Archive for November, 2012

The Man With The Iron Fists Review: Kung Fu Fun?

Expectations have such an influence on the movie going experience for good or for bad.  Countless times I have walked into a movie expecting gold and have left with my head down.  But it also goes the other way.  Then there are some like The Man with the Iron Fists where you go into the theater expecting, for the lack of a better word, shenanigans.  It is one of those movies you go into not expecting to take it seriously.  A lot of the kung fu movies I am familiar with are borderline sci-fi/fantasy with the high flying fight scenes and that is how I evaluate these movies.  Anything beyond the fighting is a bonus.

Here is a brief introduction to the plot of The Man with the Iron Fists:  A small village in China with a secret gold treasure hidden underneath a brothel is about to be the sight of a kung fu showdown between the Lions (Chinese gang of warriors), a rogue British soldier, and some Gemini’s.  This village is also the location of a weapons producer simply known as the Blacksmith (RZA).  But the Blacksmith is not fond of his trade and is only doing it in order to save up enough money to free his love, Lady Silk (Jamie Chung), from the brothel’s owner, Madam Blossom (Lucy Lui).  His trade is what ultimately gets the Blacksmith involved in the showdown when the Lions threaten his well being and Lady Silk.  Click here for the trailer.

As mentioned earlier going into this movie I was looking for some great fight scenes and anything else is a plus so the fights are where I will start.  There are some pretty cool fight scenes because of some of the gimmicky characters but nothing is really that memorable about the fights for any positive reasons.  The only ones that stuck with my friends and I inspired laughter.  Do not get me wrong, they are well choreographed and there are no visible wires (at least that I could tell) but it is just really over the top.  For example, when the foot soldiers for the Lions are battling the Gemini Twins and the twins join their funky swords then one hops on the other’s shoulders and you hear one of the foot soldiers gasp, “Gemini style?!”  It was impossible not to laugh an there are tons of these throughout the movie.

One thing about kung fu movies is that you do watch them for the acting.  RZA hands in one of the worst performances of the year as the lead character in the movie he directed and co-wrote.  I know I am being harsh considering the genre but wow.  You would think RZA would have put forth more of an effort in Blacksmith to the benefit of his movie.  I guess not though.  His “I am about to have sex with Jamie Chung” face is the exact same as his “I just got my arms cut off” face.  Perhaps that is Russell Crowe more than made up for it by embodying the character of Jack Knife.  Knife is the only character that really has any depth and whose face has multiple expressions of emotion.

The story and direction is nothing special but it is not bad.  You could see the Eli Roth influence in the writing which benefits the movie with some near Tarantino-esque action/humor of just blood going everywhere.  Lastly I must admit, The Man with the Iron Fists was pretty well directed.  It moves along at a good pace and the action scenes were really well shot.

The Man with the Iron Fists is what is.  Not bad but not good movie that is still a fun movie experience as long as you know what you are going into.  I give it a 6/10.

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Cloud Atlas Review: Beautifully Tragic

Normally when you have a movie featuring over six different stories that are seemingly unrelated it is considered an anthology.  But those stories are usually told one at a time in full.  That is what makes Cloud Atlas such an unusual experience the stories are broken up and intermingled with each other.  These stories span across different centuries that on the surface seem completely different from each other but Cloud Atlas attempts to prove that actions and feelings transcend lifetimes.  I only know that because I read it somewhere, Cloud Atlas was way over my head.

Normally this is where I give a brief plot introduction but Cloud Atlas is so complex that there is no brief way to really sum it up.  So click here to see watch a near six minute in length trailer that at least touches on all the characters.

I will start with the positives.  Cloud Atlas visually is remarkable.  Every color is vibrant and really makes it hard to turn away even with the 172 minute runtime.  All the different settings are so detailed that you feel like whatever year, build, city, or world the Wachowski’s and TomTykwer show you is real and you are there.  To go along with the interesting futuristic setting there are some cool action sequences that should please action fans. Aside from the CGI elements they do a great job disguising the actors.  Most the actors appear in multiple stories and they do some near flawless makeup work where it is difficult to even identify some of the actors especially a lot of Hugo Weaving’s characters.  I say near flawless because some of the oriental makeup (although ten times better than what they did to Sean Connery in You Only Live Twice) comes off a bit cheesy but I am not makeup expert so for all I know that is the best there is out there.

Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, and Jim Broadbent put in excellent performances as their many characters.  It is obvious how much fun Tom Hanks had playing polar opposite characters of a homicidal maniac to a devious doctor to a humbling scientist.  Hugo Weaving went as far as being a linebacker sized woman and a green imaginary goblin.  Whishaw’s characters were a little less varied still well executed.  But the most memorable to me was Jim Broadbent as Timothy Cavendish.  His story was the one I kept hoping they would cut back to next.  Cavendish’s misfortune could have easily been its own comedic film but it was needed here to lighten the heavy emotional toll the rest of Cloud Atlas puts on you.

My negatives are pretty simple.  I had a difficult time following this.  Call me dumb or too lazy to connect the dots all you want but just when I thought I had something the next scene of another story would throw me off.  I mean I connected the visual clues (like the birth mark) but had difficulty connecting the actions.  As a result Cloud Atlas loses a lot of points for me because I just could not follow it with the way it cut back and forth between stories as if they were happening simultaneously.  Each story makes sense but I got lost connecting them.  I cannot help but wonder if they had done this in the style of an anthology of the showing the individual stories in whole before showing the next instead of going back and forth.  Maybe I would have connected them better or maybe not.

Overall, Cloud Atlas is an assembly of stories that has something for everyone:  drama, romance, science fiction, fantasy, comedy and action.  Unfortunately the way they tried to show how they all connect left me confused.  As cool and funny this movie was I cannot give a good rating to a movie I do not understand.  I give Cloud Atlas a 5/10.  Maybe after three more watches my rating will go up but for now that is all I can give it.

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Personal Ranking of the James Bond Films (Including Skyfall)

Skyfall has been a major success both in the box office and critically.  If there were any doubts about Daniel Craig as James Bond, they have surely been laid to rest thanks to some brilliant writing.  How does Skyfall stack up to the preceding 22 Bond movies?  That depends on who you ask but here is how I would rank them from the ones I revisit least often to my favorites of the franchise.  (For the record I like all of them but with 23 movies to choose from you cannot help but play favorites.)

23.     Die Another Day

I was only twelve years old when this movie came out and was the first Bond movie I ever caught on the big screen.  At the time thought this movie was great but now as an adult I realized it has such a ridiculous all the technology is in this movie:  people making over their identity including their DNA, invisible cars, lasers from the sky, para-surfing (yeah guess that’s a thing), and more lasers.  It makes a real joke of the franchise with the beyond silly action.  Brosnan was said to have been upset that they were not bringing him back but I do not think they chose another actor because of Brosnan’s performance but they needed a fresh start meaning a fresh Bond.  I did love John Cleese as Q for the record, a replacement that nearly matches the original quartermaster.

22.     You Only Live Twice

Despite having the top villain performance from Donald Pleasance as Blofeld, I felt so dissatisfied with this installment.  I have always thought of Sean Connery’s Bond as the Bond that always wore a suit and confronted his enemies head on.  Then we see him here undergoing surgery to appear “oriental” to solidify his cover for maybe ten minutes of the movie then back to normal.  I did not see the point of him doing that.  Then I found the ninja assault at the end uneventful and not ninja-like except for the star disc thrown at Blofeld’s hand at the end.

21.     Quantum Of Solace

Starting with the obvious, all other James Bond movies flirt with or surpass the two hour mark and Quantum of Solace wraps up at around the hour-forty mark.  And it was not short due to a lack of action.  That means there was not much time spent on developing a plot that goes somewhere.  Not to say there was not a plot but revenge movies need a little something more to keep you interested but maybe I am being too harsh considering they made this during the writer’s strike.  And finally the villain was not menacing to say the least.  He was more of a whiner to be frank.  We knew Casino Royale would have been tough to follow but they could have done a little better.

