At The Movies: The Magnificent Seven

Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the 1960 classic “The Magnificent Seven” (itself a remake of the 1954 classic “Seven Samurai”) is a fun, familiar romp through many of the cliches and traditions that made the western such a popular genre back in the day.

First, I should explain to the young people in the audience. Westerns are movies set in the Old West of America, often around the time of the Civil War. They once roamed movie theaters (there weren’t multiplexes back then) in herds as large as buffalo. In other words, they were the superhero movies of yesteryear.

In fact, let me put this movie in today’s terms: The Magnificent Seven are basically The Avengers, but with rifles instead of repulsor rays. Denzel Washington is Captain America, the morally upright leader; Chris Pine is Iron Man, his smart-ass No. 2; Ethan Hawke is Thor, the legendary war hero; Vincent D’Onofrio is HULK, soft-spoken but good at smashing; Byung-hun Lee is Black Widow, the assassin;  and Martin Sensmeier is Hawkeye, the bow-and-arrow guy who doesn’t get to do much. Manuel Garci-Rulfo is Nick Fury, I guess, because they are both kinda the odd man out. Granted, it’s not a perfect analogy. Thor, for example, would never have a crisis of confidence.

The Loki of our story is played by Peter Sarsgaard. He doesn’t want to take over the world, just the town of Rose Creek. And he has an army of nameless, faceless thugs to do his fighting for him.

Magnificent_Seven_2016.jpgFor those of you who hate comic book comparisons, here’s the real deal: Sarsgaad stars as Bartholomew Bogue, an evil businessman who owns the local mine and now wants the town as well. He rides into town with some thugs, sets the church on fire, has several men killed, and promises to come back in three weeks and everybody better be gone.

Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett — I bet you thought there weren’t any women in this movie), whose husband is killed during Bogue’s visit, runs off to hire some killers to stand up to him. She runs into Sam Chisolm (Washington), a bounty hunter who has a prior history with Bogue.

Chisolm takes on the job, even though it’s suicide, and proceeds to round up all the actors listed in the third paragraph — all with personalities pretty similar to those mentioned above.

The Seven arrive in Rose Creek and make short work of the men Bogue has left in charge. Now the team has only a few days to turn the shop owners and farmers of Rose Creek into a fighting force ready to take on the army that Bogue will be bringing with him once he hears about what’s gone down.

“The Magnificent Seven” isn’t an original or groundbreaking film but it isn’t trying to be. It’s a solid, entertaining throwback to the movies that inspired it. The western vistas are gorgeous. The violence is plenty but not gratuitous — people die, but without blood splattered everywhere.

The Seven are captivating each in their own way — my favorite is D’Onofrio’s character, a man so gruff he’s referred to as a bear in a man’s clothing.

But hey, it is 2016 and so certain changes have been made: The Seven are a much more diverse bunch than the 1960 squad, as is the style of the times, and Mrs. Cullen doesn’t just sit around making stew for the menfolk. She can handle a firearm just as good as the hired killers, thank you very much.


Batman, Burritos, Bachman, Bart

That last word should be art, but that doesn’t start with a “B”

If you don’t know what to do Saturday, you haven’t been paying attention. If only the stupid weather would cooperate.

Batman Day

unnamed-72-600x922I don’t know why there is a Batman Day — because technically every day is Batman Day — but I’ll never turn down an opportunity to honor The Great One.

Comic book shops, normal book stores, libraries and who knows who else throughout this great land will be marking the occasion by giving away a free Batman comic book. There will probably be sales and other events going on. To find out what’s going on in your neighborhood, go here.

Note: There is no Superman Day. Stupid illegal alien.

Mexican Villa’s Birthday Fiesta

If you’re lucky enough to be in Springfield, Missouri, on Saturday (and trust me, that’s the only time I’ve ever said that), then stop by the Greatest Mexican Restaurant in the World as Mexican Villa celebrates its 65th birthday.


There will be a vintage car show (but who cares?), 65-cent tacos (I’ve never had a MV taco, but I’m sure they’re delicious), inflatables and face painting for the kids, and live music including bluegrass. Because nothing says Mexican food like bluegrass music.

But most important of all, they will be selling the Best Burrito in the World, as declared by The RROY REPORT, which you should enjoy with a side of rice. They also have the best hot sauce and chips. I wish I could be there.

Celebrate Randy Bachman

randy-bachman-1-340x340Celebrate St. Peters is taking place this weekend just down the road at 370 Lakeside Park. There will be carnival rides, kids activities, games and food – but none of that matters.

What matters is that Randy Bachman, mastermind of not one, but two, of the great bands of the 1970s, is the headliner on Saturday night.

