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Tag Archive: Cowboys and Aliens


Little Green Army Men PC 2015

Plenty of fun was in store for everyone attending Planet Comicon 2015 this weekend.  With the Big 12 Championship basketball tourney between the Iowa State Cyclones and the Kansas Jayhawks, downtown Kansas City was booming Saturday.  At the third annual Planet Comicon at the Kansas City Convention Center at Bartle Hall, actors, writers, artists, cosplayers, vendors, and tens of thousands of fans of everything from comic books to toys and from Doctor Who to Walking Dead continued the convention tradition of sharing their common interests in a positive and exciting environment.

Elizabeth C. Bunce and your humble editor from borg.com were back again meeting up with creators and friends from past years (this year as Daniel Craig’s Jake Lonergan from Cowboys and Aliens and Kate Beckinsale’s Anna Valerius from Van Helsing).  Check out the great little green toy army men cosplayers at the show above.

Kent McCord PC 2015

Kent McCord, known best for his role on the classic TV series Adam-12, shared some great stories about working with Martin Milner, Jack Webb, Harry Morgan, and Stephen J. Cannell.  What better than to spend the day chatting with someone who has starred in shows like Dragnet and Unsub?

Pileggi PC 2015

We also had a great time with Mitch Pileggi, co-star of one of the all-time best genre TV series, The X-Files.  He talked about the possible renewal of his role of Director Skinner on a rebooted X-Files series and working with Judith Light on TNT’s reboot of Dallas as Harris Ryland.

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Dead Mans Hand cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Who would have thought we’d be discussing a book in the second decade of the 21st century featuring new stories of the Old West?  Titan Books has released such a work with Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West, bringing together short stories from 23 authors that mash-up the Old West with science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and horror.

The Dead Man’s Hand is of course the legendary card hand last held by Wild Bill Hickok when he was shot down by Jack McCall in Deadwood, South Dakota back in 1876.  The superstitions carried forward by those cards–believed to be black aces and eights–fuels the magic and “weird” behind the stories in this compilation.

Fans of Louis L’Amour who may have open minds for the extremes of what might qualify as an Old West story should find at least a few good tales in Dead Man’s Hand.  Like Mike Resnick’s story “The Hell-bound Stagecoach,” set in Arizona Territory circa 1885, it chronicles riders in a stagecoach who don’t quite remember how they ended up on the road bound for somewhere, as they encounter a proper lady who happens to be a good cook along the way.  Resnick’s story is steeped in classic lore of the Old West era.

Jeff Bridges as Wild Bill Hickok

Editor John Joseph Adams attempts to summarize the genre in his introduction as having its roots in the works of Robert E. Howard, Gene Autry’s serial The Phantom Empire, and the 1970s series The Wild, Wild, West, but Adams could look back farther to cowboy lore–stories created and shared by those stranded in desert storms, creations of the lost, hungry and thirsty, like those seeing mirages.  Like the story that would become Ghost Riders in the Sky, written by Stan Jones in 1948.  Jones recalled the story was first told to him back around 1926, and certainly that story was among many Old West tomes of the oral tradition circulating back to even before the Civil War.  Regardless of the earliest sources for such stories, they still entertain audiences in a world of cell phones, space travel, and the Internet.

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Enders-Game-promo poster C

Huh?  San Diego Comic-Con is only 20 days away?

The Hollywood studios are in “engage” mode releasing details on their plans for this year’s big show.  One of the bigger draws will be the Ender’s Game panel in Hall H on July 18, and Summit Entertainment has announced that Harrison Ford will return to Comic-Con this year to promote the movie.  Ford surprised fans at the Cowboys and Aliens panel back in 2010, entering the hall in handcuffs.  You can’t get much of a bigger celebrity for Con fans than Han Solo/Indiana Jones himself.  If you missed borg.com’s preview of Ender’s Game, check it out here.