 20.     Octopussy

This one had all the criteria to be a great Bond movie of gadgets, beautiful Bond girls, big intimidating henchman, fun chase scenes, and humor…. but something just does not feel right about it.  I am not going to cop out behind what other suggest of Roger Moore really showing his age because it is not necessarily about what Bond looks like but how the character is portrayed or treated.  I think I did not care for it much because (kind of like the final scenes of the movie) it was like watching a circus act, a mish-mosh of creative ideas thrown together with no coherency.  Plus Moore disguised as a clown is just an insult to the James Bond character.

19.     The World Is Not Enough

This was full of potential.  I mean they had a villain that cannot feel pain and they did not take complete advantage of it.  What I am getting at is there could have been a much better ending fight scene between Renard and Bond so I felt ultimately let down.  The beginning features one of the best action scenes of the franchise but sadly deflates a lot of the action that follows.  And as other blogs have mentioned Denis Richards is that bad in this movie but I also found Sophie Marceau overrated especially with how often she would wink at the fact that she was involved with the devious plot before the big reveal.  Plus I think I get a little sad with Desmond Llewelyn’s exit when watching this.

 18.     Diamonds Are Forever

Even at the 18th spot on my list, this is better than where a lot of other blogs have placed Diamonds Are Forever.  Blofeld is put to shame but I want the throw this out there:  if they had given him a different name he would have been a somewhat more tolerable villain but instead when you see and hear Blofeld’s name you kind of cringe while thinking ‘this is not Blofeld.’  I thought Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint were possibly some of the best henchman of the franchise and not for the homophobic reasons a lot of people think but because of how effortlessly effective they were at taking out targets… except for Sean Connery.  By the way, this is not the Connery-Bond we are used to seeing.  He comes off as more light hearted which opens the door for Roger Moore.

17.     A View To A Kill

Another film I have higher than most other bloggers, but it is low for a lot of the same reasons.  As pretty as Tanya Roberts is she easily gets the nod for most annoying and least helpful Bond girl that was in constant need of being saved.  The action scenes were fun like most other Moore films.  The one that comes to my mind is Bond driving in just the front half of a car.  Then you have Christopher Walken who nailed his role as Zorn even if his scheme was simple and not one that necessarily required Bond’s involvement – he did not really benefit England by stopping Zorn.

16.     Tomorrow Never Dies

Communications as an enemy and world threat is a plausible thing especially now with the power of social media.  But it was not that exciting to me.  Staging “attacks” to pin countries at war with each other, you would think the countries would do better research than to simply listen to the headlines of some newspapers.  Jonathon Pryce was great in the role but came off laughable at times along with the rest of the movie.  What most bothered me was Michelle Yeoh’s character.  Every time she was about to shoot her gun or run she would grunt, “yahh!”  Pryce’s character even mocks it at one point which was great.

15.     Live & Let Die

Roger Moore’s debut as Bond definitely brought new light on the Bond everyone had become familiar with and made him more comedic.  There are plenty of quality laughs as intended but it is kept in check with the needed espionage feel.  The theme by Paul McCartney is iconic as well as the credits.  Not sure how I felt about the villain of Mr. Big and his voodoo cover though.  The boat chase scene after the alligator hopping was a cheap way of getting Bond out of a sticky situation.  Unlike others I was a fan of the southern, blue-collar Sheriff Pepper.

14.     The Man With The Golden Gun

First off, the sheriff was back which was good to me.  And I liked the idea of the premise about a highly precise assassin that ultimately goes toe-to-toe with Bond.  Christopher Lee is a great as Scaramanga even if the action bits leading up to it are rather forgettable.  My main quarrel was with the beginning when we are shown the model of Bond in Scaramanga’s practice labyrinth.  Did Scaramanga know from the beginning that Bond would come after him?  It just kind of bothered me when I watched it.

13.     Moonraker

As much as everyone likes pegging Moonraker as the least realistic of the Bond films to me that does not make it any less fun.  They also want to point out the “mistreatment” of Jaws.  I must say Jaws is the best part of this movie because of three scenes.  First scene is the one in the alley where Jaws gets taken away from Bond by the partiers in the parade and he ends up going along with it by dancing.  Second, I love the fight on top of the lift.  Then finally, the scene when Bond points out that Jaws does not fit Drax’s mold for his “Arian” race that he plans to create.  That brings me to my main complaint, Drax was one of the weakest villains to me.  He shoots skeet, quail, of turkeys.  Big whoop.  One bullet in the stomach and he pretty much willingly walks into space.

