Tag Archive: movies

Skyfall

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…or “Sean who??”

I believe that James Bond is a Time Lord. That’s the only way to describe his regenerative abilities and ability to change appearance over the past 50 years of movies. In this latest movie, under interrogation Bond himself states that his hobby is “resurrection.”

Be that as it may, in this 23 Bond movie, Skyfall, the sixth incarnation of The Doctor James Bond in the form of Daniel Craig really comes into his own. Forget Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace – this is a movie for long-time Bond fans. There are lots of nods to Bond tradition, including the reappearance of Q, Moneypenny, and a gadget-laden classic Aston Martin.

However, just as Doctor Who is at times more about the companions rather than the Doctor himself, this Bond movie is more about Judi Dench’s incarnation of M, and the complex relationship between her and Bond. Dench has almost as much on-screen time as Craig.  Javier Bardam makes a great villain.  Director Sam Mendes has stated that he modeled Bardam’s Silva character on The Joker from The Dark Knight.  While Silva’s gambit is every bit as complex as The Joker’s, Bardam is not quite as maniacal as the late Heath Ledger.

Yes, there are the inexplicable chase scenes, gorgeous femme fatales, and unusual ways to finish off one’s opponents.  This is a tradition-laden Bond film, but it works.  You would have to go all the way back to Pierce Brosnan’s Goldeneye to find a Bond movie that I enjoyed this thoroughly.  I’m sure I’ll be seeing it again on the big screen.

Bond at 50

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Today is the 50th anniversary of the premier of the first James Bond movie, Dr. No. All this week NPR’s Morning Edition has been doing a series of specials on James Bond at 50. This week they are exploring the physics of Bond gadgets, music from the Bond movies, Bond’s favorite martini and the differences between shaken and stirred, and, finally, a survey to determine which actor was the quintessential Bond.

Some people memorize the names of all of the presidents of the US in order. Some memorize all the books of the Bible. I can recite all 22 James Bond films in order, with information such as the Bond actor, major villain, and plot. I sometimes do this as a cognitive exercise to relax, somewhat akin to counting sheep. (And, for the record, I can list all of the books of the Bible, but don’t know all the presidents.)

So, when NPR started this series I was delighted. Unfortunately, it came off as a bit shallow. I guess time constraints wouldn’t let them delve into the issues as much as I might have liked, but I was hoping they would get into whether or not a shaken martini tastes better than a stirred one, rather than simply which is colder. Oh, well. (more…)

Tron Legacy

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For my birthday Chip got me a ticket to the midnight opening of Tron Legacy at our local iMax. So, last night (and into the wee hours of this morning) we set off for Simpsonville to rendezvous with several of his work friends to see the movie.

We got to the theater a little after 11:00 pm and it was already jam-packed. There was quite the line waiting to get into the theater.

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As you might expect, it was a typical geek crowd. Before and during the previews there were so many smartphone screens lit that it lit up the place. One guy sat down in the seat next to me, turned to his buddies, and said “Greetings, programs!” Chip said that if a bomb went off in the theater every network in the Upstate would be affect, because every sysadmin in the area was in attendance.

The movie itself was excellent. The story built upon the 1982 movie, but the plot was strong enough, with enough backstory provided, that it could stand on its own. The visuals of the computer world were stunning in iMax. However, the 3D aspects seemed to be fairly subtle.

Jeff Bridges was great as Kevin Flynn, and the digital anti-aging to turn him into CLU was nothing short of amazing. Garrett Hedlund was good as Flynn’s son, Sam Flynn, but my favorite was Olivia Wilde as Quorra.

I had borrowed the original Tron from Chip a couple of weeks ago. I think the one and only time I saw it was in its original theater release in 1982. It was OK, but it never made sense why this digital world existed.

Speaking of the original, getting one’s hands on a copy is next to impossible. The only listings on Amazon are for the 20th Century Collector’s Edition, and those are selling for upwards of $150. On eBay copies are going for even more. I had to wonder about Disney’s strategy of not making the original available in anticipation of the new release. Chip’s theory was that Disney didn’t want folks to see the sub-par visuals and equate the mediocre 1980′s movie with the new verson.

Regardless of the reason, I think this new one is a keeper, and Disney has nothing to fear from the original. I’ll probably try to catch it again in the theater.

