The new Magnificent 7 film

I just saw the new Magnificent 7 film. Overall it wasn’t too bad, typical summer blockbuster fare. Like most remakes/reboots, whatever the studios want to call them nowadays, it’s bigger and louder than the original. The cast is likeable and once the 7 are assembled, the film picks up pace a bit, albeit somewhat unevenly. The story’s villain changes from a bandit criminal gang in the 1960 Magnificent 7, to an amoral gunfighter/robber baron backed up by the local sheriff.

My main issue with the film is why someone thought it was necessary in the first place. Westerns are practically an endangered species in theaters now. Why remake a 56 year legendary film?

Especially since every aspect of the new film will be compared to it’s fore-bearers, the original Magnificent 7 and the equally legendary Kurosawa film Shichinin no samurai (Seven Samurai) the 1960 Magnificent 7 is based on. This where the film runs into problems, it’s good, but not great enough to erase comparisons to it’s predecessors.

The modern edits to the story include a new revenge sub-plot involving Denzel Washington’s character that does little more than confuse the plot. The primary villain is a walking  collection of TV Tropes, shoot the messengerrobber baron and card carrying villain to name a few.

Another issue is the army of villains, who seem to have more in common with a World War 2 Banzai charge than a mercenary band. In the film’s climax, they are shown rushing repeatedly into murderous crossfire, dynamite mines and deadly booby traps with nary a flinch or sign of retreat.

The film gives no motive for this behavior. Fear, greed, misplaced loyalty? The plot gives no sign of anything to justify their continuing to attack as most of their comrades are mowed down in ill advised frontal assaults on the town.

The film also suffers from the typical modern summer blockbuster ailments of overly loud (to the point of clipping out the theater’s speakers) soundtrack and bloated editing. Many scenes go on at least a few beats too long, which quickly adds up and makes the film feel longer than the 1960 Magnificent 7, despite being roughly the same run time. Overall it feels like less is done with the available time.

On the plus side the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, with beautiful panning shots of prairies, forests and mountains.

Overall I’d say it’s probably worth seeing in theaters, especially if you’re a fan of the genre or of one of the actors. The beautiful cinematography and likeable cast rescue it from a muddled plot and sometimes plodding pace. Just don’t expect anything special. Otherwise, wait for the budget showing or for the inevitable video release.

Robert Odierna 2016

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100 posts

WordPress just informed me that I’ve hit 100 posts. When I started this blog, it was purely as a hobby and a way to share my love of cinema with the world. I wasn’t even sure it would last 15 posts, let alone 100.

Here’s to another 100 and hopefully more after that.

Robert Odierna 2016

Terry Jones

Sad to hear that comedian Terry Jones has been diagnosed with dementia.

Jones is most famous for his work as part of the Monty Python comedy group. Jones, along with Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Terry Gilliam were the core members of the group. Jones was heavily involved in the writing of the show and was a major element in it’s success.

The blow is harder with the recent death of Gene Wilder. Many of my favorite performers are getting up in years and this is becoming a too frequent occurrence.

Terry Jones – Daily Mail article

 

Longmire season 5

Longmire season 5

Longmire season 5 just went live on Netflix.

If you’re already a fan, the season so far is the same quality as previous seasons.

If you haven’t seen the series, Longmire is a hybrid show. A modern police drama set in rural Wyoming, it also incorporates elements from classic westerns. The main character is a walking anachronism, an old west style sheriff trying to navigate a modern world of forensics, drugs and modern technology, while keeping true to his sense of honor.

The previous season ended on a spectacular cliffhanger and the new season hits the ground running immediately. The show’s switch from A&E to Netflix seems to have been fairly seamless and if anything, this season looks to be even better than the last 2.

You can read my review of the series here:

Longmire review: 4 Gavels out of 5

 

 

DCI Banks

DCI Banks

Hi everyone,

I just realized that I inadvertently flipped my review order. I was planning to review DCI Banks first.

