action, movie, movie review, western

June 23rd, 2018 Movie – Young Guns II

young guns 2

You ever have a song that seems to be everywhere and you can’t escape it. Well that was the case in 1990 as Jon Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory” seemed to be played ALL THE TIME. Now I will admit that it is a catchy song and I didn’t mind hearing it every now and then, but it really did seem to be on every time you turned on the radio. Now, this did make for some effective marketing for today’s movie, as it was the featured song for the movie. Now let’s have some fun with today’s movie, Young Guns II.

The plot: In 1950, attorney Charles Phalen meets with a man named Brushy Bill Roberts out in the New Mexico desert. Roberts explains that he wants Pelham’s help in securing the pardon he was promised 70 years ago by then New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace, telling Pelham that his real name is William H. Bonney, alias Billy The Kid. Pelham doesn’t believe him, saying that Billy the Kid was killed by Pat Garrett in 1881 and asks if Roberts has any proof to his claim, such as any scars. In flashback, Roberts explains that after he had parted ways with Doc Scurlock and Luis Chavez y Chavez, he had formed a new gang with Pat Garrett and Arkansas Dave Rudabaugh. When some bounty hunters attempt to kill Billy, the three manage to kill the bounty hunters, though Billy is shot in the leg in the process. Meanwhile, Doc is living in New York City and working as a school teacher when US Marshals break down the door and arrest Doc, as they are bringing all of the men involved in the Lincoln County War back to New Mexico to be executed. When he arrives in Lincoln, he is thrown into a gallows pit with some other prisoners and discovers that Chavez has also been captured. Meanwhile, Billy, Garrett, and Dave head to a border town that they have taken to hiding in and as Billy gets his wound tended too, he learns about the warrents issued for him and everyone involved in the Lincoln County War. A young boy named Tom O’Folliard approaches Billy, wanting to ride in his gang, but Billy tries to steer him clear of the lifestyle by showing him the wound in his leg and saying it could just as easily be in his head. When some soldiers show up, the residents hide Billy so they don’t find him and later, Garrett sneaks him some food and tells him that he is thinking of giving up the outlaw life and settle down. When one of the townsfolk decides to take a shot at Billy, he is forced to shoot him, then ends up in a gunfight with the soldiers but is able to escape town. Billy makes his way to see Governor Wallace, who offers Billy a full pardon in exchange for his testimony against the members of the Dolan-Murphy gang. Billy accepts and is taken to Lincoln to testify, only to find out that the prosecutors had no intention of using his testimony, making the deal null and void. Due to the fact that his wrists are bigger than his hands, Billy is able to slip out of his cuffs and escape, but overhears the sheriff telling the prisoners that a lynch mob is expected to arrive that night. Billy, Garrett, and Dave disguise themselves as members of the lynch mob and manage to trick the sheriff into releasing Doc and Chavez into their custody but when the real lynch mob shows up, they are forced to fight their way out of town. Later, as he is shooting the shackles from Doc and Chavez, he tells them that things are getting too hot and he is going to take the Mexican Blackbird, a series of broken trails that only he and a few others know, and head down to Mexico. Doc wants to head back to New York but Garrett warns him that things aren’t the same as they were when he was last in Lincoln and when he sees a posse heading towards them, he reluctantly follows after Billy and the others. Riding back to their hideout, Billy sends Garrett out to get some more people to join them but the only person he can find is a former farmer named Henry William French. Garrett then tells Billy that he won’t be riding with him, as he decided to follow through on his idea of settling down and opening up his own place and Billy argues with him briefly before accepting his friends decision, then agrees to let Tom ride with them when he is caught stealing some food. The next day, Billy, Doc, Chavez, Dave, Henry, and Tom ride to the ranch owned by John Simpson Chisum, a wealthy land owner who was an ally of Tunstall and McSween during the war. Billy tells Chisum that he owes them money for some services rendered as well as his avoiding hitting his property but Chisum says he doesn’t owe them anything. Billy threatens to kill one of his men for every $5 dollars that they owe, then has Dave kill one of Chisum’s men while Doc is forced to kill another. With Chisum refusing to pay them, Billy and the others rustle some of his cattle in order to get some money and head on to Mexico. Chisum meets with Wallace and they have Garrett brought to the Governor’s mansion, where they ask him to become the new sheriff of Lincoln County, offering him $1000 and all the resources he needs in order to capture Billy and his gang. Garrett accepts the job and hires his friend Ashmun Upson, a drunken journalist, to ride with him and document the journey. In the desert, Billy wakes up the others by shooting a newspaper article, telling them that Garrett is the new sheriff chasing them. As they head towards Mexico, they come across an Apache burial ground and Chavez says they should go around it but Dave argues that they can sell the bones for money. When he starts to dig up a grave, Chavez attacks him and the two begin fighting, with Dave stabbing Chavez in the arm with his knife while Chavez slashes Dave with his before they are forced to call a truce. The group arrive at the town of White Oak, where they meet up with Jane Greathouse, a friend of Billy, Doc, and Chavez’s who has opened a brothel. As the group is entertained for the night, a lynch mob comprised of the town’s citizens shows up ready to hang them. Deputy Carlyle tries to keep the peace and asks to come inside to speak with Billy. Once inside, he explains that he intends to follow the law but things will get ugly if the crowd doesn’t get a hanging so he proposes that Billy gives him Chavez to satisfy the crowd and the others can leave out the back. Billy refuses to turn over his friend and instead, puts Chavez’s hat and poncho on him and shoves him out the door while yelling at the crowd, causing the crowd to mistakenly shoot Carlyle, then quickly disperse when they realize what the did. Garrett and his men arrive shortly afterwards and after questioning Jane, he sets her place on fire, saying he is following the law and the towns wishes, and Jane proceeds to ride out of town naked to show what she thinks of the town. Billy and his gang end up in a small mining community that is mining guano but Garrett and his men catch up to them and start shooting. Billy and the others manage to get away ride their horses off a cliff, forcing Garrett and his men to take the long way around to try and catch them again. As Billy and the others continue, he and Tom ride on ahead to scout only to see Garrett close by. Despite the sun being in his eyes, Garrett takes aim and fires, thinking he shot Billy but as he rides up to inspect the body, realizes that he shot Tom, who says he can’t believe he shot him before passing away. Billy and the others take refuge in a abandoned house and when Doc asks him about the trail, Billy admits that there is no trail. Doc gets angry and goes to leave, only to be shot by one of Garrett’s men when he steps out of the house. As they argue over what to do, Doc tells Billy to finish the game and Billy hands him a pistol. Doc then charges out and begins firing at Garrett and his men, only to be gunned down. Dave, Henry, and Chavez manage to get away but when Chavez is shot, Henry goes back to help him while Dave continues on his way. Billy ends up being captured and is taken back to Lincoln, where the judge sentences him to be hanged. As he is awaiting his execution, Billy receives a visit from Jane, who has opened a new brothel and secretly gives him a note saying “outhouse”. When Billy goes to the outhouse, he finds a gun she had hidden for him inside and uses it to kill his guards and make his escape, riding back to his hideout in Fort Sumner. Chavez and Henry also head there and when he says that they need to head out, Chavez tells him he isn’t going anywhere, showing him his gut wound, and he wanders off to die. Henry also chooses to leave and as the town holds a celebration that night, Billy is confronted by Garrett. Billy and Garrett argue, with Billy telling Garrett to let him go to Mexico and Garrett says he can’t because he knows Billy would come back. As they continue arguing, Billy turns his back and starts to walk away, forcing Garrett to shoot him in the back. As a funeral is held for Billy, someone steals Garrett’s horse while in the present, Bill Roberts says he never stole a horse from someone he didn’t like and he loved Garrett like a brother. Dave had made it to Mexico but was beheaded shortly afterwards as a warning to outlaws crossing the border. Garrett’s book about the life of Billy the Kid was a failure and he was shot dead in 1908. Bill Roberts was brought before the governor on November 29, 1950 and despite several surviving witnesses that knew Billy the Kid and corroborated his claim, he was discredited and died 1 month later in Hico, Texas.

Young Guns II received mostly negative reviews from the critics, holding a 35% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most of the critics felt that it was an entertaining movie, but lacked some of the depth from the previous film. Emilio Estevez had approached Jon Bon Jovi to ask permission to use “Wanted Dead Or Alive” in the movie but Bon Jovi felt the lyrics were inappropriate. Instead, he was inspired by the project and wrote a new song, “Blaze Of Glory”, that better caught the period and setting of the film, and would end up being #1 hit on the Billboard 100. Much like it’s predecessor, the movie was a hit at the box office, earning $44.1 million off of a $10 million budget.

