Weekend Movies: By the Numbers

A couple times already, I’ve praised this September for bringing at least one potentially good movie each week. Unfortunately, the streak ends this weekend with a big budget Western that can’t even satisfy on delivering mindless entertainment. Opening alongside it are a CG animated kids’ movie that’s hardly been advertised and Disney’s latest feel-good Oscar bait picture.

Over the last two years, Antoine Fuqua delivered two pretty solid films. In 2014, we saw him return with wonderfully tense and stylized action in ‘The Equalizer‘. In 2015, he gave us the dynamic character-driven boxing movie ‘Southpaw‘. While both films followed pretty standard and predictable formulas, their quality overcame that obstacle. Sadly, his new Western is so bland that its generic nature stays in the forefront.

Fuqua’s ‘The Magnificent Seven‘, which is a remake of a remake, opens with a sequence that sets up a strong conflict in a small town in the New Frontier. With a privately contracted army of murderous goons, the powerful and corrupt owner of a gold mining company (Peter Sarsgaard) has booted all of the locals from their homes in the Wild West town. Enter Denzel Washington, the Danny Ocean of this ensemble movie. With the help of a slick wisecracking gunslinger (Chris Pratt), they compile Ocean’s ElevenThe Magnificent Seven, a team hired to drive Sarsgaard and his men out of town. Each of the seven is a shell of a character based on Western tropes and racial stereotypes. Watch as the movie runs through a checklist of generic sequences, including: cheating at card games, a montage of training locals how to fight, riding into the sunset, etc. The only thing missing from this formulaic garbage is a scene of the townsfolk tossing the payment to the survivors, only to have the Seven toss it back. Although co-starring Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio and Haley Bennett, there’s nothing worthwhile in this subpar summer blockbuster.

Although ‘The Magnificent Seven’ has been rated PG-13, be warned that it contains R-level violence that you may not consider appropriate for teenage kids.

Actually made for kids, Warner Bros. has a new family flick called ‘Storks‘. From the director of the fantastic Pixar short ‘Presto’ (found on the ‘Wall•E‘ Blu-ray) and the director of … ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall‘? … comes the CG animated movie set in a world where storks no longer deliver babies. Instead, they ship ’em. And to fill their time, the stork fleet now delivers expedited packages for an Amazon-like website. When a stork mistakenly activates the archaic baby-making machine, he and a human friend must deliver the baby the old-fashioned way. (Yes, I intentionally wrote that last line as awkwardly as possible.) The voice cast includes Andy Samberg, Kelsey Grammar, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Key & Peele, Danny Trejo and professional voice actor Katie Crown (of ‘Adventure Time‘) as the human friend. The family movies of 2016 have been either massive successes or brutal failures. The big question is which way ‘Storks’ will go.

Disney’s new awards-bait drama comes at us with a platform release that kicks off on 52 screens. ‘The Queen of Katwe‘ tells the story of a young girl from Uganda whose world drastically changes when she discovers the game of chess. Co-starring Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, this feel-good PG film just might be worth a look.

13 comments

    • Bolo

      Same here. I doesn’t look like any kind of revelation, but I’m in the mood for this type of movie and this looks like it has adequate amounts of charisma and bang-bang.

      • Luke Hickman
        Author

        There’s plenty of bang-bang, but there’s absolutely no charisma to it.

        I certainly didn’t expect anything deep or artistic. I wanted to have a good time too – but this thing is even sub-par on a mindless blockbuster level.

        I’m curious to see what you thought of it.

        • EM

          When I saw there was a reply on this page beginning, “There’s plenty of bang-bang…”, I assumed it was about Belladonna of Sadness, below.

          Different kind of bang.

  1. Al

    Couldn’t possibly disagree more strongly, in regards to M7. It’s a lot of fun. Westerns are supposed to be filled with classic western tropes. That’s why they’re called CLASSIC. Some of the best Westerns throughout cinema history have featured racial stereotypes/cardboard cut-out characters. The film is a lot of fun. I encourage everyone to check it out.

  2. EM

    At this moment I’m sitting in an arthouse awaiting a midnight showing of some old, apparently trippy anime called Belladonna of Sadness. Tomorrow evening (not quite so late) I return for the newly remastered Phantasm.

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