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Just The Seven Of Us!

This review may contain spoilers. But you should read it anyway. It’s great. Trust me.

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THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016)

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Byun-hun Lee

Director: Antione Fuqua

Rating: PG-13 for six gun fun and ‘splosions

Plot: Seven gunslingers are hired to protect a town from a greedy land grabber who really loves grabbing land and killing innocent townspeople.

The Magnificent Seven is a remake of a classic movie which is itself a remake of another movie.

I know, it’s confusing. Allow me to explain, then we’ll both know.

In 1954 acclaimed Japanese film director Akira Kurosowa brought us the acclaimed Japanese film Seven Samurai which starred Toshiro Mifune, an acclaimed Japanese actor and the only man on the planet allowed to wear a man bun.

toshiro

Total. Bad. Ass.

In 1960 John Sturges remade Seven Samurai into The Magnificent Seven, with cowboys in place of samurais and guns in place of wicked awesome samurai swords. That movie starred Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, who were also very cool.

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“is that guy wearing a man bun? Yes he is. Is it Toshiro Mifune? No it’s not Toshiro Mifune. Shoot him.”

Without warning the 21st century arrived so it was time for another Magnificent Seven movie. This one is also set in the old west and stars Denzel Washington and some guy named Chris Pratt who was in that movie Passengers which everybody hated.

Okay, he was in Guardians of the Galaxy, which is pretty great.

Jurassic World was okay, I guess.

Passengers bit donkeys.

That means it’s bad. I’m trying to make “bit donkeys” a thing so feel free to use it.

Things are not at all rosy in the mining town of Rose Creek. The nearby gold mine is owned by wealthy lunatic Bartholomew Bogue (an oily Peter Sarsgaard) who treats the miners like slaves and the townspeople like pawns in a chess game where beating and murdering the pawns is how the game is played.

Evil villain Bogue wants the townspeople out of Rose Creek in three weeks, and to prove how serious he is he kills a few who dare to stand up to him, like the husband of Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett). Determined to set things right, Emma sets out to find some gunslingers to stand up Bogue and his army of vicious gunmen.

Luckily Emma heads to the next town over and witnesses ace warrant officer Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) dispatch a bar room full of bad guys with his shiny six shooter. Chisolm is reluctant to help Emma because he’s allergic to suicide missions, but when she mentions the name Bartholomew Bogue he agrees to help with her save Rose Creek.

Hmm. Maybe Chisolm has an old score to settle with Bogue?

Hint: It’s a western. THE HERO ALWAYS HAS A SCORE TO SETTLE WITH SOMEONE.

Chisolm needs some help if he wants to take down Bogue, so on his way to Rose Creek he recruits six more gunslingers to get the job done.

Cowboy Roll Call!

Cocky gambler Faraday (Chris Pratt) who drinks a lot.

Ex Confederate Army sharpshooter Robichaeux (Ethan Hawk) who also drinks a lot.

Asian Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-Hung) who is really good with the knives and the stabbing.

Fugitive desperado Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) who is on Chisolm’s wanted list.

Mountain man Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) who speaks softly and carries a big tomahawk.

Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) A Comanche who rarely speaks and when he does it’s in subtitles.

The seven arrive in Rose Creek and easy dispatch two dozen of Bogue’s men, then tells one survivor to  run and tell Bogue he’s a big stupidhead and nobody likes him.

Figuring that if he doesn’t stop in Santa Fe for their annual Chamber Music Festival, Bogue will return to Rose Creek in seven days with an even bigger army of hired killers. Chisolm and his gunslingers helps the citizens of Rose Creek dig trenches and set explosives to even the odds against the bad guys, and nothing brings neighbors closer together than preparing for a violent and bloody land war.

Bogue and his thugs do return and The Magnificent Seven concludes with a long and explosive gunfight between townspeople and desperado. Bullets fly, lots of guys die, and Rose Creek is reduced to a pile of splintered timber and smoldering ashes. But when the smoke clears, Bogue is vanquished, a couple of people survive to clean things up, and Chisolm rides off into the sunset because good guys always win and Denzel’s name is above the title.

