*NEW* THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN REVIEW *NEW*

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Not that magnificent BUT still worth a watch. Yee-ha!

Seven gun men in the old west gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves.

It’s always going to be tough to follow in the footsteps of the iconic 1960 Western classic (When does anything ever beat the original?) BUT thanks to a talented cast and some action packed set pieces, this did just enough to stand on its own two feet.

I was happy to see another Western sneak into the busy schedule of endless rom-coms, sci-fi epics and teen blockbusters and one NOT penned by Quentin Tarantino, we have been spoiled!

The slow burning opener didn’t build my hopes up (At first!). I could already feel myself grumbling. The lacklustre lines, the cliched townspeople and that feeble introduction to a weak and weasley villain Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard – Jarhead) had me reaching for my tomahawk.

BUT thankfully once the mysterious Joe Chisolm wandered into town, my nitpicking was put on hold. I couldn’t think of anybody better to follow in Yul Bryner’s footsteps than Denzel Washington. He was everything you expected. Cool, calculated and somebody you wouldn’t want to mess with.

The initial ‘getting the gang together’ spiel did take a while BUT I didn’t mind watching each member make their introduction into the mix. Chris Pratt stole the show yet again by being . . . Chris Pratt. He’s no Steve McQueen BUT the card wielding smooth talker delivered enough charm and quick witted one liners to keep things entertaining.

It was good to see Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket) get a meatier role as Jack Horne. If Hodor came from the Deep South, he would probably look like him. “I think that bear’s wearing people clothes”.

Ethan Hawke was brilliant as the decorated veteran Goodnight Robicheaux. I wish more was made out of his partnership with the knife wielding Billy Rocks. Finally Byung-hun Lee was able to show off those blade skills in something other than G.I. Joe.

The pace did drag like a mule in the desert. BUT once the gang finally warmed up to one another and the uneasy alliance began, I was pleasantly surprised. The heated tension subsiding into idle banter. Faraday (Pratt) and Vazquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) delivered some of the better exchanges.

I was a little disappointed that the feisty Haley Bennett (Hardcore Henry) was pushed into the background after taking a pivotal role in persuading the men to save the town. BUT this was always going to be about the Seven.

I think that was one of the main issues. There were too many characters. Luke Grimes (Fifty Shades of Grey) was completely unnecessary. He brought nothing to the mix. Another cook spoiling the broth. Martin Sensmeier got lost in the thick of the action after making an impressionable introduction as Red Harvest. The Comanche dispatched on a tribal quest.

Mauro Fiore’s cinematography was breathtaking. He really captured the picturesque landscape (even if Fuqua focused on a little too much on the extravagant set designs). BUT director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day/The Equalizer) proved one thing. He is a still a maestro at delivering a shootout!

The tension was perfectly executed as the gang bumped heads with “the local law enforcement”. It ticked all the boxes for a good ol’ fashioned Western.

I was hoping that Sarsgaard would have been a little stronger. He was such a nothingy villain. I could get that with an army of a hundred mercenaries and endless wealth that he would be a little cocky BUT every scene he was involved in, he just didn’t do anything for me. I wasn’t unsettled or hooked. Just bored and wondering what Denzel and that dude from Guardians of the Galaxy were up to?

For those familiar with the original, it stayed very true to the story line (Despite claiming to be a “reboot”). The finale was a mixed bag. It delivered bang for your buck and really pushed that 12A limit to the max with the violence. The number of flying axes and endless machine gun fodder. The body count was crazy.

BUT with so many characters in play, too many got lost in the mix of explosions and endless extras which spoiled things. However, the closing 20 minutes did deliver a thrilling and satisfying finale.

Despite a drawn out pace and weak villain, this was still a fun, action packed blockbuster that did nothing to spoil the original. Let’s hope this might trigger a comeback for the Western.

3/5

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EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS REVIEW

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Exoduzzzzz. Basically the Dark Prince of Egypt. No singing, a whole lot darker and a whole lot longer.  A mess. A beautifully shot one but a mess all the same.

So what’s it all about? (For those who don’t know) The defiant leader Moses (Christian Bale) rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.

Another example of the ever-increasing decline of a great director.

Beautifully shot (with a talented cast) BUT overlong, drawn out and dreadfully dull. The Counsellor, Prometheus and now Exodus.

I couldn’t think of anyone better to take on the role of Moses. Bale brings his gruffly angry gravitas to the role BUT despite his best efforts, his performance was a little underwhelming.

