In Part two, we explore the movies that came right before the Man of Steel, as well as some of the failed attempts to kick off the Cinematic universe. We also begin discussing Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.

Marvel and it’s related characters are copyright © Marvel Entertainment

DC and it’s related characters are © Warner Brothers.

 

 

 

So, after giving it a lot of thought, I have decided to jump into the world of video blogging.

The video blogs will not be straight up reviews.  Instead they will be more analysis.  I will be using them to explore things going on in the industry of film, as well as look at popular film series and explore them.

The first video for the Tripping Through Gateways blog turned into a series. I did not realize as I was writing it just how long it was going to be.  So I broke it down into seven parts.  Part one actually explores the landscape preceding Man of Steel. This is the only video in the series to deal extensively with the Marvel Movies in any form of contrast, and it mainly for the purpose of exploring DC and Warner Brother’s progress with their shared film universe.

However, as I state in the video, this is not about Marvel vs DC. This is not a proclamation on who is better. I enjoy the characters from both Marvel and DC. And I want to see DC have real success. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Matter Eater Lad deserve that much.

 

Shazam! art by Doc Shaner

New Gods art by Jack Kirby

Ultimates art by Bryan Hitch

Marvel and it’s related characters are copyright © Marvel Entertainment

DC and it’s related characters are © Warner Brothers.

Special Announcement…

I have been working on this for the past couple of weeks, which is why there has been no new reviews. Tomorrow is the first Essay…a new video each week for the next two and a half months or so…

 

Music is Cool Hard Facts by Kevin MacLeod

People referenced in this video:
Lindsay Ellis (https://www.patreon.com/loosecanon/)
Shaun_Jen (https://www.patreon.com/shaun_jen/)
Hbomberguy (https://www.patreon.com/Hbomb/)
“Movie Bob” Chipman (https://www.patreon.com/moviebob1/)

Apologies to Hbomberguy for calling him Hbomberman in the video credits.
All photos © 2018 their respective owners

All non-comic book Artwork by Me.
Savage Dragon © 2018 Erik Larson
Hellshock © 2018 Jae Lee
Jonah Hex © 2018 DC Comics

Tormented (Unforgiven, 1992)

Unforgiven_PosterOne night in a small town, local ranch hands are visiting the local whorehouse. One of the ranch hands becomes enraged with the girl he is with and brutally attacks her, leaving her scarred.  When the Sheriff, Little Bill, arrives, he sets the penalties for the ranch hand.  The Madam, Strawberry Alice, finds his verdict horribly insufficient.  They start to pool their money to hire a gunslinger to kill the man.

Elsewhere, we meet Will Munny.  He is a pig farmer with two kids.  When a young man calling himself the Scofield comes to try and recruit him for help with killing the ranch hand, Munny explains he does not live that way anymore.  His late wife cured him of drinking and his evil ways. But the lure of much needed reward money cause him to rethink his refusal. Bringing along (much to the Kid’s annoyance) his friend Ned, they start to make their way to the town.  Meanwhile, Little Bill has discovered the prostitutes’ plan.  He makes it clear that nobody will be allowed to kill the ranch hand.

Gene Hackman’s Little Bill is both charming and scary.  A former outlaw, he brutalizes an old cohort named English Bob. Bob is followed by a writer who puts his exploits into tabloid books.  He starts to be won over by Little Bill, who humiliates English Bob by revealing the truth behind the stories English Bob told the writer.

When the film came out, many people expressed discomfort watching Eastwood struggle to get on a horse or fire a gun. But this is a strength of the film.  Unforgiven is an exploration of the effects of violence.  As things spiral out of control, Bill finds it harder to fight the darker nature he has put aside all these years.

The Scofield Kid is exuberant and excited, claiming to have killed several men.  Munny, of course, sees right through him and has little patience for the Kid’s bravado.  Eastwood is not interested in presenting violence as a heroic act.  When Munny  proves himself to be every bit the frightening killer the Scofield kids expects him to have been, it is tragic. As much as you the viewer may desire to see Little Bill pay a price, it comes at a great cost to Munny.

Personally, I consider Unforgiven to be one of the all time great westerns.

Tombstone_Movie_PosterWyatt Earp arrives with his wife Mattie in the town of Tombstone during the silver boom.  He meets with his brothers Virgil and Morgan and their wives.  Shortly after taking over work in the local saloon running the poker table, his friend Doc Holliday shows up.

The town has an uneasy relationship with the gang known as the Cowboys.  Things escalate when Cowboy leader Curly Bill shoots the Sheriff Fred White.  As much as Wyatt pushes against going back into the law business, he gives in when Virgil and Morgan feel they just cannot turn their backs on the town.  In fact, Virgil feels that making money off a fearful and oppressed citizenry is pretty awful.

