Archive for the 'Rye’s (Not So) Weekly Reviews' Category

24
Mar
16

Review: Why the World Needs Batman v Superman

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[Editor’s Note: There be no spoilers here. Unless you’ve never seen a single trailer for this movie. In that case, you’ve been living under a rock and deserve all the spoils the world has to offer.]
It’s no secret I’ve been the island’s biggest skeptic (to put it mildly) of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Well, I was wrong. Wrong! Against all odds, against all hope, I now do believe in miracles. In fact, I was brought close to tears. While it is not a perfect superhero(es) film by a mile, the one most significant thing it gets right is that it makes you feel like a dork with a flashlight under the blanket or a loiterer in the aisle of Barnes and Noble with a graphic novel concealing facial recognition.
This certainly is no children’s film. Yeah we’re looking at you, Schumacher. It’s pretty darn violent and I’m not just talking about seeing Bruce Wayne’s parents being murdered again. Many impalings occur and there’s also a very near and dear nip slip from Amy Adams‘s Lois Lane–who remains a tad under-utilized but still…perky.
We open with a recap of Superman and General Zod reducing Metropolis to rubble in Man of Steel and we learn Bruce Wayne suffered traumatic losses in a non-too-subtle evocation of 9/11. From there, things take off and we arrive at the most anticipated comic book slugfest in history. (No, I’m not ignoring Captain America and his Civil War but that isn’t as mainstream-ly recognizable.)
Easter eggs are dropped aplenty and it will take intermediate-level comic book fans to comprehend them all in their entirety. During the end credits, “normies” will be asking their geek friends who’s who, what was that thing, etc.
(FYI: Unless something happens in Hollywood at the last minute, there isn’t any post credits scene in this film, or at least in the preview screening I attended. “You’re still here? It’s over. Go home. Go.”)
Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice
Speaking of eggs, the main problem with director Zack Synder‘s Man of Steel was that it was hard to spoil since there wasn’t much worth spoiling in it. Not the case in the origins of this league of justice. All the questions the trailers proposed are answered, in one way or another. No cop outs. And even more questions pop up for viewers to mull over until the next chapter.
But, no need to fear of over-stuffing. Every character (and crowd pleasing cameo) is brought out properly and as organically as can be. Especially Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot actually doesn’t do much, but she has big eyes and a lovely measured accent that gives her a chic, resilient presence. It doesn’t hurt that her entrance as our favorite Amazonian warrior just totally rocks too. This is also the point that the score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL really cuts loose with a vaguely Middle Eastern guitar riff as her theme, which makes the composer’s trademark pounding drums seem as fresh as a nocturnal inception.
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Poor Doomsday is actually the weakest link, but by the time that villain pops up, what the hell… We’re already sold on the ridiculously extravagant fighting, carnage, and in what appears to be this franchise’s cross to bear, heavy municipal destruction. In fact, Doomsday is the only thing we prematurely passed judgment on correctly. He still kinda looks like a Peter Jackson cave troll.
Sure to be divisive though is Jesse Eisenberg‘s Lex Luthor. The actor does indeed play him like a prescription medicine-less Mark Zuckerberg and while I thought it worked as an inversion of Kevin Spacey’s interpretation of Superman’s arch-nemesis in Bryan Singer‘s equally controversial 2006 effort, others will find the performance too twitchy.
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The biggest relief is Ben Affleck. He may not be our favorite Bruce Wayne / Batman, and for some reason he plays the character with a really pronounced underbite, but he’s believable, alternately pretending to scope out the Metropolis ladies at a library opening, or pounding and dragging big monster truck tires around in his personal cross fit gym. He’s haunted, glowering and moody because he has to be: It appears a very close, unnamed comrade was killed by some maniac in a clown costume. And, he’s plagued by a “flash” of a nightmare seeming to come from the “dark side” of his unconsciousness. Trolls, leave Affleck alone and go shit on Agents of SHIELD. How the hell is this show still on the air? Talk about sleepily sluggish with no narrative momentum to give a crap about.
It will be interesting to see how Superman is handled furthermore. It’s been widely discussed that he may not be able to sustain his own movie. Man of Steel and its over-length is a prime example. Granted, we really didn’t need to see another iteration of General Zod–or at least that much of him–and if they had just fucking brought in Brainiac, maybe things would have turned out much differently.
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However, in this entry, Henry Cavill, and Superman / Clark Kent, seem to find comfort, footing, gravitas, and most importantly, a certain sense of wry humor. Supporting character or not, Superman may have finally found his rightful place in this era.
My film critic colleagues seem hell bent on smashing and bashing, but time will be kinder once the zeitgeist of the 2010s is history. This film will be regularly re-streamed online yet kept a guilty secret like pr0n, and the douche-y bourgeoisie will undoubtedly be using the R-rated Blu-ray to show off the abilities of their new curved 4K televisions once they’re done uploading pics of their 1% dinner.
In a post-Nolan world, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is finally the DC Comics movie we needed from the under-rated bang bang stylistics of Zack Snyder. And whether we are aware of it or not, it is also the one we very much deserve.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is now playing in theaters everywhere.
12
Dec
15

