Nerdy Basement

Cultural Crusade Tuesday – The Magnificent Seven, Nocturnal Animals, Train to Busan and Arrival

In the new blog schedule, Tuesdays are all about mini reviews and other short pieces about cultural phenomena. And then on Saturdays it’s all about nerdie stuff, like longer reviews and other more focused pieces. Last Oscar season was a super hectic one, so this time around I decided to tackle the whole thing way ahead of time. So one whole month before the nominees of the Academy Awards, I already started listing potential nominees based on other award shows’ nominees and winners. So I guess in the following two months, Tuesday posts might be longer. I usually have a movie hiatus after the Oscars, so the Tuesdays following the Oscars should be pretty short or even no Tuesday posts. But let’s begin with the worth mentioning movies I’ve watched in December.

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

From time to time, I see a movie and I can’t stop wondering how can someone or someones spend so much money on something that is only okay. ‘The Magnificent Seven’ is one such movie. The production and the actors, it all oozed money (90 million budget to be exact). It was a very well made western that is representing the original from the 60s that is enjoying the cult status. I haven’t seen the original, but I have a feeling that this remake does not do it justice. The story is basically the same, a harassed small western town hired seven misfits to help defend the town. The plot is simple enough but there was no clue to keep it tight. The movie took a huge chunk of running time trying hard to introduce its seven heroes and give them meaningful backstories, but I don’t think that it succeeded in that. All it did was slow the movie down considerably. In the end, it wasn’t enough to make me care enough about our heroes for me to feel anything in the big ending fight. I gave it as high a score as I did because the acting was great, and it was a very well made movie and I like me a decent western once in a while.
My IMDb rating: 6 stars out of 10.

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

I kicked off the Oscar season with a movie that just happened to have a showing at the right time in my movie theater. It wasn’t the best choice because that day I was feeling off from work, downright shitty actually. And maybe because of that ‘Nocturnal Animals’ seemed like one of the depressing movie for me. It’s film noir’s finest to be sure, it’s stylish as fuck. The cinematography is hauntingly stunning. It’s a story inside a story and I guess it’s well done because I’m way more invested in the story inside the story than the actual one. The actual plot, it was paper thin. Which is very hard for me to fathom that when everything else, the acting, the style, the production are all top notched but the most important thing, the plot itself lacks substance. The backstory of the characters slowly unfolds as the movie crawled forward… sorry, wrong word, the whole movie is a complete stand-still with no character development whatsoever. I guess it’s not that kind of movies. But one thing about this movie made me give it an unusually high rating – it’s all because of Amy Adams’s performance. One word about her performance: phenomenal. Her acting was so flawless and heart-breaking in many ways that it gave me chills more than once. The Amy Adams’s roles before are more on the happy side, her big expressive eyes were used to convey kindness and joy. But this time, her eyes were full of sadness, just like Jake Gyllenhaal’s character pointed out: “You have sadness in your eyes.” Negative emotions, in my mind, are always much harder to fake, that’s why purely based on Amy’s performance here, ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is worth the watch.
My IMDb rating: 7 stars out of 10.

Train to Busan (2016)

In between two Amy Adams movies, I squeezed in a rare treat from the East – a zombie movie from South-Korea. I’ve heard a lot of buzz from ‘Train to Busan’, and I had no doubt whatsoever that it was going to rock my world. Because South-Koreans are very good at the horror genre. Their secret? It’s not to focus on the horror factor and instead they concentrate on bringing the most terrifying thing of them all – the human nature. What would people do when they are afraid, angry, bitter, vengeful etc, that is what’s the scariest thing. Then on the other side of the scale, there are the compassion and the believable but unlikely heroes. Some might argue that ‘Train to Busan’ is way over top when it comes to drama, I do agree but that’s K-horror for ya. I thoroughly enjoyed the big gestures, but also the small once that if you blinked, you might miss. Like the orphan tear drop slowly sliding down an elderly lady’s face when she thought that her sister, who was obviously everything she had, was gone for good. Just such devastation in that one drop of tear on an utterly shell-shocked facial expression, it broke me completely. And the ending scene with that song, it broke me all over again and in my very emotional state, I gave ‘Train to Busan’ a very high rating. It’s what every zombie movie, hell, every horror movie should aim for, it’s not about the horror and the enemy, it should be about the people and emotions. Are there plot holes? Of course there are, but if you are only going to focus on those, then you are going to miss a great movie.
My IMDb rating: 9 stars out of 10.

Arrival (2016)

Then I went to see another Amy Adams movie, and damn girl, with two great performances in this award season, she deserves at least an Oscar nod. And this time, she shines in a spectacular movie. I might have said this before, but I don’t usually give 10 stars out of 10 rating for any movie no matter how great it is, unless there are some personal emotional attachment to the movie. ‘Arrival’ is… special. I went in, expecting nothing. The trailer let on nothing of what kind of movie it was going to be. So I went in blind. And it a slow burn, it was one of the most beautiful idea ever. I love how it slowly unfolded and it just didn’t make so much sense in the end, but it also had this certain epiphany-like moment that was absolutely devastating but beautiful at the same time. I didn’t expect a movie about the first contact with the aliens to be anything like ‘Arrival’ was. It’s very challenging for me to even attempt to explain why I loved it that much. I guess it’s a movie you need to go and experience yourself and hopefully you come out of it feeling just like I did – floating in disbelief and wonder and a little breathless and it took me a while to get my feet back on the ground.
My IMDb rating: 10 stars out of 10.

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