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The Magnificent Seven Review

Good

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic 1960 Western, itself a remake of the masterful 1954 Japanese original Seven Samurai. Reteaming with his Training Day stars Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke, Fuqua injects some very manly grit into the tale of a ragtag gang of mercenaries who find themselves trying to save a town in peril. It's a great story, and Fuqua delivers plenty of punch in the action set-pieces. But the characters and situations never quite rise beyond the usual Wild West cliches, and toning everything down for the required PG-13 rating creates an oddly celebratory tone, as if the brutality isn't that bad, really.

In a peaceful village in the middle of nowhere, greedy corporate baron Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) has discovered gold, so he decides to buy up everyone's land. When the homesteaders resist, Bogue turns vicious, and the newly widowed Emma (Haley Bennett) refuses to go quietly. Instead, she hires notorious gunslinger Chisolm (Washington), who in turn rustles up six more desperados: hard-drinking sharpshooter Faraday (Chris Pratt), fading legend Goodnight (Hawke), burly bear-man Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio), blade expert Billy (Byung-hun Lee), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Native American warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). Not only do they need to become a team, but they need to teach these timid farmers how to fight against Bogue's approaching army.

Screenwriters Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk have reduced the plot to the bare basics: scrappy good guys versus a slick, well-organised villain. There's never a compelling reason why Bogue wants the farmland (is there gold under the cornfields?), but he's clearly willing to kill everyone and level the entire town to get it. In this sense, Sarsgaard has the least subtle role in the film, but he has a great time snarling and shouting and generally being the devil incarnate. But then all of the roles are fairly simplified, with each of the seven teammates having a basic trait to combine with their general heroism: cool, cheeky, weary, quirky, flashy, rambunctious and lethal, respectively.

Continue reading: The Magnificent Seven Review

The Vow Review


OK
Inspired by a true story, this film is watchable mainly because of the extraordinary events, which are genuinely involving and moving. Although typically, Hollywood has ramped up the emotions while avoiding subtlety at all costs.

Goofy recording engineer Leo (Tatum) and adorable artist Paige (McAdams) had a cute romance, quirky wedding and four happy years together before a car crash changed everything. Leo only has minor injuries, but Paige has lost some five years of memories. Crucially, she has no idea who Leo is. And she doesn't remember turning her back on her law course, smirking fiance (Speedman) and wealthy parents (Lange and Neill). They're all she remembers now, so Leo tries to remind her of who she became after she left them behind. If they'll let him.

Continue reading: The Vow Review

Footloose Review


Very Good
A surprisingly faithful remake of the iconic 1984 hit, this crowd-pleasing romp finds some intriguing present-day resonance without pushing it too hard.

Instead, it centres on the interpersonal drama and exhilarating dance moves.

After his mother dies, Boston teen Ren (Wormald) moves to small-town Bomont to live with his aunt and uncle (Dickens and McKinnon). Teens here are prohibited from dancing due to a tragedy three years earlier, so Ren is soon at loggerheads with the local minister (Quaid), whose daughter Ariel (Hough) is a wild child with a redneck boyfriend (Flueger) and an eye for Ren. As Ren deals with his own issues, he teams up with new friends Willard and Woody (Teller and Blain) to take on the system.

Continue reading: Footloose Review

The Tourist Review


OK
This is a thoroughly offbeat concoction from the gifted filmmaker behind the acclaimed The Lives of Others: a rather goofy action comedy that deflates the suspense by telling us pretty much everything from the start.

Elisa (Jolie) is a sleek, overdressed woman of mystery who is being stalked by a tenacious British detective (Bettany). When she boards a train from Paris to Venice, his men are in hot pursuit, so she sidles up to American touristFrank (Depp) to throw them off the scent. He looks similar to her boyfriend, who's wanted by the cops and a vicious Russian mobster (Berkoff). Once in Venice, Frank finds his world turned upside both by this ludicrously elegant woman and the army of goons pursuing him at every turn.

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Rush Hour 3 Review


Bad
For all the talk of his beguiling cameo as a police chief, Roman Polanski shows up in Rush Hour 3 for exactly two scenes for about two minutes. In fact, the French police have absolutely nothing to do with anything in the third Rush Hour installment. Polanski simply acts as a diacritic; a punctuation mark to let us know we're entering and exiting the French portion of the program. And although they are given more screen time, Ingmar Bergman-regular Max Von Sydow and French actor/director Yvan Attal serve similar purposes: They're garnish on a liver sandwich made with moldy bread and mayonnaise that started going green around the time of the Bay of Pigs.