Harry Potter and the Half-Pint Prince

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After many delays, the new Harry Potter movie is upon us. This was supposed to have come out in November, but was delayed for some strange marketing purpose. I don’t see why this would have mattered. The movie was going to rake in a ton of money, regardless. However, the ploy must have worked. Wednesday we joined the throngs to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

The Harry Potter books got longer and longer as the series progressed. The same could almost be said for the movies. This one clocks in at 2 hrs 35 mins. The time passed quickly. Even at that length, there was no way to include everything. Having just re-read most of the novel, it was very obvious where the story had been compressed for the sake of time.

I still haven’t quite worked out where this movie falls in its ranking with the others. I think numbers 1 and 3 are my favorites. I was a bit disappointed with 5, but it was still a good movie. This latest Potter outing ranks better than that, but beyond that I don’t know.

Regardless of these minor differences, the whole series is great, and the young actors are now really starting to come of age, both in physical appearance and acting ability. This movie really plays to the teenage angst, almost to the point of distraction, but it still works.

It will be interesting to see how the last novel is handled. It’s been split into two parts, so we will have even longer to wait for the final resolution.

Three Movies in One Week

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Summer blockbuster season is upon us, and is in full swing.  After a dearth of movies, the theaters seem filled with films I want to see.  So much so that I did something unprecedented – three movies in the theater in one week.

Tuesday Night – 2nd viewing of Star Trek

Since I’ve already given my thoughts here, I’ll not linger.  I will say that I enjoyed it just as much the second time as the first.  It’s a fun movie.  

For this viewing I had considered buying my tickets from Fandango.com.  I guess I’m too used to going to weekend matinees, because the $9.50 a pop made me hesitate, and decide to just buy them at the box office.  When I got there I was charged only $13.  Laura and I had BOTH been given the senior discount.  I didn’t complain, but I was really thrilled, either.

Thursday Night – Terminator Salvation

Chip called to see if I wanted to go to a late night showing of Terminator Salvation.  How could I decline?  I only had to be up by 5:30 the next morning.

I had seen all of the previous Terminator movies in the theater, so I figured I might as well finish out the series with this one.  My Twitter review went something like this…

Lots of robots, lots of explosions, incomprehensible plot, Batman, Chekov – what’s not to like?

This seemed to be the weakest of the series.  Christian Bale’s acting was, well, robotic.  And that isn’t a good thing.  Anton Yelchin and Sam Worthington are the two bright spots in the movie.  However, it’s full of plot holes.  These idiotic robots could have killed John Connor any number of times during the movie, but manage to prolong things for the requisite two hours.  However, no one said that the Terminator movies were supposed to make sense.  

If you’re a fan of the series, it’s worth going to see.  Good old Arnold even makes an appearance, albeit as a digitally mapped face.

Saturday Night – Angels and Demons

Both of us had been looking forward to Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, Laura more so than me.  Interestingly enough, I wound up liking it better than she did.

In the novels, Angels and Demons takes place before the Da Vinci Code.  In the movies the order is reversed, and that actually works.  The Vatican doesn’t entirely trust Robert Langdon because of the the events in the Da Vinci Code, and that increases the dramatic tension in the film.

There is quite a bit of action and intrigue.  Brown’s novel is full of twists, turns, and misdirections.  The acting in the film sold those misdirections convincingly, so much so that I began to wonder if the plot had been changed from the novel.  There was still some violence in the movie that can be off-putting, but it seems to have been toned down a bit from the Da Vinci Code.

I like the movie better than Da Vinci Code.  Even with a fanciful device such as an antimatter bomb, it made more sense to me.  Laura, on the other hand, is reserving judgment until she gets a chance to see it again.  She had just recently listened to the novel on CD, and so was acutely aware of the differences.

One last thing to note…when I went to buy tickets this time, I also got the senior discount.  Different theater, twice in one week.  I think this white beard may have to come off.  Or, I could just keep it and continue to enjoy cheaper movies.  I’ll have to think about that.

 

Star Trek 90210

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We went to see the new Star Trek movie on Saturday.  Being a true Trekkie, I had been anticipating this one for a long time.  By now everyone knows the drill – director J. J. Abrams’ intention was to reboot the series with new actors, telling the story of how the famous Enterprise crew first got together.

Because of the flashy action and young cast, the moving has been referred to disparagingly as “Star Trek 90210.”  While there is that flavor, it’s a fun movie, and is quite good, but it’s satisfying on multiple levels.

Star Trek fans can be a finicky lot.  So much has been written about the Trek universe that it can be be difficult for writers to be creative without some Trekker saying, “Well, that can’t possibly happen because in episode 29 of the original series it was established that…”  Trekkers can be worse that fundamentalists.