While Denzel, Star Lord, and the rest of the cast look like they had fun playing cowboy, this new version of The Magnificent Seven is an uninspired remake that doesn’t hold a candle to the 1960 classic or the even more classic 1954 version.

And that’s too bad because this high falutin’ city boy loves a good western.

I went out West once. Stayed in Santa Fe for a spell. Yes siree…

They got an annual Chamber Music Festival ya know..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denzel in the House!

SAFE HOUSE (2012) Director: Daniel Espinosa  Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Vera Farmiga  Rating: R for violence, language, and espionage type stuff. 

I don’t know much about the Central Intelligence Agency (or CIA) aside from what I’ve learned from years of watching movies. Here’s a few things I’ve picked up:

– CIA headquarters is in Langley, Virginia. I know this because every spy movie has at least one establishing shot of the CIA building with a graphic that reads CIA Headquarters: Langley, Virginia.  Now I would think a top secret outfit would want to keep their location on the down low, but heck what do I know? I wasn’t much for fancy book learnin’.

– The CIA is headed by a veteran character actor (usually with a southern accent) who barks orders to a room full of analysts and other office type people who immediately pick up phones or run out of the room carrying folders.

– The CIA has the coolest cell phones, GPS gizmos, and memory card reader thingees. Yes, “thingee” is an actual CIA term.

– The CIA spends every waking hour trying to recover ultra top secret files that are stolen by bad guys who have no trouble hacking into the supposedly impregnable CIA computer network. Me thinks they should change the computer passwords more often down there at Langley, but heck what do I know? I’m just a simple country doctor.

– Pretty much every CIA agent is a “rogue agent” who is either in league with shady foreign bad guys to steal CIA secrets or conducting his or her own private spy thing under the noses of their bosses. But that’s okay because the CIA bosses are usually in on all of this rogue stuff too.

So when you’re one of the very few upstanding and honest CIA agents like Ryan Reynold’s character in Safe House, the odds are greatly stacked against you that you’ll live to see retirement. Heck, you’ll be lucky to make it to the end of the year holiday party at the Langley Marriott. Which is a shame because I hear their seafood buffet is outstanding.

Matt Weston (Reynolds) is an ambitious rookie CIA agent, but he’s bored to tears working guard duty at a rarely used CIA safe house in Cape Town South Africa. One day as Matt is finishing his millionth soduku puzzle, a team of agents bring in former CIA super spy turned criminal Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) who may have a very important computer file that will royally screw over every intelligence agency in the world.

Before the CIA guys can interrogate Frost, a skilled mercenary team attacks the safe house and kills everyone except Weston and Frost, who escape into the city with killers on their tail and a huge mess left for the CIA housekeeping squad to clean up.

While Weston’s superiors (Sam Shepard, Vera Farmiga) try to figure out what the heck is going on, Weston has his hands full with Frost, a stone cold badass who knows every CIA trick in the book and doesn’t want to be taken down by the guy who couldn’t sell Green Lantern to millions of comic book fans. Can Weston bring the CIA’s most wanted criminal to justice and unravel the vast conspiracy we’ve seen so many times before in these government spy thrillers?

Ryan Reynolds leaves his trademark smarmy wiseass guy at home this time to play an inexperienced man in way over his head. Denzel brings the right amount of Denzelness to his role: it’s not quite Book of Eli Denzelness, but much more Denzelness than that crappy Taking of Pelham 123 remake.

Your scale of Denzelness will differ of course.

To sum up, Safe House is loaded with car chases, gunplay, and that close quarter kung fu fighting that all the action movies have nowadays. But if you’ve seen Matt Damon in any of the Jason Bourne movies, you’ve seen Safe House.

And if you’ve seen Matt Damon in We Bought A Zoo, you’ve seen a level of Hell no one can possibly imagine, and you have my deepest sympathies.

This week DVD Critics Corner celebrates its first anniversary. Thank you very much  for reading, commenting, and subscribing. More reviews coming soon.

 – T. Levier