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It’s like the Canadian band Barenaked Ladies said in their hit song:  It’s all been done before.

But of course it hasn’t.

We sometimes tell ourselves that when we run out of ideas.  But just as much as there are always going to be millions more stories for writers to tell, there are stories out there already created that are waiting to reach a new audience.  Stories we love, but stories that we’d really love to see transformed into another medium– onto the TV or silver screen.  These are the film adaptations.  And they are a key part of movies of any genre.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences even has their own Oscar for adapted screenplay that often coincides with the Best Picture winner.

What are your favorite stories?  Have they all been made into movies?  Do you wish that any of them would be turned into a movie?  Do you wish most of them hadn’t been made into movies?  What stories would you like to see that have not yet been adapted to film?

You can adapt anything into a movie if you’re creative enough.  The biggest source for adaptations are books.  The result?  Some are good (Jaws, Godfather, To Kill a Mockingbird, Jurassic Park) and some bad (like every live action film based on Dr. Seuss/Theodor Geisel, who must be turning in his grave at what happened to his franchise after his death), or even hopelessly bad (like The da Vinci Code, which should probably not have merited a novel in the first place).   A painting by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer inspired a novel and then a film adaptation—The Girl with a Pearl Earring.  The movie Ever After takes a fairy tale and merges it with a painting of Leonardo da Vinci’s Head of  Woman to create both a retelling and an alternate history of sorts, placing Leonardo himself in the middle of the fairy tale.

The Phantom of the Opera was turned from a theatrical musical into a movie (and even the reverse happens, as Sunset Boulevard went from film to musical).  The video games Tron, Doom, Resident Evil, and Tomb Raider all have been adapted into movies (how about Pitfall?).  Even the Parker Brothers games Clue and the Milton Bradley game Battleship have been adapted into film (wouldn’t it be great to try again with the characters in Clue?).

Wait long enough and even classic TV gets made into movies, like The Dukes of Hazzard, The Addams Family, The Brady Bunch, and the new Johnny Depp adaptation of Dark Shadows.  Last week the BBC reported that Bob Dylan’s album Blood on the Tracks is currently being made into a movie (and the album itself was even inspired by the short stories of Anton Chekhov), and the story of the song Amazing Grace (with Ioan Gruffudd and Benedict Cumberbatch) hit theaters only a few years ago.  Then there are adaptations of a writer’s angle on some famous or infamous figure in real life, like Schindler’s List—the biopic or historical adaptation is everywhere–but usually starts with the novel.  And even newspaper articles can end up as the original source for an award winning film, like All the President’s Men.  Certainly last but not least, comic books and graphic novels are the current rage, with movies adapted from Road to Perdition to Cowboys & Aliens to the soon to be released Avengers.

Source material for film adaptations is virtually unlimited.

We’ve asked our four borg.com writers not what the best adaptations are, but instead what are their picks for what should be the next adaptation from Hollywood.  What are the top 5-10 books, comic books, video games, or characters, etc. you’d like to see adapted into a movie—that haven’t been adapted yet?  We’ll start with Art Schmidt’s take on would-be adaptations tomorrow.

Despite an interesting premise and a good cast, Cowboys & Aliens never quite comes together.  How could a team-up like Jon Favreau, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Steven Spielberg not get this right?  Unfortunately, the movie is “just okay.”  It’s an example of what happens when you buy an idea without a great story to back it up.  And it’s what happens when it takes six A- list writers to craft a screenplay, based on a work that itself isn’t very interesting.

Cowboys & Aliens lacks most of the elements of good science fiction and qualifies as a western only because of the bundle of cliched characters, a beautiful desert hills setting, and all the horses.  That said, it may find an audience with those who have never seen a good western or appreciate a good science fiction story.  It could be dismissed as “another summer blockbuster romp, sure to please general audiences.”  With the fun premise, the stellar cast, producer Spielberg and director Favreau, it may get favorable initial box office returns, but it fails to live up to its potential to rival all the summer movies released this year.  It should be better than all the sequels released this summer.  But it’s not.  In comparison, it doesn’t quite match up to past summer hits like Independence Day or Men in Black.

