*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 (NOT penned by Quentin Tarantino) sneak into the busy schedule of endless rom-coms, sci-fi epics and teen blockbusters.

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

BUT thankfully once the mysterious Joe Chisolm wandered into town, my griping was subdued.

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 a G.I. Joe movie!

The pace dragged 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.

And that was the problem. 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. Brilliant.

And one thing can be agreed; Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day/The Equalizer) knows how to deliver a shootout!

The tension was perfectly executed as the gang bumped heads with “the local law enforcement”. Ticking 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”). BUT it was still somewhat of a mixed bag.

It delivered enough 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 endless explosions and casualties, which spoiled things for me.

However, despite a drawn out pace and weak villain, this was still a fun, action packed blockbuster that complimented the original and delivered a thrilling and satisfying finale.

Let’s hope this might trigger a comeback for the Western.

3/5

*NEW* REGRESSION REVIEW *NEW*

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Regrezzzzion

The only thing this film made me feel was aggression. Two stars for the two leads.

A father is accused of a crime he has no memory of committing. Cue a dull by the numbers mind-number of a thriller.

The trailers didn’t give much away BUT as soon as I saw that it was penned by Alejandro Amenabar and starring Hermione from Harry Potter, I thought why not?

What a mistake. I expected Regression to be in a similar vein to The Others. Slow burning with a tense but thrilling finale. Tragically, this was just slow. Hawke’s detective desperately kept things watchable. Only because his character was so laughable. His volatile mood swings made for unintentionally comical viewing.

The premise behind the regressive hypnotherapy had potential but it never really got going. David Thewlis did his best to make the psycho babble engaging BUT all it did was reduce me into a hypnotic state. It took a good 30 minutes before anything of real merit grabbed my attention.

I couldn’t care for the crime aspect of the story. Mainly because it was so generic and formulaic. Hawke certainly did his best but the red herrings were so lazy that I was a little insulted. And poor Emma Watson. A talented actress. Reduced to a nothingy role that anybody could have played. The only thing I could applaud was her impeccable accent. She was either crying or spewing uninteresting bile and repeating the same old story that wasn’t that engaging the first time. A waste.

Thankfully the middle act offered some redemption for this shambolic dud. The supernatural element behind a suspect cult was the much needed catalyst. Something that Amenabar has always excelled at. So why didn’t he put in more of it?

45 minutes in. I was finally intrigued. Hawke’s headphone sesh around a dilapidated warehouse was tense and unsettling. A brilliant scene as Watson’s commentary juxtaposed with some creepy images really put the heebie jeebies into the demented rituals that were supposedly re-enacted in this messed up crime scene.

Amenabar delicately teased the darker intent of this mysterious cult. Torture, sexual abuse and horrific sacrifices. That and Hawke’s paranoia and obsession did just enough to keep me from walking.

At first I thought Daniel Aranyo’s cinematography was a little too dull and murky for this lifeless flick. BUT he was finally able to get a little more creative. Hawke’s dream sequences were slightly Kubrickian in their execution. Especially when he wakes up to the hooded white faced Dementors surrounding his bed. There was also another scene that was a perfect homage to Rosemary’s Baby.

Dale Dickey (Winter’s Bone) was probably the only other character that made a memorable impression. She played the grisly grandmother with aplomb. If anything there wasn’t enough of her. She really stole every scene she was in. And for all the mystery, I expected more to be made of her character.

And that was the problem. The real horror after a promising second act was that it was all for nothing. The finale was terrible. The revelations were tragically predictable. It took a direction I really hoped it wouldn’t and with a twist you could see a mile away.

I can see what Amenabar was trying to do BUT it ruined the film. And the ‘Based on a True Story’ end credits undermined the whole piece for me. If not for Hawke and Watson’s involvement, I honestly don’t think this would have graced the silver screen. If anything, this is the sort of paranormal cold case story I see constantly featuring on the numerous channels of my Sky box.

Shame.

2.5/5

BOYHOOD REVIEW

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Richard Linklater brings us his most ambitious, and longest, project to the big screen with . . . mixed results. An intriguing, if overhyped, concept works as a great marketing tool but also delivers a good story with a great cast. However, despite offering a different and interesting viewing experience, it soon borders on pretentious as the second hour passes.

We follow our lead character Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he grows up and battles with abusive stepfathers, negligent fathers and continuous moves across the state. The first half of the film was an engaging, slow burning look into young Mason’s life as he endures boyhood. It was great to see the same cast over the 12 year gap. It was a nice change and helped get rid of those continuity gaffs that always irritate me in movies. Coltrane is a likeable and talented lead across the years, which always helps in such an ambitious project.

However, Mason suddenly ages or the story skips a few years without any warning or marker. If it wasn’t for the fact the soundtrack spanned my childhood, I wouldn’t have known what year it was. An excellent indie soundtrack by the way. One that included the likes of Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, etc added to the film. Patricia Arquette (Medium) and Ethan Hawke (a Linklater regular of late) were perfectly cast as the divorced parents. The inevitable competition between the warring parents for their kids’ affection was predictable but nicely done. Hawke stole virtually every scene he was in and proved that he is still a reliable actor.

Arquette had to play the role a little more straight faced but she got to have her moment to shine in the final moments as she sees her children off to college, which made for an endearing moment as the film came full circle. A tense chapter in which Arquette moves in with a deadbeat alcoholic made for uncomfortable, if dramatic, viewing. Kudos to Marco Perella. He was fantastic as the volatile Bill Welbrock. A ticking time bomb with his inevitable detonation vastly approaching with every drop of whiskey.

As Mason endures love, heartbreak, disappointment and . . . life really; you cannot help but feel you are watching someone’s life and after two hours, with a further 45 minutes to go, I felt that Linklater was self-indulging a little bit. Coltrane had enough charisma to keep the film going but once he reaches 18, I felt myself getting infuriated with him. He seemed to be too laidback and without a care in the world. I mean, of course, the idea is about finding oneself and choosing the right path and making a future for yourself but Mason doesn’t care at all. You can respect it to an extent but in terms of viewing, he soon becomes a greasy haired mumbler of a teen that borders on douche-baggery.

I mean for any teen, it can be frustrating with that endless pondering of what lies next. The endless questioning by family figures and friends interrogating Mason on life decisions was relatable for any one. At the same time, I felt that more could have been out of certain scenes. You expect in certain arguments or decisions, something else to happen, only for it to wither out and lead to nothing or skip past it altogether. Mason’s issue with bullies, for example, leads nowhere. Mainly because he keeps moving school. One of Arquette’s partners appears to become another angry drunk with tension mounting between him and Mason, only for it to be skipped forward a few years with the partner gone and only a sentence to explain.

There were so many points as the film drew to an excruciating close, in which it could have ended sooner. I mean the final moments do make for an uplifting and open ending, which does work surprisingly. However, it seemed to go out with a whimper and a mumble than a bang. A different concept made for watchable viewing but a questionable length (again that phrase) seemed to slacken this vehicle. A great cast (credit where it’s due also to Lorelei Linklater. Using your own family in a movie doesn’t always work . . . not unless you’re a Coppola), good story just do enough to do more good than bad. Worth a watch if you want an easy going, coming of age drama. 3/5 for me.

Currently ranked 64 out of 198!