Category Archives: Western

“Django Unchained” Movie Review

Not only is it set in the Old West, but it’s the first official “southern.” Released worldwide on Christmas of 2012, this American revisionist Western soon became writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s highest-grossing movie, with a total intake of about $425 million at the box office. Continuing his streak of critically-acclaimed epics, the film also earned 5 Academy Award nominations and remains in the top 60 highest rated films of all time according to IMDb. A highly stylized tribute to Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960’s, the R-rated story follows a slave named Django, played by Jamie Foxx, in the Deep South during the Antebellum period. After being freed from captivity by bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz, he is shown the ropes of handling fights and taking down targets. They agree to free Django’s wife, Broomhilda, from a sadistic and selfish slave owner. Django Unchained marks a departure for Tarantino in a few different areas. Namely, this is his first attempt at a straightforward genre movie, when his previous works have combined many tones and genres into a single movie. Following the success of his 2009 war thriller Inglorious Basterds, much of the narrative is told in chronological order, with the exception of a couple flashbacks that illustrate what’s relevant about Django’s backstory. Jamie Foxx is an excellent choice for the titular protagonist. It’s very engaging to watch him grow from a really shy, timid slave to a gun-wielding badass. Like a scene where he’s told by Schultz that he can wear whatever he wants, followed by a smash-cut to him dressed in a bright blue French valet suit. Not to discredit him, but the fantastic supporting cast steals the spotlight from right under him. In particular, Christoph Waltz follows up his incredible breakout with another stellar performance that won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Almost the complete opposite from Col. Hans Landa, he bears all of the kind traits of mentorship and courage that you would want out of a hero. As the character with the most lines of dialogue, for all intents and purposes, he carried a large passage of the movie. Despite being entirely absent for the first hour and a half, Leonardo DiCaprio is simply stunning as the main antagonist. A major departure from his previous roles, Calvin J. Candie has no redeeming qualities; extremely racist, hot-tempered, and sees all other people as toys. DiCaprio was apparently so off-put by the character, that he hesitated to deliver some of the film’s many N-words. But he gave in, injuring his hand in the now-famous dinner scene and delivering one of the more impressive examples of on-screen improvisation. Continuing his nearly two-decade long relationship with the auteur, Samuel L. Jackson costars as an Uncle Tom-like, decrepit house slave, who is utterly indifferent to the suffering of his own people everywhere. Watching one of my favorite actors dropping F-bombs while hobbling around on a cane is nothing short of enjoyable, even if his character seemed to lack 3 dimensions. While it may sound that this is a completely dark experience, one of the most enjoyable aspects of a Quentin Tarantino film is that he never takes himself too seriously. His Oscar-winning screenplay is loaded with his trademarks of brilliantly written dialogue and highly stylized violence. One scene sees a group of Ku Klux Klan-like hate mongers arguing over bags that can’t fit their eyes, just before committing a raid on our protagonists. This is a moment we would normally be afraid of, but instead is nothing short of hilarious and unexpectedly quotable. And yes, like the rest of his filmography, Django Unchained is an extremely violent movie. The gun battles between slave owners and bounty hunters are exciting, with ridiculous amounts of blood gushing from the bullet wounds as men are getting wasted. It gets to be a bit indulgent at times, but watching men flying through the air from a gunshot to the chest does put a smile on my face. As much as I could go on about these individual scenes, it’s the technical side of everything that also impresses me. Robert Richardson’s excellent nominated cinematography contrasts static anamorphic shots with sudden close-ups and zoom-ins. It also brings out the beauty of many different colors, most notably bloody red and bright white cotton in fields. The film is also laced with a deliberately anachronistic soundtrack with songs that truly fit the moment. However, like many of Tarantino’s recent efforts, this film could have definitely been trimmed down, as the story begins to lose sight of itself at the beginning of the final act. It lasts about 2 hours and 45 minutes, which works for the most part. Except for a cameo from the director himself very late in the film, which felt like a completely shoehorned excuse for him to say N-words and get away with it. Thankfully, he’s taken care of quickly, and the pacing comes roaring back in the last 10 to 15 minutes of the movie. Despite those pacing issues, and some “black-and-white” characters, (no pun intended) Django Unchained is still a supremely entertaining and satisfying Western adventure. A damn fun time, it’s hard to think of a film from 2012, aside from The Avengers and Skyfall, that I enjoyed watching more. Easily one of Tarantino’s best films.

