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Skyfall – Review

Skyfall is more than just James Bond’s 23rd adventure. It marks the 50th anniversary of the franchise and the end of what I now consider to be “The 007 Origins Trilogy”. Since Casino Royale, we have gotten a lot of back story on what makes James Bond the 007 character that we thought we knew for years. By the end of Skyfall, you are treated to glimpses of Bond’s past and get propelled into his future.

I have said it since Casino Royale that Daniel Craig is the best actor to tackle the role. I am not saying that he should be your favorite, I am just saying he is the best at portraying Ian Fleming’s character. In Skyfall, Craig continues to deliver an incredible version of 007 and it helps that his scripts allow him to add more than just one dimension to the character.

Skyfall follows a similar pattern that we have come to expect from James Bond films. The movie starts with an incredibly exciting and fun pre-title sequence filled with action and loud music. We get some awesome opening titles, which are once again masterfully created by Daniel Kleinman (thank god he is back!) and a song by Adele, which fit perfectly with the tone of the film.

After the main titles is when I found myself to start to get really bored. I enjoyed all of the MI6 intrigue and James Bond trying to get back into the spy game, but once Bond was on the case I did not care. The mission takes 007 to a couple of exotic locals, where he’s blindly following a lead. It is really slow paced and felt like it could have been cut down considerably. During this investigation, Bond meets a woman by the name of Somthing-or-other and she is going to take him to her boss or get captured by him or something, I wasn’t exactly sure of her purpose, but James Bond has sex with her for some reason and then she dies.

After about an hour and fifteen minutes of movie James Bond finally comes face to face with the main villain, a former MI6 agent that goes by the name of Silver. Silver was played by Javier Bardem and as soon as he first showed up the movie took a huge turn for the better. Everything that happens after his arrival is nothing short of amazing. He was creepy, funny and scary all at the same time. I wanted to laugh, but was uncomfortable the whole time. He is probably the best 007 villain since Telly Savalas in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Silver causes all kinds of chaos in the streets of London and the action leads 007 and M to James Bond’s childhood home “Skyfall” where we get a little bit more insight into the backstory of James Bond. They do not give you too much, but enough to see the humanity behind the killing machine.

My favorite scene in the entire film was when James Bond and M were standing in front of an overcast valley discussing the climbing accident that took his parents’ lives (see the picture above).

With the exception of the boring stuff at the beginning of the movie, I found that I liked Skyfall more than the other two 007 movies that Daniel Craig was involved with. I loved seeing the backstory of the new M. I loved seeing the budding relationship with 007 and Q and I fell in love with the new Ms. Moneypenny, even though the movie didn’t trick me for a moment by trying to hide her identity.

Of the 23 movies in the James Bond franchise, I would put this at #2 after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The last half really made up for the first half.

★ ★ ★ ★½

Frankenweenie – Review

I am a big fan of Tim Burton. He has one of the most recognizable visual styles of any director of the last 25 years. Of all the films he has directed the majority are adaptations from previous source material. My main problem with Tim Burton films is that a lot of them end up becoming the “Tim Burton version of blank”.  Off the top of my head Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and Corpse Bride are the only films that he has directed that are base on an original idea. Even though Frankenweenie is adapted from his 1984 short film, it is definitely what I want to see from Tim Burton. A Tim Burton idea brought to life before my eyes.

For those of you that are familiar with the original short film, you will definitely find value in this film. It is not merely a rehash of that short film that has been stretched out into a feature length film. One of the things that survived from the original short that surprised me was the fact that it was shot in black and white. I am not sure how many feature length black and white animated films that are out there, but it seemed like a pretty gutsy move to do this. I loved the black and white, but I am sure it swayed some younger viewers away from it.

Frankenweenie was a great film that harkened back to a time when Tim Burton would do original ideas and I hope that this is a trend that continues!

★ ★ ★½

Dredd – Review

It has been a while since I have reviewed a movie. So here comes the review for Dredd. Last month I saw The Expendables 2 and Total Recall and both of them reminded me of the character of Judge Dredd in one way or another, but they both reminded me that Hollywood is stuck in the past. Instead of doing an original adaptation, let’s rehash the same junk. Where as the former two movies feel like more of the same, Dredd tries to distance itself from its predecessor and does a good job of making you forget about Stallone all together.

The plot to Dredd is simple. Judge Dredd and his psychic rookie, Anderson, show up to a call at a large building full of gun-toting thugs and get locked inside. It’s essentially Die Hard, except Dredd does not sneak around through air ducts like John McClane. Instead, he stomps his way up “The Block” with guns a blazing.

I enjoyed Dredd way more than Judge Dredd. I think that it was very entertaining and I really liked Karl Urban’s performance. Because he wears the helmet the entire time, it is great to see him borrow from the Peter Weller school of acting when it comes to showing his emotions. You can see his brain working inside that gigantic helmet and he does it subtly.

