Archive for western

Review: Logan

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2017 by Tom Austin-Morgan


This is the ninth time Hugh Jackman has donned the claws of the character that he is arguably best known for. This time the title of the film doesn’t contain the words ‘X-Men’ or ‘Wolverine’, which should give you a clue as to the tone of the movie, even if you haven’t seen the trailers which gave a downbeat, western vibe along with that Johnny Cash song.

 The film itself really is a completely different beast than any of Fox’s forays into the X-Men universe. For a start,all mutants seem to have been wiped out with the exception of Logan, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Caliban – an albino mutant played by Stephen Merchant looking like a very gaunt Richard O’Brien. Instead of fighting back against the people responsible for this perceived cull, they are in hiding, with Logan working as a chauffeur to make enough money to get the drugs Charles needs as he is going senile.

Logan plays more like a drama with some action elements. But even these action scenes work on a much more intimate level than your standard comic book movie where typically, entire cities are being levelled by giant robots or orc-like creatures from space/another dimension. In this film Logan is pitted against gangs and paramilitary bounty-hunters. And, unlike any previous films, you’re aware that Jackman has said this is the final Wolverine movie, plus something is wrong with him, he isn’t healing like he used to and he also seems to have something of a death-wish, so there is real jeopardy when he gets into a fight.

In fact, this movie is like a dysfunctional family drama with the put upon father (Logan) looking after an increasingly frail and mentally deteriorating grandfather (Charles) while looking after a tear away daughter. And what a performance from the young Dafne Keen who plays Laura, or X-23. Although she is mute for the majority of the film, her intensity is palpable an herd physical ability is impressive. As soon as she is forced into Logan’s life and he realises what she is, it gives him a reason to carry on.

Along the way there are some touching moments between all the central characters, especially when they help out and are taken in by a farmer’s family. But there are also some big surprises that really pull the rug from under you with one scene in particular playing with your expectations of how these kind of scenes usually play out.

As previously stated, while Logan is trying to get Laura from Mexico to ‘Eden’ in the North of America, he is pitted against paramilitary-style bounty hunters who are in the employ of Dr Rice (Richard E. Grant) the man in charge of creating a new generation of mutants who wants her back. His character reveals himself to be the son of the man in charge of the original Weapon X programme that created Wolverine. This is a nice nod to the previous films, and there are a couple of these sprinkled throughout the film, but not enough to distract.

Actually, Logan is probably the only film in the entire franchise that isn’t bogged down by being closely tied to the franchise. It’s a true stand-alone where you wouldn’t need to have seen a single X-Men film before. It also stands apart because of its 15 rating. The fact that we finally get to see the violence this character is capable of made a refreshing change and wasn’t used too gratuitously like it was in Deadpool.

One of the main criticisms of the film is its overuse of swearing, especially at the beginning, where it seemed like the script writers were let loose after not being able to use them. But again, rather than the cartoony, gross-out use of violence and language in Deadpool, at least the swearing was used in ‘real’ ways, even if it did feel gratuitous in places.

This is the best X-Men film in the 17 year history of the franchise, and this is mainly to do with the more intimate feel of the film as well as the fact the filmmakers were able to play with different genres. It’s more like a drama or a western, similar in tone and even colour palette to Unforgiven. If you’ve never watched an X-Men film before it won’t matter, the story is that good that it can be watched in isolation. Go see it.


Review: The Magnificent Seven

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan



Yet another modern-day remake of a classic western that was itself a retelling of Seven Samurai.

This version of The Magnificent Seven is progressive in the it has a pretty good mix up of characters that make up the eponymous group of gunslingers. This gives the tensions within the group a certain sense of reality that other movie team-ups have to really labour the point to have you believe.

A big problem with this film is that it can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a comedy or a darker more serious film. It has a real schizophrenic quality that feels jarring, especially with such broad comedy in some scenes being followed by quite heavy scenes where some characters are dealing with the aftermath of post-traumatic stress.

There are some great action set pieces and some brilliant characterisations, most notably from Vincent D’Onofrio, but the tone of the film really lets it down.

Review: The Revenant

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan


The Revenant is a hard-hitting tale of revenge set in the North West of the United States based on the true story of frontiersman, Hugh Glass, who was left for dead after tragedy and injury befell him.

The film follows a group of men collecting pelts and furs. To say that these men were hard is the understatement of the century. Even the actors had to be hard to get through their intensely cold looking, snowy surrounding while having to remember directions and lines.

