Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Magnificent Seven (2016) – review

The story of The Magnificent Seven is nothing new. After Akira Kurosawa made The Seven Samurai there came the 1960 American film of The Magnificent Seven. In the years that followed there were many movies that copied the basic premise of a band of heroes coming together to face overwhelming odds to protect an oppressed group. Movies like: The Three Amigos, Blazing Saddles, and A Bug’s Life are just a few examples that come to mind. With great acting and a quality director The Magnificent Seven was ready for a remake.

A small Western town is under the threat of an evil industrialist, played by Peter Sarsgaard. After he threatens the small farming community a couple of survivors go out in search for some champions to drive off this threat. Seven misfit gunfighters band together to help the farmers. In doing so they teach the farmers how to defend themselves and fight off the opposition.

The acting is great. Ethan Hawk, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and many of the other actors truly encompass the variety of the old West. Haley Bennett, who plays one of the farmers from the small town, is especially sympathetic and impressive to watch. Peter Sarsgaard is a fun villain that captures a lot of the same craziness that made Gary Oldman so entertaining in Leon: The Professional. His motivation makes him seem more like a serious version of Hedley Lamarr from Blazing Saddles. As entertaining as his character is, he is not as pitiable as the Eli Wallach performance in the 1960 film.

The story is unique in its own way and keeps the general theme of the original for the most part. It skips much of the exploration into the concept of altruism; however, it does delve deeper into the idea of vengeance. The photography shows great skill as the audience is treated to amazing sunset shots. The director also built a lot of tension up to the big battle. My only complaints are fairly nitpicky. For example: the characters run the gamut of races and that seemed fairly unrealistic. Having a Native American, a Chinese man, a black man, and a Mexican made things seem a bit too modern since the film takes place in 1879. Given the United States history it is fairly difficult to imagine a group this progressive. The other thing is that the town is said to be full of simple farmers, yet there is not a single farm to be seen in the entire film. Not a big deal, just sort of odd.

The Magnificent Seven is a worthy remake of a classic story. The changes give it charm and the characters are brought to life in such a way that it will entertain any fan of the Western genre. The film is well made and the performances are solid. If you have any desire to see it catch it as a matinee or a rental.  While not a perfect film it captures the themes of the originals and alters exactly what is needed to make it something unique.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Blair Witch – review

The Blair Witch Project is a creepy movie that has a very genuine feel to it. The sequel entitled Blair Witch, attempts to market on the first film’s charm but misses all of the aspects that made it successful. It was as if the makers of the movie asked themselves what made the original film memorable and just replied “the woods and motion-sickness inducing photography.” The characters are forgettable and the scares resort to jump and gross-outs.

James Donahue, the younger brother of Heather from the first film, sees some footage online which makes him believe that his sister is still alive in the Black Hills forest. This is despite that it would mean she survived for 16 years hidden from search teams. James and a group of his friends go into the woods to see if they can unravel the mystery. Once they get into the woods strange things begin happening and they find themselves a part of the horrors of the Blair Witch.

When you consider that the first film was improvised, filmed on a tiny budget, and didn’t show much of the scares, it is amazing that it stands up as a legitimate horror film today. Blair Witch has the aspect of being lost in the woods but with the same jump scare clichés that could be found in your everyday horror film. This could be forgiven if the characters were interesting or memorable in anyway, but they are one-dimensional caricatures that are disposable.

The biggest crime is that the film considers itself a Blair Witch movie but does create tension built on what you don’t see. Even Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 got this aspect right.  The deaths are shown and even the Blair Witch makes an appearance looking like the creature at the end of Quarantine but with sound effects of one of the Ents from The Lord of the Rings movies. The filmmakers resort to loads of the same jump scares that were popular in the 1980s. Why make a movie like this if you cannot even capture the aspects that made the first movie popular?

Blair Witch is a missed opportunity to make a modern twist on a spooky movie that comes off like an American legend. It fails to deliver anything new and will likely be forgotten in time.  I only slightly recommend it, and only if you are a fan of the original, and only as a rental.  This movie makes Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 seems like a smart movie in comparison.  It is another case of banking on nostalgia to sell movie tickets to mediocrity.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Morgan – review

Morgan is a science fiction movie that disappoints on several levels. The trailer made the Morgan character appear to have telekinetic powers. This turned out to just be clever editing. The cast if full of really talented and well-known actors and the shots are often very pretty. The writing makes the scientists out to be morons and the plot twist is telegraphed and stupid.

After a genetically created child, Morgan, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, has a tantrum and stabs a doctor in the eye, the company funding the experiment sends a risk manager to determine the viability of the experiment. As it turns out Morgan is a highly developed weapon that knows all sorts of deadly martial arts. She soon overtakes her captors and escapes. It is up to the risk manager to determine how to proceed.

The characters are performed well but are poorly written and developed. The scientists created a human out of artificial DNA, so the question as to her personal rights could have been explored, but instead it is forgotten. They have become emotionally attached to Morgan so that complicates matters greatly. The scientists also have no methods of tracking her whereabouts despite the fact they let Morgan go outside often.

They also have no contingency if Morgan attacks them. The scientists are awful at their jobs. Even the scientists in Jurassic Park had the lysine contingency just in case. It is vaguely implied that one of the scientists has a lesbian attraction to Morgan. That is not explored either though. To this film’s credit there are some great nature shots. It is a pretty movie, at the very least.

Morgan is a movie that squanders good actors in a movie that is subpar at best. The characters are poorly developed and the story is ridiculous. The best thing about this dull movie is that the running time is short.  It is a disappointing film that even talented actors cannot save. The twist does not help this movie. Since it fails to entertain it is very difficult to recommend this forgettable movie.