The Magnificent Seven


Rated Greg’s All Time Favorite Westerns* – Ranked

  1. Tombstone
  2. Django Unchained
  3. Unforgiven
  4. Rango
  5. The Hateful Eight

*Full Disclosure:  I have not seen any of your father’s favorite Westerns.  This includes the original Magnificent Seven, Butch Cassidy, The Good Bad And Ugly, shit… even with Blazing Saddles I’ve only seen bits and pieces.  Maybe once I’m a full-time movie critic I’ll have the time to sit down and fully soak these in.

Any slightly more than casual NFL fan is well aware of LA Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.  Not necessarily because of any recent success his teams have achieved, but because he’s openly mocked for an uncanny ability to finish with six to eight total wins seemingly every single season (he even addressed this in an HBO Hard Knocks episode last month).  In fairness, the year-end records of 6-10, 7-9, or 8-8 have only occurred in 12 of his 20 full seasons of coaching, but this includes a current streak of six straight seasons starting in 2009.  Part of the joke is bafflement over how someone with such a mediocre coaching resume keeps signing contract extensions, wondering if Fisher has some sort of dirt on his billionaire bosses or if they’re just feeling nostalgic over his Super Bowl trip with the Titans…. SEVENTEEN years ago.  Whatever the reason is, it’s strange given the fact that most NFL owners go through head coaches faster than Jerry went through girlfriends on Seinfeld.

What’s all of this got to do with The Magnificent Seven you ask?  Well, I wonder if Hollywood views The Magnificent Seven’s director, Antoine Fuqua, the same way the NFL public sees Jeff Fisher.  Like Fisher, he still seems to be skating by on a singular gem of a job a decade and a half ago.  Don’t get me wrong, Fuqua’s 2001 film Training Day is probably a top 5 cop movie of all time, but there has to be some sort of statute of limitations on inserting “From the director of Training Day” onto each of your subsequent movie posters fifteen years later (seriously, take a look below).  It’s like if the Rams came out for the home opener and the announcer bellowed “From the leader of the 1999 Super Bowl Runner-Up, YOUR 2016 LA RAMS!!!”


I’m not even saying the rest of Fuqua’s movies are that bad necessarily, just extremely forgettable 7-9 or 8-8 seasons for the most part (Southpaw and Magnificent Seven would probably earn a 9-7 record in a weak division).  What saves The Magnificent Seven is Denzel doing Denzel things, only with a cool hat and a trusty horse.  He seems right at home in what’s hard to believe is his first Western.  As the title suggests, there’s other characters of course but they’re better off just playing the offensive line to Denzel’s quarterback.  Even Chris Pratt, one of the very few legitimate American movie stars under 40, can barely keep up and comes off a little flat.  The latter half inevitably features an impressive and lengthy shootout, but overall this film will remind you more of the old Wild West show at Wild World (aka Adventure World, aka Six Flags: PGC) than any of the Top Five Westerns listed above.  Tier 4


Eye In The Sky


A Few Categories Of War Movies Over The Years:

-Running At Each Other While Wielding A Sword (Braveheart, Kingdom of Heaven)

-Greatest Generation Heroics (Saving Private Ryan, Fury)

-Psychological Warfare (Full Metal Jacket, Jarhead)

-Aliens Attack! (Edge of Tomorrow, War of the Worlds)

-Star Wars (Star Wars)

-Sabotaging Your Best Friend’s Wedding (Bride Wars)
-Getting Brolic Over Reese Witherspoon (This Means War)
-Modern Warfare (The Hurt Locker, Lone Survivor)

– Drone Warfare – A Subset of Modern (Eye in the Sky)


A British military operation to take out a terrorist cell in East Africa plays out in real time over the course of 100 minutes with the help of a U.S. drone piloted from Las Vegas, Nevada.  While it is a relatively new military tactic, there are several instances of drone command scenes on the screen that come to mind (most notably in episodes of Homeland), but it’s hard to recall an entire drone-centric movie like Eye In The Sky.  I found the first 45 minutes or so suspenseful, especially the few scenes that actually take place on the ground.  But then I realized where this movie was headed, which was another 55 minutes of Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman (RIP), and Aunt Jackie’s boyfriend from Roseanne debating whether Aaron Paul should pull a trigger or not.

Eye in the Sky aims to grant viewers access to all the conversations and chains of command that go into carrying out a time-sensitive drone strike.  It highlights the intertwining rules involved, many of which come into direct conflict with each other legally, politically, or ethically.  I do think it’s a relevant, timely story that’s well worth telling, but perhaps they maybe should have chosen a different venue.  For instance, this would have made a very compelling episode of The West Wing. – Sidenote:  Of all the garbage on broadcast TV, why can’t NBC just reboot West Wing?  Emilio Estevez takes over a POTUS role that his old man Martin Sheen once commanded.  Who says no?  Certainly not Emilio.

