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Tag Archive: westerns


   

Dynamite is releasing a new Western series based on a classic Native American fictional hero.  Originally starring in Dell Four Color Comics and Gold Key classics from the 1950s, Turok is back.  Turok is the dinosaur hunter known to more recent generations via periodic visits in the pages of comics and in video games.  Since 2013 three series have featured the character, including comics by Greg Pak, Phil Hester, and Chuck Wendig.

The latest Turok story finds him trying to save his brother from the U.S. Cavalry in a frontier story sporting the John Ford landscape of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache, and Rio Grande.  That’s thanks to artist Roberto Castro.  His action sequences are a mix of Jock and Bill Sienkiewicz, but the grand vistas are all Monument Valley and Illustrated Classics.  Ron Marz‘s story has the gritty feel of Jimmy Palmiotti’s New 52 run on Jonah Hex–the story has plenty of potential coming out of its first issue.

  

Look for four covers for this release, by Castro and Salvatore Aiala, Bart Sears, Butch Guice and Dan Brown, and Jeffrey Veregge.

Here is a preview of Turok, Issue #1, courtesy of Dynamite:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Maybe you don’t need the Old West to have a great Western after all.  Bringing back the feel of the first third of the original Star Wars: A New Hope with a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid level of fun and humor, Solo: A Star Wars Story is finally in theaters with something for every Star Wars fan.  The saloons may be different and so are the sidearms, but this is the story of a young gunfighter, complete with the related outlaws and mercenaries, partners and betrayals, card playing, and gunfights.  With the sweeping adventure of The Empire Strikes Back, the perfectly rebuilt and repackaged nostalgia of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and a jumping off point for a galaxy of possibilities for beloved characters we only thought we knew, director Ron Howard delivers.  Not weighted down by the gloom and doom of the Dark Side in Rogue One or the rest of the Star Wars films, this Star Wars story creates new and original locations and situations for a few familiar characters plus many new ones and still ties into the overall episodic stories, taking place after Revenge of the Sith, but before Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One.  Yet we meet many new characters and questions are raised in the film that beg for one or more sequels to this branch off the main Star Wars saga–we can now have many new tie-in novels, comics, TV series, and maybe even movies to keep it all going.  If you didn’t think The Last Jedi captured the nostalgia or fun of earlier Star Wars films, then Solo is for you–not since The Empire Strikes Back has an entry in the saga been such a rollercoaster ride.

Surprises?  In a film that could have just filled in the blanks, the surprises were dished out from beginning to end, including some big ones we won’t mention here.  The overall tone is something out of Amazing High Adventure, and it makes perfect sense: It’s Silverado in space.  Screenplay writer Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote the screenplay with son Jonathan Kasdan), known for writing Westerns Silverado and Wyatt Earp, prior Star Wars entries The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, and that greatest of adventure movies Raiders of the Lost Ark, was the perfect match to veteran director and movie icon Ron Howard.  The Western inspiration is supported visually in the Frederic Remington-inspired colors and landscapes.  You can spot the World War II movie references along the way, too, that Kasdan and Howard no doubt enjoyed as moviegoers over the years, like Von Ryan’s Express.  The relationships between characters evoke gangster movies and even pirate tales like Treasure Island.  Science fiction fans will see parallels to Han’s band of mercenaries in both the crew of the Ghost in Star Wars Rebels and Joss Whedon’s Serenity crew in the Firefly television series.

The Kasdans smartly injected those scenes every fan has thought about, pulled from passing references throughout the original trilogy to become fully realized plot threads, and then they folded in so much more.  Without the religion and mysticism of the Force, Solo: A Star Wars Story breaks the precedents of the saga as space fantasy to become arguably the first end-to-end science fiction movie of the franchise.  And it’s not just a fun movie.  Viewers will get plenty to think about.  Characters here are sometimes swapped into positions taken by other characters (and beasts) in prior movies in a way that will make moviegoers want to take another look at the prior films again.