In the Heart of the Sea: A Whale of an OK Time

He ain't much help without a magic hammer.

He ain’t much help without a magic hammer.

In the Heart of the Sea, based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s non-fiction book documenting the events that inspired Moby-Dick, totally needed more big fish-on-man action. What we end up with is a rather sentimental shipwreck movie with one very aggressive, but elusive, sperm whale.

Chris Hemsworth is mighty and heroic with the ocean air whipping through his blond locks. Tom Holland, as the ship’s youngest crew mate, looks frightened most of the time; nothing here indicates whether or not he shall make a good Spider-Man/Peter Parker. Ben Whishaw (Q from the 007 movies) plays Herman Melville himself, who is interviewing a survivor of the ill-fated Essex, the ship upon which the notorious events took place. (The main story is told in flashback.) Cillian Murphy is…
*sigh*
I just can’t seem to muster the energy to write more about the cast.
The real stars here seem to be the ropes that makes up the ship’s elaborate rigging, raising and lowering its massive flapping sails. There are also tons of loving shots of taut cord stretching up into the sunlight and violently unspooling when taken out by a harpooned whale.
The folks in The Perfect Storm never had to deal with this!

The folks in The Perfect Storm never had to deal with this!

Second place goes to the whale, Moby-Dick himself. (Or herself.) (Well, he’s not exactly Moby-Dick here yet, but simply a sperm whale with a bad skin condition and a serious hard-on for killing humans. Melville will eventually name the leviathan but… Oh screw, you know what I mean.)
We don’t get much actual screen time of the whale, just mostly frames of a large dark gray mass moving in the water. Occasionally there’s a fin or an eyeball, and a few scenes of tail, but all the beast’s imposing majesty is portrayed via the cast’s frightened faces or Roque Banos’s loud, foreboding music score. For once, we aren’t barraged with enough blockbuster CGI creature porn. One can probably see better whale footage everyday on their Facebook feed. (And viewing this film in 3-D is not worth it. If anything, there’s just a lot of splashing sea water coming at you.)
A rare photo of Chris Hemsworth wearing a shirt.

A rare photo of Chris Hemsworth wearing a shirt.

There’s a great moment straight out of Melville’s novel (and probably Philbrick’s book as well) that shows us the nasty, penetrative method for collecting whale oil. And as for the scenes involving cannibalism after the sailors abandon the Essex, for better or worse, we don’t exactly see anyone chowing down on…anyone; it’s basically Life of Pi minus the tiger.
Ron Howard‘s direction has a curious lack of epic-ness but, as his wont, a heavy hand is used with meaningful glances and characters taking forever while saying farewell to one another. The one subtlety Howard employs is a certain restraint regarding the contemporary condemnation on the slaughter of whales. There is an appropriate mournfulness to the killing sequence that should shame the Japanese as well as Sea World supporters. But on its own merits, In the Heart of the Sea isn’t much of a movie without its literary origins. Melville fans are probably better off tackling their favorite fishing tale again.
In the Heart of the Sea is now playing in theaters everywhere.
24
Nov
15

Creed Review: Gonna Fly Again

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Adonis Creed: Last seen hitting head against wall mumbling the lyrics to Adele’s “Hello”.

