Six Great Foreign Westerns You Might Have Missed

A while back I did one of those lists, 7 Gritty Westerns You’ve Probably Never Heard Of, shedding light on a fistful of down and dirty 70’s era western movies in the cinema verite style which I hadn’t heard a lot of hooplah about but really enjoyed.

I recently watched a spate of fantastic western movies from the other side of the world and have similarly been inspired to list them here. I know some western fans tend to denigrate the efforts of non-American filmmakers in the original American art form, but they’re definitely missing out.  These pictures prove that some of the most innovative and interesting horse operas being made to day are being imported to our shores, just as in the early days of the much lauded Italian spaghettis.

1. Brimstone – If ever there was an anti-Searchers, it has to be Dutch filmmaker Martin Koolhoven’s sprawling, nihilistic epic about a crazed Reverend (Guy Pearce, in yet another great performance that by all rights should be a breakout part for him but like everything else he does, somehow isn’t given its due) relentlessly pursuing tongueless midwife Liz (Dakota Fanning) for reasons that only an attentive viewing of the slowly unraveling nonlinear tale as it unfolds make clear, and which I wouldn’t dream of spoiling here.

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Brimstone is a dark, demented masterpiece, almost a psychological horror movie, and the less you know about the plot going in the better I think it is. It demands patience, but definitely rewards the viewer with a tragic, operatic story in the best bloody, grand guginol style. The gradual reveal reminded me of Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West.

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As I said, Pearce delivers an apocalyptic performance as the fanatic man of an increasingly mad and evil god. Emilia Jones gives a great turn, particularly for a young actress in such a stark, weighty part, and the cast is liberally peppered with vivid, memorable characters, including Kit ‘Jon Snow’ Harrington as a fugitive outlaw and Paul Anderson as a loathsome pimp.

2. Slow West -The joint British and New Zealand production of John Maclean’s Slow West presents one pie-eyed young Scot’s (Kodi Smit-McPhee, in a winsome, earnest performance) bildungsroman journey to reunite with his true love Rose (Caren Pistorius), who has fled the accidental killing of his own landowning father for the wilds of Canada. Jay, the kid, falls in with a cynical bounty hunter (Michael Fassbender) secretly out to collect a bounty on her head.

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Slow West is a lyrical coming of age story peopled by unique characters and featuring some absolutely eye popping cinematography.  There’s a great illusory action sequence of Ben Mendelsohn’s outlaw gang popping up from an unbroken field of tall golden wheat like whack-a-moles to exchange gunfire and then seamlessly vanish again that had my eyes bugging. Little moments are focused and lingered upon; blood pooling beneath a dead clerk, a nail catching on a corpse’s trousers as it’s desperately dragged across a porch so that a door may be shut against the hail of gunfire outside, the progression of a bright caterpillar across a camoflagued Indian warrior’s painted face. It’s a beautiful movie, and an affecting portrayl of innocence and responsiblity lost and regained.

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3. The Salvation – Kristian Levring’s lavish Danish western begins with an explanation of the migration of veterans of the Second Schleswig War of 1864, an event that harkens to the westward flight of Confederate veterans to Texas following their parallel defeat at the hands of the Union, to the American frontier.

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Mads Mikkelson’s Jon and his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), having eked out a stable living, have sent for Jon’s wife and ten year old son after a separation of seven years. Tragedy strikes on the stagecoach to the homestead when a pair of violent ex-convicts board and force Jon off. Jon walks through the night in the ruts of the stage, finally discovering his son murdered and then his wife brutalized and killed. In short order he kills the two perpetrators, but finds that one of them was the brother of powerful local gang boss Delarue (a really oily and odious Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who takes the nearby town hostage until the killer of his brother is turned over to him.

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Sort of an alternate take on High Noon’s theme of the lonely good man against bad odds, I found the alternate viewpoint of Danish settlers really interesting and the action inventive and top notch.  There’s a particularly great bit involving a guy shooting through the ceiling of a hotel at a sniper on the roof and a can of kerosense that you’ll know when it comes.

Likewise, The Salvation’s look is really unique, eschewing the typical dull beige pallette of most modern westerns for a bright, brilliant sun baked hue of sandstone that really makes it stand out.

