Movie review: The Magnificent Seven

Movie reviews

Hello!

After reviewing a contemporary Western last week (Hell or High Water), today, I turn my attention to the one set in the past – 19th century’s Wild West, to be specific. Let’s discuss The Magnificent Seven.

IMDb summary: Seven gunmen in the old west gradually come together to help a poor  village against savage thieves.

Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven, in terms of both the name and the plot, reminds me of a different recent Western from another accomplished director – of course, I’m talking about Tarantino’s The Hateful EightSadly, that awful Adam Sandler movie The Ridiculous Six also sneaks into my mind. What is up with these names, Hollywood?

2016’s The Magnificient Seven is a remake of the 1960s movie with the same (which, in turn, was a remake of a 1954 Japanese picture Seven Samurai – haven’t seen either of them but plan on watching both). Weirdly, it is not getting almost any hate in comparison to the recent Ben-Hur movie, which was also a remake of the 60s classic. Maybe who is involved in front and behind the camera has something to do with it – Seven has a lot more big name talent attached to it than Ben-Hur.

SPOILER WARNING

Writing: story and character development

The Magnificent Seven’s screenplay was written by an interesting duo: Nic Pizzolatto – the creator of True Detective – and Richard Wenk – writer of such mediocre-ish films like The Expendables 2 and The Mechanic and some better flicks, like his previous collaboration with FuquaThe Equalizer (he is writing that film’s sequel as well). Wenk has also penned Jack Reacher: Never Go Back script – that picture is coming out next month.

I quite enjoyed the story they created for this movie. The narrative was a bit by-the-numbers and predictable – Westerns all tend to have a similar plot – but it was executed quite well. The set-up was clear and efficient and the unfolding resolution worked as well. The movie was a bit uneven in that it had some filler material in between the action pieces. Some of that material was interesting, other – less so, but it was worth to sit through because the action sequences were amazing. I also liked the fact that the story had real consequences and not everyone lived happily ever after when it was all said and done.

The character development was also sufficient. I feared that due to a big number of characters, The Magnificent Seven would suffer from the same thing that undercut Suicide Squad’s success, however, I felt that Pizzolatto and Wenk provided all the characters with a lot more moments of personal development than Ayer did for DC anti-heroes. Some characters could have been developed more – there is always room for improvement – but I felt that the things we did get worked better than I expected them too. In general, all the main heroes of the film were not good people but the screenwriters did make them likable and did made believe that these 7 people could bond in a fairly short amount of time.

Denzel Washington’s and Chris Pratt’s characters received the most scenes. Denzel’s character was nicely set-up as the leader and his personal agenda was quite a neat surprise at the end. Pratt’s character’s role as the prankster of the group was cool – his jokes and comic relief helped to ease the tension. The two characters that were the most compelling to me were played by Ethan Hawke and Byung-hun Lee – I liked their comradeship and backstory and I also felt that they had the best dialogues. Hawke’s character’s paranoia and war guilt was really fascinating part of the film, although, his actions at the end (leaving and coming back) were quite predictable, but I guess this type of character arc (fighting one’s inner guilt) has to end in that particular way.  Vincent D’Onofrio’sManuel Garcia-Rulfo’s and Martin Sensmeier’s characters were a bit one-dimensional (the weird outcast, the Mexican, and the Native American) but they did serve their purpose and nicely rounded up the group.

The writing for the main villain of the film was good too – I liked the fact that he was a corrupt businessman, who took the ideas of capitalism a bit too close to heart. The main (and only, really) female character also had a nice story of revenge/righteousness and I especially liked the detail that she was an active member of the fight, not just a damsel in distress.

Directing: visuals and action

Antoine Fuqua is an accomplished director in Hollywood, though he hasn’t made than many films. The Magnificent Seven is his 11th feature film (though other prominent Hollywood directors have made even less – Tarantino have only released 8, while Nolan – 9 pictures, so I guess quality and talent are way more important than quantity when it comes to directing). My favorite Fuqua’s films are King Arthur and Southpaw, while The Magnificent Seven is taking the 3rd spot. I really liked all the action – both the shoot-outs on the ground and on the horses (really want to ride a horse after watching the picture). I admire all the beautiful locations, the wild nature, and the empty valleys. The camera work (cinematography by Mauro Fiore) was excellent too: the close-ups really helped with the suspense, while the long tracking shots of people riding through frames (in color or in the shadow) were neatly used for transition. In addition, I enjoyed how the final stand-off of the film happened in the same place where everything had started – the church and its yard. The religious symbolism was also fitting, especially for the setting of 19th century US. Lastly, the instrumental score (music by James Horner and Simon Franglen) was excellent, while the credits rounded up the film beautifully.