No, Creed is not the long-awaited biopic of the 00s Christian rock band who did “With Arms Wide Open.” It is the seventh film in the Rocky series and is genuinely the most fun movie experience this year since Jurassic World.
This film focuses on Adonis Creed, son of Rocky’s deceased opponent turned BFF Apollo Creed. Who knew he even had a kid?! Well, turns out our eyes weren’t deceiving us in the previous movies. Apparently Creed had an affair outside of his marriage and the result was Adonis. After the boy’s birth mother dies, Creed’s widow (Phylicia Rashad) is nice enough to take the troubled child in. It probably didn’t help that he was named after a Greek God. No pressure.
Adonis grows into Michael B. Jordan and with the eye of the tiger roaring in him, he moves to Philadelphia to find his late father’s buddy Rocky to train him in the ways of boxing. The fragile, reluctant Balboa is eventually convinced to get back in the ring for his “nephew” and in the funny ways of luck these movies’ plots hinge on, Adonis is promptly signed to a high profile fight as the underdog against a vicious, more seasoned champion. With everything stacked against him, how can he possibly win? And how do the press conferences in these flicks get so wildly out of control?
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You better stop playing that Adele song.

It feels like familiar territory, especially since Stallone used the nostalgia trip motifs previously in Rocky Balboa (the sixth Rocky movie). He basically acts out the same screenplay here: Balboa runs a restaurant, mourns his deceased loved ones and just seems to be biding his remaining days, but still, he’s hungry. Somehow this all feels fresh, mostly thanks to the curious case of Michael B. Jordan.
Fantastic Four was not his fault. Yes, he was an uninteresting Human Touch, but no one in that movie had a chance of being interesting. Here though, he commands screen presence, fulfilling everything that pulled us into his orbit in Fruitvale Station. He’s emotionally raw, muscularly shouldered, and seems to have all the right dangerous moves in the ring. He doesn’t exactly jog up those famous museum steps but he does run hard along his own street version of the scene, and by the time he raises his arms in training victory, we’re cheering along with him. Maybe he’ll have another chance to be a superhero someday.
And speaking of Fruitvale Station, director Ryan Coogler does a riveting job here. The material isn’t as socially significant as his aforementioned debut feature but he manages to put his own stamp on such a marked franchise, much like what Sam Mendes did with the 007 movies in Skyfall. There are long, intimate tracking shots (one that lasts two entire boxing rounds), and fight cards that flash onto the screen like a video game whenever an opponent materializes. Coupled with his provocative scenes of quiet drama, Coogler is going to have an amazing career. No wonder he’s on the list for Marvel’s Black Panther.
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Someone play that Adele song again? Aim low.

Stallone doesn’t grandstand here. He falls into his beaten down, wizened supporting role with an irresistible sense of grace and self-deprecation as he mumbles out nuggets of his warrior’s code. “This guy here, that’s the toughest opponent you’re gonna hafta face.” Of course, Stallone is pointing into a mirror.
Tessa Thompson plays Adonis’s musically inclined love interest with a smooth dignity and she’s a dead ringer for Lisa Bonet. Also Cosby related is Phylicia Rashad, who makes the most out of her too-brief scenes in the film that mostly require her to look very worried. As for the main bad guy… Actually I don’t really remember the guy Creed finally fights, but then maybe that’s not entirely bad. During Stallone’s Decadent Era, Rocky’s opponents basically became colorful superhuman villains.
If anything, the music leaves a bit to be desired. The score is heavy on the hip-hop and although we finally get to hear a few scant strains of “Gonna Fly Now,” the bars of Bill Conti’s iconic theme song is sorely missed.
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Yo Rock, I can still hear that Adele song.

Even without the themes, Creed is unexpectedly exciting and inspiring enough to rouse applause by the jabs of the final round. It’s duly-abled manipulation with visceral physical human combat, but it does the job good, especially in these antiseptic, inhuman, CGI-bludgeoned times. Unlike the dourness of The Hunger Games, after this movie you leave the theater with a… Well… A burning heart and the unmistakable fire.
Creed is now playing in theaters everywhere.
22
May
15

Review: Tomorrow! You’re Only a $10 Pin Away!

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After the CGI douche-theatrics of Furious 7, the pop spectacle of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the riveting post-apocalyptic reality-based pyrokinetics of Mad Max: Fury Road, the arrival of Tomorrowland seems at its best, quaint. But at its worst, underwhelming and obvious.

Perhaps the lack of surprise and/or the intensity of its sense of adventure is because, bottom line, Disney has made a film for kids. (Vaccinated) kids who will pester their parents to take them to see the real Tomorrowland. The marketing genius even shows in what is likely to be the most easily attainable movie tie-in toy—a lapel pin that gives our heroine a glimpse of Tomorrowland, emblazoned with the letter “T”, approximately $10 on Amazon and perfect for sticking on the outside of a school backpack.