4. The Dark Valley – This bleak, moody German-Austrian revenge tale from Andreas Prochaska doesn’t take place in the American west at all, but I’m still including it here as it has all the trappings of the genre.

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The mysterious stranger, photographer Greider (Sam Reilly), who rides into the remote mountain town hiding a secret only to systematically unleash a hell that turns out to be well deserved in the final reel reveal reminds me a lot of High Plains Drifter, and its snowbound gloom recalls Corbucci’s classic The Great Silence.

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The Dark Valley is a quiet, brooding movie, where the violence comes smashing down like an unexpected avalanche.

5. The Proposition – John Hillcoat’s  wild Australian western, written by Nick Cave, takes place in a bloodsoaked 1880’s outback.  Police Captain Morris Stanley (Ray Winstone) offers captured bushranger outlaw Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce again) and his simple minded younger brother Mikey freedom in exchange for Charlie hunting down his murderous older brother Arthur (Danny Huston), a notorious killer feared even by the Aborigines, who call him The Dog Man.

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Sort of a western Heart of Darkness, we follow the progression of Charlie’s hunt for his near-mythic brother across a virtual hellscape, replete with black clusters of flies and savage, half-wild bounty killers (including a grizzled John Hurt) and bear cringing witness to his eventual, ultraviolent return when the particulars of the titular proposition go tragically, if not predictably awry.

960The Proposition is brutal and beautiful, a dark acid western in the truest traditions of the genre.

6. The Warrior’s Way – OK this one is a huge thematic departure from the rest of this list, but I can’t help it, I really enjoyed it. It’s essentially a frenetic HK-style action movie from South Korea and New Zealand, directed by Sngmoo Lee.

Sad Flutes (named for the sound of blood whistling from a severed neck) clan master assassin Yang ( Jang Dong-gun) destroys a rival clan at the orders of his superiors, but stays his hand from doing in an infant girl. In derelict of duty he flees to the western town of Lode, populated by ex-carnies, and there raises the girl, April, in anyonymity, befriending a dwarf (Tony Cox), the town drunk (Geoffrey Rush), and a local girl (Kate Bosworth), who seeks revenge against a murderous gang leader known as The Colonel (The Proposition’s Danny Huston again) for murdering her parents and brutalizing her.

When the Colonel and his army arrive to finish the job, Yang takes up his sword to defend the town. But the very act of arming himself draws the attention of his old clan master Saddest Flute (Ti Lung), and the Sad Flutes arrive to punish their own.

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The Warrior’s Way is a slick, insane weird western actioner where legions of bandanna wearing, duster-clad, Maxim toting stormtroopers essentially butt heads with the Korean equivalent of faceless sword twirling ninjas, and I get absolutely giddy watching the CGI mayhem unfold. Blood fountains and rains (literally), and for some there will probably be as much eye rolling as head rolling. It portrays an at times hilariously over the top hyper reality of painted backdrops and never-could-be characters, Geof Darrow-esque mass super-violence in the mode of chanbara flicks and manga. Very imaginative, but admittedly not for everybody.

It sticks out like a sore thumb on this list, but if you can watch a scene like the one below and get a kick out of it, you’ll enjoy it (definitely NSFW):

Any one of these is worth a view, and in my opinon, a purchase.

Angler In Darkness Is Up For Preorder

My first short fiction collection, Angler In Darkness, is now up for preorder in ebook formats. Release is scheduled August. The print version will follow close behind.

These are 18 stories running the gamut from fantasy, to dark adventure and horror, some in print for the first time, with a great cover by M. Wayne Miller and design by Shawn King.

A frontiersman of bizarre pedigree is peculiarly suited to tracking down a group of creatures rampaging across the settlements of the Texas Hill Country…..

A great white hunter is shaken to his core by a quarry he cannot conceive of….

A bullied inner city kid finds the power to strike back against his tormentors and finds he can’t stop using it….

Outraged plumbing plots its revenge….

Here Blackfoot Indians hunt the undead, the fate of nations is decided by colossal monsters, a salaryman learns the price of abandoning his own life, and even the Angel of Death tells his story.

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Currently available for preorder in a number of fine e-retailers.

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Hear The Eagle Scream In Horror Library 6

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My story Hear The Eagle Scream is debuting in Farolight Publishing’s Horror Library Volume 6, edited by Eric G. Guignard.

