Movie Reviews (September 28, 2016)
The Magnificent Seven
This remake of the 1960 classic Western, “The Magnificent Seven” finds the likes of Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and others all armed-up and ready to take down a ruthless, mean and evil industrialist named Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Director Antoine Fuqua keeps it simple; we have the good guys and we have the bad guys, let them shoot and kill one another. While it takes quite some time to actually get to the showdown, when it does eventually happen, it’s exciting, action-packed and unpredictable. Surprisingly, some big names bite the dust. Of course, it would be a disservice to say who lives and who dies, but it does matter to say that it’s easy to care for the characters, because they’re all charming and fun to watch, building on a dynamic that makes the final battle all the more gripping. Some fare better than others, but everyone here is still having fun and it’s worth joining in.
Another update of sorts, but this time, with 1999’s ”The Blair Witch Project”. Taking place nearly 15 years after the original film, Heather, the first film’s protagonist, has a younger brother (James Allen McCune), who discovers her footage of what happened in those infamous woods online and wants to head out there to find her. As expected, he brings a few friends and runs into some weird locals who want to take the trip with him, even if they don’t seem up to any good. It’s a traditional horror movie in that we get a simple premise and found-footage format, just like the original. However, where the original was scary and smart in its small, low-budget way, “Blair Witch” follows it by being a boring, overlong and big-budgeted mess that tries so desperately to be frightening and shocking, yet pulls every trick out of the book. It’s not surprising, or even fun – it’s just unoriginal. It gives an even greater reason as to why found-footage films should just go away and die a long, hard and painful death until someone can figure out a way to make them exciting again.
Oliver Stone is known for painting portraits of the criminally unloved and misunderstood, which is why Edward Snowden (played to perfection by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), seems like the perfect person for him to cover. Snowden, in case one didn’t already know, was a government-contracted analyst who discovered some more than lovable evidence into the U.S.’s shady ways into spying on its own citizens and decided that it was time the rest of the world saw the injustices he saw. As shown by Stone, Snowden is a sympathetic, everyday nerd who just wants to do right by the world, while also serving his country. The 2014 Oscar-winner, “Citizenfour” does a better job of telling Snowden’s story right in front of our eyes, but Stone’s take is gripping and still somewhat informative. It’s not perfect, but it pays a tribute to a person more people within our society should pay attention to. •