Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Movie Reviews: The Magnificent Seven and Chicken People

Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt in a not-bad remake, and a visit to the world of competitive poultry.



The Magnificent Seven is of course a remake of John Sturges's famous 1960 Western, and of course it's been brought earnestly up to date. Now, instead of the marauding bandido who harried the defenseless villagers in the first film, we have a rapacious gringo (the words "robber baron" are actually uttered) who cites the tenets of capitalism and religion to justify his appropriation of the townsfolk's land. The Seven themselves are more ethnically diverse, too: there's an Asian knife fighter named Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a Mexican outlaw named Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and a Native American arrow-master called Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). There's even a woman—a feisty widow named Emma (Haley Bennett)—who's a match for any of the men, bravery-wise, and might have been included among their number had it not been necessary for her to shed tears at one point, and to serve the guys dinner at another.

The story, set in the Old West of 1879, is familiar. Denzel Washington is an itinerant lawman named Chisolm, who is persuaded to come to the aid of some timorous citizens whose homesteads are about to be taken over by that evil robber baron, Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), and his gunslinging henchmen. Chisolm knows he'll need help, so in addition to the above-noted roughnecks he recruits a Confederate war hero improbably named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a fat Indian-fighter named Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio), and a wise-cracking cardsharp named Faraday (Chris Pratt). Together, they amass a heaping cache of weapons and set about booby-trapping the town in anticipation of Bogue's arrival.

Washington, dressed all in black from his hat to his boots, is an instant icon of frontier badassery, and it's a pleasure to watch him work. And Hawke and Byung-hun conjure up easy rhythms of longtime compadres. But Pratt, starved of sharp lines, isn't always as much fun as you would hope; and the portly-plus D'Onofrio seems to be playing a Wild West version of Orson Wells. The rest of the Seven have their moments, but otherwise register minimally, some of them outshone by Bennett, whose distinctively sweet face and squint of steely determination add spine to a role that might have been little more than a genre cliché. Unfortunately, Sarsgaard's squirmy, over-underacted Bogue is a problem: he's too much of a worm to be truly dastardly, and after a while he mainly serves as wan comic relief.

Director Antoine Fuqua, who also directed Washington and Hawke in the 2001 Training Day (for which Washington won an Oscar), clearly loves Western movies, and he occasionally alludes to the grand tradition. There's a passing shot of a bad guy's corpse propped up in a coffin for public display that seems borrowed from Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven; and Fuqua's penchant for tight, circling close-ups of tense faces is pure Sergio Leone. (More novel is a death-by-many-arrows that strongly recalls a well-known scene in the first Lord of the Rings movie.)

Fuqua is also an unstinting action man, and while the movie is slow to get started, by the end, when a Gatling gun begins to chatter and bodies fly and all kinds of stuff starts blowing up, it finally delivers what you've come to see. (Well, mostly: the picture is rated PG-13, so there's not a lot of blood, and no sex at all, or even romance.)

Like the first Magnificent Seven, Fuqua's movie is derived from Akira Kurosawa's 1954 Seven Samurai, and I'd recommend either of those previous films over this one, which can't quite answer the question asked of all remakes: Why? It's not bad, but that's pretty much all it is.


Chicken People

If Errol Morris had ever wandered into the world of "competitive poultry," he might have been moved to make a documentary like Chicken People. As in some of Morris's films, director Nicole Lucas Haimes trains her camera on an eccentric subject—one of the hundreds of chicken-championship contests held across the country each year—and then gently dollies in on three veteran competitors, whose stories are equally curious, and unexpectedly moving.

We naturally learn a lot about chickens—Leghorns, Wyandottes, Silkies—and we marvel at their oddities. There's a poufy black bird the size of a small dog, a skinny one that suggests a normal chicken's head affixed to an experimental body, and another—a Mottled Hudan—that looks like an explosion in a feather factory. We learn about the standards they must meet and surpass ("nice even wattles," a comb "free from folds, twists, and excrescences") and the shortcomings that will disqualify them (no "duck-footed" entrants, no "vulture-like hocks"). It's a tough game.

As the annual Ohio National Competition draws close, we meet Haimes's featured players. Shari McCollough is a middle-aged divorcee living on a farm in Crawfordsville, Indiana, with five kids, 200 chickens, and a llama named Comet. Shari is a reformed alcoholic who climbed out of a dark personal hole with the help of her birds. "They gave me something to care about," she says. "My poultry is my life."