Now, Eye in the Sky scored a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes so I’m probably in the minority on the low level of enthusiasm.  I just found it’s message to be heavy-handed with one too many “shame on you’s,” and less effective as the runtime was drawn out.  We get it, war is murky and like the chicken or the egg sometimes there’s no right answer, but is Aaron Paul really gonna go this entire movie without slipping in his Breaking Bad trademark?  Tier 6  Update: On second thought, you can pass on this.

Belated Appreciation: The 7 Other Criminally Underrated Movies of the Past 10 Years

Back in March I posted a belated appreciation of The Guest, a movie that did not get it’s due justice in the year it came out (2014).  Here are seven other films of the past ten years that I feel were significantly overlooked by the general public and definitely would have been in the Rated Greg tier had I been doing this blog back then.  Each blurb includes links to some of my favorite scenes from each movie.


The Place Beyond The Pines (2012)                                                                                                                     Summary:  This was marketed as your standard Cops and Robbers thriller, pitting Bradley Cooper against Ryan Gosling, but that is not exactly what the theater goers got.  TPBTP is an incredible drama separated into three deliberate acts, centering on the drastic effects a chance encounter has on two different bloodlines.  I’m not 100% sure why this movie came and went without much fanfare, but part of the blame should go to a bad title, a poorly timed theater rollout in early January, and the aforementioned misdirection in what this movie actually is.                                                                                                                                    What It Should Be Known For:  Despite not being nominated, the best movie of 2012 (Lincoln won the Oscar).  The third best bank robbing movie of all time.  America’s introduction to Ben Mendelsohn.  The beginning of the best looking real life couple on the planet (Gosling and Eva Mendez).   One of the coolest opening tracking shots ever.  Cinemax On-Demand



Pain & Gain (2013)                                                                                                                                                  Summary:  A reenactment of a 1995 Miami crime story about three bodybuilders and a botched kidnapping scheme.  As ridiculous as a lot of this movie is, apparently these events actually happened.  It takes about 20-25 minutes for the vibe of this movie to really sink in, so I urge you to stick with it, it will pay off.                                                                                   What It Should Be Known For:  Michael Bay’s ode to a Coen Brother’s crime caper featuring characters getting increasingly in over their head (Bay has deservedly taken a lot of shit over the past decade for his Transformers movies, but he still knows how to make a very entertaining R-rated two hours).   By far The Rock’s best performance.  Mark Wahlberg’s funniest movie.



Celeste & Jessie Forever (2012)                                                                                                                             Summary:  Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg play a couple in the midst of getting a divorce while also remaining best friends.  A relationship dramedy in the vein of Judd Apatow’s films, and even eclipses them.                                                                                                            What It Should Be Known For:  The prolific screenwriting debut of Rashida Jones.  Disney clearly took notice because she’s the lead writer of Toy Story 4.  Despite the goofball shtick, Samberg can act.



The Grey (2011)                                                                                                                                                         Summary:  Six oil workers, led by a dexterous Liam Neeson, are stranded in the Alaskan wilderness and must evade a ferocious, hungry pack of wolves.  This is downright terrifying at times.                                                                                                                                                  What It Should Be Known For:  You can have all of the Takens and other formulaic Liam Neeson ass-kicking movies, I’ll take The Grey.  This is Neeson’s best action movie by far and one of the great man vs. nature films.



Miami Vice* (2006)                                                                                                                                                  Summary:  Michael Mann’s big screen adaptation of the swaggerific 80’s TV show, with Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx as Crockett and Tubbs.  The brothers from another mother enlist in an undercover operation to…….wait to be honest I couldn’t tell you the exact plot of this movie, but that’s beside the point.                                                                                     What It Should Be Known For:  *It’s kind of cheating to include Miami Vice in this list, as I’m pretty sure the film already has a decent sized cult following.  BUT, the fact is the movie has a 47% score on Rotten Tomatoes and it was panned by most viewers when it came out, including myself.  However, I rewatched it years later and I guarantee if Miami Vice came out today it would earn at least a 90%.  Now I legit can’t turn it off anytime I come across it.  There’s a very subtle campiness, whether intentional or not, that is much more appreciated by critics these days (i.e. if Drive came out in 2006 it probably would have gotten awful reviews as well).  Michael Mann knows how to shoot a movie and this is his most beautiful film.  If you enjoyed Farrell’s performance in True Detective, you’ll love Miami Vice.  He famously checked into rehab as soon as shooting ended and it shows.



