Movie Review: The MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016)

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magnificent-seven-2016MGM / Paramount

“That bear is wearing people’s clothes.”

Looking to mine for gold, greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue seizes control of the Old West town of Rose Creek. With their lives in jeopardy, Emma Cullen and other desperate residents turn to bounty hunter Sam Chisolm for help. Chisolm recruits an eclectic group of gunslingers to take on Bogue and his ruthless henchmen. With a deadly showdown on the horizon, the seven mercenaries soon find themselves fighting for more than just money once the bullets start to fly.

Here we are, with another remake of another movie that many consider to be a classic of the respective genre, that being the 1960 Western classic The Magnificent Seven. And I’m certain that, by now, due to the ability of many to at least do a Google search of the original Magnificent Seven, everyone reading this review of mine would already know that the first Magnificent Seven was actually in itself a remake of the Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece Seven Samurai. Only, with cowboys. Making this here update technically a remake of a remake. Remake-ception. Do people still reference that meme? I really don’t pay attention to these things. Anyway…

Regarding my desire to see this update, I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit (see what I did there?) to head out and watch it when it was released back in September. It looked interesting, yes. Just like any other Western remade with a more diverse cast but with all the same tropes we know and love from the Western movie genre. I waited until the later part of October to watch it, and then on a Saturday morning showing at a certain theater I don’t go to very often, so that even if I didn’t find it too entertaining, at least I could pick up one of those fantastic taco salads the adjacent sports bar whips up for lunch. Well, I was going to do so even if I was entertained, but still. Great taco salads there.

And, really, I was entertained by this Magnificent Seven. I’ve never really seen the 1960 version, so I have no idea if it follows the story closely; though, it does seem to adhere to your standard Western design: Evil land Barron is trying to force a town off of prime real estate for mining purposes, town hires a roving Marshal to help eliminate the bully, roving Marshal gathers together a posse of misfits and outlaws and inspires the townfolk to fight back, and then a showdown blows up the third act of the movie, causing the town’s Undertaker’s business to take a sudden uptick.

Did I say I was entertained by this movie? Yes, yes I did. And I wasn’t lying about that. The characters were what you would call cliche’–Peter Sarsgaard’s robber Barron character is all but missing the mustache twirling, and while I loves me some Denzel Washington in whatever he does, his character does come off as a bit overly altruistic for his own good–that in no way distracts from the fun this movie is. It doesn’t pretend to be more than just a Western, and a remake of one at that. Everyone is does great with their respective characters, with Vincent D’Onofrio standing out as the extremely quirky tracker/hunter Jack Horne.

Overall, though, I wouldn’t really recommend paying full price to watch The Magnificent Seven. Maybe a nice early matinee like I did, or maybe wait for the DVD release to watch.

HALLOWEEN’ING 2016: Day 23 – “Mirror, Mirror” (Amazing Stories)

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Halloween Television Of Doom:


MIRROR, MIRROR (Amazing Stories)

Say what you will about the 1980s, but some amazing stuff came out of that era, especially in the realm of fantasy, science fiction and horror television and movies. It may be due to nostalgia glasses, sure; but it’s hard to argue otherwise when you remember that the 80s was the height of one of the most creative directors to ever be part of molding my childhood imagination, one Steven Spielberg. Who, as it turns out, created the one anthology programs I watched pretty much religiously as a tween.

Of these episodes of the two-season series, the First Season episode “Mirror, Mirror” is one of those that sticks out in my brain. Mainly due to the fact that this episode, unlike many of the other previous ones, was straight up horror. It even came with that disclaimer that this episode has some very intense and possibly disturbing content…let’s face it, seeing that at the beginning of any fantasy-based television show is pretty much guaranteeing me to watch it. It tells the tale of a writer of horror novels that, while extremely popular, is rather jaded when it comes to actual supernatural happenings and such. Then, after an encounter with a rather enthusiastic fan, he begins to see a shadowy phantom man stalking him whenever he looks into a mirror or any reflective surface. I won’t tell you how it ends, but it will stick with you, I can tell you that much.

At the age of 12, I didn’t really care that this episode was directed by the great Martin Scorsese, or stared the likes of Sam Waterson, Tim Robbins, or…okay, maybe I did geek out a bit at Dick Cavett playing himself on his own show. Only because I was a weird kid. But the point is, “Mirror, Mirror” is a great television episode that you can watch with all the lights off this Halloween season, for just the right amount of skin-crawling terror.

AMAZING STORIES, Volume 1 on Amazon


HALLOWEEN’ING 2016: Day 22 – The Return Of The Living Dead

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Movie night time! And here, we have one of my all-time favorite zombie flicks that doesn’t have the George A. Romero stamp on it. Though, to be fare, it does have the petigre. See, the producer of Return Of The Living Dead – John Russo – once collaborated with Romero on the classic Night Of The Living Dead; after they parted ways, Russo retained the rights to using “Living Dead” in the title, whereas Romero could created his own “Of The Dead” universe. And thus, the creation of a zom-com classic.

