Jane Got a Gun


Jane takes aim at the industry suits who kept this film on the shelf for three years.

Jane takes aim at the industry suits who kept this film on the shelf for three years.

(2016) Western (Weinstein) Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Noah Emmerich, Ewan McGregor, Rodrigo Santoro, Boyd Holbrook, Alex Manette, Todd Stashwick, James Burnett, Sam Quinn, Chad Brummett, Boots Southerland, Nash Edgerton, Robb Janov, James Blackburn, Nicoletta Chapman, Ricky Lee, Darlene Kellum, Lauren Poole, Kristin Hansen. Directed by Gavin O’Connor

When you are threatened, I think that most of us can pretty much take it. You can do what you want to us, but leave our families alone, right? When home and hearth are threatened, well, one has to make a line in the sand someplace.

For Jane Hammond (Portman), that line has been drawn. When her husband Bill (Emmerich) shows back home with bullets in his back, he tells her that he had a run-in with the Bishop Boys, a gang he once rode with and who Jane herself has a past with. Now they are coming. Jane could easily take her daughter and run, but she’s done that her entire life. She loves her home and will fight to defend it.

But she can’t do it by herself and Bill’s wounds are simply too severe for him to be much use in a gunfight, so she swallows her pride and enlists Dan Frost (Edgerton), the gunslinger who was once her fiance. While he was away fighting the Civil War, she had become disillusioned, believing that he had been killed in action. While on a wagon train headed West led by John Bishop (McGregor), she was saved from the proverbial fate worse than death by Bill, along with a daughter fathered by Frost that he never knew he had.

Now the past has caught up with her and Bill and only Dan can save them. Dan has issues of his own, many of them stemming with his treatment at Jane’s hands so he’s ambivalent about helping her out, but he can’t leave the woman he once loved in the lurch, even if he has to save the man she’s with now. So he calmly goes about the business of fortifying her home, knowing that the force that is coming at them may be greater than even he can save her from.

This is very much in the vein of typical “against the odds” Westerns along the lines of a High Noon in which a heroic figure is preparing for the arrival of an overwhelming force that is likely to kill them. Natalie Portman is no Gary Cooper, but she does topline the film nicely. When I heard she was doing this film, I wondered about the wisdom of casting her in this kind of role; after all, she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world and has the grace of a ballerina. Could she play a dirt farmer’s wife in the Old West? Turns out, she can.

O’Connor wants to make a traditional Western with a bit of a twist, putting Portman in kind of a heroic role. While Edgerton – who co-wrote the film – is ostensibly the hero, Portman steals the show but not to the same extent that McGregor does. With his shoe polish black moustache and coif, he looks the part of a Western villain, maybe to the point of self-parody. But he is certainly venal enough and his smooth words disguise lethal venom. It’s a terrific villainous role for an actor who tends to assay heroic roles more often.

The dusty New Mexico landscape is dry as a bone and makes for an appropriately desolate setting. I have to admit that while the movie is decently paced and doesn’t seem to have any extraneous material, the flashbacks are a bit awkward and the whole balloon ride thing was more or less unconvincing – you half expected to see them sailing for Oz.

The movie has largely been left to fend for itself, which is a crying shame. It deserved a better fate than it got from Weinstein and various distributors, directors and producers. Despite its checkered past in getting from script to multiplex, this isn’t a bad movie and while it isn’t the best Western out there, it is a solid entry into the genre which has received a welcome resurgence over the past several months. Movies like this are likely to entice even more viewers into the genre.

REASONS TO GO: Nicely paced. Acting performances are all solid.
REASONS TO STAY: Nothing here is particularly different and exciting. Derivative.
FAMILY VALUES: There are violence and language issues.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Originally filmed in 2013, the movie sat on the shelf for nearly three years due to several release date changes, the bankruptcy of Relativity Studios (who were originally to release it) and reported clashes between the distributors and producers.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/10/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 33% positive reviews. Metacritic: 50/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Hannie Caulder
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT: Cinema of the Heart begins!

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New Releases for the Week of January 29, 2015


Kung Fu Panda 3KUNG FU PANDA 3

(DreamWorks Animation) Starring the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, Bryan Cranston. Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni

Po is the most unlikely Kung Fu master in China, but he has built a great life. However, when his long-lost father appears, Po is whisked away to a hidden panda village, a paradise for the corpulent bears. However, there is trouble brewing; the demonic Kai has been resurrected and is sweeping across China, defeating all the Kung Fu masters in his wake. It will take an army to stop him – but all Po has is peace-loving dumpling-chomping pandas. Can he whip them into shape before Kai takes over all of China?

