Friday, October 7, 2016

"The Magnificent Seven" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Magnificent Seven" as well as DVDs "Genius" and "10 Cloverfield Lane."  The Book of the Week is "The Girl on the Train."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Phenix City Story."]

The Magnificent Seven

Bartholomew Bogue and his henchman have taken over the small mining town of Rose Creek, robbing it of its resources and enslaving the locals, killing anyone who questions his authority.  A plucky woman whose husband was killed by the bad guys travels to another town to get help and manages to find seven gunman to help her reclaim her town.

Chris Chisholm (Denzel Washington) is a warrant officer (which I think is a fancy name for a bounty hunter) out looking for criminals when he comes across Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett).  In the cold opening of the film we have already seen her husband get killed by the evil Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his henchmen who have taken over the town.  Emma is looking for help to get her town back and she engages Chris who in turn finds six other men to help her. All having their reasons for getting involved, they return to the town and prepare the townspeople and themselves to take on Bogue and his men.  It looks like an impossible task but you know how these kinds of movies go, right?

This is a remake of a remake.  The first remake was the 1960 film of the same name which turned Kurasawa's original Samurai warrior film "The Seven Samurai" into a western.  If you read my reviews regularly you know how I feel about remakes, so I won't get into that whole thing again.  Let's just say I don't like remakes and since this is not only a remake, but a remake of a remake, you would think that I really wouldn't like it.  But you would be wrong. 

Though there are similarities between the 2016 version and the 1960 version of this film, most notably that they are both westerns with all-star casts, the actual plot is a bit different. Both the original film and the 1960 remake involved bandits robbing and pillaging the town whenever they felt the need.  In this latest version, there is a resident pillager, Bogue, who is terrorizing and exploiting the townfolk and the local farmers. The 1960 film had a romance, this one doesn't, and there certainly were no African Americans or Native Americans as part of the "Seven" in the 1960 remake.  However, the pyrrhic victory remains the same.

As in most westerns/war movies/etc. that involve a group of guys, there is always a mix of personalities and everyone comes with some baggage.  In that way, the two films remain the same with some slight variations on the characters, though despite Chris Pratt and Denzel, for its day, the 1960 film had more big names.

If you were a fan of the 1960 version, you will remember that badass Yul Brynner played the head gunslinger Chris Adams.  Now badass Denzel Washington leads the "Seven" as warrant officer Sam Chisholm; Steve McQueen's failed gambler Vin Tanner is replaced by character Chris Pratt's Josh Faraday, though Josh also likes to do card tricks and blow things up; Bernardo O'Reilly (Charles Bronson), a gunfighter of Irish-Mexican heritage in the original remake, is comparable to the new film's Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Britt (James Coburn), the knife expert is now an Asian character, Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee).  And every group has to have a coward - Ethan Hawke plays Goodnight Robicheaux who is having a crisis of confidence just as Lee (Robert Vaughn) did in the 1960 version. A couple of new characters are an almost unrecognizable Vincent D'Onofrio as the mountain man Jack Horne and Martin Sensmeier as the Native American warrior Red Harvest. This latest remake had no comparable character for the hotheaded, inexperienced but very hot and handsome Chico (Horst Buchholz), who provided a love interest in the 1960 film.  No romance in this new one.

So the characters are similar and so is the plot.  So why redo this already classic redo?

I would guess part of the reason could be the dearth of westerns these days, and it's a classic story of good versus evil and fighting for what's right even if the odds are against you.  Plus the studios were probably looking for something that would highlight Chris Pratt who is really hot right now.

I am not much of a western fan.  I think it's because there were just so many of them on TV when I was growing up.  I was more of a sitcom girl (remember "Bachelor Father" and "Ozzie and Harriet?").  My Dad was a western fan so I got my fill of "Gunsmoke" and "Have Gun Will Travel" and "Wanted Dead or Alive."  TV was awash in westerns in the 1950's and 60's.

But I have to say this is an exciting, well-acted story and I enjoyed it.

Haley Bennett plays our plucky heroine, and though I liked that she got right in there with the men fighting off the bad guys, I couldn't get over the fact that every costume she wore had some decolletage or was off the shoulder or showed some cleavage. Not very practical outfits for clomping around in the dirt, riding a horse or shooting a rifle. We didn't have any romance in this film, but we certainly had some cheesecake.

