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Talking Westerns

by Moe - 1 Comment(s)



Westerns have been a highly popular recurring theme here at Movie Maniacs. After all they are a bit of everything — morality play, cautionary tale, heroic epics, romance, adventure — more often than not set against glorious scenery that takes you back to when the earth was unblemished. And quite often filmed in Calgary and surrounds.

While Vancouver is often used as a location shoot because it can represent just about any large American city (only more beautiful), Cochrane, Longview and Kananaskis are filmed because they capture the unspoiled vistas we associate with a by-gone era. Often to the extent that the location is so powerful it can take on the importance of another character in a film. Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Ang Lee and Brad Pitt have all chosen local areas for westerns.

Some of the more famous are Legends of the Fall, still one of my favourite sagas; Little Big Man, way too campy, but it did have its moments, and the scenery was spectacular; Unforgiven, granddaddy of them all and a big Oscar win for Clint; The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, very good performances, especially by Casey Affleck who turned puling into an art form; Brokeback Mountain, which will not be for everybody and is a 'western' only in the sense that they wore western clothes. Until they didn't. Open Range was filmed on the Stoney Reserve in southern Alberta and stars two perennial cowboys, Kevin Costner and Robert Duval.

Which brings us to Hell on Wheels. Filming of the first season took place in Calgary, and areas in central and southern Alberta. The T'suu T'ina Reserve was the location for most of the exteriors. Filming of the third season was suspended part way through when the location was included in the mandatory evacuation due to the 2013 floods. The fourth season's filming will also take place along the Bow and wind up around September 24, 2014.

The film and television industries are an important part of the Alberta economic landscape.The construction of a new $22 million Calgary Film Centre will include 50,000 sq ft of purpose-built sound stages, 20,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space and an additional 15,000 sq ft. for production, props, sets and wardrobes.

Have a wonderful Stampede! If you have visitors, watch one of these westerns and then try and show them the locations!

Old Dogs When Younger

by Melanie - 0 Comment(s)

New Tricks is a British crime series that has aired for ten seasons. What distinguishes it is the mix of humour and investigation (it has more ongoing humour than in Midsomer Murders). I was skeptical at first but the show offers serious police procedure and a different cold case each week. On the plus side, it's not gory or forensic-based unlike nearly every show on TV for the last few years.

In New Tricks, retired police make up the Unsolved Crimes and Open Case Squad. Brian is a recovering alcoholic with OCD, Jerry the lad with multiple ex-wives and a gambling urge, and Jack, a widower who still converses with his wife who's buried in his back yard. Heading up the team is Sandra, the long-suffering chief superintendent whom everyone assumes is someone's girlfriend.

If you are already enjoying this series, check out their earlier endeavors:

Circles of Deceit, starring Jerry (Dennis Waterman) and Brian's wife (Susan Jameson) in a not-so-meek-and-mild role as the Controller.

Garrow's Law, the 18th century courtroom drama, in which a younger Brian (Alun Armstrong) plays a judge.

The One That Started It All

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

I’m a sucker for Godzilla, going all the way back to the 1954 Japanese original — ‘Gojira’. In 1956, it was re-released as Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, which utilized much of the original film. This version featured newly shot scenes with Canadian actor Raymond Burr spliced into the original Japanese footage. We have a great two DVD set that features both of these titles for comparison.

In the early films Godzilla is used as a symbol to represent the horror of nuclear war and ever since the film's initial release, Godzilla has been culturally identified as a strong metaphor for the danger of nuclear proliferation.

Putting an actor in the Godzilla suit had actually been a last resort. The studio had been deeply impressed with the stop-motion animation method used in King Kong but it was considered far too costly and time-consuming. It was decided that the easiest way to go was a stuntman in a monster suit, and a scale-model of Tokyo. This also proved difficult. The first attempt at a Godzilla suit was far too stiff and heavy, & nearly impossible to use. They finally hit on a design that worked but that too was gruelling. The stuntmen would suffer numerous bouts of heat exhaustion and dehydration and the suit had to have a valve to drain the sweat from it. Also, in order to avoid suffocation, the suit could only been worn for three minutes at a time — some estimates put it at weighing in at 200 pounds.

CPL also has King Kong versus Godzilla, a 1962 Japanese Kaiju film produced by the same Toho Studios that first conceived the original Gojira. It was the third instalment in the Japanese series of films featuring the much maligned monster. There is also a Matthew Broderick Godzilla version from 1998 but don’t waste your time looking for it- it is marginal at best.

Kaiju , is a Japanese word that translates to "strange creature." Kaiju films usually showcase monsters of any form, typically attacking a major Japanese city or engaging another monster in battle. This concept was put to great effect in last year’s Pacific Rim, another movie I really liked and have blogged before. Put aside all your critical reasoning and just enjoy as you watch giant malevolent Kaijus battle massive robots called Jaegers. Good clean (if highly destructive) fun!

This post was inspired by the latest Godzilla currently showing in theatres. If you are a fan you'll like the homage they pay to the original concept and if you aren't, chances are good you'll like it anyway. Worth your time and your money and the first film in what looks like a fairly good summer season shaping up.