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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!

It's beginning to look a lot like

by Melanie - 0 Comment(s)

We were of two minds about putting up a Christmas post this year. This isn't a bah humbug kind of thing, it's just there is so much available on television at the moment and nothing new that really grabbed us. We all know the classics and CPL has a great selection, so rather than post suggestions, just pop into our catalogue and have a look see at the hundreds of Christmas titles we have.

So let's go a less traditonal route and have a look at a very good western.

Don’t be fooled by the number of rotten tomatoes that The Proposition received. This is a graphically violent, but thoughtful western set in the dramatic landscape of the Australian outback. Cave’s character is captured when he misses his band of outlaws' escape and the Sherriff offers him freedom in exchange for assistance in the capture of one of the other outlaws: his psychopathic brother.

We watch and wonder whose side Cave’s character is on as the pursuit unfolds. We also see the impact of 19th century colonialism on the aboriginal population. The soundtrack, given Nick Cave’s involvement, is awesome.

Fun Fact: Did you know Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds did music for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt.1?

Best Westerns Vll

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

I put up a Western post in time for Stampede every year, but that didn't pan out this year because of the flooding in our beautiful city around that time! They have been a very popular recurring theme here at Movie Maniacs and we have dozens and dozens of our faves recommended in previous posts. But westerns are worthy of being watched anytime---I’ve tried to find some of the newer titles but of course they don’t make Westerns nearly often enough these days. Which is too bad, because a well-done Western is worth it's weight in oats.

Take a look at any of the following:

Kevin Costner’s The Hatfield’s and McCoy’s- great cast, big budget, multi award winning mini-series

Rango, for the whole family, as opposed to Django Unchained which is only for adults of strong constitutions

Cowboys and Aliens- the title says it all---very entertaining, with a strong cast including Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Paul Dano and Sam Rockwell


Hell on Wheels, this one is filmed in and around Calgary. We've blogged this more than once- it's an excellent series

Brand new to our collection, the Adventures of Brisco County Jr is just a lot of silly fun. This series from 1993 is available in one big 27 episode collection, so before you embark on this adventure set aside 23 hours! Featuring a Harvard graduate bounty hunter, robber baron's, and a recurring mysterious golden orb. Set this in the 1890's, reel it out like vintage movie serials, add a lot of tongue in cheek and keep it "just under over the top". It was well regarded by the critics and had a fierce and loyal following but in spite of that was not renewed beyond the initial first year.

And speaking of filmed in and around Calgary, try any of these sure bets: Shanghai Noon, Unforgiven, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Legends of the Fall and Open Range. And although not filmed near here, I'd feel remiss if I didn't plug my fave western of all time, the wonderful mini series Lonesome Dove.

Best Westerns

- 0 Comment(s)

You would be hard pressed to find a major star from the 40's, 50's and 60's who wasn't in a western and of course the 70's were full of Clint Eastwood and his 'spaghetti westerns'. But don't dismiss them because of what you think you might know about them- they are among the best. We have a huge assortment from which to choose so let us help you narrow it down a bit--- here is a recap of some of Moe and Mel's previously blogged faves.

My absolute favourite western of all time is the wonderful series Lonesome Dove. It is based on the 1985 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Larry McMurtry. The story focuses on the relationship of several retired Texas Rangers and their adventures driving a cattle herd from Texas to Montana. It has a huge cast including Robert Duvall (who has never been better), Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover, Diane Lane, Robert Urich, Rick Schroeder, Angelica Houston, and Chris Cooper. It was the first in the series of the books to be put onto film, but was so successful that all the titles were done over the next several years. Return to Lonesome Dove is next, then Streets of Laredo, and finally the prequel Dead Man's Walk. The only weak one in the lot is Streets, but it is still worth a look. These are all mini-series, not movies, so you are going to have to set aside some serious watching time, but it is worth it. Even if you are not usually a fan of westerns, watch at least the original Lonesome Dove. You'll thank me for it. I think I have talked myself into watching it again- this will make the 7th time! And I may just have to reread the books as well.

High Noon---Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly trying to get away from it all on their wedding day. Well, maybe a little bit more happens.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. With two quintessential western stars- Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. Also with perennial favourite bad guy, Lee Marvin.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller---A gambler and a prostitute become business partners in a remote Old West mining town. From 1971 and directed by the wonderful Robert Altman---starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.