I really enjoyed the performance by Olivia Thrilby as Anderson. I thought she did a great job as a Judge in training. She played it vulnerable, but not as if she never had Judge training. She was great.

Lena Headey was scary as the main villain, Ma Ma, but could have used a little more character development. They tell you that she is evil and wants to take over Mega-City 1, but you really don’t get any motivation why.

My only real issue with Dredd was that it felt a little anti-climactic. Essentially the whole movie is Dredd walking through hallways and getting into shootouts, so by the time he gets up to Ma Ma I expected more than what I got.

All in all it was a good movie. It definitely washed off the stink of the 1995 version. This version did two things  for me that were really positive. One, it made me want to watch a sequel and , Two, it made me want to pick up the comic books that the movies are based on.

★ ★ ★½

Brave – Review

Today I wrote this on Animation Fascination Podcast‘s facebook wall.

“I really wish Pixar would position itself back on top by doing something innovated and fresh. I really thought that they were going to do just that with Wall E, but after a brilliant 45min long silent film, it all came crashing down by turning into a film that catered to people with short attention spans. Wall E was like Pixar’s Fantasia but didn’t stick to it’s guns and the last half turned into a slapstick cartoon. Same goes for Up, but I can save that for another long winded post.

Brave was great! The story and action felt warranted. The third act felt natural. My only issue with Brave is that I feel like we have gotten to a point in CG animated films, where we cant top the previous film. Sure, the hair was a technological breakthrough, but as good as it looked I feel that these characters could have existed in How to Train Your Dragon or Tangled. Those are great films, but I feel like we have hit a road block when it comes to CG. La Luna was brilliant and what made it special was to challenge the audience with an artistic concept. THAT is what Pixar needs to do to get back on top. Challenge the artist and the audience. They need to make Art instead of sequels. Someone needs to shake things up. I think that Miyazaki needs to write and direct a Pixar film.”

After seeing Brave I had mentioned on Twitter that I enjoyed it more than Wall E and Up, which made someone ask how I would rank Pixar films. Here are the Pixar films in the order of my favorite to least favorite.

  1. Ratatouille
  2. The Incredibles
  3. Toy Story 2
  4. Toy Story
  5. Toy Story 3
  6. Cars
  7. Brave
  8. A Bug’s Life
  9. Monsters Inc.
  10. Finding Nemo
  11. Wall e
  12. Up
  13. (I have not seen Cars 2)

You are probably thinking that I am crazy, but if I were to pop in a Pixar movie right now, this is the order that I would choose.

I feel that Up and Wall e are incredibly overrated. They are good movies, but not great. I feel that with Up, there are a lot of rules set up at the beginning that are broken in the third act of the film. The Dog have collars that allow their barks to be translated into english. The dogs still act like dogs and the translators do not work that great, due to the out of date technology. In the last third of the movie, the animators that spent so much time animating realistic canine behavior are now asked to make the dogs pilot airplanes while wearing aviator helmets. Another thing that bothers me a lot is from the get go we learn that Carl is an old man who requires the aid of a cane to get around. By the third act we are supposed to believe that he has recaptured his youth during this adventure that he, not only does not require the cane, but is spry enough to use it as a zipline hook and as a martial arts weapon. I feel that the last third of Up abandons the story it is trying to tell and tries to become a crowd pleaser. I am not saying that Carl should just crumble under the pressure, but he should not be more agile than Jackie Chan.

Brave was a great and different story and I enjoyed it immensely. I hope that this is the beginning of a fresh new Pixar….well, after Monsters 2.

★ ★ ★ ★

LISTEN TO ME ON THE ANIMATION FASCINATION PODCAST HERE!

Green Lantern Blu-Ray – Review

Green Lantern Blu Ray Review

Because Green Lantern didn’t make any money and WB didn’t want to spend any more advertising on it, you probably didn’t know that it was released last Friday on DVD and Blu-ray. Being a fan of the comic and the film, I did know about it and am very pleased with the result.

Green Lantern is not the best comic book adaptation, but I can say that the extended cut benefits greatly from the 9 minutes added to it. For those of you that have seen the film, you will not get any more Green Lantern stuff in the extended cut, but you will get some pretty important backstory that I felt gave the film more heart as well as established all the main characters better. You know how in the movie you see scenes where apparently Hector, Hal and Carol all knew each other as kids? Well in here you see that. You know how in the movie you are supposed to believe that Hal idolized his father growing up? Well in this cut you see that as well.

I have no idea why the film makers would take out these crucial character introductions, I assume they just  took out all the exposition so that they could get to Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern faster. The problem with the theatrical cut is that you get Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern faster, but you don’t care about his character and know little about him when he puts on the ring, so you lose any of the humanity from Hal. In the theatrical cut, you know he is a brash test pilot who doesn’t look before he leaps, but in this extended cut, you know why he is the way he is and he comes off as more sympathetic. Removing this from the theatrical cut was a big misstep.

