Product categories

Month: November 2012

November 13, 2012

Double-ovember: Skyfall (DJ’s Take)

STIRRING
See what I did there?  But no, my above one word review of Skyfall is not a joke.  Well, maybe a little bit.  Bond 23 is easily the most dramatic Bond film of the franchise.  It finishes an origin trilogy of Bond, M, MI6, Q branch and many other elements of Ian Fleming’s universe.  Yes, a nutshell synopsis of Skyfall has fairly been labeled, “What If Bond, Not Batman, Had To Stop The Joker?”  I personally think that concept is an interesting one.  The events of The Dark Knight and Skyfall are similar.  However, the two heroes in it are not.  Bruce Wayne is not James Bond.  Bruce is a bit of a softer character than Bond.  That doesn’t make Bruce weak by any means.  That just shows you how hardened Bond actually is.  Where Bruce’s childhood trauma made him somewhat bipolar, Bond’s made him somewhat sociopathic.  He is way closer to the line than Bruce.  So much so, that his constant defiance is the only thing that keeps him from crossing it.  That dynamic is what differentiates the two films. 
It is a pleasure to see such an accomplished director like Sam Mendes and a living legend cinematographer like Roger Deakins take on James Bond.  This is a franchise that thrives on creativity and style.  Something that is totally brought to the table here.  Both men show off how excellent action scenes and films can be when they are put in capable hands.  Deakins displays such a mastery of composition, color, and shadows, you’ll want to gorge yourself on each well painted frame.  That is a little too technical for a film review, so let me just say your eyes experience is all the better for having this duo at the helm. 
I sort of guessed beforehand as to the ultimate role of Naomie Harris in Skyfall.  However, she still makes her part feel surprising and memorable.  Her chemistry with Craig is great and provides some of the lighter moments of the film.  The other buxom Bond girl, Sévérine, does not make that great an impact unfortunately.  Her story, though interesting, is rushed.  This was assuredly done to make room for the biggest Bond girl narrative of Skyfall.  That is the M, played by Dame Judi Dench.  I may just be showing my bias toward the franchise here, but I wish people could recognize the absolutely perfect performances Dench has been delivering as M since Goldeneye for crying out loud.  This is the heaviest lifting she’s had since her arrival and she does not disappoint.  I would bet green money there was a hesitation at first to focus a large part of the film around M.  A hesitation quickly followed by the chuckling realization that M wasn’t being played by some minor character actor, but Dame Judi f*#king Dench!  Casting  a women as M was unheard of back when Goldeneye came out.  Now her presence is as comforting as a warm blanket.  
This brings me to the Joker of this picture, Raoul Silva.  Javier Bardem needs to do another comedy immediately.  If he continues to convincingly play these raving psychotics, he’ll be typecast forever.  Silva is easily the best villain Craig’s Bond has faced and possibly one of the creepiest Bond has ever faced.  His path, his plan, his will is frighteningly focused.  Bardem’s choice to make Silva always appear friendly on the outside while hinting at the extensive damage underneath is terrific.  Unpredictability is the ultimate foil for any hero.  
Some critics have also been wary of the new Q, played by Ben Whishaw.  Mainly, because he is younger than Bond.  However, I think it represents the new generational dichotomy of modern technology.  In the 60s and 70s technology was stereotypically run by the old and lost on the young.  Nowadays it is the complete opposite.  Don’t believe me?  Ask your parents to input their name and number into your smart phone.  As long as Bond has zero respect for the effort Q puts into his work, the age swap doesn’t matter.  And besides, Whishaw is great in the role.  His lecturing of Bond feels just as natural as when Desmond Llewelyn did it. 
Skyfall will critically be a victim of its own hype.  It will be harshly judged because of its 300 commercials a day, its 10 beer related contests, and bold claim to be the best Bond ever.  Resentment towards hype should not influence what you see in Skyfall.  It is action packed, surprisingly moving, franchise faithful, and most of all, fun.  Renew your license to kill…sing along with Adele the song that is a lock for a Best Original Song Oscar nod…take the bloody shot….watch it….then tell me I’m wrong.   

November 13, 2012

Double-ovember, Skyfall (Justin’s Take)

Skyfall: Beautiful
(143mins, 2012, Action)

Beautiful both visually and story.

