American Outlaws’ tells of Jesse James, ‘A Christmas Story’ teaches important lessons

Rebecca Opstedahl

Rebecca Opstedahl

“American Outlaws”

The West has never looked so good. Les Mayfield directs a seductive tale of heroism and vengeance in “American Outlaws.”

The war has ended and the young cowboy heroes return home to start living their lives again. Things barely have a chance to get back to normal when the railroad company swoops in and tries to buy up their land.

Jesse James (Colin Farrell) led his gang of friends in battles during the war and now he leads them against the railroad company.

After the RR company blows up his house and kills his mother, Jesse and his brother Frank (Gabriel Macht) swear vengeance on the railroad.

Combined with their cousins Cole (Scott Caan) and Bob (Will McCormack) Younger, the James’ brothers start up the James-Younger gang. In order to hurt the RR company, the outlaws politely (or as politely as outlaws can possibly be) rob banks and hit up trains across the Midwest.

The more places the gangs rob, the more famous they become. Or rather, the more famous Jesse James becomes. James’ fame causes some tension amongst the gang leading to a discrepancy in the leadership.

Because of their rashness, a kid member of the gang gets killed when the gang falls victim to an ambush set up by the RR company.

Wanting to shed no more blood, the James brothers leave the gang behind to pursue a more honest life of farming. But once you become a wanted outlaw, you’re always wanted.

Life can never be the same again as Jesse soon finds out.

“American Outlaws” features a cast of young hot newcomers and most of them do a terrific job in the film. Ali Larter stars as Zee, the doctor’s daughter and soon-to-be Mrs. Jesse James. Kathy Bates makes a wonderful cameo appearance as Ma James, and she shows no one messes with her or her boys.

This film rings true in the wild spirit of the West: gun-slinging, robbing, and loving are all part of the outlaw way of life.

Stars: 3.5

“A Christmas Story”

Remember when you made out your Christmas list and put down things you really wanted and not the things you needed?

Those were the days when Christmas seemed to hold a bit more magic. Nothing beat waking up Christmas morning (which was always too early for your parents) and running out to the living room to see what Santa had brought.

“A Christmas Story” (1983) brings back those feelings as we watch a little boy’s plight to seize the toy of his dreams.

Nine year old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants only one thing for Christmas- “a Genuine Red Ryder Carbine Action Two-Hundred Shot Lightning Loader Range Model Air Rifle.”

You gotta give the kid credit for being able to say that as fast and as often as he does.

Ralphie tries everything to convince his mother (Melinda Dillon) he “won’t shoot his eye out.”

When talking to mom fails, Ralphie tries to get his teacher and the mall Santa on his side but they all echo his mom’s chorus of, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

All Ralphie wants for Christmas is the air rifle, and he knows this holiday will be ruined if he doesn’t get his dream toy.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this movie is solely about Christmas.

It also provides very important lessons like how you shouldn’t stick your tongue on a cold frosty pole. The fire department will have to rip your frozen tongue off the pole, taking a lot of skin with it.

Plus, the Parker family learned to keep their kitchen door shut because the neighbor’s dogs are also fans of turkey.

“A Christmas Story” gives us Christmas at its best. It’s full of love and tragic comedy, enough to last all year long.

Stars: 3.5