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The Western lives!  Recent films Bone Tomahawk, the remake of The Magnificent Seven, and The Hateful Eight will attest to that, and this summer a young generation of actors takes the lead roles in the genre’s next entry, the movie Damsel.  Brothers David Zellner and Nathan Zellner direct (and co-star with) Alice in Wonderland and Crimson Peak’s Mia Wasikowska and Twilight and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’s Robert Pattinson, portraying pioneers on the American frontier, a disparate band of characters encountering struggles that adversely affect their journey.

Unlike modern neo-Westerns like Wind River or Hell or High Water, the setting here is vintage Old West.  Despite its modern vision, the Magnolia Pictures release seems to have some of that Louis L’Amour charm.  The big draw for fans of Robert Forster (Jackie Brown, Heroes, Twin Peaks) and his vast catalog of work will be watching him in his brief role as a preacher, the kind of part typically reserved for character actor and Western movie staple, Sam Elliott.

As with Quentin Tarentino’s The Hateful Eight, the trailer conveys a very modern, off-kilter brand of Western, typical of the kinds of films the directors are known for.  It’s a quirky comedy, but the film has been praised from its Sundance premiere as respecting the films that came before it, like the classics of John Ford.  Cinematographer Adam Stone (Midnight Special) shot the film in Ford’s trademark location, the celebrated Monument Valley.

Here is the trailer for the new Western movie, Damsel:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After reading Michael Crichton’s groundbreaking science fiction novel Jurassic Park, I was hooked, and set out to read everything else he had written before and awaited each subsequent work with excitement.  I quickly learned that you can identify his work through his character choices and his storytelling, and not only were his ideas fresh and new (Crichton passed away in 2008), he knew how to spin a good yarn.  Yet, except for the Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World, each of his books is completely different from one another.  In common the books follow intelligent people who set about accomplishing something unprecedented.  Crichton’s latest (and perhaps final?) posthumous novel is Dragon Teeth, and in true form it is both a brilliant Crichton work, and also unlike anything he’d written before.  It arrives at bookstores later this week.

Shelf Dragon Teeth alongside Jurassic Park as the very best of Crichton.

Here at borg.com I’ve so far reviewed three of Crichton’s eight “lost” novels penned under pseudonyms.  In the early days of borg.com I reviewed Crichton’s Micro, a posthumously published novel Crichton hadn’t quite finished when he died, which included the technology that could shrink humans to half-an-inch tall beings.  With Dragon Teeth, there is no suspension of disbelief required as with many of his works.  This story is historical fiction, and a Western–easily one of the best Westerns I’ve read.  We meet a college student in 1876 named William Johnson.  He is an arrogant, self-absorbed son of a shipping magnate who takes on a dare and ends up accompanying a professor on a journey across the Old West in an early search for dinosaur bones–then newly-discovered proof that the planet is much older than previously thought.  The professor, one of the early paleontologists, is in a lifelong battle with another, competing paleontologist and their squabble becomes deadly as Johnson finds himself a pawn in repeated attempts at oneupsmanship.  Based on the feud of real-life 19th century professors, Dragon Teeth sucks the reader into every black and white Western movie where the heroes weren’t all that heroic, the dust was thick, the path was treacherous, and each new day could very well be your last.

Crichton stitched together all the Western spots you didn’t want to find yourself in as an outsider in 1876–Cheyenne, across the Badlands, into Montana and Wyoming territory, and the end of the line in murky Deadwood.  Dragon Teeth has all the atmosphere of Silverado, and reads with both the folklore of a Louis L’Amour novel and the peril and adventure of a Jon Krakauer true-life account.  You’ll find deceit and friendship as they existed beyond the frontier, Native American friends and enemies, and a look inside political and religious clashes that exist to this day.

