American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991, Directed by Simon Wells and Phil Nibbelink) English 6

Voices of Dom Deluise, Amy Irving, John Cleese, James Stewart

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Fievel and his family return, this time moving west thanks to a scheming gang of cats. Fievel, overhearing their plot, attempts to find help and thwart the evil cats. Don Bluth’s productions have always suffered from uneven storytelling. His animation and artistry, however, are incredible. The story is just engaging enough, and the voice work is top notch. This was James Stewart’s last role.

The Naked Spur (1953, Directed Anthony Mann) English 8

Starring James Stewart, Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh, Ralph Meeker, Millard Mitchell

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Wanting to begin again in life, Howard Kemp (Stewart) tracks down a wanted fugitive (Ryan) and plans to collect on his bounty. The venture is complicated by two strangers-one a caddish soldier (Meeker) and the other a deceptively meek prospector (Mitchell)-who want a piece of the pie. The three men transport the criminal and his girl, while always keeping an eye on each other. The best of what are termed the Anthony Mann psychological westerns. With shades of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the chief pleasure of the film is its clash of distinct characters. As a Hollywood western of the classic tradition, it’s a little too glossy at times. Still a superb picture. Simple story, complex western.

Rio Bravo (1959, Directed by Howard Hawks) English 10

Starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, Ricky Nelson

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After arresting a wealthy and corrupt man’s brother, Sheriff John T. Chance (Wayne) must hold his small town prison off from a horde of deadly mercenaries. The only help he has are his two deputies, the self-destructive Dude (Martin), and the lame Stumpy (Brennan). Classic western, one of the last and best of the old Hollywood style, coming right before the genre would be redefined by Italians and Sam Pechinpah. Centered more on characters and dialogue than most westerns, Rio Bravo is a terrific entertainment, kind of a boy’s fantasy. Hanging out with friends. Facing off against villains. Romancing a beautiful woman. Great stuff.

For a Few Dollars More (1965, Directed by Sergio Leone) English 10

Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef,  Gian Maria Volontè, Mario Brega, Klaus Kinski, Luigi Pistilli

The middle portion of Sergio Leone’s colossal Man with No Name trilogy starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef as bounty hunters working the Mexican border in pursuit of El Indio, a pitiless killer with a musical pocketwatch that signals his enemies’ deaths.  For a Few Dollars More is a series of memorable moments from the two stars hat shooting duel to the final faceoff between Van Cleef and El Indio, with a reveal that makes it all the more meaningful. Van Cleef gives his most soulful performance alongside Eastwood, and Ennio Morricone creates another amazing soundtrack. The best film in a trilogy of masterpieces.

Django Unchained (2012, Directed by Quentin Tarantino) English 10

Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Don Johnson, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson

My second favorite Tarantino flick coming off the heels of Inglourious Basterds, my favorite. Django is a wild picture. A kooky bounty hunter, named King Schultz (Waltz), strikes a deal with the formerly enslaved Django (Foxx) which ultimately leads to a strange friendship between the two, and a mission to save the latter’s wife from the insanely evil Candyland plantation. So many flourishes and indulgences, and although not all of them work (Tarantino’s cameo as an Aussie for one), the film as a whole is incredible. Waltz and Foxx make a memorable odd couple, Jackson is diabolical as the loyal slave, Stephen, and the soundtrack, as we’ve come to expect from the director, is surprising and perfect. Funny, violent, and epic.

Day of Anger (1967, Directed by Tonino Valerii) English 7

Starring Lee Van Cleef, Giuliano Gemma, Walter Rilla, Al Mulock, Andrea Bosick, Lukas Ammann

Scott Mary is a bastard treated like he’s nothing in a town full of corrupt officials. Enter Frank Talby (Van Cleef), an outlaw who gains respect with his gun. Scott sees an opportunity for more out of life and becomes Talby’s disciple. Prime spaghetti western complete with multiple duels and rough dubbing. Lee Van Cleef is an amazing presence in these type of films, and this anti-heroic mentor role is one of his best.

 

The Man From Snowy River (1982, Directed by George T. Miller) English 6

Starring Kirk Douglas, Tom Burlinson, Sigrid Thornton, Terence Donovan, Tommy Dysart

Australian western made in the 1980s when westerns were beginning to die out. Jim Craig, a young man from the mountains, goes to the lowlands and works for the tyrannical Mr. Harrison (Douglas), while falling for the man’s daughter. It’s a simple story, sweet and earnest. Very old-fashioned, but the Australian accents add new color.