Not another superhero flick10/5/2016
“The Magnificent Seven”
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke
“The Magnificent Seven” tells the story of Rose Creek, a small western town founded by “good, honest and hard-working folk” whose residents are under the merciless rule of robber baron Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). After the brutal slaughter of several townsfolk outside the church, widow Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) leaves Rose Creek to seek help from anyone whose service can be bought — outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers or hired guns included.
Enter Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington). The money gets Chisholm’s attention, but he is moved by compassion for the victims of Bogue’s greed and particular brand of evil and has a deeply personal reason for agreeing to help. For this job, Chisholm gathers six men: local gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), skilled tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), feared sharpshooter Goodnight “Goody” Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), lethal knife-fighter Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).
The film can be cut into three segments. The first 20 minutes builds up the wickedness of Bogue as a man who is just as likely to take someone’s land as he is putting a bullet in someone’s chest. His belief is that of power, and if one has the power to take something, then it’s rightfully his.
The next hour focuses on Chisholm and his effort to find recruits. Unfortunately, rather than develop these characters, this section seems haphazardly thrown together. Robicheaux is the most developed character, a Confederate Army legend from the Civil War who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet much of that is learned in whispers, so if the viewer isn’t paying attention, he or she might miss it. A drunk, a knife guy, a native, an outlaw and a man-bear round out the bunch. D’Onofrio, as old-timer Jack Horne, who’s aptly described as a bear wearing people clothes, is magnificent the second he appears on the screen.
The film’s panoramic shots are as stunning as one would expect from a western. The vast landscapes are beautifully captured as the seven take to their horses or slowly pick off Bogue’s men overseeing work on the mine. The sweeping shots help show the sheer size of Bogue’s army versus the small town that can fit the camera frame.
This movie starts the way it ends — brutally violent. The rating might be PG-13, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the material is appropriate for younger audiences. The final showdown, which takes the final 45 minutes, has a body count that might make legendary western director Sam Peckinpah do a double-take.
The seven square off against Bogue’s army of more than 100 men, fully armed (Gatling gun included) and looking for blood. While the death toll is high, the actual blood is quite reserved. A couple of close-up headshots show blood trickle out like a bloody nose, but otherwise it’s a lot of sounds and hunched over bodies.
“The Magnificent Seven” lacks in places but entertains in every way that it should. These men may be terrible, but when it came down to doing what’s right, each had a role to play. While its predecessors may be forever remembered and taught in film classes, this movie delivers big screen excitement without all the capes that currently dominate the team-up genre.
‘Birth of a Nation’
Directed by Nate Parker
Starring Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Mark Boone Junior
Release: Oct. 7
If there’s one film that has people talking as the Oscar contender season nears, it’s Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation.” As a literate slave, Nat Turner (Nate Parker) acted as traveling preacher to help subdue unruly slaves. After witnessing countless atrocities inflicted on himself and other slaves, Turner orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom. Not to be confused with DW Griffith’s silent film of the same name from 1915, which traced the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, this looks to be a powerful directorial debut from Parker and perhaps an answer or conversational response to last year’s #OscarsSoWhite.
Directed by Gavin O’Connor
Starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons
Release: Oct. 14
Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a math savant who is more at ease working with numbers than he is working with people. Behind the guise of a small-town CPA office, Wolff moonlights as an accountant for some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organizations. Upon learning that the treasury agent Ray King (J.K. Simmons) is starting to close in, Wolff takes on a state-of-the-art robotics company as a legitimate client. However, as Wolff gets closer to the truth about a discrepancy involving millions of dollars, the body count starts to rise.
Directed by Jonás Cuarón
Starring Gael García Bernal, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Alondra Hidalgo
Release: Oct. 14
From Jonás Cuarón and Alfonso Cuarón, the acclaimed filmmakers of “Gravity” comes a unique, modern vision of terror. “Desierto” is a visceral, heart-pounding suspense-thriller packed with tension and suspense from start to finish. A hopeful journey to seek a better life becomes a harrowing and primal fight for survival when a deranged, rifle-toting vigilante (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) chases a group of unarmed men and women around the treacherous U.S.-Mexican border. In the harsh, unforgiving desert terrain, the odds are stacked firmly against them as they continuously discover there’s nowhere to hide from the unrelenting, merciless killer.