Chris Pratt has pretty much perfected the smirking smart ass character and here he is again.  Denzel is his usual wonderful steady steely badass self and Ethan Hawke is poignant as the troubled ex-Confederate officer Robicheaux. Peter Saarsgard is expert at playing reptilian types and and this part is no exception.

The cinematography is beautiful and, at the end of the film, you are even treated to a little of the iconic instantly recognizable "Magnificent Seven" theme music by Elmer Bernstein made famous in the 1960 film.

Here is a little treat for you while you read the rest of my reviews!
You are very welcome!

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, who has worked with Denzel on "Training Day" and "The Equalizer," with a script by Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto, this film is beautiful to look at and is a welcome addition to the western movie genre in a world where we see few westerns anymore.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like westerns and shoot 'em ups, you will enjoy this. 

***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!

Now on DVD

Genius (2016)

A biopic of reknowned book editor Maxwell Perkins who guided the work of Thomas Wolfe, F.Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway while working at Scribners in the 1920's.

You might say, Maxwell who?  Literary films are few and far between these days and when they do occur they often don't do well at the box office.  Not sure what that says about us and our penchant for reading, or lack thereof (see how literary I am using big words)?  So it's strange to see this little film about a man few know today played by one of our most well-known actors, Colin Firth

Though Perkins worked with Fitzgerald and Hemingway and other writers, this film focuses on his relationship with Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) from the publication of Wolfe's first novel "Look Homeward Angel" to "Time and the River." Wolfe is portrayed as a bit of a nut job and has a relationship with Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman), who is also kind of a nut job.  She is not particularly happy about Thomas's success since it cuts into her time with him. You see, she is older and bit insecure about that.

But it's the relationship between Perkins and Wolfe that is the interesting one.  They both influenced the other. Tom's freewheeling lifestyle loosened Max up, and Max was able to calm Tom's writing style down.  You see, Tom has absolutely no problem whipping out a 5000 page manuscript and doesn't want to cut a word of it. Tom is single-minded about his work and it dawns on Max that he too is the same.  Even though there are wives and lovers, this film is about the relationship between Max and Tom and explores the psyches of these two men.  Where Tom's ego was big enough that he thought every word of a 5000 page book was worth keeping, Max was wracked with doubt that his editing made the book better. The movie also explores the question: since Wolfe couldn't edit himself how much of his success was because of Perkins?

Perkins was never a writer himself but he understood writers and what made a good book.  Working with Wolfe was a challenge because Wolfe was so prolific and, er, wordy?  He could knock off a 5000 page book - no problem.  Perkins had to make it readable.  Wolfe was in love with his own words and Perkins was able to get him to hone the book down into a readable one. So who was the genius here?  Wolfe or Perkins?

Perkins lived a seemingly normal life at home in Connecticut with his wife, played by Laura Linney (what has happened to her career?  She seems to play nothing but wives of famous men these days e.g. "Sully") and their five daughters, but when he would go to work in NYC he would be surrounded by literary geniuses, mostly men. 

Perkins was a father figure for Wolfe and his other authors.  There are appearances by Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce), who has to deal with his wife Zelda and his career on the downswing and Hemingway (Dominic West) whose confidence is in contrast to Fitzgerald's lack of it. Perkins was as much father confessor as editor. He was a bit of a father figure to his authors and, with five daughters, they in turn were his "sons."

Jude Law, who was once a great heartthrob and who we don't see that much anymore, does a good job showing Wolfe as a character who was complicated and "so full of life" that after he died (he died young at the age of 38) "there was a great void."  But I found the character annoying. If that was how Wolfe really was, I don't know how Perkins put up with him.  People who are "full of life" can also be a pain in the butt. Nicole Kidman as Aline is also annoying but she is supposed to be and does a very good job of being annoying.

But it's Firth, with Perkins' ever present fedora, who carries the film.  His quiet elegance and patience comes through and he is able to convey Perkins' love for Wolfe, who was probably the son he never had and why he put up with him.

Directed by Michael Grandage with a screenplay by John Logan (based on the book "Max Perkins, Editor of Genius" by A. Scott Berg), one can't help but wonder how this little film ever got made and with such big names.  It was probably in the theatres for about a minute.  But we need these kinds of films and we need to remember the great authors.

Rosy the Reviewer interesting exploration of a time of great literary expression and the man who made it all happen. Now go read a book!

