FlixChatter Review: The Magnificent Seven (2016)

magnificent7_2016

I gotta admit, I’m not much of a Western fan. Though interestingly enough, I’ve liked three western remakes in the past decade: 3:10 To Yuma, True Grit and then this one. Confession: I have NOT seen any of the original films. Now, people who have seen the original films would likely have a different opinion about the remake. For me, I guess I get the benefit of seeing the story for the first time, with nothing to compare it with.

The main draw for me to see this is the cast. Reportedly director Antoine Fuqua pitched the film to financiers with ‘Denzel Washington in all black riding a horse.’ Well if I were one of those financiers I’d definitely say ‘hell yeah’ to that, and that is quite a sight to behold. As with a lot of Westerns, well those I’ve seen anyway, we see the lone hero riding into town on his horse before we finally see his face. It’s interesting that Denzel being Black in that era naturally drives extra attention from townsfolk, even more so as he goes into a saloon. He’s definitely got the natural charisma, and here he’s got that cowboy swagger to boot!

magnificent7_3

In the opening scene, we see a merciless and cruel industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (a slimy Peter Sarsgaard) terrorizing and murdering people in the tiny town for their land and mines. Poor Matt Bomer barely lasted past the opening credits! The first half pretty much is a recruiting process as Denzel’s Sam Chisolm gathered enough men to fight against Bogue and his men. First one he recruited is Josh Faraday (a great name that fits Chris Pratt nicely), a strapping cowboy w/ a devil-may-care attitude. Next  are Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his partner in crime Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), tall-dark-and-handsome Mexican outlaw Vazquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), skilled tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) and lastly, Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). Each member of the awesomely-monikered gang has their own special skills, and given that Fuqua employed actors of various races, the skill is tailored to their heritage. Billy Rocks is a knife-wielding expert and Red Harvest is a master in archery, etc. but of course all of them are adept with guns as well. Out of the seven riders, naturally Denzel is my fave. Pratt looks like he’s having a blast here and I really like the dynamic between Hawke and Lee as the unlikely BFFs. I also couldn’t help swooning over Garcia-Rulfo, I sure hope to see more of Mexican actor in the future.


I have a great time watching this thanks to the eclectic cast. Apart from the calm and wise Chisolm, they look like they could be killing each other too and the banters are pretty fun throughout. Naturally this is not a character-driven piece, so details such as what exactly happened to Robicheaux is unclear. The only one with somewhat of a backstory is Chisolm, which isn’t revealed until the very end. Given that it’s 2016, writers Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto updated the story with a strong woman in the core of the conflict. Emma Cullen (newcomer Haley Bennett) isn’t so much a damsel in distress, as she actively seeks out Chisolm to help avenge her town and she refuses to just sit and watch the battle unfolds. I think the weakest link here is Sarsgaard who is more annoying than menacing. Even the last mano-a-mano is rather lackluster as he barely hold a candle to Denzel in terms of charisma and screen presence.

magnificent7_haley_chris

The action and shootouts are what one would expect, peppered with humor and one liners, mostly from Pratt. Some of the action is preposterous, as some of the heroes manage to stay alive despite being shot several times but they can take down their enemies with a single bullet. But hey, I was expecting a fun action comedy instead of a deep, story-driven piece, so I’m not exactly disappointed. What it lacks in genuine suspense it’s more than made up by the well-staged action and stunning cinematography. I sure hope Mauro Fiore‘s name will come up during award season as he’s done amazing work here that made me wish I had seen this movie on IMAX! He’s a longtime Fuqua collaborator who’s also the DP for Avatar.

magnificent7_1

I have to mention the fantastic music as well. The late James Horner wrote seven pieces of the score before he died, so this was his last project. His wonderful score still has a bit of the iconic theme by Elmer Bernstein, and I love that they used the rousing original score (which I called the Marlboro score as it’s used in its commercial) at the end of the movie. I’m definitely going to do a Music Break on it as my hubby and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack all weekend!

I’m glad I saw this movie and it’s one I don’t even mind seeing again. I can’t tell you if it’s as magnificent as the original, but if you’re looking for a fun ride full of entertaining characters, you could do far worse than this remake. In fact, my hubby and I are contemplating about seeing this again on an IMAX screen, it just might be the first Western I’m willing to see twice on the big screen!

4Reels


Have you seen this movie? Well, did you like it more or less than I did?

