Directed by: Antoine Fuqua Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Haley Bennett, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Peter Sarsgaard Rated: PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material “The Seven Samurai” is hands-down one of the best samurai movies ever made. When John Sturges helmed “The Magnificent Seven,” a remake of it as a Western back in 1960, he created one of the best Western movies ever made. Antoin Fuqua and his cast work hard to make the remake-of-the-remake as superlative as its predecessors, but the pieces don’t quite come together enough. It’s good, but it left me wanting to watch the other two rather than to rewatch the new one. This is a good movie, but nowhere near as good as it wants to be. The general story is the same: a small town is being terrorized by bad guys,
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor Starring: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Noah Emmerich, Ewan McGregor Rated: Rated R for violence and some language. Also contains an off-screen rape. A lot of Westerns have underlying themes of vengeance, the necessity of working together to survive in a harsh environment, and the mysterious loner who saves the day. “Jane Got a Gun” brings us a Western about assumptions – about how assuming things can destroy you, and how moving beyond them can save your life. It’s also just a straightforward good, character-focused story. The action is saved up for the end, but most assuredly does not disappoint. Jane (Natalie Portman) is the core of the film, the focus of the story both in and out of flashbacks. When her fiance failed to return from the Civil War, she went West. When the film opens, she is married, has a young child, and also has a gang of bad folks
“Django Unchained” is, on its surface, a fairly straightforward “man is wronged and loses his woman, then meets a man who helps him achieve his quest to avenge himself and get his woman back” sort of story. It’s certainly easy to enjoy the film on that level, especially if you’re a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s violent, over-the-top style. However, there are also layers of character development, complex themes, and enough references to fill a book. This is a movie that seems destined to spawn art student theses, not just a Western set in the South.
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, Harrison Ford
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference.
Westerns and alien invasion flicks both have their cliches, and the idea of mashing the two together is a clever one — that kind of genre smashing has done well in the past (“Shaun of the Dead” remains my favorite example). “Cowboys & Aliens” held great promise when its previews first started showing, and while it doesn’t quite live up to its potential, it’s still a lot of fun.
Directed by: Scott Charles Stewart Starring: Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Lily Collins Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and brief strong language.