The Magnificent Seven – Film Review

Remaking a movie like The Magnificent Seven is a thankless task. Never mind that it is itself a remake – based on Kurosawa’s joyful Seven Samurai, fans of John Sturges’ classic will automatically revolt against any reimagining through fear it will destroy the original’s warmly remembered legacy.

It’s a mindset that Antoine Fuqua’s explosive retread will do little to change. The Training Day-director may have succeeded in crafting a stylish action movie full of slick gun fights and kamikaze set-pieces, but he struggles to find anything fresh to say about the genre he so clearly cherishes.

The set-up remains largely unchanged. A small mining town is at the mercy of greedy capitalist Bartholomew Bogue (played with sleepy menace by Peter Sarsgaard), who is introduced crawling into a church meeting to torment the townsfolk before killing several of the congregation and burning the whole place to the ground. Bereft of options, the locals throw their every last penny into hiring Denzel Washington’s lone lawman and his hastily assembled band of gunslingers to help them fight for their freedom.

It’s obvious from the outset that Fuqua has a deep affection for the genre (he cites memories of watching Steve McQueen movies with his grandma as a source of inspiration). From sweeping shots of horses galloping across dusty plains and cowboys riding over the horizon to the saloon bar brawls and Mexican standoffs, every piece of Western iconography is recreated with a misty-eyed reverence that is actually quite charming.

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That nostalgic cinematography is infused with the boisterous intensity of a modern action flick. The camera charges through a series of smoothly choreographed set-pieces in a style that often recalls Avengers Assemble for the way it glides between heroes as they dispense justice in their own inimitable fashion.

It’s just a pity there’s very little substance beneath the style. Despite an over-stretched build up to the business at hand, the time isn’t used to flesh out any of the main players. Washington and Ethan Hawke get the deepest backstories, as a man seeking revenge and a PTSD-suffering Civil War hero respectively, but neither is explored to satisfaction.

Meanwhile, Chris Pratt’s roguish trickster and Vincent D’Onofrio’s savage preacher offer plenty of comic value without probing any deeper, while Byung-hun Lee’s assassin, Manuel Garcia’s Mexican outlaw and Martin Sensmeier’s ostracised comanche are defined entirely by their killing skills. Crucially, not one of them has an even halfway plausible reason for joining the skirmish.

Having assembled a commendably diverse cast, Fuqua fails to utilise them effectively. Despite offering plenty of potential to explore different nationalities working together for a common cause, their cultural divisions are instead referred to only by a couple of throwaway gags. The script is crying out for some social bite to make it relevant to our times, but Fuqua seems all too satisfied with simply recreating his favourite movie moments.

Thus, when the final showdown arrives in a swirl of bullets and a body count that will leave even Tarrantino shaken, it feels an oddly emotionless affair. The deep connection we should feel with these self-sacrificing heroes just isn’t there. Fuqua has undoubtedly made an entertaining Western – it’s just nowhere near good enough to justify the superlative in its title.

Runtime: 132 mins; Genre: Western; Released: 21 September 2016;

Director: Antoine Fuqua; Writers: Nic Pizzolatto, Richard Wenk;

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio

Henry Cavill to return as Superman in Man of Steel 2 

For those who have yet to see Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice be warned: major spoilers follow.

Though he’s currently presumed dead following the cataclysmic events of Batman V Superman, it’s fairly obvious the DC Universe has not seen the last of Henry Cavill’s Superman. The Man of Steel will be seen in the upcoming Justice League movies and Cavill’s new manager has just confirmed he’s also getting a second solo movie.

Dany Garcia, whose company Garcia Industries recently acquired the Superman actor as one of its talents, talked up Cavill’s future projects and seemingly confirmed a follow-up to 2013’s Man of Steel in an interview with Newsweek.

She said: “Henry has a big appetite. We’ve been in a five-month period of time where he’s re-strategising, acquiring property [ or his production company Promethean], he’s filming [Justice League] now, he’s in development for the Superman standalone… he’s beginning to expand that world. It’s beautifully teed up.

“In a year from now, or two years from now he’s going to be a force globally.”

It’s not yet clear where the potential sequel will fit in DC’s already packed schedule – which includes two Justice League movies, a solo Batman movie (featuring Deathstroke as the villain), and standalone movies for Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg before the end of 2020.

Released in 2013, Man of Steel was something of a disappointment for Warner Bros. considering it was intended to relaunch a DC Universe capable of competing with Marvel’s sprawling cinematic and TV products.

The movie was critically mauled for its moody interpretation of the superhero and its seemingly carefree attitude towards wide-scale death and destruction. Still, it did manage to scrape more than $650 million at the box office, which makes a second stab at the character a no brainer.

Cavill has just finished work on Iraq-set war drama Sand Castle and will appear as Superman in Justice League, which arrives on 17 November 2017 – assuming he manages to escape that buried coffin in time.

Woody Allen wrote Miley Cyrus’ Crisis in Six Scenes role especially for her

As excitement builds around Woody Allen’s first original TV series Crisis in Six Scenes, perhaps the biggest surprise that awaits is the collaboration between the veteran filmmaker and teen-star-turned-pop-rebel Miley Cyrus.

The 23-year-old stars in the Amazon series as an orange-pilfering hippie who arrives in the home of Allen’s Sidney Muntzinger looking to burst his conservative suburban bubble by sparking ideas of revolution among his family.

Apparently, Allen wrote the role with the Wrecking Ball-singer in mind after become enamoured with Cyrus’ talents when watching her former Disney show Hannah Montana.

He told The Hollywood Reporter: “I noticed years ago that my kids would be watching Hannah Montana and I would say, ‘Who is that girl? She’s got such a good delivery. You know, she snaps those lines off so well.’ The show is a silly little show, bust she’s very good at what she does.”

