Friday, January 13, 2017

January 2017

Silver's one year birthday is coming up in just a week.  Wow!  How time flies.  He's doing well, about 55 lbs. now.  He makes me laugh all the time, he's such a big silly dork.  He has started howling occasionally if all the neighborhood dogs are set off by sirens or something and he's outside, except my boy sounds like it's the first time he's ever used his voice or he's got laryngitis!  He has the hoarsest, most unused-sounding voice ever.  It is the funniest thing you've ever heard.  He's starting to blow his coat, so there is white fur going everywhere right now.  Just normal life with a Husky!


Thursday, January 05, 2017

Rogue One (2016)

On New Year's Day, my sister and I celebrated the arrival of the new year with our traditional double feature at the theater. This year, it wasn't hard to choose which movies we wanted to see:  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One.  It was my fourth viewing of each of them, so that kind of tells you how much I love these two movies.  They are my favorite movies released in 2016, and it's hard to choose between them (though Rogue One slightly edges Fantastic Beasts out for my number one spot).  And I haven't reviewed either of them here, yet.  Shame on me.  So, here goes with Rogue One.

Wow, I loved this movie.  I can't say that strongly enough.  Didn't expect to, because once again, I liked only parts of the trailer (ie: AT-ATs on the beach, holy smoke amazing).  But, turned out I was worried for nothing because the parts I didn't like in the trailer weren't actually in the movie.  Yay!


But yeah, I loved this movie.  It will probably end up being my favorite of all the Star Wars films, but we'll see where it settles.

*Spoilers follow!!*

What do I love?  In particular?  Besides all of it?  LOL!

The characters.  I love these people so much!  All of them.  My family made the mistake of re-watching Force Awakens last week.  Now don't get me wrong.  I still love Force Awakens, but we found it unexpectedly awkward to view after Rogue One.  The characters in Force Awakens are all on learning curves, and Rey and Finn are so young, still growing, still figuring out who they are.  Whereas the characters in Rogue One know who they are, they're all mature.  It's a very different type of movie, and as much as I still love the Force Awakens characters, I couldn't help but gravitate to the new ones more.

Bodhi, the defecting Imperial pilot is great.  I love all his scenes, love his energy.  My favorite moment of his is when he explains to Jyn what Galen told him about being brave and how he could make things right.

Galen Erso - Mads Mikkelsen is perfect in this role, love him so much as Galen.  And Jyn - just love her too.  Great lead for this movie, and she beautifully binds everything and everyone together.  I admire her immensely.


Chirrut and Baze... 2016 had some great best friend pairings, something I always appreciate in a movie.  I don't know if I like these two or Goodnight Robicheaux and Billy Rocks (from Magnificent Seven) better.  They're very similar friendships, with similar ends.  I love their dynamic, love their dialogue, how Baze always looks out for his friend. "I don't need luck.  I have you!"


K-2SO - the scene stealer!   Best droid ever.  Funniest dialogue and actions.  "Did you know that wasn't me??"  (My nephew does a perfect imitation of him doing the "whole system goes down" part that just cracks us up, and we have these silly faux-arguments about who gets to have K-2 as their partner, cuz everyone wants him around.)  His death is one of the saddest in the movie.

Which brings me to the two most important characters to me.... Cassian Andor and Director Krennic.

Cassian - A movie always works best for me when there's a "me" character, and holy smoke.  Cassian is the most "me" character in all of the Star Wars movies.  As much as I loved the original trilogy, as influential as it was on me growing up... I never actually related to anyone.  I loved Han the most... but I wasn't anything like him.  He's far too reckless and doesn't think before he acts half the time.  (This is part of why Raiders of the Lost Ark was so important to me when it came out, and why I still go by Indy as a nickname, cuz it gave me "my" Harrison Ford character that Star Wars hadn't provided.)  When the prequels came out, young Obi-Wan came closer.  And then Poe Dameron came closer still... but he's far too trusting and enthusiastic for me to fully relate to him.