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

A woman escaping her past gets into a car accident and when she wakes up finds herself in a bunker with two men who say there has been an apocalyptic chemical attack.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle, who has left her boyfriend, Ben, and is fleeing in the dead of night.  Few people are around and out of nowhere she is struck by a truck.  When she wakes up she finds herself chained to a bed in a room with an IV in her arm.  She sees her cell phone a few feet away, so she rips out her IV and gets to her phone and wouldn't you know?  The bane of cell phone users existence!  NO SERVICE.

But she isn't going to lie around waiting to find out why she is a captive.  She decides to be proactive. She fashions a knife out of her crutch and then starts a fire in the air vent.  When her seeming captor finally comes into the room she attacks him but he overcomes her and sedates her once again.  When she comes to again, we finally find out that her captor is Howard (John Goodman) and he has saved her from "the attack." He's not sure if it was chemical or nuclear. She soon learns that she is not alone in the bunker with Howard.  There is another person there as well, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a young guy we don't know much about. He eventually shares with Michelle that he's not a smart guy and gave up his sports scholarship to go to college because he feared the smarter kids.  We also learn that Howard is a survivalist and conspiracy theorist.

Howard, Michelle and Emmett are all together in an uneasy alliance.  Howard states the rules:  use coasters on the table because it's an heirloom, put the DVDs and tapes back in their sleeves and no touching. The three settle into a routine of playing games, watching videos.

But little things start happening that make Michelle feel like Howard is not telling the truth about the attack. Michelle starts to remember the accident and suspects that Howard was the one who hit her.  What if he did it on purpose?

One day the air filtration system fails so Howard has Michelle crawl into the duct system to restart it.  While in the space where the filtration system is, she sees a ladder leading up to a skylight.  She can't resist crawling up there and when she gets to the top, she sees the word "Help" scrawled into the glass.  She also finds an earring and a picture of a girl that Emmett recognizes as a girl from his high school who went missing.

Michelle starts working on Emmett to form an alliance against Howard so they can escape and one hour and fifteen minutes into the film there is a big twist.

So the whole crux of this film is this:  is Howard telling the truth - has there been an apocalypse - or is he a perv who has abducted her? 

This is a three-hander, meaning for almost all of the film it's just the three characters, but the film also seems to want to make a metaphor out of Michelle's distrust of Howard and her need to escape from the confines of the bunker, no matter what. Michelle has always run away. Michelle shares with Emmett that she had an abusive childhood and there was an incident where she could have helped a little girl who was also being abused.  But she didn't and she ran away. She has just run away from her boyfriend and is now also trying to run away. Mmmm.

John Goodman started out as the jovial kindly father on "Rosanne" and has matured into character roles, some sidekicks and supporting roles, but lately, more and more sinister types.  I haven't decided if Goodman is a good dramatic actor or not. I will keep you posted.  But Winstead and Gallagher are wonderful young actors.  Winstead has starred in the TV shows "Mercy Street" and "BrainDead" and will be starring in the third season of "Fargo," premiering in 2017.  I think we will also see more of her in feature films. Gallagher also hails from TV shows - "The Newsroom" and the award-winning "Olive Kitteridge" mini-series.

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg, produced by J.J. Abrams of "Star Wars" fame (he also produced the first "Cloverfield") and with a script by Josh Campbell, Matthew Steucken and Damien Chazelle, this film does not have much in common with the first one, except the name, though there was a bit of a tease at the end.  Was it related to the first film?  Not sure.  But this one is not directly related (I don't think), which was a sort of disappointment because I found the first film to be a fresh, original and creepy horror film. However, there are rumors that the name "Cloverfield" is going to become a sort of "Twilight Zone" type of franchise. And who knows?  Maybe there will be others and they will all come together and be related somehow.  In the meantime, this one stands on its own as a creepy little film perfect for a dark and rainy day.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are expecting this to be a sequel to "Cloverfield," you will be disappointed, but despite an ending that is a bit much, it doesn't lack for intensity and thrills.


***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

232 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Phenix City Story (1955)

Based on a true story, father and son attorneys take on the crime syndicate that has been running their town for 100 years and turned it into Sin City USA.

The film starts with a cold opening of "breaking news," where a reporter is seen interviewing the townspeople about the aftermath of a murder of a nominee for State Attorney General.  The murder has been the catalyst for busting a crime syndicate that had been running the town. The reporter refers to Phenix City rising from the ashes - the name of the city itself being a rather blatant metaphor - but  it's not just a metaphor, it's a real city in Alabama.

After the opening credits, the film flashes back to a dramatic reenactment of a true 1955 story and about how the syndicate was brought down.