Stories include –

Garrett Quinn – I’ve Finally Found You
Jackson Kuhl – Cartagena Hotel
Stephanie Bedwell-Grime – The Exterminators
Connor de Bruler – Il Mostro
Tom Johnstone – Oldstone Gardens
Bentley Little – The Plumber
Kathryn E. McGee – The Creek Keepers’ Lodge
Josh Rountree – Snowfather
Jeffrey Ford – Five Pointed Spell
John M. Floyd – The Red-Eye to Boston
Raymond Little – Elsa and I
Rebecca J. Allred – Mother’s Mouth, Full of Dirt
Darren O. Godfrey – D.U.I.
Sean Eads – Predestination’s a Bitch
David Tallerman – Casualty of Peace
Marc E. Fitch – The Starry Crown
Vitor Abdala – Instant Messaging
JG Faherty – The H Train
Dean H. Wild – The Gaff
Jayani C. Senanayake – Kalu Kumaraya (My Dark Prince)
Lucas Pederson – We Were Monsters
C. Michael Cook – The Night Crier
Thomas P. Balázs – Waiting for Mrs. Hemley
Jay Caselberg – The Ride
Ahna Wayne Aposhian – Old Hag
Carole Johnstone – Better You Believe

Here’s an excerpt from my story, which concerns an old rancher taking on a drifting hired hand in Depression-era Texas against his better judgment.

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It was not uncommon to see men on the road, what with that son of a bitch Hoover in the White House. Jim Thiemann did not stir when his old eyes first caught sight of one, even when the ragged man paused at the chicken wire and wagon wheel gate that separated the Longview Ranch from the rest of Scurry County.

He did cease rocking in his chair and put his hand to the double barreled shotgun leaning against the porch rail when the man lifted the gate and started trudging up to the house.

Just in case.

Jim had a long time to watch him, but it wasn’t till he was about halfway up the road that his failing eyes could make anything out other than his tall, slim shape. The details gradually coalesced as if surfacing from a murky depth.

He had a growth of beard, dirty blonde, and his coveralls were patched, as were the elbows of the corduroy coat slung over his shoulder. There was a beat up hat, what Jim’s daddy had always called a ‘goin’ to hell hat,’ tilted on his head at an angle Jim didn’t much care for, and ratty shoes whose soles flapped like chatty old spinsters when he walked, kicking up half the dust in Texas. The setting orange sun lit the dust like smoke from a brush fire.

“Hello there, brother,” the man called cheerfully as he came to a stop.

“Hello yourself,” Jim replied. He didn’t care for that ‘brother’ talk straight off. In this country you called no man brother who was not, and old men went by ‘sir.’

“You’ve got a sign on your gate says you’re lookin’ to hire a man,” said the stranger.

“I know it. I put it there.”

“Well, I’m your man.”

“You ain’t even asked what kinda work it is.”

“If it pays somethin’ more than stale bread or a can of peas, I’ll do it.”

“You ever worked around a ranch?”

“In California.”

“You know what a fence rider is?”

“Yeah.”

“What is it?”

“Somebody to restring wire, dig postholes, mend gaps.””

“If it weren’t for this goddamn arthritis I’d do it myself. As it is, I can’t keep a cow on the place. What stock I got left’s grazin’ up in them hills,” Jim said, throwing a twisted thumb over his shoulder to indicate the grassy uplands behind the house. “About forty head. The fence needs to get fixed before you can even start bringin’ ‘em down. You get your pay when the job’s done, food and a place to sleep till then. But don’t let me catch you slackin’ to prolong your meals, or you’ll be out on your ass.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

“What’s your name?”

“Horace Greeley.”

Jim stared at the younger man a minute.

“Why do I know that name?”

“He founded the Republican Party. My pa was a tried and true Republican.”

“If you’re greenin’ me right from the get-go….”

“Brother believe me, I wouldn’t do that,” said Horace, showing his gritty palms. “Not in the state I’m in.”

“Alright, well the first thing you got to learn is in Texas you don’t go around callin’ your boss ‘brother.’ You call me ‘boss’ or ‘sir’ or ‘Mr. Thiemann’ or ‘Jim.’”

“Fair enough,” said Horace.

“Second thing is, that hat might be alright for workin’ in the orange groves, but it ain’t gonna make it here. After you go fetch that help sign off the gate, you can come on up to the house,” he said, rising out of the chair. “We’ll get you some proper headgear.”