The sequel curse definitely hit this movie as it was definitely not as good as the original. The acting was ok, as I liked Emilio Estevez reprising his role as Billy and I thought Lou Diamond Phillips was equally good as Chavez but felt like Kiefer Sutherland wasn’t too keen to return and didn’t put much emphasis into his character. I thought Christian Slater was great as Arkansas Dave and loved his constant challenging of Billy for leadership and William Petersen was decent as Garrett. The story was pretty good, focusing on the controversy that surrounds Bill Roberts, who did claim to be Billy the Kid and brought new life to the debate, which cause it to be brought up on Unsolved Mysteries. The special effects regarding the gunfights did seem better than the first movie but it didn’t do much to make the movie itself better. It’s some fun watching when you’re bored, but the original is still better.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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action, crime, drama, movie, movie review, thriller

September 17th, 2017 Movie – The Skulls

the skulls

Ahh, the turn of the century and a time when you could actually go out on a date to the movies and get some snacks for the cost of one ticket now a days. I know in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I watched a lot of movies in the theaters, honestly more movies than I can remember off hand. I do remember going to see this movie in the theaters down in Savannah on a date with my girlfriend at the time. Even though I bought it on DVD (another Blockbuster purchase), I honestly haven’t watched this movie in years but I do remember liking this movie when I first saw it. Now let’s see if it still holds up as I watch today’s movie, The Skulls.

