The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Everyone knows a story that owes itself to an unexpected team up, from superhero team-ups in comic books, to ‘The Avengers’ in film, to buddy cop movies and the like. All of them owe a thank you to ‘Seven Samurai’ and it’s Western genre remake, the original ‘The Magnificent Seven’.

In our current world of remakes, reboots and updates, it was only a matter of time that the original Western would be updated with current actors and retold, and that is where 2016’s ‘The Magnificent Seven’ comes to us. Directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring the likes of frequent Fuqua collaborators Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke, along with current in form actors like Chris Pratt, the remake tries to recapture the magic of the original films from the 1960’s.

While endeavouring to develop a film that could do honour to the originals, 2016’s offering falls short of that goal, but not due to anything the film itself does, but just down to the fact that more is expected of films today and a sense that not all stories need to be retold. The film itself is perfectly fine, a nice mix of action and comedy, but is just missing something, an unidentifiable “it” that would have pushed it over the top.

The stars of the film are the two main leads, Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. Washington brings his usual dramatic gravitas to the film, while Pratt is his equally important comedic foil. Rounding out the great performances from the cast is Haley Bennett as the widow who brings the cause that makes up the film to the main characters.

With the characters being changed and updated both to fit with actual representations of the era and to bring more diversity to the cast in our current day and age, Fuqua provided a great cast to base the story against, and with a quite fitting soundtrack and great wide ranging vistas to use, it is quite difficult to find exactly what the downfall is with ‘The Magnificent Seven’ other than to say that it falls into the trap that befalls most Westerns in this day and age: they just seem too dry.

All in all, 2016’s ‘The Magnificent Seven’ is a good film, just not great, but is definitely worth a viewing for anyone that is a fan of the Western genre in general or a fan of Denzel Washington specifically.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers for now.

Jason Bourne

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I need to preface this review with the fact that I absolutely love the original Bourne films. They are amongst some of my favourite films ever, and I firmly believe that The Bourne Ultimatum is the best spy-action-thriller film I have ever seen. So, with that, I was quite excited when it was announced that Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass were going to be returning to the franchise.

After the failed expansion of the franchise with 2012’s ‘The Bourne Legacy’, ‘Jason Bourne’ was supposed to be a return to the glorious films of the original trilogy. Alas, this is not what we got with the fifth film in the series.

Matt Damon was a great Jason Bourne during the 2000’s, but he was not able to fully recapture that spark in a film that turned out to be a bit of a bore and one that dragged during a story of cyber-sleuthing in the modern age.

But most of this is a direct result of how far from the books the films have strayed, and also from the corner that ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ put the franchise into with the ending that it provided. There really was no way to bring Damon’s Bourne back after ‘Ultimatum’ but they tried and gave us a subpar storyline in doing so.

I will say that Paul Greengrass does a remarkable job of giving us some action-y fight scenes and also gives us possibly his strongest car chase scene that he has (still not the best in the series though), but the filming was not enough to make up for the story we were given.

That being said, at least the story tried to be topical to today’s society, with the fear of the government spying on us and using our own technology to do it. ‘Jason Bourne’ did a decent job of presenting a scenario that most viewers could at least understand on some level, even if for some of those viewers it was just a way to provide examples for their own paranoia.

In the end, we can now only wait for the inevitable reboot, or retooling of the character and the franchise, and I for one will hope to finally see a Bourne film where he hunts down The Jackal, true to the original stories, and a storyline that if they had followed it in the films, could have provided a reason for a return to the character at least.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers all.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Do you know someone that is not a fan of Star Wars? Yes, shocking as it may seem, those people actually do exist. And for those people that are out there, I truly feel sorry for them this weekend, because that means they are making the decision to not see what may be one of the better war films we have had lately in ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’.

Now for those of us who are Star Wars fans, ‘Rogue One’ is the first of the anticipated anthology films that LucasFilm and Disney are going to be giving us on a bi-annual cycle, in off years from the main saga films. And admittedly, if the first film that we have received is any indication of the quality of films that will be forthcoming in the anthology series, we will all be in for a treat.

‘Rogue One’ tells the story of how the original plans for the Empire’s super weapon, the Death Star, come into the hands of the Rebellion. Alluded to during the opening crawl of ‘Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope’, the theft of the plans is a very important moment for the Rebel Alliance in their attempt to overthrow the First Galactic Empire.

The new film is an interesting mix of new ideas, taking old threads and increasing their importance, and also providing enough easter eggs for fans of not just the main saga films but also the current in-continuity projects such as the TV show ‘Star Wars Rebels’, that it really is a full run time that does not feel that it takes anywhere near the two hour and 13 minute run time that it is listed at.