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hell-or-high-water

Review by C.J. Bunce

For fans of the traditional Western, Hell or High Water is a Western in name only.  Sure, it has the hallmarks:  Frank and Jesse James-inspired bank robbers, it takes place in a Western enough locale, and there’s plenty of cowboy hats and even horses and cattle.  But it’s something very different, and reviewers calling it a Western are setting the wrong expectations.  Yes, it’s closer to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven than your typical fare, but not that close.  A nontraditional Western?  Barely, maybe.  Better described it’s a drama in Western dress.  It’s also a look at a place and time: West Texas, today.  Which makes it in other ways a West Texas version of the Coen Brothers’ Fargo.  You’ll see plenty of life reflected with a Texas cultural twist.  Good and bad.  Strangely enough, if life is indeed reflected in the cinema each year, Hell or High Water is the best reflection of America to hit theaters in 2016.

In addition to the perfect Western title, Hell or High Water has the perfect imperfect hangman sheriff in its Ranger Marcus Hamilton, played by Jeff Bridges in what is yet another brilliant supporting character role.  If he hadn’t landed the Oscar for True Grit, he’d have it for this.  Bridges plays another crotchety old man, he’s days from retirement, and all soaked in his own blissful ignorance of his racism, much like Clint Eastwood’s old man in Gran Torino and Eastwood’s own take on the Texas Ranger in pursuit in the 1993 “modern Western” A Perfect World.  Bridges’ partner is the put-upon Comanche Ranger Alberto Parker, played by Gil Birmingham, an actor of actual Comanche lineage who has guest starred on numerous genre classic series including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Veronica Mars, Castle, and even Riptide.  At times Birmingham gets his Oscar-worthy moments, too, especially when he fires back at Hamilton with equally biting quips.

hell-or-high-water-poster-gallery-e1473724897947

The Rangers are hunting down two brothers, played by Star Trek and Wonder Woman’s Chris Pine and 3:10 to Yuma and X: Men: The Last Stand’s Ben Foster, who have a strange plan to rob a Midland Texas chain of banks because they learned the banks’ network of video recording hardware is being updated, with the added bonus of being able to launder the money through an Oklahoma casino.  The movie trailers laid out every aspect of the plot–why they need the money–more concisely than its laid out in the film, but the film is really part character study of the brothers, part indictment of the banking system, and the destruction of the family unit, and everything else wrong in the world.  To that end this is a typical drama, but it has its moments, including a quality bank robber story.

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magnificent-seven-banner-2016

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s almost more useful to critique the critics than the new movie The Magnificent Seven, released in theaters this weekend.  You’ll find the whole lot so predictable.  The Magnificent Seven is a reboot or a remake (call it what you want) and so the best that critics are willing to do is provide the phoned-in, knee-jerk dismissal of it being something less than the original and therefore not worth the time it takes them to write a thoughtful review.  Or they will compare it to the best Westerns of all time, and tell you why it falls short.  The better reviews will point out that it’s a remake of the 1960 classic Western starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen.  The smarter ones will remind you that even that version was based on the original Japanese version, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.  Paycheck earned.  Existence justified.  But that’s all too easy.

Yes, the original 1960 John Sturges version is both a great Western and quite fun (it’s on my top ten list).  The darker original Japanese film is more dramatic, brilliant in its simplicity, and not so much a rousing popcorn movie.  Is the 2016 remake among the best Westerns of all time?  Maybe not.  But is it a good Western?  Absolutely.  Do we always want to see the best picture nominee when we go to the theater?  I don’t.  I want to have fun.  And The Magnificent Seven is a blast.  In fact, critics are looking at it wrong.  It’s actually the year’s best superhero movie.

I understand the modern film critic’s dilemma, especially when Hollywood seems to have lost its imagination, churning out remake after remake.  It’s the same old song:  If you were a fan of–or better yet–love the original, you’re more likely than not to brush off the remake altogether, or at least not give it the attention it deserves.  Those who never saw the original or those who can view a remake as its own incarnation–those who can tell themselves their feelings for the remake will not “ruin” their feelings about the original–probably enjoyed the Star Trek reboot from 2009, or Always, or Assault on Precinct 13, or The Flight of the Phoenix, The Fog, The Jackal, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Money Pit, Ocean’s Eleven, RoboCop, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, or Walking Tall.  Each of these, viewed on their own merits is a great film.  They may even be good remakes.  Those who avoid The Magnificent Seven are missing out on a fun outing.  And a good remake.

