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2007 was apparently supposed to be the year of the Western, or at least some form of it.  I remember reading an article back in the fall of that year, highlighting a possible resurgence of Western and Western-themed movies.  Looking at various box office charts that year, there were only two “true” Westerns released that year (the Western being synonymous with the gunslinger, the shanty towns, the wild west showdowns, etc.): 3:10 to Yuma (which I’ll get to shortly), and the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (which, hopefully, I’ll get to in a month or so).  Of Western-themed movies (movies that have a Western setting but are not true Westerns), again, only two: No Country for Old Men (winner of best picture that year), and There Will Be Blood (a best picture nominee from that year).  Of those four, only 3:10 to Yuma originally opened wide.  No Country went into a small wide release in its third weekend before expanding into 2000 theaters by the end of its run, There Will Be Blood didn’t go wide until its fifth weekend, and Assassination never went wide at all (its biggest expansion was into 300 theaters).  In 2008, Appaloosa was the only wide release Western that year, and it did lukewarm business at that.  True Grit, a remake of the John Wayne classic, opens around Christmas time this year, the first true Western since Appaloosa.

As for 3:10 to Yuma, it did pretty decent business for a Western.  Released in September (the week after Labor Day), the movie opened at number one and ended up grossing $53 million by the end of its run.  One can imagine if it got released in a summer month what kind of business it would have done.

This I think is the third time I’ve watched this movie.  I saw it in theaters originally (dragging my poor sister to see it since she is not a Western fan at all) and liked it then.  I watched it again when I bought it on DVD, and I still liked it then.  For this movie retrospective, I watched it a third time.  Now, I truly love this film.

It’s not because of the fact that this movie is great.  It really is, but it’s when you sit down and start thinking about the movie, and the various themes occurring throughout that it really makes you appreciate the story that the filmmakers are trying to tell.  The overall plot is simple enough: Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a rancher trying to make ends meet while preventing a railroad from being built through his land.  Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is an outlaw that robs carriages that transports money.  Wade is captured while in the town of Bisbee, and it’s been decided that he will be taken to the town of Contention, to board the 3:10 to Yuma federal prison train.  Evans goes with the small group, hoping to make enough money to stay on his land and keep the railroad off of it.  They eventually make it to Contention, where a final showdown occurs between Evans (trying to get Wade to the train) and Wade’s group of outlaws.

That by and large is the plot.  Simple enough, but it’s everything else that occurs throughout that adds to the story and makes it something special.  The movie itself is a tale of redemption, more for Evans than anyone else (there was a possibility for Wade, but he remains the same in the end, simply because it’s his nature as an outlaw and overall bad person).  Evans was a Civil War vet who lost his foot during a battle early on in the war, though the reasons remain unknown until the end.  At the conclusion of the war, he takes his family and moves them to Arizona, mainly for his younger son (again, the reason is discovered at the end, though one can take a guess on why, it shouldn’t be too difficult).  He’s terrible as a rancher, and is often pushed around as well.  The movie opens to his barn burning by a group hired by another rancher hoping to push him off his land to make way for the railroad.  He’s a very diplomatic person, often in conflict with the views of his older son, who prefers that he would rather have his father shoot everyone instead of trying to be reasonable.  This leads to the older son trying to imitate Wade, only to find out by the end that Wade truly isn’t a good person.  Only his father is.

As for Evans himself, his decision to go all the way to Contention becomes his redemption: in one of the best scenes from the movie, he silently yet painfully explains to his wife that he can’t stand the looks his sons give him, or the way his wife doesn’t look at him (yes, Bale pulls it off quite well).  It’s there that we know why Evans would  be willing to risk his life for $200: to become a hero in his family’s eyes and to raise them out of the poverty that he had to place them in.

As for Wade, he gets told this when they’re scrambling to make it to the train, which causes him to decide to go all the way to the train for Evans and his son.  The final scene takes away his own personal redemption (especially with what he does in the scene preceding that one), but again, he’s the villain, and a very good one at that.  Wade is the kind of guy who would either retire when he gets old, or dies on his own terms.  Getting captured and facing execution just isn’t his style.

So yes, after the third time, I’ve come to love 3:10 to Yuma.  An excellent movie throughout.

Source: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=310toyuma.htm

Shutter Island went to number one, with I suppose a better than expected $40.2 million.  This was a career best start for both Leonardo DiCaprio (previous best was Catch Me if You Can) and Martin Scorsese (The Departed).  It was the only wide release of the week, which no doubt added to the strong beginning.  The movie improved from Friday to Saturday, based on estimates, which usually points to a positive box office pattern in the coming weeks.  BOM users rated it at B+, while Rotten Tomatoes users rated it at a very healthy 87%.