Acting

  • Denzel Washington as Sam Chisolm was quite good. This wasn’t his best performance, but he worked well in the role. I liked how his character was introduced – we saw his guns before we saw his face. After working with Fuqua on 3 films already, Washington will re-team with the director for The Equalizer’s sequel – filming is supposed to start next year.
  • Chris Pratt as Josh Farraday was also great – he was really charismatic and pulled off the jokes and the teases nicely. This was his follow-up to the uber successful Jurassic World and he did not disappoint me. I cannot wait for his upcoming films as well – Passengers just debuted its trailer and will be released during Christmas, while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will roll into theaters next summer.
  • Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux was amazing too. I liked seeing Hawke, together with Denzel, in a Fuqua movie – reminded me of the Training Day days. Goodnight was kinda the voice of reason/rationality in the group – and Hawke just really knows how to nail this type of role. I’ve seen a lot of his films but my favorite still remains the Before trilogy. He will star in Luc Besson’s Valerian next year.
  • Vincent D’Onofrio as Jack Horne was interesting and weird. The harsh outside look of his character really came into contrast with his inner softness and that squeaky-ish voice. I needed some time to get used to the voice, actually. I enjoyed seeing D’Onofrio in big Hollywood picture and I also think that he deserves to get a lot more prominent roles in mainstream films because he is a very good actor – if you need proof, watch Daredevil.
  • Byung-hun Lee as Billy Rocks and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Vasquez were also great. I liked how one was very calm and collected and the other kinda a hot-head. I am not really familiar with their previous work but would love to see more of them. 
  • Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest was my favorite supporting character/actor. I loved his look and the fact that he had a traditional bow in a gunfight. I would really like to see some more films about/involving Native Americans, any suggestions?
  • Peter Sarsgaard played Bartholomew Bogue – the villain of the film. I liked how both menacing and cowardly he was. The actor also did a very good job of showing his character’s fear with his eyes. Recently, Sarsgaard had roles in films like Blue Jasmine, Pawn Sacrifice, and Black Mass. He will also be in the awards’ contender Jackie later this year.
  • Haley Bennett as Emma Cullen was also really good. I have only seen her in Hardcore Henry, where she didn’t have much to do, so I was pleasantly surprised by her performance in this film. She pulled off her action scenes and the emotional sequences really well and will also star in The Girl on The Train in a few weeks.
  • Matt Bomer (Magic Mike, The Nice Guys) and Luke Grimes (American Sniper, Fifty Shades) also had small roles and did a fine job. In was nice to see Bomer in another flick – don’t know why he doesn’t get more role as he is really good at what he does. Grimes has two Fifty Shades movies coming up but I don’t think that hs character will get much to do in them.

In short, The Magnificent Seven was a well-made and nicely-acted typical Western. It was entertaining and intense and had an amazing and diverse cast. However, the narrative did lack originality.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: The Magnificent Seven trailer

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Movie review: Pixels

Movie reviews

Hello!

I hope you are ready to travel back to the 1980s because this is the review of the Pixels. Enjoy!

To begin with, I think that this movie wasn’t as bad as I was led to believe by a lot of reviews from my most trustworthy critics. It wasn’t a flawless film but it definitely wasn’t the worst Sandler film and that’s saying something. Well, not really. Let’s just continue with the review.

Even before reading and watching the reviews of Pixels, I had my own doubts. One of them is the fact that Pixels is a Sony film, and, with the recent developments within the inside of that company and a track record of terrible films (if you mess Spider Man up for the 3rd time, the nerds won’t allow the 4th time to happen), I was worried how this movie will turn out. The other doubt inspiring thing is the the main start of the motion picture – Adam Sandler. His movies have been getting worse and worse, almost all of them were financial flops and didn’t earn any praises from the critics and fans alike. Personalty, my favorite Sandler’s films are Bedtime Stories and the Grown Ups. Both of them were also panned by the critics, though, I found them enjoyable as a 12 year old. However, 6 years later I can’t say the same about Pixels.

