in some scenes!
Impeccable animation and stunning visual effects are possibly the most impressive aspect of Rango. Next comes the flawless voice acting, as well as an intelligent plot. Pacing of the story is perhaps slow at the beginning, but later makes up for it with good amount of twists that will hold your attention even if you find them predictable.
An element of the film that was a personal favourite of mine is the music score, paired with the mariachi narrators that break the fourth wall and lead us through the story with their amusing remarks. Also, if you choose to watch the extended version of Rango, you can expect an additional 4-minute scene at the end of the film. This serves as a lovely epilogue to the story.
Western experts might also have fun recognizing references to classic Western films. Several of these are incorporated in Rango – the most obvious one being a brief appearance of The Man With No Name (voiced by Timothy Olyphant).
Rango was written and directed by Gore Verbinski, probably best known for his work on the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films. While Rango follows the same trail of family entertainment, it still carries enough weight and dust of a real Western, making it one of the interesting Western titles in 2011.
|September 18, 2011||Posted by Ariadne under Western Serials||
When I had found out about the new DVD release of North and South mini-series, I was immediately swept by my childhood memories. Back then, North and South was perhaps my favorite serial of all time. Straight from the first second of the brilliant orchestral opening theme, I was immersed in every episode. What unraveled before me was a complex and magnificent story, set in turbulent times and populated with an impressive cast of characters.
Even though North and South falls into the Western genre, it is best known as a historical saga. The central plot revolves around the northerner George Hazard (James Read) and the southerner Orry Main (Patrick Swayze), who become friends while being cadets at West Point. The story further follows them and their families in years to come, as they endure the hardships of the American Civil War. Many subplots are furthermore set against the rich historical background, adding to the story its share of romance and intrigue.
North and South’s numerous cast includes the legends such as Johnny Cash, Gene Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor, to name the few. It is also sometimes forgotten that the role of Orry Main has in fact brought Patrick Swayze to fame even before he filmed Dirty Dancing.
The saga is actually an adaptation of novels written by John Jakes. While the entire serial is often known simply as North and South, this title more precisely only refers to book one (1985 series). Love and War is an adaptation of book two (1986 series), and Heaven and Hell book three (1994 series).
Here I must say that in this text so far, I’ve been in fact praising only the first two adaptations, filmed in the 80’s. As for Heaven and Hell… there is no Heaven in this! Unlike the well received 80’s adaptations, Heaven and Hell was disliked by critics and fans alike.
Heaven and Hell came with the delay, as the third book wasn’t initially planned for adaptation. This brought about some issues with the continuity of the plot, and on top of everything, the atmosphere in this weak production was so different, that it felt like a completely different show. I don’t remember much of Heaven and Hell, probably because I wanted to forget I ever watched it. Yes, the first two adaptations took some liberties from the books, but were nonetheless a wonderful, rounded story. They are perfectly sufficient to watch without this third installment, which is best left forgotten.
This year’s DVD release brings together the entire North and South collection. Even with the flaws of Heaven and Hell, the release still makes for terrific news, since the first two adaptations are brilliant, memorable and a must watch for anyone interested in this genre!
|September 13, 2011||Posted by Ariadne under Westernfilms||
It was a long time since I’d last watched El Dorado, and the only thing I could recall about this Western was a scene where the very drunk Robert Mitchum sobers up with a little unwanted help from his friends. This memory gap gave me a good excuse to watch it again, and I’m glad I did! The premise of the film is simple, but well executed. In fact, El Dorado’s seeming lack of ambition might be the very reason of its charm.
The story takes place over the span of several months and is mainly set in the titular town of El Dorado, somewhere in the Old Southwest. Here, a chain of events leads a gunslinger Cole Thornton (John Wayne) to help his friend sheriff J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum) in a range war. It would be easy for them to protect the local family from Bart Jason (Ed Asner) and his hired gunmen, if there weren’t some complications taking a toll on both J.P. and Cole…
Just like Rio Bravo and Rio Lobo, El Dorado is one of Howard Hawks’ films that spin the theme of a sheriff defending his office from the outlaws. Hawks directs El Dorado as good as it would be expected, and the story flows flawlessly. Long and medium shots dominate the film, often letting us catch a good glimpse of the town, looking dusty in the daylight and deceivingly calm in the evening.
Nelson Riddle wrote the music, the highlight of which goes to the main theme “El Dorado” – I found myself humming it after watching the film.
I was surprised to realize how the film felt more relaxed as it moved toward the end. It is typical for the intensity to grow as the plot thickens, but here I found the process to be reversed. This happens thanks to some dialogues and excellent performances by the actors, who bring their characters to life so well that their interactions steal the spotlight from the storyline itself.
Cole and J.P. start off somewhat reserved, but as the film continues, their friendly bickering grows more and more amusing. J.P.’s deputy Bull (Arthur Hunnicut) goes from muttering stereotype one-liners about Indians to actually being likeable, whereas Mississippi (James Caan) is simply terrific from his first scene in the film! Perhaps with the less competent actor he’d end up being just a comical sidekick, but with James Caan’s performance Mississippi feels as much of a lead character as Cole and J.P. Charlene Holt is beautiful as Maudie, and adds a touch of softness to the mostly male cast.
This Western is not epic, but if you’re looking for some good old entertainment, you will certainly find treasure in El Dorado.
|August 25, 2011||Posted by Westernfilms.com under Western Literature||
Many of his films were made into successful movies including Hondo (1953, Farrow)
and Taggart (1954, Springsteen).
During the 1980’s two authors came to
public attention with works that revolutionized the genre. Larry McMurty was a
writer that had written many novels including Terms of Endearment and The
Last Picture Show. However it was his novel Lonesome Dove that struck
a cord with the public and became a blockbuster book and then TV miniseries.
The popularity of this series caused a revitalization of the genre.
|August 24, 2011||Posted by Westernfilms.com under Western Literature||
The genre of the Western has a longstanding
tradition in fiction. Starting around the mid 1800’s the cheap and inexpensive
novels sold as “dime novels” used the setting of the Wild West to capture the
imagination of readers all over the country.
These novels were written quickly,
and were often written about actual people such as Wild Bill Hickock and
outlaws such as Jesse James.
The first major author to work in the genre
was Zane Grey. His Riders of the Purple Sage written in 1912 is believed
by many critics and fans to be responsible for most of the familiar tropes that
are commonly associated with Western literature. Zane wrote many novels that portrayed an
idealized version of the old west.
You can buy this book in Amazon’s bookshop: