Tag: Vincent D’Onofrio

The Magnificent Seven 2016 Review

The Magnificent Seven 2016 Review

Apparently Hollywood was overrun by demands that someone remake The Magnificent Seven. I’m not 100% sure who these people were or if they even exist, but I am certain that it was an odd choice to remake a movie that was already a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece Seven Samurai. However, I’m not consulted about these decisions. Someone at Sony worth far more money and with far more influence than me insisted that it happen, so now we have a new Magnificent Seven for a new generation and it’s pretty “meh” all around.

The Magnificent Seven start off darkly with Peter Sarsgaard’s super evil villain killing random members of a small community and letting them know that he now owns the town and the riches therein. One plucky young local (Haley Bennett) decides she’s not going to stand for that, so she takes collection from every willing member of the town and sets out to find a group of killers-for-hire to stop Sarsgaard in his tracks.

The Magnificent Seven (Movie) Review 4First, she finds Denzel Washington’s bitter gunslinger-for-hire and he decides to sign up as one of the few noble acts in his life. The pair then spot Chris Pratt’s wiseass cowboy and decide he should definitely come aboard to provide one-liners and a killer shooting-eye. The next guy they seek out is Ethan Hawke’s wary old outlaw (and a former partner of Washington both fictionally and in Training Day). He signs on and brings his new partner (Korean superstar Byung-hun Lee) with him. They then find a Mexican outlaw (Manuel Garcia Rulfo) and a vengeful Native American (Martin Sensmeier) in an attempt to break genre-based racial stereotypes that feels half-hearted since they are the least developed characters in The Magnificent Seven. Finally, Vincent D’Onofrio comes on board and since he has so much competition to steal scenes, he adopts a ridiculous squeaky voice to stand out in the crowd.

The set up is easily the best part of this newfangled Magnificent Seven. For the first hour director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen) creates a nice gritty Western vibe and delights in introducing his eccentric gang of antihero misfits. Unfortunately the flick spends too much time luxuriating in set up, so everything else in the flick feels overly rushed. The three biggest stars are the only actors who get much screen time after the team is assembled, with everyone else falling into the background. Granted, Washington, Pratt, and Hawke are all strong screen presences, but the movie feels more like The Magnificent Three after a while and you start to wonder why they even bothered assembling such a large cast beyond fulfilling the requirements of the famous title.
The Magnificent Seven (Movie) Review 5Eventually, the whole thing builds to a massive shoot out that essentially comprises the entire third act of The Magnificent Seven. Fuqua has grown into quite a strong action director over his last few movies like Olympus Has Fallen and The Equalizer, so the sequence packs a punch and it’s nice to see so much physical action with pyrotechnics and explosions in a big ol’ blockbuster again. However, John Woo he ain’t, so after a while the whole thing becomes a bit repetitive and exhausting. There’s only so much shoot-out the brain can take before a movie enters into sensory overload and unfortunately, Fuqua crosses that line and never returns. It gets a bit dull eventually and you’ll find yourself wishing that the movie would just end (Not exactly a thought that should enter your mind during an action-centric climax. There should be no thoughts at that point.).

The Magnificent Seven (Movie) Review 2There’s no denying that the new Magnificent Seven is disappointing. However, it’s impossible to say that the movie is bad. This premise is damn strong, that’s why the remake exists in the first place. Denzel and Pratt replace Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen surprisingly well. The tone is gritty, yet fun. Entertainment value runs high. The cast is great even though many talents feel wasted. Even the overblown finale works for the most part. As far as empty-headed entertainment goes, The Magnificent Seven works just fine. It’s a perfectly entertaining contemporary Western. It’s a shame that this same cast and crew couldn’t have made their own original story, but that’s just the sad reality of contemporary blockbusters. The movie needed the brand to justify its existence and at least the reputation of a Hollywood classic isn’t sullied. In fact, it may even lead some viewers back to the original and then back again to Seven Samurai. Not many folks will do that, yet if even a few kids dip into film history thanks to this decidedly decent Western, then maybe this whole thing was worthwhile.