Lets just get this out and say, Skyfall is the most beautiful looking film I’ve seen this year and I might even say within a few years. Roger Deakins has made a stunning looking film that wowed me at the theater. Thanks Roger you made the best looking Bond film in years.

Skyfall might not be the best Bond film ever like a lot of people are saying, I believe From Russia With Love holds that title, but Skyfall is in the top 10.

Why? Because it is a different side of Bond. To make films that span 50 years and each one touches a fan in its own way is a remarkable thing. You might remember the first Bond film you saw. You might have a favorite film and maybe you have a film that touches your life. Each Bond film has one of these toward a person who views a Bond film. But when you do the formula like what Bond has used so many times it will at one point get a bit tougher for new ideas. We can all pick a point where Bond films got weak but believe it or not there isn’t a bad Bond film. They’re all good in their own way.

Skyfall takes a completely different approach to the formula and I stand up and applaud it. Yet, it never goes off the formula that we all have come to love.

Spoilers

The star of Skyfall is M. I didn’t mind M being the star. I enjoyed it, but we also got Bond’s backstory. I always wanted to touch on Bonds family in a film, but I felt it was slightly wasted for Skyfall. But then again it was nice to see that finally. Daniel Craig gives his best performance as Bond. Q works well and I can see an awesome future with him. M shines and it was great to see that. Silva is Craig’s best Bond villain. That might of been the one weakest part of Craig’s Bond films. Sure CR and QOS had okay villains but we really got a great, classic Bond villain for Craig this time. We also have a new composer which was refreshing. Sam Mendes did a great job and I hope he comes back for another one. And I look forward to having Ralph Fiennes in the future Bond films. Always loved the guys acting.

I liked Skyfall’s Bond girls but for Sévérine I thought she was underused. I would of like to have seen more of her instead of making her a throwaway. Eve was good and I’m curious to see her evolve in the next few films.

When I reviewed The Dark Knight Rises I said this was made for Batman fans, well Skyfall was made for Bond fans. There are a ton of Bond references in this film that came off really badass.

A older couple was sitting to the right of me and they just kept telling me how they have seen all the Bond films at the theater since the start. They said Skyfall remind them of that early time period and they liked that about it.

Speaking of the ending as a fan, this is the ending we needed. We are now back to the classic formula. Moneypenny, a new M and Q is finally back. That scene at the end in the office gave me chills because we haven’t had that in such a long time. Even the set design with the dark wood and coat hanger just got me excited. I even kept hoping that Bond would throw a hat onto that hanger.

It felt so awesome.

Skyfall is a wonderful film. It’s fantastic film with a few issues, but hey almost all films have some nitpicks.

I didn’t like how the story of the film was about the lost drive and Bond was trying to track it down. Then half way into the film after making so much fuss about it not a word comes up on it again and it becomes protecting M. I understand why, but I just would of like a better transfer of the two parts.

I felt the komodo dragon scene was okay on till the eating. I know they went for that classic Bond death but it came off a bit odd.

And the last thing was all about Bond being old…Might be my most hated thing about this great film. Two films before it, it was the rage that he was all young and new. Now he just too damn old. And I like the old storyline but maybe in a few years when Craig is ready to say goodbye. Not now. Sorry I felt that was out of place and it got to me.

The Skyfall scene was fantastic. It felt so different but yet so Bond-ish. And I just can’t get over the beautiful look of this film. Really beautiful lighting and composition. The song by Adele was great, felt like the great classic Bond themes we all love!

All in all I thought it was a great film. It looks amazing in IMAX even taught it didn’t use IMAX cameras and even the Sony 4k viewing I saw in the small theater looked fantastic. (even though their audio sucked. Theater’s fault not the film.)

Go see Skyfall its a good time and a damn good Bond film.

November 10, 2012

Double-ovember: Skyfall (Matt’s Take)

Skyfall – Dysfunctional

I’ll set the record straight; in no way am I as big a fan of James Bond than my co-reviewers.  I’ve seen the more well-known Bond films (Goldfinger, Thunderball, and the Pierce Brosnan flicks).  I enjoyed the re-done “Casino Royale” and thought Daniel Craig did a great job as a young (and crazy) 007.  However, watching “Skyfall” I found myself wondering; when did it become so cool to become a nihilist?

