Directors Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn investigate the horror show that was the Meredith Kercher murder and the many injustices rained down upon American exchange student Amanda Knox and her boyfriend of one week, Raffaele Sollecito, in Perugia, Italy. Both were convicted by an Italian court, along with a third suspect, of stabbing Knox’s roommate Kercher to death, and both served time as their cases went through a series of appeals. The two, now free, sit down for interviews and speak of the confusion that was their interrogation, their whereabouts on the night of the murder, and the hell they endured in prison. The film mostly skips over the trials, concentrating more on Knox and Sollecito’s recollections about the night of the murder and the aftermath. The subject probably requires an entire series, and not one 90-minute documentary, but the story is covered pretty well given the time constraint. Other interviews include an idiotic journalist who admits much of what was reported on Knox was rushed, inconclusive or even made up. The head prosecutor on the case also sits down, and insists upon Knox’s guilt even though there was a lack of evidence. This story probably had many families pull the plug on plans for teenagers to attend school overseas. (Available for streaming on Netflix.)
3 The Magnificent SevenDirector Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven, which was itself a remake of Seven Samurai, has enough in common with the Yul Brynner/Steve McQueen film to make it feel like a retelling of the classic story. It also contains enough departures to make it feel like a fresh take rather than just a rehash. The Mexican bandits led by Eli Wallach are replaced by an evil, land-stealing company led by Bartholomew Bogue. As played by Peter Sarsgaard, Bogue is a memorable villain who makes the skin crawl. He rolls into a mining town, kills a bunch of good hard-working people, and winds up getting the group in the movie’s title on his ass. Let the spectacular gunfights commence! Fuqua’s pal Denzel Washington—they did The Equalizer and Training Day together—is first-rate as Chisolm, basically Brynner’s role from the 1960 classic. When the wife of one of the deceased (Haley Bennett) comes looking for help and mentioning Bogue’s name, Chisolm flies into calm, collected and most certainly valiant action. He enlists six other men to visit the town and prepare the townspeople for the fight of their lives. The supporting cast includes Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio.
1 Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar ChildrenHoly hell, is this film a boring mess. Tim Burton directs a leaden Asa Butterfield in this adaptation of the Ransom Riggs novel. The movie is sloppy, as if the special effects weren’t completed. The story is convoluted, as if the filmmakers thought hiring a big time art director and costuming department were a fair swap for a good script. The narrative involves some nonsense regarding mutant children in a house in the ’40s that’s stuck in a time loop. The house is led by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green, the only good thing about the movie), and visited by young Jake (Butterfield), who heard about the place from his late grandfather (Terrence Stamp). The kids all have “peculiarities” but no personality. They are X-Men with no sense of purpose. Butterfield, a normally reliable young actor, decimates nearly every line he utters in this film. It’s actually quite shocking how inept and lost he seems in this production. Burton stresses the visuals, as usual, but without a strong lead like Johnny Depp or Michael Keaton, Burton is a lost cause. This will hang tough as one of the year’s biggest disappointments. Samuel L. Jackson does show up with a gray version of his wig from Unbreakable, along with Venom’s teeth. He has his moments, but he can’t save this thing.