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“Blazing Saddles” Movie Review

In continuing my crusade of critiquing Westerns, I decided to see one that is much funnier than anything else I’ll talk about in this genre. This satirical Western comedy from legendary laughing man Mel Brooks premiered on February 6th, 1974, earning back over 50 times its small budget of $2.6 million. Co-written by Brooks and controversial comedian Richard Pryor, the story is a parody of any classic Western you can think of. Literally opening the film with the sound of a cracking whip, Cleavon Little stars as Bart, the newly appointed black sheriff in an all-white town. As part of a scheme to take over the surrounding land, a Governor and business mogul plot to use Bart as a means to pave the path. Here is a film that came at the tail-end of not one, but two pivotal periods of American history. In this case, it would be the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and the dominant era of Westerns before they faded away. It parodies the ideologies and concepts behind both of them, which, in a way, shows many similarities between the two periods. Cleavon Little is an excellent choice for the role of Bart. Charismatic and witty to a fault, he’s also apparently the smartest man in the town. The day he arrives, after a long silence from a stunned crowd, he holds his own gun to his head and pretends to take himself hostage. By his side, Gene Wilder plays the drunken, washed up gunslinger the Waco Kid. Despite keeping his dignity in check and providing memorable bits of dialogue, he doesn’t feel right in a supporting role. His immense energy and near-unpredictability gives the idea that he’s more fit for the role of a protagonist, a role which he later received yet again with Mel Brooks in 1974’s Young Frankenstein. The rest of the cast includes regular collaborators like Harvey Korman, Dom DeLuise, and Madeline Kahn, along with comedic/Western legends like Slim Pickens, John Hillerman, and even Brooks himself in a dual role as a Yiddish-speaking Indian chief and a dim-witted governor. Everyone turns in performances of exaggerated or goofy caricatures commonly seen in the genre. Perhaps the biggest drawback of the film is that it is simply too silly in most parts. It completely deconstructs the blatant racism of the time period, something that Hollywood has often obscured in its accounts of the mythic Old West. In fact, the N-word is said aloud so many times by so many characters, that Mel Brooks has publicly expressed doubt that the film could ever get remade in the modern era. I actually met someone who couldn’t finish Blazing Saddles because they said it was the most racist movie he’d ever seen. Not just that, the film also incorporates nearly a dozen or so deliberate anachronisms into a story that is supposed to be set almost 200 years ago. In one particular scene, when the bad guys are getting ready to enact their final move, they’re holding an open call for different types of evil doers from history. Biker gangs, Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, Confederate soldiers, you name it. And near the end, as the climax comes to a head, the cast of the movie literally breaks the fourth wall before crashing onto a separate housing on the Warner Bros. studio lot before finishing at the iconic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Joseph Biroc’s camera work also deserves some commentary. Mimicking the works of iconic Westerns, there are numerous wide anamorphic shots of the landscape that paint a vast and beautiful picture of the desert- at least the illusion of a desert. John Morris’ musical score is a nice, rousing bit of music that keeps the viewer in the mood. But it isn’t very memorable beyond the moment of viewing. Accompanying it are a series of original songs, most of which were penned by Mel Brooks himself. And thankfully, they are much more memorable than the score, and even scored one this film’s 3 Oscar nominations. Speaking of songs, another anachronism worth noting is earlier on when jazz icon Count Basie is playing a cover of the song, “April in Paris.” It should be noted that there not many action scenes present here. But for the few that are, they are enticing and fun. Rather, the focus of Blazing Saddles– and for that matter, the comedic content -is set on the character interactions and dialogue. So many comedies attempt to have their jokes rely on toilets and sexual activity, but Mel Brooks knows better. Granted, it does have a lowbrow joke now and again, and was actually the first comedy to be submitted to the American Film Institute for a fart joke. Go figure. It’s a miracle this film actually saw the light of day given the production problems. Casting almost went to Richard Pryor for the roll of Bart, and the filmmakers faced numerous complaints from white audiences for the racism parodied. In fact, studio executives almost decided to cancel its theatrical release entirely. But Brooks, with the help of Wilder and Little, managed to make the movie he wanted. Regarded as the grandfather of the modern-day comedy, Blazing Saddles is a highly influential and enjoyable Western for older audiences. It may be too silly and audacious for some of the more reserved audiences, but it keeps me coming back to watch and quote it.