That said, if you’re after snappy, fast-paced dialogue that is not the film for you. Most of the players are pretty hard to understand as they mumble and drawl through the script like it was made of treacle. But, the acting is supreme from everyone and the cinematography is beautiful.

The big action set pieces are shot in a really unconventional way in that they look like they’re one shot, but those shots are slightly out-of-the-ordinary. Some of them are shot as though the camera operator is hanging off the side of the horse trying not to be shot at. The film is shot so close during these action scenes that when Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is mauled by a bear it’s so close up and visceral that the audience in the screening I attended were physically squirming in their seats trying to distance themselves from the carnage on-screen.

Visceral is actually the perfect word to describe this film. From the weather to the violence to the things Glass reduced himself to survive, it’s a truly uncomfortable experience. The fact that the characters are usually knee-deep on snow or freezing water actually makes you feel cold – unless director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, insisted that the cinema had to turn down the air conditioning.

The physical reactions to the film aren’t just confined to the beginning of the film either, the final confrontation pulls no punches. So much so that the audience were gasping and flinching.

This is not a particularly uplifting film, so don’t go and see it if you’re feeling a bit low. But it is well worth-while. If it doesn’t win a haul of Oscars it’ll be a surprise. And though I think Leo has been better in other films, he should win just for what he was put through, let alone the fact it’s ‘his turn’.

Review: Cowboys & Aliens

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2011 by Tom Austin-Morgan

The title implies that this should be a rollicking adventure through the wild west pitting man against extra-terrestrial in a fight to the death. Which is exactly what you get, perhaps just not quite in the way you might imagine.

The opening 30 minutes may as well be a modern western with Daniel Craig’s character, Jake Lonergan (the ‘Loner’ part giving you an idea of the silent, strong, brooding type of cowboy he plays), waking up in the middle of nowhere and quickly having to dispatch some undesirables wanting to kill him for a bounty. This scene includes some fairly gritty and bloody action which sets the course for the rest of the film. This is not going to be the cheesy affair that the title implies, but will actually take a very serious course.

After the first half an hour you have been introduced to most of the main characters including the bartender (Sam Rockwell), who isn’t given as much respect as he feels he deserves, the preacher (Clancy Brown), who plays the goodly preacher, the girl (Abigail Spencer), who seems to know a lot more about Jake than he does, Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), who is the cattle rancher who appears to run the town of Absolution, and his son (Paul Dano) who is a bit of a loose cannon and terrorises the people in Absolution by living off his father’s reputation.

Dolarhyde is, to my mind, the most unsympathetic role Harrison Ford has ever played; he is a ruthless, cold bully. But it is brilliant to be seeing him play such a character. Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Lonergan is a homage to the mysterious cowboy made famous by Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns, and I think he really pulls off the character well. However, these are the only characters who are really fleshed out. Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Clancy Brown and Abigail Spencer are all hugely overlooked for bigger parts or better lines which, with their calibre, they truly deserved.

The longer I’ve left this review since seeing the film, the more I look back and see that the plot is rather two-dimensional. The people of Absolution are being abducted by aliens for some reason, though this is never truly revealed other than  that they are trying to learn our weaknesses; they are also mining gold for a reason that I really can’t remember. Lonergan and Dolarhyde have to put their differences behind them to rescue the villagers from the ‘demons’. Lonergan has on his arm a strange manacle which he doesn’t know how to work, but appears to be a weapon they will need to fight the aliens. He also has no recollection of who he is and why Dolarhyde doesn’t like him. But these things become clear to both him and the audience as the film goes on.

Along the way they team up with a group of Indians and Lonergan’s old gang of outlaws to fight the aliens at their space ship/mining vessel. The fight scene goes on for longer than the rag-tag human army would have been able to sustain. In fact there seemed to be lots more people getting slaughtered than appeared in the previous shot of them all riding towards the alien craft.

The film itself isn’t a terrible one; it just could have done with being a bit more tongue-in-cheek, like the title implies, even though the director, Jon Favreau (Iron Man 1 & 2), said that the fact that it played straight instead was the aspect that attracted Craig and Ford to the project. It looks just like a western should and the costumes and special effects are great. Which goes a long way to help you believe that the aliens could inhabit that world once they show up. There are also some genuinely tense scenes and the violence during the battle scenes in convincing without crossing over into comic-book territory.

This is a film that could have been so much more, but is still an enjoyable watch. Perhaps they should have just filmed the ‘Cowboys’ bit and left the aliens out?