The Magnificent Seven

“What we lost in the fire, we found in the ashes.”

To begin with, a confession. I’ve not actually seen 1960 original of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (I type this whilst wearing an expression of utter chastisement)… So this review will be unique as I won’t be comparing the two films but writing about this version on its own merit (she types whilst hiding desperately in the hope of not losing her wannabe film critic status!) Now we can begin!

In 1870’s American corrupt industrialist and baron Bartholomew Bart (Sarsgaard) is determined to takeover the mining town of Rose Creek. An impromptu meeting results in the death of many town’s people, including the husband of Emma Cullen (Bennett). She’s determined to save her town and get revenge for her husband’s murder so calls upon the help of bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington) who brings together a group of gunslingers to help him. 

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Where this film excels is in providing fun. Whilst utilising a diverse cast it still uses the cliches we’d expect from a Western and plays around with them. We’ve got the gambler, the sharpshooter, a knife-wielding assassin, a tracker, a warrior and an outlaw being fronted by an officer of the law. They all say and do the things we’d expect them to do, yet the film and the actors themselves do this so successfully that we end up being unable to resist the charm  of the whole affair. The cast are all fantastic and truly bring their characters to life.

Washington provides a winning performance as a man closed-off and haunted by his past, determined to get the revenge he has been seeking for decades.Hawke and Lee make for an excellent double act and have an instantaneously excellent rapport. Garcia-Rulfo has an intriguing charisma, although rarely at the centre front you are constantly aware of his presence. Sensmeier is superb as the Comanche warrior who says little but does a lot. D’ Onofrio ends up being very sweet as Jack Horne, a ‘bear in people’s clothes’. MVP has to be Chris Pratt providing another charmer you hate-to-love. He’s as watchable as ever (just look at that face and tell me otherwise) and provides some of the best gags.

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There’s something endearingly old-fashioned about the movie – the characterisation, the lack of any blood whatsoever and the representation of violence. Most exchanges end up with a lot of death which the film doesn’t ponder the morality of. In fact the film goes for the ‘guns are cool’ approach which somewhats conflicts with the more modern elements of the show.

Whether this remake ‘needed’ to happen is not being debated here (as I cannot do so due to my ineptitude as a film person!) However it’s a more than entertaining thriller and it’s a true pleasure to see some old-fashioned heroes on the big screen. There’s a whole lotta charm if not quite magnificence in this throwback to old school Hollywood.

3.4

Dir:Antoine Fuqua

Country:USA            Year: 2016               Run time: 132 minutes

Cast:Denzel WashingtonChris PrattEthan HawkeVincent D’OnofrioByung-hun LeeManuel Garcia-RulfoMartin SensmeierHaley BennettPeter SarsgaardCam Gigandet

The Magnificent Seven opened in UK cinemas on September 23rd.  

Jurassic World

The park has grown into a world – but bigger doesn’t always mean better.

jpIt’s been twenty-two years since Jurassic Park came out. (At this point I’ll pause for a second to let that sink in/ get over the shock/let you sit down if you are standing!) Few blockbusters have the same amount of loyalty or produce the same levels of nostalgia from its fans or have so many iconic moments. From that music, to the shot of the water vibrating in a glass building to the introduction of the T-Rex, the raptors in the kitchen and the wonder that is Jeff Goldblum. As a consequence the makers of Jurassic World had a difficult task – to pay homage to the origins whilst also developing without being accused of trying to reinvent the wheel. In some ways they are successful, aspects of this film are incredibly entertaining and equal the original. On the other hand, some aspects are jumbled, flawed and disappointing.

The film reflects real-time, set 22 years after Jurassic Park was forced to close. Jurassic World is one of the world’s most popular theme parks – just as one would take their family to Disneyland they live in a world where it’s normal to go somewhere to see dinosaurs. In fact, it has become so normal that operations manger Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has been put in charge by the park owner to oversee the upcoming new exhibit. It’s a breed of dinosaur that has never been seen before – literally as it didn’t exist before. The ‘Indominous Rex’ is a product of genetic modification – a hybrid of different species. Although her nephews are currently spending a week at the Jurassic World – who arrived with the intent of spending time with her – she has been unable to do because of this indomitable project. Her nephews go off exploring the theme park with her assistant for company, whilst Claire deals with issues regards the new beast. She is forced to turn to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, playing an oh-so-common ex-military/ leading velociraptor expert and trainer) for help. If you haven’t guess what happens next (SPOILER ALERT) it escapes. How will Claire and Owen prevent the treat of a beast that has never existed before? A breed whose genetic origins are being withheld from them? What will happen to Claire’s nephews? Will Owen and Claire have an inevitable romance? Will these film avoid obvious character types?

I’ll only provide an answer to the last of those questions – no. Whilst no-one would turn to Jurassic World or it’s predecessors looking for realism, it would be nice to have an action-adventure movie in which the events do not overshadow the characters. In fact, can you imagine a world where a 3D movie action-adventure has 3D characters? Jurassic World is not that kind of world. The dinosaurs are given more developed characters than the humans. In Jurassic World we have:

– Owen Grady, the bad-ass bloke who has no time for society’s bullshit or human being’s bullshit. He wants to live in peace and hang out with his raptor buds alpha-style. He is an attractive man, and knows it. He uses humour to defuse awkward situations or to make his point. (Think Indiana Jones, with less charm.)

– Claire Dearing, the work-obsessive who cares more about her work than family. She is deemed cold and calculating when compared to the male hero. All she cares about is money, order and routine. Luckily the events of the film will show her that this is wrong, and will fix her evil corporate ways. She is living proof that it is impossible to be successful and also care about other people. Runs around in heels. (Think every stereotype of working women that exists in film)

– Zach Mitchell, the older of Claire’s nephews, thinks he is a ladies-man. Stares at lots of young women because he is a ladies man. Turns out that this is all a front to hide his caring-side, and he actually does love his little brother.

– Gray Mitchell, Zach’s younger brother. Shown to have obsessive tendencies through his encyclopaedic knowledge of dinosaurs.

– Vic Hoskins, a man who wants to use Owen’s raptors for evil. Does evil-ish things.

Without any interesting heroes to really root for, the film falls slightly flat, and we end up feeling more sympathy for the dinosaurs. Yes, there are some fantastic set-pieces – some sequences are genuinely frightening and rival the original film. Yes, there are some lovely and subtle tributes to the original film. Yes, it is rather entertaining and somewhat worthy of awe. But it is a film which seems so uncertain of itself with some cheesiness worthy of Skarknado. It simultaneously pokes fun at action movie tropes but then utilises others, with a side order of predictability. All of this results in a vanilla-bland popcorn movie.