Bachman will be playing classic Guess Who tunes like “UnDun,” “No Sugar Tonight” and “No Time” as well as Bachman-Turner Overdrive hits like “Roll On Down The Highway,” “Hey You” and “Takin’ Care of Business.” And all at no charge to you! Bring a lawn chair and set up next to me and the boy (the wife may join us if she’s not playing bingo). Unless it’s still raining and horribly wet. In which come over to the house where we’ll be listening to the Guess Who and BTO on CD while watching a Batman movie.


MOSAICS.jpgThe 22nd annual MOsaics Missouri Festival of the Arts is going on all weekend downtown on Main Street in St. Charles. It’s like the Festival of the Little Hills but smaller and less crowded and more upscale. The latter point being why it is smaller and less crowded. I also like it more than Little Hills Fest precisely because it is smaller and less crowded. There are art booths, food, live music, kid activities. The usual.



On Stage: A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder

The Fox Theatre launches its latest season of Broadway goodness with the delightful murder-musical-comedy “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.”

Based on the 1907 novel “Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal” by Roy Horniman, the tale was turned into a musical by Robert L. Freedman. The show opened on Broadway in 2013 and won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the following year.


The  cast with John Rapson as Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith (center) in a scene from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder. Photo credit: Joan Marcus

The gentleman in question is Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey), a poor nobody living in a flat in London and grieving over his mother’s recent death. He’s visited by a mysterious old woman named Marietta Shingle (Mary VanArsdel), who brings unexpected news of his lineage.

It turns out mother was a member of the prestigious D’Ysquith family. She had been cast out and cut off from the family years ago when she chose to run off with a lowly musician. In fact, Monty is ninth in line  to inherit the earldom of Highhurst. Miss Shingle suggests Monty contact the D’Ysquiths and try to mend fences.

When his letter is rebuffed, Monty meets with the clergyman of the family in the hopes he will be more helpful. He isn’t, and when the Reverend falls to his death from atop the church bell tower (a death Monty could have prevented), Mr. Navarro embarks on a scheme to murder the remaining seven D’Ysquiths who stand between him and the earldom.

Supporting him, but not assisting him with his plan, is Monty’s longtime lover Sibella Hallward (Kristen Beth Williams). Despite their feelings for each other, Sibella marries a man of higher status because she can’t wait around on Monty to become rich. They still get together regularly anyway. This relationship becomes more complicated once Monty meets and becomes attracted to his cousin, Phoebe D’Ysquith (Adrienne Eller). Fortunately, Phoebe is not in the line of succession.

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” if a fun, if somewhat macabre, frolic with a very British sensibility. The show relies heavily on wordplay and slapstick. The music works in service to the story and as such is the weakest link in the show. While songs such as “I Don’t Understand the Poor” and “Better With A Man” are clever and amusing, they’re not the type of tunes you’ll be humming on your way out the door. The songs serve their purpose but aren’t very memorable.

Everything else is first rate.The action occurs in a variety of locations and to deal with this challenge the production features a stage on the stage which lets the story quickly and seamlessly move from place to place. The set design and costumes are impressive. The actors and musicians deliver fine performances.

While you might believe from the synopsis that the talented Kevin Massey is the star of the show, the real standout is John Rapson — who plays not one, not two, but all eight of the doomed D’Ysquiths. Each member of the royal family has his-or-her own eccentricities, and Rapson is a joy to watch as he brings them all to life. Then death.

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” runs through Sept. 25.





At The Movies: Sully

It’s hard to speak ill of “Sully.” It’s one of those amazing-but-true inspirational tales of an unassuming, ordinary person doing extraordinary things under terrible conditions. It’s directed by the always solid Clint Eastwood. It stars the always reliable Tom Hanks. It’s a sure crowd pleaser.

So I’ll leave my minor but nagging criticisms for the end.

Hanks stars as veteran US Airways pilot Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. One morning he and co-pilot Jeffery Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) begin a routine flight out of New York City when they encounter a flock of geese engaged in an unexpected game of chicken. The birds lose but in the process do enough damage to the plane’s engines than an emergency landing is necessary.

sully-2016-movie-posterConvinced they won’t make it back to LaGuardia or any other nearby landing strip, Sully decides to put the plane down in the frigid winter waters of the Hudson River. The pilot defies all odds and prior aviation history and lands the plane without a single casualty. Sully quickly becomes a national hero.

But there ain’t no drama in that. Enter the National Transportation Safety Board, aka The Heavies. While friendly at first, the investigators quickly question whether Sully used sound judgement in making a water landing and doubt his assurance that both engines were taking out by the birds.