Things mount between the Earps and the Cowboys, culminating in a bloody ride.

Tombstone has a stellar cast.  I mean, if you tell me you have a movie with Kurt Russell, Sam Elliot and Bill Paxton, I am ready to hand you my money.  But this film has Val Kilmer, Powers Booth and Terry O’Quinn.  It features early performances from Billy Bob Thorton, Stephen Lang and Michael Rooker.

Although credited to George P. Cosmatos (Leviathan, Cobra) as director, the majority of the film was directed by Russell after writer and original director Kevin Jarre was fired. This is, of course, according to Russell. If this is the end result, one wonders why Russell has not tried his hand at directing since.

Now, Tombstone is not a historical document.  The film ignores Earp’s legal troubles, and glosses over the fact that his wife Josephine and he were not star crossed lovers (she having a gambling problem and he having affairs).  The film also ignore aspects of Mattie’s history, only noting that she eventually died of a drug overdose.

But Tombstone is, admittedly, much more a love letter to the traditional western than Unforgiven only a year before.  While violence begets violence here, it is made to feel far more justified.  In real life, Curly Bill was not merely freed on a technicality. He claimed it was accidental and Earp even testified to this. So, in the film, it seems to lean more towards flat out murder by Curly Bill. The good guys are good, through and through. The bad guys are largely unredeemable.  But if you are able to look past the loose play with history, Tombstone is full of rewards.

dudes_poster.jpgGrant, Biscuit and Milo are three young punk rockers who decide to drive cross country to California. But on the way, a gang robs them and kills Milo.  When the police blow them off, Grant is determined to get revenge on the gang.

Along the way, Grant meets a young woman who provides he and Biscuit with new outfits and a car.

Dudes has never quite been able to get outside it’s cult movie status, in large part because it is a amalgam  of genres.

The punk rock trio are fish out of water, and yet, the film follows the conventions of the western. To boot there is the supernatural element suggesting Milo and Biscuit are being helped by the long dead  spirits of a cowboy and a Native American tribe slaughters by the gang leader.  Is he re-incarnated? Is he a great grandson? Is it just a drug induced dream?

The tale takes Grant and Biscuit from nihilism to life with a purpose. Grant and Biscuit are both likable young guys.  And you really have got to try hard to not like Catherine Mary Stewart.

Dudes is a fun adventure with a group of surprisingly endearing characters.

Quick_and_the_Dead_posterStop me if you’ve heard this one…a mysterious drifter comes to town with a purpose only known to her.

Ellen wanders into a small town ruled by Herod.  Every year, Herod holds a quick draw competition.  Gunfighters from all over come to show off their skills. He is a cruel and vindictive man. He has a former partner in crime, Cort, in chains.  Cort walked away from his criminal ways and became a preacher. But Herod is trying to push Cort into cast away his faith.

Ellen is a hard drinking and tortured woman.  She has arrived for the competition.  But as she grows closer to her goal of fighting Herod, the weight of vengeance starts to wear her down. She takes some comfort with Herod’s young and cocky son, called the Kid.

The Kid is tired of living under his father’s shadow.  This is one of the closest points to being human Herod has.  He tries to force the Kid out of the contest when it is clear the kid aims to go against his father.

Meanwhile, Cort tries to convince Ellen to walk away…leading to Herod seeing an opportunity and set Ellen and Cort against each other a shootout to the death.

If this sounds like a mass of western cliches…well, it should.  This is the point of Sam Raimi’s film.  He is paying a very loving homage to the classic spaghetti western.  At the same time, this is shot with the classic Raimi style.  Weird angles, impossible visuals and over the top characters.

This is Gene Hackman at his scene chewing best.  His performance as Herod is the classic “Evil Town Leader” mold, and a whole lot of fun. As the Kid, Leonardo DiCaprio is a lot of fun to watch.  He is immensely over confident, but that is kind of his charm.  Russell Crow’s performance as Cort is a bit more understated. And it serves the character well.  Cort is a bit like Bill Munny from Unforgiven in that he turned from evil and seeks a more righteous path.  But his past refuses to make this easy.

Raimi fills the background with a remarkable cast of character actors.  Lance Henrickson is the fancy Gambler and gunfight Ace.  Keith David is the bounty hunter hired by the town to kill Herod.

The Quick and the Dead is a great love letter to the westerns of Sergio Leone and entertaining as all git out.

Hang_Em_High_PosterJed Cooper is a former lawman. After buying some cattle, he finds himself at the mercy of a posse. Believing he killed the owner and stole the cattle, they hang him. He is found before he suffocates by a lawman who brings him to see the Judge.  After being found innocent, the Judge convinces him to return to being a lawman.