Review

DCI Banks is a show I’ve just started to watch. A police procedural from our friends across the Atlantic, ITV. DCI Banks is based on author Peter Robinson’s novels. The main protagonist DCI Alan Banks is a study in tenacity. A determined major crimes detective for a Yorkshire police department. What Banks lacks in resources or superhuman insight; he makes up for in sheer determination. Ruthlessly working leads and not afraid to step on toes to get the arrest.

The show starts with the death of a police officer responding to a domestic violence call. His partner brutally beats the killer, Marcus Payne, into a coma. When detectives arrive, they find that they injured man had the bodies of 4 missing women locked in a basement dungeon. DCI Alan Banks is determined to find out if a fifth missing girl is still alive.

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A major side plot in this initial show is the investigation of the officer. Since she beat the suspect into a coma with her police baton, the departments Professional Standards division wants to prosecute her for excessive force.

Making the investigation is DS Annie Cabbot, a very ambitious and aggressive detective.

Unlike shows such as Sherlock, Bones or Poirot; the characters in DCI Banks are not superhuman, they are deeply flawed individuals struggling with their own weaknesses as well as the interpersonal issues that plague any workplace.

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Banks and Cabbot, not exactly best friends at the moment.

This is where DS Annie Cabbot is an interestingly different take on the hero sidekick role. She is rude, abrupt and abrasive. She often clashes with her bosses and definitely has her own agenda. This has made her a deeply controversial character among fans of detective fiction. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I like the difference. While not perfect for every show, it’s refreshing to see this type of character asserting her independence even if she spectacularly messes up on occasion. Naturally Banks and Cabbot clash almost constantly during their initial team up, being more similar than either would care to admit.

The mistakes are a major difference in this show. None of the characters are perfect crime fighting machines, clues are missed, office politics sabotages investigations, critical points are argued over and the show rarely ends in a drawing room reveal. The show also does not flinch away from showing the psychological damages of violent crime on all involved, this becomes a major plot line in the first series.

The villains are mostly your usual mugshot line of violent serial killers, with a few fascinating variations. There are also a few episodes that deal with violent organized crime and human trafficking.

Verdict 3 Gavels out of 5 Despite a few bugs, a pretty good detective show. The extremely flawed characters mark a nice change from the usual super-sleuths of detective fiction. The characters are flawed, human and refreshingly real.

Robert Odierna September 2016

Curtis Hanson 1945-2016

Director Curtis Hanson passed away today. While not a very prolific director, according to IMDB just 19 films over 40 years, he was involved in some very influential ones. A few of the more recognizable ones would ’90s rafting epic River Wild with Meryl Streep, a film that practically spawned a small cottage industry of rafting TV episodes after it came out. Another was the Eminem vanity project 8 Mile, about an aspiring rapper (imagine that).

More relevant to this site would be the 1992 revenge thriller The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. The most iconic film of his career is also a favorite of mine, LA Confidential, a stylish neo-noir set in 1950s Los Angeles and starring Kevin Spacey, Russel Crowe and Kim Basinger. Loosely based on rampant corruption and mob ties to the LAPD, LA Confidential borrowed heavily from actual events and is a well made hat tip to classic film noir.

RIP Curtis Hanson.

Links

Hi everyone,

Here is a link to a website devoted to an often forgotten aspect of the very visual film medium: Sound. Virtually everything you hear in a modern film from dialog to background speech (walla) to foley (mostly footsteps) is either artificially added or post processed in a hundred specialized ways. It’s a testament to the skill of these artists that films sound as good as they do.

It wasn’t always that way, one of the reasons people find early sound films a challenge is the primitive nature of the sound. Often the only sound system was an open omnidirectional mic. This was also a few years before high quality condensor mic systems escaped from the Navy sonar department and into studios.

filmsound.org is a great resource into this niche but fascinating field of film. From basic how to articles to extensive and detailed interviews, this site is a treasure for any film fan who wants to see how their favorite art form is made.