From giving glimpses of new unseen planets, some new technology and ships, to showcasing well known locations such as Yavin IV and glimpses of favourite vehicles and ships as well, ‘Rogue One’ is a great melding of both new and old.

But it is the old that really grabs your attention here. Set designers did a wonderful job of building sets that give a real 1970’s vibe at times, which is critically important as ‘Rogue One’ is a direct prequel to 1977’s ‘A New Hope’, so much so that one wonders just how much time actually separates the films with regards to their timelines.

Over to the characters, and you really gain an appreciation of how much the new generation of Star Wars films are going to pushing forward with strong female leads. While I don’t really believe most people have fully appreciated just how strong of a character that Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia Organa was in the original trilogy, they have really pushed the envelope with the main front running character in both ‘Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens’ and now ‘Rogue One’ both being female.

Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso is really setup as a character that is being used to reach a goal for the Alliance, but at the end of the film, has become a great driving force for the Rebellion and is one of the more important cogs to the success not only of the mission in the film, but the film in theaters as well. While sometimes falling flat at the dialogue provided, Jones still does enough to pull off being a natural leader, one that uses her name when needed to get results, and in a great continuation of what Star Wars does best, not force a female character to be female to be a strong character.

The other characters of the main cast are at times overshadowed by both lack of development, essentially being wallpaper to Jones at times, and also by well known characters who are here to tie ‘Rogue One’ into ‘A New Hope’. This boils down to just how difficult it is to give proper character backgrounds and explore character depth in a film that is just slightly more than two hours in length as opposed to having seasons of a television show with which to build characters.

There are definitely some new characters introduced in ‘Rogue One’ that I would love to see explored more, and maybe we might get to see that in ‘Rebels’ if the show continues long enough to make it reach the timeline of this film.

But the thing that really sets ‘Rogue One’ apart from the previous seven live-action Star Wars films we have seen in the past is not the characters, but the genre of the film. While the main saga films are epic space operas, this film is a gritty war movie. From discussions of rebellion versus extremism, to being a spy and the dirty hands that come with it, to undercover beach heads, and the largest space battle we have seen before, ‘Rogue One’ is in fact what the series calls itself, Star Wars.

Regardless of if you take the main saga films to be the rise, fall and possible rebirth of the Skywalker family and their ties to The Force, or a higher overreaching arc of the eternal strife between the Jedi and the Sith, ‘Rogue One’ slots in perfectly as an entry into the history of what is now a franchise across multiple platforms.

So much so that I slide ‘Rogue One’ as the second best of the eight live-action films, trailing only ‘Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back’ as the best of the bunch, and that is high praise indeed as I view that film as one of the best films of all time.

In the end, if you love Star Wars, ‘Rogue One’ is for you. If you enjoy war films, you will enjoy this film. If you don’t enjoy either, I’m not sure what you are doing making it all the way through this.

I do promise that I am back to reviewing films on a regular basis as we now have enough stability in our home to allow it. Expect a full review of recent Marvel films coming soon. As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer for movie talk and more. Cheers all.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

kingsmanThere are a lot of spy/thriller/action films franchises right now, from Bond to Bourne, hell, even Mission: Impossible, so there are a lot of options out there for films to watch, but it is nice every so often to get something new and maybe a little off the wall, and that is essentially what we got with 2015’s ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’, an adaptation of the Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons comic book series.

Giving us two concurrent story lines that at times cross into each other and then at the end mesh into one giant free for all, ‘Kingsman’ gives us, in the immortal words of Monty Python “something completely different”, and somethings that, while not perfect, at least something that works well.

Featuring Academy Award winner Colin Firth in one of the two main roles for the film and relative newcomer Taron Egerton in the other main role, ‘Kingsman’ is a relative 21st Century-millenial take on many spy tropes in film, all while paying homage to the grand-daddy of them all in James Bond.

Firth does an admirable job as the seasoned veteran trying to repay his debts while Egerton shows some youthfulness as the twenty something who is throwing away his potential until one final wrong step pushes him back onto the right path.

‘Kingsman’ also features Michael Caine in a bit of a throwaway role as the leader of the organization, but also features Samuel L. Jackson in a hilarious, scene-chewing role as the proverbial big bad. While the premise of the story may be a tad over the top, Jackson tackles it and makes the film all the better for it. The film also gives an interesting role to Mark Strong, one that almost seems as if it was written specifically for him.

Once you get past the overt British-ness of the film and its setup, the stylized action scenes are different enough to hook your attention while also delving into the meat of the main story and the recruitment arc all at the same time.

In the end, ‘Kingsman’ is an enjoyable romp, one that isn’t perfect due to the way in which it was filmed but one that overcomes that with enough laughs and action to satisfy most viewers.

For the new review system, ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ nets a solid 3 1/4 mind altering SIM cards out of 5.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and feel free to peruse older reviews of other films in the archives. Cheers.