The plot: Luke McNamara is a local “townie” that is able to attend Yale on scholarships while also working in the cafeteria to help cover the costs. As he tries to figure out how to afford to go to law school, Luke heads to a rowing competition, where he is the captain of the team and has lead them to 3 championships. As they prepare for the race, Luke is unaware that he is being observed by two men, who are considering recruiting him to be in The Skulls. After winning the competition, Luke is celebrating at a bar with his friend/roommate Will, who is also the coxswain of the rowing team, and Chloe, who Luke has feelings towards. Will tries to convince Luke that he should tell Chloe how he feels but Luke says that he can’t, as he feels like he has nothing to offer her since she comes from a wealthy family. As Luke complains about how much all of his tuition is costing and how much he will end up and how the Skulls will supposedly help him pay for all of that if he is selected to join but Will warns him that if it’s secret, it might not always be a good thing as they walk by the Skull’s campus house. As they are eating pizza up in Chloe’s dorm room, Luke receives a phone call asking if he is ready to be reborn and instructing him to another payphone. Luke rushes off, with Will and Chloe trying to figure out where he is going, and after following a series of instructions, Luke drinks a drugged drink and ends up passing out. Luke regains consciousness and finds himself inside a coffin and finds several other people also exiting coffins. Suddenly, two hooded figures welcome the new members to The Skulls and assigns them a test to steal the mascot from a rival secret society. The group head to the society’s building and one kid, Caleb Mandrake, quickly jumps over the moat to reach the door. When he says it is locked, Luke jumps over and manages to pick the lock and the two manage to climb the tower and steal the mascot, a weather vane shaped like a python. When Luke returns to his dorm room the next morning, Will and Chloe start asking him questions about what happened but Luke says he doesn’t want to talk about it. When Will asks him point blank if he is a Skull, Luke tells him he doesn’t know but Will doesn’t believe him. The two start arguing and Chloe tries to get them to calm down but when Caleb calls for Luke, Will gets even more upset that Luke is picking his new friends over his old ones. Chloe leaves as well, looking hurt over Luke’s actions and when Luke talks to Caleb, Caleb tells him to look under his pillow and Luke finds a box containing a Skull medallion. Luke, Caleb, and the other recruits arrive at the Skull’s ritual room and are paired off into “soulmates”, with Luke and Caleb being paired together, and inducted into the Skulls by the Chairman of the order, Judge Litten Mandrake , Caleb’s father. After leaving the room, Luke heads to Chloe’s room to apologize and asks her to dinner but when he finds that he has an additional $20,000 in his bank account, Chloe realizes that he is a Skull but Luke tries to convince her to be happy for him. The next day, Luke, Caleb and the other Skulls are invited to the Skull’s island retreat and Litten introduces Luke to his soulmate, Senator Ames Levritt, who takes a liking to Luke due to their similar backgrounds and hands him a card, saying to call him if he needs anything. Luke then goes to talk with Caleb and comments on the tension between him and his father and Caleb says that Litten is ambitious and wants to be on the Supreme Court and has been trying to pass on that ambition to him but Caleb doesn’t know what he wants yet. After returning from the island, the new Skulls find gifts in the form of new cars waiting for them and they all quickly speed off. The next day, Luke sees Will in between classes and comments on his missing practice and Will tells him he is working on something secret. Elsewhere, Caleb is at boxing practice and when he heads to his car, he finds the window is smashed and someone has stolen his key to the Skull’s building. Caleb goes to find Luke and asks to borrow his key, saying he left his key inside the building, and Luke hands it to him. When Caleb gets to the ritual room, he finds Will in there taking pictures and accuses him of taking his stuff and Will admits to it and goes to hand him his key but says he doesn’t have the rule book on him. Later that night, Luke feels bad about his argument with Will and heads to the newspaper room to apologize only to find Will’s body hanging from one of the beams. The detective in charge of the case, Detective Sparrow, starts to question Luke about Will’s death but is stopped by the University Provost, Martin Lombard, and Luke leaves with Chloe, while Caleb offers his condolences. As movers are packing up Will’s stuff to send back to his home, they uncover a secret drawer in his desk and Luke realizes that Will was doing an article about the Skulls and had Caleb’s book. After the funeral, Chloe tells Luke she knew Will was doing the article but had been asked to keep it a secret and asks Luke if the story got Will killed. Luke tells her he doesn’t know but she can tell that he is not being completely honest and calls him out for lying as she leaves in tears. The next day, Sparrow talks with Luke about the case and tells him that Will had a contusion on the back of his head, indicating something violent happened before he died and that his suicide was possibly staged. At a meeting with the Skulls, the group are brought to a room to reveal their deepest secrets and Luke volunteers himself and Caleb to go first. After they are sealed into the cage and lowered into the well, Luke subtly questions Caleb about what happened to Will but Caleb refuses to answer