Most Westerns are really morality plays that just happen to be set in the west. None are better at exploring the dark side of man's nature than The Oxbow Incident and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The first with Henry Fonda, and the later with Bogart.

Open Range- Robert Duvall again, and also another veteran of westerns, Kevin Costner. This was filmed in the Calgary area. Speaking of Costner, check out Silverado. I know this is on tv at least twice a month, especially as it has just had its 25th anniversary, but it's a good bet with a big cast, a more than solid story, and just rollicking good fun.

And if all this is just way more serious than you want, sit down for some good laughs from the delightfully irreverent mind of Mel Brooks---yes, I am talking Blazing Saddles.

 

Pierce Brosnan in a western? Are you kidding? In Seraphim Falls, he's nothing like his charming Remington Steele or 007 personae. In fact, he's believable as a craggy former army captain on the run from a man determined to catch him at all costs. Liam Neeson plays his tormentor, and Angelica Huston makes an enigmatic cameo appearance, and why not? Her grandfather made a great cameo in another great western, Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Seraphim Falls is a sort of "To build a Fire" meets "Mantracker," and that's just the beginning of the movie. Add the pacing of "Dead Man" and the humor of Leone, and that's the essence of this story of the folly of revenge.

Dead Man

Follow William Blake (Johnny Depp) through the wilderness with a group of no goods and a native guide. He just can't catch a break in this humorous and unconventional film from one of my favorite directors: Jim Jarmusch.

Englishman's Boy

Originally a made for tv short series, this is based on Alberta author Guy Vanderhaeg's novel. If you can stomach some violence, the story is worth it. Nicholas Campbell (Da Vinci's Inquest) plays the protagonist driven by events to the edge of his tolerance and it's his best acting.

For pete's sake, if you haven't seen any of Sergio Leone's "spagetti westerns" made famous by Clint Eastwood, do so. These are westerns for people who don't like westerns...The cinematography is beautiful and atmospheric and really defined Western cinema after it.

Don't miss: Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Clint is always excellent as the quiet hand of justice (and sometimes comedy) in his encounters with the law and outlaws.

Tried to whistle the theme song didn't ya...heh heh heh

"Git" your holds on now for the Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936). It's a real tear-jerker at times, starring Spanky of Our Gang and Henry Fonda.

Redux: Shootout at the OK Corral

- 0 Comment(s)

We have three versions of this very popular story. I actually like them all for different reasons.

First up is the wonderful 1946 black and white featuring Henry Fonda and Victor Mature as the consumptive Doc Holliday- My Darling Clementine.

Next is the 1993 offering Tombstone with a really solid list of A-stars of the time- Val Kilmer, Kurt Russell, Sam Elliot, Bill Paxton and Michael Biehn. I have always been a big Kurt Russell fan-in my opinion he almost always hits the right note in his roles and I think he is spot on in this. You'll love the moustaches- I haven't seen this much facial hair in a movie since Planet of the Apes.

For some reason, only one year later it was offered again with Kevin Costner in the lead role as Wyatt Earp. This one focuses more on the man and his relationships and is supposedly a little more historically accurate. As I said, I like them all.

We also have an A & E production in our non-fiction titled Cowboys and Outlaws, which claims to tell "the real story" of this and several other western legends.

Best Westerns V: Yahoo!

- 0 Comment(s)

Here's a couple more western favorites in time for Stampede.

Either version of 3:10 to Yuma is great but I particularly enjoy the 2007 version with Christian Bale. What can't he do? The suspens is great as we wait to see if he makes it on the train---and the color and pacing of the film is perfect.

Don't forget the great tv westerns of the 1950s. I was surpised by how contemporary the characterizations are in Gunsmoke, which also has the famous and cracking good theme song. Miss Kitty is a strong, experienced woman and that's just okay with Marshall Dillon who's a sensitive fellow. It makes Mad Men look like a throwback,

although I'll probably have to get out of Dodge for saying, so. Don't shoot me!

by Mel

Best Westerns IV: Seraphim Falls

- 0 Comment(s)

Pierce Brosnan in a western? Are you kidding? In Seraphim Falls, he's nothing like his charming Remington Steele or 007 personae. In fact, he's believable as a craggy former army captain on the run from a man determined to catch him at all costs. Liam Neeson plays his tormentor, and Angelica Huston makes an enigmatic cameo appearance, and why not? Her grandfather made a great cameo in another great western, Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Seraphim Falls is a sort of "To build a Fire" meets "Mantracker," and that's just the beginning of the movie. Add the pacing of "Dead Man" and the humor of Leone, and that's the essence of this story of the folly of revenge.