It’s not as fun as a movie with the title Cowboys & Aliens should be.  I wasn’t looking for humorous by any means, but there was not one point in the packed movie house where the crowd had any reason to laugh, cheer, or gasp.  The story lacked tension and energy.  From scene to scene the characters didn’t convincingly indicate the gravity of their would-be, desperate situations.  And we were never quite pulled into the world in any gripping way–you keep waiting for something to happen, then the movie is over.

Fortunately the film has no relation to the graphic novel created by Scott Rosenberg and written by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley.  The graphic novel is a simple analog of alien imperialism over humans as a reflection of European imperialism over the native Americans, and that’s about it.  Not enough to turn into a good comic book, let alone a good movie.  Add to that the six screenplay contributers (including Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman who wrote the iffy 2009 Star Trek script) who couldn’t pull a complete story out of a good idea, and proved yet again that a story written by committee rarely works.  It is frustrating that an idea as fun as mixing aliens into the 1800s Old West is so hard to make awesome.  Even kids mixing toy soldiers and science fiction figures could come up with a fun story. 

The best of the film is the cast. As for the lead cast, Olivia Wilde’s character Ella was the stand-out.  She seemed to do the best she could with her role and, as with her with roles in Tron: Legacy and House, M.D. , she is fun to watch.  And Daniel Craig delivered an excellent performance as the western movie drifter with the secret past, Jake Lonergan.  But his character was put into too many strange circumstances, and we never got to see how a man in the 1880s would react to aliens vs someone in the 2010s.  Daniel Craig’s past roles have been so good, this one probably falls toward the bottom of the list.  Audiences are starving to see the next Han Solo or Indiana Jones role for Harrison Ford.  Billed as Ford’s “Rooster Cogburn” performance, Ford’s, Colonel Dolarhyde (a really bad name, by the way) is a one-note character.  The audience wants to like this performance, but we don’t know how we’re supposed to feel about this character.  At one point we’re told he’s tough and we feel he’s meant to be the traditional man in the black hat, but everything else indicates otherwise, and we don’t have enough back story to know what to think.

As for the supporting cast, Clancy Brown (Starship Troopers, Medium, Leverage, Law and Order, Lost, Enterprise) shows how great a supporting actor he is as the town’s preacher.  Keith Carradine also delivers a believable performance as the sheriff.  But as with Favreau’s Iron Man 2, another annoying Sam Rockwell performance almost reduces his scenes to cringe-worthy.

One more positive thing–I loved the “arm gun”.  It’s not in the graphic novel, so it’s a great addition and helps make Daniel Craig’s every move as cool as he is as James Bond.

The movie might have been more exciting if they hardly showed us the aliens at all (like the shark in Jaws).  When they appear, it is too much too often, and the aliens were a mix of creatures we had seen before, lifeless like the bugs from Starship Troopers, grotesque like Kuato from Total Recall, and the scenes are shot just like the aliens in the Alien movies.  The creatures should be terrifying, to the point that the humans should be running for their lives screaming–especially for people who have no concept of space travel or extraterrestrials.  They just aren’t.

The soundtrack starts with a good clip but ultimately relies too much on what sounded like a modern electric guitar ballad instead of a full orchestral sound–an epic, grandiose score you’d expect from a western, which might have helped save the film.

Not that my standards for a video rental should be any different than for a movie in the theater, but this may play better on video or late-night cable.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a few of the western scenes again, just not enough to buy another movie ticket.  The opening, for example, gets off to the right start, with Craig’s character executing a fight scene dive straight from Rio Bravo.

Unfortunately, this one left me wishing for a real good western or good sci-fi movie.

