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2008 Film Reviews: Not Such a Good Week, That Was
To clarify: these are films I watched in 2008, not necessarily films released in 2008. I'm just catching up.

Could not finish. Just too tedious and, um, something, by which i mean I must have missed the deeper underlying philosophical meaning. Plus, the cool captain dude, not being a white guy, was clearly doomed from the start to an early death (he is the same actor who played the lead in the seriously excellent film Twilight Samurai, which I highly recommend). Spot the actor also notes Michelle Yeoh and Cliff Curtis, plus a bunch of people I did not recognize.

Pride and Prejudice:
The Keira Knightley/Matthrew McFadden version. I dunno. There were some lovely visual images, and moments of emotional resonance, so in a way I think it was a good attempt at an updating for the 21st century sensibility (whatever that is), but in the end the changes they introduced did not work for me.

The Magnificent Seven:
I saw this film many many years ago, and mostly recalled Yul Brynner because, you know, Yul Brynner was one hot dude back in the day. A couple of years ago I finally purchased my very own copy of Seven Samurai--one of my three favorite films ever--so we could watch and re-watch it with the children. This we did. Seven Samurai is a masterpiece of story telling, narrative drive, scene construction and rhythm, and characterization, with bonus prime Toshiro Mifune stripped down to loincloth scene. What's not to love?

Last year I decided it would be interesting to re-watch The Magnificent Seven since it is, as we know, a remake of Seven Samurai only set in Mexico and with American gunslingers in the samurai roles and Mexican campesinos in the Japanese villager roles. Wow, this film did not hold up for me, especially not in contrast with the far superior Seven Samurai. Yul Brynner is fine; I could watch him for hours, srsly. Just walking him walk. Or whatever. But the script ended up containing all the hokiest sentimentality of the era when it was filmed (The Kid ends up staying in the village with the girl he Loves, which is Just As Well because he is an Innocent Soul who will not survive the Cruel Cynical world of Gunslinging; ugh). I suppose the treatment of the campesinos wasn't as awful as it could have been. Honestly, the fight scenes actually sucked. And the quirky personalities of the gunslingers fell flat, and by the end I was just waiting for the people to die already so we could be done. I mean, except Yul. I didn't want him to die because, you know, I had to have someone I could enjoy watching walk (ride) into the sunset. Srsly.

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I completely agree about the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, although I loved the clever moments of realism which I thought added to the production values. For example, there were candles out of alignment in the windows at the Collinses, but not at Rosings. But for all that, I just didn't buy the chemistry between McFadyen and Knightley, and I think without it, the entire story falls apart.

But really, I meant to talk about The Magnificent Seven and Seven Samurai. I was raised on samurai films; my dad lived in Japan for a short time after WWII, and he made sure my brother and I were keenly aware of cultures beyond the edge of the Pacific ocean. When I saw Toshiro Mifune as the sulky, petulant ronin in Seven Samurai I was utterly smitten (and who could blame me at sixteen?) I went on to watch Samurai I, II, and III which chronicles the life of Musashi Miyamoto (of The Book of Five Rings fame), starring Mifune, and other spectacular Kurosawa films (Rashoman being amongst his most brilliant.)

Oddly enough, I didn't see The Magnificent Seven until my younger son was interested in westerns. He loved the film. Absolutely adored it. In fact, he still has the one-sheet framed in his bedroom.

The funny thing is that he hated Seven Samurai which I was so gleeful about sharing. I think he was too young to understand it properly then, but he did take something from it. He's studied Pa Kua bladed weapons and martial arts ever since. Perhaps in another year he'll be ripe for the film again.

Edited at 2009-03-11 03:30 am (UTC)

How was he when he saw Seven Samurai?

He was ten and our older son fourteen when we saw the films. I hadn't realized then, but it was his first black and white film (but not the last ... 'Singing in the Rain' is his favorite.) He's now sixteen, and more open to a broader selection than when he was younger.

I suspect that at 10 Seven Samurai is too subtle while Mag7 is just right. By current standards, the violence in Mag7 is pretty tame.

I think you're right, and I tend to think of the western as Seven-Samurai-Lite. It was just right for him at the time; he's since gravitated to more adult films.

I feel exactly the same way about Yul Brynner. The sexiest man that ever lived, imho.

Heheh, tedious is prolly not the word I'd use to describe Sunshine. Tense, depressing, and weird, maybe. It was kinda fun for me to see Cillian Murphy be non-creepy since I'd just seen him in Batman Begins.

Cillian Murphy. What else has he been in?

He was the Scarecrow in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. And he was this creepy-evil dude in Red Eye (which I did not see, but could not escape the previews of for awhile there). He's in a bunch of other stuff I haven't seen or don't remember him in (He was in Cold Mountain, have no memory of him.) I may check out some of the movies he's in with Colm Meany because I heart him.

I also saw him in a completely different, non-creepy role in Watching the Detectives but I only caught bits and pieces of it in our hotel room in Puerto Rico. Totally weird movie with him playing opposite of Lucy Lui.

Sunshine--I thought the first hour was a brilliant SF film, and then it transmogrified into a slasher picture.

P&P--I just couldn't get into this version as much as I tried.

m7--I need to rewatch this soon.

I tried with Sunshine, I really did. I just didn't get it.

Danny Boyle's films seem to break down that way--into two discrete and sometimes very juxtaposed acts. Sunshine does this. 28 Days Later does this. Slumdog Millionaire does this.

I hadn't realized it was by Boyle. Huh. Slumdog Millionaire had all the pacing and craft that Sunshine lacked for me. Hmmm.

I agree with you about Sunshine. I really disliked the way they solved the "mystery" of what happened to the first ship.

The captain in Sunshine: Hiroyuki Sanada. Who is wonderful. This is his second film with Michelle Yeoh, the first being Royal Warriors (1986), which we in this house love deeply. (It's a proper 1980s Hong Kong police and kung fu actioner.)

The new P&P was a tad flat. Knightly is very easy on the eye, but that's not what the story's about. And the chemistry didn't work.
But then the Bride & Prejudice version also didn't work, although I'm not sure if they actually tried :-)

I rembember having seen the Magnificent Seven, but I've never had the urge to rewatch it. Shichinin no samurai is better so why waste my time of lesser fair. And sorry, but Yul doesn't so it for me. And even though I like western, there are better ones (The Good, The Bad and The Munchkin for example)........

Correct that or not?...
Nah. Willpower roll failed.

I couldn't even finish Bride and Prejudice. And it could have been so good! and I loved Bend it like Beckham. Oh well.

I've never seen goodbadmunchkin, which is now how I will think of it!

I watched Bride and Prejudice on tv. whilst behind the Mac.
Bend it Like Beckham is indeed fun.

Goodbadmunchkin is fun. Lee Van Cleef just oozes nastiness in the movie. And Eli Wallach is very shifty and even Clint is good.
By far my favorite western, followed by Once Upon A Time in the West.

Have you seen The Buccaneer? Yul Brynner as Jean LaFitte. YUM.

Is that the one with the beautiful Claire Bloom? YUM, indeed.

Sunshine is one of my favourite sci-fi films ever. The whole thing is an analogue for light and darkness: that is, the way the two are used in the visuals and discussed is really quite beautiful. All the characters who experience epiphany die in light; those ambivalent die in grey; villians die in darkness. Worth finishing.

Wow. I didn't notice that AT ALL. It's really nice to get another perspective on the film.

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