The Return Of The Living Dead went far to not only creating a comedy horror sub-genre, but introduced the now-classic trope of zombies craving brains to eat, rather than just eating human flesh. The story goes that the events from Night Of The Living Dead were real, as canisters of the toxic military experiment that reanimates the dead wound up in the basement of a medical supply warehouse in Louisville. Of course, the undead terror is accidentally unleashed, with a series of domino effects that result in the entire population of the town’s living impaired getting suddenly reanimated. Wackiness ensues.

Not only are the effects great, and the zombie wackiness highly entertaining, the soundtrack itself–featuring cuts from notable death rock and punk bands–is worth the rental itself. There were sequels, yes, but they all pale when compared to the original. It has just the right amounts of horror and campy comedy to make this a classic.


HALLOWEEN’ING 2016: Day 21 – Scary Acres

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Located just West of Omaha off of Giles Road, on 20 acres close to the middle of nowhere, lays the Halloween attraction known as Scary Acres.

Opened back in 2002, this multi-attraction site has roots in the long-closed Peony Park, when in 1993 the Train of Terror delightfully frightened the amusement park’s attendants. When Peony Park closed its gates that year, the attraction morphed into the Fright Zone, which operated at various locations in the Omaha area, ultimately opening an adjacent Fear Factory. Then, yada yada yada, Scary Acres.

There are three attractions to get your terror fix, here: The Master’s Castle, the Haunted Woods, and House on the Hill. You can get tickets for individual ones, or all three for a discounted price. There are bonfires to chase away the chill in your bones, and concessions when you need to renew your strength to fight back the denizens of the abyss. Or those things under your bed. Or…well, you get the idea.

Unfortunately, back when I went, I only had time to experience one of the three, so I opted for the Master’s Castle. I’m not saying how my experience was. You’re going to have to see for yourself.


HALLOWEEN’ING 2016: Day 20 – Zombie Burger

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You wake up one mourning only to discover that there is a gnawing hunger that just doesn’t seem to be satisfied with your normal “food” you have lying around the house. You shamble outside, moaning for relief from this hunger, only to discover that only the tender flesh of the innocent will sate this ravenous emptiness.

Don’t worry, though. Zombie Burger‘s got you covered.

With three locations in the unsuspecting metropolis of Des Moines, Iowa (which, I’m told, is French for “The Moines”), the Zombie Burger + Drink Lab is a horror and zombie enthusiast’s dream eatery. The ultimate in post-apocalyptic dining, Zombie Burger offers a wide variety of zombie movie-themed burgers that are guaranteed to satisfy your hunger.

Seriously, if you’re inclined to a road trip for a bite and some zombie lovin’ (er…that didn’t sound as weird in my head before I typed that) this Halloween season, take a trip to one of the three Zombie Burger locations in Des Moines.


HALLOWEEN’ING 2016: Day 19 – Carnival Arcane

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Halloween Soundtracks:


Midnight Syndicate

Surly you’ve heard of Midnight Syndicate. If you haven’t, then you haven’t been paying attention to the Halloween season enough.

More than just your average producer of Halloween sound FX albums, Midnight Syndicate creates what they call soundtracks to movies that don’t exist. They stick mainly to the darker aesthetics of ambient music, with albums that have a thematic concept behind them. Like if Mannheim Steamroller was raised on Hammer Films and frequet visits to the Batcave Club in London.

Carnival Arcane was the second Midnight Syndicate album I acquired. The first was their Christmas album, so that doesn’t count here, I’m afraid (as great as that album is). The theme here is turn-of-the-century traveling circus carnivals. Think calliopes. Think dark merry-go-rounds. Think clowns and greasepaint. Think freak shows. Funhouses and sinister side-shows. Less Greatest Show On Earth, more Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Want something a bit different from your stock haunted house sounds? Check out this album some time. You’ll never look at funnel cake and cotton candy the same way again.


HALLOWEEN’ING 2016: Day 18 – The Turn Of The Screw

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Spooky Reads:



In the pantheon of Gothic liturature (I’m talking actual Gothic literature, not those YA novels with the vampires and the supernatural teen angst and the sparkles), Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw can usually be found in the Top 10 lists of many genre aficionados. If not the Top 5. This is because The Turn of the Screw is not your typical Victorian era ghost story.

Sure, on the surface, this may seem like your standard late-19th Century tale of a haunting of a governess and her two charges; but James didn’t like the standard stereotypes of the ghost story genre, and wrote The Turn of the Screw to…well, screw with the reader’s mind. You’re never really sure if the ghosts were real, or if everything was just the result of a mental breakdown. And that’s never really answered, leaving the reader to continually chew over everything after finishing.

My copy, as you can see in the above picture, is part of an omnibus collection published through Barnes & Noble classics line. After nearly 120 years after it was first published, The Turn of the Screw remains required reading for any dark Gothic fiction enthusiasts, and its many adaptations prove it’s importance isn’t waning any time soon. Also, it’s a good ghost story to be reading this Halloween season…or any season…


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