Cowboys & Aliens is in theaters.  2.5 of 5 stars.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

While we wait for the opening night of Cowboys and Aliens on July 29, two days ago we walked through the top western movies to get psyched for Jon Favreau’s big budget clash of Old West and classic sci-fi story.  Today we run down the best alien movies Hollywood has created.  We’re not thinking so much about aliens in their native environment, or Star Wars and Star Trek films would top the list, but unexpected human encounters with otherworldly, friendly and not-so-friendly brethren. 

1.  THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951).  It should be no surprise that a movie from the director of West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Sand Pebbles, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (and the editor of Citizen Kane and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) makes the top spot of this list.  Robert Wise’s classic story would fit solidly alongside the best Twilight Zone episodes.  And story is the point–no modern glitz and special effects necessary.  Michael Rennie appears to be just a man.  But he is not.  He is Klaatu, a visitor who has come to observe us in his flying saucer with the giant robot Gort.  How would we react to an alien visitor?  The first look at ourselves revealed paranoia and fear–it is the original self-reflection story that would later inspire V and Alien Nation.

2.  PREDATOR (1987).  He’s a hunter.  A collector.  And he’s on vacation.  That doesn’t sound like a high calibre story description.  Substitute the alien visitor and Predator is a western not unlike High Noon.  Our creature is a visitor with a secret past like any of a number of Clint Eastwood gunslingers.  And he is just as cool, a hunter that would stand firm alongside Boba Fett, Bossk, Dengar and Zuckus.  His make-up is unreal–truly alien to us–and he looks like a Nausicaan–that race that shoved a pool cue though Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Let’s see, who has an unusual skull that would look good on his trophy mantle?  How about that melon on Arnold Schwarzenegger?  There’s a cool vibe throughout the film and a great cast–and what other genre film features two future state governors?  And one of those gauntlets looks like Daniel Craig’s from the Cowboys and Aliens trailers.

3.  CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977).  But for Star Wars this picture would have gone off the charts the year it was released.  Because of multiple Star Wars viewings by me in 1977 and 1978 (I saw it ten times with my brother and sister instead of going to see anything else), I didn’t get to see this movie until years later when it was released on video.  But once I saw it, I realized how grand in scope it was.  Mix all the episodes of Leonard Nimoy’s old TV series In Search Of… and you’ll end up here.  A ship in the middle of the desert, a 1940s squadron appears out of nowhere, and we keep seeing this shape, painting it, making models of it.  Near the place where the Sundance Kid grew up is a destination for sci-fi fans now, at Devil’s Tower, Wyoming.  And those five musical tones.  And an alien kidnapping scene, revealing nothing about the aliens, toys that seem to come alive, shocking and scary.  Invaders or friends?  Richard Dreyfuss’s second best movie.  One of Spielberg’s best.

4.  E.T.,THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982).  Not only did Close Encounters and The Day the Earth Stood Still teach us that aliens can be our friends, with E.T. a lot of us would never think to put up a fight when the invasion arrives.  Ugly but lovable, E.T. was funny, thrilling, and made us all cheer.  Ignore the recent edited, updated version–the original was just fine, thank you very much.  A classic pop culture film that gave us several catch phrases: “Home,”  “I’ll be right here,” “Be good,” “Phone home.”  And I am still addicted to Reese’s Pieces.  Another great Spielberg picture in his long list of blockbusters.

5.  ALIENS (1986).  Bill Paxton’s Private Hudson had it right when he said, “Game over, man, game over!”  The polar opposite of the aliens-as-friends films, these exoskeletal aliens have nothing in common with humans.  As villains, there is nothing for us to sympathize with.  They will just exterminate us.  This was a wake-up call for everyone who wants to meet our galactic neighbors.  Stay home and draw your curtains instead.  It was destiny that someone would pit them against Predator years later and it was no contest that we’d cheer the Predator.   And I don’t care what anyone says about the first movie with these monsters, Alien–Aliens, the sequel, was tons better with less unnecessary gross-outs.  You’ve seen one stomach burst, you’ve seen them all.  Skip the sequels but check out Aliens vs Predator for even more fun.

