Django UnchainedAndrew O'Dea
With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
Unbridled violence is unleashed in this Spaghetti Western, teetering between comedy and gore. The profanity and blood flow in a celebration of excess, belying the film's racial consciousness and intelligent commentary on a dark period in American history. Although undermined by elements of self-indulgence, the director also brings to "Django Unchained" a trademark penchant for witty dialogue, sharp storytelling and sublime style. Unshackled and foolishly fun.
Cowboys & AliensAnthony Macali
A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region.
"Cowboys and Aliens" really is as stupid as the title suggests. What begins promisingly as a well-grounded western with a barely acceptable premise, slowly turns to farcical romp. It seems the 'aliens' are reduced to a basic condiment, simply added as a side dish, or a spice, in an otherwise very bland story. Sure, it's probably the only chance you'll get to see an extraterrestrial get hog-tied, but that's no excuse for a film where the characters and audience share a single plight… as mere victims of gold-digging.
Rango is an ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff.
Although "Rango" might contain guitar playing owls and animals aplenty, it's not really an animation suited for kids. Like a lucid dream, our philosophical lizard ventures into the desert, and through an amusing account of luck and classically trained theatrics, becomes a leader to an eclectic bunch of western inspired creatures. Superb aesthetics, scarily realistic textures and political motifs central to the film create a very odd, yet surprisingly enjoyable experience. Cool, clever and deeply refreshing.
True GritAndrew O'Dea
A tough U.S. Marshal helps a stubborn young woman track down her father's murderer.
"True Grit" is a film that holds the idea of a classic western in high reverence. The spectacular cinematography is a highlight in this story of retribution, and the directors' hands are clearly present; the storyline contains all the wit, deadpan humour and fleeting moments of brutality that one has come to expect from them. Although some may be dismayed at the tonal slur that is the dialogue, the language is drawling yet authentic, and we revel in the interplay between the leads, each impeccable in their roles. Gritty n' good.
Two friends hired to police a small town that is suffering under the rule of a rancher.
"Appaloosa" respects the conventions of a traditional western, with its slow pacing intersected by the gun-slinging one would expect. The chemistry and repartee between the two leads is superb, and together they excel in dialogue and humour that is as dry and effective as the dusty landscape that dominates the film. However, the fundamental flaw is that it presents a story all too familiar - that's not to say it doesn't make an entertaining western - it's just that, at times, it lacks the tension and emotion of a 'good-ole-duel' to separate it from the rest.
3:10 To YumaAnthony Macali
A small-time rancher agrees to hold a captured outlaw who's awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma.
The track to Yuma is a windy road that will keep you constantly guessing. The landscape and period are captured beautifully, from small humble towns, shining pistols, and humble town-folk. Unlike your traditional western, these characters have names and bring their colourful history to the screen. They create a conscious conflict as you guiltily admire the charismatic bad guy and resent the bitter and weak good guy. This film harbours a swag of strong performances in an enjoyable and riveting ride.