I understand that there has been a backlash against this movie. To be honest, I gave up on Hollywood attempting any accuracy or authenticity on anything. Let alone the Bible.

Apparently, self-tanning solves the whitewashing issue that Hollywood have failed to resolve for the last 50 years.

Bale and Edgerton worked well together and made a good pairing when they got to be in the same scene. Edgerton (Warrior) was an excellent Ramses when he was allowed to act. Can you see where I’m going with this?

The first 30 minutes zipped along and was quite watchable. The scope and design was breathtaking. Captured perfectly by (regular Scott stalwart) Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography.

This time around, Moses is not just an Egyptian prince but a general trained in the art of war. Cue biblical battle sequences . . . for five minutes. The little action we got was delivered through tragically jittery camera work. My eyes struggled to adjust to the 3D and the huge numbers of extras. I couldn’t focus on any one set piece.

The 3D is a waste of time. Apart from a few arrows and blades flying here and there and seeing some teeny tiny seagulls soar above the waves, it barely appears in the 150 minutes and doesn’t justify the extra costs.

The battle sequence soon corrected itself but after that . . . Nothing. We are left with mindless exposition, delivered by stocky characters for another hour and a bit.

John Turturro was probably one of the main supporting characters that made an impression as Egyptian pharaoh Seti.

BUT that was mainly because I thought it was a bit strange that he would play the father figure. He didn’t look any older than the pair. However, I Googled Turturro and discovered he is actually 17 years older than them I don’t normally go on continuity quips but the lumbering pace gave me time to do some research.

Ben Mendelsohn stood out for me more. I couldn’t believe it was him after all the hard man roles in Starred Up and Black Sea. He was very good as the weasly and overtly camp Viceroy Hegep.

Sigourney Weaver, on the other hand, was wasted in her role. She brought her stone faced pallor to the character and maybe had one bitchy moment but apart from that, anyone could have played her! Shame.

As Moses inevitably found out the truth about his upbringing and is exiled for it rather hastily; the film withers away as did my interest.

Agonisingly slow. I really felt like I was stranded in a desert. Waiting for a decent character. A bit of plot. Something. Instead I have Moses wandering about. Slaying a random person here and there (For no reason). Marrying the lovely Maria Valverde. Promising not to leave her. Leaving her to free “his people”. After talking to a burning bush. Come again?

I’m not going to pick at the biblical story too much. The bush always did test me BUT then to have the messenger of God appear in the form of an 11 year old boy named Malak (Isaac Andrews) took the biscuit.

Moses’ conversations with Malak should have been dramatic affairs. Heated debates questioning the morals and ethics behind God’s plan to liberate the slaves. BUT all I got was Batman yelling angrily at a little boy for 20 minutes.

Andrews did his best but he seemed to struggle with some of the bigger chunks of dialogue and didn’t really have the conviction to carry it.

It didn’t help that only Moses can see Malak. So every time Aaron Paul’s Joshua checked on Moses, he could only see Bale losing his rag at a rock. That’s right, Jessie from Breaking Bad. Such a bland character. He nailed the confused slave look well. It was comical.

The plagues certainly got things moving. The visual effects were incredible, especially with the locusts, frogs and crocodiles. Wait, what?

Crocodiles. You read that, right? I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in the bible. It was certainly a visceral and dark moment. The carnage was relentless. The Nile turning into one blood soaked pool. Haunting.

Indira Varma (Game of Thrones) and Ewan Bremner (Trainspotting) played the High Priestess and Expert as well as they could. The fact their characters are given such wonderful titles said it all.

Their theorizing about what made the plagues happen was interesting at first BUT got irritating in an instant.

I felt that Scott (and the cast) went through the motions with the story. I mean at least Darren Aronofsky tried to do something different with Noah. Granted, it didn’t really work and did cause a bit of a stir but it was certainly more interesting than this.

I mean between Bale and Scott, they made Moses appear like a schizophrenic. Talking to inanimate objects one second. Flying off the handle the next. What made me laugh is that the slaves constantly question his leadership and yet when the shit hits the fan, they are screaming for Moses to tell them what to do.

The pace could have been cut down by an hour and been stronger for it. It hasn’t added anything new to the story or re-imagined it in any capacity. Scott didn’t even bother showing Moses unveil the Ten Commandments after all the build up.

The parting of the Red Sea was a visual feast for the eyes. A frenetic finish to a flawed flop.

