Toronto After Dark Review: In A Valley Of Violence

In Sergio Leone’s classic The Good The Bad And The Ugly, one of many iconic scenes involves a gunfighter sneaking up to murder Eli Wallach’s Tuco in the bath-tub. The anonymous heavy lost his arm in a shootout with Tuco in the opening scene of the film, and seeking bloody revenge, as is par for the course in so many westerns, he stops first for a smug monologue about how it took months to learn how to shoot with his other hand. As the grimy Italian blonde savours the reversal of fortune (again, a staple of this superb film) with words, Tuco turns the table because he has his pistol in the bath-tub. He blows away the smug, would-be killer through the soap suds. To the corpse, he lectures, “When you have to shoot, SHOOT. Don’t talk.” It would not surprise me in the slightest, if it was this scene alone that inspired Ti West to make In A Valley of Violence, a film that seems a full featured examination of what amounts to a throwaway 2 minutes in a 179 minute film. More recently, HBO’s Deadwood, The Coen Brothers’ True Grit remake, and the recent pair of Quentin Tarantino gunslinger film have set out to prove that excessively loquacious, but nevertheless savoury, dialogue is a wholesome part of the Western that bears at least some consideration.

Ethan Hawke plays civil war deserter Paul, who, after a Shakespearean styled prologue with a drunken Irish priest (Burn Gorman doing what he so wonderfully does) about the nature of where he finds himself, ends up nevertheless caught up in the local toxicity of a friable futureless village-slash-movie-set called Denton. He tries to keep his head down and sip his drink at the bar as the local blowhard and sadistic bully, Gilly (Generation Kill & The Wire‘s oily-but-wide-eyed James Ransome), who also the deputy and son of the town’s sheriff, picks a fight with him for no reason other than that Paul a stranger in a place that, you guessed it, don’t like no strangers.

Pestered to the point of violence, and equally important to the point of speaking (mainly to the audience) he says that he just wants to hang out with his preternaturally cute, Lassie-like, dog and make for Mexico to forget the horrors of the war. Anyone who has ever seen a western, hell anyone who has ever seen some movies, can spot what is coming a mile away. Don’t get me wrong though, the point of the film seems less about realistically defined characters or completely reinventing the wheel (West even shoots on 35mm film, although he favours 1.85:1 over cinemascope to keep things somewhat small) and more about playing with familiar tropes of the western. This auto-critique of the genre, whose often deadpan and straight-up approach to many familiar situations is sure to be abrasive to some.

Paul being forced to deal revenge to many of the denizens of Denton is without question a given in this sort of thing. As Paul reluctantly returns to town with guns a-blazin’, it is more through dialogue than gunfire that the showdown at high noon takes place. If there is a mission statement to In A Valley of Violence it is (as stated above) when to speak and when not to speak.

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Fantasia 2016 Review: In A Valley Of Violence

In Sergio Leone’s classic The Good The Bad And The Ugly, one of many iconic scenes involves a gunfighter sneaking up to murder Eli Wallach’s Tuco in the bath-tub. The anonymous heavy lost his arm in a shootout with Tuco in the opening scene of the film, and seeking bloody revenge, as is par for the course in so many westerns, he stops first for a smug monologue about how it took months to learn how to shoot with his other hand. As the grimy Italian blonde savours the reversal of fortune (again, a staple of this superb film) with words, Tuco turns the table because he has his pistol in the bath-tub. He blows away the smug, would-be killer through the soap suds. To the corpse, he lectures, “When you have to shoot, SHOOT. Don’t talk.” It would not surprise me in the slightest, if it was this scene alone that inspired Ti West to make In A Valley of Violence, a film that seems a full featured examination of what amounts to a throwaway 2 minutes in a 179 minute film. More recently, HBO’s Deadwood, The Coen Brothers’ True Grit remake, and the recent pair of Quentin Tarantino gunslinger film have set out to prove that excessively loquacious, but nevertheless savoury, dialogue is a wholesome part of the Western that bears at least some consideration.

Ethan Hawke plays civil war deserter Paul, who, after a Shakespearean styled prologue with a drunken Irish priest (Burn Gorman doing what he so wonderfully does) about the nature of where he finds himself, ends up nevertheless caught up in the local toxicity of a friable futureless village-slash-movie-set called Denton. He tries to keep his head down and sip his drink at the bar as the local blowhard and sadistic bully, Gilly (Generation Kill & The Wire‘s oily-but-wide-eyed James Ransome), who also the deputy and son of the town’s sheriff, picks a fight with him for no reason other than that Paul a stranger in a place that, you guessed it, don’t like no strangers.