Cassian, on the other hand, in his very first scene in this movie, I leaned over to my sister on our first viewing of the film and said, "oh man, he's me!"  So, I finally have my Star Wars character match.  I love Cassian, and I feel him so much.  I love all the things Diego Luna does to bring the role to life, how much he conveys about what his character is feeling/thinking with just a look. I love Chirrut's comment about how he carries his prison around with him.  I love his practicality, and his bitterness, and his hope, determination, and faith despite those things.  I love how he's always thinking.


And then there's Krennic - I have a new favorite bad guy!  Oh man, do I love Krennic.  He's got everything going on that I love in my bad guys.  My favorite bad guys are always the hands-on sort, the ones not afraid to get their hands dirty.  That's Krennic.  He's always doing things himself that he could just send someone else to do.  He fetches Galen back in person in the beginning, when he really doesn't have to.  Could have just sent his death troopers.  (And how cool is it that the guy has his own personal private squad of the baddest storm troopers ever, all loyal and taking orders just from him???)  He goes to confront Galen personally again after he finds out Galen betrayed him.  When he finds out someone's accessing the archives on Scarif during the attack, he goes himself, and takes out Cassian.  He has no problems holding his own in a physical confrontation. He's also the only Imperial Officer I've ever seen who goes armed.  No one else (that I recall) ever sported a blaster at his side at all times, and I love it!  He's also confident and stands up for what is his, even when he's being railroaded by Tarkin.  He even has the nerve to tell Vader he's got more pressing things to do than respond to the Dark Lord's summons.  Hah.  Vader may intimidate him, but he's still not afraid to mouth off a bit.  Nearly pays for it too, LOL.  And we can't forget that this guy actually got the Death Star built.  No one else.  Krennic did that.  Dude, hats off to you cuz that's a huge accomplishment.  (And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the great uniform and snazzy cape that he totally owns as he strides around.)

(I just might now have a huge crush on Ben Mendelsohn.)

The first time I saw this, the movie really came together for me when Rogue One departed Yavin on their mission.  The energy level from that point forward absolutely soared.  That last half was unbelievably awesome.  From the beauty of Scarif, to sneaking in, to the Rebels creating diversions, to the fight on the beaches, to Admiral Raddus showing up and everyone else following, to Blue Leader (love him too!) and his squadron going down to defend the ground troops, to everyone having their moments, to how they're successful but at what cost, to watching that star destroyer sheering downwards towards the shield gate, to the Death Star and the Imperial fleet showing up, and that amazing moment with Jyn and Cassian on the beach, to Vader igniting his light saber in the darkness.  WOW!!!!  I can't say any other Star Wars film affected me as much as the last half of Rogue One.


On my subsequent viewings, the first half became just as important as the second, as I noticed all the details I missed the first time.  I'm particularly fond of all of Krennic/Galen's scenes (naturally), and their whole backstory of which we only get glimpses.  I'd watch this movie just for Krennic and Galen.

This fourth viewing was perfection.  Fourth viewings have that tendency.  You're over your initial expectations and reactions, you've seen it again and processed everything.  The fourth viewing ends up being the most relaxed of the viewings, and at the same time, the most exciting.  It flew by.  Felt barely an hour long and ended long before I was ready to leave the theater or that world or those characters, while at the same time being just perfect because I wanted more.  One should always want more.

So, that was rather a messy and rather personal review, but there you have it.  Rogue One rocked my world.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

And now Debbie Reynolds

My heart grieves so much for their family.  Crying all over again.  She was also an important figure in my early life, in a different way from her daughter but right now, I just don't even know what to say or how to express that.  Rest in peace, Debbie Reynolds.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

R.I.P. Carrie Fisher

Crying as I write this.  I knew it was coming after the news of her heart attack before Christmas, but knowing that, anticipating that finality, somehow didn't lessen the blow of truly losing her.  I've talked before about how important and life-impacting Star Wars was to me (and my family) in 1977, and how the universe and films continued to shape and fill my life after that.  Princess Leia has been a huge part of that.  If anything, I loved her more in Force Awakens than I had in the original trilogy.  I'd follow Princess Leia into any battle for the Rebellion, anywhere, anytime.  As Max Von Sydow's character said in Force Awakens, "To me, she's royalty."