As expected, all of last week’s new movies dropped hard.  Percy Jackson had the smallest at 51%, but both Valentine’s Day and Wolfman both collapsed, off 70% and 69% respectively.  Valentine’s Day was expected mainly because of the Valentine’s Day gimmick (and it also did it’s strongest business on Valentine’s Day itself), but Wolfman followed suit as well: it’s best day was also last Sunday.  It actually fell harder in its second weekend than Van Helsing did.

Avatar had a strong hold, down 31% from last weekend and nearing $700 mil.  It’ll probably ellipse it by Sunday at the latest.

Sources: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/?yr=2010&wknd=08&p=.htm, http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1198124-shutter_island/

I have to hand it to Martin Scorsese: he knows his craft, and he knows it well.

I say this because, even though Shutter Island isn’t the best thing it’s made, it’s still pretty damn good.  The story is one of those mystery suspense thrillers, in which the lead character, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) investigates the disappearance of one of the island’s patients.  He also can’t get the images of his murdered wife out of his dreams, which drives him to find the missing patient and to find another one of the island’s patient who is apparently behind the murder.  And, everything on the island itself isn’t what it seems: the head doctor, the administrators, the orderlies, everyone knows something that Daniels doesn’t.

I’ll stop that there, because there is a few twists along the way (including the final big reveal) that I won’t divulge.  I will say that, save for the final reveal (mainly because that one’s a shock), the revelations come subtly.  I had some feeling as to what the twist was going into the movie, but I guessed incorrectly.  Everything was there too.  If it wasn’t, I’d blame it on poor film making.  But this is Scorsese, and he handles his craft well.  He takes his players, set them all up, and when it comes time to figuring everything out, he eases it all in there.  He’s in no rush to tell his story (the total run time is 138 minutes, which is slightly shorter than some of his grander films).

The music is excellent throughout as well.  The opening notes over the title card suggest something large and ominous occurring, and doesn’t let up at all.  It’s handled even better with the reveals, simply because it doesn’t dominate the sound.  It’s the characters that show everything that’s going on, and with a cast that includes DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, and Michelle Williams, you know it’ll be done well.

Which is what this movie ends up being overall, a well done dinner.  Paramount stated that the reason it was delayed was because of financial reasons: they didn’t have the money to promote it during the awards season.  Personally, I’m not sure I see this movie winning much of anything, but it’s still pretty damn good.  An excellently structured, well acted, and well shot film.  What more can you ask for?

A-

Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, about a high school teen who’s trying to figure out what to do with her life and finds herself joining a roller derby league.  Pretty good film overall: a couple missteps along the way, but it generally works in the way it was intended to.  Stand outs include Ellen Page as the rookie who joins the league, Marcia Gay Harden and Daniel Stern as her parents (two vastly different people), and Drew Barrymore as one of the derby girls who prefers retaliation more than actually scoring and winning.  Great fun.

I can quickly summarize this movie in three words, a dash and a letter: B-movie horror fest.

I commend Universal for attempting to rejuvenate it’s properties, or at least in a proper way.  After the suckfest that was Van Helsing, I’m sure they needed to go back to basics in terms of what they should do in properly bringing characters like the Wolfman, Frankenstein, Dracula, etc., back to the big screen.  Thus, after much delay, Universal finally released the Wolfman, and while it’s far from perfect, it’s a step in the right direction.

The most basic problems just come from the film itself: generic horror plot, shoddy acting with equally shoddy dialogue, and action sequences that occasionally are cut far too much to make sense.  Then again, what horror movie requires more than just those small requirements?  I know, I’m asking for far too much, but then again, there are exceptions.  The Wolfman is an exception, in the sense that it’s a popcorn movie, not a terribly good one, but popcorn nonetheless.

Though, I suppose avoid the popcorn.  There are ample amounts of gore and viscera throughout that may upset those with weak stomachs.  This movie definitely earned its R rating.

If there is one thing I’d like to highlight real quick (yes, I know it’s short, but I’m not sure how many different ways I can use “generic” in a 5-7 paragraph review), it’s the use of CGI in assisting with the wolfman transformation.  It’s acceptable, though not perfect.  I like the lead in to it: instead of just making it completely generic, the filmmakers wisely allowed del Toro to act through those sequences until the CGI completely took over.  He is quite a good actor: his facial expressions and body movements definitely show someone in pain when going through a physical transformation like his character did in the movie.  Kudos to him for being able to do that.

Still, it is B-movie horror fest with the Wolfman.  Horror fans and fans of the classic Universal monsters will delight in this.  Everyone else, like me, will probably proceed with caution.

C+

On a lighter note, a friend on Facebook found this random story about a Twilight fan who took offense to Universal “ripping” off the werewolf from New Moon.  Extremely hilarious.  Take a look at the comments along the way: another Twilight fan suggests that Universal isn’t completely ripping Twilight off because the wolves are in fact shapeshifters.  Disturbing times indeed.