“Sully” is a well-meaning and well-produced drama that I found entertaining but hollow. A big part of my problem is that there isn’t enough substance here for a movie, even one clocking in at a reasonable 96 minutes. The crash itself is over in minutes, leaving the bulk of the film focused on Sully sitting in hotel rooms or bars dealing with his new heroic status while anxious about his future. Laura Linney gets the unenviable chore of playing the worried wife, stuck dealing with the situation via telephone.

Eastwood fills some of the gaps with dream sequences and revisiting the crash throughout the film from various angles. I suspect he plays the NTSB investigators as more bloodthirsty than they were in the real account. But that’s what makes compelling cinema.

At The Movies: Morgan

If you’re hoping “Morgan” is a documentary about the life of Morgan Freeman (narrated by Morgan Freeman, naturally) then you’ll be disappointed.

No, “Morgan” is the latest in the line of no-frills, sci-fi thrillers that make their way to theaters every year. Think “Ex Machina” or “Lucy.” It’s quirky, compelling and strange. Pretty much what you expect from science fiction when it’s not being taken over by big budgets, special effects and spaceships.

Morgan-posterKate Mara stars as Lee Weathers, an analyst and fixer for a large corporation that is doing work in human genetic engineering. She’s been sent to a secluded, run-down mansion in the woods where a team of scientists are working with their latest test-tube subject, a young girl named Morgan (Anya-Taylor Joy).

Morgan recently had a violent outburst and savagely injured one of her keepers. Lee has been sent in to determine if she should be terminated.

The staff, led by Dr. Simon Ziegler (Toby Jones), are fiercely loyal to Morgan, despite the incident. The head of the program, Dr. Lui Cheng (Michelle Yeoh), is more reserved.

Things take a turn for the worse for Morgan during an interview with Dr. Alan Shapiro (Paul Giamatti), the expert sent to determine her state of mind. It’s clear to Lee what needs to be done, but Morgan won’t be the only person to reject the decision.

“Morgan” marks the directorial debut of Luke Scott, son of director Ridley Scott. While not at the level of his father’s works like “Alien,” “Blade Runner” or “The Martian,” it’s not a bad first film.  The set-up is intriguing and it takes an interesting turn near the end. It is a little thin on story and character development.

Kate Mara gives a good performance and most everyone else is adequate. Giamatti’s character takes it too far — if his goal was really to goad Morgan to the breaking point, you’d think he’d have security in the room with him given what happened the last time.



At The Movies: Don’t Breathe

So last week we talked about “Hell or High Water” and how a talented director took a stale plot or two and with the right writing and cast made it fresh and interesting. This week Fede Alvarez does a similar thing with the horror genre in “Don’t Breathe.”

Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto star as Rocky, Alex and Money — three young punks who go around robbing houses. Alex’s father works for a security company and he “borrows” the old man’s keys to aid them in their crimes.

Alex is the serious one, Money is the crazy one and Rocky is the sympathetic one — she’s only stealing so she can make enough money so she and her little sister can escape life with their abusive mother.

dont_breathe_ver4Money learns of a potential hit that’s too good to be true — an old, blind man living alone in a secluded house with a large sum of money he received in a legal settlement. And you know what they say about things that are too good to be true.

The trio show up in the dead of night only to find their only real obstacle is a growling, slobbering dog. They put him to sleep with some drugged meat and break in through the bathroom window — the only window that isn’t barred shut.

They encounter a room with a huge lock on it and assume that’s where they’ll find the cash. In the process of breaking the lock they wake up the old man (Stephen Lang). Although he’s blind, he’s more than willing to fight — and kill — to protect his home, his money — and his secrets.

I’m not much on horror movies but I do enjoy a good one, and “Don’t Breathe” is a good one. Alvarez knows when to crank up the tension and throws in some unexpected and effective twists. While the movie has its violent moments it doesn’t rely heavily on gore. This story is more about fear and terror than blood splatters.

Lang remains silent through most of the film, adding to the character’s creepiness, but when he finally does speak — that’s when the story becomes even more disturbing.

There are a few absurd horror movie moments, but overall “Don’t Breathe” is a brutal, chilling and clever film.




Festival Of The Many Roys

Last year Sister2 and Sister-In-Law convinced their spouses to come to St. Charles for the Fete des Petites Cotes. Apparently they had so much fun, or the allure of Kettle Korn was so overwhelming, that they decided to come back and convinced Sister1 and her spouse to join them.

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If you’ve done the math, that’s 6 visitors in a house with 3 bedrooms, two of which are spoken for. We decided to let Randy & Brenda have one room, Mark & Teresa the other, with Cindy & Chuck on an air mattress in the basement. Lar and I would sleep on air mattresses in Andrew’s room. He wouldn’t mind the company. I’m not a fan of air mattresses but we got rid of the beds that fold back into couches because they became unfashionable, I guess. Of course, we used to have a water bed and then it became unfashionable. I just want something soft to sleep on.

