Monday, January 28, 2019

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly / Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo (1966)

Time for last and most epic entry in Dollars Trilogy. This time it is three men searching for hidden treasure. Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef return but this time clearly different characters than in For a Few Dollars More. Every movie added one more character trying to outsmart others. Each movie have different tone. This time it is western mixed with war movie.

I watched extended version which added 14 minutes of footage to original English version. Movie drags at times but it wasn't caused by added scenes. I checked what was added and every addition made movie better. For example bridge scene was extended. It is one of the best scenes now. Most additions added footage related to ongoing Civil War which happens around. I can understand why it was originally cut away. It showed horrors of war and wasn't that important to main story arch. But it shows how war has nothing heroic in it.

Back to dragging. First two movies had more compact stories. Movie has long slow scenes and story jumps back and forth few times. Everything makes sense but cutting down some excess would have helped. This is the reason why The Good, the Bad and the Ugly doesn't rise above other movies in trilogy. It has more memorable scenes than others but excess drops it to same level as other movies.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of must see movie. It has few of the most memorable western scenes. It doesn't show the time as epic adventure. It is more of story of three men with weird sense of honor trying to make money when there is civil war going on. Even the Good is not that good.

Monday, January 21, 2019

For a Few Dollars More / Per qualche dollaro in più (1965)

I am probably doing the whole Dollars Trilogy and Once Upon a Time in West now that movies are available for a short time. So it is time for second movie in Dollars Trilogy. This time it is story of two bounty hunters after same big bounty. Clint Eastwood could or could not be playing same characters as in A Fistful of Dollars. He is more matured version of the character. Maybe he became bounty hunter between movies.

For a Few Dollars More tuned humor down little bit and replaced it with big tense scenes. Movie has masterful tension building in its countless duels and scenes where duels are teased. We would remember ending duel if next movie in Dollars Trilogy didn't top it. Story stays interesting by not taking most obvious paths. Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef shine in their roles as ultra cool bounty hunters. Gian Maria Volontè almost go over board as almost crazy villain.

Like A Fistful of Dollars For a Few Dollars More is must watch even if you don't like westerns that much. It is step up in cinematography from A Fistful of Dollars. Ennio Morricone's score is amazing as always. For a Few Dollars More suffers from Sergio Leone making one of the biggest westerns year later with same leads. It is still good as its own but it is easy to see as step between other Dollars Trilogy movies.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Fistful of Dollars / Per un pugno di dollari (1964)

I don't usually review westerns. Ones I have done have had science fiction angle in them. This one doesn't. It is been 90 years since birth of Sergio Leone, one of the greatest movie directors ever. I am a week and few days late honoring the even. I might do his other movies too since local tv station is celebrating the event and showing his movies.

A Fistful of Dollars is first entry in Dollars Trilogy and big reason why there is genre called spaghetti western. Movie is scored by Ennio Morricone under different name and starred by Clint Eastwood. The names you think about when you think about spaghetti westerns. This movie is big reason why you do that.

Man with No Name comes to town ruled by two rivaling gangs. He plans to make money playing in the middle. Compared to generic westerns A Fistful of Dollars doesn't have good guys. Everyone is more or less for himself. Westerns made outside America benefits that they don't have to upkeep mythical picture of one country's history. They can show more cynical version of time period.

There are couple technologies you don't expect in western. I don't think they weren't available at the time but you don't usually see those in movies which show period as epic time when real men fought honorable with revolvers. A Fistful of Dollars doesn't have honorable men. Man with No Name is not untouchable. There is always sense this could go really badly. For many characters it goes badly.

A Fistful of Dollars is must watch even if you don't like westerns that much. It is cinematic masterpiece. It doesn't rely on western tropes. It brings amazing cinematography, good characters, good soundtrack and clever story to western movies. It is among best westerns as are other two movies of Dollars Trilogy.

I wonder if Dirty Harry's "Do you feel lucky punk" scene was inspired by A Fistful of Dollars. There is a scene where number of bullets in a gun is used as storytelling device.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Are Marvel movies that good after all?

I have watched way too many video essays and reviews of DCEU movies. Many of them compared DCEU movies to MCU movies. General consensus seemed to be Marvel movies are good and DC movies are not. But are Marvel movies that good? Compared to latest DC movie they are.

There are five or six good movies. First and third Avengers movies, last two Captain America movies and Guardians of the Galaxy movies. I am not sure about second Guardians of the Galaxy. I have to watch it again to be sure. Last two Captain America movies are semi Avengers movies with so many visiting characters and moving MCU forward. Individual heroes movies aren't that good.

I might have liked Ant-Man movies more if second movie continued from where first ended but for others I have no reason to watch again. Doctor Strange introduced important character for third Avengers movie but there wasn't much more besides cool visuals. Those movies are mostly there to introduce new characters and fill voids between more important movies.

Why people like these movies more than DCEU's movies or almost every other superhero movie? I think it because of the characters. People like the characters. They like most popular versions of these characters. Only Marvel Studios and Ryan Reynolds seem to understand it is good idea to bring most popular comic book versions to big screen. They don't copy comic book stories or characters completely. They bring the essence of characters to big screen.

When you add this to competent film making you get movies people like. Weird. You give people what they want to see and make it competently and people like it. Movies don't have to be good to be popular. MCU takes changes but they understand to keep heroes essence. Yes. I have seen Iron Man 3. And no, I don't remember reading comics with Mandarin in them. He worked in movie's story. At least if you didn't know the comic book version.

Using less popular versions of characters isn't the only problem DC movies have. It is one of the problems. I can understand why they chose to make DCEU like they did. DC had New 52 thing going on in comics when first DCEU movie was made. It was darker and grittier reboot of DC universe. Nolan's popular Batman trilogy had just ended. It was darker and more realistic. It could feel like good idea to do movie version what is currently on comics and follow tone of latest popular movie trilogy.

Problem is New 52 wasn't most popular version of the characters. In fact many older fans didn't like that version and movies decided to go even further with the darkness. Another problem was latest movie trilogy were Batman movies where darker and more realistic tone works. Next movie was Superman movie which needed brighter and more fantastic tone.

DC has other problems too. Bringing most popular versions of the characters wouldn't fix other problems but I think this is one reason why Marvel Studios are doing so well. Another is they have clear plan where they are going.