Brian Knox, likewise middle-aged and also Midwestern, builds automotive engines for tractor pulls, but is mainly obsessed with breeding championship chickens ("I'm a hatch-o-holic," he says). Brian is a shy, solitary man; he had a girlfriend once, but they broke up. "I miss her," he says. "I've kind of given up some things."

Then there's Brian Caraker, a bubbly 30-something man who makes his living singing in a '60s-music revue in the country fun mecca of Branson, Missouri. But Brian, too, lives for his chickens. He was viciously bullied in high school, and still suffers the aftereffects. "The chickens don't judge you," he says. Unfortunately, not having a real home of his own in Branson, he has to board his birds with his parents back in Illinois—not an ideal situation. "I don't have the agricultural release that I need," he says. Also, "My parents are not chicken people."

Like their fellow chicken folk, these three are good-hearted and guileless, sweetly supportive of one another even when the championship trophies elude their grasp. They live in another America, maybe a better one than the country portrayed in popular media. It's a place where no one gets mocked, and no one ever gives up. "I don't see a show-winner or a show-loser," Caraker says after one of his birds fails to prevail. "I see a part of my life."

NEXT: Nicole Eramo v. Rolling Stone Is Going to Trial: Judge's Decision a Partial Win for UVA Dean

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  1. So the villain in the new magnificent 7 is an evil white capitalist? Pass.

    I love how the truly villainous like commies are never the bad guys and people espousing the system that pulled billions out of poverty are….

    1. A robber baron is more akin to a crony capitalist. Not too many commies in the old West to pick from.

      1. There have always been commies: people who think they know just how much everyone should have and how they should live their lives, and that they’re just the ones to mold people into the perfect society, whether they like it or not.

        The common view of robber barons as a nearly unmitigated evil is almost entirely a fictional product of Hollywood. In truth, those men were the generators of more wealth and prosperity for normal people than the world had ever known. The 19th century U.S. was an enormous turning point in the history of mankind, when we started moving away from the average man scraping out a bare living scratching in the dirt under the bootheel of some lord. The period of the “robber barons” was a massive acceleration of that progress. They’re goddamn heroes, for the most part.

        1. In so much as the barons increased wealth fairly I agree with you. However, there were many who coopted the power of government to remove competition or seize property that wasn’t theirs. It is a topic ripe with conflict and I can’t really fault a writer for wanting to exploit it. Now if the government is portrayed as innocent and noble, I’ve got more of an issue with that or with the seemingly endless attempts to shoehorn modern sensibilities into period pieces. But this is just an action Western, no big message, just conflict and resolution.

          1. If it’s just an action Western, no big message, then what was the point of naming a character after the Hammett novel Red Harvest?

            1. In the theater there’s bound to be someone who chortles on 1st hearing the character’s name, & then the people sitting nearby are going to wonder what that’s about.

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        2. The term is overly broad. There were many, like Carnegie, who were as you described, others like Durant, were vile crony capitalists and still others, like Rockefeller were a mix of innovation, cronyism and sharp to the pint of borderline criminal.

        3. Good idea — just as “nazi” is used in trivial fashion (“speed nazi” comes to mind, and there’s the soup nazi), “commie” is an excellent name for collectivists and statists of all stripes. But for some reason, Communists don’t have the same evil stench as Nazis, probably because there was no World War III to expose their atrocities for the world to see, and Germany was a lesson because it had been a modern civilized first-world country where people went as tourists and came from and still had relatives they kept up with, before it started murdering people, unlike Russia and China.

        4. There were some exceptions – Jay Gould springs to mind – but it is notable that the Great Crusader against Rockefeller (Ida Tarbell) was the daughter of a would-be oil baron who had bet against Standard Oil and lost.

          Carnegie is the reason we consider Free Public Libraries normal in this country.

          The Intellectual Left desperately needs to denigrate Capitalism in the hope that this will distract from Collectivism’s record of murdering 100 million people in the 20th Century. They just CAN’T reassess and perhaps find a new secular religion; that would require thinking, and they are constitutionally unsuited for that.

