Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Small Towns


2017's Thursdays are in short supply, but there are a few left. This week, our wonderful host for Thursday Movie Picks, Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves, has chosen to use this one for us to talk about films dealing with small towns. It would be an easy topic, except for the fact that there are far too many to choose from. I kept it simple. Real simple.


Seven Samurai
(1954)
The small town here is just a village in Japan that is being terrorized by bandits. The locals seek protection and hire a down-on-his-luck samurai to give it to them. Realizing he can't do it on his own, he recruits six others to help him do the job. The result is a phenomenal film that appears on tons of those lists of the greatest movies of all-time. And with good reason. It's a sprawling epic with a story and characters that pull you in. It's a bit of a slow burn, and can eat up much of your day at three-and-a-half hours in length, but it's so worth it.


The Magnificent Seven
(1960)
The small town here is just a village in Mexico that is being terrorized by bandits. The locals seek protection and hire a gunslinger to give it to him. Realizing he can't do it on his own, he recruits six others to help him do the job. Hey, that sounds familiar. It should. This is the star-studded American remake of my first pick. It's not quite as awesome, but it's plenty good, quicker paced, and chops offs about 80 minutes off the runtime.


The Magnificent Seven
(2016)
The small town here is just a fledgling town on the American frontier that is being terrorized by an evil mining tycoon. The locals seek protection and hire a rogue U.S. Marshal to give it to them. Realizing he can't do it on his own, he recruits six others to help him do the job. Hmmm. If you sense a pattern here, congratulations, you're actually awake while reading this. Anyhoo, this one is, obviously, a star-studded American remake of the star-studded American remake of Seven Samurai. The emphasis here is on fun and this film has plenty of it. Sure, it doesn't do anything new, but it's good popcorn-munching time.



20 comments:

  1. The Seven Samurai is definitely a film that can be imitated but never duplicated. It's a long film but dammit, it's worth it. A true classic. The original version of The Magnificent Seven is a solid and entertaining remake while I've only seen bits of the recent version.

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    1. I had a good time with the latest version. And yes, the original is more than worth it.

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  2. Nice theme within a theme. I saw The Magnificent Seven remake and didn't care for it, I'd like to see the original Seven Samurai.

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  3. I've seen and love the first two. Seven Samurai is evidence of what Ebert used to say--no great movie is ever too long.

    The Magnificent Seven is yet another piece of evidence that no one was ever cooler than Steve McQueen.

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    1. "No great movie is ever too long." Absolutely!

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  4. I absolutely love your theme within a theme. I'm yet to see The Magnificent Seven remake, but the original and Seven Samurai were great.

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    1. I think the latest version is a bit underrated. It's not on the level of the others, but still very entertaining.

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  5. A theme within a theme within a theme. Well played! :-)

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  6. I always love a theme within the theme so well played! I've seen the first two and both are terrific in their different ways but 99.9% of the time the original is best and that's the case here. I've heard mostly indifference to the new version so I've been in no real hurry to watch but one of these days.

    Geez everyone seems to be doing the theme within a theme this week and I feel lacking since I didn't but choices for this particular trope are so thick on the ground I simply picked the first three that came to mind and that I liked.

    Doc Hollywood (1991)-Ben Stone (Michael J. Fox) is a hotshot young doctor as well as pompous jackass who has been offered a big opportunity with a plastic surgeon in L.A. Driving across country in his sports car he tries to avoid highway traffic but causes a minor accident on a back road in the small town of Grady. Sentenced to community service assisting the town’s long time cantankerous physician Dr. Hogue (Barnard Hughes) he struggles with the slower pace of the village. At first snappish and anxious to get out of there ASAP he gradually falls for both the colorful townspeople including the mayor (David Ogden Stiers) his randy but sweet daughter Nancy Lee (a scene stealing Bridget Fonda) and pretty ambulance driver Lou (Julie Warner) whose affections he has to compete for with the cocksure insurance man Hank (Woody Harrelson). Good natured comedy is a great showcase for Fox’s boyish charm.

    All That Heaven Allows (1955)-Douglas Sirk’s masterpiece of color and skewering of class structure looks at the May/December romance of wealthy widow Cary Scott (Jane Wyman), lonely but hidebound by small town mores to a country club life full of wolfish men, disapproving children and stifling conventions, and her younger gardener Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson) a successful nurseryman with a rustic, down to earth attitude who doesn’t give a damn what others think. They are happy for a brief period but Cary, saddled with two of the most odious children (both of college age) in filmdom is pressured by them to break off the affair at which point having ruined her life they promptly forget about her. There’s plenty more drama ahead for the pair though. This heavily influenced Todd Haynes’s Far from Heaven.

    Our Town (1940)-The everyday life of small town Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire from the turn of the last century until about the time the film was made is recalled by the residents young and old. Idyllic version of life in the early 20th century where no one locks their doors and all is mostly harmonious focuses on young lovers George Gibbs (William Holden) and Emily Webb (Martha Scott) through their trials and triumphs. Thornton Wilder’s play on which this is based won the Pulitzer Prize.

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    1. The new version of TM7 isn't one of the best movies of the year, but it is a fun time.

      I've seen parts of Doc Hollywood, but never all in one sitting. For me, it's just part of a glob of late 80s/early 90s Michael J. Fox movies that I wasn't terribly interested in due to the lack of lightning and a DeLorean. Some I watched, some I didn't.

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    2. Several of Michael J. Fox's movies from that period are propped up solely by his magnetism-which is always considerable-but this one is one of his best because it has deeper pockets. The supporting cast is varied and rather than being generically quirky the excellent character actors make them genuinely so. I've always loved Bridget Fonda and I think this is the most charmingly winning she's ever been on screen.

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    3. Here's the thing...I never really found Fox particularly magnetic. Don't get me wrong, I like him, and love the Back to the Future movies. I just always thought of that being a case where he's a great fit for that material rather than him making the material great. The same goes for Teen Wolf and Family Ties. He's great in all those roles, but while watching him I never get the feeling that he can carry a less than stellar production the way I do with those who are truly compelling.

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  7. I loved The Seven Samurai. I was lucky to see it enough at a cinema showing. Love the theme of your answers :)

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  8. I haven't finished watching the remake of The Magnificent Seven, but I'd like to see the original movie and Seven Samurai as well.

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    1. They're both definitely worth the effort.

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