Pestered to the point of violence, and equally important to the point of speaking (mainly to the audience) he says that he just wants to hang out with his preternaturally cute, Lassie-like, dog and make for Mexico to forget the horrors of the war. Anyone who has ever seen a western, hell anyone who has ever seen some movies, can spot what is coming a mile away. Don’t get me wrong though, the point of the film seems less about realistically defined characters or completely reinventing the wheel (West even shoots on 35mm film, although he favours 1.85:1 over cinemascope to keep things somewhat small) and more about playing with familiar tropes of the western. This auto-critique of the genre, whose often deadpan and straight-up approach to many familiar situations is sure to be abrasive to some.

Paul being forced to deal revenge to many of the denizens of Denton is without question a given in this sort of thing. As Paul reluctantly returns to town with guns a-blazin’, it is more through dialogue than gunfire that the showdown at high noon takes place. If there is a mission statement to In A Valley of Violence it is (as stated above) when to speak and when not to speak.

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Cinecast Episode 444 – Gorgeously Sleazy

And the summer theatrical season continues to be of zero interest to our heroes. Luckily the De Palma retrospective is about to kick off at the TIFF Lightbox and continues all summer long. So we’ll loosely follow that schedule for the time being. Last week we reviewed De PalmaNiro in Hi, Mom and this week we keep going with the Travolta vehicle, Blow Out. From there, we move on to a little more delightfully trashy fare from William Friedkin and Tony Scott. Lastly Danny Boyle never gets enough credit for his amazingness.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

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Cinecast Episode 382 – Warm and Foreign

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The one in which Kurt doesn’t realize he’s the winner of a (much controversial) bet. In exchange, buys Andrew a present for his sunken heart after The Oscar results. We dive headlong into The Academy Awards with all its ins and outs and what-have-yous with Neil Patrick Harris and the face touching and the boring music and the severe lack of montages and the… hey hey hey don’t hurt me. We do recognize Julianne Moore as a favorite however, and we praise her Oscar win with a heartfelt review of the quite good, Still Alice. The Watch List rattles on with pro wrestling, Cronenberg, submarine movies are always awesome and… Aeon Flux? Yeah.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 

 
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Blindspotting: Saturday Night Fever and Grease

BlindSpotSaturdayNightFever1

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I‘m not sure you could you think of a more obvious pairing than this month’s Blind Spot picks…Released inside a year of each other, Saturday Night Fever and Grease starred then teen-heartthrob John Travolta, had wide mainstream appeal, a direct influence on a wide variety of styles and arrived chock full of danceable and, as it turned out, massively popular songs that have ingrained themselves into our skulls (and even rejuvenated certain genres of music). These weren’t simply movies from the late 70s, these were broad based touchstones of the era. And yet…I would’ve been hard pressed to find two more disparate films in terms of tone, topic and approach.

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BlindSpotSaturdayNightFever4

First and foremost: Saturday Night Fever isn’t a musical. Now even if you haven’t seen it, I suppose that’s an obvious statement since the barest of knowledge of the film tells you that Travolta and the cast don’t spontaneously burst into songs with throbbing disco beats behind them. But, even knowing that the film had some dark and cynical edges to it, I expected that much of it would have some of the bounce of a typical musical – a dance number here, a montage there and then a whole bunch of other dance numbers. Those elements are present (particularly in a couple of extended scenes in the disco club named 2001 Odyssey), but the reality of the lives of these characters weighs everything down. That’s not a criticism of the film by any means – as a matter of fact, it’s what makes the movie highly engaging and able to withstand any of its elements that would typically feel dated 35 years on. The flip side is Grease: a candy-coated confection of a musical with fantasy elements, slight characters and a shine to its story that doesn’t allow any reality to enter in. Some of the musical numbers are enjoyable, Olivia Newton-John is surprisingly charming and it’s all quite easily consumed, but it’s still just a dated 50s fluff story wrapped in a dated 80s shell. And that is a criticism…

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Oliver Stone’s “Savages”

The title is uninspired and the story looks sort of like a ripoff of Demme’s Blow. Except that by the end of the trailer, it’s doesn’t look bad it all. It looks like an orgy of awesome. Nice to see Taylor Kitsch not going the Paul Walker route and doing something that on the surface looks pretty glossy, actually appeals to the Tony Scott side of my heart and probably has some fairly gritty bits to be left in your teeth after chewing on this one.

So yeah, I’m sort of enchanted by the mix of high caliber actors of the aughties (Del Toro, Hayek, Thurman, Travolta) mixed in with the new generation of up and comers from this decade (Lively, Kitsch, Bichir). And wait wait wait… is that… is that Emile Hirsch? From Speed Racer? Bad ass.