      2. There were a surprising number in the South and West.

        I’m reading ‘Cannibals All, or Slaves Without Masters’ by George Fitzhugh (1857). Its a justification for Communism and total government control. It follows on to his earlier work providing a justification of slavery in the US.

        1. Indeed. I read Fitzhugh when I was researching an article on the Abolitionists as the spiritual forerunners of modern libertarians, and it was amusing how Fitzhugh’s arguments justifying slavery would be echoed in the 20th Century by “progressives” and other State-fellators.

    2. Pass. The first movie was mercs fighting thieves. That’s just more badass.

      1. Are we talking about the Adaptation, or the Seven Samurai?

        1. They’re both good. Although I really like the cast for the magnificent seven. I don’t know Japanese actors.

          1. Fair enough. (I’m not well versed in Japanese cinema either)

            1. TOSHIRO MIFUNE IS GOD!!!!

              The mighty Tatsuya Nakadai was an extra in Seven Samurai as well. Watch them face off here

              1. Someone has a frame-by-frame dissection of the actual sword play; I think it was three frames of importance, the rest being blood spray. Awesome ending to the movie. (Should note that this is from Sanjuro, not Seven Samurai.)

                1. Yeah, should have made that clearer. Kurosawa did do wonderful blood spray… remember Lady Kaede in Ran? What a scene.

          2. The Seven Samurai was excellent.

            I also recommend 13 Assassins.

            1. I liked the original. I haven’t seen the remake.

            2. If its the one I’m thinking of, 13 Assassins was good. I recall it being very chambara style though, with one guy killing multiple enemies one after another.

              I prefer the more realistic sword fighting like in Kurosawa’s films. True, Toshiro Mifune does kill a lot of people pretty quickly in those movies, but it makes sense cause they are bandits and gamblers he’s fighting and not samurai. Most of them are panicked and running away.

              1. And while I’m here I might as well throw out some other good samurai movies:

                The Hidden Blade
                The Twilight Samurai
                Love and Honor
                When the Last Sword Is Drawn
                After the Rain

                There are more older movies that are great, but these are more recent.

        2. Or Pixar’s remake? (Bug’s Life)

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  2. Brian Knox = SIV?

  3. So tired of Hollywood making capitalists and businessmen the villains. I’ll just go give the original Yul Brynner version another view.

  4. squint of steely determination ….a narrowed gaze?!

    Shari McCollough is a middle-aged divorcee living on a farm in Crawfordsville, Indiana, with five kids, 200 chickens, and a llama named Comet. Shari is a reformed alcoholic who climbed out of a dark personal hole with the help of her birds. “They gave me something to care about,” she says. “My poultry is my life.”

    So much for the 5 kids.

    1. The kids were the reason she drank. The llama was her drinking buddy.

      1. Hmmmm…. there must be something we can market out of “Llama Drinking Buddy”.

        1. It’s an app i’m working on. If you don’t have any friends, you can rent a local llama to drink with, right from your smartphone! DON’T NOBODY STEAL THIS IDEA.

          1. I’ve stolen it.

            1. Yeah, but you’re in Australia, which i’m pretty sure is an imaginary place.

              1. It’s not imaginary, but she’ll have a hard time keeping the llamas alive, so the venture will go under down under.

                1. A kangaroo drinking buddy would make a lot more sense for the Ozzie market. Plus, at the end of the night, you can ride home in the pouch.

                  1. Kangaroos aren’t big enough to carry a human in the pouch, geesh. But you could you them for Prime deliveries, I suppose.

                  2. OK, I lol’ed out loud.

                  3. +1 Waltzing Matilda

                2. I think its New Zealand – so she’s not going to have a whole lot of luck as those guys are already plying sheep with booze.

          2. Just for drinking? What about riding a llama to work? You could probably use the shoulder on the beltway and reduce your carbon footprint.

            1. Llamas aren’t big enough to carry a full-grown human. You’ll have to do some pretty intensive selective breeding or genetic engineering to make that happen.