Figuring out sleeping arrangements was the easy part. Now comes the cleaning. It’s bad enough living with an obsessive-compulsive clean freak under normal circumstances — having company just cranks all the OCD up to 11. “This house is filthy! Your family are going to be disgusted!” Do you know how hard it is to relax on the couch with a Coke, a bag of chips, and the Kindle Fire while watching TV with that going on? “Why are you eating on the couch! What are you, an animal?!”

The family pulled up in a rented 6-passenger van late Friday afternoon. I put on the Olympics hoping that will entertain them, and in short order I fire up the grill. We have the food ready by the time Lar gets home. The Stupid St. Louis Weathermen say there’s an 80 percent chance for rain tomorrow, so we decide to go down to the fest after supper just to be safe.

Naturally, everyone in St. Louis had the same idea. The RRoy St. Louis Freebie Festival Imperative was in full effect (Question 24 in the FAQ).Lar wanted to park in the city garage, which I was sure would be full at 7 p.m., but no one listens to me, and since you can’t fit 9 people in a 6 passenger van, we had to take 2 cars, which meant the odds of finding not 1 but 2 parking spaces in the city garage at 7 p.m. on opening night of the Little Hills Festival was… well, no one listens to me…

Chuck manages to find a spot for the van, I am not so lucky. I kick the passsengers out of my car and tear out of the city garage. I head over to the Foundry Art Centre where I see a couple and a baby carriage heading to their car. I pull up behind them. “No hurry. I am in no rush to catch up to my family.”

I eventually find them on Riverside Drive. It turns out the event organizers, after listening to the Stupid St. Louis Weathermen, decided not to set up tents in the park since all that rain that was coming in would turn the event into a wet, muddy mess — like last year.

Did I mention that every idiot in St. Louis had converged on the festival? I had never seen it so crowded on a Friday night. We walked until it was too dark to see, then kept walking. Eventually we went home and I had a nice, refreshing sleep on an air mattress.

The next day everyone was up and ready to go by 9:30 a.m. so off we went. Much better parking situation at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The forecast by the Stupid St. Louis Weathermen had miraculously changed from 80 percent chance of rain to 10 percent. Oh, Stupid St. Louis Weathermen — don’t ever change.

IMG_2446 (1)So now begins the long, long, slow, slow, stop-and-go trek that is the Festival of the Little Hills. One of our first stops is one of my favorites — Frozen Wine Slushies. There are 3 reasons to go to the FLH: Kettle Korn, The Wisconsin Sausage and Cheese booth, and Frozen Wine Slushies. In fact, I’m enjoying a Frozen Wine Slushy as I write this. Pardon the misspellings and bad grammaer.

Navigating an event like this with 9 people is quite the challenge. Never is everyone on the same page. Some people get ahead, some lag behind, some like to look at stuff, some want to keep moving, some want to go into the shops, I just want to sit down. The merchandise is pretty much the same as every year. Brenda decided Randy could make most of the stuff himself so she just took pictures of stuff for later reference. Cindy got a bunch of Christmas ornaments and junk. Mark had some Gatorade. We got Kettle Korn, Sausages and Cheese, and Wine Slushy Mix.

Two hours later we had reached the end of the street. It was lunch time so we crossed the street to the Magpie Cafe. Had three delicious glasses of Coke (free refills!) and a tasty turkey sandwich with gouda cheese and apples. It was good to sit.


After lunch we headed back up another street full of vendors. Chuck, Andrew and I made a break for it. Stopped at Doozles for an Ice Cream Cake (it was Cindy’s birthday) and then home. The others rejoined us after an hour or so. I figured they would stay later but I guess there’s a limit to even how long Laurie, Brenda and Cindy can shop.

Watched “Batman v Superman” (Randy foolishly thought Superman would beat Batman), then had supper. After that we made our way to New Town for a free concert by Trixie Delight. It was a challenging fitting 9 lawn chairs in the trunk — not to mention finding 9 chairs suitable for lawn sitting. The band was good but most of the gang seemed more interested in walking around New Town. I thought we’d done enough walking for the day so Randy, the boy and I stayed put.

Got home around 10 p.m. and ate half the ice cream cake. Then off for another restful evening on the air mattress. It’s not the getting in that’s the problem, it’s the getting out.

Sunday morning L gets up early to get donuts. They had no donut holes. What kinda bakery doesn’t have donut holes? Stupid formerly IGA grocery store.

We watch “CBS Sunday Morning” and then “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” By that time it’s dinner time so everyone fills up on lasagna and salad and then they finish off the cake. After dinner our guests pack up and pile into the van and off they go. “I’ve got to go clean the house!” she says as the van clears the street.

I go in and take a nap.

In my bed.

Not made of air.