The Magnificent Seven
Directed by John Sturges
The Magnificent Seven, a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, is a Western about seven gun fighters hired to protect a small Mexican village. It’s not as good as Seven Samurai, and some aspects have aged better than others, but The Magnificent Seven is well-acted and well-paced. It’s a good Western.
Star Trek Beyond
Directed by Justin Lin
Star Trek Beyond, based on Gene Rodenberry’s 1966 television series, is a science fiction action film that recounts an adventure of the USS Enterprise and the third movie in the reboot series. Star Trek Beyond admirably resists J. J. Abrams’s Star Treks’ irritating attempts to create realism and dramatic stakes through an artificial gritty darkness, but it still feels like film by numbers. The tin-eared dialogue, unevenly gifted cast, and mostly perfunctory action sequences make it difficult to appreciate Star Trek Beyond’s occasionally inspired set pieces and return to the franchise’s original optimism.
Would not see.
Sanshiro Sugata Part II
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Sanshiro Sugata Part II, based on Tsuneo Tomita’s novel and a sequel to Sanshiro Sugata, is a martial arts film. The film is frustratingly propagandistic and limited by the technology of its time. Sanshiro Sugata Part II evinces Kurosawa’s skill at pacing action and choreographing movement, but presages little of his later brilliance.
Would not see.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
The Godfather, based on Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel of the same name, is a crime drama about a fictional American mafia family from 1945 to 1955. The Godfather is easy to follow despite its dense plotting and, given its 177 minute run time, is about as tightly paced as one could reasonably expect. The film is well-written and well-shot, with deservedly iconic lines and scenes, though the film’s themes are sometimes too on the nose.
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa
Dope is a crime comedy drama that follows three friends going to high school in Inglewood, California as a series of improbable circumstances drastically threatens their already tenuous situation. Whatever is wrong with Dope, it’s not for lack of aspirations. The film is ambitious in its subject matter, its plotting, its style, and its writing. Dope’s strong efforts and excellent acting, however, can’t entirely compensate for the film’s the scattershot pacing, inconsistent tone, occasional preachiness, and unsatisfying ending.
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Goodfellas, an adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi’s 1986 non-fiction Wiseguys, is a crime drama about mobsters from 1955 to 1980. Goodfellas is stylistically creative, well-paced, and intelligently written. The film starts to become disjointed towards the end, but not totally without thematic purpose.
City of God
Directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund
City of God, an adaptation of Paulo Lins’s 1997 novel of the same name and loosely based on true events, is a Portuguese-language drama that depicts organized crime in Cidade de Deus from the late 1960s to the early 1980s primarily through the eyes of a narrator who is peripheral to most of the action. The film has a clear political message, but doesn’t pontificate or moralize. City of God is excellently paced and plotted, with fully sketched characters and carefully constructed narrative arcs. Its editing and visuals are ambitious and well-crafted, but occasionally distracting.
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Oldboy, based on the Japanese manga of the same name, is a Korean-language mystery, thriller, and psychodrama. Oldboy repeatedly subverts expectations, both in plot developments and in tone. The fighting is choreographed with stunning detail and skill, though there is less violence than one would expect from a revenge film. Oldboy is the rare action film that sincerely aspires to say something, and it has bold and vivid emotional motivations and reactions rather than the usual perfunctory exercises and excuses. Unfortunately, however, the film’s psychological ambition has the intensity, but neither the nuance nor the virtuosity of its physical conflict.
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Inherent Vice, based on the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name, follows Larry “Doc” Sportello, a frequently stoned private investigator, as his cases lead him deeper into an ever-widening web of conspiracies. Inherent Vice’s dense plotting requires multiple viewings to fully understand and appreciate, but the dream logic of the film makes it difficult to precisely pin down an exact mapping of the action. Inherent Vice’s aesthetic and plotting perfectly capture the free-floating paranoia of Sportello and elegiacally mourn the death of the ideals of his 1970s California milieu.
Directed by Werner Herzog
Fitzcarraldo is a surreal drama, loosely based on a historical event, about an Irishman in Peru who attempts to move a steamship over a steep hill to finance the construction of an opera house. Herzog famously transported a 320-ton steamship over a hill in the production of the film (and received criticism for his often contentious relations with the local indigenous Peruvian population). The film is operatic and ambitious. Herzog takes strong positions on nature and art, but his understanding of self-destructive determination at times surpasses his apparent grasp of intercultural interaction and more prosaic human motivations.