Yeah I’m more or less and Oliver Stone fan and this trailer for Savages does nothing but make me want to run to the theater, get a big ol’ box a popcorn, a huge icy soda, do a quick line of coke off the toilet seat and have a ball for 120 minutes. Check it out…

 

Cinecast Episode 206 – My Disney Compass is Spinning

 

 
 
Hello folks. We are back after a week off and we waste no time getting into a detailed, and probably too damn introspective, conversation about Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch. Is it a movie that panders so hard to its base, or a movie that stabs its core audience in the chest while smiling? Is it a case of too much director ambition, too little story telling chops or simply a product of too much fiddling on the studio end such that, and there is no debate on this last bit, things just end up a muddled mess? Matt and Kurt discuss the particulars (onward ye Soldiers of Cinema, this may be your toughest battle yet) and remain, astonishingly spoiler free in the process. Afterwards, it is around the table again (and again) for a lengthy session of what we watched. We go from cheese-merchants to sleaze-merchants (that would be from Don Simpson and Joel Silver to Elmore Leonard and Paul Schrader for those keeping score) before Gamble trumps all with crazy-awful Dan Aykroyd paranormal documentary TV. Kurt revisits a couple of childhood horror-kids flicks, Gremlins and Dragonslayer while Matt travels to New York for the premiere of Beauty Day. Andrew re-evaluates Polanski’s The Ninth Gate, and there is mucho talk about the Spanish Swords and Sandals and Science Blockbuster Agora. Of course, there is the proverbial much, much more in that segment (which clocks in at a staggering 110 minutes) as well as DVD picks, Netflix fresh and expiring picks and a tiny tangent on the Canadian Bandwidth Wars(tm). Grab your battle-axe, strap on your shield and wade into it.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Travolta Playing a Badass? From Paris With Love Trailer

FromParisWithLoveOneSheetMy first introduction to Pierre Morel was with the high octane District B13. He followed it up with the laughable yet entertaining Taken and his work with my Favourite French Dude continues with his newest film, a buddy action film titled From Paris With Love.

Though it might be a titled after a Bond film, Morel’s film is nothing of the sort. There appear to be no mysteries, no drama, just lots of heart pounding action as Jonathan Rhys Meyers, a young employee in the office of the US Ambassador, teams up with an American spy, played by John Travolta, to save Paris from a terrorist attack.

It looks mindless, over the top and completely awesome and the fact that they’ve squeeze Meyers into a role in an action film tickles me silly. Yes, I’ll gladly hand over my $12. If it provides half the fun of either of Morel’s previous films, it’ll be well worth it.

From Paris With Love opens on February 5, 2010.

Trailer is tucked under the seat!

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Cinecast Episode 126 – See You at the Party Richter!

Episode 126:
Not the brightest week for film this summer with The Taking Pelham 1-2-3, The Land of the Lost, The Hangover, Away We Go and Departures.

A few tangents, a fair bit of negativity and surliness, some vague sifting through the sparse DVD releases which is heaven for BluRay and Criterion enthusiasts, but rather dire for everyone else.

The Show Notes have left the building in the short term. Bear with us.

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Review: The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

Pelham 123 poster

Director: Tony Scott (Top Gun, True Romance, Domino, Deja Vu)
Novel: John Godey
Screenplay: Brian Helgeland
Producers: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Tony Scott, Steve Tisch
Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzmán, James Gandolfini
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 95 min.


When the decision to remake Sargent’s 1974 crime flick, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, was announced a lot of people were asking “why?” while a lot of others were asking “why not?”. As quite the Tony Scott fan (yes, even Domino), I was certainly in the latter category and just happy to see another Scott film on the big screen. I promised myself I would watch Pelham on its own terms, without comparing it too much with the original. Impossible.

The plot is pretty much identical to the 1974 version of the tale. A group of bad guys bossed by a guy calling himself Ryder (Travolta) hijack a NYC subway line and hold it and the people aboard for ransom ($10,000,000) within the darkened tunnel of the NY underground. Their main radio contact is control operator Garber (Denzel), who is essentially a nobody just drinking his coffee and running the train switch board. It’s obvious right away he’s a smart guy, just assigned to a dead-end job. When the train is hijacked, Garber happens to be the guy assigned to the radio at the time and is therefore by default the liaison between Ryder and the hostage negotiators. As the negotiation continues, Ryder develops somewhat of a fetish for Garber and won’t speak with anyone else – eventually working it out so that Garber is the one who must deliver the money when the time comes. Insert action scenes.
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