Rush Hour 3 plunks our questionable partners, the loose-mouthed Carter (Chris Tucker) and elastic Lee (Jackie Chan), into an international scandal involving the Chinese Triad election that takes them from sunny Los Angeles to gay Paris. Lee's friend and employer Consul Hu (Tzi Ma) is about to blow the lid off the Triads when a sniper snags him a few centimeters north of his heart. Hu's friend Vernard (Von Sydow) OKs Lee and Carter's trip to his hometown of Paris, where, for one reason or another, the Chinese Triad have decided to have an election.

Continue reading: Rush Hour 3 Review

Rush Hour 2 Review


Good
I enjoyed the original Rush Hour, the 1998 action comedy that grossed more than $250 million worldwide. Through its central characters, played by Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, the film provided audiences with a fresh, exciting combination of action and outrageous comedy. Although not a great film, and certainly not worthy of a sequel, director Brett Ratner admirably stitched together two immensely different characters, finding a charismatic delight in the diversity of Tucker and Chan.

Unfortunately Ratner does not find the same joy in Rush Hour 2, an occasionally amusing comedic adventure that leaves us with a profoundly annoying Chris Tucker fighting for attention while Jackie Chan fights one-dimensional Chinese villains with his bare fists. The film contains some neat action sequences, a great third act, and the most hilarious outtakes I can remember - but the clash of genres feels intrusive and awkward. I wanted more excitement, more character dimension, and a whole hell of a lot less of Chris Tucker's irritating mouth.

Continue reading: Rush Hour 2 Review

Abandon Review


Weak
A timely late October release and a spooky ad campaign suggest that Abandon revolves around the ghostly return of a long-lost boyfriend who haunts a lovely coed. Not the case. In reality, it's a melodramatic after school special about a deranged college girl who gets left by every man she dares to love, starting with her father. It's not scary, unless you happen to be the girl.

The question driving Abandon is who abandoned who? Did charismatic but manipulative Embry (Charlie Hunnam) leave his clingy college sweetheart, Katie (Katie Holmes, who probably would get confused if she and her character didn't share a first name), or is it the other way around? And is Embry alive and kicking on a European jaunt, or dead, as a sleazy, washed-up detective (Benjamin Bratt) believes but can't prove?

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The Rich Man's Wife Review


Good
There are a couple of rules inherent to the thriller that any filmmaker should be aware of. First, you have to keep the pace moving so fast that the audience doesn't have time to think about whodunit. And second, if you kill off most of the cast, whoever's left alive at the end of the movie is the one who did the killing.

The Rich Man's Wife blindly ignores both of these rules, but still manages to float, thanks to a united effort by an exceptional cast and exquisite production values. Amy Holden Jones directs her own screenplay here, a modern-day reworking of Hitchcock's masterful Strangers on a Train.

Continue reading: The Rich Man's Wife Review

Powder Review


Extraordinary
Once in awhile, Hollywood manages to surprise me with an uncompromising film full of genuine emotion and enough to make you really think. Powder was completely unexpected: it's easily one of the best films I've seen all year.

Something of an updated, hybridized E.T., Powder is the story of an albino teenager (Sean Patrick Flanery) with strange powers of telekinesis, empathy, and the ability to channel and absorb raw energy. As Powder says, "I'm not like other people." That's putting it lightly.

Continue reading: Powder Review

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Roger Birnbaum Movies

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

The Vow Movie Review

The Vow Movie Review

Inspired by a true story, this film is watchable mainly because of the extraordinary events,...

Footloose Movie Review

Footloose Movie Review

A surprisingly faithful remake of the iconic 1984 hit, this crowd-pleasing romp finds some intriguing...

The Tourist Movie Review

The Tourist Movie Review

This is a thoroughly offbeat concoction from the gifted filmmaker behind the acclaimed The Lives...

Advertisement
Rush Hour 3 Movie Review

Rush Hour 3 Movie Review

For all the talk of his beguiling cameo as a police chief, Roman Polanski shows...

Rush Hour 2 Movie Review

Rush Hour 2 Movie Review

I enjoyed the original Rush Hour, the 1998 action comedy that grossed more than $250...

Abandon Movie Review

Abandon Movie Review

A timely late October release and a spooky ad campaign suggest that Abandon revolves around...

The Rich Man's Wife Movie Review

The Rich Man's Wife Movie Review

There are a couple of rules inherent to the thriller that any filmmaker should be...

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