12.     On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

It is unfortunate the Lazenby did not have the option to put his own spin of the character, instead he was told to play Bond the way Connery did.  But maybe that was better than how Lazenby would have if he had the choice.  This is a very well done story and the plot is one of the best of the franchise.  So what is the main draw back? It is starved of excitement.  There a good ski chase but there are such long stretches of no action that at times it is hard to stay focused, especially with the dreadful Sir Hilary cover.  Plus it has the one element that subsequent Bond films must keep in mind.  It is the one where Bond became a married man and widower in the same day.

11.     From Russia With Love

My positives and negatives for this one are along the lines of #12 on my list.  It has a well developed plot and easily the most plausible of the espionage genre about foreign spies working together but not really – if that makes sense.  Plus Robert Shaw and Sean Connery’s fight scene is hands down the best hand-to-hand fight scenes of that generation of cinema and probably of the franchise.  Sad to admit though, there is a share of slow parts.  As much as it pains me as a guy to say this, the fight scene between the two gypsy girls was lame.  I get it was part of the culture Bond was visiting but it was plain dumb, almost as dumb as the threat of being run over by an airborne plain.

10.     The Living Daylights

A much underrated film in the eye of the public.  Timothy Dalton did not have the cinematic draw that Connery and Moore did so movie goers were not as friendly to Dalton even though he was arguably the Bond that most closely acts as the character in Ian Fleming’s original novels.  The Living Daylights has one of the more memorable scenes chase that starts in the Aston Martin then ends in the cello case.  It also has a great Bond girl, Maryam d’Abo as Kara Milvoy.  She starts out as this innocent musician caught up in something bad because of a friend but then she morphs into a little more of a fighter.  Then you have the trademark of a Dalton-Bond film of turning enemies on themselves.

9.       The Spy Who Loved Me

What is most memorable about this movie is that Moore’s Bond has met his perfect opposite gender match with the clever Barbara Bach.  Just when Bond thinks he has seduced her, turns out she has seduced him for the benefit of her spy agency.  It also introduces the unstoppable Jaws, this silver grinned monster even wrestles and takes a bite out of an actual shark – legendary character.  Another major plus is how well choreographed the battle at the end was.  Last but certainly not least this movie has the best theme song of the franchise because honestly “nobody does it better” than James Bond.

8.       Skyfall

Skyfall welcomes Daniel Craig into the luxuries of what all the other Bonds had:  technology and humor.  The introduction of Q was a must for this movie and was done successful by making the technology he has to offer Bond more in line with the times by focusing more on computers/networks than on weaponry.  That combined with Craig’s cold and tough as nails reinvention of Bond makes this one of the top films of the franchise alone.  Next throw in a villain that used to be an agent with expert computer knowledge and vengeance on the brain you get a top-notch thriller.  Click here for my full review.

7.       Dr. No

There is no arguing with the movie that set the standard for Bond movies to come.  After this movie there is no other way for this character to introduce himself than to say “Bond.  James Bond.”  A beautiful Bond girl in Ursula Andres as Honey Ryder and Bond delivers the perfect line for the situation when questioned if he was looking for shells:  “No.  I’m just looking.”  Even though there are plenty of lines like this in the movie it never feels silly and maintains the serious tone.  Dr. No, the villain, I memorable not just because he was in the first film but because of his mechanical hands that was the result of his own mistakes.  You got to love a villain with a gimmick in a Bond movie.

