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A New What?

1977 was a significant year in the world of movies. For cinema-goers, there was a change that became a lasting legacy, one that is still talked about. For one film franchise, a benchmark was set that’s never been matched since.

Some of you are ahead of me on this. Your encyclopaedic knowledge of this franchise is matched only by Trekkies.

But I also know some of you are already straying down the wrong path. Because, while 1977 saw the very first Star Wars movie hit our screens, it also saw the release of The Spy Who Loved Me.

For those of you who were already playing John Williams’ iconic theme in your heads and have just heard the needle scrape to an abrupt halt, this may have come as something of a shock. But bear with me. (more…)

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As some of you will have gathered, I like going to the cinema.  If possible, I’ll go every week, though in my youth I’d go even more regularly than that.

Because my partner and I don’t always share the same tastes in movies (or the same level of satisfaction from sitting for hours in a darkened room), I often go on my own.  But just recently there have been a few releases I thought she’d enjoy, so we arranged to go together.  As I normally watch whatever I want, I asked her to pick out what she’d like to see and then went sailing (at least she’s not a golf widow).

When I returned I was presented with three options, none of which had seemed likely to me when I’d suggested this.  Top of her list was The Magnificent Seven, a film I hadn’t even considered.

If you’ve read more than a few of my posts, you’ll know I’m not averse to some nostalgia.  Although the original Magnificent Seven was made before I was born (just), it put in regular appearances on Saturday nights while I was a child, so you might think this was ideal for me.

I’m often curious about remakes of films and TV series from my youth.  Star Trek, in both movies and TV spin offs, has largely done well.  The film versions of Starsky and Hutch and The Saint completely missed the point and should never have made it past the writer’s bathroom (clearly where the concepts came from).  So I have a history of going to find out what they’ve done to either push my nostalgia buttons or make me weep.  The weeping, though, was very pronounced when I went to see Guy Ritchie’s attempt to reboot The Man From UNCLE, so I have felt a little jaded recently.

That aside, whilst I don’t mind a Western, the genre isn’t particularly a favourite of mine.  There have been several films I’ve fancied watching lately and haven’t had time to see, ranging from Sausage Party to Don’t Breathe, with AbFab, Bad Moms and Pete’s Dragon in between (I like variety…).  So it wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to see it, more that better options were available.

Unfortunately, none of the others appealed to my partner and, as I’ve repeatedly told her to go regularly and watch as many as possible to find the real gems, I could hardly argue against it.

And I’m glad I didn’t.  It’d be ridiculous to claim this was as good as the original, but it was a worthy effort.  It lacks the star-studded cast of the original, but that’s only with the benefit of hindsight.  It’s easy to forget that Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn and Charles Bronson were hardly known when the film was released.

When I wrote about The Man From UNCLE, I compared it’s failings to the success of the Mission Impossible reboot.  A factor I felt strengthened MI was the introduction of a new hero, Ethan Hunt.  So the nostalgic satisfaction came from the mission style rather than the characters and the inevitable comparisons with the original actors.  For me, Napoleon Solo would always be Robert Vaughn, just as Chris would always be Yul Brynner.

The first Magnificent Seven was based on the Japanese movie Seven Samurai, so even then the concept was the key thing, not the characters.  And in this new version they’ve done the same – kept only the concept.  So the conflict is similar, but the characters are different.  At no time did I find myself comparing Denzel to Yul.

That said, I did feel some of the characters in the new version lacked the depth of their earlier counterparts.  Although Washington’s Chisholm was pretty well drawn, the others felt more like cardboard cut outs, with some not even consistent in their depiction.

And then there’s the “seven”.  It’s been a while since I last saw Yul Brynner and the gang, but I seem to recall they were restricted to seven for a reason.  In this case, I got the impression they accumulated a team of seven and decided that’d do.

These are minor criticisms.  After all, I’m a fan of Bond movies, and they’re so riddled with plot holes it’s wonder they don’t sink.  But they’re entertaining, they’re a spectacle and so was this version of The Magnificent Seven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Some of the remarks in my last post could’ve been construed as dismissive or derogatory towards Whovians (and other geeks). I did say it was only intended as banter, something derived from that great British tradition of “taking the piss” – an activity that’s been dominant in my life. Done in person there are nuances (facial expression, tone of voice) that can take the sting out of a comment or emphasise the humour – but not always.

A year ago today was the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, marked by a special episode simultaneously broadcast around the world and in cinemas. I thought going to the flicks to see it was a terrific idea because:

1. The cinema’s my second home
2. It’d be in 3D – not a medium you’d normally see the programme in
3. Watching Doctor Who is usually a near-solitary experience (well, it is in our house), so it’d be interesting to share it with a large group – even if I didn’t know them
4. Maybe fans would turn up in costume to add to the spectacle

In the main, it was a great night. There was a real atmosphere and some of that famous British reserve fell away as complete strangers talked to each other. Any costumes, though, were discreet enough to go unnoticed.

Relieved that, by turning up in civvies, I wasn’t the odd one out, I commented on this to the bloke sitting next to me. Emphasising my lack of geekness, I trotted out my reasons for coming, ending with something along the lines of: “I thought there’d be a load of Whovians here, dressed up,” my tone suggesting this ridiculous behaviour was beneath me. At this point, my new best buddy (I won’t call him a companion) gestured to the slogan on his T-shirt and I realised the phrase: “It’s bigger on the inside” had been staring me in the face for the previous 10 minutes.

So, even in person, you can get it wrong.

To be fair, I haven’t had any complaints about Is This Heaven?, so I guess it was taken in the spirit intended. But, as I wrote the post, it occurred to me that there is a serious(ish) point to be made.

At some time in our lives, most of us will have had cause to deride (even if it’s only in the privacy of our own minds) others who seem to be obsessed with something. It might be a TV show, a film series or even modes of transport. These people collect memorabilia (or numbers), they go to conventions, they have fanzines and dedicated websites, and they talk (it seems) about nothing else. In that context, the old Saturday Night Live sketch where William Shatner tells an audience of Trekkies to “get a life” basically just makes sense.

Like many people, I did consider trainspotters to be anoraks, until two friends took me on one of their excursions and it opened my eyes. I discovered an enthusiasm not only for “locos” but the whole rail network. By the time they were in their early twenties, these guys had seen more of our wonderful country than I have even now. More than that, their passion encouraged them to develop other skills. By the time they were twenty, they were amongst the most accomplished photographers I’ve ever seen.

Clearly, that’s a specific experience, but we don’t have to look too hard to find other examples. There are countless cases of scientists inspired by watching TV shows. Many writers, myself included, have been hugely influenced by their obsessions with certain movie genres and gone on to create their own novels and screenplays with which to entertain whole new audiences.

So don’t take me seriously when I’m flippant about Whovians, or Trekkies, or whatever you call Star Wars fans. In practice, I feel very fondly towards them, because I know that, in their own way, they’re exploring their own kinds of creativity. And that’s got to be better than sitting on your arse and living a life without passion.

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Katrina Marie

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