3:10 to Yuma: In recent years, fans of good old-fashioned Westerns have been left high and dry. You're more likely to find a stray tumbleweed blowing through your local cineplex than you are to find a solid tale of Cowboys and Indians. Remember back in the early 90's when they were churning out stories involving assless chaps, horses, whiskey and loose women faster than you could say 'Lou Diamond Phillips'? Young Guns I and II, Unforgiven, Tombstone...and of course, the most ruggedly authentic of the bunch City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold.
Now, after an extended hiatus we have both 3:10 to Yuma and the ambitiously titled The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford being released within months of each other. Is either of them worth a pouch of Redman?
Well, I have not seen TAOJJBTCRF (Even the acronym is absurd) yet, but in the case of the former I can say that it is indeed worth not only a pouch of Redman, but a bottle of whiskey to boot.
The story is simple. A rancher (Batman...I mean, Christian Bale) has to help lead captured outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to an awaiting train so he can collect $200 to help save his ranch. As you can imagine, Wade's gang of ne'er do wells isn't about to make things easy. Gunfights, campfire shenanigans, loose women, whiskey, bounties and male bonding ensue.
3:10 to Yuma succeeded in such a way that I immediately wanted to go horseback riding after seeing the film. Take that for what you will. Crowe and Bale are both superb and there is even a surprising amount of humor injected throughout.
That is not to say it is without flaws. There is an unnecessary and mildly distracting cameo halfway through and towards the end, Wade makes a life-changing decision that is completely out of character and fairly unbelievable.
That said this was an immensely enjoyable movie that had me feeling like more of a man for having seen it and scrambling to put more Westerns in my Netflix queue. Until Unforgiven arrives I shall have to make due with what I have on hand, namely Back to the Future Part III.
Thunder Matt Rating: 3.5 Bret Michaels Cowboy Hats Out of 5
Death Sentence: Kevin Bacon's son is murdered by a gang. The justice system fails and the men responsible go free. Kevin Bacon extracts revenge like only Kevin Bacon can. Don't fuck with Bacon.
Huh, this isn't Footloose! Brought to us by the man who directed Saw, as I sat in the theatre and watched this debacle, I was thinking that Death Sentence was certainly an appropriate title for this film and all of those unfairly subjected to it.
To it's credit, there is one extended scene where Bacon is being chased through a parking garage that has it's moments (though why is he purposely setting off the car alarms as he runs from his pursuers? Doesn't that just tell them where he is?) and John Goodman provides some good unintentional humor, but other than that it's just watching Bacon pick off each baddie one at a time. You're waiting for the inevitable end, hoping that Bacon does you a favor and actually murders you to put you out of your misery. All this talk of bacon has got me hungry for breakfast.
Thunder Matt Rating: 1.5 Strips of Crispy Bacon out of 5
King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters: Not to be confused with the overlong Peter Jackson movie about the ice skating ape, King of Kong is an entertaining documentary about about a bunch of virginal uber-geeks whose existence revolves around trying to break records on classic video games, in this case, Donkey Kong (which is apparently the 'hardest game of all time').
There is the 'villain' Billy Mitchell, who sports one of the classic mullets of our time and owns his own hot sauce company. He is straight out of a Coen Brothers film. ("Everything I say is controversial. Kind of like the abortion issue.") He wears ties with the American flag and is more cocky than any 'Hot Sauce entrepreneur slash Donkey Kong champion' has any right to be.* He owns the record, which he set back in the 80's but isn't willing to defend his record in public.
Then you've got the underdog, school teacher Steve Wiebe. He's a humble and shy guy who has never won at anything in life (one of those 'unfulfilled potential' types) and whose last name people constantly mispronounce. But dammit if the man can't play Donkey Kong. Steve would love nothing more than to finally be the best at something in life, but Billy and his gang of hangers on (sigh) will do everything they can to make sure Steve doesn't break the record.
If this were an actual movie it might play out like a bad Saturday Night spoof but given the fact that it is real life you sit there in awe of the fact that there are actually people that act like this. The ending is a bit anticlimactic, but then again real life doesn't always have a Hollywood ending now does it? It's not something you need to rush out and see right away, but I wholeheartedly recommend this one as a renter.
It almost gets an extra star just for the extensive (and unironic) use of the song "You're the Best Around" by Joe Esposito.
*I suppose I too would be cocky if I owned my own hot sauce AND kicked ass at Donkey Kong.
Thunder Matt Rating: 3 Marios Out of 5
Top 5 of the Year (So Far)
We are past the half way mark of the year but since we're in the midst of the the buffer between Summer Movie Season and Oscar Bait Season I thought I would do a quick Top 5 Movies of the year that I have seen up to now. Lots of good ones coming up too. Jesse James, No Country for Old Men, Into the Wild, The Darjeeling Limited, Eastern Promises, Juno, Fred Claus, Rendition, American Gangster, I Am Legend, Charlie Wilson's War and for Brant, Alien vs. Predator II. Here are five to see...
1. Once: I have expressed my love for this movie via nearly every form of communication.
2. The Kingdom: (Out September 28th. Review to come) I loved this movie. Loved it. You know the feeling you get on a roller coaster, where your genitalia starts to tingle? That's what this movie is like.
3. Zodiac: This 2.5 hour opus casts you under it's spell from the get go and doesn't let go. Love the performance by Robert Downey Jr (speaking of which, watch the Iron Man trailer here). The fact that this was dumped in February instead of being released during the 'Oscar season' is worthy of a War Crime.
4. The Bourne Ultimatum: Damn you shaky cam. I hate you but I love you!
5. Superbad: Barely edges out Knocked Up. The best comedy about high school since, I dunno, Dazed and Confused?
Honorable Mention: Knocked Up, Oceans 13, 3:10 To Yuma, Live Free or Die Hard