              1. Well look at mister llama expert. Thanks for dashing my dreams.with your personal expertise.

                1. Two words – llama chariot.

                2. Now you’re just quoting liberally from my business card.

                3. Now you’re just quoting liberally from my business card.

                  1. More like squirrel chariot, amirite?

              2. EXOSKELETONS ON LLAMAS.

          3. How about drinking with Lorenzo Llamas?

  5. No hipster urban chicken owners enter these competitions? Not boutique enough, I guess.

    1. They can’t compete on that level, so they don’t emerge from their safe spaces to be crushed by rural shitlords.

      1. Give it time. Once someone affixes the word “artisinal” to something, hipsters get up on it like a fly on shit. To their credit, they often do a good job. I guess those liberal arts degrees are good for something.

        1. I’m just hoping to train my pygmy veliciraptors to not eat the other contestants’ entries. That’s a disqualifying event. (They’re too small to eat the other contestants with how few go to a single show)

          1. Hang on, you’re actually Jack Horner? Thanks for signing my book that one time, though it was a little creepy that you were hitting on my mom!

            1. I’d actually forgotten about his work…

            2. It looks like he eats all the chickens that don’t turn into dinosaurs.

    2. I showed poultry in HS FFA. I won many ribbons because no one bothered to show up but me.

      1. Was it actually poultry, or did anything vaguely bird-shaped count if uncontested?

        1. I put a rubber glove on my head.

          1. Well, it *is* Florida. probably the closest the non-Cubans ever got to a live one.

      2. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but the competition wasn’t actually being held in the gym teacher’s office, and those ribbons weren’t for the chickens.

        1. But…so. Many. Ribbons.

      3. Waving your cock around the FFA barn does not count as “showing poultry”. It is also the reason no one was showing up.

        1. I would not wave my cock around chickens. Try story: my cousin was taking a piss against the chicken wire fence at my grandma’s when the feisty little bantam rooster mistook his penis for a worm and jumped up and pecked him right on his pecker.

          1. That’s why they call it that.

      4. “I showed poultry” is the euphemism to beat today, folks.

        1. *squints mightily*

          1. That’s a pretty good euphemism too.

  6. A remake and a chicken contest?

    Let’s see what’s playing on the wall…ooh, drying paint, I want to watch that.

  7. . The Seven themselves are more ethnically diverse, too

    “Bernardo O’Reilly” is plenty diverse, not to mention Yul Brynner (Oh, what, he’s white exotic? Apparently only brown exotic people count.)

    1. You notice something about this more “ethnically diverse” set of samurai? They’re all racial stereotypes.

  8. So they made the villain an evil greedy businessman?

    How brave and original.

    1. Every time I hear that I’m reminded of the only line from an entire series of movies I can remember. “Yes, I admit it, I, (villain name), went into business to make money.”

  9. which can’t quite answer the question asked of all remakes: Why?

    To make it more progressive and politically correct, of course. Why must you even ask?

    1. I thought it was an uncreative attempt to garner cash off the good name of a better work.

      1. This, mostly. Some directors really do seem to think they are paying homage to their favorite films, though.

        You know, a lot of older movies, even the classics, were not very good by modern standards. The acting was rigid, the writing was bland. I wouldn’t have a problem with a lot of remakes if CGI and “dark” and “grit” weren’t the idiots’ stand-ins for quality.

        1. ” The acting was rigid, the writing was bland.”

          How many of the remakes are actually better? For the most part, the acting is replaced by pointless action scenes and the writing goes from bland to bad. There are a few decent remakes, but most of them seem noticeably worse.

        2. I’m almost always disappointed when I re-watch a movie I’d seen from decades ago that I thought was great at the time. The Magnificent Seven is one of those. However, it’s still good to kill a couple of hours.

        3. You know, a lot of older movies, even the classics, were not very good by modern standards.

          Citation needed.

          1. From Here to Eternity…

            I wish someone would remake that one based on the book, not the movie. It would be a good HBO miniseries.

  10. The Magnificent Seven

    What I need to know is, if I missed the first six movies, will I be able to follow what’s happening in this one?

    1. The Magnificent Six ended in a full cast death in an attempt to end the series, Seven was unconnected. You’ll be fine.

      1. +1 gritty reboot

    2. It’s actually a movie about the zany adventures of George Castanza’s son.

  11. More novel is a death-by-many-arrows that strongly recalls a well-known scene in the first Lord of the Rings movie.

    I wonder whether that scene from LOTR isn’t an homage to the climactic scene in “Throne of Blood,” a remake of “King Lear” by Akira Kurosawa, the director who made the original Seven Samurai.