Horace’s smile fell at the sight of the shotgun, which he apparently hadn’t noticed before.

“Don’t worry. It’s for coyotes. And tried and true Republicans,” Jim said, rubbing his aching back.

Pick up Horror Library Vol 6 here –

Three Ways To Save Iron Fist

finn-jones-iron-fist-netflixLike a lot of Marvel Netflix junkies I was looking forward to Iron Fist, perhaps more than any of the other Defenders even, not because I’m the world’s biggest Iron Fist fan (full disclosure: I haven’t read the Matt Fraction series and I’m mainly aware of the character from guest appearances in old Spider-Man comics and a few issues I’ve picked up here and there), but I AM a tremendous fan of martial arts entertainment, particularly classic 70’s era kung fu movies.

After the brilliant, brutal choreography of the Daredevil show and the depth of love shown to Afrocentrism and particularly to 70’s Black culture in Luke Cage, I assumed  we had a recipe for a killer Iron Fist show. Sadly, it didn’t go the route I expected.

I’m not gonna bash Iron Fist. Everybody has their favorite criticism. You can read that anywhere. Suffice it to say, I watched the whole thing, and in the end, I didn’t hate it, but I recognize it was not up to the other Marvel Netflix shows.

I’m not gonna list all the ways I think Iron Fist went wrong – that’d be annoying. But I’ll list here three sure fire ways to make Iron Fist right.

EMBRACE THE ORIGINS, CELEBRATE THE CULTURE

Iron Fist was created during the 70’s martial arts explosion that stemmed from the distribution of Shaw Bros kung fu movies abroad, Bruce Lee, and the Kung Fu television series with David Carradine.

kung-fu_tv-master_po-young_grasshopperYes, the one everybody hates but few have seen. I reconcile my love of both Bruce Lee’s films and Kung Fu because of the high quality of both.  Bruce Lee is amazing, unquestioned. The Kung Fu TV show (the original, not the modern day one) is amazing – seriously, watch it. With its dissemination of Eastern philosophy and message of peace and love, I truly think the world would be a better place if everybody did an episode a day.

This was probably also the reason, I think, that the early reviews citing the cultural appropriation inherent in the concept of Danny Rand didn’t affect me overly. Yes, an Asian actor in the role would have been preferable, and we can argue the importance of this all day, but in the end, they went with the original iteration of Danny Rand as the Immortal Weapon.  I’m not entirely sure altering the character’s race would have lessened the amount of pre-judgment, just swung it in the other direction. I would have watched it either way.

Anyway, Kung Fu was about Kwai Chang Cain, a half-Chinese, half-Caucasian orphan being taken into a Shaolin monastery and learning the discipline of the martial arts (sound familiar?) and employing those lessons as a somewhat naive outsider facing the prejudice and injustice of the American West (how about now?).  As Cain faced adversities in the course of an episode, he would invariably flash back to the past and his training as a young monk, remembering some applicable lesson that informed his decisions in the now. It’s practically a template for an Iron Fist show.

maxresdefaultNow these dream-like flashbacks were achieved pretty simply, with minimalist sets, mostly black, a lot of candles and the trappings of Chinese décor. The exterior scenes were actually a redressed castle set from the movie Camelot. There’s absolutely no reason our first glimpses of Danny’s past at K’un Lun couldn’t be depicted in a similar manner. It’d be a great homage, and cheap to film. Not seeing this in this starting season of Iron Fist was a tremendous misstep, like showing that gun in the first act and never having it go off.

return_36th_chamberIn the way Cage was a celebration of African American culture, Iron Fist should absolutely be a love letter to the martial arts genre, full of subtle references to everything from Chang Cheh’s Venom Mob, Jackie Chan, and Gordon Liu to wire-fu, 5ven04Donnie Yen, Jet Lee, and The Raid.  The producers should look to classics like Five Elements Ninjas, House of Traps, Master Of The Flying Guillotine, Kid With The Golden Arm and Flag of Iron for how to handle the bizarre martial assassins Iron Fist should be facing. The training sequences in K’un Lun should directly refer to movies like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Eight Diagram Pole Fighter. In fact, the direct inspiration for the character of Iron Fist was a line from the first kung fu movie creator Roy Thomas ever saw (maybe 1971’s Duel of The Iron Fist? Thomas doesn’t remember.) in an Upper East Side NYC theater in the 70’s. What better oeuvre to refer to then the wealth of movies that were shown in those kinds of theaters? This is what spawned this character!