Between jobs the judge sends him on, Jed tries to find and arrest the men who hung him, a prominent Rancher known as Captain Wilson and his employees.

Hang Em High kind of broke out of the standard Eastwood mold.  Jed is not really a mystery man.  He is a guy who is trying to quietly live his own life unencumbered by others.  But he is an innocent guy who gets pulled into a terrible situation.  It is interesting to see that many of the men who participate in the hanging are nit hateful mob types.  Instead, several really want to make sure he might not be guilty.  And one even turns himself in upon learning that Jed was found innocent.

This is also a bit unique as, Jed is trying to bring these guys in alive, so it is not a straight out revenge tale.  And at one point, he argues for mercy of one of the men who helped hang him.  The notion that Jed is an upstanding lawman is important to this tale. His love interest is a local woman with a horrible past seeking Justice…her story reflects his, in that they are both forced to confront the question of “what if they don’t get justice”.

The film has a great cast supporting Eastwood.  Pat Hingle is the no nonsense judge who finds being the final arbiter of Justice both a bit intoxicating and more than a bit of a burden. Bruce Dern is one of the more straight up bad guys in the film…and hey, it is a solid early Dern performance.

Hang ‘Em High makes for a good transition from the old school western to the modern one.

 

Battle_Beyond_the_Stars_PosterA peaceful planet called Akira is visited by the conqueror Sador.  He promises to return with an armada that will overrun the planet if they do not willingly submit to them.  A young man named Shad goes on a mission to get weapons and warriors to fight off Sador and his forces.

He assembles six unique individuals, including a vengeance seeking lizard man, a young scientist, a clone race, a haunted assassin, a beautiful warrior seeking glory, and a fun loving earth man. They all return to help the citizens of the planet.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, this Roger Corman film is a perfect example of Corman’s formula. Star Wars was a hit and had a sequel on it’s way.  Corman wanted a Star Wars style film.  He commission a script from John Sayles (who also wrote Corman’s Piranha).  They opted to take the story from Seven Samurai and set it in space, just as the Magnificent Seven moved it to the old American West.

And the movie is not shy about this.  The planet is named Akira, after Seven Samurai director Akira Kurosawa.  The advertising for the film included phrases like “Seven Magnificent Warriors”. Robert Vaughn even plays a character much like his dark Lee, from the Magnificent Seven.

This film, while being a knockoff meant to cash in onStar Wars hype, actually stands pretty well on it’s own.  A lot of this goes back to the strong cast.  George Peppard is a more laid back Han Solo type as the space faring earth man Cowboy.  The alien race the Nestors are an alien race of clones who are psychically linked.  This allows for a lot of intended humor, such as when they are offered a hotdog and while only one of them eats it, all the Nestor’s can taste is, and one observes, “There is no dog in this”.  After they recite the ingredients of a hot dog (determined by taste), Peppered cheerfully responds, “That’s what we call meat on Earth.”

Sybil Danning’s Saint Exmin the Valkerie is from a race that live only to fight in wars.  And wear swimming suits (what, you think a Roger Corman film is not going to feature at least one buxom woman in a tiny outfit?!).  Initially, Shad is annoyed and tries to chase her off, but she hangs on, proving herself in battle and winning Shad’s respect.

The film features work by James Cameron (as art director) and the designs go from very serious, such as Sador’s rather impressive ship to somewhat tongue in cheek.  Shad’s ship has a smart talking female voiced AI.  And the ship has breasts.  I am not joking.

Battle_Beyond_the_Stars_Ship

Seriously, Cameron…

And James Horner’s musical score is downright great.  Battle Beyond the Stars is entertaining and downright fun as low budget Sci-Fi goes.

Seven_Samurai_PosterBeing set in sixteenth century Japan, some might question including this film in my series on westerns.  But having run through the Magnificent Seven films, not looking at the film that inspired them, that created one of the most memorable western motifs seemed downright criminal.

A small mountain village is being raided by bandits and after they leave, the town sends out a party to find help.

They find Kambei, an older Ronin and watch him save a baby from a thief. While he is not initially interested in helping them, he relents and assembles six more Samurai to both teach the villagers and help them defend the village.

Kurosawa had apparently planned to make a film about a “day in the life of a Samurai” before research brought him to a story about Samurai helping farmers. And thank goodness for that.  Because Seven Samurai is a pleasure to watch.  It is humorous, exciting and touching.

Clocking in at three hours, we get to know the Samurai very well.  We see their friendships (both with themselves and the villagers) grow.  A beautifully shot film, Seven Samurai is a masterpiece that has and will continue to influence cinema.