sensmeier-magnificent-seven-scene

Today’s ensemble movie is mostly found in the superhero genre.  Stack up The Magnificent Seven against The Avengers, The Avengers 2, or Captain America: Civil War, or any DC Comics superhero film of the past 20 years, and it leaves them all in its dust in its success in introducing a team, getting them to work together, and MacGyver the situation into some giant climactic battles.  Each of the titular seven stars of the movie have their own extraordinary abilities, they just don’t wear capes.  It’s an ensemble piece.  A superhero team-up.  So why don’t we have a casting Oscar?  The three casting directors knew what they were doing–they created the teams for Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Sin City, and Star Wars Episode VIII.

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Mag 7

Sony has finally released the first trailer for the remake of The Magnificent Seven, which we first previewed here at borg.com last May.  Based on a reworked script by Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective) and John Lee Hancock (Snow White And The Huntsman) from the classic John Sturges film starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, the new version will be directed by Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer, Shooter, King Arthur, Training Day). 

The list of leading actors is promising: Denzel Washington (2 Guns, Unstoppable, The Manchurian Candidate, Training Day, Philadelphia, Much Ado About Nothing), Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World, Moneyball, Everwood), Vincent D’Onofrio (Men in Black, Jurassic World, Daredevil), Byung-hun Lee (Terminator Genisys, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, RED 2), Matt Bomer (White Collar, Tru Calling, Chuck), and Ethan Hawke (Gattaca, Dead Poet’s Society, White Fang, Alive, Training Day, Assault on Precinct 13) should come together to form an interesting ensemble cast.

The 1960 cast was as gritty as they come: Brynner and McQueen were joined by Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Robert Vaughn with Brad Dexter and Horst Buchholz.

Magnificent Seven clip

If you think a remake of one of the greatest Westerns of all time is a bad idea, recall that The Magnificent Seven itself was a remake of Akira Kurasawa’s equally superb The Seven Samurai from 1954, starring Takashi Shimura and Toshirô Mifune.  We’d also count Washington, Bomer, Hawke, Lee, and Pratt among our favorite actors in Hollywood, so this is promising.  Other actors slated for the remake include Peter Sarsgaard, Luke Grimes, and Haley Bennett (who is a ringer for Bryce Dallas Howard in the previews).

Check out this first trailer for The Magnificent Seven:

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Wynonna Earp gun

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

We at borg.com have been big fans of several recent series on SyFy, notably those coming from Canadian showrunner Emily Andras (Lost Girl, Killjoys).  Well, Andras is back with an all-new series that we previewed here that looks to be just as fun, once again with a powerful female lead.  Based on the IDW comic of the same name, Wynonna Earp is a paranormal Western, in the tradition of the anthology Dead Man’s Hand, (reviewed here) and borg.com favorite All-Star Western, featuring Jonah Hex (reviewed here).

On her twenty-seventh birthday, Earp family black sheep Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano, Haven, The Listener) returns home to Purgatory (presumably Alberta) to attend her uncle’s funeral, and inherit the family curse: She’s become the Earp Heir, the only person capable of wielding her great-great-granddaddy’s Colt .45 Buntline Special, known as “Peacemaker.”  See, Purgatory and the Earps are haunted by the ghosts–or Revenants–of Sherriff Wyatt Earp’s kills.  And every generation of Earps must hunt down the undead again, until all 77 have been dispatched for good.  The trouble is, Wynonna wasn’t actually the Heir–that dubious honor ought to have belonged to elder sister Willa.  But Willa and their father were killed by Revenants when Wynonna was just a kid, leaving Purgatory, Wynonna, and younger sister Waverly unprotected.