This is a very sad day.

Rest in Peace.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas to all.  May you stay warm and safe today, and celebrate the holiday with your loved ones.




Saturday, December 10, 2016

Rio Lobo (1970)

 

While I grew up with John Wayne Westerns, we only had a handful that we watched all the time:  The Comancheros, The Sons of Katie Elder, Big Jake, The Alamo, The Horse Soldiers, and Rio Lobo were the main six.  There were others, of course, but they were watched infrequently compared to these. 

Since I was young and non-discerning, I loved Rio Lobo pretty much unreservedly back then.  (Okay, let's be honest.  Mostly, I had a huge crush on Jorge Rivero, I was heartily amused by Jack Elam, and I loved the Jerry Goldsmith score. Nothing else mattered past those three things.)  Then I grew up.  Sigh.  Then I discovered Rio Lobo is really a mixed bag.  When it's good, it's good, when it's bad, it's really bad.


Let's get the bad out of the way:  Jennifer O'Neill as Shasta.  Egads.  She single-handedly drags every scene she's in down to sheer fingers-on-chalkboard awfulness.  Shasta ranks as one of the worst movie characters ever, and I just cringe every time she opens her mouth.  She's supposed to be an I-can-take-care-of-myself character, but she just sounds horribly whiny throughout.  Now, O'Neill sure was pretty, but she can't act worth a bean at this very early stage in her career (I haven't really seen anything of hers when she's older, so I'm optimistically assuming that she improved with experience).  Sherry Lansing as Amelita is not really any better.  Susana Dosamantes as Maria is the only one of the ladies in this movie I don't mind. She fits into the movie as Tuscarora's girlfriend, and she never stands out as blatantly out of place.


If Shasta and Amelita were actually important to the plot, I might feel differently.  But if they vanished from the movie, the plot would be the same.  No, it would be way better.  One hates to say that about female characters, but these pretty much have no bearing on anything except to look pretty.

What is the plot?  The first half hour of the movie takes place during the end of the Civil War.  A band of Confederates has been stealing gold payroll shipments from the Yankees.  They clearly have inside information telling them when and where, and John Wayne, as Colonel Cord McNally, is trying to find out who on his side is selling the information to the South.  As the war is still going, the Confederates won't tell him anything, but once the war ends, Capt. Pierre Cordona (Jorge Rivero) and Tuscarora (Chris Mitchum) freely tell McNally what he wants to know, although they don't actually know the identity of the traitor.


The movie then shifts from the war to Texas and becomes a straight Western.  Cordona and McNally head to Rio Lobo to help Tuscarora and his father (a scene-stealing Jack Elam) from some nasty fellows who have taken over the town and are buying up all the land thereabouts for a quarter of what any of its worth.  The head bad guy is revealed to be the traitor McNally's been seeking, which ties the segments together.  There's a showdown, prisoner exchange, bad guys are killed, everything is set right, the end.

The plot is nothing new, and this movie is actually Howard Hawks' second remake of Rio Bravo!  (El Dorado is the other one.)  Perhaps this is why the best part of Rio Lobo is the first thirty five minutes, because it's nothing like the other two movies.

That beginning has always been the best part of the movie.  The spectacular, clever train robbery, McNally chasing after the thieves, getting captured, leading them into a trap...  None of the stuff that drags this movie down (*cough* Shasta *cough*) have shown up yet.  We're introduced to Capt. Cordona and Tuscarora, and I always loved how respectfully both sides treat each other.  Their friendship in the rest of the movie begins here, with that respect for each other as soldiers.  McNally's even willing to let Cordona and Tuscarora go if they give him the name of the traitor, but he also understands when they won't.  I love how he immediately comes to see them after the war ends, buys them a drink, and gives Tuscarora money enough to get home.