In the film itself, we get flying jetpacks, cute but effectively deadly robots, a gloriously tech-booby-trapped house, and a new use for the Eiffel Tower, but it’s all so blah since there’s no infinity stones involved. Nothing in the conflict quite feels truly at stake. Tomorrowland itself, white and shiny, kinda looks like an Apple store without the employees in t-shirts. This magical realm is actually a parallel universe/dimension/thing where all humanity’s best and brightest gather to nurture great ideas and create and imagine unimaginable feats of technology. A lot of marijuana smoking probably goes on behind closed doors.

“Throw me the fast pass, I throw you the pin!”

Hugh Laurie is on hand as the villain who wants to destroy the “real” Earth since it’s basically destroying itself anyway. That kind of megalomania seems a bit excessive since he’s in charge of the most perfect place in existence anyway but whatever. A plot to revive Walt Disney’s cryogenically frozen body would have been cooler.

Sadly, this may be Brad Bird’s most uninspired movie yet. After his live-action debut with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and especially his animated efforts, The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, somehow, we just expect more from him. The action scenes aren’t particularly exciting or witty; nothing seems to stay in the memory and the biggest let-down, we catch a glimpse of Space Mountain in the skyline but we don’t get to experience it. (Instead we get It’s a Small World. Don’t ask.) Wouldn’t it have been great if our heroes were trapped in a vehicle chase inside Space Mountain and then everything shuts down and the lights go on and you’re just looking at steel girders? Sorry. I’m still bitter how a certain incident during a childhood vacation ruined the illusion.

This pin? Ten bucks?

This pin? Ten bucks?

And we expect more from George Clooney too, and here, as a genius who was exiled from Tomorrowland a long time ago, he just seems to be going through the rumply, crankily charming motions. Feminists and Black Widow-Gate/Supergirl-Gate conspirators should be thrilled “the chosen one” for the planet’s future is a plucky teen girl, played by Britt Robertson, who is probably fielding offers for a young adult film adaptation at this very moment. The real casting find though is Raffey Cassidy as a young Tomorrowland android that protects the heroic humans and has a genuinely poignant backstory with Clooney’s character. She’s like the Terminator, but little.

At Tomorrowland’s gleaming, wanna-be vintage heart, there is an old-fashioned (too) strong message about going green, saving the environment and how the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. With $10 pins. Barf.

Tomorrowland is now playing in theaters everywhere.

20
Nov
14

Hunger Games Mockingjay Pt 1 REVIEW: These Foolish Games

"You saw me on Letterman. I'll walk out. Don't make me."

“You saw me on Letterman. I’ll walk out. Don’t make me.”

Okay fine, I’m not the hugest fan of the series but seriously, while watching The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, I was bored. Like, bored out of my skull. And I was in a preview screening so security guards were watching and I couldn’t pull out my phone lest they think I was trying to pirate the film.

Already these movies (and books) weren’t exactly cheerful affairs but with the lack of a Battle Royale in this installment, things are really, really dour. After seeing her do “Live and Let Die” in American Hustle, slinking around as Mystique and calling off her own interview with David Letterman, poor Jennifer Lawrence seems to have outgrown her role as Katniss Everdeen. She’s definitely no Kristen Stewart—J-Law looks like she’s absolutely busting at the seems to do something, anything. Alas, most of her time is spent looking morose and dejected, something K-Stew had no trouble doing.

Granted, the adapted screenplay doesn’t give her much opportunity since it basically cut the final source material in half. Even more so than The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 though, Mockingjay suffers from being a project comprised of only a first and second act. And unlike Peter Jackson, nothing entertaining is made up just to fill in space.

This is Sutherland's only scene in the movie.

This is Sutherland’s only scene in the movie.

Katniss wakes up on a rebel airship and spends the rest of the time trying to decide whether she wants to become a propaganda instrument against the evil Capitol and it’s equally evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland). She also worries a lot about her buddy Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who got left behind in the previous film and is now in the hands of Snow, and losing weight very quickly. Hopefully his skinniness was CGI cause poor Hutcherson looks positively anorexic.

A few performers do what they can with what little they have. Elizabeth Banks still manages to be a diva as Effie, the fashionable emcee of The Hunger Games, even though she is now a political refugee in a jump suit. Donald Sutherland appears to be having a good time overacting with his Satanic line readings, but he’s hardly in the movie so he barely registers.