6.       For Your Eyes Only

I know I will catch flack for not only putting this one in my top ten but ahead of Moore’s most popular film The Spy Who Loved Me.  The main draw for me is that Moore’s light-hearted and playful humor is there but is tame.  Kristatos is one of the more underrated villains in my opinion because of all the Bond movies he is one villain that comes as a surprise.  This we discover after we are initially lead to believe Topol is the villain.  Guess we should have known because how could Tevye from Fiddler On The Roof be a bad guy?  Inconceivable.  Plus I appreciated seeing Bond pull out some MacGyver moves with his shoe laces to help him climb back up the rope at the end of the movie.  That proved that Bond can be resourceful to get out of a mess without the use of a gadget that just happens to be perfect for the situation.

5.       Licence To Kill

I think this will be the biggest shock to most people reading my list.  As much as I love witty remarks, I prefer a Bond that is darker and more hard edged especially when he is seeking vengeance.  Quantum Of Solace could have taken a lesson from Licence to Kill on how to do a Bond movie where he is seeking revenge against orders.  The main reason I am such a fan of this installment is because of how realistically Bond takes out his enemy.  Now let me explain.  I know the action and explosions are not realistic but what I am referring to is the method.  He takes out who he can on his own but he also plants a lot of seeds that turns Sanchez on his own henchman.  Speak of Sanchez, Robert Davi nails this performance of a high rolling drug cartel leader that hides his profits in stocks and bonds.  To top it off we have the two Bond girls of Licence To Kill:  Talisa Soto as Lupe Lamora and Cary Lowell as Pam Bouvier.  The latter Bond girl I will go on record as saying she is my favorite of the franchise.  Not only is Lowell/Bouvier gorgeous but she a fighter and an expert army pilot that aids Bond in the end of the movie.  What I think hurt this movie most was the unnecessary “R” rating it got from the MPAA which may have kept potential viewers away.

4.       Casino Royale

This was a complete reinvention of James Bond back to his roots which needed to be done after the ridiculous joke of a Bond movie that was Die Another Day.  Daniel Craig brought Bond back to his hard-nosed, ruthless roots.  This is the one James Bond novel I have read and was shocked to see how closely the movie followed the novel.  They changed the card game which was fine because I had no clue what cards he needed or why.  But anyway, Daniel Craig does not meet the physical description but definitely nailed the demeanor of a killer agent with no restraints for his personal well being.  Eva Green was the perfect Vesper and made her mark in Bond girl history by being nearly as much a fit as to Bond just as Bach’s character was in The Spy Who Loved Me.  Plus after the science fiction bummer that was Die Another Day, this features a more grounded experience.  Casino Royale’s first twenty minutes alone is some of the most exciting action I have seen in any movie.  Only thing missing was some of those classic little gadgets (poison cure injection hardly counts) and you have a great Bond movie.

3.       Goldfinger

Most consider Goldfinger the quintessential James Bond movie because of all the iconic images and sayings associated with it:  the dead woman smothered in gold paint, a competitive round of golf, Bond’s fight with Oddjob with his blade-brimmed top hat, legendary Bond girl named Pussy Galore, Auric Goldfinger saying “No, Mr. Bond.  I expect you to die.”  The list is endless really.  Something else noteworthy is that this was the first instance of a GPS in a car.  Granted it is fictional but it is fun to toy with the idea that the James bond gadgets have inspired some real life technology of the future.

2.       Goldeneye

Brosnan’s first film as Bond and hands down his best as his take on a Bond that is cool, calm, and witty with a near blank expression that says a lot about what he is thinking.  The main reason I prefer this movie over most of the rest is the fact that is a battle between two double-O agents is a trust test about whether Bond really is the best of the best in the British secret service.  I mean we have seen him work/compete with spies from of countries but never against one that was trained like he was.  Agent 006/Alec Trevelyan was also a friend of Bond’s which adds another depth of drama after Bond leaves him for dead.  Goldeneye’s conclusion of these two slugging it out on the satellite is one of my favorite fight scenes of the franchise; only second to Connery vs Shaw in From Russia With Love.  Throw in a Bond girl that is also a great henchwoman, Xenia Onatopp, who is a brilliant character.  Knowing Bond’s weakness for sex, Onatopp manages to make a near sexual encounter painfully terrifying for Bond making it a joy to watch on screen.  What this all suggest is the amount of time that was spent writing Goldeneye.  The jokes are original and are delivered perfectly by Brosnan.