I believe there was an intent to do just that that just got neglected somewhere along the way. Just as the episode titles for Luke Cage homaged black culture, Iron Fist’s episode titles recalled the colorful names for techniques in classic wuxia moves (Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch and Eight Diagram Dragon Palm). And I didn’t miss the drunken master either. The will was there, but it needs to be double downed.

Iron Fist should be chock full of references and cameos from the length and breadth of martial arts entertainment. Show the love! Embrace the source! We should see Sonny Chiba as a Hand leader or something. Or have Benny Urqidez show up, or Angela Mao! Bolo Yeung ! Dan Inosanto! Have Ray Park or Scott Adkins play villains. Jeez, could you imagine Ron ‘The Black Dragon’ Van Clief introducing Danny to Luke Cage?

MAKE MINE MARVEL

Which brings me to the second point.

Iron Fist is a Marvel character. We need to connect him to the Marvel universe in the same way Daredevil did. Daredevil was loaded with sly Marvel references (Stilt-Man, for Crissakes!).  The grainy 1940’s footage of the previous Iron Fist in costume duking it out with Chinese soldiers was great. More! Look to Iron Fist’s stable of villains and bring the kind of mystic martial arts action the character is designed for.  Let’s see Black Mariah, Chaka and the Golden Tigers, Chi’Lin, Senor Muerte, or Triple Iron.

OK, I suspect the long awaited meeting between Danny and future partner Luke Cage will probably happen in Defenders, but man I was really missing it in this first season. I fully expected Cage to notice his own bullet riddled shirt (given him by Claire) and ask Danny where he got it. Heck, when the DEA got involved and Danny was on the run, I thought he’d wind up in prison with Cage as a cell mate (this could have led to a killer Story of Ricky reference, with Danny punching his way out of jail and putting him and Luke on a Defiant Ones-style odyssey as fugitives).

Oh and the first time Luke sees Danny use his powers, take note: there had BETTER  be a Last Dragon joke!

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But I understand that might be best left for another time, another show.

Now what about Shang Chi?

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The early (false) rumors that Starlin and Engleheart’s Master of Kung Fu had been cast had me excited, and, I think, the inclusion of a powerful and savvy Chinese foil for Danny, commenting on the absurdity of his concept as a white savior and kung fu master, would have gone a long way towards deflecting the cultural appropriation criticism. It certainly worked for the last Tarzan movie, with Samuel L. Jackson fulfilling that very role.

Shang_ChiIf Danny Rand is David Carradine, Shang Chi is Bruce Lee, and that symbolic reconciliation needs to happen. Plus, who doesn’t want to see a Shang Chi spin off? I’m aware there were rights issues with the character due to his father being Sax Rohmer’s famous Fu Man Chu, but if The Ancient One can be a Celtic woman and the Mandarin can be a drug addled cockney actor, I don’t see why a single aspect of this character couldn’t be tweaked to make his father an unscrupulous crimelord (maybe even the ‘real’ Mandarin).

He was a big omission in season one, and he’d be a fantastic addition to season two.

And that brings me to my final pont….

BRING BACK RZA

rzaAll respect to HBO’s stable of talented writers and directors, but the standout episode of season one was Immortal Emerges From Cave, where the show touched on the brilliance it could have been. Danny facing off against weird Hand challengers in an honor duel to the death. Writer Dwain Worrell nailed it, but the fact that RZA directed it can’t be ignored.

The grandmaster of Wu-Tang knows his kung fu movies. I’ve seen him speak before a presentation of 36th Chamber at LACMA here in Los Angeles, and his Man With The Iron Fists displayed a love and passion for the genre unmatched. Bring him back for round two.

Buddha willing, there is one.

Namaste!

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DT Moviehouse Review: The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Time once more for my blog feature, DT Moviehouse Reviews, in which I make my way alphabetically through my 200+ DVD/Blu-Ray collection (you can see the list right here)and decide if each one was worth the money. Today, I review the Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

Directed by Andrew Adamson

Screenplay by Andrew Adamson, Ann Peacock, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely

Tagline: The beloved masterpiece comes to life.