6.  THE LAST STARFIGHTER (1984).  When Robert Preston, the original salesman from River City in The Music Man, comes to your planet looking to sell you something, like being a Starfighter, you know you have a different kind of film.  Here we expand the alien movie archetype from either good  or bad–aliens are shades of gray, like people, some are good, some are evil.  Directed by Nick Castle, John Carpenter’s colleague, a simple, quiet movie that has a lot of heart and makes everyone wish they’d get Alex Rogan’s calling.  And Grig’s make-up was the greatest thing until Enemy Mine.   With a great ending for the bad guys, with an all-time classic exchange:  “We’re locked into the moon’s gravitational pull!  What do we do?”  Answer?  “We die.”  Back in the days of arcades, this movie rivaled Tron as to coolness factor.  “Greetings, Starfighter.  You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada.”  Where can I sign up? 

7.  THEY LIVE (1988).  This is a John Carpenter classic reviewed in an earlier post and puts Carpenter’s storytelling up there with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  Here, the story goes that Earth has already been invaded and They have been living amongst us.  We could just ignore them.  After all they aren’t hurting anyone.  But once we see them they are sooo ugly.  And we were here first.  Some of us will play along to get the “good life”.  But for one guy trying to keep to himself, this is something he can’t ignore.  The truth must get out.  Roddy Piper is here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and he’s all out of bubblegum.  But no happily ever after will be had here.  They are here to stay.  On the one hand, some movie watchers and critics dismiss They Live as just another action flick.  But if  you pay attention, like with all Carpenter movies, you can see Carpenter’s masterwork is much more complex and dips into our own world’s politics and those who do, and those who don’t, sell-out.

8.  ALIEN NATION (1988).  Much more than just a morality play and allegory to our own prejudices, Alien Nation digs into the struggles all lifeforms surely must face in a multi-species environment.  What motivates us, how do we get along with others?  James Caan (The Godfather, Elf) and Mandy Patinkin (Princess Bride) were perfectly cast as human and Tenctonese cops.  The film’s themes prompted an immediate successful TV series starring Gary Graham and Eric Pierpont.  Beyond the deeper themes, it’s a great police story and an odd, but fun, buddy movie of the Odd Couple variety. 

9.  WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005).  I almost didn’t see this remake in the theater.  But Tom Cruise movies are exciting and enjoyable 95% of the time.  So I saw it and just re-watched it a few weeks ago.  Here we see the futility of combating an invasion of even slightly more technology and might than us.  The situation really is hopeless.  All one can do is run.  As in They Live, with War of the Worlds the aliens have been here for a long time, only here they parked their vehicles here and are just now coming back to rev ’em up.  This movie has great special effects, truly creepy unsympathetic villains, and a lot of dread.  You really feel the pain of the result of alien visitors who don’t want to be our friends.  Yet another Spielberg blockbuster.

10.  DISTRICT 9 (2009).  A great film of political complexity.   A variant on Alien Nation, yet the same basic story.  An extraterrestrial race is forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth.  Their vessel runs out of resources and parks itself over South Africa.  It’s a blunt morality tale about the brutality of prejudice.  This one will strangely make you cheer against the humans.  Luckily for the visitors, they find a kindred spirit in a government agent who is accidentally exposed to their biotechnology.  You’ll find yourself asking:  What are your values?  How do you treat others who are different?  Where would you draw the line between life worthy of mutual respect and not?  Its documentary-style filming and non-American cast is refreshing and new.  And half the time you have to cringe at the protagonist’s actions.  Are we with him or not?

Honorable Mention: Starship Troopers (giant bugs destroy Rio de Janeiro, Johnny Rico is a classic western hero type), Enemy Mine (like Stagecoach, a human is stuck with an alien and even without a common language they come to realize how alike even different species can be and how valuable relationships can be formed by just trying to get along).