If there was to be a re-telling of a Bible story, why didn’t Hollywood take on a story that hadn’t had numerous films before it? Numerous films that were much, much better.

God have mercy on this film. The special effects and set pieces were breathtaking but the lifeless characters and mechanical story telling left me yawning.

2.5/5

UNBROKEN REVIEW

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This didn’t break my top movies list BUT there is still an engaging account of one’s man incredible story.

So what’s it all about? After a near-fatal plane crash in WW2, Olympian Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he’s caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.

Angelina Jolie takes the directing seat again and delivers a riveting (if overlong) re-telling of fear, hardship and endurance.

O’Connell has certainly cracked the big leagues and with a performance like this, he will continue to do so. It’s great to see the transition he has made since his role as Cook in Skins. His accent seemed a little muddled in the opening sequence but that soon subsided as the film continued.

The main thing I had to get over with was his badly dyed hair.

The opening air battle sequence certainly got things going. It was fast, frantic and . . . really loud. A good action set piece.

In between the air battles, the film flicks back and forth showing Zamperini’s childhood. A little hoodlum that refused to back down but was heading down the wrong path.

That was until his brother drew Louis’ attention to the track team. Their relationship was captured perfectly. Both sets of actors who played young and (older) Louis and Pete were very good.

To be honest, I wanted more of that. It seemed to flash through Zamperini’s childhood and Olympic campaign a little too quickly. I mean arguably it was just right. It wasn’t too corny and certainly didn’t linger too much.

The Olympic race may have been predictable for those who know about Zamperini. Unfortunately I didn’t know a thing. A mistake now amended. BUT you were still rooting for him. A typical underdog story. A promising talent . . . that is until the war.

The flashbacks subside when Zamperini is left stranded on a lifeboat with two of his comrades; Domhnall Green (About Time) and Finn Wittrock (Noah). Green had an impeccable accent and played the role very well. Another up and coming star to keep an eye on.

The ocean raft scenes were tense. The shark fins swarming around their prey. If not the sharks, it was the hunger, the blistering heat or the very fear that the plane you’re trying to flag down is the enemy. The threat of death ever constant.

The trio were fantastic and the first hour or so, I was engrossed in their struggle. Watching them as they tried to hunt and eat whatever they could to survive. There was one moment that rivalled Jaws in the scare factor.

Unexpected for the cinema spectator next to me (Mum) who nearly elbowed me in the face. Certainly got the pulse racing.

I couldn’t imagine being in a situation like that. BUT for 47 days! Unbelievable.

And if that wasn’t enough, the soldiers are then captured by the enemy and sent to a Japanese POW camp under the horrific treatment of Wantanabe or The Bird. The Bird because he sees all.

Takamara Ishihara was outstanding as Wantanabe. A sterling debut performance. I expect to see more from him. Hopefully not typecast as the bad guy but he played the part so well.

Zamperini’s treatment was tough viewing. The only problem is that the second half of this 137 minute length is literally just watching him being beaten endlessly with kendo sticks and by his own comrades.

I say, own comrades. They were all ordered to punch Zamperini in the face or let their injured face more torture. Harrowing stuff.

I hate to say this but once you’ve seen Louis being beaten about for five minutes, you realise there isn’t much else.

There were a couple of actors that popped up. Jai Courtney (Divergent), Luke Treadaway (Clash of the Titans) and Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) did as well as they could but their characters were so far in the background that it was hard to pull them out of it to make more memorable impressions.

The emphasis was always going to be on Zamperini. I understand that this is his experience but the length didn’t justify the means. The punching scene was mental. If it is true and not exaggerated for the film, how did that man survive?

The radio broadcast sequence was interesting as Zamperini is bribed by his captors. Good food and clean living for his denouncement of America and their involvement in the war.

BUT of course, this man will not be broken. There were moments where I was rooting for him, especially in his “crucifixion”. Forced to lift a railway sleeper above his head. If dropped, he would be shot.

However, I felt that it was all a little too similar to The Railway Man that was released last year. It may be unfair to compare (Did that rhyme? Totally rhymed) but Unbroken did fall slightly short.

Jolie wasn’t afraid to show both sides at their worst. As the prisoners are transferred from one camp to another, they are forced to walk through a town that had been destroyed by the American B-bombers.

There were some revelations in the closing minutes. But it would have been nicer to see them in the film than just read about it. The fact we didn’t know what had happened to Zamperini’s comrades after they were sent to different POW camps until the end credits was a little disappointing.