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“Logan” Movie Review

Franchisees should end more often these days. This comic book superhero drama was released on March 3rd, 2017, following its critically successful debut at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival in late February. It has since grossed over $250 million worldwide against its $97 million budget, becoming the 2nd biggest opening for an R-rated film screened in IMAX theaters. And I’ll touch on that in a second, but let’s get to the plot. Set in the dystopian-like future 2029, most of the mutants, including the X-Men have been wiped out for some amount of time. The superhero the Wolverine, who now goes by Logan, (or James Howlett, as he tells several humans) is living in a desperate state of old age and financial strain. His quiet life is interrupted when a little girl named Laura comes knocking at his door, begging for protection from a group of shadowy corporate lackeys wanting her for medical experiments. I want to make this clear from the get-go: Logan is not just a superhero movie. This is the fist film of the genre I’ve seen in many years that actually compares with The Dark Knight. With that one, it was a fantastic epic crime saga and psychological dissection of intriguing characters that just happened to have comic book names in it. It’s almost the same case with Logan. This one feels more like an old Western tale, specifically that of George Stevens’ 1953 Technicolor classic, Shane. In fact, director James Mangold borrows some of the same aspects of that film- a gruff cowboy trying to hang up his guns who keeps getting pursued by trouble -in this movie’s narrative to great effect. In the title role, Hugh Jackman is absolutely stunning as Logan/Wolverine. His “I’m-no-hero” demeanor is perfect for the bleak and desolate environment of this future setting he’s in. Laying beside him in his electric wheelchair is Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier, who is nothing short of marvelous here. Allow me to put some minds at ease: for those of you who saw him drop the F-bomb in the red band trailer, it’s okay. It totally works for the context of everything in the story’s progression. Meanwhile, Boyd Holbrook, star of the acclaimed Netflix drama Narcos, is convincing as the main villain Donald Pierce. A cyborg security director, he sets himself apart from other supervillains due to his refusal to become over-the-top evil and wry sense of humor. He’s a mutant-hating mercenary, for sure, but he just has a fun personality that makes you both like him and long for Logan to murder him when the opportunity presents itself. Other supporting players include Eriq La Salle and Elise Neal are nurturing parents on a farm, Elizabeth Rodriguez as a fearful surrogate mother and medical doctor, Richard E. Grant was methodical and calculating as the head of a shadowy corporation, and Stephen Merchant as the senile yet endearing albino Caliban. They’re all given enough to say and do to add something different to the film as a whole. But in terms of scene-stealing talent, newcomer Dafne Keen is positively brilliant as Laura. Even though she’s barely a teenager, she proves that she can hold her own against older acting veterans. This is especially impressive considering her character has very few lines of spoken dialogue; most of her screentime is spent scowling at either the enemies or her mutant guardians. Technically speaking, it’s very impressive. The sound design is well mixed in every scene, even during the quieter moments. From the crunching of bones to the gushing of blood to the sound of nature, the audience can hear damn near everything that happens. Meanwhile, the camera work from John Mathieson is equally visceral. The contrast in colors like red and green feels like a perfect opponent to the grim reality of the world built within. And while yes, it does move into the cliches of comic book film with shaky movements and quick action cuts, these moments are thankfully sparse throughout the 137 minute-long runtime. Marco Beltrami, who previously collaborated with Mangold on 3:10 to Yuma and The Wolverine, composes the film’s score. It foregoes the bombastic, orchestral battle tracks of previous films, and instead uses influences of horror and Western movies. Various motifs and minimalist instruments are used throughout and fit perfectly for the tone and story. And now we get to the much-hyped  R-rating. Dear God, isn’t it completely warranted and justified? It had been apparently clear from minute-2 alone that this was going to be a very different kind of superhero movie. One that is brimming with chopped limbs, excessive swearing, gushing blood, and disturbing skin/body damage. I urge you not to take your little kids or your grandparents to see Logan, as they will probably walk out when it all goes down. Even without all that, the story is still very dark, grim, mature, and not very uplifting. Just look at Jackman and Stewart for further proof. You’d think after playing these roles for 17 years, they’d be exactly what you expected them to be. But they are old, weathered down, exhausted, and rather pessimistic on life. Even Wolverine is like a 60-year-old man, because of something I have to tell you. It’s a very minor spoiler and isn’t THE THING in the movie. With his constant drinking, his adamantium bone structure is deteriorating, poisoning his healing factor. That really makes the audience think, “Dude… give it up man. It’s okay.” But that just demands further praise for Jackman’s acting, which many speculate could earn him nominations in the coming award season. Logan is not only, the best Xmen movie to date, but it’s also one of the best superhero films ever made. This is the most perfect, poignant, and beautiful sendoff Hugh Jackman could have possibly gotten. It sounds like I’m being a fanboy, but the fact remains- I kid not -Logan almost made me cry.