Doc Holliday Wynonna Earp

The series has just aired its third episode (Episode 4 airs Friday, April 22), and it’s off to a fantastic start.  Andras has a great knack for blending excellent worldbuilding, sci-fi and paranormal elements, winning characters, and humor.  Scrofano is sharp-tongued and swaggering, a perfect modern-day gunslinger, and she’s backed up with an excellent supporting cast.  Shamier Anderson (Defiance) plays Agent Dolls, special agent of the Black Badge Division, a sort of Men in Black-style “cross-border” paranormal task force, and Dominique Provost-Chalkley as overeager little sister Waverly is a funny and delightful sidekick.  But the standout is Tim Rozon (Being Human, Lost Girl) as the mysterious Henry, immediately identifiable (though not identified) as the ghost of Doc Holliday, sporting a lazy drawl and unclear motives that make him absolutely captivating–utterly unrecognizable from his vile Lost Girl character.

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Bone Tomahawk

Review by C.J. Bunce

Writer/director S. Craig Zahler’s 2015 film release Bone Tomahawk starts as a classic Western about life on the frontier–living at home, visiting the local saloon, working in the local Sheriff’s office.  It quickly becomes a genre-bending damsel in distress/ “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do” picture and much more.  Several other genre elements are woven together to create a solid, serious drama that is equal parts suspense thriller and gritty, meaty Western that rises above most efforts to make a classic Western in the past 45 years, if you forgive it for one scene that dips into gruesome, in-your-face horror.  Put Bone Tomahawk up there with Silverado.  It’s a far better Western than even the much celebrated Unforgiven.

Bone Tomahawk follows four men as they pursue the mysterious captors of a local frontier doctor–a woman (played by Lili Simmons)–and the criminal she was operating on (played by David Arquette) and the on-hand sheriff’s deputy (played by Evan Jonigkeit).  It’s a simple story, yet it couldn’t be more unique in its execution.  In possibly Kurt Russell’s finest bit of reserved, serious acting ever on film, he plays Sheriff Hunt.  Made of the same mettle as Gary Cooper in High Noon and John Wayne in The Searchers, he is relentless in his pursuit.  Patrick Wilson is equally relentless as the husband of the missing doctor.  His leg has been wounded from a fall and so he must forge ahead limping along throughout the film as he sleuths out what is really going on.  Think of him as a mix of Gary Cooper in Sergeant York and Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window Lost’s Matthew Fox is the slick but honorable, impeccably dressed gentleman barfly, who once had a thing for the doctor, and volunteers to help find her.  The posse is rounded out by the now crotchety character actor from film and TV, Richard Jenkins.  He’s droll and provides a different flavor of humor along the way.

Bone Tomahawk movie poster

Zahler isn’t afraid to let the movie flow at its own pace, and allow the viewer to soak up the scenery, the Western tropes, the camaraderie of the team as they eat and sleep and take their horses forward through the long desert way.  It’s an 1890s Assault on Precinct 13, only like High Plains Drifter the nature of the mystery is hidden from us for so long that the anticipation warrants calling this out as a top-notch suspense thriller.  Who stole the townsfolk and are they still alive?  And what is that strange music we hear in the wind before bodies start falling?  Like The Ghost and the Darkness, you want to run away from what is out there waiting for you–this feels like a ghost story, maybe even every frontier family’s personal nightmare come to life.

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The-Hateful-Eight

No one said this job was supposed to be easy.

Quentin Tarentino filmed his latest Western, The Hateful Eight, in 70 mm Panavision so it should look beautiful on the big screen.  He’s hired Ennio Morricone, composer of the scores for A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, for the ultimate throwback feel.  By all accounts The Hateful Eight looks like it will be an interesting ride.

Kurt Russell plays another tough-guy role.  We’ll hopefully add John “The Hangman” Ruth to the likes of his classic characters Burton and Plissken.  A few years after the Civil War, Ruth is transporting a fugitive named Daisy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to a town called Red Rock.  After picking up a bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) along the way, they hole up in a log cabin to seek shelter from a snowstorm, and learn the place is filled with various other baddies: The Sheriff (Walton Goggins), The Mexican (Demian Bichir), The Little Man (Tim Roth), The Cow Puncher (Michael Madsen), and the Confederate (Bruce Dern).  Who will get out alive?

Hateful Eight comic-Con SDCC 2015 poster Tarentino

Check out the latest trailer for The Hateful Eight:

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