What else is good?  Any time Jack Elam is around.  He is flat-out hilarious and gets all the great dialogue.  He and John Wayne play off each other like the pros they are, and with a great deal of enthusiasm and fun. Whenever they're together, it is both delightful, and, unfortunately, you also realize how bad everyone else is.  This was the first thing I saw Mr. Elam in, so I still always think of him as a good guy, even though he's really played some very nasty characters in his time.


And I love the Jerry Goldsmith score, of course.  As usual with him, the quality of the music far exceeds the movie.  This was a score I loved so much I taped the music cues I liked off television so I could listen to them in my walkman.  Music for me is so critical to whether I like a movie and want to revisit it, that this score alone elevates this movie far above many other technically better movies.



I'm also quite fond of Chris Mitchum, mostly because I love him in Big Jake.  He always seems such a good-natured young fellow in these two movies.  Victor French as traitor Ketchum/Sgt. Major Gorman cracks me up.  He's so panicky and worried after he gets captured.  And Mike Henry as Hendricks (the real bad guy of the movie) is average but suitably nasty for the role.



And then there's Jorge Rivero.  My adult self realizes he's not great in this either, but neither is he a train wreck like O'Neill.  I remember reading ages ago that he spoke little English when he made this, so his weak dialogue delivery might just be due to not understanding the language well enough.  My younger self didn't care at all that he wasn't great.  She just really liked the handsome, broad-shouldered, athletic, half Mexican/half French character of Captain Pierre Cordona.  ("Yeah, well which half was kneeling and which half was kissing her hand?")  My favorite scene in the movie is still when he gets captured on the road.


Re-watching this film as an adult, though, I find I mostly appreciate John Wayne.  He's got the sheer power, charisma, and professionalism to carry a movie filled with not-so-great actors.  He's the true highlight of this movie because he doesn't act like he's in a lesser movie that's beneath him.  He doesn't phone it in.  You can't tell he's not in the best health.  He just gives it his all, as he's always done.  He plays McNally honestly and with strength and humor and dignity, even when he has to share scenes with Jennifer O'Neill.  And I love John Wayne for that.  And watching a lesser movie like this one with John Wayne is still far more enjoyable to me than watching many other better films that don't have him in it.


In conclusion, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this movie.  However, if you asked me on any random night if I wanted to watch Rio Bravo, El Dorado, or Rio Lobo, I'm afraid I'd still have to pick Rio Lobo over its two superior predecessors.  I've seen Rio Lobo so many times, it's become a bit of a comfort movie for me.  This movie was such an influential part of my youth, and so I will always have a fond place for it in my heart (besides, nowadays we have fast-forward buttons and I can skip through the worst of Jennifer O'Neill).  Plus, I'm afraid Goldsmith trumps Dimitri Tiomkin and Nelson Riddle, and I'll pick the movie with my favorite music every single time.


This post is an entry in Hamlette and Quiggy's John Wayne Blogathon.  Head on over to either page for a list of participating blogs and what topic/movies are being covered.  Hamlette is also hosting a giveaway!  Thanks to them both for hosting and letting me join in the fun!

Friday, December 09, 2016

December 9th birthdays

December 9th has always been one of my favorite days of the year, because it is the day two of my favorite actors -- Kirk Douglas and John Cassavetes -- celebrate their birthdays.  Both actors were so influential on my early life.  And while we sadly lost John Cassavetes a long time ago, Kirk Douglas is still going strong.  Today marks his 100th birthday!  How amazingly awesome is that?  I've been listening to the Lonely are the Brave (Jerry Goldsmith) and The Dirty Dozen (Frank De Vol) scores to celebrate, although it's the theme from Saddle the Wind that keeps popping in my head today.

