Blackthorn (2011)

Everything Else is Just the Middle

Nothing in particular drew me to watch today’s movie besides my love of a good Western.  I had seen a trailer for it before one of my recent reviews, but had not heard anything about the movie before that.  It is a Western, to be sure, so I was interested, but I admit to having next to no knowledge of the character the movie is about.  I’ve not even seen the biggest movie that is based on the exploits of this character, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  But something still seemed interesting about the movie and the fact that it’s available on Netflix streaming just cemented the idea that I should watch it today.  Also, I had nothing else to watch.  So let’s hear about Blackthorn, written by Miguel Barros, directed by Mateo Gil, and starring Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Padraic Delaney, Stephen Rea, Magaly Solier, and Dominique McElligott.

In the realsies, Butch Cassidy (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is said to have been killed in 1908, but these claims have never really be substantiated.  This movie suggests that he is alive and well twenty years later, going under the moniker of James Blackthorn (Sam Shepard), living in Bolivia, and bangin’ a lady named Yana (Magaly Solier).  Blackthorn decides to return to the United States when he learns of the death of his old friend Etta Place (Dominique McElligott) and to visit her son (and his), Ryan.  When he goes to sell some horses, he is ambushed and his horse is scared off, along with all of his money.  The money wasn’t scared off, I mean the horse was and his money was on the horse.  You know what I mean!  Anyway, Blackthorn confronts his attacker, a Spaniard named Eduardo Apodaca (Eduardo Noriega), who explains that he is being chased and thought Blackthorn was one of them.  Apodaca asks if he can accompany Blackthorn, telling him that he’s hidden $50,000 that he stole from a Bolivian industrialist, and Blackthorn can have half of it if he helps him.

I don’t know if I wasn’t paying attention or if I really just had nothing come to my attention about this movie, but I took not a single note about this movie as I was watching it.  I’m pretty sure this is the first time that’s ever happened.  Well, since I took no notes, this review is over.  The movie’s okay.  The end.  Okay, I’ll go a little deeper into it than that, but keep in mind that the 60’s were pretty rough on my brain.  This movie was indeed “okay”.  It wasn’t all I hoped for, but it was good enough.  I’ve had pretty good luck with Western’s thus far in my life, having almost exclusively seen really good ones.  I tend to prefer the ones that are closer to action movies like Tombstone and the Quick and the Dead.  This one wasn’t that.  It was a lot more talkie and a lot slower paced, like Unforgiven and the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.  Okay, I just really wanted to write that long ass title.  It’ll pad out my review!  Blackthorn was interesting enough, but a little slow moving and didn’t really make me want to pay that much attention for some stretches.  It’s mostly about an old guy trying to tolerate a Spanish guy so that he can get paid.  Blackthorn also has a lot of flashbacks through the movie about his time with Sundance and Etta, but they never really seemed to have a whole lot to do with what was going on in the main plot.  It seemed like someone was either a really big fan of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and really wanted a sequel, or someone just wanted to perpetuate the myth that he didn’t die in a shootout in Bolivia.  Maybe both.  Having no knowledge of the movie and no particular affection for Butch Cassidy, the movie had to make do on its own merits.  It does it well enough, and has at least one pretty good action scene, but it was slower paced than I was interested in.  The look and settings were all pretty great.  They had a Western feel to it, but were just different enough because it was Bolivia.  It felt like a Western, but looked a little different at times.

I can’t really come up with any complaints about the performances in this movie.  They were all really good.  Not super fantastic, but really good.  Sam Shepard seemed to be perfectly cast as the older, grizzled Butch Cassidy.  He was a pretty good badass.  Eduardo Noriega was sometimes a little annoying, but he should have been as the antagonist of the movie.  And that’s basically the entirety of the cast.  Everyone else was fine, but I don’t have more to say.

Blackthorn’s a pretty good movie for a slower-paced Western, but that wasn’t really what I was in the mood for at the moment.  The story was good, but slow and boring in parts, with flashbacks that seemed unnecessary.  The look of the movie, as well as all of the performances, are very enjoyable.  Though it doesn’t apply to me, if you were a big fan of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, you’ll probably really enjoy seeing what (allegedly) happened after it.  If you’re like me and know nothing of Butch Cassidy, but enjoy a good Western, you’ll probably think the movie is fine.  It’s available on Netflix streaming if you want to roll the dice.  Blackthorn gets “I wonder how this movie did at Sundance” out of “You don’t get any richer than that.”

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Underworld: Awakening (2012)

My Heart is Not Cold.  It’s Broken

It’s taken us a long time to get to this point.  At the time of the writing of this review, it’s been almost a week since I saw today’s movie.  I had prepared for my vacation by readying a week of reviews for you, my audience.  While on my vacation, I saw two movies in the theaters.  Today’s movie, to me, required that I review three movies before this one could come out.  And now I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll remember this movie well enough to write a review about it.  Well, I took a great deal of notes during the movie, so we’ll find out.  And, now that we’re all caught up with the story of these movies, and all caught up with the story of me reviewing this movie, I present to you my review of Underworld: Awakening, written by Allison Burnett and Kevin Grevioux, directed by Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein, and (back in beautiful, skintight glory) Kate Beckinsale, as well as India Eisley, Stephen Rea, Theo James, Michael Ealy, Charles Dance, Kris Holden-Ried, and Sandrine Holt.