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What It’s About:

In the midst of the German bombardment of London during World War 2, four children are sent to the country to live with their eccentric uncle. During a game of hide and seek they pass through an enchanted wardrobe into the magic land of Narnia where they become embroiled in a war between its good creatures, led by the lion Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) and the White Witch Jadis (Tilda Swinton) and her dark army.

Why I Bought It:

I was not introduced to fantasy by C.S. Lewis, but probably by Rankin and Bass’ Hobbit cartoon and Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of The Rings, which in turn led me to the original Tolkien novels, Robert E. Howard’s Conan, and most importantly, Dungeons and Dragons, the roleplaying game that supercharged my imagination early on. I spent untold hours in the basement of a friend’s house rolling dice and eating junk food while the older players passed the Captain Morgan and we took on hordes of monsters and each other in bleary-eyed sessions morning and night. I couldn’t get enough of fantasy.

I had read the entire Narnia series by the time this movie came out, so it was a given I was going to see it, but I remembered Lewis as being a bit bland, and so I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. I saw it with my best friend, a guy who I’d once watched turn his human thief into a fire breathing, flying minotaur trapped for all eternity inside a diamond (a magic Deck of Many Things, a few lucky Wish pulls and a complete inability to quit while he was ahead had culminated in this) and when the final battle sequence began with its dizzying array of Monster Manual denizens, we’d both turned to each other, looking past our wives in nerd-gasmic, bug-eyed appreciation, both of us I think, in that moment, really WANTING to be in Narnia.

e4cc9d4c53b1bf5a2b7edd1ef8bce7e4Following a cast of child actors can be pretty hit or miss. You can be blessed with Harry Potter or The Goonies, or damned to the ninth circle of Mary-Kate and Ashley Skywalker. The kids assembled to portray the Pevensie kids are winsome and earnest, and don’t come across as the type with a celebrity and money obsessed parent breathing down their necks, shoving them into the closet with St. Sebastian when they don’t hit their marks (or whatever showbiz parents do).

45b3874fbebeb72ddac3c01c986d7764Young Lucy (Georgie Hensley) is a standout, plucky and yet sensitive, with a great gosh-golly-wow face. I’d just had my first daughter when I saw this and she won me over pretty quick. I can’t even hear that Alanis Morrisette song that plays during the credits without picturing her now. The scene where she is betrayed by Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) is a particularly good display of her talent. Her bewilderment at the fawn’s lie (which, under the director’s hand, has an almost unseemly, exploitative feel, like a prelude to molestation in some darker Todd Solondz movie) comes across well.

Likewise Edmund (Skander Keynes) is sufficiently shifty, but doesn’t play his seduction by the White Witch so that we can’t forgive him later. Peter (William Moseley) is as heroic as you want him to be, and Anna Popplewell as the much-maligned Susan….I wish she had gotten the chance to play the character to the end of her involvement in the series, because I think from this (and Prince Caspian, the sequel) she had the chops to make it interesting.

Jadisedmundcastle1Tilda Swinton is as ever icy and ethereal as the White Queen Jadis, alluring and cruel as first crushes often are, which gets you in Edmund’s shoes pretty well. “I know she’s evil, but dang, I really want her to be good, so I’ll give it a go. Besides, Turkish Delights! So she must like me.” Jadis’ dwarf henchman Ginarrbrikk is played by Kiran Shah, who was the kid who let the monkey poison the dates in Raiders of The Lost Ark. Liam Neeson’s voice rivals James Earl Jones’ as the sound of ultimate paternal love in the form of Aslan the lion. Other recognizable voices include Michael Madsen as the Witch’s rough right-hand wolf who sounds like he’s ready to chew your ear off at any minute, and Ray Winstone as the salty, blue collar Mr. Beaver. James Cosmo has a memorable cameo as the most kick ass Santa Claus ever.

The CG animals are only a little difficult to accept, and even then, only initially. When blended with live action, its practically perfect, particularly as on display in the epic final battle sequence. For the most part the FX are great, and surprisingly bright and four color, eschewing the typical rule of using shadow to obscure the seams.  Narnia is a sumptuous land, with bright, beautiful scenery and luxuriant textures, as any storybook land should seem.