But it was still a fitting and uplifting footnote to a dreadfully visceral and tough journey.

Certainly worth a gander and O’Connell’s performance cannot be broken.

BUT the pace and the story line could have been a little bit more.

3/5

OLDBOY REVIEW

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Oh Boy!

Now firstly, I am a huge fan of Park Chan-wook’s 2004 original cult classic, and was devastated to hear a remake was in the pipeline. However, I felt somewhat assured knowing that Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing and Inside Man) was at the helm, with Josh Brolin and Samuel L (The L stands for Motherfucker) Jackson in the cast.

But what I just watched was a travesty, everything I feared in a Hollywood remake by the bucket load. The opening half hour did pay homage and pretty much covered the same set up as the original, which did not bother me in the slightest, with Brolin with his Southern drawl playing the part to perfection and establishing early on that the character is asking for trouble. For those unaware of the original plot, I will try not to spoil too much but I’m so riled up after watching this, I cannot promise anything.

Basically, the main gist is that Joe Doucett (Brolin) is kidnapped and held prisoner in a hotel room for 20 years, until one day he is released thus putting him on a murderous vengeance-seeking path with a hammer in tow. (That’s right. A hammer). Original fans – I’ll get to that. What I liked was the little touches. The fact that Lee included the mystery umbrella woman. However, he focuses, if a little too much, more on Doucett’s entrapment. Although it allowed the scenes to provide more depth and encapsulate (Word of the day!) his vulnerability and ever-growing psychosis, it could have been condensed a lot quicker.

(Plus was I the only one thinking, Jesus Brolin, put on some pants son?). The Cast Away-inspired pillow companion was a nice touch.

Oldboy was always a strange and violent film but what I loved about Chan-wook’s original was that it was suspenseful, intriguing and hypnotic, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen (and no! Not because it was in subtitles!). But once Doucett is freed from his motel confines, Lee seems to throw away everything that made the original a classic for me, leaving a big, bloody mess. This is settled in one ridiculously unnecessary violent scene, in which Brolin pretty much kills a high school football team for getting in his way. And with that very moment, went all logic and interest.

The cast do their utmost to provide a dimension to their wafer thin characters. A notable exception being the beautiful Elizabeth Olsen (I didn’t realise the Olsen twins had another sister, my goodness, steady now). You know you’re onto a losing streak when even Samuel L Jackson can’t save the day (he was the Spirit bad. Bad). Jackson just come across as a whiny, cross dressing weirdo with a stupid blonde Mohican, not even his motherfuckery was funny. Just plain irritating.

The lines fall flat, Brolin the powerhouse actor that he is, can only grumble and pull stupid faces. The dumpling scene, my God! At one point, in an attempt to find his captors, he knows that the food he was given was from a Chinese restaurant. So what does he do? Go to every restaurant and literally fill his face with dumplings until he recognizes the taste.

The whole thing borders on self-parody. At one point, Josh Brolin is riding a tiny Chinese bicycle while chasing after a Jeep frantically waving a hammer and Sharlto Copley (District 9) as the villain. Oh my word! What was the deal with his accent? Now, the villain was always an eccentric and a flamboyant dresser. But Copley’s portrayal comes off as a really naff Bond villain from the 70s Moore era. It was laughable. There was genuine suspense when the two protagonists finally meet but with Brolin and Copley, it was comical.

The hammer scene, the infamous hammer scene. Terrible. Lee films it all in one take, like the original, but instead of leaving the camera static and the action unfolding around it, the camera pans around, following Brolin. He only uses the hammer for thirty seconds, then swaps to every possible weapon. The violence is OTT, ridiculous and stupid. He’s running around with a knife in his back while being slapped about with 2×4’s! One big Saturday Night Live piss take.

No squid eating, just a passing reference. And the umbrella woman, just disappears. My friend who has not seen the original did not get the point to her at all and frankly there wasn’t one in this rehash. Oh and the twist. Well, there is a twist for those unfamiliar but for those familiar, it’s different, they stay true but go a little bit more messed up.

It is difficult not to draw comparisons, especially to a film that was, and still is good. It did not need to be remade.

On it’s own merit, it’s a stupidly gory and OTT watchable mess that is so-so at best, and I mean best. Worth a gander if you’re a gore nut but the tone is all over the place, just like everything else with this movie. A real mess, a beautifully shot mess but oh boy 1.5/5

Currently ranked 176 out of 178!