What Abrams has done is pure genius.  Without giving anything away, the plot devices do allow for a complete reboot, and leeway to write anything he wants from here on out without making the Fundamentalist Trekkers mad.  Im looking forward to more movies in this set.

The Dark Knight

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Brutal

That’s about the only way to describe it. I went to see The Dark Knight by myself Friday afternoon, since I knew Laura wouldn’t want to see it. I thought that Batman Begins was very well done but haunting. However, The Dark Knight was unrelenting in its psychopathic take on crime in Gotham City.

The late Heath Ledger completely stole the show with his over-the-top performance as The Joker. The scariest part was that his psychotic view of the world seemed so logical and reasonable as he described it. His actions made perfect sense from a purely evil standpoint. SPOILER – HIGHLIGHT TO READ: The Joker survives this encounter with Batman. However, Ledger gave such a character defining performance that I don’t think anyone else could do it justice. With Ledger’s death, I’m afraid The Joker is also gone.

I enjoyed the movie, but I kept checking my watch. I went into it knowing that it was a long movie, at 2.5 hours. However, I kept wanting a resolution and for the good guys to win. But, this is the new Batman, and both the concepts of “good guys” and “winning” are nebulous, at best.

[tags]Batman, The Dark Knight, movie review[/tags]

On Location

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It always surprises me how our perception of place is colored by movies. San Francisco is such an iconic city that it’s easily recognizable when on the big screen. However, sometimes the reality is altered a bit. The Monterrey Bay Aquarium figured prominently as “The Cetacean Institute” in Star Trek IV. However, their outdoor tide pool was digitally enhanced to become a huge whale enclosure.

Movie:

Reality:

Alfred Hitchcock set two of his most famous movies in the area. As mentioned before, The Birds was set in Bodega Bay, north of the city. We had planned to visit, but the guide books said that apart from the shoreline, it was unrecognizable as movie setting. The main reason we didn’t continue was because we were tired, and there wasn’t much likelihood of finding dinner there.

The other Hitchcock movie is Vertigo, starring Jimmy Stewart. Many of the San Francisco locations are relatively unchanged, and can be recognized n the movie. Muir Woods, the Golden Gate area, and even several of the streets remain basically the same. However, the most prominent landmark, San Juan Bautista, is quite different. In the movie there is a tall bell tower that serves as an important plot point. Turns out it’s completely fictional. On our visit yesterday, I actually looked for it. The actual bell tower wouldn’t quite work for what the movie needed.

The Indiana Mummy Files

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Long ago, in a cafe far, far away…

George: So, what good movies have you seen lately?

Steven: You know, the Mummy series was really cool! I loved the way Brenden Frazier…

George: Yeah! That was great!

Steven: I just rented X-Files. Talk about a convoluted plot.

George: Who gives a damn about plots. They’re just glue for the effects, anyway.

Steven: You had to sit through the whole thing, but at the end it was cool.

George: I’m still hung up on this Mummy thing. They made two of those, right? There was stuff in both of those I liked.

Steven: Talk about sequels, I just saw National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. Now THAT was a movie where the plot didn’t get in the way of the effects.

George: You know, we could take all the best bits of these and wrap them up in one movie!

Steven: Nah!

George: Yeah! We could even recycle one of our old movies as a vehicle, and bring on some new talent to appeal to a younger demographic! I like this idea!

Steven: I’ve got a bad feeling about this…

..regardless, the latest Indiana Jones was still a lot of fun!

[tags]Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, movies, sequels, entertainment[/tags]

“Ahhh aammm Ahhhhron Maaaan!”

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A bunch of us went to see the new movie, Iron Man, last night. The movie practically oozes cool, and Robert Downy, Jr. is great as the playboy arms industrialist, Tony Stark.

When I was at Furman my roommate and several of my friends were huge comic book collectors. Iron Man was one of their favorites. Though I never read the comics myself, I was aware of the stories through their conversations. I had a pretty good idea of what was going on before I went to the movie. Even so, not having that background shouldn’t hinder one from enjoying it.

Of course, there are lots of action sequences and special effects. As such, Laura labeled this a “boy’s movie” and declined the invitation to go see it. While this certainly fits that moniker, it doesn’t take on the feel of a Saturday morning cartoon like Transformers did. That movie was fun, but extremely hokey in places, with stilted, groan-inducing dialog. Iron Man was nothing but slick, with taut dialog delivered with perfect timing. I left the movie whistling the catchy guitar motif from Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”, which was used as part of the closing theme.

It’s obvious that a sequel is in the works. There were blatant references throughout the movie. It should be fun to see how this series develops.

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