Now lets talk about the extra features, most notably the Maximum Movie Mode! This is one of those picture in picture features that plays in the foreground as the film plays. What is great about this version is it is basically a camera crew following Geoff Johns (Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment & Current GL Mastermind) as he acts as your tour guide through the entire production of the Green Lantern film. He interviews art directors, costume designers, special effects supervisors, actors and more! Any diehard fan of Green Lantern knows that Geoff Johns may very well be THE biggest fan of the Green Lantern on the planet and this Maximum Movie mode shows that off perfectly. Watching the look on Goeff Johns’ face as all of the creative team talks about Green Lantern with such respect is worth watching this feature alone. Any fan would love to have access to what Geoff Johns had during the making of the film and it is a joy to go with him on this journey.

The very best part of the Maximum Movie Mode is watching Johns talking to Mark Strong as he is sitting in a makeup chair. Here you have the biggest Green Lantern fan on the planet talking to a well respected actor, who is in complete Sinestro makeup talking seriously about the Green Lantern mythos. Even though he doesn’t say it, you can tell that Geoff Johns is thinking, “Pinch me, I am dreaming”. It is really great for any GL fan.

In addition to the feature length Maximum Movie Mode, you get about an hour and a half of Green Lantern featurettes. Even though there are two Green Lantern animated films (Green Lantern:First Flight/Green Lantern:Emerald Knights) there was never really a proper documentary about Green Lantern comics. There is a great documentary on here that tackles the different eras of Green Lantern in comic books. From the Denny O’Neil & Neal Adams’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow run all the way to Geoff Johns’ Blackest Night, this is a great documentary that gives the uninitiated GL fan a basic breakdown of the history of Hal Jordan.

There are also several documentaries on the making of the film that are all wonderful. What is best about all of these featurettes is the fact that they are all in HD. In addition to the featurettes you get some cool deleted scenes from the movie as well as a ten minute preview of the Green Lantern Animated Series that comes out on 11/11/11 on Cartoon Network!

Everything about this set is great! From the extended cut to the features, I am sure that it will please all fans of the Green Lantern film and books. I hope that all the efforts that everyone made to get Green Lantern to the big screen will get the chance to make a sequel.

Extended Cut: ★ ★ ★ ★½

Special Features: ★ ★ ★ ★

Captain America – Review

Here comes the 3rd film about Marvel characters to come out this summer and like X-Men First Class, this film does not take place in the modern day. I have a feeling if Marvel had Thor, X-Men and Captain America all take place in the modern era things would get boring real fast. Although Captain America’s themes are not original in the slightest, the setting allows for Captain America to feel fresh and remain entertaining.

The movie is bookended with scenes that take place in modern times, which is something that I would have loved to see saved for The Avengers, but that is only my gripe with the film. The meat of the movie takes place in the 1940s but strays from being a history lesson real quick. This film is definitely more Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow rather than a Saving Private Ryan. In fact, a lot of the imagery, production design and FX looked very reminiscent of Sky Captain, which I don’t mind in the slightest.

Going into the movie I was looking forward to seeing Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull and didn’t really care about seeing “Johnny Storm” as Steve Rogers, but after the movie i found myself more excited about Chris Evan’s performance than Hugo Weaving’s. The Red Skull was kind of boring and cliché  whereas Evan’s portrayal of Captain America was pitch perfect. I liked Evans as Steve Rogers so much it made me wish that he was never The Human Torch. Who knows, maybe we will get that F4 reboot and forget all about him being Johnny Storm, which is tough because he was the only memorable part of those films.

There is not much more I can say about Captain America other than I had a really good time watching it. The Harry Potter 3d glasses I wore while watching it gave me a headache and the 3d wasn’t really worth the pain. Since I first watched the post credits scene of the original Iron Man, I have slowly become very excited for the Avengers and Captain America’s final moments really sealed the deal for me. Joe Johnson is usually pretty hit and miss for me, but this one was definitely  more fun that I had expected.

★ ★ ★ ★

Green Lantern – Review

Green Lantern Review

How am i going to tell you guys that i really enjoyed this movie and have you believe that it is not just my nerdy bias? I do not think i could do it, but i can tell you that i went to Green Lantern last night with 9 other people and they all had a blast! Some of the things i heard from my friends were, “Wow, are all the critics just being dicks?” and “That movie was better than Thor!” which i agree with. From the die hard Green Lantern fans like myself, to the newly initiated, every single one of us had a really good time watching the Green Lantern.

