CINEMA CAPSULES: An Introduction and ‘The Magnificent Seven’

First came Bruce. Then: theatre. After that: television. And now, finally, to finish the Write All Nite quaternary: film.

These Cinema Capsules – as I’ve so alliteratively dubbed my impending movie-focused posts – will be far shorter than my excessively verbose theatre (and Bruce) analyses. There will of course be exceptions when I see a flick that particularly stimulates my writing muscles, but for the most part these will conform to the definition of capsule: shortened but retaining the essence of the original. Rather than diving deep into the celluloid, these Cinema Capsules will simply encapsulate my general, informal, unfiltered, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-film-pants reactions to the plentiful movies that I behold in theatres.

Speaking of which, below each of my capsule reviews in this and all subsequent posts will be lists, for reference, that include every new movie that I’ve seen in theatres this year,[1] every movie currently in theatres that I want to see (doesn’t mean I necessarily will), and my favorite movies of the year. They should give you a good idea of what’s cinematically on my mind.

Without further ado – and since I’m trying to keep these brief – let’s roll the tape!


THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: [insert here cliché pun about how this was anything but ‘magnificent’]

Here are seven reasons – all bolded – as to why I was somewhat excited to see this:

Antoine Fuqua is one of the most stylish action filmmakers working today, someone who has in the past seemed to put more thought into his cinematic endeavors than many other successful hacks (I’m one of the few people in the world who enjoyed his last outing, Southpaw). Ethan Hawke is a top 10 actor working today, someone who’s so boundlessly artistically curious that he challenges himself to star in movies of all of shapes and sizes in a variety of capacities. Peter Sarsgaard is on the ‘top actor’ tier right below Mr. Hawke. Though those who claim that Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt deserve to be included in these tiers must not mind that each actor relies on their go-to, gradually more tiresome personas a bit too excessively instead of actually challenging themselves, they’re still eminently and entertainingly watchable. The original Seven Samurai and Hollywood’s original adaptation also titled The Magnificent Seven can be described similarly: a tad overrated, but still eminently and – from a historical perspective – entertainingly watchable.

Unfortunately, those seven reasons pale in comparison to the 133 minutes-worth of reasons that the actual movie gives you NEVER to see it. Everyone and everything in it are just going through the motions of a remake, with nary an attempt to engage the audience. “If people cared about this story in 1954 and 1960…” I can almost hear the studio heads proclaiming, “…then surely they will care again in 2016!!!” In the words of a certain Presidential candidate who shares a similar IQ to this movie: wrong.

Note how I didn’t include screenwriter Nic Pizzolatto’s name in my list of seven reasons above, even though he’s a guns-blazing-hot writer after creating HBO’s True Detective. That’s because I’ve never been able to shake the suspicion that he’s wearing some emperor’s new clothes underneath the obscuringly handsome facades of everything he writes. The most common criticisms lobbed against Aaron Sorkin and David Mamet[2] – two of my favorite writers – assert that they care too much about highlighting their sensational (both in terms of quality and content) facility with dialogue, to the detriment of the structures of their narratives. Though I believe this critique rarely actually applies to their work, it succinctly summarizes my feelings regarding the shortcomings of Mr. Pizzolatto: he has a real knack for imbuing every day, entertaining chitchat with philosophical, existential musings – the sort of superficial but seemingly grounded intellectualism that always attracts big name performers, to which True Detective and this can attest – but he’s so far been incapable of approaching his stories with this same out-of-the-box creativity.

Looking past these quasi-novel trappings, True Detective and Magnificent Seven are simply run-of-the-mill detective and western tales, respectively. Audiences almost always see through this surface novelty eventually, which has long been one of my theories regarding why season two of True Detective was so much more lambasted than the extremely similar season one. Throwback stories do not deserve scorn as a blind rule, but Pizzolatto’s fail to connect because of his far worse crime as a writer: his inability to write relationships worth caring about. If he couldn’t do it over the course of the eight hours that HBO afforded him with each season of True Detective, why should anyone have expected him to do so within Magnificent Seven’s unbearably long running time. The story of Magnificent Seven only calls for two actions scenes; as such, they need to bookend material that convinces the audience to care about the fate of these men and the town they’ve sworn to protect. Fuqua and the actors give it their all – especially Mr. Sarsgaard, who doesn’t just chew the scenery, nor merely devour it, but literally supernovas the classic sets out of existence – but Mr. Pizzolatto and his co-writer Richard Wenk’s subpar contributions never let them be great, nor anything close to it.

It upsets me not to support a traditional western because Hollywood so rarely revisits one of its most foundational genres, but tell me how I can recommend a movie called Magnificent Seven that literally ends with the line, “It was magnificent!” No it wasn’t!