it. Afterwards, Luke and Caleb are brought to see Litten and Litten forces Caleb to tell him the truth. Caleb explains that he went to the room and found Will taking pictures and after confronting him, they struggled and Will ended up falling and breaking his neck so he called Litten and Litten covered up the accident in order to protect his future as well as the Skulls. Luke isn’t happy about it but Litten offers him a pre-approved acceptance to any law school he wishes in order to keep the secret. Luke gets in touch with Levritt to try and figure out what he should do and Levritt give Luke the idea about checking the security tapes, as everything that happened would be recorded and comments on how the Council is putting everything into getting Litten onto a Federal Bench, as a precursor to the Supreme Court, and it would be a shame to see anything happen that would ruin his chances. Luke goes to see his old high school friends, who he used to commit crimes with, and convinces them to help him in exchange for giving them his car. They find out the tapes are switched out twice a day and try to follow where the man takes them but Luke loses him in the school’s library. When Luke returns to his room, he is attacked by Caleb, who reveals that Luke’s room is bugged, as is Caleb’s and Chloe’s, and begs Luke to stop digging into the matter. Luke goes to see Chloe and apologizes for what he has done and proceeds to tell her everything. Meanwhile, Litten calls the Council and wants to kick Luke out of the Skulls but Levritt votes against the measure until Litten pulls him aside and shows him photos of Levritt with his 19 year old mistress, blackmailing him into voting for the measure. The next day, Chloe yells at Luke in the cafeteria for writing him a letter breaking up with her and tells him to never talk to her again. After she leaves, Caleb, who was sitting behind Luke, tells him it was a good call, as he feels Luke did it to keep Chloe away from him. Luke then heads up to Chloe’s room, revealing it was an act, and after turning up the music and her shower to insure nobody can hear them, he tries to get her to stay clear of any further involvement but she tells him she is involved because she loves him, and the two embrace and kiss. That night, Luke assaults the security guard as he enters a secret room in the library and steals the tape of the ritual room from the night Will was killed. As he leaves, he is chased down by Lombard and another man but his friends, wearing masks to hide their identities, show up and beat them down, then they all escape with Chloe. Heading back to his friends’ place, they watch the tape and see Will fall and Caleb call his dad and tell him what happened. Caleb wants to call the police but Litten apparently tells him to leave the room. As the continue watching the tape, the see that Will was still alive but Lombard and his men enter and after talking with Litten, they kill him and then take the body to stage the suicide. Luke heads to the police to speak with Sparrow only to find that Caleb is there, having told Sparrow that Luke killed Will. Luke hands Sparrow the tape saying that it proves who killed Will but when Sparrow, Luke, and the D.A. watches the tape, they find it is blank and Luke realizes that Sparrow switched the tapes as he is carried off and placed into an ambulance, where he is sedated and transported to a psychiatric institute that is run by a member of the Skulls. Back at the school, Chloe goes to speak with Caleb and ask for his help in getting Luke out of the mental hospital but Caleb refuses to help her and tells her to leave and she does, but tells him that Will was still alive when he left the room. Chloe is assaulted by Lombard and his men but manages to get away from them and runs into Levritt, who takes her to the hospital. They get Luke out of the hospital and Ames tells her to tell Luke there is only one way out of this and to remind Luke that, “they live by the rules and they die by the rules.” As they leave, they are attacked by another car, which forces them off the road, causing them to crash on an unfinished railroad bridge. Lombard goes to shoot Luke but he is killed by Sparrow, who hands Luke his rule book and tells them to leave. At a motel, Luke tries to figure out what Levritt meant and when Chloe tells him about what Levritt told her, he checks the rule book and figures out what Levritt meant. Luke rows over to the island and as Litten is toasting the new Skulls on ending their Period of Revelation, Luke enters the room and challenges Caleb to a duel. Litten wants Luke to be arrested but when he is reminded that the Skulls’ laws supersede the outside laws, he offers to take Caleb’s place, only for Luke to tell him it is forbidden for the Council members to interfere when the matter concerns their kin. As they prepare to face off in the duel, Luke tries to convince Caleb to tell everyone the truth of what happened, refusing to fire on Caleb but Caleb can’t tell them, but also can’t shoot Luke. Litten grabs another pistol and prepares to shoot Luke but he is shot in the shoulder by Caleb. As everyone rushes to tend to Litten, Caleb grabs another pistol and prepares to shoot himself but he is stopped by Luke, he says it is over. Later, Luke is talking with Levritt and tells him that he knows he orchestrated things to play out as they did in order to remove Litten as Chairman. Levritt admits it and tells Luke he looks forward to working with him but Luke says he is leaving the Skulls. When Levritt says they will find him and call on him but Luke ignores him and leaves, prompting Levritt to watch him and say, “Well done son, well done”, as Luke rows back to the mainland and joins up with Chloe, who was waiting for him.