Jurassic World (Movie) Review 1

Jurassic World (Movie) Review

Not many movies get to have a sequel a full 22 years after the release of the original, but such is the appeal of Jurassic Park. Times may change, but children will always love watching dinosaurs rip humans and theme parks into smithereens. This 4quel has been in the works for what feels like forever. Jurassic Park III might not be fondly remembered, but it made enough money for Universal to crave another trip back to the park for quite some time. After endless debate and development, unexpected action star Chris Pratt was brought on to make this puppy a reality and the results are…well, not that bad actually. Make no mistake, it’s not that good either. Certainly all of the wonderment and enchantment that Steven Spielberg infused into the original is long gone. However, those who crave big stupid CGI monster movie entertainment with a hint of humor at least suggesting that the filmmakers are aware how deeply dumb it all is, then it’s worth the price of a ticket.

jurassicworldinsert3As with all oft-delayed sequels Jurassic World has a variety of plot threads competing for attention left over from the many previous drafts of the script. First there are the kids (this won’t take long), a teen (Nick Robinson) and a tyke (Ty Simpkins) who are sent off to the park by the parents and whom the movie seems to be about initially until they get their big dino attack sequence and they are essentially shoved into the background of the rest of the movie whenever the filmmakers remember themselves, “Oh right! Those kids!” Their aunt (Bryce Dallas Howard) runs the park and in a cheeky bit of in-jokery (there’s lots of that here) she laments the fact that people just aren’t as impressed by the concept of seeing dinosaurs as they were 20 years ago, so she’s got to seek bigger and better ways of pulling interest out of the masses. Her latest project is a genetically spliced up dino called the Indominus Rex, a self-camouflaging mixture of a T-rex and anything else the screenwriters need to get the monster out of jams. The new creature is particularly dangerous, so hopefully it doesn’t escape. That would be awful! (Spoiler: it does).

Howard also has to contend with Vincent D’Onofrio, a jerky secretive dink from corporate office who is working on all sorts of nefarious projects involving weaponizing dinosaurs for the government or something (truthfully, it’s hard to even tell what he’s up to and the filmmakers have some fun mocking that). D’Onofrio has Chris Pratt on the ground helping with the project and Pratt has managed to train velociraptors, which is only mildly less stupid than when Sam Neil learned how to talk to them last time. Pratt also once took Howard out on a disastrous date, so oh boy do they ever hate each other! You know, the kind of hate that could turn to love if they were required to depend on each other to survive in some sort of horrible dinosaur outbreak. Wouldn’t ya know it? That’s exactly what happens! It’s trouble time in dino town again, with dinosaurs causing havoc all over the place. Tons of tourists, scientists, and security officers die in the carnage, but thankfully we’re only required to care about the central semi-family, so it doesn’t matter. Plus to make it even harder to take all of the death seriously, Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus pop up as a pair of geeks monitoring park security between rounds of ratatat banter. As part of the film’s massive nostalgic streak for the original JP, Johnson even wears a vintage Jurassic Park t-shirt from ebay and laments how the original park didn’t need genetically modified dinosaurs to sell their thrills (you know, just like the geeky audiences members in his age range feel about this movie!).

jurassicworldinsert4It definitely seemed odd when Jurassic World ended up assigned to director Colin Trevorrow, a man with only the gentle sci-fi indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed to his name. But once that parade of in-jokes starts, it’s clear he was the man for the job. It’s easy to imagine a po-faced version of this movie that’s infinitely worse, but Trevorrow wisely has characters make mocking comments about all of this sequel’s idiocies and excesses before the audience has a chance. It might not fix those problems, but it certainly makes them easier to swallow. He’s also got a knack for crafting dino-set pieces. Sadly all of it is CGI and some of CGI that looks worse that the animation in the original flick. However, Trevorrow makes up for that lack of quality with heaping loads of quantity. The last hour of the film essentially rockets from one dinosaur action scene to the next, culminating in a massive multi-species battle royale that feels ripped straight from a Godzilla movie. It might get a little tiresome after a while through sheer dino-overload, but there’s no denying that when this movie is cooking, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

jurassicworldinsert1However, like most ginormous summer blockbusters, it’s also as empty and disposable as fast food. Sure, the original Jurassic Park might have made it’s bones off of serving up astounding dino images that audiences didn’t even dream were possible at the time. However, it also served up compelling characters worth following along that journey, a few nuggets of ideas worth thinking about, and a narrative that actually featured pace and rhythm rather than endless sensory assault. Jurassic World offers none of these things, so while it’s fun in the moment, it’s as instantly forgettable after as that The Rock Vs. An Earthquake movie from a couple weeks ago called…um…you know. Even Pratt and Howard (who are genuinely compelling actors) do little beyond sell the scares, stuck in characters with no personality beyond what’s necessary to get to the next action sequence. For all the expensive CG dino action and wink-nudge humor, the flick is ultimately a completely disposable summer time waster with nothing to offer beyond dino-bang-bang. Thankfully, that’s all most people should want from a fourth Jurassic Park movie arriving 22 years after the start of the franchise. So it’ll do just fine.

