Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jonah Hex

Last night I went to the theater and watched a movie called Jonah Hex. There were only 11 people in the audience on this opening night. I found out why.

Josh Brolin stars as the title character and he actually does a good job, but unfortunately, even his talent could not save this film. It had a lot of potential but the main problem was the fact that the powers that be seemed to ignore the true value of sticking with the source material found within pages of the comic book. They seemed to focus more on making this as hokey as possible and leaving all believability and authenticity out.

The story of Jonah Hex is one that combines elements of the traditional Western and several doses of the Supernatural. It is a very strange idea that was brought to life by writer John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga back in the early 70s. The character first appeared in “Weird Western Tales” # 10. There was enough interest to launch Jonah Hex into his own comic book where he embarked on various strange adventures which had a lot to do with revenge and his own brand of justice. He is a kind of bounty hunter who is very reminiscent of Clint Eastwood‘s “Man With No Name”. The characters Jonah Hex meets in his adventures are not limited to the traditional bad guys found in western stories, but also include evil zombies, witch doctors, scorned women and just plain odd balls. None of them wants to go peacefully so there is always a cause for a shoot out, hanging or some other bizarre demise... And did I forget to mention... Jonah Hex is one ugly dude himself.

The current comic book incarnation of Jonah Hex is masterfully written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti who put their own stamp on the character while being respectful to the original comic book. The film makers would have been better off simply choosing one of the comics (preferably the origin story) and using it as a story board instead of straying so far off course it doesn’t even seem to have anything to do with the Jonah Hex I enjoy reading in the books.

Though it is not your standard western fare, I recommend the comic book. See the movie if you wish, but please try not to let it steer you away from all things Hex as you will be missing out on some great stories and artwork.

The movie stars Josh Brolin, John Malkovich and Megan Fox.

Cap'n Ron

*UPDATE: May 27th, 2011-

I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Jimmy Palmiotti this past weekend. He and Justin Gray are responsible for writing the great stories found within Jonah Hex comics. I am not a member of the press so this was not an interview. I was just speaking with him as a fan. I did not discuss the movie with him, but we did talk very briefly about the Jonah Hex comic. He told me that people often wonder how a guy from Brooklyn can write western stories. I replied that I was sure he did his research as there are many books about the time period. He said he has done a lot of traveling which has been inspirational to his work. He also mentioned that Justin Gray, his collaborator on the Jonah Hex stories, had worked on a ranch as well. Perhaps his experiences in that environment serve as an inspiration. I noticed right off that Mr. Palmiotti was very humble and very appreciative of his fans. He signed a couple of Jonah Hex Comics as we conversed and thanked me for my compliments. In my opinion he had already done plenty for me as I was happy just talking to the guy, but then he said "I'm going to draw a little sketch for you". I was thrilled to see that he was doing a quick sketch of Jonah Hex for me right on the cover of my issue #1. I know this update isn't directly related to western movies but if you read the review I posted about the Jonah Hex movie, you will recall that I expressed great admiration for the Jonah Hex comics. So for me this experience was worth sharing and I hope you enjoy it.

Cap'n Ron

The Cowboys

John Wayne has starred in many of the greatest films ever produced for his time. His name is synonymous with the Hollywood Western. I am not qualified to say which one of his films is the best one, nor could I say without a doubt what my all time favorite is. Therefore I will use today’s update to tell you about “one” of my personal favorite John Wayne movies:

“The Cowboys” is a classic John Wayne film although it was made in the later part of his career. John Wayne plays cattle man Will Anderson. He needs to get his beef across the 400 plus miles to market but there are no available men to work the cattle. He decides, out of necessity, to recruit 11 young boys from the local school.

This movie appeals to the young boy in all of us because I am sure a great many of us had dreams of being a Cowboy when we were kids. I know I used to dream about it as I sat in the back seat looking out at the grazing cattle on our drives to visit my Grandmother. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of a real live cowboy riding out from the wooded places at the edge of those great, green, Texas pastures. I even loved the smell of cow patties as we pulled up to the gate at my Great Aunt Billie’s ranch in Peoria, TX. You see your young fantasy come to life when you watch this movie.

These 11 boys show up at Mr. Anderson’s ranch raring to go on this great adventure despite the fact that they have no experience nor do they have any idea of what they are in for. It is an amusing visual to see the younger of the boys wearing pistols (which they can barely lift) dangling from holsters which seem to droop down to their knees.

Once the journey begins the kids start to realize just how tough being a Cowboy can be. They experience the perils of crossing a swollen river, long sleepless nights on the lonesome dusty trail and following the orders of the tough as nails trail boss. They also learn about death as during a stampede they lose one of the young boys who is unable to climb to safety.

Then one night things take an awful twist as the youngster on night watch is accosted and threatened by cattle rustlers. The leader of the rustlers is played by Bruce Dern who always seemed to have a knack for playing a menacing outlaw. He smiles and acts friendly until he has gained the trust of his intended victim. He sees the fact that these are all children and knows he can scare them into keeping his intentions a secret from Mr. Anderson under penalty of death.

John Wayne’s latter films took on a more tragic tone and his character would end up being killed or dying. That is the case in “The Cowboys” as eventually a confrontation between Mr. Anderson and the rustlers ensues resulting in the death of Mr. Anderson. The boys had come to feel a sense of great respect for Mr. Anderson and they vow to take the cattle back from the rustlers and complete the drive.

I highly recommend seeing this film if you get the chance as it will bring back those old dreams of being a cowboy.

This movie is available on DVD in Widescreen format.

Cap’n Ron