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

Jurassic World


Viewed – 20 October 2015  Online rental

I never got around to seeing Jurassic Park 3, I think the reason why was that by the time it came out, I was pretty burnt out of my fascination with dinosaurs, and the second film, The Lost World didn’t entirely blow me away.  Although I do regard the original as a classic.  So after a long break, the prospect of a new movie in the franchise was finally appealing again, even if I missed this at the cinema.

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Hot off his star-making turn in Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt plays a former Naval officer turned park ranger at an all new, very successful and open to the public ‘Jurassic World’.  He could be what you might call a Dinosaur-whisperer, with a close bond with a pack of Velociraptors.  Lauding it over him is the park’s manager, Bryce Dallas Howard, a blunt, money-minded career woman and sort-of love interest to Pratt.  Her day to day routine is complicated however by the arrival of her nephews, just as the park is about to unveil their latest attraction – a hybrid dinosaur cloned from various different species.

JurassicI’d heard some mixed things about this, and agree it lacks some of the awe and wonder of the original.  Also Chris Pratt, so charismatic and funny in ‘Galaxy whilst still very likeable proved less fun than expected.  Yet the movie’s characters all go on a journey of sorts and develop as time passes, most notably Bryce Dallas Howard.  Initially too the nephews were like walking clichés but became much more interesting after a while.  Add to this an immediately more perilous setting with thousands of lives in danger as the (inevitable) shit hits the fan, and I was quickly transported back to the feel and the adrenaline that worked so well back in the day.  This was so much more than just another sequel and you can tell the writers and production team wanted to make a film both worthy of the name and worthwhile after such a long gap.  They succeeded.  The action is exhilarating, the new ideas bring the concept to life and when you get the dinosaur action, it’s at times shocking, intense and epic.

Familiarity does the movie a bit of a disservice in places and some attempts at humour fall flat, but with solid performances and excellent CGI (bar a couple of obvious green screen bits) this really was a lot better than it might have been.  Recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Kubrick Project: Part Three


Now we come to Stanley’s answer to Hollywood’s favourite war – Vietnam!

Full Metal Jacket  (1987)

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The war movie has always been a popular choice for directors, but in the eighties, the war in Vietnam seemed to become a genre all its own…what with its green camo’d G.I. the use of 70s rock to convey atmosphere, and the destroyed beauty of Vietnam with its dense jungles…even today these movies look brilliantly iconic.

When Stanley Kubrick delivered his take on the war, he was already following in the wake of Oliver Stone’s seminal Platoon, and before that Francis Ford Coppola’s operatic Apocalypse Now.  Yet again, Kubrick didn’t go the route of those past glories, and chose to tell the story very differently, focusing more on the G.I.’s and their personalities, their training, with the actual conflict seemingly on the back burner throughout. 

We open with a tour-de-force performance from Lee R Ermey as the tough-as-nails drill instructor with a never ending vocabulary of (often comical) put-downs and insults, and his effect on one G.I. in particular (Vincent D’Onofrio) proves truly unnerving cinema.  This startling opening 45 minutes grabs you by the throat so strongly that once we finally hit the killing fields of ‘Nam its almost a relief.  Then we get into the heart of darkness as our young G.I.’s are faced with the hell of war, and the brilliantly named Joker (Mathew Modine) sucks us in with a friendly, likable anti-hero lead, that helps us through the tougher moments.

At times Full Metal Jacket feels like a documentary, the choice to make a military reporter (Modine) your eyes and ears on the conflict was bold but fresh compared to what we’ve been used to before; some marine trying to get home in one piece (see Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July etc), and throughout this is a beautiful film to look at, with Kubrick’s unflinching eye for detail and setting never missing a beat.  Also the film feels a little lighter in tone compared to its brethren, and the claustrophobia of Platoon is thankfully missing.  It also delivers where we want it to, in some excellent battle scenes, a superb final act involving a lone sniper pinning down a squad of G.I.’s, and perfect choices of music (Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black should have you coming away totally satisfied). 

 

The DVD is referred to as the ‘deluxe edition’, but I fail to see what’s so deluxe about it.  We get one (admittedly interesting) half hour documentary, a trailer and most valuable of all, a cast commentary, that is very informative.  When compared to the other films in the box set though, the extra material here is severely lacking.  Shame because the picture is sharp and vivid in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio (anamorphic) and the sound in 5.1 is suitably powerful.

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