Netflix's Daredevil (TV) Review 6

Netflix’s Daredevil (TV) Review

Given Marvel’s track record, if there was a serious question about the new Netflix Daredevil series it was whether or not “grim and gritty” would work in the established Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  It does.  This is an MCU with dirt under its nails and a bottle of booze hidden in a desk drawer behind a mess of sleazy secrets.  This squalid patch of the MCU seems far removed from magic hammers, alien invaders, and sentient robots; even if Steve Rogers could ride his Harley over to Hell’s Kitchen from Avengers Tower.
netdaredevilinsert1 Miller’s Daredevil tenure is remembered for both his writing and artwork.  His stories reinvented Daredevil, and mixed influences from pulp fiction, film noir, and Japanese samurai manga.  This series happily uses those iconic elements for the plot, but unlike other films based on Miller’s comics, such as Sin City or 300, it avoids imitating his unique visual style.

Instead, the producers imitated Miller’s eclectic approach to influences, and found their own visual models.  Certain scenes recall familiar crime dramas such as The Godfather, The Sopranos,  Breaking Bad or the Coen Brothers films.  A particularly brutal hallway fight in Episode 2 is an homage to the Korean thriller Oldboy and was shot in a long, continuous take.  This approach allows Daredevil to anchor itself in the best of its comic book roots, while pushing it forward into the new medium of streaming television.

Crime drama hinges on characters, and Daredevil delivers here.  The conflicted Daredevil/Matt Murdock is played by Charlie Cox with an eerie calm and physical presence.  Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson, Murdock’s law partner, provides laughs and a conscientious perspective on the hero’s often morally dubious actions.  Both men prove they are heroes in different ways; yes, lawyers as heroes.  How refreshing!

Vincent D’Onofrio plays Wilson Fisk, better known to comic fans as Kingpin, as a ruthless man-child who struggles to fully embrace his villainy.  Fisk’s arc is very daring writing, and asks the viewers to sympathize with him as he falls in love for the first time, even as he crushes skulls and throws rivals down elevator shafts.  Despite his rages, Fisk believes he’s doing right by the city — maybe breaking a few eggs to make his omelet —  and it isn’t until he is backed in a corner that he recognizes his true role as the embodiment of, as he says , “ill intent.”
netdaredevilinsert5While there is plenty of angsty soul-searching, let’s be honest: this is a show about a blind Irish Catholic ninja lawyer — how are the fights?  Here, Daredevil really shines.  The short lead time in traditional, broadcast television is generally not conducive to filming complex fight scenes.  The Netflix format allowed much better prep and planning during production which resulted in more detailed fights.

Instead of the jerky, handheld camerawork that’s been popular for fight scenes recently, the series mostly opts for wider shots which allow the audience to see the whole fight.  While this kind of visual space was the norm for old school Hong Kong movies, we don’t get the graceful ballet of Kung Fu but the brutality of truly no-holds-barred street fighting.  Each strike and blow has a consequence and the physical toll on Daredevil is part of the story.

Marvel is using Daredevil to break ground on a new corner of the MCU to feature their “street-level” heroes who aren’t thwarting world domination every week.  There’s plenty left for Daredevil and the other heroes to do.  The Daredevil characters are changed by this experience.  Some seek healing, others seek revenge.  Some shady characters remain at large and pursue their own schemes.  If you read comics, you can probably guess the Night Nurse who patches up Daredevil may appear in the upcoming Luke Cage series.  The head of the Chinese Tong drops hints that may entangle her with the Kung Fu fighting hero, Iron Fist.  We only scratch the surface of the Japanese Yakuza’s mysterious agenda.  There is a fleeting reference to a “Greek girl” in Daredevil’s past that is unquestionably meant to be fan favorite, Elektra, a ninja assassin.  These aren’t dangling threads, they are promises to fans.

This is the perfect start to the Marvel/Netflix partnership and I can’t wait for more!