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“Once Upon a Time in the West” Movie Review

It’s February, the beginning of a new year. I want to get reviews of older movies. Return of the Jedi will get it’s time soon enough, as will The Terminator, I SWEAR my life on it. But ever since the Red Dead Redemption 2 reveal, I’ve been in a western mood. Let’s start with a true classic. This epic spaghetti western was released on December 21st, 1968 when it barely broke even with its $5 million budget. Though not as popular as his acclaimed Dollars Trilogy in the U.S., acclaimed director-writer Sergio Leone gives us another memorable epic in the mythical period of the Old West, sans Clint Eastwood. After a recent wedding to a kind landowner, former prostitute Jill McBain, played by Claudia Cardinale, returns to her new homestead to find that her husband and 3 step-children have all been murdered. Seeking vengeance against the railroad tycoon that orchestrated it all, she hires the bandit Cheyenne, the prime suspect who was framed for the massacre, and a mysterious harmonica-playing gunman played by Charles Bronson to track down his whereabouts. All the while, they are hounded by a violent mercenary named Frank, whose bloody reputation proceeds him. For the past couple of decades, there has been an ongoing battle between lovers of cinema. Which is the best Western of all time? Once Upon a Time in the West or The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly? As proven with my post on Marvel vs. DC, I tend to stay out of those types of arguments. But I do have an opinion on the matter, which I will mention at a later review for another time. For now, let’s divulge everything that’s great about this film. For the most part, the whole cast gives a round of great performances. Jason Robards is great as Cheyenne. As one of the finer character actors of the last century, he appears to be enjoying himself in the role of a scoundrel with a heart of gold. By his side, before he was slaughtering suburban goons in the Death Wish franchise, Bronson is excellent as a mysterious gunslinger, a trait common in Leone’s films. He is out to kill Frank, whom he feels robbed him of all he held dear before he was even an adult. Even though little is known of him, his devilish charm makes him a likable guy to root for in the ambiguous American West. And while Claudia Cardinale is great in her role as the reluctant protagonist, it wasn’t so memorable like the rest of her co-stars. However, Henry Fonda steals the show as the villain Frank, in a role that cast him against type. Up until this point, Fonda had been primarily known for portraying everyman heroes, like the one man in 12 Angry Men that fought for a convicted man’s innocence. Or when he captivated millions with his role as Tom Joad in the acclaimed 1940 adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath. But now in this movie, he is a violent and selfish mercenary who will kill anyone involved with the job at hand. Let’s move over to the technical scale of everything; it’s breathtaking. Although it was primarily shot and produced in Italy, the beautiful mountain landscapes look like perfect renditions of the canyons from states like Utah or Arizona. Many static, anamorphic long shots from a distance are nicely contrasted by a number of close-ups. This is especially present during confrontations between the characters in the final act. And yes, like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly before it, Once Upon a Time in the West features a climactic Mexican standoff that’s presented as a duel. Though not as tense as that movie, the one here still keeps viewers on the edge of their seats thanks to nothing but the amazing score by Ennio Morricone. The beautiful theme song, mixing harmonica, electric guitar, and violins, is extremely memorable. Any time I start to feel confrontational with someone else, this will be the song playing in my head when it all goes down. Hell, I might even drop a hand to my hip in an attempt to draw my 6-shooter out to trade some fire. In an age where characters have to constantly do some worldbuilding via clunky expositional dialogue, Sergio Leone bucks this trend. There are long periods of verbal silence throughout the movie, without a single word spoken aloud. This, rather ironically, speaks more volumes to its sophistication and requires the viewer to remain fully engaged. Unlike the Dollars Trilogy, this is not a sardonic look at the Old West with in-jokes to sprinkled everywhere. Rather, it’s a more serious but still fun Western that acknowledges some of the darker aspects of that mythical time period. And, like the Dollars Trilogy, that means sitting through its entire runtime, which clocks in at about 2 hours and 55 minutes long. I have no problem with a movie being long as long as, in the end, I can walk out of it feeling that it was completely warranted and justified by the story. While I have this feeling overall, I feel like some parts of it could have been trimmed down just a bit. Despite that, Once Upon a Time in the West is an effortlessly sprawling Western epic that stands up even today. Beautiful, tense, and intriguing, this has to be one of the best of the genre that comes highly recommended from damn near any critic you’d find on the internet.

