For many people, Michael Cimino’s 1980 epic “Heaven’s Gate” represents the worst of cinema. For others, however, the film is an original and audacious work that did not deserve the harsh reviews and box office failure in its initial release. On this episode, film critic Jerry Roberts joins Phil Hall to discuss the merits and mishaps of this still-polarizing work.
I’m old enough to remember that, despite being a goofy vehicle for the Brat Pack, that “Young Guns” was pretty popular and warranted its own follow up. Now shedding the whole gimmick aside, Geoff Murphy spends his movie following Billy the Kid, as he attempts to hide from the law and make a deal with a new Marshall who swears to release him and let him off without being hanged. Of course he turns his back on the deal, prompting Billy to flee with his gang and his two old friends Chavez and Doc, both of whom are re-introduced as having been caught and imprisoned. “Young Guns II” avoids the goofy opening sequence in favor of a campy shot of a very old Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez in old man make up) who calls a lawyer to meet him in a neutral zone.
This is the story of The Regulators. No wait, this is the story of Billy the Kid. No this is the story of how Billy the Kid met Pat Garrett. Oh hell, it’s all of that and essentially a remake of “The Cowboys.” Rather than a small group of boys who avenge their mentor in a dramatic finale, this group of young men avenges their caretaker in the beginning and we’re stuck with them for the duration. And they do so in a very long and cheesy Western that jumps in and out of so many sub-plots that it becomes exhausting. Christopher Cain’s “Young Guns” is really only a film you’ll likely love if you were between 13 and 19 in 1988. It’s another attempt to tack the brat pack on to a movie genre, and it pretty much fails from the moment we’re introduced to various characters in a goofy opening credits sequence. Every character is essentially some kind of gimmicky contributor to the narrative, only delivering broad Western cliches.
As we all saw with Tarantino a few years ago, the idea of Will Smith in a Western isn’t a bad one. Smith has a modern look that’s not accessible for every film, but with the right director Smith could shine. It’s just too bad he straddled himself to Barry Sonnenfeld who casts Will in one of the most poorly conceived TV to movie adaptations of all time. “Wild Wild West” is worse than “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Charlie’s Angels” combined. What’s worse is that director Sonnenfeld has absolutely no idea how to utilize Smith in a Western setting. So by the time the movie has started, rather than rely on the pulpy martial arts theme from the original series, the movie just becomes a showcase for Will Smith to be Will Smith. Even in the old West, Smith is the wise cracking, shade wearing, cowboy who is a hit with the ladies.
Time seems to be the central theme of the animated shorts for the Oscars this year, as all of the animated shorts have some semblance of the theme of time. Most of the shorts spend their story examining the beauty of the past and the present, while others examine the tragedy of the past, the present, and the future. As with most years at the Oscars, you won’t always find typical animated entries, but this year’s crop have been quite special and incredibly thought provoking. I take a second glance at the shorts this year, and what I am voting to win come February 26th.
ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE – It’s devastating how truly life can change from one extreme to another. One moment we’re enjoying life and soaking in an afternoon, and the next we’re facing guilt and horrific loss. “Borrowed Time” is a very on the nose description of what Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj’s narrative entails, but it still manages to be an emotional and brutally heartbreaking tale about loss and death. An aging sheriff stands on the edge of a cliff. It’s the very same cliff that has haunted him his entire life no matter how hard he has tried to forget it.
In a year where Hollywood is trying very hard to resurrect the star studded Western once more, Ti West comes along and casts Ethan Hawke in one of the most simplistic love letters to the sub-genre ever filmed. “In a Valley of Violence” doesn’t so much have a narrative as it has a string of events that coincide with one another, leading in to a chain of revenge, violence, and death. Ethan Hawke’s character isn’t a hero, and John Travolta’s character isn’t entirely villainous, they’re both pushed in to unfortunate corners. It then becomes a bunch of scoundrels striking one another down thanks to the actions of one individual who sets up a huge string of events that slam in to one another in bloody chaos. Ethan Hawke stars as enigmatic Paul, a lone drifter who has only his side arms, his horse, and his loyal dog Abbey by his side.
John Sturges’ “The Magnificent Seven” is such a pitch perfect example of how to accomplish a remake. And Sturges has his work cut out for him as “The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” Kurosawa’s film was already considered a classic by 1960, and was a juggernaut of foreign cinema that influenced filmmakers and studios worldwide. Even today its influence over cinema is immense. So it’s no small feat that “The Magnificent Seven” is just as good as the original and can stand side by side with it as another version of the tale that is as compelling and action packed. In fact Kurosawa loved it so much he allegedly sent Sturges a ceremonial sword as a bid a token of approval for his version.