Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Magnificent Seven - Review

The Magnificent Seven

I love western movies; always have - always will. They epitomize the moral tales from an era when life was simple and the interacting conflicts between people were simple matters of either being someone who was good or someone who was evil  - being a person who was morally right with a gun or someone who was morally wrong with a gun. So when I heard they were doing a remake of the “The Magnificent Seven” from the 1960 original starring Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen, needless to say I was excited no matter who was directing or starring in the modern adaptation.

In the 2016 effort we find Director Antoine Fuqua bringing his modern vision to a this classic story beginning in the 1870 American western town of Rose Creek which is under the deadly control of an industrialist named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Desperate to rid themselves of this one man tyrannical murdering megalomaniac the good towns people employ protection from a territorial deputized man named Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington). He subsequently begins to recruit outlaws; a mix of bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns starting with a slick lady’s man who has a way with a gun named Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt). They take off to solicit Josh’s old friend Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), and others including Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio), Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee), Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and a Comanche named Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). They all eventually meet in Rose Creek to prepare the somewhat sheepish town people for the violent showdown that they know is coming.  But for these seven mercenaries they find themselves fighting for more than money and they hope to secure their personal rewards in the center of the town of Rose Creek in the form of a giant gun slinging finale.

PROS: The set locations and visuals for this film are breathtaking to look at. I want to live there.

CONS: “The Magnificent Seven” holds your attention in some instances and barely in others. But more specifically what makes its less than the original is it feels way too long. With a 2:15 minutes running time the film spent almost the entire first hour of these band of seven misfits simply talking and commiserating with each other about their respective pasts and how they will prepare to get ready for Mr. Bogue. And it’s this period and other moments (poor film editing – poor writing) that allows the overall film to lose some of its pacing and overall “authentic” western punch. In a few stances the only thing that was missing in some scenes was Dr. Phil entering in on horseback to mediate.

Visually and action wise the whole film itself is crafted very well, but the optics alone cannot make up for the spades of time that feel more like a lethargic “yarn” rather than what a western film should deliver in the form of real human peril and at least a few good moments of authentic “yee-haa”.

To Director Fugua’s credit he does have some good moments like infusing homages to other Western film classics including the first time we see Denzel as he rides into town almost identical to the visual scene of Clint Eastwood’s entrance in “High Plains Drifter”. In another instance you also see a quick draw shootout with Chris Pratt near a saloon that was very similar to Kevin Costner’s effort in “Silverado”.

In the end “The Magnificent Seven” 2016 is not bad to watch, so if you are bored this Saturday it’s good enough see. But if you want my advice, still see it at some point,  I just recommend you do it in the leisure of your home on your own giant “Magnificent Seven-ty” inch Ultra Digital flat screen TV.

3 Stars

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Sully - Review


It’s Thursday January 15, 2009 at 3:27 PM and it’s a typically cold wintery day in New York City. And while 8 years have passed, no one in that city will ever forget the tragic events of 9/11 regardless the span of time. No doubt nerves were probably still raw and frayed from the emotional devastation of seeing 3000 plus civilians being murdered by terrorists who had commandeered two commercial jets in order to slam them into the World Trade Center Buildings. The unforgettable smell of fuel and the sounds of jet engines flying slowly and low over the skyline of NY City that day had indelibly etched their impact into the collective hearts and conscience of everyone who lived and worked in New York forever.

And yet on this day, this very specific new day and time, citizens of NY looked towards the sky again to a familiar sight and sound to wondered briefly were the horrors of 9/11 about to repeat itself when from the direction of LaGuardia Airport a low flying jet with smoke coming from its fuselage could be seen over the city’s skyline. An Airbus 320A US Airways jet to be specific could be seen careening at very low altitude heading towards the city’s population center to possibly cause death and destruction all over again. However what little did anyone know in that brief moment was what they were actually seeing was not a terrorist attack but instead the witnessing of what later became to be called the “Miracle on the Hudson” where 40 year plus pilot Captain “Sully” Sullenberger (Hanks) glided his terribly disabled commercial jet onto the frigid icy waters of the Hudson River, saving all 155 lives aboard. And for that one brief moment, the city collectively had something to cheer about and a Captain named Sully Sullenberger to praise as a national hero. Or was he? Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, while an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career. This is the story of “Sully”.

REVIEW: Director Clint Eastwood has a reputation just like the Airbus jet in this film is to always pace his films story telling with an effective and efficient easy slow and low approach. Meaning he never goes for the cheap gimmicky scenes just to gas up his films. He lets the story tell itself in its more actual reality of good people simply trying to do the best they can under extremely difficult circumstances. And in that regard I found “Sully’ to very satisfying entertainment. But in his effort to getting the story just right, I felt in the first 30 minutes the writing felt like nothing more than a bureaucratic gottcha slog (a backstory surprise to me) of how higher ups at the NTSB, particularly the investigators who were charged to finding out what happened that day, had very high suspicions and grave doubts about Capt. Sully accounts of that day. Specifically they believed from simulators and computer data Sully made terribly miscalculations in his judgement and was negligent in his duties in those first two minutes or he was just simply physically and or emotional ill-equipped to ever be a commercial pilot again.

The film Sully itself overall is solidly strong, but what makes the film even better is Tom Hanks. Once again Hanks captures (in my mind) the real face of American heroism as he impressively achieves a portrayal of a good man whose heroism was made of the right stuff on a day while facing looming unprecedented peril. Hanks in my mind deserves another Oscar Nomination for Best Actor as it is along with Jeff Bridges are two of the best performances I have seen this year. My guess he won’t get it because the film a few times (with the exception of the last 40 minutes) felt a bit dialog thin; overly stretched if you will for its 96 minutes running time.

Still I highly recommend you see Sully on the screen as Eastwood does make overall Sully one of the better mainstream films I have seen this year. But the real star, the real reason the film soars, the real reason I will remember this story is Tom Hanks.

4 times in Hanks career I believe he has captured in my mind what truly an American hero really looks and sounds like. Whether it was with Commander Jim Lovell in outer space , (“Apollo 13”), or on land with Captain John H. Miller (“Saving Private Ryan”), or on water with Captain Richard Phillips (“Captain “Phillips”) or in air with Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (“Sully”), Hanks always seems to inject the right tone, the right look, the right expressive face and the right human emotion of what leadership looks like under dangerous and trying circumstances.

You forget Hanks is actor when he is on the screen, because he is more that his title. He is an American gift to our consciousness that humanity and decency along with courage and self-sacrifice can co-exist in the same body at the same time.

Bravo Tom Hanks, Bravo.

3 - 3/4 Stars

Friday, September 9, 2016

Lester’s 25 Favorite Aviation Movies of All Time

Lester’s 25 Favorite Aviation Movies of All Time
Air Force One - 1997
Airplane – 1980
Apollo 13 – 1995
Bat 21 – 1988
Broken Arrow – 1996
Catch 22 – 1970
Con Air - 1997
Executive Decision - 1996
Flight -2012
Flight Plan - 2005
Fly Away Home – 1996
Midway - 1976
Red Eye - 2005
The Aviator – 2004
The Concorde – Airport 1979
The Fight of the Phoenix – 1965
The Great Waldo Pepper – 1975
The Hindenburg – 1975
The Right Stuff – 1983
The Spirit of St Louis – 1957
The Tuskegee Airmen - 1995
Top Gun – 1986
Tora, Tora, Tora – 1970
Twelve O’clock High – 1949
United 93 – 2006