Movie Review — ‘The Magnificent Seven’ Doesn’t Match the Original, But Still Full of Thrills

magneficent-seven-remake-2016-review

Westerns and remakes run at the core of Hollywood tradition so much that it’s surprising it took the studios this long to get to The Magnificent Seven. Originally a remake of the cinematic classic Seven Samurai by legendary director Akira Kurosawa, The Magnificent Seven tells a story that deeply resonates because it has all the right ingredients: underdog heroes, revenge, righteous indignation, and standing up to ruthless villains even when the cards are stacked against you.

While Director Antoine Fuqua does his best retelling a classic and making it his own, he struggles to combine his signature style of a visceral, gritty, and grounded reality with the over-the-top action and silly humor this western requires. Too often these two voices are noticeably at odds, but it’s not enough to derail the narrative. Fuqua provides a solid experience with a thrilling opener and a satisfying end that’ll make it worth the trip to the theater. All in all, the remake is on par with the classic, updating to modern audiences, and bringing along beautiful cinematography in the process, but this remake is not able to exceed the original.

[Continue Reading]

Movie Review — Despite Many Positives, Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Never Reaches Its Potential

snowden-movie-review

On paper, Snowden looks like an American cinema classic in the making. Oliver Stone is at the helm with a solid screenwriter and cinematographer and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the lead actor surrounded by a fantastic group of supporting actors. The story is a real life spy thriller with real-life consequences that can speak about relevant topics. Unfortunately, despite the intriguing story, solid pacing and cinematography, and Levitt’s best performance to date, Stone doesn’t seem to know how to piece this story together with awkward tonal changes, preachy politics, a love story that runs out its welcome, and a tacky, eye-roll inducing resolution.

[Continue Reading]

Movie Review — ‘War Dogs’ Director Todd Phillips Proves an Old Genre Can Be Taught (a Few) New Tricks

war dogs review

Director and co-writer Todd Phillips (The Hangover) brings a new twist to the war movie genre with War Dogs, a film based on a true story picked from the pages of Rolling Stone. It tells the story of amateur arms dealers landing a multimillion-dollar deal with The Pentagon.

[Continue Reading]

Movie Review — Despite Some Flaws, ‘Suicide Squad’ Delivers

 suicide squad - good review

Using criminals to help fight against a greater evil is not a new concept. The Dirty Dozen and Inglorious Basterds come to mind though I’m sure plenty of others exist. Suicide Squad, then, is in good company. Anti-hero stories can be tricky to tell because you have to balance their dark character while also creating empathy. Make your anti-hero too evil and you’ll lose the audience, but make them too relatable and you might wonder why they were ever a bad guy in the first place. If done correctly, the storyteller can blur the lines between the good, the bad, and the ugly, and flip the script, making you question who the true hero and villain are in the story. Fortunately, director David Ayer pulled this off in spades while simultaneously creating an action-packed and fast-paced adventure with plenty of humor and fun to go around.

[Continue Reading]

Movie Review — Bryan Cranston is Great, But It’s Not Enough in ‘The Infiltrator’

Bryan-Cranston-in-The-Infiltrator-movie review

If there’s one thing about Bryan Cranston’s career that stands out, it’s the variety of roles he takes on. From sitcom dad in Malcolm in the Middle to meth dad in Breaking Bad to President Lyndon B. Johnson in All The Way (not to mention the plethora of roles he’s played in between), he continues to prove himself as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Yet, unlike All The Way, which is arguably his most diverse and impressive role to date, his steady and solid performance as U.S. customs officer Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator shows he can be an entertaining and enthralling lead in a movie that doesn’t have much else to give.

[Continue Reading]

Movie Review — ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ is Overflowing With Comedy, Not Much Else

The-Secret-Life-of-Pets-movie review

In 2016, we’ve had four animated family films about anthropomorphic animals going on wacky adventures (Norm of the North, Zootopia, Angry Birds, Finding Dory). Most of their plots touch on familiar ground. Granted, some did it better than others, and I wouldn’t blame you if you felt fatigued by now, wishing another studio could bring something fresh to the table. While I can’t say that The Secret Life of Pets reinvents the wheel, radically veers off the trodden path, or reaches some heightened transcendency, it works hard to make you and your family laugh — and with likable, colorful characters, it succeeds.

[Continue Reading]

Movie Review — ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ is a Solid Action-Adventure Flick

_B4B2657.dng

Tarzan has long been a household name, bringing up memories of chest beating, vine swinging, and that famous yell that echoes through the jungle. He’s seen his day in old television adaptations and some animated features from Disney, but never in a big budget blockbuster.

[Continue Reading]

Movie Review — ‘Angry Birds’ Will Be Another Forgotten Video Game Adaptation

Angry-Birds-Movie-review

Cinematic history has not looked fondly upon video games adapted to film. Along that road lies dozens of failed attempts to recreate the magic of some of the most classic video games, including Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, and Street Fighter. While some video game adaptations have done better than others, none have passed the test of time. The Angry Birds Movie, I can safely say, will not pass the test of time, but will provide a nice piece of eye candy and a few laughs for you and your family before the next Pixar movie comes along and makes you completely forget this movie existed.

[Continue Reading]

Movie Review — ‘Green Room’ is a Well-Crafted Slasher

green-room02

The days of punk rock have come and gone. The genre is an old memory now, placed on the shelf next to psychedelic rock and grunge. So, a movie about Neo-Nazis trying to kill punk rockers brings a whole new meaning to the term “punk is dead,” and maybe that is the point in the horror slasher Green Room. While the genre may exist only in our memories, in Green Room it still hits a chord and resonates like a swan song or a desperate plea to hang on to the last remaining nostalgia of punk music.

[Continue Reading]

Movie Review — ‘The Jungle Book’ is a New Disney Classic

the jungle book review

In a cinematic era filled with remakes, reboots, sequels, and endless nostalgia, Disney has fully embraced the trend. Already creating live-action adaptations of its beloved Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty twist in Maleficent, they continue on with the live-action adaptation of their 1967 classic cartoon The Jungle Book.

Of course, much like fire, anytime you tamper with nostalgic properties there’s a good chance you’ll get burned, or worse, burn down the jungle. And it’s one thing to make it through unscathed, but quite another to create a bonfire that warms an entire village. It’s safe to say this movie achieved the latter. Director Jon Favreau’s vision for The Jungle Book not only stayed faithful to the original material, but it improved on it, making it a thrilling, action-packed experience without sacrificing its humorous charm and likability.

[Continue Reading]