This Week in Geek (3-09/10/16)

Legion of Super-Bloggers buddy Russell Burbage sent me an autographed photo of Lee Meriwether as Losira (and a Valor comic signed by Mark Bright) out of blue. He's like that. I'm eternally grateful to my esteemed Legion leader.


At the movies: The Magnificent Seven remake obviously can't be as iconic as the original, or as powerful as The Seven Samurai was. Diminishing returns and all that. I'm not asking it to be either of those things. The film does well not to be a straight retelling, but simply using the "hired guns defend a peasant village" premise with different characters, several of them memorable, though sadly, the running time can't quite cater to everyone, and in fact, you can almost glimpse deleted scenes in the way they might have paid off late in the film. This cast is extremely diverse, which is a good thing and highlights how the Seven are really misfits, and justifiably on the side of the peasants. Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) provides plenty of action gags, though it gets a bit repetitive towards the end, given how long the final battle is. So while this movie won't revolutionize the western - or perhaps even remain in my memory very long; in fact, I hope to forget the entirely cheesy coda ASAP - it's still a solid entertainment, filled with action, humor and badassery.

DVDs: The Craft is a lot more clever than I would have given it credit based on its precis. It's a high school horror-drama about four teenage witches getting what they want from a powerful spell, then discovering that their bounty comes with a curse. While there are squirmy bugs, it plays like Buffy more than Carrie (and may have been an inspiration for that show, from the looks of it), though in no way does it deserve the R rating it originally got. Behind the pretty faces, 90s soundtrack and occasionally dodgy CG is a film that shows it research into witchcraft, and a nimble way of exposing its themes without pointing them out too obviously. It's the kind of film where watching it several times yields some interesting background gags, for example. If horror isn't your thing, but you want to do the Halloween thing, you could do worse than check out this supernatural coming of age film.

Netflix: The Adderall Diaries is Pamela Romanowsky's adaptation of writer Stephen Elliott's memoir, which is really about how we edit and reconfigure our memories into stories that make sense of our behavior, highlighting the impossibility of proper autobiography. True enough, but the film doesn't really manage to make the many threads of Elliott's life come together to make a point about that theme. At first, you think it's going to be a film created in editing, disjointed but beautiful, Proustian. It doesn't stick with it. The scenes between James Franco's Elliott and his father played by Ed Harris are a highlight and get to the heart of the subject, but the writer's interest in a murder case proves to be something of a red herring, not truly connected to the theme, though I suppose that hardly matters to Elliott's psyche; it's still part of his thought process. A still watchable failure.

Another remake by Antoine Fuqua is The Equalizer, based on the 80s TV show starring Edward Woodward as a former intelligence officer turned vigilante. Denzel Washington takes on the role of Robert McCall, and because this is a movie, he's got to be a little more of an action man than Woodward was (with some kind of high performance OCD), and he's got to take down an entire arm of the Russian mob. That's fine, because the action is frequently sidelined - you often see the aftermath only - in favor of showing McCall's planning abilities and how he can't help but help the downtrodden. This is really an origin story, and I particularly enjoyed the slow-burning first act that just shows his character's random acts of kindness which will eventually ramp up to extreme measures. The harsh violence is far less interesting, and I'll admit to my eyes glazing over during the climax which was a whole lot of people shooting each other in the dark. Entertaining enough, if little more than that.


snell said...

My problem with nuMagnificent 7 is, why go to the Western well again? Seven Samurai & the 1st Mag7 showed that the wonderful premise is easily adaptable between genres, and part of the pleasure of those two films is seeing how the premise plays out in different cultures/settings. So why repeat the Western, except for laziness? Why not try a sci-fi version? Or a "7 mercenaries defend an Afghan village" version? Or...?

Siskoid said...

Great point. I would have loved to see those versions.

Marty said...

After the film i could not stop imagining a ton of different Mag7 settings.

Kung-Fu Mag7
Mad Max Mag7
Assault on Precinct 13 Mag7
Space Bounty Hunters Mag7
Gangs of New-York Mag7
Pirates Mag7

Siskoid said...

Seven is a bit too big for a role-playing group, but that's essentially what a Mag7 movie is - roll some characters, make them cool and different from one another, make them join the party, play through scenario.

Green Luthor said...

There's already a sci-fi version of The Magnificent Seven: the Roger Corman-produced Battle Beyond the Stars, from 1980. Richard Thomas, John Saxon, George Peppard, Sybil Danning, and, in the character equivalent to Robert Vaughn's... Robert Vaughn! I wouldn't go so far as to say it's "good", but I'd at least give it "entertaining". (But then, I also haven't seen it in quite a few years.) Still, if you're looking for another genre adaptation of the Seven Samurai story, it's always there.

There was also an anime called Samurai 7 that was basically sword-wielding samurai protecting a village from bandits with flying fortresses. It's... kind of odd, really. (Toshiro Mifune's Kikuchiyo is now a large robotic armor. Really.) (The series doesn't hide being an adaptation of Seven Samurai; it even includes a "based on the movie by Akira Kurosawa" credit.)

(Also, Marvel's first original Star Wars comic storyline (after adapting the movie) was Han and Chewie doing the Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven thing. That's where they introduced Jaxxon, the Big Green Star Wars Rabbit that George Lucas apparently hated so much he made Marvel stop using him. But Jaxxon is awesome, and Lucas would go on to give us Jar Jar Binks, so, y'know.)

Tony Laplume said...

I think the impetus behind the new Magnificent Seven was two-fold: someone wanted to see a straight version of Tarantino's Django Unchained, and someone else wanted to see the Western version of the Avengers movies. I think that about sums it up.


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