    1. I was under the impression it was a remake of Macbeth?

      I’ve read that Mifune was unaware that those would be real arrows, and he wasn’t very happy with Kurosawa after that.

      1. Throne of Blood was MacBeth.

        Ran is King Lear.

  12. The thing to remember about remakes is that many movies we consider ‘classics’ are remakes. Heston’s BEN HUR was the third version, and the second to rescue its studio from bankruptcy. Whatever version of Dracula is your favorite (barring the silent NOSFERATU) is a remake.

    Which doesn’t, however, excuse remakes that don’t bring something g new to the story. And Political Correctness is hardly new.

    I am trying very hard not to pre-judge the latest remake of BEN HUR; Somehow even the wonderful Morgan Freeman doesn’t seem to be sufficient recompense for the loss of Hugh Griffith.

  13. “Now, instead of the marauding bandito who harried the defenseless villagers in the first film, we have a rapacious gringo (the words “robber baron” are actually uttered) who cites the tenets of capitalism and religion to justify his appropriation of the townsfolk’s land.”

    And the makers of the film want to make a profit by charging Christians to come see it?

    Make the bad “guy” a transgender government official who wants to appropriate the poor people’s land through eminent domain, and I might think about it.

    1. Hell, he could have set it in the modern day and made the bad guy a local branch of a Mexican cartel and it would have worked better.

  14. *Skarsgaard
    *card sharp

  15. That’s cute, naming a character in The Magnificent 7 after the Dashiell Hammett novel Red Harvest, on which it’s widely believed the movie was based.

  16. The Seven themselves are more ethnically diverse, too: there’s an Asian knife fighter, a Mexican outlaw, and a Native American arrow-master . . .

    So . . . not actually ethnically diverse then, just a bunch of ethnic stereotypes.

    Couple that with the whole ‘white man capitalist evil villain’ schtick and it looks like a solid pass for me.

    1. Funny enough, people now demand boring racial stereotypes in the name of diversity.

      Funny how the original Magnificent Seven and the film Seven Samurai it drew inspiration from was able to assemble interesting and unique characters without having to resort to stereotypes…

  17. Together, they amass a heaping cache of weapons and set about booby-trapping the town in anticipation of Bogue’s arrival.

    High Plains Drifter was better.

  18. The Magnificent Seven is of course a remake of a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, you mean.

  19. Like the first Magnificent Seven, Fuqua’s movie is derived from Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Seven Samurai,

    Its really not. It’d like to be. But its not. Which is too bad as this guy’s done some excellent work but here he seems to be to focused on *Western cliches* without a whole lot of understanding of why they are cliches or how they fit together.

    1. Interesting exercise in film watching; watch Kurosawa’s YOJIMBO, Leone’s FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, and Hill’s LAST MAN STANDING. Then try to figure out why the first translation works and the second doesn’t.

  20. It’s “Orson Welles”, dude.

    1. ^Thank you.

  21. I wasn’t going to see this pile-of-turd Mag 7 remake anyway but holy shit it’s an SJW cream-dream. Is every movie from now on going to be like this?

    1. It should be expanded to include all the protected classes including transgender and Muslims.

      The original U.S. version was bad ass cool because it didn’t take itself seriously.

      Today, everything seems to be a fucking tome against capitalism (fuck you Avatar) and patriarchy. No wonder movies suck now.

  22. Not surprised at all at M7.

    Won’t waste my time.

  23. Love Kurosawa. Love Seven Samurai. I couldn’t watch The Magnificent Seven because it seemed silly and lightweight in comparison.

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  26. Thanks for the review. The magnificent seven and chicken people is an okay movie. This is my opinion. I watched the movie on you tv player android app and it has all the latest movies and shows.

  27. Really Nice Post. Thanks for sharing with us.

  28. The Magnificent Seven is the excellent movie that everyone should watch. I love to watch all latest movies and TV Shows for free on BobbyHD iOS app. All latest movies are available on this app for free.

  29. This is my opinion. I watched the movie on you tv player android app and it has all the latest movies and shows.

  30. nice movie. Watched this yesterday on netflix. I really tried hard on some good torrent sites to watch the movie but could not find it. Anyways finally watched it. good review BTW.

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