In A Valley Of Violence

 

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Nothing tugs at the heartstrings quite like any story involving a dog. Dogs are better than people and we don’t deserve them. That said, as humans, the most profound bond one can share is with a dog. They are our loyal companions until the bitter end. They are protectors, snugglers, jesters, companions, pick-me-ups, and if you take care of them, they will be your ride or die for life.

Jumpy the dog plays Abbie the dog in In A Valley Of Violence. Jumpy the dog is better at life than I am. Certainly more dexterous.

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In Ti West’s new film, In A Valley Of Violence, Paul (Ethan Hawke) is a hapless vagabond who is just trying to make it to Mexico by way of the arid, dusty planes of the Old West. With Abbie (Jumpy) by his side, the two happen upon the town of Denton. Now, it’s never a good thing when the locals have taken to referring to their own town as a “Valley Of Violence”, so Paul doesn’t mean to stay long.

Once a mining town, Denton is now comprised of an unctuous Marshal (John Travolta), his dimwitted but seemingly impregnable son, Gilly (James Ransone), and a handful of slack-jawed hayseeds. Upon arrival, Paul seeks shelter and a bit of shuteye at Denton’s rundown inn where he meets Mary Anne (Taissa Farmiga). She takes a shine to Abbie — who wouldn’t? — and most definitely has eyes for Paul.

Like any good drifter, though, Paul’s gotta be on his way. He doesn’t want any trouble, which is exactly what is seems the miscreant inhabitants of Denton are lookin’ for. Despite his best efforts, Paul finds himself embroiled in a bloody battle on a quest for revenge.

In A Valley Of Violence is certainly a departure from Writer/Director/Producer Ti West’s typical fare. He is most well-known in film for his work in the horror genre that I love so well. West’s take on the classic Western genre is a fun one. The audience not only gets a taste of the vintage representation of the Western — wide, sweeping shots of stunning landscape, the crunch of gravel under cowboy boots followed by the jangling of spurs, and, of course, some gun-slingin’ — but West puts a spin on it that makes it feel more contemporary, all the while paying reverence to what pop culture has come to know and love in this particular wheelhouse.

I’ll be quite honest and tell you that when I saw Travolta’s name on the bill, it turned me off a bit. Sure, you can argue that his earlier work was spot-on and how dare I, but he’s just gotten weird and a bit off-putting. Which is why I’m delighted to say that he did splendidly in Valley! He was one of my favorite parts of the movie. So much so that I almost forgot about that really weird red carpet moment he had with Scarlett Johansson.

I also quite enjoyed the balancing act between Hawke — who is always a bit dry — and Ransone. The two were a more tame version of when Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosted the Oscars. Ronsone’s off-the-wall energy played well on Hawke’s ever-expressionless demeanor. You may remember that the two shared the screen in Sinister (2012) as well.

The film knows what it is and that makes for easy watching. Not being a huge fan of Westerns, I absolutely gave it up for Valley. It scratches that itch without being overbearing and makes us laugh, leaving a feeling of slight unease throughout. West did a Q&A after the show and revealed that he’s a bit burnt out on horror. While that was disappointing to hear, I get it.

Given the opportunity to ask him a question, I didn’t ask about his movies. I didn’t ask about this  movie. I got up there, approached the mic, and told him how much I loved the episode of the Scream TV series that he directed. Thankfully, my approach wasn’t in vain, because he then revealed that there maybe just might be a horror television series in the works!

Whatever it is that he gets up to next, I, for one, can’t wait to see it. Mark your calendars! In A Valley Of Violence comes out this October!

 

New To Netflix

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Starting in June I will be picking a genre of film and then watching/reviewing every movie that is newly released to Netflix every month within that genre.

I’m doin’ em all! Anime month is probably gonna get a little weird. Maybe Netflix will find out about this and we can work out some kind of agreement where they give me money. Hey, Netflix! Luh you, gurl.

Anyway, please help me choose my first genre by voting here. Come June 1st, I’ll take the genre that gets the most votes! If you feel I’ve left out a genre that should be included, let me know and I’ll gladly add it.

Here’s a look at what’s coming in June. Take a gander, see what I’m up against, and vote! Let’s get weird!

The Nice Guys

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It’s always fun to see an actor step outside of their wheelhouse. The results can be cringe-worthy or — in this case — a grand slam. Gosling has fine-tuned the Rico Suave, silver-tongued devil type; Never a misstep, his sleeves always cuffed just so as to accentuate his effortlessly toned forearms, and that ovary-melting smirk of his.

Crowe, on the other hand, uses his perpetually furrowed brow and gruff demeanor to take roles that require him to basically embody the not-actually-that-far-off version of himself, the Makin’ Movies, Makin’ Songs, and Fightin’ ‘Round the World Russell Crowe from South Park.

In The Nice Guys, Crowe doesn’t make quite the departure from his former roles that Gosling does, but he’s an almost delightful, jovial version of himself.

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In 1977 Los Angeles, in lieu of Facebook stalking and the wealth of dirt that is the internet, men like  Jackson Healy (Crowe) were hired to find people and in most cases, hurt them. Not quite a hitman, but the way you and I grab our wallet/keys/phone when we leave the house, included in his daily arsenal are brass knuckles.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the gauche gumshoe Holland March (Gosling). He’s a bit behind the eight ball and pretty consistently three sheets to the wind. He catches a break when he’s hired to investigate the possible suicide of a young adult film star. The investigation turns into the search for a girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) who has gone missing. March quickly discovers that he’s not the only one with a vested interest in finding this elusive young lady.

While the obstacles stack higher, March and Healy team up — against their better judgement — yielding amusing and often riotous results. With March’s pint-sized P.I. daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice) in tow — often to the chagrin of her father — they’ll have to find Amelia before anyone else does.

After their appearance at the Oscars this year, it was pretty clear that Crowe and Gosling have some zippy chemistry, but nothing could’ve prepared me for how well they actually worked together. You can’t fake that kind of rapport. Much like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in those delightful Road To… movies, John Candy and Steve Martin in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers, they just get it right.

It’s no surprise that I loved it because it’s a Shane Black film. And Shane Black has a propensity for making movies that I typically enjoy. Why, Shane Black had a hand in bringing together Riggs (Mel The-King-Of-Miami Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) in the Lethal Weapon movies! Incidentally, get a look at Black’s pitch for Lethal Weapon 5 here.

The Nice Guys is disarmingly funny and even endearing with loads of pretty consistent action. Never has a movie with so many exposed breasts been quite so clever and charming. The very definition of a summer hit. Keep an eye out for a presidential cameo like you’ve never seen before and, seriously you guys — so. many. boobs.