Local attorney Albert L. Patterson (John McIntire) is an honest attorney but has turned a blind eye to the corruption in his city, because what can he do?  It's been this way for 100 years.  We know things are bad in Phenix City because we have a sultry singer, a smoked filled room, gambling, jazz and sinister looking guys wearing fedoras. But when Albert's son (Richard Kiley), who is also an attorney, returns from the war, he gets his Dad fired up and they decide to try to make some changes.  But when Albert decides that to make those changes he must run for the State's Attorney General position and get people to vote, the mob, run by good old boy Rhett Tanner (Edward Andrews), is not happy and comes down on him hard. 

I sometimes scratch my had at some of these "1001 movies" I am supposed to see before I die.  Some just don't stand the test of time, in my opinion.  To stand the test of time, the film must have natural acting or at least some innovation that lead to other films following suit.  It must say something significant and the story must be universal to appeal to everyone.

Did this one meet the standard?

Why it's a Must See: "Although its graphic violence was virtually unprecedented in Hollywood, what makes this low-budget shocker truly innovative is its recognition that new content calls for new form. [This film] is a purposely ugly movie, full of ugly rednecks, ugly juke joints, ugly camera angles...Many movies since have portrayed more explicit and elaborate violence, but few have conveyed violence's chaotic force with such intelligent crudeness."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Let's just say it grew on me.  The acting was a bit over-the-top at times and you might be distracted by the 1950's cars, clothes and clichés, but as the film went on, I was amazed at the brutality and the message is an important one. Get out and vote!

Director Phil Karlson, went on to direct the TV movie "The Scarface Mob" in 1959 which led to "The Untouchables" TV show.

McIntyre, Kiley and Andrews are all faces you will recognize though you might not have known their names and they are journeymen actors who can be counted on to give great performances.  And they do.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like films like "On the Waterfront" and "All The King's Men," you might like this film.  And the message is clear. Be sure to vote!

***Book of the Week***

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (2016)

A woman trying to recover from a bad breakup drinks too much and has blackouts, and as she commutes on the train, fantasizes about the people she sees from her train window until one day she is pulled into a real life murder.

Rachel is in bad shape. She is divorced and getting drunk every day.  And every day she takes the commuter train from the suburbs into London and every day she passes the house where she used to happily live with her husband.  She also watches the couple who lives a few doors down from where she used to live.  She has named them Jess and Jason and fantasizes about the happy life they are leading, a life she once had before her husband cheated and left her for another woman who he married and now lives with in their old house.  And to make matters even worse they have a baby together, something Rachel was never able to do and which started her drinking. 

But one day she hears about a murder and it's Jess.  Except her name isn't Jess.  It's Megan, and Rachel realizes she saw something shocking one day from the train that could help the investigation.  However, when she goes to the police, she is considered an unreliable witness.  Is she?  Has her drinking made her hallucinate?  Rachel tries to untangle what's in her head and finds herself tangled up in a complicated story.

Told from three different points of view - Rachel's, Megan's and Anna's (Anna is the woman Rachel's husband married) - we find out just how bad Rachel's life has become since she split from her husband.  She is drunk A LOT. She wakes up many mornings and can't remember what happened the night before. Each woman gives her perspective as the story unfolds.

Hawkins has a gift for dialogue and makes each woman come alive off of the page.  She uses an effective device for telling her story.  Each chapter has a date and is divided into "morning" "afternoon" and "evening." She starts by introducing Rachel in real time and then goes back a few months to introduce Megan and Anna and as the book goes on, the dates catch up with each other as the three women's lives mesh.  It's a fantastic device that makes the book read like you are watching a movie. 

Speaking of movies, the movie version of this book opens TODAY, October 7th, 2016.  I can't wait to see it!

Rosy the Reviewer says...Before you see the film, read the book.  From the very first page you will be pulled in and will not be able to stop reading, and no matter what you think of the movie, you will always have that great read!  However, after reading you will probably think you should stop drinking!

That's it for this week!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of

"The Dressmaker"



The Week in Reviews

(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)


and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before  

 I Die Project." 


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Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Once there, click on the link that says "Explore More" on the right side of the screen.  Scroll down to External Reviews and when you get to that page, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

NOTE:  On some entries, this has changed.  If you don't see "Explore More" on the right side of the screen, scroll down just below the description of the film in the middle of the page. Click where it says "Critics." Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list.

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