Happy 100th birthday, Mr. Douglas!




Friday, November 25, 2016

A period drama tag

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Hope you all had a good time with loved ones and great food.

Hamlette tagged me for this one


1.  What's your favorite period drama movie?
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).


2.  What's your favorite period drama series?
Mini-series?  Or television?  If mini-series, Shogun still wins hands down.  If television, then I'm going with Lonesome Dove: the Outlaw Years.  Love the characters oh so much, and some of those eps were so darned well-written.

3.  Which period drama do you dislike the most?
Hm.  I have no idea.  Okay, how about the 3:10 to Yuma 2007 remake.  I loathed that movie.

4. Anne of Green Gables or Little Dorrit?
I have not seen either, so neither.

5. Your favorite period drama dresses?
All of Kate Winslet's dresses in Titanic
Deborah Kerr's ballgown in The King and I
Mitzi Gaynor's party dress in South Pacific
 

6. Who's your favorite period drama character? (Okay, pick at least five)
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford)
Wyatt Earp (Kevin Costner in Wyatt Earp)
Victoriano Ramirez (Oscar Isaac in For Greater Glory)
Steve Judd (Joel McCrea in Ride the High Country)
Tom Builder (Rufus Sewell in Pillars of the Earth)
George Stone (Andy Garcia in The Untouchables)

(Come on, Rufus, get with the hat-wearing program!)

7. If you could join a royal ball, which dress would you wear? (pick a period drama dress)
Ann Miller's dress from Easter Parade!  The movie was made in 1948, but was set in 1912, and while maybe not entirely a drama... I'm counting it because I've always wanted this dress.  And we already know it's perfect for dancing in!


8. What's your favorite Jane Austen movie?
Sense and Sensibility (1995)So far, this appears to be the only Jane Austen movie/story I genuinely like the characters in, and I love the actors in this one.

9. Downton Abbey or Call the Midwife?
Have not watched either.

10. Sybil Crawley, Jenny Lee, Emma Woodhousee, or Marian of Knighton?
I have no idea who Jenny Lee is, do not like Emma nor that particular version of Marian, and, even though I haven't watched Downton Abbey, since Sybil Crawley is played by Jessica Brown Findlay and I dig her from Winter's Tale, I'm picking her by default!

11. Which couples in a period drama do you like the most?
Indy/Marion (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
John Thornton/Margaret Hale (North & South)
Tristan/Isobel (Legends of the Fall)
The Raisuli/Mrs. Pedecaris (The Wind and the Lion)
Blackthorne/Mariko (Shogun)


12. And last, which period drama villain do you like the most?
Since we got to list more than one favorite character, I'm doing the same here:
Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman, Raiders of the Lost Ark)
Messala (Stephen Boyd, Ben-Hur)
John Fain (Richard Boone, Big Jake)



Sunday, November 06, 2016

November already??

I've been on vacation up in the Eastern Sierra this last week.  Other than the fact that I was beset by a stomach bug, it was a great trip.  I got to take Silver with me this time, and that made it super fun.  There's nothing quite like introducing your dog to some new country that he was born for.   Not to mention, hiking at high altitude helps wear him out. :-D  His favorite parts were the meadow trail at the back end of Convict Lake, any time he could splash in any lake or stream, playing in (and eating) snow, and meeting a couple of horses.  My favorite parts were all the hiking, spending time with my parents and my dog, ignoring the internet.

Silver was extremely well-behaved at my parents' house, so they're fine with me bringing him any time I come up.  That is great news for me as I can now visit them more often.

Only bad part is vacation is now over, and it's back to work tomorrow.  Not to mention, it was in the 80's here yesterday when I got home.  Ugh.  I miss the cold weather.

The Sierra above South Lake.
Silver discovers snow.
Silver waiting for his new buddies.
These horses weren't interested in me at all, they just wanted to say hi to Silver.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Desert Island Questions

So, here are my answers to Kate Gabrielle's desert island themed questions, (originally from a Liebster award post). These were so much fun I couldn't resist answering them!