The Skulls was pretty much panned by the critics, holding a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “The Skulls is full of nonsense and empty of good script and plot.” The movie is based on conspiracy theories concerning Yale’s Skull & Bones Society and though the school is not mentioned by name, there are several references to Yale throughout the film, primarily them referring to the rowing team as The Bulldogs. Despite the poor reviews, the movie was a hit at the box office, earning $50.8 million off of a $15 million budget and would spawn two direct to video sequels.

Yeh, this movie didn’t quite hold up as well as I thought it would. The acting was ok, with Joshua Jackson (Luke) and Leslie Bibb (Chloe) doing a good job in their roles and showing some decent chemistry together. I also liked Craig T. Nelson (Litten) and William Petersen (Levritt) but I thought Paul Walker (Caleb) seemed rather bland. The story was honestly a little weak, with them trying to make a good suspense/thriller but basically threw a bunch of dramatic cliches up against the drawing board and hoping they would stick. The really annoying thing was the hinted familial relationship between Levritt and Luke, as they try and hint that Levritt is Luke’s dad, but waited till the end to drop that dud of a bombshell and did absolutely nothing with it. Honestly, the thing I liked the best about this movie was the soundtrack and while it can sometimes help carry a movie, that is definitely not the case this time. It might be worth watching for some people but this was really a disappointment to me.

Rating: 2 out of 5

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