1.       Thunderball

For a movie made in 1965 Thunderball is an action movie far ahead of its time.  First off the opening sequences feature Bond sparring with a cross dressing spy and an escape by jet pack.  That is right a jet pack.  Then cue the music of Tom Jones singing the theme of Thunderball.  I have no clue what the song is about but the last note Jones hits is plain epic.  Thunderball also set a Bond film high of three women that he sleeps with and one of which he has sex with at the bottom of the ocean.  Not in submarine or an underwater liar, it was in the water amongst the sand, coral, and fish.  That is legendary to me.  Plus Domino was one of the most beautiful Bond girls of the franchise.  For those of you that are fans of the Austin Powers films, you can thank Largo for being the inspiration for No. 2, eye-patch and all.  The last thing worth mentioning is the underwater battle between Largo’s men and the British officers.  In a documentary on Thunderball, they said they did not want to limit themselves when filming it so they shot every possible  fight scenario they could think of and hope to assemble something coherent.  Now some get bogged down in the duration of the fight and that there seemed like a lot more people dying than there were initially in the water but I cannot help admiring what was accomplished.  They filmed this in 1965 and it appears better than some of the underwater fights we see today.

So there is my list.  It is one that not many people will agree with but one that I will stand by.  Feel free to post comments of criticisms if you want.  I am always open to hear other bloggers’ opinions.  Sorry if this was too long.  This was a long and daunting task so I hope you all enjoy looking through it.

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Skyfall: Bond Goes Back to the Basics

Even though Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were Bond films 21 and 22 respectively, they were the start of James Bond becoming an agent and essentially preceding all the other films.  Current James Bond, Daniel Craig, stated prior to production for Skyfall that this would be a much more familiar Bond than his previous outings.  Craig to this point had been a stripped down version as an intelligent brute with a Walter PPK.  And there are no complaints there, after all that is why we have been such big fans recently of Jason Bourne or Bryan Mills – very serious men who can kick some serious ass.  Craig, director Sam Mendes, and all others involved with the making of Skyfall are looking to prove just why James Bond the spy is the one all other action movie characters bow down to.

A brief introduction to the plot of Skyfall is as follows:  Bond is presumed dead after failing his latest mission to retrieve a hard drive containing the names of dozens of spies but returns to active duty when M’s (Judi Dench) life is threatened by a former spy, Silva (Javier Bardem), who also is the one that wanted the stolen the hard drive of names.  Being a former spy, Silva knows all the tricks of the trade and proves to be a nightmare for MI6 especially with his advanced knowledge of technology.  In order to combat Silva’s onslaught Bond is aided by some new faces for MI6 including Eve (Naomie Harris), Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), and Q (Ben Whishaw).  Click here for the trailer.

If this plot sounds somewhat familiar, well it kind of is.  In Goldeneye, Bond ended up needing to battle a former agent that has a vendetta with MI6.  But that is not by any means a negative attribute.  Many past films have had villains that are similar to preceding films.  Also in You Only Live Twice, the opening sequence suggests Bond is dead.  With 22 Bond films already in existence, it is hard to be completely original.

But there is still originality to Skyfall especially with its villain and how he relates to M.  Even though Silva is a former spy he is very different from Sean Bean’s 006 in Goldeneye.  Silva is just as bitter but is more of a showman about it.  Bardem plays him perfectly as and is more of a threat because in Goldeneye, 006 had a right-hand man that handled the technologies while in Skyfall it appears Silva actually does it all as the mastermind and technician.  His intelligence now fueled by his drive for vengeance against M who he believes betrayed him, leaving him for dead but (as he admits) he unfortunately survives.

If it is not already obvious M is a major part of the story.  Since Bond has been out of commission for so long his skills and fitness are hindered but M vetoes all of Bonds failed tests to get him out in the field because he is her best agent.  She never says it really but a lot is inferred.  Now it is no secret that the field agents all refer to M for “mum/mom/mother” (whatever your preference) but what this movie really solidifies is the M is really the mother that Bond never had.  Even though he disobeys her orders he always way has her best interests at heart and she will always have his back when it comes to defending him before her superiors.  I guess in a way you could say M/Judi Dench was a “Bond Girl” in Skyfall because she was ultimately the one he was trying to save/defend.

