Great Actors in Small Roles: Haley Bennett in The Magnificent Seven (2016)

I wanted to take a moment to call out Haley Bennett’s performance in the 2016 remake of The Magnificent Seven.  I don’t do these type of blog posts often, but when I see an actor in a “smaller” role and that actor leaves just as much of an impression as the named actors, I do want to take a moment to highlight his/her performance.

Pathos
I think that the role that Haley Bennett played was a crucial one to my enjoying the movie as much as I did.  She brings a level of pathos (emotion) to the story that was sorely needed.  The other male actors emoted, true enough, but they were all playing hardened men, seasoned killers, and (generally speaking), you don’t get to be a “tough guy” while still being able to emote.  Their performances, like their characters, had to come across as reserved.  About the only passionate emotion the male actors could display was anger–such as when Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke’s character) swears mightily when trying to train the townspeople to shoot. Yet, it is Bennett’s performance through her character Emily Cullen to express the rage and anguish (sometimes quiet, sometimes tear-filled) of a woman who has nothing else to lose after the villain’s actions.

Reaction Shots
While I could have wished that her character had a bigger role (speaking), her character does at least get quite a bit of screen time in relation to the other actors.  Many of her scenes are “reaction shots” (her character’s reaction to some action and/or dialogue by other characters).  This, to me, is where where she really makes me believe in Ellen Cullen.  Based on her emotions, I actually believe that Ellen would emote in much the same way that Bennett portrays on the screen.  While I wish Hollywood would involve women into the plot in a more integral way (a la Wonder Woman and Black Widow), Bennett’s portrayal of Ellen made an impression on me as I watched the movie and really stood out as a truly standout performance in a small role.

Hopefully, this blog entry will serve as a handclap of praise for a well deserved actor with a well delivered performance.  Great work!

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Mini-Review: Magnificent Seven (2016)

I just finished the 2016 remake of the film the Magnificent Seven and I have to say that I was actually quite impressed by the effort of the actors and the filmmakers.  I really enjoyed the movie and thought that it seemed to be a credible remake of an old classic for a new audience.  After seeing it, I was a bit dismayed by the lack of critical and commercial success for it.

Now, for full disclosure: I haven’t seen all of the original version.  I’ve only seen bits and pieces.  Somehow, it never seemed to come on network TV (as I recall) and when it was on cable, there always seemed to be something more interesting on that I wanted to watch.  Also, if I recall, the original is a black and white film, and it is MUCH harder for me (personally) to “suspend my disbelief” with black and white films as I’m always doing the “Wizard of Oz” game where my mind tries to fill in what would the movie look like in color (as the original Wizard of Oz starts out in black and white, goes to color, and then moves back to black and white for its ending).

However, this movie seemed to be very much in the spirit of the older classic.  It told a great story with some pretty good performances by the various actors.  The story, in many respects, had a tone much like the latest (as of this writing) Star Wars movie, Rogue One.  I really liked most everything about it.  Sure, there were a few cliche western moments, but it really doesn’t deserve its 54% Metacritic score.  Now, don’t get me wrong–even without the western “cliches,” there are still problems.  One the main ones is the main character’s motivation for helping.  The movie made him seem way too altruistic even though he is getting paid for his services.  While the movie foreshadows the reason behind this a before the midpoint of the movie, we don’t actually get the revelation until the final conflict with villain.  Because we don’t get to see Chissom (Denzel Washington’s character) struggle, 1) he comes off as emotionally distant–we never see why the plight of the town really matters to him and 2) we don’t see him struggle–he has it all too easy.  He doesn’t really have to struggle with the town accepting him, he doesn’t deal with any major conflicts between his team (outside one conflict with another old time associate).

However, even with these issues, I still enjoyed it.  I had only intended to watch about half of it this week (about an hour) and then finish off the other hour next weekend, but I found myself so engaged by it that every time I went to turn it off, I stayed my hand, so the actors, director, and filmmakers did something right, even if the critics and the majority of the audience doesn’t agree.

Overall Grade: B+ (It probably would have been a B- due to the way the protagonist’s motivation was written, but a couple of strong performances more than made up for that flaw in my mind).

E3 and me: Marvel’s Spider-man (& Honorable Mentions)

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Marvel’s Spider-man

The last game that I want to mention on this blog from E3 is the showstopper from Sony’s Press Conference, Marvel’s Spider-man.  Sony showed an extended gameplay trailer that blew my mind.  I’ve always been a Spider-man fan, and I own quite a few issues of Spider-man comics.  This game had it all–action, humor, a strong narrative, but also has an open-world (the entire city of New York appears to be available to you to explore).

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The game puts you in the shoes of Peter Parker (although there is a nice Easter Egg for those who stay and watch the “stinger” at the end of the trailer).  It isn’t telling an origin story, but rather it is telling the story of a Peter Parker who has been doing this for a few years and is comfortable in Spider-man’s shoes.  I really enjoyed the high-flying acrobatics that the game showed and they nailed Spider-man’s sarcasm and biting wit.  This one looks like it is going to be fun.

Honorable Mentions

Things that looked interesting, but that I didn’t have time to talk about in the post during this week.

Days Gone (Sony) – A post-apocalyptic game that has a horde of fast-moving zombie-like monsters (similar to the movie World War Z)

Detroit: Become Human (Sony) – A sci-fi game about androids struggling for their freedom.

Shadow of the Colossus Remake (Sony) – I’ve played the demo, but never bought this game, but sure looks awesome.  It might convince me to get it this time around.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins (Ubisoft) – I’ve bought every major AC game and the new setting promises to be fun.

Knack 2 – Hey, what can I say, I love a good platformer.  I platinumed the original Knack, so of course I’m looking forward to the sequel.

and finally,

Elite: Dangerous – Elite was old computer game from the 1980s.  My uncle and I played the heck out of that game on the Commodore 64, and we managed to “break” the economy in the game  Our ship was so powerful and we had so much money, nothing in “normal” space could touch us.  This one is sheer nostalgia.  (I still have the 5.25 inch game disk and I’m pretty sure that I have the manual for the original game as well somewhere).

There were other games as well that probably deserve to be on this list, but I’ve already taken longer than I had intended and I’m much later putting out this post than usual, so I’ll end by saying, Sony had the most games that I’m interested in, so while their conference wasn’t as good as the past two years, it was still the best (to me) in a fairly unremarkable year.