IMDb summary: When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games. Pixels feature film is actually based on a French animated short film with the same name by Patrick Jean. 

Premise 

The premise of the film was genius and had a lot of potential. We have seen films based on video games, but never have these movies actually acknowledge that the games are real and alive. For example, if you take the Need for Speed film (review), you can see that they never talk about any games; they just set their movie in the same world that the game’s action takes place or maybe they borrow some characters and stories from the game. But Pixels goes full on gaming mode and includes a plethora of old games (Centipede, Donkey Kong, Tetris, Pac-Man). They were definetely trying to make the old arcaders feel nostalgia. However, I do believe that they were also trying to appeal to the current gaming community. Gaming channel are huge on YouTube – just look at PewDiePie.

The fact that the movie includes a wide variety of different games begs for me to mention the product placement portion of the film. A few times, I really felt like I was watching a commercial. They should have been more careful with the commercial and merchandise side of the film.

Personally, I’m not a huge gamer. I remember playing Super Mario on an old Terminator 2 console (also know as Nintendo with yellow cartridges) in the early 2000s. Terminator 2 was the Eastern European version Nintendo Famicom. Yes, even when the Cold War ended, life was still hard for people, living in post-Soviet Union countries. On a side note, even though 25 years have passed, I still feel the division between the west and the east today. However, the Internet helps to remove the differences, which I am extremely happy about. But back to the film.

Story

The scrip and the story of the film were quite clever. The cheating twist was interesting and very realistic. However, I didn’t felt like I was watching a comedy, because I didn’t really laugh much.

Also, a few scenes in the film took place in India for the sole purpose of making this film more appealing to Asian audiences. Get that damn Asian money, Sony!

Acting and Cameos

  • Adam Sandler was okay in the film. I quite liked his romantic comedy scenes with Michelle Monaghan’s character. However, her chracater didn’t have anything to do, except be the love interest.
  • Kevin James was also in the film, as usual with Sandler films. His part was the most unbelievable one.
  • Josh Gad tried to be the funny one but ended up being the stupid one. I really do prefer Gad as a voice actor.
  • Peter Dinklage was the coolest part of the film and one of the reasons that I was excited about the movie (Game of Thrones, duh). His physical appearance was also great.
  • Ashley Benson was another reason I wanted to see this film, because I am a Pretty Little Liars fan. However, I was really dispapointed. I waited the whole film for her to show up and she had only 3 scenes at the end. She didn’t even said a word, just stood there looking pretty.
  • Denis Akiyama played Toru Iwatani, the creator of Pac-Man. I wish they would have let the actual creator of Pac-Man play himself because we do see him in the film. The real Tory Iwatani cameos as an Electric Dream Factory repairman.
  • Sean Bean was also in the film for no reason whatsoever.
  • Serena Williams and Martha Stewart make cameo appearances as themselves. Their cameos were the only ones that worked.
  • Also, the film had a plethora of 80s stars appearing in alien messages That made the film seem more grounded, so good job.

Visuals

The visuals effect of the film looked really amazing. The way the video game figures moved and dissolved into tiny pixelated cubes was a wonderful feast for the eyes. The end credits design and the GAME OVER at the end of the film were also really appropriate additions to the overall theme of the film.

Directing 

The film was directed by Chris Columbus. I have seen a number of his films. He directed the Mrs. Doubtifre, the first two Home Alones and the first two Harry Potters as well as produced the Night at the Museum films as well as 2011’s Oscar nominated drama The Help. This probably won’t be his best movie (I mean, look at what he’s done), but I still believe that Pixels won’t be a stain on his resume, because the directing aspect of the film was really good. The action scenes looked exciting and interesting. Moreover, they looked realistic and that’s really hard to do while working with the green screen. And this movie needed a lot of green screen, I suppose.

All in all, Pixels was a fun film that exceeded my expectations, which, to be fair, were quite low to begin with. However, if you love video games and if you are a fan of the staring actors or if you just want to see whether Sandler still has what it takes to make a good comedy, go see this film. Bye!

Rate: 3.25/5

Trailer: Pixels trailer

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