Let me start from the beginning before I lay into “Skyfall,” the 23rd Bond film, and third to feature Craig as the MI6 agent.  When I watch these new Bond movies I can’t help but realize that everyone wants to go the Christopher Nolan, Batman, route.  If I had to rename this film I would probably call it “The Bond Knight Rises.”  By the end of “Skyfall” James Bond has become Bruce Wayne in many ways, and I have a hard time understanding why they decided to go that route, oh wait, I know; it both makes money and is a sure-fire plot device.

When you think of iconic characters you could say Batman, Indiana Jones, John McClane, and James Bond.  They are part of our pop culture DNA and while I do appreciate a darker, more anti-hero, aura around heroes, it comes to a point where the soul is sucked out from them and they become a hollow shell with few redeeming qualities.  Apparently this is what our society has comes to.  They crave blood, vengeance, and nihilism.  For my money I might call “Skyfall” one of the most polarizing, and dysfunctional entries in Bond’s 50 year cinema history.

I don’t want to say too much bad about “Skyfall” because I know I’ll catch hell for it.  But, I’m going to do it anyway.  The plot, as paper thin as it is, includes a stolen hard drive containing important MI6 information, a former MI6 agent now terrorist, and a plot to kill M (Judi Dench).  There is a lot of MI6 stuff in this film as you can tell.  As we’ve come to know this new breed of Bond we know that he hates authority, hates women (sort of), but loves his country.  If anything can be said, “Skyfall” can live by the monikers, “Britain Soldiers On,” or “Bond Kills a Lot of People Without Remorse.”

Another issue I have, and this comes right back to dysfunction, is the identity of “Skyfall.”  The atmosphere is stark and everything seems critical and any wrong move can mean someone’s death.  Then you have something ridiculous where a komodo dragon eats someone (you have to see it).  This goes back to our review for “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”  Either be serious or silly, you can’t be both, especially after how serious both “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace” were, it seems like the writers jumped into their DeLorean and decided to revive plot devices from “Die Another Day” one of the more ridiculous Bond films in recent memory.

To wrap up my gripes, I’d also like to bring up the third act of the film which devolves into two things.  One, Bond’s past.  This I really didn’t mind but it felt force fed and not necessary to the overall plot of the film.  Like I said before, they tried to turn Bond into Batman, and it seems contrived.  Two, the clear “Home Alone” rip-off.  Yes, imagine James Bond, the most bad-ass spy of all time, taking cues from Macaulay Culkin.  Again, this is something that you will have to see for yourself because you might think that I’m kidding, but unfortunately, I’m not.  I was waiting for both Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern to slip down a staircase at some point.

The one saving grace is Javier Bardem, who plays the primary antagonist, Silva.  He is clearly a bad-ass former spy with some serious sexual confusion and seems to hate women, just like Bond.  Throw in some mommy issues, a bad soft palate, and you have the makings of a great villain, but just like “Skyfall” he falls short, with poor character development and not enough screen time.  This is the film’s biggest mistake which usually prides itself on larger than life bad guys.  Silva is by far the best villain the series has seen since maybe Sean Bean’s 006 or Christopher Lee in “The Man With the Golden Gun” and it feels like he is just window dressing.

With two Bond movies already under his belt, you have to wonder how many more films Daniel Craig will stick around for (he already is signed up for Bond 24 and 25).  Yes, “Skyfall” is going to bank a bunch of cash just based on the 007 name.  However, tread carefully, there are a lot of issues with this newest Bond installment; thin plot, fodder characters, lackluster action scenes (though I do appreciate how they used a lot of practical shots, in particular the opening scene), but worst of all, an identity crisis.  Fanboys will love it, especially the end, but the casual fan; you might find yourself scratching your head.

Fun Fact:  Before he was Bond, James Bond, Daniel Craig starred in the “Tales From the Crypt” episode, Smoke Wrings in 1996.

