The Magnificent Seven


Viewed – 28 September 2016  Cinema

Remakes will always be a tough sell, and we’ve had to endure some shite in the past.  I noticed that the critical reception for this latest effort has been rather mixed.  I never saw the original movie and probably never ill. So I’m probably in the best position to take this one in with a fairly open mind.  Denzel Washington is a bounty hunter / marshal who comes to the aid of a recently widowed woman who’s town has been taken over by a ruthless businessman out to plunder the mines for any gold he can find. Washington agrees to help the woman seek revenge but first must rally a group of cowboys and what not to his aid.  Along for the ride is a card hustler (Chris Pratt), a sharp shooter (Ethan Hawk) and an assassin (Byung-hun Lee).

The Magnificent Seven Movie

Antoine (Training Day) Fuqua’s movie is immediately attractive and captures the setting and especially the feel of a western brilliantly.  He has a keen eye for iconic shots and delivers in the action, where I’d go as far as to say this has some of the best action of the year for me, complete with excellently choreographed gunfights and traditional (not CGI) stunt work.  The plot for what it is, is simple and only serves to bring together a likeable gang of gunslingers that I quickly grew to care about.  It’s nothing you haven’t seen before but when it’s got stand-outs from Washington and Pratt as well and plenty of energy and a great score from James Horner – what’s there to grumble about?

the-magnificent-seven-If I was to nit-pick it would be to say the movie does revel in it’s clichés such as how it’s filmed, typical western movie imagery and well, several moments that occur are typical of the genre to the point of near-parody.  Also characterisation, which with such an ensemble cast isn’t easy could have been a little better.  I wanted more backstory to Denzel’s character which would have added weight to a later revelation, and well, we learn pretty much nothing about who Chris Pratt is other than handy with a gun and a deck of cards.

Yet this feels like a celebration not just of the movie it’s based on but westerns as a whole.  So in that respect I can forgive it’s familiarity or lack of anything particularly new and just enjoy it for what it is – damn good entertainment.

Verdict: 4 /5

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Poltergeist


Viewed – 25 June 2016  Netflix

I approached this fairly open minded despite my general dislike of remakes to classic horrors.  However my memory of the original Steven Spielberg penned / Tobe Hooper directed Poltergeist is cloudy at best.  A family move into a house in a nice neighbourhood and soon find themselves troubled by weird goings on.  Yes, it’s nothing at all new and is pretty much following the blue-print of a wealth of other horror movies such as The Conjuring or anything with restless spirits in it.

Poltergeist

However with a likeable cast headed by Sam Rockwell (Moon, The Green Mile) and decent production values I still found myself entertained.  In an attempt to bring the idea into the modern era we get ghostly apparitions tinkering with cell phones and flat screen TVs as well as electricity and lighting to interesting effect.    There’s even a sequence with a drone robot going into a portal that proves pretty creepy.  Yet the movie’s key failing is not having any genuine scares (sorry, but clown dolls…again?) and apart from an alarming scene with a drill…it stays decidedly family-friendly throughout.  Good use of CGI and a fun if clichéd appearance by Jared Harris (Mad Men) kept me intrigued and some fun ghost pranks like kids being dragged up a staircase or a muddy puddle with a hand coming out of it made this a fun if uninspired evening’s viewing.  Characterisation was particularly lacking however (the parents are unemployed…but can still afford a swanky house!!?), the little girl as the focus of the movie just basically said her lines (with the blandest ‘they’re here’ ever delivered) and some better atmosphere wouldn’t have gone amiss instead of a reliance on effects and action.

I’m an old-school horror devotee and yes this left me wanting, but if you’re not as fussy as me or that keen on more hard-core frights … this was a competent if unimaginative remake that may still be worth your time.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

This year’s disappointments


The end of the year is approaching and as always with this blog I will be posting my personal Top Ten, based on movies I have seen in the last twelve months.  It’s very difficult as a complete amateur movie critic as I am literally unable to watch every new movie that hits cinemas, so compile my list from the newest movies I have seen during the year, even if some came out the year before etc.FROZEN

Compiled below are a few movies that left me wanting, movies that although not a disaster, could have been much better – or were hyped to be much better.  You may or may not agree with my choices, and feel free to comment.  But for now these are my disappointments of 2014…

RoboCop

Remakes are never that great granted, but wasn’t this classic sci-fi thriller ripe for an update?  So what do we get … a re-tread of the original, but seriously watered down and completely devoid of both the violence and the social commentary that made the 1987 original so memorable.  Paul Verheoven must have been offended how much the director ‘didn’t get’ his vision, and even some pretty decent action and not-bad casting could not save this.

Frozen

When will I stop hearing about this pretty, fun but utterly generic Disney movie?  One memorable song, some fun comedy characters but typical Disney Princess fair that lacked ideas and originality.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie – but as good as EVERYONE goes on about …. no.  Give me Beauty & The Beast any day of the week.

Godzilla

This did a lot right, it did a lot wrong too.  A monster-mash that takes most of the movie to actually happen, and decent casting that is all but wasted.  Bryan (Breaking Bad) Cranston – that’s all I need to say, but nooo, let’s make Kick-Ass the star instead.  Wrong!  Great effects work aside and some nail biting moments, but overall this could have, should have been much more.

Jack Ryan – Shadow Recruit

Simple, how do you mess up a perfectly decent reboot of a popular franchise?  How about only one action sequence of any note and the casting of Keira KnightleyChris Pine, fresh off Star Trek does a good enough job, but this was mostly Bourne-light with a clichéd story and not enough boom for my buck.  Could have been superb, but was mostly ‘meh.

