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.  

Star Trek Beyond

Does it go beyond expectations..?

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I was very lucky to be invited to attend a screening of Star Trek Beyond at Picturehouse Central on Thursday. Disclaimer: I am not the world’s biggest Star Trek fan. I watched some of the Patrick Stewart starring episodes for a period (I’ve got vague memories of it being on BBC two before/after The Simpsons..?) and I’ve seen the previous two films of this reboot, thought they were quite good, but that’s about it. The following review therefore is the review of  someone who may not know everything about Star Trek but adores the Science Fiction genre. This someone also thinks that the special guest of the preview screening, the one and only Idris Elba, is pretty damn cool too…

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The Huntsman: Winter’s War

A fantasy with just enough farce to make it fun

I doubt there are many people who have spent the past four years desperately counting down until the sequel of the rather mediocre Snow White and the Huntsman. The film was lacking entertainment and personifies Hollywood’s serious issue with getting ‘dark’ confused with ‘murky’ and deeply frowning viewed as the only way to articulate inner torment. Now we have the prequel/sequel sans Snow White aka. Kristen Stewart (after a certain scandal involving the film’s director Rupert Sanders) who realistically is not much of a loss as she spent most of the film biting her lip. A new threat befalls the kingdom and the Huntsman is called in to help, after we learn more about his mysterious backstory.

Many years ago evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) murdered her way through the land to rule the kingdoms, with her powerless sister Freya (Emily Blunt) by her side. Freya falls in love, something her sister is against as love is a foolish distraction, and has a daughter. When tragedy strikes Freya’s powers are activated (think Elsa-from-Frozen-type powers) and she moves away to take control of her own land. She decides that she must have her own unique army and orphans the children of a village. The children are brought to her castle and taught the one commandment of her rule, that love is a sin. Years pass as the children are trained and moulded into true Huntsman but two children, her two best, break her one rule and fall in love. Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) marry and try to flee but are caught in the process. Freya the Frost, as she is now known, places a great wall of ice between the pair to separate them. Sara appears to be murdered and Eric is thrown into a nearby river to be swept away. Seven years later, after the events of the previous film when Snow White killed Ravenna, Eric is called on by Snow White’s close friend William (Sam Claflin) to stop the Mirror being intercepted by Freya. 

You do not go into films like this with a closed mind. They require a deep suspension of disbelief, with any concepts of logic or reason needing to be locked away for 114 minutes. If you do this you will find this film to be a serviceable and entertaining lark. It would be easy to list all of the flaws within this film but doing so would ignore how relatively entertaining it is.The script is truly mediocre, full of boulder-sized clunky exposition and mawkish sentiments. In fact a bingo or drinking game could be formed based on all the lines/phrases that are uttered about love (‘love is a sin’ ‘love doesn’t conquer all’ ‘love is not a fairytale’ ‘you reek of love’ etc.) There’s a line about wet-never regions which shows how uncertain the filmmakers are about who their audience actually is.  Liam Neeson is on needless and grating omniscient narrator duties.

If you can ignore that, which I know is asking for rather a lot, what is left is a host of charming performances going above and beyond to make the lifeless script fun. Chastain is a fantastic new addition, being far more kick-ass than her running in heels stint in Jurassic World. Hemsworth is as charming as we now expect from him, mugging about and having fun. I doubt there is little I wouldn’t watch if he was in it. Blunt and Theron are solid and borderline-stirring in their villainous portrayals, making some truly dreadful lines sound half-way believable.  Complex issues aside about people playing dwarves the four dwarves who aide the Huntsman on his journey (Nick FrostRob BrydonAlexandra Roach and Sheridan Smith) are great fun and a joy to watch.

It’s not going to win any awards and will most likely be forgotten by the end of the month. It also does not deserve nor need a sequel (instead I would propose a new series called ‘Let’s watch Chris Hemsworth do things’ where we watch Hemsworth do a variety of activities and charm us all). BUT, it is an entertaining enough farce with just enough camp and laughs to fill a dull afternoon/evening.

 2 stars