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Dec
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Red Band Redux: November 2012

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The Red Band Redux is Yoda808’s recap of all the movies seen in theaters for the past month. Though not fully formed reviews, here are his off-the-cuff thoughts on movies playing in the past month.

November is usually when the heavy hitting films of the holiday and awards season start to make their way into theaters and this year was no exception. While we didn’t see too many movies this month, the reason was manly because these behemoths dominated the multiplexes . . .

Cloud Atlas

The Matrix and Speed Racer this ain't.

The Matrix and Speed Racer this ain’t.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Cloud Atlas and I was even a little scared that I wouldn’t be able to comprehend it all, but after leaving the theater after the film I was definitely in awe of what I had just seen. Many people won’t forgive the Wachowskis after the not-so-great Matrix sequels and the colorful Speed Racer (which I liked). I on the other hand was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, though like I said, I was just hoping that Cloud Atlas wouldn’t get too bogged down in the the siblings’ philosophy that kind of overshadowed Reloaded and Revolutions.

One thing I think everyone can agree on . . . the film is epic in scope and ambition. I mean, who would try to weave together six different stories across six different time periods; all at the same time having them relate to one another. No easy task for any director I tell you and I think the directing team of the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer pull it off beautifully. The goal? To renforce the central theme of Cloud Atlas the book where souls are connected and actions that we choose in the past will shape our futures; sometimes even after our death. For the most part I think the directors pull this off as over the course of the film we see how characters relate to one another in different timelines and how their actions are central to their singular “soul/character”; call it what you will.

Speaking of characters, you’ve got a great bunch of actors in the film most notably Tom Hanks and Halle Berry leading the way. A few actors have roles in every timeline while others don’t. Picking them out isn’t so much the issue as seeing how an actor’s different personas in each timeline connect the film together. While nothing really stood out for me in the acting department, my favorite performance had to be that of Ben Whishaw’s tortured composer character in the second timeline. Just the emotion and expression of his character alone was really touching to see.

On the whole Cloud Atlas isn’t the easiest film to digest, but then again, I think that’s the point. It’ll make you think and give you something to chew and look pretty and grand doing it the whole time. The film was definitely something to see and something that we need to see more of from Hollywood.

4 stars

————–

Wreck-It Ralph

Ralph definitely 'wrecked it', the box office that is.

Ralph definitely ‘wrecked it’, the box office that is.

Wreck-It Ralph is probably the best sign that Disney Animation has returned to be a serious player when it comes to making animated features. After a dismal run post 90s the turnaround started with Bolt, then took a big step up with Tangled in 2010, and now Wreck-It Ralph. The movie does so many things right; if you didn’t know any better . . . you would think that this was a Pixar movie as it has a number of Pixar traits: focus on characters, a story people can relate to, and emotion that the audience can feel.

At first glance you might thing this movie gets by on video game references alone, and yes, while it does have a lot of things that will get anyone who has picked up a joystick excited; that’s only the icing on the cake. Like I said, the story itself is something that you invest in from the very beginning. Ralph trying to find meaning/a greater purpose to life beyond what he was programmed to do, I think that’s something most of us can relate to.

Speaking about the story, one of the things I appreciated the most from the film was that it didn’t try to crowbar as many video game cameos as possible. Granted there were a lot of awesome appearances by a number of different characters, and sure I would have liked to have seen more, but the creators showed a lot of restraint and good common sense by not going overboard with the video game cameos. Ultimately the story is about Ralph and his journey and not about seeing video game greats in animated form so I tip my hat to them for realizing that.

Overall, you don’t have to be a video game lover or player to appreciate the film (though it certainly will help). As long as you crave an animated movie with great characters, an engaging story, and a fun time at the movies; look no further than Wreck-It Ralph.

4 stars

————–

Skyfall

Shaken, but not stirred: Skyfall brings the Bond franchise (and MGM) back to promenence.

Shaken, but not stirred: Skyfall brings the Bond franchise (and MGM) back to promenence.

It’s always interesting to see what different directors can do with a long running property such as the James Bond series. When it was announced that Sam Mendes was going to be directing this film I wasn’t really worried or anything. I knew the characters and their development was going to be there, but I did have to wonder if Mendes had the sensibility to direct action since that isn’t what he’s really known for. After seeing the film, I can safely say that my apprehension was put to rest.

Of all the Bond films this one feels the most personal (we actually can begin to see James Bond as a real human being), real, and authentic of all the other Bond films. Maybe it’s the fact that the film touches on Bond’s past or maybe it’s because of the realistic way that Bond’s age and MI6’s mission is treated, but all of this combined leads to a pretty entertaining film. Oh, did I mention that the action is there as well.