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2016 in Film: Retrospective Superlatives

I know what you’re probably thinking right now. You’re expecting me to publish my list of the Top Ten films of the year. Rest assured that is coming, but as a bit of a prelude, I decided to give some superficial awards to other movies deserving to be recognized. To be clear, almost none of these will appear on the Top Ten list to be published in a day or so. Rather, I just had fun because I saw more movies released this year than any previous one. So let’s get down to business.

Most Original Film: “The Lobster”

Never before has a vision of the future been so terrifying yet hilarious. Yorgos Lanthimos’ black comedy revolves around a newly single man who has 45 days to find a new mate before he’s turned into any animal of his choosing.. in his case, it’s a lobster. Collin Farrell is subtle and low-key as the main character, in the most absurd situation possible. How many other films can you say feature a man who may have the possibility of becoming a crustacean? The answer should be none.

Most Overrated Film: “Hail Caesar!”

Some may remember my overall appraisal of this film in m review back in February. And for the most part, I still stand by it. However, upon a second viewing, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pointlessness in the story. The fantastic cast and sharp script, aside, the Coen Brothers have certainly done better in the past, and I believe they can still do better in the future. A good love letter to fans of classical cinema, and decidedly nothing more.

Most Underrated Film: “The Magnificent Seven”

Despite the criticism it received for its unoriginality, it’s important to remember that this is technically a remake. Going into the theater, all I wanted to see was a reminder of why I love the Western genre. An excellent leading titular crew who share great chemistry, lead by Denzel Washington himself, make this a fun adventure for a modern era. And that final gun battle was really some exciting stuff to behold.

Most Overlooked Film: “Midnight Special”

Overshadowed by other, much larger films released during the Spring, it’s a shame that Midnight Special didn’t see many viewers in the theater. However, that absolutely doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the time to watch it. Jeff Nichols’ beautiful science-fiction drama is a gorgeous blend of emotional family drama and action spectacle. A truly original “modern sci-fi,” I implore you to find a way to watch this by any means.

Most Disappointing Film: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

To be clear, I’m not saying this film is outright terrible. It’s just nowhere near as good as the hype had told us it would be. A real tragedy, considering this is the first feature film where the titular heroes and Wonder Woman all appear on-screen together in live-action. The action scenes were undoubtedly enjoyable, but the substance of the story and the relevance of various subplots is still lost on me.