[1] Always the contrarian, I make a point of trying to see as many movies IN THEATRES as possible. In fact, I almost rarely watch any at home. Perhaps it’s due to my understanding of the importance of the live, communal element of theatre, but I’ve always felt that art should be consumed in whatever way the creator intended. If a director wanted her film to be watched alone on a television screen, she would’ve produced a made-for-TV movie. Even though the differences between them have narrowed in recent years, I thoroughly believe the experience of enjoying (or not) a movie in a proper cinema trumps that of any other setting, and is closer to what the creators would’ve wished.

[2] Yes, I’m OBVIOUSLY ignoring his recent work…


2016 Movies

  1. The Treasure 
  2. In the Name of Women
  3. 13 Hours
  4. Anesthesia 
  5. Dirty Grandpa
  6. Ip Man 3
  7. Mojave
  8. Aferim!
  9. Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art
  10. The Finest Hours
  11. 2016 Oscar Nominated Shorts – Animated
  12. Kung Fu Panda 3
  13. Tumbledown
  14. Hail, Caesar!
  15. Jane Got a Gun
  16. 50 Shades of Black
  17. Rams
  18. Where to Invade Next
  19. Mountains May Depart
  20. The Choice
  21. A War
  22. Touched With Fire
  23. The Club
  24. How To Be Single
  25. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
  26. Zoolander 2
  27. Deadpool
  28. Cemetery of Splendor 
  29. Risen 
  30. Tricked (+doc)
  31. Embrace of the Serpent
  32. Becoming Mike Nichols
  33. Mermaid 
  34. The Wave
  35. The Brothers Grimsby 
  36. My Golden Days
  37. Knight of Cups
  38. Eddie the Eagle
  39. Gods of Egypt
  40. Creative Control 
  41. Midnight Special
  42. Zootopia
  43. Miles Ahead
  44. The Witch
  45. Batman V. Superman
  46. Hello, My Name is Doris
  47. Krisha
  48. Mr. Right
  49. London Has Fallen
  50. Marguerite
  51. City of Gold
  52. The Invitation
  53. Born to be Blue
  54. The Clan
  55. The Measure of a Man
  56. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot 
  57. I Saw the Light
  58. The Jungle Book
  59. Hardcore Henry 
  60. 10 Cloverfield Lane
  61. April and the Extraordinary World
  62. Tale of Tales
  63. Green Room
  64. The Dark Horse
  65. Louder than Bombs
  66. Demolition 
  67. Everybody Wants Some!!
  68. The Boss
  69. Remember 
  70. The Meddler
  71. Keanu 
  72. Francofonia
  73. Eye in the Sky
  74. Hockney
  75. Dheepan
  76. A Bigger Splash
  77. The First Monday in May
  78. Captain America: Civil War
  79. A Hologram for the King
  80. The Family Fang
  81. Dark Horse
  82. Barbershop
  83. The Lobster
  84. Maggie’s Plan
  85. Chevalier
  86. The Witness
  87. Weiner
  88. Money Monster
  89. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
  90. X-Men: Apocalypse 
  91. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  92. De Palma
  93. The Nice Guys
  94. Love and Friendship
  95. The Wailing
  96. The Shallows
  97. The Conjuring 2
  98. The BFG
  99. Don’t Think Twice
  100. Little Men
  101. Central Intelligence
  102. Finding Dory
  103. Ghostbusters
  104. Nine Lives
  105. The Legend of Tarzan
  106. Star Trek Beyond
  107. Cafe Society
  108. Sausage Party
  109. The Secret Life of Pets
  110. Pete’s Dragon
  111. Bad Moms
  112. Hell or High Water
  113. Mia Madre
  114. Captain Fantastic
  115. War Dogs
  116. Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World
  117. Kubo and the Two Strings
  118. Suicide Squad
  119. Complete Unknown 
  120. Indignation
  121. White Girl 
  122. Goat 
  123. Denial 
  124. Birth of a Nation
  125. Deepwater Horizon
  126. Queen of Katwe
  127. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years
  128. Snowden
  129. The Girl on the Train
  130. The Neon Demon 
  131. Tower
  132. Michael Moore in Trumpland
  133. Train to Busan
  134. Don’t Breathe
  135. Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience
  136. The Magnificent Seven


Best Movies of 2016

  • Everybody Wants Some!!
  • Hail, Caesar!
  • Hardcore Henry
  • Hell or High Water
  • Knight of Cups
  • The Lobster
  • Midnight Special
  • The Neon Demon
  • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  • Sausage Party
  • Tale of Tales
  • The VVitch: A New-England Folktale
  • Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience
  • Weiner



  • The Accountant
  • American Honey
  • American Pastoral
  • Aquarius
  • Certain Women
  • Christine
  • Gimme Danger
  • Godzilla Resurgence
  • The Handmaiden
  • Inferno
  • Into the Inferno
  • Jack Reacher
  • A Man Called Ove
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  • Moonlight
  • Ouija: Origin of Evil
  • Sully
  • Under the Shadow

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