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The Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972)
Two Ways to Evaluate "Magnificent Seven Returns"
I would bet a month's salary "The Magnificent Seven Returns" (MSR) was made-for-TV. Other reviewers attest that MSR was a theatrical movie, and I'll take their word for it. The logical answer must assume it was originally shot for TV, and after a change-of-studio-heart, it was released theatrically instead. Every actor is primarily a TV actor: Mariette Hartley, Michael Callen, Ralfe Waite, Stephanie Powers... TV performers all. Lee Van Cleef split his time between TV and theater screens. Stephanie Powers has only made 3 or 4 "real" movie appearances in the last thirty years of a very prolific television career. Minor players are veteran small-screen actors who can be seen on old reruns of "Gunsmoke", "Wild Wild West","Streets of San Francisco," and so on.
The ho-hum sets are identical to the Universal Studios Tour sets, often seen in old episodic TV. And the editing betrays the one-or-two-takes-hurriedness of TV, with limited camera movements, positioning, cutting, and lighting. The sound track, exclusive of the original Berstein themes, are straight from seventies television. Yep, I'd bet money it was shot for TV.
That's an important point in evaluating MSR. Initially I watched MSR on cable assuming it was an old theatrical release. In comparison to the original "Magnificent Seven", it's a joke, a cartoon, an amateurish attempt at movie making. Acting, lighting, writing, settings, action, cinematography, music (exempting the Berstein themes), editing, pacing,...on and on....all pale in comparison to the classic "Magnificent Seven" which is close to the perfect 60's western, and one of the great action movies of all time.
However, viewed as an early 70's made-for-TV movie, the film is actually better than average. Those unfortunate enough to live through the 70's as an adult, know what I'm talking about. MSR would have competed favorably with "Alias Smith and Jones" and similarly bland network shows. During the seventies, "Gunsmoke" was a quality show, concentrating on character development rather than action, deemphasizing gun play to two shootouts a week. MSR has more action than a whole season of "Gunsmoke." In this light - in this frame of reference - MSR is passable entertainment, a cut above the TV fare from that decade.
Flight of the Phoenix (2004)
Not Good Enough
I'm a Private Pilot and I'm very forgiving of flying movies, much more so than mainstream movies, so long as they offer something in return: great flying sequences, good acting, interesting airplanes, a meaningful message about life and people, or at the very least, provide a couple hours of amusement. The new "Flight of the Phoenix" offered none of these in adequate amounts.
A movie can redeem itself by lingering after viewing - some films are so moving, so haunting, they affect me for days, or pop-up into my awareness years later. This movie is throw-away forgettable - I won't think of it again. The original 1965 James Stewart "Flight" was memorable, and if I crash land an aircraft or find myself in a survival situation I will remember it, while the new "Flight" is just another movie to watch on cable.
Those who haven't seen the original might enjoy the couple hours runtime - the new "Flight" wasn't a complete waste. Indeed, the original had its flaws, such as the utterly stupid "bellydancer" sequence. But those hoping for a film equal or better than the 1965 version will be sorely disappointed. The new script added nothing original; the female character was wasted, failing to inject sexual tension; the dialog lacked wit and failed to provoke thought, in fact it weakened the hopelessness and desperation felt by the survivors, the torment within Captain Towns, and the dangerous, life-threatening power struggle between Towns and Elliot/Dorfmann*.
It's a pity, one more rewrite of the screenplay, emphasizing the human elements could have produced a movie that entertained as well as enlightened.
*Dorfmann was the original 1965 name of the model airplane designer. +
Miracle Mile (1988)
Very Strange Movie
"Miracle Mile" is a strange movie. It begins as a love story, abruptly switches to suspense (the phone call), swerves into unintentional comedy(the cafe scenes), and suddenly shocks with the flaming deaths of two police officers. I couldn't decide whether it was a "tongue-in-cheek" comedy or a serious drama until the police officers died. The continuing over-the-top acting pointed toward a comedy, but characters continued to die. It wasn't until the department store scene that I realized the movie was dead serious, and I was overcome with dread.
I had assumed the original phone call was a hoax, perhaps a scene acted from a movie played over the phone, and a peaceful resolution would end the move.
With the flaming gas station scene, I was confused - how could this movie end without Edward's character dying for indirectly causing deaths.
Either the director was incompetently unfolding the plot, or he was deliberately keeping the audience off balance, to emphasize the air of unreality a real nuclear attack would bring.
This movie "worked" because of it's uneveness, suddenly throwing me from my expectation of a comedy, to anxiously awaiting a satisfactory plot resolution, then being sent to a shocking realization the nuclear war was "real".
Chris Rock: Bring the Pain (1996)
Funniest One Hour of Television
I wasn't a Chris Rock fan until I saw this show. I'd catch just a few moments of the show while channel surfing, and didn't think much of it. One night, out of boredom I watched a few minutes of his material and was floored. I couldn't believe how funny he was. On further airings I caught the complete show, and discovered his humour also contained cutting social insights which added to the humor.
The Bedford Incident (1965)
Better Each Viewing
I saw The Bedford Incident as a teenager on its initial release in 1965. My original impression was colored by my reading of the novel, and the changes in translation from print to film irritated me and distracted me from fully appreciating it. As my memories of the book faded and I accepted the movie on its own terms, I am impressed by the craftsmanship displayed by the actors, set directors, and editing. The dim black and white photography complements the film subject perfectly - color would have ruined it.
After a half dozen viewings the only major flaw I noticed was the phony looking, crooked periscope just before the collision.
Definitely one of the best Cold War films, especially for a viewer that lived through those frightening times.
Red Planet (2000)
Red Planet was disappointing. Starting with the designer spacecraft interior, lacking the functional realism that would be found on a real ship. What's with the exterior lights on the rotating hubs?
The real problems with Red Planet was casting. Carrie-Anne Moss played the male lead, and Val Kilmer the female lead. Carrie-Anne, the Commander, saved the ship, made all the decisions and rescued Val Kilmer. Val Kilmer's character, a minor crew member, was the woman-in-peril who needs to be rescued. While crossing the desert, he whines that he cannot continue, and Moss needs to coax him to persevere. Val is allowed to be resourceful only near the end. Throughout the movie Val speaks in a passive almost feminine voice.
The producers and directors were trying to create a fresh new sci-fi movie by reversing the sex roles. It didn't work. Someone like Sigourney Weaver might have carried it off, but Carrie-Anne Moss' character lacked the depth to make it believable (no disrespect to Carrie-Anne who was wonderful in "The Matrix".)