While on the topic of Bond girls, Skyfall features two in Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe.  Harris is responsible for the initial thought that Bond is dead but she makes her amends with him on a few occasions later in the movie.  How does she rank as a Bond girl?  Well Harris is plays a sexy Eve who is as dangerous as she is attractive which is better than past Bond girls but she does not have sex with Bond losing some points.  As for Marlohe, she is just as attractive but is of no real threat other than the berretta strapped to her thigh but she does sleep with Bond which leaves her on even footing with Harris in this movie.

The final two fresh faces I will briefly touch on are Whishaw as Q and Fiennes as Mallory.  This is a much younger Q than we are used to seeing but that is what helps make him modern.  Staying with modern he does not focus on advanced weaponry like an “exploding pen” (great gag in the movie) but instead relies heavily on networks and computer tracking.  As for Mallory, he is the one who mediates between M and her superior and is a former agent of sorts so he understands how MI6 function even if it is not to the Prime Ministers liking.

Lastly I want to touch on how the film felt under the direction of Sam Mendes.  All I can say is how beautifully shot this movie was with the vibrant colors, camera angles, and over all cinematography.  Personally my favorite she is the silhouetted fight scene between Bond and Patrice (Ola Rapace).  You cannot see any of their features just the outline of their bodies amongst the blues, greens, and purples – so awesome.  But at times, I will also add, it got annoying.  Yes we get that Daniel Craig has the bluest of blue eyes anyone has ever seen but the constant focus on them felt odd.  That and they always showed him posing as if for a photo like on the little boat in China or staring off in the distance and the British flag.  Felt more like an advertisement than a movie.  I know I am knit-picking but it just stood out to me.

Overall, Skyfall finally brings Daniel Craig into light of being best (if not already the best) actor to play Bond by finally getting some technology and a serious villain.  Sam Mendes brings unusual beauty to an action film which I had previously thought impossible.  I give Skyfall a 9/10.


Click here to see where Skyfall ranks on my list of favorite James Bond movies.

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Wreck-It Ralph: Video Game Nostalgia

It is always funny to look back at the video games you used play as a kid and see how primitive the technology and graphics were.  But today there are still place to find these block-ie video games at arcades for the price of a quarter or two.  This is the setting for Wreck-It Ralph.

A collection of arcade games both old and new that live out the same functions over and over according to their code.  Each character’s role is the same every time the game is played.  The bad guy is always the bad guy and the good guy is always good by always winning in the end.  But Ralph (voiced by John C. Riley) is getting a little tired of losing time and time again to Fix It Felix Jr., the hero of Ralph’s game.  Fed up with being the bad guy Ralph decides to prove he is worthy of being a hero to the others in the game by jumping to a different game and bring back a victory medal.  Click here for the trailer.

Wreck-It Ralph is nearly on par with some of my favorite animation films like Toy Story and Wall-E.  The main reason I say that is because of how clever their stories are.  In Toy Story the toys secretly come alive when people are not watching; I think that is every kid’s dream.  In Wall-E we got a look at a future where people have become too dependent on technology.  Wreck-It Ralph shows us what goes one when the arcade closes.  Characters in the game are able to travel through the power cord to a sort of junction where they all can hang out with characters from other games including those whose games have been unplugged.  Plus the support group for bad guys is a great concept.

To help better convey the separate games, the films animators do a great job of helping you keep the game worlds separate without having to even stating  it.  You can look at the characters and tell which are from the same game and which ones are not.  As far as the 3D is concerned, I did not find it too necessary.  I mean nothing really popped out of the screen at you but I am of the belief that 3D is unnecessary for movies that you can easily put yourself into.

