Friday, December 09, 2016

What I Watched in November

I mostly watched a lot of television in November but there were some outstanding movies taking up my time as well. 

HELL OR HIGH WATER is one of the best reviewed films of the year and it's easy to see why. The story is solid, the cast is fantastic, the dialog is excellent and the entire affair is quite well done. I will add my voice to the choir and say that it is a very good film and one I think will stand up over time. But - and this is a problem - it also seems to fear that the audience is too stupid to figure out what the movie's major theme might be. Indeed, it hits that theme (banks are run by criminal scum looking to screw regular folks out of house & home) a little too hard and too often in the first half of the story. If I saw one more foreclosure sign or debt scam billboard blocking the desert view I think I was going to scream. In fact, I was seriously on the verge of getting up to leave the theater in disgust with this hammer blow level of overemphasis but then the second act kicked in and I was interested enough to stick around. I'm glad I did as the film gets better as it goes along, but I hope the filmmakers have more confidence in their viewers next time out or I may give up before I care about the tale being told.

Remakes of much beloved classic films are a touchy proposition. Even if a large number of viewers are aware (as in this case) that the much beloved previous film was itself a remake, the desire to hold onto a favorite film and reject a newer version will generally prevail. In such cases it becomes imperative that the new film be exceptional to overcome as much of the natural resistance as possible. Few remakes of classics accomplish this task and neither does the 2016 take on THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.

That's not to say it's a bad film. Far from it. It is actually a pretty well done western made within the strictures and structures of the 21st century way of crafting a broad appeal entertainment. I enjoyed it for many reasons, not the least of which is the very good cast. Everyone brings their 'A' game to this one, really digging in and working to turn the old story into a fresh experience and for the most part they succeed. There are times when it feels as if a few scenes have been trimmed to keep the pace quicker but nearly every actor gets a chance to shine. Of course, the more colorful characters get more of the spotlight, but that was true of the 1960 film too.

I feared that this new film might pullback from some of the darker elements of the original tale but surprisingly it did not. Good people get hurt and die, disappointing actions are committed by people who we root for and not every deserving hero makes it to the end of the story. These things made happy to have seen this version and I was glad to see such a solid attempt at a remake. It isn't great but it is pretty good. I think ts nice to have this new film as a companion piece to Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) and Sturges' version. 


JASON X (2001) - 8 (rewatch)
MARS ATTACKS! (1996) - 8 (rewatch)
THE CORPSE VANISHES (1942)- 5 (rewatch (mad, silly mad scientist tale)
HE WAS HER MAN (1934)- 7 (Cagney and Blondell class this one up)
BAD MOON (1996)- 8 (director's cut) (well made and touching werewolf tale)
FIVE STAR FINAL (1931) - 7 (scandal sheet drama with Edward G. Robinson and Boris Karloff!)
STANLEY (1972) - 6 (very odd snake film)
THE GAY FALCON (1941) - 6 (first in the series)
RAFFLES (1939) - 7 (suave thief is chased by canny cop)
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980) - 8 (rewatch)
SATAN'S SABBATH (1972) - 3 (a.k.a. The Possession of Virginia) (slow, tepid and often nonsensical Canadian mess)
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015) -9 (rewatch)
CROCODILE FURY (1988) - 3 (terrible but completely fun!)
NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985) - 1 (deadly awful mess)
THE PIT (1981) - 6 (psycho child/monster oddity)
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016) - 7 (good but not great western) 

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