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: Everybody Wants Some!!

Movie reviews

Hi!

The newest auteur’s Richard Linklater’s picture – Everybody Wants Some!! has finally hit theatres, so let’s talk about it!

IMDb summary: A group of college baseball players navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood.

Richard Linklater 

American director and screenwriter Richard Linklater has made a lot of great movies: the classic coming-of-age comedy/drama Dazed and Confused, which launched a lot of actors’ careers (Matthew McConaughey’s and Ben Affleck’s especially); the most realistic romantic feature(s) and one of my all time favourite stories – The Before trilogy; and one of the most unique cinematic projects in recent memory – Boyhood (which I thought was a gimmick of a movie until I started studying films and realized how much work and dedication this project had to demand). Now, Linklater is back in the genre that helped him to succeed in the first place. 2016’s Everybody Wants Some!! is a spiritual sequel to 1993’s Dazed and Confused. Dazed was set in the 70s, on the last day of high school. Everybody Wants Some!! continues the coming of age idea into the first weekend of college in the 80s. Fittingly, Linklater directs the film in a very old school way. The film has a lot of slow camera movements, no fancy cuts, and a lot of medium shots in a mobile frame.

Story

Richard Linklater not only directed the film, but he also wrote the screenplay. In the same fashion as Dazed, nothing really happens in Everybody Wants Some!! The viewer is following the characters as they try to adjust to new surroundings, socialize with each other, and find themselves. The film finds an interesting way to explore a topic of identity crisis by making its characters go through different stages of partying – from disco to country and from punk to theater. Linklater also explores the gender dynamics (at times, the film does seem sexist) and especially the masculinity of the athletes: how competitive they are, even when there is no need for it, and how they want to dominate or win, in any given situation. The film’s characters seem stereotypical baseball players, yet at the same time, they are all unique, interesting and, most importantly, real .They are just young adults, who are trying to find or create their identities, who seek approval yet want to be weird and unique (individual v team) and who are afraid to end up ordinary, without achieving anything great. In short, they are all well-rounded and complex characters aka real people. The picture also has plenty of funny moments and a perfect ending line – Welcome to College, mot***f**k**s!. I, honestly, don’t remember the last time I giggled so much in a movie (well, probably in Deadpool).

Acting and Characters

The film had a huge ensemble cast – I will try to talk about as many of the characters/actors as I can.

  • Blake Jenner as Jake. We open the film with Jenner’s Jake, arriving at college, so I guess he should be considered the main character, although, as I’ve said, Everybody Want Some!! is an ensemble movie. Nevertheless, Jenner was great in the film – all of the sides of Jake were believable (both the team-orientated, partying baseball player and more romantic, quieter freshman). I’m so happy that Jenner’s career is picking up, because I have followed it closely, since he appeared on The Glee Project and, later on, Glee. This year he had a small role on Supergirl and is also starring in a few other films.
  • Zoey Deutch as Beverly. Deutch had only a few scenes in the picture but I also believed her as a theater nerd. She definitely has some range as an actress because, in this film, she played a complete opposite of her character in The Vampire Academy (the only other film of hers that I have seen). Speaking about VA – I loved the book series, so that’s why I watched the movie. It wasn’t good but definitely not as bad as the trailer showed it to be.
  • Ryan Guzman as Kenny Roper. Guzman surprised me a lot in the film because I have only seen him in Step Up movies and in The Boy Next Door in not very challenging roles. In this film, he was kinda a douchebag but likable one. His mirror scene was super funny.
  • Tyler Hoechlin as Glen McReynolds. Hoechlin left Teen Wolf to be in the movie because he really liked the role, and after seeing the film, I can understand why. His character was funny and also kinda douche baggy, yet extremely team-orientated – a great leader. Hoechlin’s crop tops were also on point. Next film for Hoechlin – aA Fifty Shades sequel.
  • Glen Powell as Finnegan. The scene stealer and the most interesting character of all. He sounded the smartest and his small monologs were nice to lister to. Powell is currently on Scream Queens.
  • Wyatt Russell as Willoughby. Another interesting character that kinda resembled Dazed and Confused’s David Wooderson aka Matthew McConaughey’s character. While McConaughey couldn’t leave highschool, Russell’s character was not ready to say goodbye to college, baseball, and the student lifestyle. Russell has previously starred in 22 Jump Street.
  • Other cast members included Will Brittain as Billy Autrey, Forrest Vickery as Coma, Temple Baker as Plummer, Tanner Kalina as Brumley, Austin Amelio as Nesbit, Juston Street as Jay Niles, Quinton Johnson as Dale, and Dora Madison Burge as Val.

Costumes 

1980s setting of the film added a lot of humor. The outfits (those prints and bell bottoms), the hair and the mustaches seemed weird in 2016 and yet so cool and chill. I would have loved to live in the 80s. The costumes were created by Kari Perkins while Michaela Farrell and Jennifer Jackson were the two key artists, responsible for makeup and hair.

Music

The film’s soundtrack was also on point. One of the scenes involving music was the singing in the car sequence – Rapper’s Delight by The Sugar Hill Gang– it was amazing. The soundtrack was picked by Linklater himself and this article on IGN nicely explains all the behind-the-scenes thoughts on music.

In short, Everybody Wants Some!! is an interesting exploration of one of the most exciting periods in people’s lives. The characters drift around and the viewer has a chance to chill with them. The costumes and the music are so 80s and so on-point while the acting and the jokes are pleasing as well.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Everybody Want Some!! trailer

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