November 9, 2012

Double-ovember: The Living Daylights

WORTHY

Do yourself a favor.   If you haven’t seen The Living Daylights before or if you haven’t in a while, watch it again…and if you come away thinking it isn’t one of the most well made, WORTHY Bond films in the series…Please…PLEASE…tell me how on earth I’m wrong.  I usually save my signature catchphrase for the end.  However, after being recently blown away by this fifteenth installment of Bond, I wanted to put proper emphasis on how good it still is.  For me, there is only one small flaw that I can find in it.  And that flaw is Timothy Dalton.

Now, that is not to say Timothy Dalton is bad.  He is actually quite good here.  However, I just don’t look at him as James Bond.  Dalton is considered to be the roughest of the seven Bonds. (Including David Niven)  He was Daniel Craig before Daniel Craig.  The difference between the two is that Craig, though rough and tumble as well, comes to us at Bond’s beginnings.  Dalton’s Bond comes to us as an already established agent.  Craig’s Bond is built up before our eyes, whereas Dalton is forced upon us.  For two actors who were such big departures from their predecessors, Craig’s transition into the role is much smoother.  Dalton, to me, always seemed like another agent aiding the real 007.  Still, this is merely my personal preference.  A digressive critique of the well constructed film surrounding him.

The plot of The Living Daylights is right in the wheelhouse for Bond.  Russian defectors, megalomaniac arms dealers, governmental power plays, political assassinations, double-crosses, triple-crosses, CIA, MI6, KGB.  All there.  The first thing that really impressed me though, was the quality of the action.  Everything from the set pieces to the execution.  For a film made 25 years ago, the action is still WORTHY by today’s standards.  Any fan of the franchise will be in heaven during the terrific, gadget filled Bond car chase sequence.

It can be argued that The Living Daylights is a tad light in the Bond girl department.  The film revolves around the character of Kara Milovy, played by Maryam d’Abo.  Her naiveté and easy manipulation by Bond and others does weaken her as a whole.  And I do wish they would have played up her KGB sniper angle more.  However, I do give her props for actually taking action to help Bond during the film’s climax.  With a little more filling out of her character, she could have really been a great foil for Bond.

There is a character named Sgt. Hatred on the amazing television show The Venture Brothers.  And I am about 99% certain he was inspired by Joe Don Baker’s character Brad Whitaker.  Whitaker steals every scene that he is in and has a great showdown with Bond at the end.  He completely outshines Jeroen Krabbe’s General Georgi Koskov and even the great John Rhys-Davies.

The Living Daylights should be held up higher in the Bond lexicon than it is.  It seems like it has almost been lost in time.  I recommend you find it…Sing along with A-ha…watch it…and for consistency’s sake…tell me I’m wrong.  
November 8, 2012

Double-ovember: Live And Let Die

RISKY

First, we’re going to replace the tried and true Sean Connery with relative unknown Roger Moore for Bond.  Then we’re going to give him the first African American Bond girl.  Then we’re going to give him the first African American Bond Villain.  Then we’re going to base the story in Harlem, urban Louisiana and a fictional island nation.  Finally, we’re going to throw in supernatural elements like legitimate fortune telling and voodoo.  To say that Live And Let Die was a RISKY proposition would be an understatement.  Though its most thought of as “Bond versus The Black People”, Albert Broccoli’s can take solace in the fact that they brought 007 into a world he’d never gone before.

The culture shock to the franchise was no accident.  Blaxploitation was big at the time and the studio looked to jump on that bandwagon.  And financially, it payed off.  Though, with such a departure from the normal Bond fair, the film itself feels like its a rushed, poorly constructed amalgamation.  Director Guy Hamilton has directed four of the most iconic Bond films of all time.  Live And Let Die is easily his weakest outing.    
When Sean Connery dropped out as Bond, the studio wanted to cast an American actor.  Everyone from Burt Reynolds to Clint Eastwood were considered.  Thankfully, they went with the star of The Saint tv series Roger Moore.  Moore is infamous for playing Bond with a lighter tone than any other actor in the part.  But while Live And Let Die has painfully slapstick moments in it, Moore plays Bond mostly straight compared to his later films.  He wasn’t as good as Connery but audiences could now buy him as Bond.