Wolf Creek 2

Rave reviews don’t mean a decent experience I am quickly realising.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of WC #1 but this promised everything that movie lacked, like a faster pace and tons more gore and violence.  Yet an overly tongue-in-cheek tone and way too many one-liners just killed this for me.  Could have been a first rate shit yourself slasher, but instead I got a second rate piss myself farce.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Still despite the best intentions this reboot of the blockbuster franchise still underwhelms.  I can’t get used to Andrew Garfield as Spidy/Peter Parker and even the casting of Jamie Foxx is embarrassingly poor.  The overly kiddie-friendly tone doesn’t help either.  Great special effects though.

The Wind Rises

Studio Ghibli is always an event to me, and their animation style can never be faulted.  However with this rather personal swan-song for director Hayao Myazaki the subject seemed rather niche and the characters not overly compelling, and the whole movie despite being well done, lacked that spark that makes Ghibli great.  Stunning to look at but not that memorable, even more disappointing considering it’s the famed director’s final movie.

X-Men Days Of Future Past

Another highly acclaimed movie, another one that left me feeling cold.  The plot was muddled, relied too heavily on you knowing what happened in all the other X-Men movies, and some fun time travel mechanics and a great cast of characters couldn’t save this fun, action-packed but ultimately confusing and messy movie.  Never get tired of Mystique kicking ass though.

There you go.  I may add to this list if December throws up any further disappointments, but with The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, Exodus: Gods & Kings and also Guardians Of The Galaxy all to come (hopefully), maybe that won’t happen.  Also expect my definitive end of year Top Ten around New Year’s eve.

Carrie


Viewed – 15 April 2014  online rental

It’s difficult to really say what we as movie lovers actually want from a remake.  In my opinion they have usually only worked when the source material is ropey or lacking in the first place, with some exceptions of course.  So now we come to what was possibly one of my most dreaded rehashes.  First mistake – remake a bonafide classic of the genre, Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel.  Second mistake – the casting of pretty starlet Chloe Grace Moretz, something I have ranted about here on this very blog.

Carrie

But brushing such fears aside, what is it actually like?  Well let’s back track a little and tell you what we have here.  Moretz plays lonely, bullied high school kid Carrie White, who lives in the shadow of her god-fearing, domineering mother (Julianne Moore) and pretty much tries to go unnoticed … until that is she gets her period in the school showers and becomes a cruel laughing stock to everyone who witnesses it.  But hey, Prom Night is on the horizon, so things can only get better … right?

Let’s just say straight away, I was wrong about Chloe Grace Moretz.  She is actually surprisingly convincing as the outcast Carrie, something I didn’t see coming and hey I’ll admit when I am wrong.  She portrays the iconic role previously played by Sissy Spacek very well indeed, and even seems to have grown somewhat as an actress in the process.  The second slam dunk is Julianne Moore – absolutely perfect as Carrie’s demented bible-quoting mother, and does the impossible by equalling the performance of the excellent Piper Laurie – possibly the true highlight of the original.  The rest of the cast aren’t quite so interesting; we get the token popular girl who grows a conscience, the bully who basically is like every other bitch in such movies, and the do-gooder gym teacher … all not adding much.  Director Kimberly Pierce however is clearly well-traversed in De Palma’s movie and this is basically a very close never-really-daring-to-try-anything-new sort of remake – although when the original pretty much hit all the right notes, that can be (mostly) forgiven.

Some bits are drawn out (the car sequence…), there’s too much CGI and the final prom bit fails to go for the jugular … oh and sorry Chloe you don’t look scary covered in blood.  Yet this was still better than I expected.  Worth a look.

Verdict:  3 /5

RoboCop


Viewed – 11 February 2014  Cinema

Yes I had my reservations going into this.  Remakes… will Hollywood ever just leave things alone?  But I digress.  This new version of the 1987 classic action-thriller stars relative unknown Joel Kinnaman as ill-fated gutsy cop Alex Murphy hot on the heels of a drug kingpin.  Yet after disaster strikes, leaving him in critical condition, the shady robotics company Omnicorp come up with the idea of turning him into their new machine on the Detroit mean streets … that’s right, RoboCop! 

Robocop

Michael Keaton (yes…Michael Keaton!) plays a business man who following a law prohibiting machines being aloud to enforce the law on U.S. soil, turns to a scientist (Gary Oldman) who may just be able to put a friendly face to his master plan.  Co-starring Jackie Earle Haley as a weapons tech guy whose a bit of a nutter himself, and the delectable Abbie Cornish (Sucker Punch) as Murphy’s wife – this has some good star appeal.  With a more family-friendly rating we’re not going to get the hardcore bloodshed of the original (and it tells) but this does go for a very different flavour, focusing more of the Murphy attempting to hold onto who he is (or was) rather than the sleaze and excess of the Paul Verheoven movie.

Action is fairly frequent, with some decent effects (the robots look great) even if the training, testing and development of RoboCop seems to go on forever.  Also the lead bad guy is a no-name charisma-free presence that can’t hold a candle to Kurtwood Smith’s Clarence Bodikker.  Thankfully then, the movie chooses to focus more on OmniCorp and the morality than the drug dealers.

When switching off from the original this can be enjoyed quite easily on its own merits as a slick, imaginative and fun experience, filled with good performances (even Kinnaman in a tricky role) and some star names (Samuel L. Jackson crops up as a media guru – even if he’s not exactly stretched).

Likable, lightweight but worth seeing.  Definitely in a lower league, but a nice tribute all the same.

Verdict:  3 /5