Mendes has a great stable of actors that he’s working with and it shows. Daniel Craig is solid as as Bond, but it’s the support that he gets all around him that helps to make the film really shine. You’ve got Judi Dench as M, not just the leader of MI6, but probably the most important woman in Bond’s life. Then you’ve got Javier Bardem as the antagonist Silva, very smart and menacing enough to believe he is really a worldwide threat, but just crazy enough to put him in the demented villain category. Not to mention that Ben Whishaw shows up again in a pretty brilliant turn as Q. And I haven’t even mentioned some pretty solid work turned in by Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and sultry newcomer Bérénice Marlohe.

On the whole the film definitely lives up to Bond mantle and might actually elevate the series in terms of story and just plain making you interested in Bond as a character and what is going on with him. It’s not just a film that has great action in exotic places. Yes it has that (especially the abandoned island), but because we believe in the story and what Bond is doing . . . it makes everything else that much more meaningful.

4 stars

————–

Lincoln

He came, he saw, he drank our milkshakes AGAIN . . . this time as Abraham Lincoln.

He came, he saw, he drank our milkshakes AGAIN . . . this time as Abraham Lincoln.

Going in I knew that Daniel Day-Lewis (DDL) could act, but after seeing his performance in Lincoln I have to say that he is probably one of the finest actors working today. From start to finish DDL was our 16th president. From the look, to the talk, to even the mannerisms; the man practically embodied my vision of what the real Abraham Lincoln would have been like. It was uncannily scary how much DDL was Lincoln.

The entire movie is basically an acting clinic as tons of known and recognizable character actors turned out for roles in the film. Leading the way had to be Tommy Lee Jones as the cantankerous representative Thaddeus Stevens who doesn’t always see eye to eye with Lincoln, but has enough sense to know what is right. Then you’ve got great supporting turns from Sally Field as Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd and David Strathairn as Secretary of State as well as great support in minor roles from great character actors such as James Spader, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Lee Pace, and Michael Stuhlbarg just to name a few.

As for the movie itself, the narrow focus of Lincoln’s final four to five months covering his time trying to get the 13th Amendment passed definitely helps as far as storytelling goes. While there are a number of names and faces to keep track of during the film, you ultimately get the gist of things and follow along due to the great performances everywhere you look. I identified with characters and motivations to the point where if I didn’t know their name or their title, I still knew what they stood for and their importance within the context of the entire film. And while you may think that over two hours of lawmakers yammering on might be boring; Spielberg orchestrates it in a way that is engrossing to watch.

4 stars

————–

Red Dawn

Like any good software update, The Wolverines 2.0 isn't without it's share of glitches.

Like any good software update, The Wolverines 2.0 isn’t without it’s share of glitches.

What is there to say about remakes that hasn’t been already said. The sad part about Red Dawn’s 2012 remake is that it’s just a mediocre film with so much lost potential. Granted a lot of the story beats and explanation of why things are done is a lot more plausible in this version than the original, but I just didn’t feel that the feeling and emotion from the relationships of the characters were there. In the original the angst, hatred, and emotion that the Wolverines felt you could feel as well and their interplay with one another seemed more authentic. In this version, I didn’t quite get that. I don’t know, maybe something was lost in the update or maybe my fondness for the original just clouds my judgement. In any case, sitting on a shelf for two to three years didn’t do this film any favors either.

Probably the best thing the film has going for it is the number of great action sequences throughout the film. Tactical strikes that the Wolverines make are pretty darn nice with today’s Hollywood action filmmaking. I also feel like the cast was wasted as well. Granted this was pre-Avengers and Hunger Games, but it didn’t seem like they had all that much to do. In the end Red Dawn 2012 falls short not because it’s a bad movie, but it wastes a lot of inherent potential.

2.5 stars

————–

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2

Don't worry . . . the glittering finally stops.

Don’t worry . . . the glittering finally stops.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the final film in the Twilight series. Granted, it probably won’t land on any critic ‘Best of’ lists for the year (or mine for that matter), but it was definitely the best film in the series. What it has going for it is that it actually appeals to both girls and guys; especially with the final sequence at the end.

Up until now this series has been all about the angst and tortured development of Edward and Bella’s relationship–which I know has turned many guys off to the series. However, being the final installment in this saga the movie begins by generating conflict that a lot people can relate to . . . a child in danger. All the drama and beating around the bush of emotions is finally shed as the relationship of Bella and Edward is already established. The sole focus is on the impending danger of their daughter and what they will do to protect her.

Being the final film Stewart and Pattinson, while still not the greatest thespians, are at least comfortable in their roles and know what they have to do. They’re definitely a lot more believable now than when they started off this franchise four years ago.

What definitely makes the film though is the end of movie and how that is staged and treated. While I won’t go into spoilers here, from what I’ve been told happens in the book, the film is pretty true to it. Also, another reason why guys will not mind seeing Breaking Dawn Part 2 . . . it’s almost like an Avengers with vampires (believe it or not). In any case, I was thoroughly entertained my this Twilight film unlike some of the other installments in the series.

3.5 stars

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