See the trailer, clips, interviews, promo video and premiere live stream footage here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG (for martial arts action and some mild rude humor)

50 Shades of Black

(Open Road) Marlon Wayans, Kali Hawk, Fred Willard, Mike Epps. The 50 Shades of Grey franchise gets the parody treatment from master comedian Marlon Wayans.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Parody
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for strong crude sexual content including some graphic nudity, and for language throughout)

The Finest Hours

(Disney) Chris Pine, Holliday Grainger, Casey Affleck, Eric Bana. On February 18, 1952, a massive nor’easter struck the American east coast, causing the oil tanker S.S. Pendleton to break and half, trapping 30 men in the sinking stern. The nearest Coast Guard station sends out a rescue mission in a wooden lifeboat with an ill-equipped engine and virtually no navigation equipment to face hurricane force winds, 60 foot waves and freezing temperatures to reach the ship before time runs out. And yes, this really happened.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a promo, a featurette and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D
Genre: True Life Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of peril)

Ip Man 3

(Well Go USA) Donnie Yen, Lynn Hung, Jin Zhang, Mike Tyson. A crooked developer aims to take over the city and martial arts master Ip Man feels compelled to take a stand and right the wrongs being perpetrated against his neighbors. While the story is fiction, Ip Man was a real man who was Bruce Lee’s martial arts teacher.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Martial Arts
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of martial arts violence and brief strong language)

Jane Got a Gun

(Weinstein) Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich. A woman trying to leave her past behind her finds it hot on her trail again in the form of the ultra-violent Bishop Boys gang. With her husband badly injured and her family in peril, she turns to an ex-lover – a gunslinger – to protect her home and her family from certain destruction.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Western
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for violence and some action)

Lazer Team

(Rooster Teeth) Colton Dunn, Alan Ritchson, Burnie Burns, Allie DeBerry. When four video game-playing losers discover a UFO crash site, they unwittingly genetically bond with advanced battle suits which they will then have to put to good use defending the Earth which is really gonna need it – oh dear God the Earth is in so much trouble!

See the trailer and a clip here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Science Fiction
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual material including references, language, action violence, teen partying and smoking)

Pick of the Litter – January 2016


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight

(Weinstein) Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern. Quentin Tarantino’s eighth movie opens for the general public after an Academy qualifying run in New York and L.A. starting on Christmas Day. A bounty hunter bringing in a dangerous woman wanted for murder to be hanged in a small Colorado town is caught in a blizzard in a stagecoach stop in the Rockies. There, he finds a number of other characters, most up to no good in typical Tarantino fashion – and all connected in an unexpected way, also in Tarantino fashion. If you love this director’s body of work as I do, you too will be chomping at the bit for this one to arrive. January 8

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Diablo

Diablo

(Orion) Scott Eastwood, Walton Goggins, Camila Belle, Danny Glover. Westerns have been making something of a comeback of late, and there have been some very good ones hitting both the indie circuit and the big theaters. This one is about a man with a violent past who is provoked when his wife is kidnapped from their home. He goes after them with a vengeance, knowing that he might have to become something terrible in order to save her. Clint’s son does his first Western, and it looks like a good one. January 8

Yosemite

Yosemite

(Monterrey Media) James Franco, Henry Hopper, Steven Wiig, Barry Del Sherman. Set in 1985 in the wilds of Northern California, a mountain lion has been blamed for the disappearance of a young boy. One of his friends, whose parents are in the midst of a break-up, determines to hunt the lion and exact justice for the death of his friend. Out on the festival circuit, this has already been compared to Stand by Me as maybe the finest coming of age film of this generation which is high praise indeed. January 8

The Lady in the Van

The Lady in the Van

(Sony Classics) Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Dominic Cooper, Claire Foy. Playwright Alan Bennett gave a transient woman who lived in her broken-down van permission to stay in his driveway for a few weeks while she got the van repaired. That stay turned into fifteen years; this (mostly) true story shows the relationship between the two which grew over the years, and gives the background on the woman much of which Bennett found out only after she passed away. Smith’s performance has been raved about by the British press. January 15

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

(Lionsgate) Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux, André Dussollier, Eduardo Noriega. This tale as old as time is something of a national treasure in France, where it has been made several times into cinematic gold. This latest version is a sumptuous retelling of the famous fairy tale with Bond girl Seydoux as Beauty and French superstar Cassel as the Beast. Gorgeous sets and eye-popping visual effects make this version, which played in France in 2014, one to keep an eye out for. However, this may end up going direct-to-home video so be warned. January 20

Terminus

Terminus

(Vertical) Jai Koutrae, Kendra Appleton, Todd Lasance, Bren Foster. The world is falling apart. Starvation is rampant, and we stand on the brink of nuclear war. Then, in a small town in the middle of America, an asteroid falls, causing a working class man to crash his truck, but strangely he has not a scratch on him. And he begins to build something odd. The world is ending…or is it really beginning? January 22

 Jane Got a Gun

Jane Got a Gun

(Weinstein) Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich. Actually keeping my fingers crossed that this is at long last finally going to see the light of day. This film, directed by Gavin O’Connor, (Warrior) is about a former bad girl turned good whose family has run afoul of a vicious gang. In desperation, she turns to a gunslinger for help – a gunslinger she once was intimate with. The movie has been completed for something like three years; it has been repeatedly bounced down the schedule and has even changed distributors. The buzz around it had always been very high and with Westerns doing particularly well right now, this might be the right time for it to finally appear on your local art house screen. January 29