Quick Movie Review: The Magnificent Seven (1960)

magnificent-seven-1960

It’s not the prequel to Oceans Eleven, but coincidentally it is from the same year. The Magnificent Seven is a Western remake of Kurosawa’s 1954 film, Seven Samurai.

In this 1960 version, seven gunslingers from America are hired to protect a small Mexican village from local bandits.

The ensemble cast led by Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen is not quite a sum of its parts. While McQueen and Charles Bronson boast strong performances, Brynner displays one of his weaker ones.

It’s odd, considering director John Sturges does an excellent job with McQueen film, The Great Escape, three years later. It’s as though these two films have a different director entirely. Or maybe the script is just not quite as strong. Evidence mostly points to the latter.

The plot is stretched far too thin, and the ending is not quite as climactic as we want it to be. Every once in awhile, they’ll throw us a nice line or two, but overall, the dialogue is weak. Much of the film is slow and boring, only to be saved by either McQueen or Bronson–who are as good as ever.

Also, the two leads, Brynner and McQueen have absolutely no chemistry. The writers try several times to bolster their relationship, but to no avail.

It’s not all bad. The premise is intriguing, and it gives us nice characters to root for. The production value is top-notch for the time. The set pieces are impressive, as are the shootouts. And we can’t forget about the score, which is one for the ages–granting the movie some extra points. But they’re not enough to save this disjointed film. It’s a part of history, and I could see it being impressive back in 1960, but it hardly holds up well today.

Twizard Rating: 74

Quick Movie Review: War Dogs (2016)

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Most people are going to want to see this film based on the trailer alone. It looks like a funny and adventurous heist movie of some sort. While it’s not a comedy in the truest sense, it’s just light enough to keep the audience involved.

The film follows two twenty-somethings, Miles Teller and Jonah Hill, as they venture to the top of the international arms dealer industry. Amidst the war in Iraq, they use unorthodox techniques to fulfill US military contracts.

War Dogs gets a little wordy when it’s setting things up. Also, Teller’s voiceover goes on a little bit too long at times. But while verbose when explaining things, it covers a lot of ground answering most of our questions in a Big Short type of way. Thus, a potentially byzantine premise never becomes convoluted.

Teller plays David Packouz, the antiwar protagonist who is contributing to the war effort out of financial necessity. He’s good, but Hill arguably carries the film, playing the real-life Efraim Diveroli. He’s basically a selfish scumbag who could double as a mob boss at any given moment. Hill broadens his range as an actor with this role, proving he can play sinister along with his goofy trademark. He’s so deceptively creepy that we become literally afraid of him.

Genre-wise, it might seem to be stuck in limbo, but it’s not. The comedy is evenly written and is balanced consistently into the drama. The exposition is fast-paced and doesn’t require us to look back scratching our heads.

War Dogs doesn’t necessarily explore any new territory as far as the life of a criminal goes, but it’s educational and entertaining every step of the way.

Twizard Rating: 89

Quick Movie Review: Don’t Think Twice (2016)

don't think twice

Like a lot of improv comedy, this film will be understood by few, and will be waved off by many. If you like comedies, you may not necessarily be into this movie. But if you appreciate comedy, you will.

Writer-director Mike Birbiglia, who also plays Miles in the film, constructs a story that will speak to artists everywhere who truly have a passion for what they do. The struggle with sacrificing the art’s purity to make money. Choosing between making it a career or keeping it just a passion. Or even being afraid to “make it” because it would mean stepping away from what’s comfortable.

Miles is one of six members of an improv comedy troupe. He’s the leader, in a sense, but the film tries to make all of them the main protagonists.

When one of the members, Jack, played by Keegan-Michael Key, makes it onto Weekend Live (the film universe’s equivalent to Saturday Night Live), tensions flare up. Miles is bitter that he’s never made it, while Jack’s girlfriend, Samantha, has a shot at making it, but doesn’t want it. It’s all very American Graffiti-esque. These people are all in the same situation wanting a different end result. But not really, if you look closely.

It’s a conflict most of us are familiar with, yet probably not on this level. It’s masked well, since the subject matter is so esoteric, but anyone who’s ever felt some sort of fear of change or jealousy based on entitlement should be able to relate.

The whole film has a very fresh feel to it. The camera moves in a way where it seems as though we’re watching a documentary or a reality show. But this also says a lot about the brilliant performances of the entire cast.

Although there are six leads, it creates depth right away without making it seem rushed. And it saves some for the remainder of the movie.

At times, the film slows down to take in the emotion of what’s going on. About halfway through, it starts shying away from the uninhibited humor of the first act. But the cast and script are good enough to keep us into it. However, the real genius comes from Birbiglia’s direction and choosing which things to use for the final cut. The subtle jokes here and there are what make this film so likable.

Go into this film expecting something a bit different. But be open to relating to it. Pound for pound, it’s one of the best of the year so far.

Twizard Rating: 97

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