Acting with animation movies are always tough to judge.  You hear all the time that actors show up and spend a few hours reading the lines and then that is it.  I watched an interview the other day on AMC Theatre’s YouTube page where they interview John C. Reilly and he talks about how the animator said he was much more enthusiastic with reading his line did as much acting with his body as he did his voice in the studio (click here for that interview).  His efforts in the studio definitely show which I am sure helped fuel the animators to make this movie as much fun as it was.  And I do not think they could have casted Vanellope any better than Sarah Silverman because of her high pitched, annoying voice.  Not much acting there to be honest with Vanellope’s obnoxious demeanor.  I will say that she becomes much less annoying as her relationship builds with Ralph and you develop a better understanding of her game.

Wreck-It Ralph is easily my favorite animated movie of the year.  Its story is well thought out with how the game characters connect and the rules for survival outside of their games.  I give it an 8/10.

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The Perks Of Being A Wallflower Review

It is probably a fair assumption that the major draw for a lot of movie goers to Perks of Being a Wallflower is Emma Watson assuming they are not familiar with the book.  That is not to say she over shadows the popularity of the book but after the box office powerhouse that is the Harry Potter franchise, you kind of cannot help but want to see what else these young actors have to offer outside of the wizardry world.  Daniel Radcliffe stepped into a different paranormal realm for The Woman in Black which was a tad disappointing and I also just saw Rupert Grint in Wild Target which was surprisingly fun.  So now Emma Watson gets a chance to show a bit of the next face of her career in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Here is a brief introduction to The Perks of Being a Wallflower:  Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a shy and reserved student battling some personal demons who is just entering his freshman year of high school and is trying to figure out where he fits.  First day goes about as rough as he expected, people Charlie thought he was close to as some point and now brush him off including his sister who is a senior.  Instead Charlie develops a friendship with a bold senior, Patrick (Ezra Miller), who is in his freshman shop class.  To help Charlie meet people, Patrick invites him to a house party of other social out-casts including Patrick’s step-sister, Sam (Emma Watson).  Here is the trailer:

Having never read the book I can only go by how the story was portrayed in the movie.  The book’s author is Stephen Chbosky and also the writer and director of the movie so I am going to make a bold statement right now that this may be one of the few movies to best follow the author’s vision for the novel as oppose to a lot of the Stephen King novel based films.  Chbosky does a great job of storytelling with this movie and what I mean by that is that there is not any fluff or scenes that the movie could have done without.  Each scene incremental in developing all of the characters and the plot.  This is not the first movie about a loner being taken under the wing of a group of friends but there is definitely something refreshing about it because it feels natural and unforced.  Usually I find myself rolling my eyes at some of the cheesy feel good points in these kind of movies but what Chbosky does so well is lead up to those and not just throw them at you.

The best thing about this movie is how well drawn every character is.  Starting with the main character Charlie, I cannot remember the exact quote from the beginning of the film but Charlie essentially says that he is content with his life is of being alone.  Nonetheless Charlie takes the advice of his father of keeping his head up and talk to people even though he is not really comfortable with it.  Logan Lerman nailed this performance of someone tries to appear calm, collected, and happy on the inside even though internally he is scared from a complex relationship with his deceased aunt.

Then you have the free-spirited step sibling duo of Patrick and Sam (Ezra Miller and Emma Watson respectively).  Patrick is the first person that Charlie is able to comfortably introduce himself to because he finds courage in Patrick’s self effacing demeanor.  As light-hearted as Patrick may be, when his heart is broken by the high school quarterback he takes on a deeper emotional role.  Miller owned this role and may in fact be the best performance in the film.  The perfect complement to Patrick is Sam who is the polar opposite of the Watson role we are used to seeing of an uptight, book nerd.  Instead Sam is a middle of the road student and used to have a reputation of sleeping around, keyword being “used” to.  That said the new Sam is a tad more reserved being that she is in a relationship with an older “college guy” but Watson plays the role very honestly.

One of the other pluses to The Perks of Being a Wildflower is the soundtrack.  The best way to describe it is like a mix tape which is a reoccurring object in the film of different songs to communicate what is meant to be felt throughout the movie.

The Perks of Being a Wildflower seems to be creeping under the radar of a lot of movie goers and it should not.  As of right now, this movie has a comfortable spot in my top ten movie of the year as a film about the meaning of friendship.  I give it a 9/10.

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