Narnia has a reputation as a Christian fantasy series. I guess there is some element of that on display in the character of Aslan, whose arc may be a bit mystifying if you don’t take his origins into account. Yet I wouldn’t say it pushes an agenda. I don’t feel proselytized to watching it. It’s just a pretty straightforward good vs. evil story.

chronicles-of-narnia-the-lion-the-witch-and-the-wardrobe-the-20051019035129270-000What I really love about this movie is it feels like an 80’s throwback. In the 80’s we had fantasy movies like Dragonslayer, Ladyhawke, Legend, and Excalibur, movies that were never embarrassed of what they were. Even Jackson’s much-lauded Lord Of The Rings movies are peppered with anachronistic winks at the audience (that awful, awful Dwarf tossing joke). Narnia has a bunch of kids from our world in a fantasy realm, and they they aren’t cracking wise and giving us Poochie MST3K commentary. They’re in it, and it’s as real as can be. I like that the kids don’t take a rear echelon Pokemon role in any of the action. They’re in the thick of the fight at all times. It makes their ultimate enthronement more deserved, more satisfying, and their sudden departure back to their own lives (as if they’d never left) more poignant.

Best Dialogue/Line:

The one that gets me is right before the final battle.

Peter has been thrust into the role of commander of this vast army, and he sits atop a unicorn in shining armor with a magic sword, possibly every boy’s dream, and certainly mine. But he has this moment where he looks to his centaur second in command (played wonderfully by Patrick Kake) and asks, as a kid in a bit over his head might;

“Are you with me?”

And the centaur has this great look on his face, a sort of bewilderment at the question. Aslan, for all intents and purposes his god, has chosen this kid to lead them, so there’s not a doubt in his mind. He sort of shakes his head and furrows his brow in an ‘of course’ manner.

“To the death,” he says.

Best Scene:

maxresdefaultWell I keep talking up that final battle, don’t I? It’s every storybook fantasy battle you’ve ever dreamed of, with the ‘bad’ critters on one side (Minotaurs, werewolves, goat-men, bumbling giants, etc) and the ‘goodies’ on the other. There’s a fantastic shot where Peter in his shining armor, gallops on a freakin’ unicorn at the vanguard of this contingent of centaur cavalry. The centaurs lower their lances and a group of racing cheetahs pull ahead of the army, while on the opposite side, a group of white tigers rush to meet them. There’s a pullback to the whole battlefield and the music (which I must mention is really cool during this sequence, very 80’s Vangelis sound) cuts out to a pre-clash heartbeat. Then these great cats just bash into each other ahead of their respective hoses, and go tumbling. It’s not a bloody battle, but the violence is there, and dramatic. Jadis petrifies enemy combatants, even turning a diving hippogriff to stone in passing so that it crashes into the ground in fragments.

Would I Buy It Again? Yes. And this reminds me to revisit the others.

Next In The Queue:

Cimarron

Thorne & Cross

I’ll be on Thorne & Cross tonight at 5PM Pacific speaking to Alistair and Tamara about Monstrumfuhrer and doing my best to sound intelligent. Hopefully the kids are quiet! You can listen in below. Don’t worry if you miss the time and day, it becomes a permanent podcast link afterwards.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheairradio2/2017/01/27/ed-erdelac-returns-to-thorne-cross-haunted-nights-live

Published in: on January 26, 2017 at 2:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Monstrumfuhrer Is Out!

My tenth novel Monstrumfuhrer is out today from Comet Press. Pick it up here –

https://www.amazon.com/Monstrumfuhrer-Edward-M-Erdelac/dp/1936964015/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485284822&sr=8-1&keywords=monstrumfuhrer

Coinciding with that, I was interviewed over on Gingernuts of Horror. Give it a read here –

http://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/author-interview-five-minutes-with-edward-m-erdelac

Published in: on January 24, 2017 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Happy 111th Birthday, Robert E. Howard

yearbook-detailJanuary 22nd nearly came and went without me marking the birthday of my favorite author, Texan Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan The Barbarian, Solomon Kane, King Kull, and others.

As always, I feel the best way to honor the man is to read his words. This year, I present a selection from The Grey God Passes, Howard’s rendition of the Battle of Clontarf.

“My Lord,” said Conn, fingering the great copper ring around his neck, “I have slain the man who put this thrall-mark on me. I would be free of it.”

