Category Archives: Geek Movie Review

Geek Movie Review: Magnificent Seven (2016)

Just got back from seeing The Magnificent Seven (2016). I enjoyed it a lot, and it’s my favorite western of recent years. That said, I don’t think it’ll be considered a timeless masterpiece.

But I don’t NEED a western to be a timeless masterpiece. That’s too high a bar for me to set for success, and on its own terms I thought this was a solid movie. This general plot is one of my favorite stories, and I am happy to see any competent new take on it, even if it doesn’t surpass the originals.

In my rankings of heptaheroic tales, I place this firmly behind Seven Samurai and Magnificent Seven (1960), but above Battle Beyond the Stars, Samurai 7 (the cyberpunk anime), The Magnificent Seven (1998 tv show), any of the sequels to the 1960 movie, and The Seven Magnificent Gladiators.

Nearly any heptaheroic makes me want to play an RPG, and I suspect that’s because it’s a story of disparate heroes gathering against overwhelming odds to protect the innocent and downtrodden. By killing people. It maps very well to classic RPG tropes and can often be easily supported by a wide range of rpg systems.

It also makes me want to do more stuff with Guns of Tarnation, for the same reason.

In a binary digit-based rating system, I give it a thumbs up.

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Suicide Squad — Not Deadly Boring

Lj and I saw Suicide Squad last night.
Mild spoilers and personal opinions below.
A note on my biases. I was entirely turned off by Man of Steel, and only saw Batman v Superman when it was free on the headrest of the airline seat in front of me… and it was so dull and stupid I nodded off a time or two.
OTOH, the trailers for Suicide Squad looked like fun to me, so I want and saw it.
I enjoyed it a lot. Lj enjoyed it, but not by as much.
It is far from a perfect film. It wants to be the villain version of Avengers, but has even more main characters AND has to introduce them all. It assumes we know who the major DC heroes are, and even some villains, but most of the main characters need enough explanation for us to understand them, and the filmmakers obviously also want us to care about them. That eats into time to actually develop them, and while the more-than-2-hour run time went by quickly, a lot of things felt rushed.
I DID enjoy the arc presented,a nd I thought the actors did great jobs. They were hampered by a script that was uneven in its characterization (more than once characters do something that seems entirely out of character, and while I can tell the movie *thinks* we should know why, any explanation is at best a guess), and motivations and power levels are also inconsistent. Characters prove they are extremely competent, then aren’t, then are again. Threats are stated “If X, then Y!” but logic doesn’t support that claim… and it becomes crucial to the plot.
There are efforts at twists, and about half of them don’t work.
However, there is a lot of good stuff too. I felt the use of modern music to help set the tone and make it feel different from a hero movie with sweeping orchestral scores was brilliant. A few characters came off very well. I can’t help but think if this was the second Suicide Squad movie, a lot of issues with background and characterization would have been solved. As it is, I’m looking forward to the sequel.
Things don’t always go the most obvious direction, which is good (even though the direction they do go is sometimes unsupported). OTOH the movie doesn’t feel like it has to stop and explain every development, and sometimes that works.
It also very much leans on being part of the DCinematic Universe… which I mostly feel works against it instead of for it, though that might be less true in rerun viewing after things like Justice League are out.
There are some problematic elements, the most noteworthy of which is Harley Quinn. She’s a polarizing character, and this portrayal of her tries to walk a tightrope. To me it’s clear there’s a message the movie *wanted* to tell about the abusive relationship she’s in… but that takes a back seat to enjoying sexualizing her and jumping to the action. That’s better than not addressing the issues at all, and it’s not universal in the movie (Amanda Waller, for example, is much more no-nonsense badass than the pin-up version of her we got in both Arrow and the New 52), but I think it’s a fair criticism that the message, if indeed the movie made it, got lost.
On a binary opposable-digit based rating system I give it a thumb’s up, while acknowledging it has issues, and some folks will hate it, and I think a lot of them will hate it for entirely fair and reasonable issues.

Geek Movie Reviews: San Andreas

Here’s my geek-tinted review of San Andreas. Mild spoilers.
First, this isn’t mostly about the quality of the movie. I like cgi disaster porn, and this was a good example of that genre. It gave me everything I wanted in that regard. If the idea of liking “cgi disaster porn” resonates with you, this movie should be fun. If you want more out of the movie than that, I make no promises.
I’m not saying it’s particularly believable, but at least the giant earthquake movie does focus around a major known faultline, and it doesn’t turn the silly up to 11 by having the east coast fall into the ocean or something.
It DOES have a takeaway I loved.
This is a movie that celebrates things I want to be celebrated by pop culture. The heroes are most often reward for being smart and educated, rather than strong or deadly. Indeed, the heroes never kill anyone. Rescuing people, most often through skill and logic, is the thing that allows the heroes to prove they are brave and heroic.
Scientists are rewarded not for magically fixing things with ray beams, but for running experiments to test theories, understanding the world around them, and using that knowledge to inform people.
No, the science may not be great (though it is better than “mutated neutrinos,” not that such a bar should be hard to clear), but the methods and ideas are recognizably sciencelike. Being at a university is heralded as something positive and awesome.
Also, none of the main female characters are powerless. Without their direct action, everyone else would have died at some point in the movie. Yes, The Rock is the main star, but after him it’s a team effort, and it’s very clear his daughter is the next most crucial protagonist. She gets off to a slow start. But after that her knowledge and decisions making keep people alive (a fact noted by other characters in the movie).
These are trends I approve of.
As a geek who loves largely mindless cgi disaster porn, I give this a d10.