Run All Night (Movie) Review 2

Run All Night (Movie) Review

Liam Neeson has been slaughtering bad guys who mess with his family on the big screen for so long now that it’s almost hard to remember that he used to be a gentle giant character actor who once played Oskar Schindler. Somehow there’s still a little novelty left in that stunt casting, even though the man has officially become the Charles Bronson of the 2000s. We now get multiple films a year of Neeson killing the bulk of the population of a major city and they can’t all be equals. Certainly the recent trainwreck Taken 3 was a disaster, so it’s nice to report that Neeson’s latest blood soaked effort is at least solid dumb fun. Granted it’s a movie that can’t decide whether it wants to be a sincere urban crime drama or a massive Die Hard knock off, but that’s also part of the charm. Sure, you’ll be able to predict the entire plot within minutes, but you’ll never guess which of the scenes you see coming will play out sincerely and which will feel like cartoons.

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Neeson stars as a burned out former mob hitman who now spends his days trying to drink away the guilt of his body count. His childhood buddy and mob boss Ed Harris keeps him around out of loyalty and Harris’ wacko son Boyd Holbrook uses him for work occasionally when he’s not being a raging lunatic. Meanwhile Neeson’s son (Joel Kinnaman aka Robocop from that remake you’ve already forgotten) won’t even speak to his father and is trying to live a straight life while raising a family that’s never met grandpappy Liam. Through a series of convoluted events, Neeson is forced to kill Holbrook to save his son. Harris doesn’t take too kindly to the death of his boy so he uses all his resources to bring down Neeson and Kinnamin. That transforms New York City into a battle ground with Neeson and Kinnamin forced to fight off every Irish mobster and dirty cop in the Tri-state area along with Common as a scarred face cartoon assassin with a Terminator-style laser sight gun (even though the movie doesn’t take place in the 80s). There’s also one honest cop in Vincent D’Onofrio who Neeson hopes to help, but for the most part Liam the master throat-chopper must solve his dilemma by killing everyone in his general vicinity and then a few other dozen people just to be safe.

“Sure, you’ll be able to predict the entire plot within minutes, but you’ll never guess which of the

In the early going. Run All Night plays out surprisingly earnestly as a crime drama with Neeson and Harris going head to head in some well acted sequences that can actually be taken seriously. However, when the camera flies around New York like a music video between scenes, it’s clear that what we’re watching doesn’t even take place in a universe resembling reality. Once the narrative engine finally revs up, we’re in dumb action movie land and director Jaume Collet-Serra treats it all like a gently R-rated Looney Tunes cartoon. It’s the third time that Collet-Serra and Neeson have collaborated after Unknown and the inspired idiocy of Non-Stop and they work quite well together. Collet-Sera is always willing to give Neeson a few sequences to growl intensely and remind us all that he can actually act and then when violence fills the screen the director stages it all with an elastic sense of reality. There are sequences in which Neeson forces a police car to crash and dangles off of the side of a housing project while being shot at by Common that aren’t just entertaining, but almost slapstick in tone. It’s still hard to tell whether or not Collet-Serra makes his movies with his tongue-in-his-cheek or if his projects are so stupid that it only appears that way (he also made the minor trash classic The Orphan, which has to be seen to be believed). Regardless, the director and Neeson make of a hell of a team when it comes to ludicrous pulp.

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With a cast this good there are some acting highlights between the shoot em’ ups. In particular, Neeson, Harris, and D’Onofrio all lend the movie credibility that it doesn’t deserve. No one else is as good as them, but that just adds to the accidental comedy of the messy n’ entertaining movie (although it must be said that Common is pretty bad, though that’s probably more the result of his absurd character than his straight faced portrayal of that absurdity).  By the time Nick Nolte shows up for a cameo looking like a hobo and sounding like a rusty train collapsing, it’s hard not to get swept up in all the silly spectacle. Run All Night might feel like two different movies jammed together, but it flies by with the speed of a single movie so you’ll get plenty of bang for your buck. Whether it’s a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ violent blockbuster is really just a matter of taste. It’s certainly no work of art or even a particularly competent work of drama. However the flick is a hell of a lot of fun if you’re willing to give yourself over to the insanity. At this point, anyone showing up to a Liam Neeson revenge movie knows what to expect and it sure isn’t art. Thankfully, of all the trash he’s slung onto the screen since Taken unexpectedly kicked off a second act of his career, Run All Night easily ranks amongst the top of the Liam Neeson crapheap.