Six months after the events of Underworld: Evolution, humans have decided that they are not getting enough action in this vampire/werewolf war, so they start killing both of them.  Selene (Kate Beckinsale) decides that she does not enjoy being killed that much, so she takes her boyfriend/hybrid Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman?) to get the Hell out of Dodge.  The humans have other ideas.  They attack them at the docks and both are seemingly killed.  Instead of being dead, they wanted to make a movie longer than 5 minutes.  Something called “Subject 2” releases Selene from a cryo-prison, but does not stick around long enough to show her how to use the three seashells.  Following her natural curiosity, Selene eventually finds out that Subject 2 is a hybrid, much like Michael, and is also a little girl, much like Michael.  This little girl, Eve (India Eisley), is apparently, and inexplicably, the child of Selene and Michael.  Also, the scientists that were holding them want them back, so they have that to worry about too.

I kinda dug this movie.  The story is nothing to write home about, and probably wasn’t anything that really needed to be written down in the first place, but it was and it was fine.  It seemed like a lot of the story of the movie was decided on based strictly on the fact that Scott Speedman wasn’t going to be back.  This caused them to do as much as possible to keep him out of the story but possibly still alive so that he could still be a driving factor of the movie.  At first he’s alive, then he might be dead.  Then Selene is seeing visions through someone’s eyes and she’s all “Oh, he might be alive.”  Then she finds out it’s their daughter and she’s like “Oh, he might not be alive.”  Then there’s a facility where they were being held, and he might be alive again.  They decided to replace him with a little girl, and if I hadn’t just watched the first three movies, I wouldn’t have known the difference.  Parts of this movie seemed to just serve to waste time.  Somewhere in the middle, they’re in a vampire coven and the elder doesn’t like Selene and Eve being there.  He makes that clear from the start, but they still decide to randomly throw in a scene of the elder stopping Eve in the hallway and saying “I know what you are and I don’t want you here.”  Complete waste of our time as an audience.  I imagine that the real reason anyone actually watched this movie would be the action, and it’s pretty damned solid in that category.  The movie is pretty solid action for the first and the last thirds of the movie, wasting very little time on story.  The middle third is probably a little story heavy and action light, so you may get bored around that point.  But you should only go into these movies looking for some fun action anyway, so you get that, and should be happy with it.  There are some really good graphics to be found in this movie, but at least one glaring problem: the little hybrid girl.  It could’ve been done creepy, but it ended up just looking like a vaguely creepy goth girl.  She did the occasional badass thing, like ripping a werewolf in half, but the look never allowed me to be won over.  I got confused when the gigantic werewolf showed up, wondering if that was going to end up being a sumo wrestler or Shaquille O’Neal turned Lycan, but it was explained to me later.  Later in the movie, when Selene shoulder tackles a van onto it’s side, I wrote “Fuck yeah!” in my notes immediately.  It made me think about that story about a human mother being able to lift a bus to save her child, then I started wondering what that meant Selene would be able to do to save her child.  There’s the answer.  And if you also wondered what the inside of a throat looks like, you can have that question answered here as well.

The performances are much as you’ve come to see from the previous encounters with these characters.  Kate Beckinsale is still cold as ice as Selene, but has a few moments where you feel bad for her because she’s struggling to be able to connect with her daughter while simultaneously being a badass.  And she does indeed pull badass off, like few other women can.  Also, let’s face it, most of us guys watched these movies to see her running around in skintight leather.  Many worse things have been captured on film than Kate Beckinsale wearing skintight leather, filmed from behind.  Of course, they kind of shit on that in a couple of places by making her put on a trenchcoat.  Not cool, guys!  India Eisley did well enough, and it wasn’t her fault that the effects they used for her never really worked.  The rest of the cast never really did anything to grab my attention.  They didn’t do anything to bog down the movie, but never really elevated it either.  The biggest problem I had with the cast was Scott Speedman.  What’s this guy doing that he can’t come back for the movie?  Being some secondary part in a Rachel McAdams/Channing Tatum joint, that’s what.  Fuck that noise!  You could’ve at least been a main character in a movie that tends to make a good deal of money and has a strong cult following.  Instead you’re in The Vow, that didn’t even crack 30% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Unless you’re fucking Rachel McAdams, I am not down with that decision at all.

We have finally reached the end of the Underworld, at least for now.  Instead of finding Satan frozen in ice as Dante did, we find a solid action flick that is worth the price of admission.  The story won’t really shock you or stick with you in any meaningful way, but there is definitely some action worth seeing in this flick.  When it comes out, I’ll feel comfortable purchasing the tetralogy on BluRay.  Before that time comes, I’m comfortable saying you’ll find this to be a pretty fun time at the theaters.  Underworld: Awakening gets “This is a new war and it’s only beginning” out of “Consider us even.”

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