R.I.P. Bill Nunn

Actor Bill Nunn passed away according to director Spike Lee. Nunn is probably best known for his iconic role as Radio Raheem in Spike Lee’s 1991 classic “Do The Right Thing.” Nunn was an excellent actor and had a long career in film, and we remember his role in “Regarding Henry” very well. He played Bradley, the physical therapist who helped Harrison Ford’s character recover and rebuild his life following a gunshot wound. It’s an underrated film that’s worth watching, and Nunn’s understated performance stood out even with great performances by Ford and Annette Bening.

Rest in peace…

  

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Movie Review: “The Magnificent Seven”

Starring
Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Byung-hun Lee, Hayley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Vincent D’Onofrio
Director
Antoine Fuqua

Hollywood remakes are hardly a new concept, but while there have been a handful of movies that actually improved upon the original, most tend not to be as good, either because they veer too far from what made them enjoyable or not far enough to make it worthwhile. Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven” is an interesting case in that it’s technically a remake of a remake, based on the 1960 John Sturges film of the same name, which was itself inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” Although it certainly had the odds stacked against it, the movie succeeds where so many have failed by retaining the spirit of its predecessors while also distinguishing itself just enough to stand on its own. It’s not exactly magnificent, but it’s a slick and entertaining take on a familiar tale that’s bursting with personality.

The year is 1879, and the small town of Rose Creek has been invaded by an evil mining baron named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), who presents the townspeople with an ultimatum: accept his paltry offer to buy their land or stay and suffer the consequences when he returns in three weeks. And to prove that he means business, Bogue murders the outspoken husband of Emma Cullen (Hayley Bennett). While her neighbors cower inside their homes, Emma goes searching for help in a nearby town and hires bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who in turn recruits six other men – drunken gambler Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), former Confederate sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), knives expert Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), fur trapper Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) – to protect the town and put an end to Bogue’s tyranny. But as they prepare for the inevitable attack, the seven mercenaries soon realize that they’re fighting for more than money.

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Movie Review: “Storks”

Starring
Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell
Director
Nicholas Stoller & Doug Sweetland

“Storks” is filled with sweet and funny moments, but it has two teensy weensy (read: massive) problems: a lot of the funny bits are stolen, and there is no story. Like, at all. It’s actually kind of impressive how far out of his way screenwriter Nicholas Stoller went to not come up with a coherent story, and then you remember that he’s written some funny movies that had a story (the two most recent Muppets films, for starters), and that’s when the feeling of being cheated sets in.

Storks have gotten out of the business of delivering babies in favor of an Amazon-type model, and Junior (Andy Samberg) is the star delivery stork. Boss stork Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) is being promoted and would like Junior to take his place. But first, Junior must “liberate” the accidental troublemaker and newly-18-year-old Tulip (Katie Crown), a girl whose delivery instructions were lost and has remained with the storks. Junior instead assigns her to the now-dormant mail room, expecting her to not be able to break anything, until she receives a letter from Nate (Anton Starkman), a bored single child to workaholic parents who wants a little brother. Tulip sends the letter to the wrong machine, and a baby – somehow – is born. Junior, knowing that he’ll lose the promotion if Hunter discovers what has happened, teams up with Tulip to deliver the baby.

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Blu Tuesday: Neighbors 2 and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.

“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”

WHAT: When a progressive, hard-partying sorority (led by Chloe Grace Moretz) moves in next door and threatens to derail the impending sale of their house, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) join forces with their former adversary, Teddy (Zac Efron), to take them down.

WHY: Though 2014’s “Neighbors” was a box office hit, there weren’t many people clamoring for a sequel, mainly because it didn’t feel like there was anywhere else to go with the story. That didn’t stop Universal from green-lighting this blatant cash grab, however, resulting in a sloppy, pseudo-feminist rehash of the original that follows the same beats without many of the laughs. Not only is it more unbelievable than its predecessor (nothing that happens in this film is even remotely realistic), but unlike the Delta Psi guys played by Zac Efron and Dave Franco, the sorority girls aren’t very likeable; in fact, they’re straight-up idiots with almost no redeeming qualities. Unfortunately, that extends to many of the returning characters as well. Despite his fun turn as the villain in the first movie, Efron is wasted as the emotionally stunted sidekick, while Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne seem to be on auto-pilot. There are a few giggles here and there, but for the most part, “Neighbors 2” is a giant waste of talent and, more importantly, your time.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Nicholas Stoller and producer James Weaver, there’s a making-of featurette, a behind-the-scenes look at filming the tailgate sequence, deleted scenes, alternate takes, a gag reel and more.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

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Summer Schooled: What the summer season at the movies meant in 2016

summer_schooled

From May to August, the summer movie season is in full swing, a cavalcade of blockbusters designed by large corporations to bring in as much money as possible by appealing to as many people as they can. And if those studios just so happen to produce a good film in the process? Well, that’s a bonus. As opposed to the dumping grounds of January and February, or the prestige-filled months at the end of the year, summer is the awkward middle child attempting to overachieve and set new box office records. But what can filmgoers learn about the state of the movie nation based on what was a success this year? And was there a huge disparity between what was popular and what was critically praised? I looked at the numbers and took the pulse of 2016’s summer movie season, and I found some surprising trends.

First, to make sure we’re all working from the same math, here are the top ten films, by box office for May to August, along with their Rotten Tomatoes critic scores and audience scores:

summer-movies

So what are we to draw from this? A few things…

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