Music Break: Top 10 Favorite Scores by James Horner

RIPJamesHorner

On Monday night I heard that Mr. James Horner was unaccounted for when a plane registered to him crashed in St. Barbara, CA, I prayed he’d turn out ok. I started listening to his music all night long and was amazed at how many of them I love. Before I went to bed, I already picked my top 10 list thinking that I would dedicate this week’s Music Break post to him as a tribute. When I turned on my iPad in the morning, I read the news came that the 61-year-old composer was the pilot of the plane and he was indeed killed.

It saddens me to hear about his tragic death. He’s one of my favorite composers of all time… so many of his scores resonated with me. He’s such a phenomenal and versatile composer. Looking at his filmography and listening to a bunch of his work, there are a variety of motifs that he used throughout his illustrious career. Even within the same year he could create two VERY different scores that somehow fit perfectly to its respective film (i.e. in 1994 and 1995, see below for the year next to the film title). He’s credited for over 150 projects as composer on IMDb, received seven Oscar nominations and won two for Titanic (for Best Original Song and Best Dramatic Score).

There’s such a beautiful, romantic and ethereal feel about some of his dramatic scores like Legends of the Fall and Braveheart, but I also love his more energetic and up-tempo scores, i.e. Rocketeer. He can convey the sentiment and tone of the film so perfectly. I think some of my favorite scores are the ones that are so evocative that it take you to another time and place. I’m always taken back to the glory of the doomed ship whenever I hear Take her to sea, Mr Murdock score.

JamesHorner_CameronHorner collaborated several times with James Cameron and he wrote a nice tribute to him posted on THR. He shared his experience working with him on composing for Titanic, “I asked if he could write some melodies. I believe that a great score really consists of something you can whistle. If that melody gets embedded in your mind, it takes the score to a different level. I drove over to his house and he sat at the piano and said, “I see this as the main theme for the ship.” He played it once through and I was crying. Then he played Rose’s theme and I was crying again. They were so bittersweet and emotionally resonant. He hadn’t orchestrated a thing, and I knew it was going to be one of cinema’s great scores. No matter how the movie turned out, and no one knew at that point — it could have been a dog — I knew it would be a great score.”

As my tribute to the late composer, here are 10 of my favorite scores from James Horner (in order of release):

The Land Before Time (1988)

The Rocketeer (1991)

Legends of the Fall (1994)

Clear and Present Danger (1994)

Braveheart (1995)

Apollo 13 (1995)

Titanic (1997)

The Mask of Zorro (1998)

The New World (2005)

Avatar (2009)

Thank you Mr. Horner for your amazing work…
your music shall live on…


So what’s your favorite James Horner score(s)?

///

Music Break: Apollo 13 Main Title – RIP Neil Armstrong

I learned of Mr. Armstrong’s death this afternoon as I was on my computer break all day yesterday. He died from complications from a heart surgery, he was 82.

I felt a sudden loss of words reading that the first man on the moon has now passed on. Though I hadn’t been born on July 20, 1969, I had always been fascinated by that event and real-life heroes like Mr. Armstrong.

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Who could forget those words. Though Armstrong later admitted that he missed the ‘a’ in the sentence, I think we all know what he meant and those famous words certainly still gives me goosebumps!

Mr. Armstrong even made a cameo on Apollo 13, one of my favorite historical dramas directed by Ron Howard based on the ill-fated 13th Apollo mission bound for the moon. Unfortunately, I couldn’t embed the exact clip here but you can watch it on the metacafe site. It’s an awesome scene where all the families of the astronauts, played by Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise and Bill Paxton, gather in front of the TV to watch the moonwalk. It’s a great scene, and boy don’t I wish I were right there with them watching Walter Cronkite expresses his amazement at the pictures from the Moon and Armstrong stepping down from the ladder. In that very moment Armstrong spoke those words LIVE on TV, the camera zooms in on Hanks’ face and you just knew how significant that historical moment meant to him… and the rest of us. I love this movie, great performances all around, including in supporting roles from Kathleen Quinlan and Ed Harris.

So for this edition of music break, I thought it’d be appropriate to highlight the astounding music from that film, composed by James Horner. I had planned on showcasing this Oscar-nominated score at some point anyway, so here it is as part of my small tribute to Mr. Armstrong.

Per People.com, Armstrong’s family requested that people do this to honor Neil… “Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

We sure will, Mr. Armstrong. May you rest in peace.


What’s your fondest memory of the first walk on the Moon? Do you like Apollo 13 and its music?