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

After a year of advertising, Cowboys and Aliens finally arrives in theaters June 29.  With a sci-fi western starring the coolest James Bond ever (Daniel Craig) and our favorite scoundrel/spice smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford), our current favorite actress on-the-rise, Olivia Wilde (Quorra in Tron: Legacy, Thirteen in House M.D.), and the coolest director cranking out hits, Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf), this movie is going to really have to screw it up to not be the biggest blockbuster of the year–even competing against Green Lantern, Thor, Captain America, another Harry Potter movie, another Pirates of the Caribbean movie, another Planet of the Apes movie, another X-Men movie and another Transformers movie.

And what do you look forward to the most?  The first big western in years?  Harrison Ford finally in a genre movie again?  Daniel Craig playing another cool as ice character?  That Boba Fett-style gauntlet blaster?  Favreau is on a roll with his recent films, and the trailer looks like it came out of a Philip K. Dick short story.  So while we’re waiting, eagerly, for Cowboys and Aliens to premiere, let’s run down a list of the all-time best westerns and alien movies.  We’ll start with the westerns and in two days we’ll look at the best alien movies.

1.  STAGECOACH (1939).  The best western director, John Ford, shooting in the best western location, Monument Valley, with the best western movie star, John Wayne.  A character study more than a standard shoot ’em up, the relationship of people trapped and how fear affects a small group dynamic and how each deals with an unseen threat just around the next turn.  Heroics and prejudice and good guys and bad guys.  Cowboys and Aliens is an obvious play on Cowboys and Indians, and this film follows a stagecoach ride under a threat of Geronimo and his posse–a real story of cowboys vs Indians in frontier America.  The source of the modern cool customer Han Solo-type, Wayne plays a tough but valiant Ringo Kid.

2.  FORT APACHE (1948).  Horse soldiers of the frontier, a mix of dying and dealing with command and authority, another John Ford and John Wayne partnership with a tough as nails Henry Fonda and the Ford/Wayne ensemble B-team of Victor McLaglen and Ward Bond.  Co-starring the no longer just a kid actor Shirley Temple.  This must have been what it was like to spend your years living out of a military fort.  Wayne grows in acting skill, develops his own persona and defines his swaggering hero with the confident and cocky Captain York.

3.  HIGH NOON (1952).  The rarity of a true hero in the face of real danger with no help from anyone.  Gary Cooper’s Marshal Kane must decide whether he is a runner or whether he must take a stand.  With Thomas Mitchel and a brilliant but frustrating Grace Kelly as the new Mrs. Kane.  Those who don’t like High Noon are usually frustrated with everyone but Cooper.  That’s because you’re supposed to be frustrated–sometimes people just don’t do the right thing until someone comes along and shows them the way.  Most of the film doesn’t make you feel good.  That’s why High Noon is not a garden variety western but a stand-out masterpiece.

4.  HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973).  Clint Eastwood directs himself in his best western role as the mysterious stranger.  I’m a big fan of genre bending and like Cowboys and Aliens bridges sci-fi and westerns, here we see a natural bridging of western meets ghost story.  Or does it?  Paint the town red?  Right on.  Seek a little revenge?  You bet.  Where Eastwood’s  other westerns seem to blur together, Drifter stands out as a film that seems to go a little crazy from the desert heat.

5.  THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962).  More John Ford directing John Wayne?  Yep, it’s because they were that good together.  And here we add on Jimmy Stewart as honest, frustrated but determined lawman turned senator, Ransom Stoddard.  Stewart’s Stoddard is a bit of High Noon’s Gary Cooper, but without the skill and edge.  Liberty is played by an oily, vile Lee Marvin in one of his best film roles.  And believe it or not, John Wayne again builds on his performance as the swaggering early Han Solo-type, including even a plotline pretty much stolen for the original Star Wars.  Whose steak did Liberty kick to the floor?  That was my steak, Valance.  Who shot Liberty Valance?  Watch and find out.