Rosie Carver, played by Gloria Hendry is the first African American Bond girl.  And that is about as fascinating as she gets.  If you thought Agent Goodnight was a vapid character, Rosie makes her look like Beatrix friggin’ Kiddo.  Again, this era of cinema was replete with shallow, one-dimensional female characters.  But even for that time, Rosie is way more femme than fatale.  Her counterpart in the film, Solitaire, doesn’t fair much better in that regard.  However, she is at least an interesting character.  Would be conquerors using soothsayers to guide them stretches as far back as Macbeth and as recent as that 300 and Immortals.  Jane Seymore, famous for Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and selling strange jewelry, does a decent job of making Solitaire stand out as a character.  Unfortunately, her storyline is underutilized and abandoned as most of the more interesting characters in this film are. 
Kananga…oh boy…Kananga.  Overconfidence is usually the undoing of most Bond villains and film villains in general.  But no more so than Kananga.  There are at least five times he has Bond dead to rights.  Not only does he not kill him, he makes a point to explain master plan and show off supposedly secret facility.  Dr. Evil would even raise an eyebrow to this.  The phrase, “Let me show you exactly how it works Mr. Bond” should never be uttered by a Bond villain.  Its much better to see Bond figure it out himself and save himself rather than relying on dumb luck and dumb villains.  As a character, the only positive I could say about Kananga is that he has style and charm on par with Bond.  However, he is incredibly small potatoes for MI6 to deal with.  His plan?  From the way the film started, I thought Kananga had a beef with MI6 and was systematically taking them out.  Sadly, that is not it.  I’ll have to wait until Friday to get that storyline.  Kananga, however, plans to get the country addicted to heroin so he can become the world’s biggest drug dealer.  Yes, really.  As the first African American Bond villain, the stereotypical corner he’s painted into is nothing short of laughable.  This was a job for the DEA or Shaft or Kojak.  Not a British secret agent.  It just feels like a waste of 007’s time.  Kananga’s henchman Baron Samedi is memorable but again, completely squandered.  His showdown with Bond lasts about as long as it takes James to order a martini.  You set up a character that apparently can never die and just shuffle him away.  
Live And Let Die is a bit too discombobulated and drab for a Bond film.  It’s only real accomplishment is the successful launch of Roger Moore into the role of Bond and an Oscar nominated title song.  A song that ranks in my top 3 of best Bond songs of all time.  Sing it along with Paul…hop in your “pimpmobile”…yes…there is a “pimpmobile” in it…go see…then tell me I’m wrong.   
November 6, 2012

Election Day Special: Dave

Dave: Unique
(1993, 110mins, Comedy)

Originally I was reviewing 1995’s Nixon. I always thought it was a underrated film, one that was well acted and directed. But as I was watching it, I said it just the same old, same old. I wanted something I thought was unique. I then remembered the 1993 film, Dave. Here’s a film that has no historic importance and is made up completely from the ground up.

The story is simple, the U.S. President has a stroke. He’s now in a coma and the news is kept quiet. Why? Because this President was “getting around” and if this got out, it could be potentially a large scandal for the country. A temp agency owner who looks exactly like the President is now a part of this. He is put in the President’s place to keep the scandal at a stand still with no one noticing any issues.

This idea in the end becomes a big back up plain that works perfect for the former and new President. The original President isn’t a likable guy, in fact even the first lady doesn’t like him. The new President is a likable guy. When he comes into the Presidency, he also in turn restores the Presidency. But the real pleasure of this film is the little pieces that not to many people notice. I tried to think of another film that centered around a President and it didn’t even tell you his party. I think this might be the only one. This creates a generic President and the film doesn’t get wrapped up into the two parties. This is something that doesn’t happen much in films about politics, which make things even more enjoyable.


Kevin Kline shines in this film. (Like every film he is in)

Perfect in casting I would have to say.
And the rest is awesome…

Sigourney Weaver
Frank Langella (lovely evil!)
Kevin Dunn
Ving Rhames
Ben Kingsley
Charles Grodin
Laura Linney
Bonnie Hunt
Directed by Ivan Reitman

All around a perfect cast that stands out.

All in all this is a fun film to watch. It’s even family friendly and one I think everyone would get a kick out of watching where all one guy wants only to do good for the country.

Scroll to top
The Simplistic Reviews Shop is now open! Due to COVID-19 shipments are being heavily delayed.  
Holler Box