Funniest Film: “Keanu”

Predictable? Yes. Funny as hell? Yes. As a fan of Key and Peele’s sketch show on Comedy Central, I had been looking forward to their first theatrical movie together. And boy, did they deliver on the laughs? Remaining 100% self-aware the entire time, the chemistry between the two leads, alone, is worth the price of admission. All of the pop culture references hit the right chords, and the scene where Key is tripping balls in the club was probably the hardest I laughed all year long.

Worst Film: “Now You See Me 2”

They can’t all be good, though, and that’s why my pick for the worst film of 2016 is Now You See Me 2. At what point after the first one’s release did they see the need to produce a sequel that’s somehow even less comprehensible than its predecessor? I was all set to give this spot to Meet The Blacks, but I remembered this movie and just became infuriated. Numerous plot holes and forced acting aside, the magic tricks are condescendingly and unbelievably explained, making me just mentally check out. Avoid this.

Do you agree with my picks? What was the worst or most overrated movie of the year to you? Whatever it may be, be sure to leave a Comment below and Like this Post. And if you’re interested in seeing more content like this, be sure to Follow my blog and I’ll see you in the future.

“Hell or High Water” Movie Review

Brilliance. Absolute, unhinged, mindblowing brilliance. Director David Mackenzie’s neo-western heist-crime drama was released on August 12th, 2016, grossing $31 million against its $12 million budget, heaped with rave reviews following its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Written by former actor Taylor Sheridan, the script had been tossed around for the better of half a decade until it won the annual Black List. We follow two brothers, Toby and Tanner, struggling to save their family’s old farm from financial foreclosure. In order to do this, they rob a string of fictional banks across West Texas, attracting the ire of one determined Texas Ranger on the verge of retirement. While that premise may sound thin and uninteresting on the surface, it is executed in the most engrossing and believable way possible. For starters, you become invested in all of the characters that appear onscreen. It’s not as simple as “Good law enforcement agents have to track down Evil bank robbers” or vice versa. Every person introduced was as full-bodied and layered as any human being you would probably meet. Their motivations make sense, and each character gives enough logistics to back their stance on certain issues and circumstances. The relationship between the two brothers is key to this entire movie’s function. If you didn’t gravitate towards either of these two, or the actors playing them did terrible, this whole film would just become forgettable. Thankfully, everyone working on the movie realized this importance, and it totally works. They carried a lot of the story, even when they didn’t have to. You can tell there’s an element of resentment, but they have to trust each other because they’re family; they have to get through these problems together. The frustration of the economy has forced these two to realize that the only way they can truly keep the memory of their family alive is to break the laws and steal back from the banks, whom they feel are actually stealing the land from natural owners. This is a fantastic showcase for Chris Pine and Ben Foster’s acting abilities. We already know Pine’s steely charisma from the Star Trek franchise and his surprising musical turn in Disney’s Into The Woods. But Foster has not had a chance to prove himself as a great actor; he deserves more name recognition. However, in a universe where supporting characters can completely steal the show, Jeff Bridges as the Ranger Hamilton is definitely award-worthy. At this point, he pretty much plays the exact character you think he would be: a cowboy-like macho man with a chip on his shoulder and a nearly incomprehensible Texan accent to boot. But he is so natural at his craft that he transcends the difference between actor and character. Though he can come across as bigoted, Bridges brings enough heart to this Ranger to score himself a possible nomination for Best Supporting Actor. And when I say this is a western, I mean it in every sense of the word. No, nobody in the movie rides into a small town on horseback, bent on restoring it to its former glory. (Ahem, The Magnificent Seven) Rather, the characters in Hell or High Water are planted in modern day, and cross wires in a hunt for treasure and glory across a sweeping land of desert wilderness. Even its title sounds Texan. During one of the brothers’ bank robberies, a group of men gather in a posse to fend them off… with guns of their own. It made me laugh at the circumstance, and it honestly raises the question as to whether the screenwriter is an advocate of the N.R.A. Although they’re more affiliated with experimental rock from the late 20th century, musicians Nick Cave and Warren Ellis broaden their horizons by composing the musical score of this film. Low-key but not unmemorable, the violin and guitar-heavy soundtrack solidifies the western vibe, even when there are occasionally intense gunfights. But gunfights are not actually what sell this movie. The driving force behind Hell or High Water is the dialogue and character development, both of which are written really well. Not since Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction has a Hollywood movie been so focused on realistic conversations to accelerate the story. This is a western. That should never happen in a genre like that. Taylor Sheridan eschews that mindset of illogical gun battles in favor of three-dimensional characters. All of this adds up to make Hell or High Water one of the most surprising and overlooked film to come out in 2016. And also one of the best. It’s a completely satisfying story that is confidently paced from start to finish, with David Mackenzie’s immense passion channeled into every frame of every scene. I urge you to find a streaming service or video rental to find this movie and watch it… come hell or high water. There I said it. Happy? I couldn’t hold it any longer.