6.  MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946).  Yep, another John Ford directed masterpiece, again with Henry Fonda along with Ward Bond, but minus Wayne.  Walter Brennan is top-notch here playing the mouth flapper that made him famous.  The story is the most well known legend of the west:  the gunfight at the OK Corral.  Fonda plays Wyatt Earp, Victor Mature plays Doc Holliday.  Even if you know the story, Ford shows us how the streets of Tombstone were painted in blood more than a century ago.  Others have tried but no version of the story comes close to this classic.

7.  SHANE (1953).  Alan Ladd and Jean Arthur are perfect here, with real-life cowboy Ben Johnson along for the ride.  Neither a farmer nor rancher, Ladd’s Shane has his own code and his code is about being kind and reserved, despite his gunslinger past.  Like Wayne in Stagecoach, Cooper in High Noon, Stewart in Liberty Valance, and Eastwood in Drifter, Shane’s loner with the hidden past is sewn from the same cloth.  Not cool in a modern way, but in an example-setting way, Shane shows a young boy what kind of a man to grow up to be.  Like the triumph of the human spirit in several other great westerns, Shane is about looking out for the other guy.

8.  SILVERADO (1985).  My favorite western.  Lawrence Kasdan’s masterpiece that reintroduced the western genre and proved that you can make a western today every bit as good as decades ago.  The best ensemble western ever, yet it honestly pulls bits and pieces from all the other classics.  Kevin Kline’s Paden is an everyman just trying to get by, pulled into something he wants no part of.  Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner are brothers on their way to California who stop off on one last visit to their sister.  Too bad that the man who runs Silverado now is the son of the guy Glenn’s character went to jail for killing, and he just won’t let it go.  Enter Brian Dennehy as the sheriff and the Old West’s most perfect bartender named Stella, played by Linda Hunt. “Cobb can’t hurt me if he’s dead.”  With Danny Glover, Patricia Arquette and John Cleese.  Where’s the dog, Paden?

9.  THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960).  John Sturges directs an all-star cast in the best remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.  Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn and Charles Bronson are each skilled with their own special powers.  They must team up to complete a simple task–and selecting the team for the job is just plain fun.  Charles Coburn is solid as the expert in knife throwing.  A rollicking, exciting western.  Sturges’ line-up of heroes and familiar images of an up-and-coming western town is classic Old West.

10.  BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969).  Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Katherine Ross star in the other most famous story of the west.  Bank robbers and the best ever buddy movie.  The trio play off each other so naturally you really miss these people after the movie is over.  Great fun, with popular music of the day.  “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” as a pop song behind Newman and Ross’s bicycle ride reflects a carefree spirit that must have accompanied the actual risky band of gunslingers.  The film stands strong today and on multiple viewings Newman and Redford only seem to get better.

HONORABLE MENTION: RIO BRAVO (John Wayne in a low-key performance, with some classic gunfight scenes, including a slick dive and rifle throw and catch scene you’ll have to rewind and watch again and again), BEND IN THE RIVER (Jimmy Stewart and the best western scenery outside of Monument Valley), ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (John Wayne’s quiet anti-hero/hero and the innocent Gail Russell have chemistry and somehow manage to come off as made for each other).

MUSICAL WESTERNS YOU SHOULD NOT MISS:  OKLAHOMA! (“the farmer and the cowman can be friends”), PAINT YOUR WAGON (Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin singing a good musical under backdrop of the sudden growth of a western town)

Delve further into the genre and check out these other actors from classic westerns:  Gene Autry, Dale Evans, Glenn Ford, Gabby Hayes, Tom Mix, Audie Murphy, Roy Rogers, Randolph Scott, and the Sons of the Pioneers.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg

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