[Source]
1. If you were stuck on a desert island with one actor, who would you pick?
Hugh Jackman.  I actually cycled through quite a few actors in my head before settling in on Mr. Jackman, because he seems to be the exactly the kind of personality I'd want with me if stuck on an island. 

2. If you were stuck on a desert island with one actress, who would you pick? (Note - this is not necessarily your favorite actor/actress, but someone you'd want to spend months, years, possibly the rest of your life eating coconuts and building sandcastles with)
Barbara Stanwyck, because she's smart, resourceful, and I'd never tire of talking with her. 

3. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only watch one movie on repeat for the rest of your life, which would you pick?

Aliens (1986) or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).  Either one.  Wouldn't matter.  They're two of the few movies that do not require me to be in a specific mood to watch them, and they never get old, and most importantly, they aren't worn out.

4. If you were stuck on a desert island with any movie character, who would you pick?
Alan Grant, from Jurassic Park.


5. If you could watch a movie with any two actors/actresses stuck on a desert island together, who would you pick? If you've got some free time, elaborate a bit on the plot!
I'm not fond of survival-themed movies, in fact they rank up with horror and mysteries as my least favorite genres.  So this would have to be a desert island movie with a different type of plot.  Since this is me, it's going to have to be action/adventure oriented.  And I'd make it fantasy or sci-fi, because who wants the real world?  Let's go with fantasy, cuz then there can be magic and treasure and maybe a dragon and a volcano, of course.  There must be a volcano.  And... and... and...

Okay, really, I got nothing.  Seriously.  I've been stuck on this One Question for like FOUR months now, because I can't come up with a darn thing.  My brain goes to Hell in the Pacific, or Mysterious Island (bring on the giant bees!) or the Crusoe television series (which, do I file on the shelf under my Sean Bean DVDs or my Sam Neill DVDs??  This is a problem, people, a problem! (though, in case you were wondering, it's in the Sam Neill section, because he has the bigger role in the show, and my heart will always belong to him first, but that doesn't mean it still wasn't a problem!))...


And... where was I?  Oh yeah, I keep thinking of desert island movies already made and my brain gets stuck there. 

So, I'm completely cheating on this one and stealing my sister's answer. (I tend to always ask her these type tag questions while she's out and about to keep her (and me) entertained.)  She said she wanted to see a movie with Gary Sinise and William Shatner on a desert island, and I think that's a blooming brilliant combo.  I'd pay real money to see that. 

6. Who is the last actor you would ever want to be stuck on a desert island with (cough, Tyrone Power, cough)? The utterly, teeth-gratingly annoying Big Bang Theory guy who plays Sheldon.  I don't even remember his name and can't be arsed to look it up.  The way he talks, I wouldn't survive one hour with him, let alone indefinitely.

7. You're stuck on a desert island with Edmund O'Brien. What actor shows up in a giant pirate ship to whisk you away to safety and/or a life of adventure on the high seas?
Richard Armitage!  (Of course, I wouldn't necessarily mind being stuck on an island with Edmund O'Brien, either.  There are far worse fates, see question 6... LOL.)

8. If you were stuck on a desert island with a movie cook, who would you choose -- Felix from Christmas in Connecticut or Mildred from Mildred Pierce? Who would make the most out of all the coconuts and tree bark?
Felix, most definitely.  Felix is amazing and wonderful and sweet.

9. If you were stuck on a desert island with me, what movie would you force me to watch? I can't get away! I can't escape! I HAVE TO WATCH IT!
Hm. I would have picked Kiss Me Deadly, but Millie took care of that for me! So I'm going to say that Alain Delon movie you posted about, cuz I really want to see it and you could share it with me. (Really, this is just an excuse to re-post this picture...)