Black Turlough took his red stained ax-head in his hands and, pressing it against the ring, drove the keen edge through the softer metal. The keen edge gashed Conn’s shoulder, but neither heeded.

“Now I am truly free,” said Conn, flexing his mighty arms. “My heart is heavy for the chiefs who have fallen, but my mind is mazed with wonder and glory. Will ever such a battle be fought again? Truly it was a feast of ravens, a sea of slaughter….”

His voice trailed off, and he stood like a statue, head flung back, eyes staring into the clouded heavens. The sun was sinking in a dark ocean of scarlet.  Great clouds rolled and tumbled, piled mountainously against the smoldering red of the sunset. A wind blew out of them, biting, cold, and borne on the wind, etched shadowy against the clouds, a vague, gigantic form went flying, beard and wild locks streaming in the gale, cloak billowing out like great wings – speeding into the mysterious blue mists that pulsed and shimmered in the brooding North.

“Look up there – in the sky!” cried Conn. “The grey man! It is he! The grey man with the single terrible eye. I saw him in the mountains of Torka. I glimpsed him brooding on the walls of Dublin while the battle raged. I saw him looming above Prince Murrogh as he died. Look! He rides the wind and races the tall clouds. He swindles. He fades into the void. He vanishes!”

“It is Odin, god of the sea-people,” said Turlogh somberly. “His children are broken, his altars crumble, and his worshipers fallen before the swords of the South. He flees the new gods and their children, and returns to the blue gulfs of the North which gave him birth. No more will helpless victims howl beneath the daggers of his priests – no more will he stalk the black clouds.” He shook his head darkly. “The Grey God passes, and we too are passing, though we have conquered. The days of the twilight come on amain, and a strange feeling is upon me as of a waning age. What are we all, too, but ghosts waning into the night?”

And he went on into the dusk, leaving Conn to his freedom – from thralldom and cruelty, as both he and all the Gaels were now free of the shadow of the Grey God and his ruthless worshipers.

battle_of_clontarf_oil_on_canvas_painting_by_hugh_frazer_1826

Published in: on January 22, 2017 at 7:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Stories On The Great Jones Street

The Great Jones Street is a fairly new app that promises to be the Netflix of short fiction, and boasts a searchable database of a wide variety of short stories in various genres, including a couple offerings by yours truly.

https://www.greatjonesstreet.press/stories/

Here are direct links to Spearfinger –

https://www.greatjonesstreet.press/spearfinger-edward-m-erdelac-2/

Black Tallow –

https://greatjonesstreet.app.link/qXopl9hf1z?action=story-detail&storyId=16784&storyTitle=Black+Tallow&author=Edward+M.+Erdelac&referring_user_id=A552C8CA-7DB3-46A8-A242-8BD28D823E6A&share_medium=SMS

And The Blood Bay, a favorite of mine –

https://greatjonesstreet.app.link/b2TTxLmf1z?action=story-detail&storyId=16785&storyTitle=The+Blood+Bay&author=Edward+M.+Erdelac&referring_user_id=A552C8CA-7DB3-46A8-A242-8BD28D823E6A&share_medium=SMS

Download the app and check ’em out.

 

 

Published in: on January 18, 2017 at 3:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Angler In Darkness by M. Wayne Miller

I was gonna wait till the titles were in place and all, but rather than mar it with my name, I thought I’d give you all a sneak peak of M. Wayne Miller’s art for my forthcoming short fiction collection Angler In Darkness.

I love working with Wayne because while the development of my own art skills was arrested somewhere around my Freshman year of high school, I can float him a meager sketch of what I want and he delivers it so close to how I actually see it in my mind it’s uncanny. He may as well be mind melding with me. The late great Norm Rubenstein introduced me to Wayne when he got him to do the awesome wraparound cover for my Van Helsing novel Terovolas. I only sent him a text description, but he absolutely nailed what Norm and I both envisioned.  

Later, I was nervous sending him a sketch of what I envisioned for my story The Boonieman in World War Cthulhu as I didn’t want to offend him as an artist, but he took the bare bones I sent him and just…well, turned it into art. 

Anyway, without further ado….

unnamed

Awesome.

Check out Wayne’s work here.

http://www.mwaynemiller.com/