Cyrus, for her part, admitted she didn’t have to delve too deep into research for the role as her character shares many of her traits and is living through a very similar time in American politics.

She told Today: “It’s very parallel to what life is right now. I’m a female revolutionary character in the Sixties, but I feel like people, when they work with Woody, I think they wanna hear you had to dig deep into this character and I didn’t because it was kind of written for me. I mean, he said that he kinda had me in mind when he was writing this, because it’s the same kind of politics that we’re dealing with now.

“It was very strange to be watching current news and also reflecting so much on the past at the same time, because there’s so many rallies and things going on in America at the time I was filming, so it was really incredible.”

Crisis in Six Scenes also stars Elaine May and lands on Amazon Prime on 30 September.

Another major character is returning to The Simpsons

Remember a couple of years ago when The Simpsons’ executive producer Al Jean set virtual tongues wagging by promising to kill off a major character?

And how infuriating it was when it turned out that ‘major character’ was actually Rabbi Hyman Krustofski, father of Krusty the Clown?

Well, the whole sorry saga just got more annoying because the show has announced they’re brining the stern religious leader back from the dead.

Yes, just like Homer’s mom and Frank Grimes before him, everyone’s favourite barely-memorable cartoon rabbi will appear from beyond the grave in a forthcoming episode.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the character – voiced by comedian Jackie Mason – will appear to his son as a hallucination in festive episode The Nightmare After Krustmas.

Apparently, Krusty gets himself into a spot of bother during his baptism as he attempts to convert to Christianity from Judaism following an incident with his daughter.

As Jean explained: “Krusty is going to die, so his mind flashes to the wackiest thing it can think of which is a Frozen parody, and then he sees his dad and his dad talks to him in this hallucination.

“It’s the last thing Krusty sees before he’s about to die.” Relax, Simpsons fans, that doesn’t mean Krusty is about to bite the dust too.

And it seems Krustofski’s spiritual resurrection has been in the pipeline all along, with Jean commenting after the characters supposed death in 2014: “We told [Jackie Mason] that didn’t mean the end of his part in the show. He could certainly come back as a memory of Krusty.”

What are the odds that we could see Maude Flanders walking around Springfield again before too long?

Mary Elizabeth Winstead joins Fargo series 3

The starry ensemble for the third instalment of Fargo (which changes its cast each year, along with a new time period and storyline) continues to expand. BrainDead’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the latest to sign on for the new season.

According to Deadline, she’ll play Nikki Swango, a crafty and alluring parolee with a passion for competitive bridge playing. She certainly sounds like a tricky customer, being described as a woman “focused on always being at least one move ahead of her opponents.”

Winstead joins a cast which already boasts such stellar names as Carrie Coon and Ewan McGregor, who is playing twin brothers Emmit and Ray Stussy, who are locked in a battle for supremacy.

Little else is known about what we can expect from the latest run of episodes except that it will be set much closer to the modern day – raising the prospect that characters from previous seasons could return (Allison Tolman’s Molly Solverson, please!).

Previous big names to have been lured to snowy Minnesota by showrunner Noah Hawley’s blend of tense writing and visual inventiveness include Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Kristen Dunst and Patrick Wilson.

Fargo season three is expected to air next year.

Hooten and The Lady – TV Review

Watch out Indiana Jones, there’s a new rogue adventurer in town and he’s coming after your fedora. His name is Hooten (no Mr, please), a reckless American opportunist played by Michael Landes who joins forces with thrill-seeking British Museum employee Lady Alexandra (Ophelia Lovibond) to travel the globe in search of lost treasure in Sky1’s frothy adventure drama Hooten and The Lady.

In last night’s series opener, the treasure-hunting duo are thrown together in their search for El Dorado – the fabled Lost City of Z (or Zee, as Mr Hooten insists on pronouncing it). Naturally, they’re not the only ones looking to get their hands on the gold, with unscrupulous explorers and grumpy tribespeople (not the most politically correct depiction, it must be said) lurking behind every tree hoping to steal the treasure for themselves.

Though set in the present day, there’s something unquestionably antiquated about Tony Jordan’s (Hustle) latest drama (a posh Brit teaming up with a rogue American, crumpled treasure maps found in caves, jokes at the expense of the French) which lapses into cliché a little too often for my taste.

But while genuine surprises are harder to come by then a mobile signal in the middle of the Amazon, the central pairing spark off each other well and there’s plenty of exotic locations and brisk, borderline-slapstick high jinks to offer an evening of comfy entertainment. It’s perfect viewing for those Friday night’s spent curled up on the sofa.

Fifty Shades Darker trailer smashes Star Wars: The Force Awakens YouTube record

The Fifty Shades Darker trailer has smashed Star Wars: The Force Awakens record for most YouTube views in its first 24 hours.

The steamy new trailer for the next instalment of the Fifty Shades franchise has racked up 114 million views since its release on Wednesday, according to Universal.

That puts it way ahead of the long-awaited return of George Lucas’ sci-fi saga, which clocked up 112 million views in its first 24 hours.

The sequel to last year’s Fifty Shades of Grey finds Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) back in the clutches of Jamie Dornan’s Christian Grey after the events of the first movie.

Only now, she’s the one setting all the rules, but things become complicated when Ana crosses paths with Christian’s ex Elena, played by Kim Basinger, who first introduced the smooth billionaire to all that BDSM naughtiness.

As with the first film, Fifty Shades Darker arrives in time for Valentine’s Day, hitting screens on February 10 next year.

The final film in the trilogy, Fifty Shades Freed, which was filmed back to back with Darker, arrives a year later on February 9.