10. You're on a life raft with Herbert Marshall, Joel McCrea and Laraine Day but your weight is sinking the raft. Do you: a) sacrifice yourself to save these three amazing actors or b) push one of them into the water. If you chose b, who did you push and why?!
I don't see why we can't alternate who's in the water so we can all hang on a little longer.  At least until the sharks come.  Well, then... I guess it's just farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies.

11. If you could choose any movie animal to be stuck on an island with, who would you pick? Some ideas -- Asta, Lassie, Pongo, Perdita, The Pie, Cat (from Breakfast at Tiffany's)

Pascal, from Tangled.  Mostly because I wouldn't have to worry about feeding him like I would a dog or larger animal. Having to worry that an animal might starve to death would be unbearable. There are lots of insects on an island so no worries about him, and Pascal is smarter than he looks.


So, there you have it.  Much delayed, much thought about... but finally posted.  Please feel free to grab these questions and post your own answers, as I'd love to see some what other people pick!  Hamlette's answers are over here, if you'd like to read some more fun answers about with desert islands and movies!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October update

In just a few days, Silver will be 9 months old.  Man, where did time go??  He's nearing 50 lbs now and still has some growing to do.  We walk about 4 miles a day, closer to 6 on the weekends when I've got more time, and he still has energy left over.  Of course, that's the nature of owning a Husky.  They are high-energy dogs and if you don't want them wrecking your home out of boredom, you wear them out.  Or wear yourself out, as the case may be.  LOL!

He is really good most of the time.  He's gotten into mischief only a couple times when I've left him alone for more than a few hours.  We'll see how he does this Saturday, as it's time for the Met's HD broadcast of Don Giovanni, with my favorite baritone, Simon Keenlyside.  Not missing that!  Don Giovanni ain't short, particularly with the drive to the theater on either side.  I plan on taking him hiking first thing in the morning, see if he just zonks out peacefully for those hours.

He still wants to be a lapdog if given a chance.
Beautifully fluffy and clean after his first professional grooming.
At our favorite lake where we go on weekends to hike.  He splashes through the water, eats lake weed, and generally has a rip-roaring good time.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Hamlette’s been bugging me to post this, though I’m not sure why, when you could go read Millie’s review!  Seriously, go read her review if you want a far better summary, and one that gives a really neat comparison to the original.


Anyway, for my viewing, I was pleasantly surprised and came out of the movie theater liking it a lot, and also looking for my horse so I could go ride off and fight bad guys.  I drove home a little faster than necessary, cornering a bit swiftly... and that is ALWAYS a good sign that I enjoyed an action movie.  An action movie that doesn't rev me up is a failure in my book.  This one succeeded.

You can probably chalk this enjoyment up to a couple important things.  One -- I had very low expectations going in, and, as I’ve long since learned, my expectations will totally dominate my first viewing.  (Which is why I like to see things twice.)  If I go in with high expectations, odds are I’ll be disappointed.  If I go in expecting the worst, I’ll usually come out liking it.  And I hated the trailer for this movie.  I only ever saw one trailer, and it had some sort of rock music over it, and it was miserable.  Nothing about the movie looked good in that trailer.  I almost didn’t see the movie because of how much I didn’t like that trailer.  I’m glad I ignored that inclination! 

The second very important thing was that I did not spend the movie comparing it to the original while viewing it.  I didn’t even think about the original at all until the crappy tacked on ending with the voice-over that mentioned the word “magnificent.”  Then, I rolled my eyes.  Because what made the original Magnificent Seven characters magnificent was that they went back.  They had no reason to, they could have ridden away, but they didn’t.  They rode back to the village, for no reward, no money, because they wanted to.  Because there are more important things than money.  There’s nothing like that in the new movie.  In the new movie, they’re hired, they fight, they die/live, and it’s over.  They’re still under hire in that final fight, they never leave and come back.  And that fact keeps the original safely intact in its greatness.

However, taken on its own merits, as a movie about seven guys hired to help a town against the psycho who runs the town, this movie was a lot of fun.  The movie flew by and was over before I was ready to leave that world.  I got swept up in the characters and their issues, and my mind just didn't stray to the old movie.