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“The Magnificent Seven” Movie Review

Can we all just agree that Denzel Washington is the man? Seriously, if there’s one thing this movie educated me about, it’s that statement. This Western movie debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival before receiving a worldwide release of September 23rd, 2016, when it grossed over $40 million in its opening weekend. Set in 1877, a corrupt industrialist named Bartholomew Bogue is terrorizing the small town of Rose Creek for their plentiful mines. Two residents, Emma Cullen and Teddy Q, decide their only choice is to recruit as many bounty hunters possible to protect them. Seven men agree to do so- black bounty hunter Sam Chisolm, gambler Josh Faraday, Comanche warrior Red Harvest, Mexican outlaw Vasquez, sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux, hunter Jack Horne, and assassin Billy Rocks. Despite taking the title from the 1960 film of the same, I wouldn’t call this a remake. While they have similar plots and settings, they’re both ultimately products of their time. This one feels more like a celebration of the Western film, a genre with installments that are few and far in-between in modern times. It’s apparent because the idea of cowboys and bounty hunters defending a small town of innocent villagers from a band of bad men has been a plot device used in countless Western stories. But it works here. As I said in my intro, Denzel Washington is a complete badass in this movie. I believe this is his third outing with director Antoine Fuqua, whom he had previously collaborated on Training Day and The Equalizer. If you tell this man your secrets, he won’t tell anyone else. If you’re his friend and someone messes with you, he will take care of that problem. I guess I love damaged characters who are very efficient at what they do.And yeah, the other six members of the Seven did a great job. Chris Pratt is hilarious as Faraday, proving once again his justification for taking over Hollywood in the last few years. I was really glad to see Ethan Hawke reunite on-screen with Denzel for the first time since Training Day. He plays a very well-spoken and friendly sharpshooter who is capable of shooting your head off, even if he may be hesitant to pull it off. Vincent D’Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Lee Byung-hun are all great in their respective roles, but I wish that some of them had gotten more screen-time. At a point, I started wondering which of these men is cannon fodder. But from the way they interact in scenes together, I’m convinced that these seven men probably hang out with each other. Haley Bennet was also a performance worth noting as Emma Cullen. At first glance, she just comes across as a typical Western damsel-in-distress, looking for a handsome man to ride on a horse with her into the sunset. As it turns out, she’s pretty capable of looking after herself, showing proficiency with firearms and killing nasty outlaws. The camera work is fantastic. With long, drawn out wide shots of men riding on horseback contrasted by quick edits of intense gun battles, John Refoua and Mauro Fiore deliver a beautiful-looking adventure. The two of them do a great job of making the audience feel as though they really are in the town of Rose Creek. Let’s touch on the musical score. Having tragically died in June of last year, this was James Horner’s final posthumous soundtrack. Though it was finished by his friend Simon Franglen, it still had all the violins, twangy guitars, and intense drumbeats that we’ve come to love and expect from the genre. I wouldn’t say that The Magnificent Seven offers much that is new or improves on the original film. But it was still a lot of fun to watch, especially considering the rarity of its genre in recent cinema. It knows what it is for the most part, and that’s probably the best thing any movie can do.

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