More Film Festivals in a box

- 0 Comment(s)

The Turner Classic Movie boxed sets have proved very popular---so much so that CPL has a whole bunch more headed your way. Each set comes complete with four thematic based movies. TCM has done a great job putting these together---there are hours and hours of excellent viewing here. All these sets are on order at the moment, so they aren't ready to take out quite yet. But they are coming and once they do they will fly off the shelves so get your holds on now and sit back and enjoy the anticipation. I can't wait to revisit them---my holds are already on. How about yours?

Westerns: Ride the High Country, Stalking Moon, Chisum, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

War: Dawn Patrol, Gunga Din, Operation Pacific, Battle of the Bulge

Sci-FI: Them, Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Satellite in the Sky, World Without End

Romance: Splendor in the Grass, Mogambo, Now Voyager, Love in the Afternoon

Marx Brothers: A day at the Races, Room Service, At the Circus, A Night in Casablanca

Family :Lassie, Flipper, National Velvet, Incredible Mr. Limpet

Hitchcock Thrillers: Suspicion, Strangers on a Train, The Wrong man, I confess

Comedy: The Long Long Trailer, Father of the Bride, Night at the Opera, Arsenic and

Mob Rule

- 0 Comment(s)

No, this isn't a post of movies about THE Mob (which I think there are far too many of anyway). This is a post about what happens when mob mentality takes over and people allow themselves for whatever reason to be subsumed by a group. Now this was harder to put together than I first thought when I came up with the idea. There are plenty of Westerns with this theme- lynch mobs abound in the old west. And certainly many war movies are prime examples of 'group think'. So after racking my brain, here is what I finally came up with.

Lord of the Flies---perhaps the quintessential story of what happens when mob mentality takes over. All the more frightening as the perpetrators and victims are a group of priveleged, well raised children.

12 Angry Men---a Henry Fonda classic about the jury in a murder case trying to reach a decision.

The Ox-bow Incident---again with Henry, this movie easily makes it onto my top 10 favorite Westerns. This works well on so many levels but it works best as a study of men being led by blind conviction to an idea

Hotel Rwanda---take generations of tribal hatred, a government openly soliciting murder, Peace Keeping forces hamstrung by their own mandate. Just in case this isnt enough, add a world community not particularly paying attention and you have the story of the horror that was Rwanda. Don Cheadle stars as one man who tries to take a stand against the genocide. We also have the excellent non-fiction Shake Hands With The Devil---the story of Canadian Lt. Gen.Romeo Dallaire and his command of the United Nations mission to Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

Rod Serling often chose to examine what happens to people when put under pressure in a group. Check out any of The Twilight Zone--- we have lots!

If you ever come across the movies Rosewood, Fury (Spencer Tracy), 1984, or M, make sure you take the time to watch them. All are excellent examples of this theme.

Best Westerns II

by Melanie Kolbeins - 0 Comment(s)

Howdy pard'ners...time fer another western movie review, I reckon. These older and newer classics are sweeter than sarsparilla...

Dead Man

Follow William Blake (Johnny Depp) through the wilderness with a group of no goods and a native guide. He just can't catch a break in this humorous and unconventional film from one of my favorite directors: Jim Jarmusch.

Englishman's Boy

Originally a made for tv short series, this is based on Alberta author Guy Vanderhaeg's novel. If you can stomach some violence, the story is worth it. Nicholas Campbell (Da Vinci's Inquest) plays the protagonist driven by events to the edge of his tolerance and it's his best acting.

For pete's sake, if you haven't seen any of Sergio Leone's "spagetti westerns" made famous by Clint Eastwood, do so. These are westerns for people who don't like westerns...The cinematography is beautiful and atmospheric and really defined Western cinema after it.

Don't miss: Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Clint is always excellent as the quiet hand of justice (and sometimes comedy) in his encounters with the law and outlaws.

Tried to whistle the theme song didn't ya...heh heh heh

"Git" your holds in now for the Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936) arriving soon at CPL. It's a real tear-jerker at times, starring Spanky of Our Gang and Henry Fonda

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