What worked the best for me here was the characters.  I was surprised how much I liked all of them.  When Chris Pratt is playing my least favorite of the seven, that’s saying something.  (Although, honestly, I think I love the concept of Chris Pratt, more than the actuality of him, if that makes any sense whatsoever.  Or perhaps, I simply like the actor more than his characters.  He seems so nice, and he’s so cute and likeable and cool, and I keep thinking that, therefore, I will like him in his movies, but for some unknown reason I haven’t really bonded with him in anything I’ve seen him in.  Jurassic World came closest, except the velociraptors stole the movie, and so... not so much.  I mean the dinosaurs did not steal the original movie from Sam Neill, and they were amazing, so I apparently just have a disconnect with Chris Pratt.  On the other hand, Blue and her compadres are so awesome, they might very well have stolen the movie from anyone they played with, so it may just have been Pratt’s luck to be stuck with scene-stealing dinosaurs).


But the characters here are all distinct and all fun.  I liked them all.  Denzel... well Denzel is Denzel and can do no wrong.  His Chisolm hits all the notes I wanted the leader of this group to hit.  I'd hire him if I needed help, that's for sure.  Ethan Hawke and Byung-hun Lee kill it as unlikely but awesome friends.  They are amazing (separately and together), and every minute they were on screen was a joy.  Vincent D’Onofrio is amusing and unexpectedly sweet as Jack Horne.  Martin Sensmeier doesn’t have much to do, but Red Harvest was still intriguing and had more personality than some characters I’ve seen in movies who had a lot more dialogue.  Chris Pratt’s Faraday was funny and likeable, even if I didn't bond with him.  And my favorite character was Vasquez, played by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo.  Loved him muchly, and you can believe I’ll be looking out for his next movies.

And when there are characters I love that much, not much else matters, and anything else is bonus.  Like the scenery, which avoided the typical dry arid look of so many Westerns and gave this movie a unique location that I really appreciated.  (It was filmed in Baton Rouge, I understand.)  I love seeing greens in Westerns, and not just varying shades of brown.

I was worried from the trailer that it was simply trying to be bigger and badder than the original for the sake of outdoing it alone, but that wasn’t how it played out at all.  The bad guy they set up in this movie (Peter Sarsgaard) WOULD hire an army.  He would bring a gatling gun.  I had none of the plot issues I expected to have extrapolating off what that crappy trailer had showed me.  (I used to love trailers, but more and more these days, trailers are undercutting movies for me, not supporting them.  I think I may just start ignoring them entirely before they give me a rash.)

As for the score, most of it is surprisingly dreary and unmemorable with a few bursts of melody and energy and scattered Horner moments.  And that is just unfortunate.  Horner himself composed some dreary music, (I’m thinking of last half of Beautiful Mind album), BUT it’s still emotional, it’s still got its melodies, it’s still got that gutpunch factor he brought to his music with such ease.  This score has moments that give you a glimpse of what it might have been, then it falls back on more atmospheric blandness.  It works far better in the movie than it does listening to it on its own, and to its credit, I've heard far worse scores than this one.  This one just comes with a set of expectations that were impossible for me to suppress.  I still bought the album, and I've listened to it quite a bit, as it is good writing music (where bland and atmospheric isn’t a detriment), but I wish... oh how I wish.  I do hope someday that they release the supposedly seven completed pieces of music Horner composed for this before he died, just as he wrote them, not re-worked to fit the actual movie.  That I would like to hear. 

So, here’s the scoop for me:  this film, taken on its own merits, ignoring what came before, is a violent but entertaining movie.  I appreciated that this movie was PG-13, as well, as that meant it didn't get too gory, despite the body count.  And because there aren’t enough Westerns in the world right now and I want more, I fully support any one that manages to entertain me this much.  I will buy it when it comes out on DVD.