Coherence (2013)                                                                                                                                                     Summary:  Bill Simmons has a joke about how he always enjoys “Blank from Hell movies” (i.e. the neighbor from hell, the Tinder date from hell, the 13 person brunch bill from hell).  Well, Coherence is the dinner party from hell.  The less I say about this movie, the better.  It’ll keep you guessing through the end.                                                                                  What It Should Be Known For:  Coherence would fit right in with the Black Mirror anthology series.   For those not familiar with Black Mirror, 1.  Watch it on Netflix immediately, and 2.  It’s like a present day Twilight Zone.  Streaming on Amazon Prime



The Prestige* (2006)                                                                                                                                                  Summary:  Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play two feuding magicians in 19th century London with a serious beef.  Yeah I know, you hear the subject of magicians and want to hard pass, but trust me it’s GREAT.  There’s only two things involving magic that I enjoy.  One is telling the story of the worst date of my life at The Magic Castle in LA, the other is this movie.  Also stars Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, and David Bowie.                         What It Should Be Known For:  *It might be cheating to include The Prestige in this list as well since it’s pretty well regarded among cinephiles, but it does seem to be forgotten when speaking on the pantheon of Christopher Nolan’s films.   Yes the Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar are all-timers, but I really think The Prestige is the true masterpiece of the best working filmmaker today.  The greatest twist ending ever?  Someone spoiled Sixth Sense and Usual Suspects to me, so Prestige would be my pick for that title.  This link literally shows the first two and a half minutes of the movie, so it’s not spoiling anything.





Don’t Think Twice


Written, directed by, and starring stand-up comedian Mike Birbiglia, Don’t Think Twice is a heartfelt love letter to all creative performers, particularly those not so young anymore, still scrambling to make a living in a very competitive field. It must take a lot of nerve for artists to resist safer careers in more modest vocations (what up accounting, I’ll see you tomorrow!), and Birbiglia aims to recognize this in his very personal drama.  Don’t be fooled by the funny people on the poster, this is not a comedy, it’s a drama ABOUT comedy.

The film centers on an improv troupe of six people who are also best friends, roommates, and lovers when they are not at the offshoot theater where they perform. One of the more interesting ideas is the honest portrayal of how one might feel towards the perceived success of a good friend in a make or break industry. Sure, you’re smiling on the outside, but inside…”you lucky SOB.”


The movie also throws some serious shade at Saturday Night Live, an institution that I have to assume some of the cast auditioned for at some point in real life.  Costarring  Keegan-Michael Key and the lovely Gillian Jacobs, Don’t Think Twice is one of a kind and worth the trip to the indie theater.  Tier 2 – Runner Up




Many of the best documentaries reach their compelling heights purely by accident.  That is, like most in the genre the filmmaker starts out with a somewhat vague story arc he or she expects to orchestrate, only to have events occur in real time during filming that completely change the intended trajectory of the film.  One example of this is in 1991’s Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, which trailed the heavily troubled production of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.  Legend has it, Coppola asked his wife Eleanor to document the behind the scenes production of his 1979 classic with the intention of later using this footage as a marketing tool for a production company the couple was trying to get off the ground.  Well, needless to say, things did not go as planned.  Coppola failed to foresee civil unrest in the Philippines where they were shooting, a raging monsoon destroying key set pieces, a decision to recast the lead days in, that replacement star (Martin Sheen) later suffering from a legit heart attack on set, and rampant drug use by the cast and crew (well…that last one may have been a given in those days).  Coppola pretty much descends into insanity due to these developments, and Eleanor candidly captures everything on film.  It’s a great watch if you enjoyed Apocalypse Now.

Anyways, I couldn’t help but think of Hearts of Darkness as I watched Weiner, a documentary about Anthony Weiner’s shit-show of a NYC mayoral run in 2013.  Much like Hearts, the circumstances surrounding the subject are completely upended in the middle of the project. Over the course of this captivating inside look at a political campaign, Weiner goes from optimistic underdog comeback story (which I have to assume was the original inspiration for the doc), to front runner for the Democratic nomination, until it all comes crashing down as more and more details of his salacious online “habits” come to the forefront. It’s especially fascinating to see the subsequent closed doors interactions between Weiner, his wife Huma Abedin, and his campaign team as the scandal is unfolding. I swear, some of the scenes are straight out of HBO’s Veep. One would wonder why Weiner would allow the cameras to keep rolling through all the chaos, however one would wonder about a lot of the choices he makes. Ironically, I received this Netflix DVD in the mail this past Monday (yes, I am one of probably 12 people that still subscribes to their DVD service), aka the day Huma Abedin announced the split with her husband. This recent development adds even another layer to the must see documentary of the year.  Tier 1 – RATED GREG