Of course I had read all the bad reviews prior to the film, so I was bracing for the worse. Then we got in the theater and they handed me 3D glasses, which i was not expecting. A free 3D showing of  a movie based on my favorite comic book series? I am pretty sure that i was going to be fairly happy regardless. I am not a big 3D guy, but i figured if the movie sucks at least i will get to see some pretty cool effects popping into my eyeballs.

So the movie starts and the audience is thrust into insanity! If you are not familiar with the Green Lantern universe, you will have to be on your toes. You get a very hefty narration from Tomar Re. Yeah, you’ll meet him later. He goes on to tell you a story that began eons ago. My sister said that this narration at the beginning made her nervous because she did not know she would get saturated with so much information from the get-go. There is no breathing room when it comes to them trying to set up this world. My sister did say that once the narration ended and the movie started up, she was able to follow it. I just think that the opening narration is a bit daunting for the uninitiated.

So everyone meets a few of the alien members of the Green Lantern Corps then it’s time to meet Hal Jordan, played wonderfully by Ryan Reynolds. Because we all know that Hal is going to become a Green Lantern, the whole audience is chomping at the bit to see him put on the costume. The main problem that this causes, is that there is still a lot of set up of the other characters to get through first and the film kind of has to scoot along. You quickly get introduced to Carol Ferris, Carl Ferris, Senator Hammond and his son Hector Hammond. With all of these characters to introduce it feels like a lot of this first part of the movie was rushed, but i didn’t mind too much. I am already familiar with these characters and i just wanted to see Hal Jordan flying around with a ring so i didn’t care. I just hope that people who aren’t me can follow it. Once Hal creates his first ring construct, the movie settles down and we are treated to some great scenes on the Green Lantern’s home planet of Oa. I thought the FX on Oa were really cool. I only wish that they could spend more time touring the city, but that is just the Green Lantern fan in me.

I really enjoyed the training that Hal received from Tomar Re and Kilowog. I also liked the Sinestro “training”. Sinestro was good friends with Hal’s predecessor Abin Sur and he found a way to take out his aggressions on Hal. Sinestro is not the biggest fan of humans, so he delivers the beat-down of all beat-downs! Hal gets so jacked up that decides to quit the corps on the first day. Of course Hal keeps the ring and realizes that he may actually have what it takes to  be a Green Lantern and saves the world from certain annihilation.

Green Lantern is a a lot of fun, but it does have a few faults. Faults that are not going to ruin my life, but they are easy fixes that could have changed this movie from great to truly amazing. The first thing that i though was strange is that after Hal Jordan fights Hector Hammond for the first time. It seemed like before the fight was done they just kind of decided to go their separate ways. I did not really understand that the fight was over, if Hector died, or if Green Lantern ran away like a coward. It was really unclear and took me out of the movie for a good five minutes or so. I may have to try to figure out what happened there during another viewing.

The other thing that did not make sense to me are some of the decisions made by some of the characters at the end of the movie. At one point Hal approaches the Guardians of the universe with Sinestro and asks them to help him protect Earth from Parallax. They reject him. At this point i would have LOVED it if there was an additional scene with Hal and Sinestro. I think that the filmmakers needed to show that Sinestro’s hands were tied and that he couldn’t help Hal defend his planet. It would also be a great way for Sinestro to show his distrust of the Guardians’ judgement, which is a main theme for the last 52 years. This scene would have made the climax of the film make sense. The way it stands in the film is after we have been introduced to 3,600 members of the Green Lantern Corps, they decide not to help Hal in his darkest hour. They wait until after Hal defeats Parallax on his own to come to his aid. It was really strange and think that if  had that extra scene with Sinestro, it would make more sense and the payoff on the end credit scene seem like it wasn’t out of left field.

The last thing i would have liked to see is Hal seeing the image of his father (Martin Jordan) die, in order to overcome that great fear to defeat Parallax. If you look at the shot of Hal Jordan at the top of this review, this is Hal at his darkest hour. He is pinned down by Parallax and he uses every ounce of his will power to pick himself back up from this great threat. While he was reciting the oath, it would have been nice if the editors flashed in some shots of Martin Jordan’s death and maybe a couple of flashes of Carol and Kilowog. It would have shown him overcoming his fears a little better. I really think that whole theme of Hal losing his father never really got paid off and it is at this point where it could have really brought the story full circle.

It was those small little things that really  hurt this movie. I hope that there is a longer cut of the film out there that will be released, because i know that something was up during the last third of the film. Maybe the editor just gave up. Either way, I really liked the movie. I though Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard and Mark Strong were all really fantastic as their comic book counter parts. Martin Campbell did a pretty good job at telling a Green Lantern story, but i would like someone different tackle a sequel.

This film was a great setup for a Green Lantern franchise, i just hope that all the non Green Lantern fans out there can accept this crazy world that DC has concocted and go out and see it for themselves.

★ ★ ★ ★

0 DAYS UNTIL RELEASE!!