They wish their agents got them more money.

They wish their agents got them more money.

But esteemed actors like Julianne Moore, as the powerful leader of the resistance, is just going through the firm-jawed motions. The saddest though, is Philip Seymour Hoffman. As a member of the leadership committee, he just meekly agrees or disagrees with Moore. Tragic how this is the last role he will ever play.

But then it all must come down to tragedy with this bleak, dystopian series. Even the cinematography has a gray grain so thick that it almost blurs the scenery. Fans, of course, will not care. And considering that the fan base are pre-programmed admirers of the novels, they should be satisfied with this additional entry of loose-ended angst. Other audience members dragged into the theaters against their will might want to make sure their phones are fully charged prior. There’s a new version of Candy Crush to help pass the time.

The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 1 is now playing in theaters everywhere.

20
Jun
14

Jersey Boys REVIEW: I Don’t Love You, Baby

And the nominees are for Worst Old Age Make-Up...

And the nominees are for Worst Old Age Make-Up . . .

It’s an interesting move to release the adaptation of the Broadway hit Jersey Boys smack in the middle of the summer season, especially if the musical doesn’t star Adele Dazeem. On top of that, the film is about a doo-wop group whose core audience are probably baby boomers, not CGI-craving, catatonic young folks. And it’s directed by a man who talks to furniture. But improbably, it’s June and here we have Jersey Boys, directed by our favorite loony celebrity Republican, Clint Eastwood.

Of course it helps if you’re a fan of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and the story documents their street thug origins, rise to fame, and their eventual dramatic dissolution. All the hits are also there: “Rag Doll,” “Working My Way Back to You,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and many more.

"Big boys don't have marbles in their mouth."

“Big boys don’t have marbles in their mouth.”

I saw the version in Vegas and as far as I can tell—full disclosure—or as far as my mother can tell, this version was just as enjoyable and true to the background material. In fact, this review is really all about my mother. And your mother. She is gonna love this movie. All those doo-wop tunes were from her time, not yours. During a highpoint, much hub-bub is made about playing “the song.” “Just play the song!” And Valli begins crooning those familiar lyrics: “You’re just too good to be true / Can’t take my eyes off you…” Somehow when we finally hear that hit though, it feels anti-climactic.

But then maybe it’s because I’m a non-objective 80s cinephile who can’t forget Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys bringing down the theater in a…well… fabulous montage sequence of the same song. There’s also the fact that the musical then goes on with one more act with their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, complete with some truly atrocious old age make-up.

"See? That note right there? Eastwood wants us to talk to the sofa..."

“See? That note right there? Eastwood wants us to talk to the sofa…”

John Lloyd Young, who originated the Broadway role as Frankie Valli lacks a certain screen presence. Yes he has a nice voice and we see female, and even male members of the audience, in rapture with him, but once he’s not singing, he just looks kinda pouty. His performance probably went over better on the stage where he wasn’t at the mercy of Eastwood’s choice of unrelenting Les Miserables-style close-ups.

Only Christopher Walken manages to make an impression as a mobster supporter who, in the end, really doesn’t seem to do much to help them. But the actor manages to bring comic timing to his nefarious dealings.

It’s sad that the movie only truly comes to Broadway musical life during Walken’s scenes and during the end credits that has most of the cast dancing and singing down a street. The movie really could have used more of that energy. In the end, something is just wrong with the tone. At times it wants to be a hard edged tale of boys rising from the mean street of New Jersey and at other times, it wants to be the full fledged musical catalogue of the group’s hits with some slapstick mook comedy thrown in for kicks.

Or maybe I just didn’t get Jersey Boys because, as the movie keeps reminding us, I’m not from Jersey.

Jersey Boys is currently playing in theaters everywhere.

11
Nov
12

Review: The Sky Really Did Fall

Missed a step? I’m still younger than Roger Moore was in A View to a Kill.

First, contrary to advance word, Skyfall is definitely not the best Bond movie ever. Yet, it is a game changer with some eye-popping moments never seen in a 007 film before so it’s definitely worth seeing for both fans and non-fans. (Incidentally, that little top 10 list I made yesterday? Chuck #10 and replace A View to a Kill with this flick.)

But, there is absolutely no way to have a frank discussion without spoilers so be warned. Turn back now if you haven’t seen it.

Let’s start with the negatives.

Inexplicably, they kill off Judi Dench as M. Unless she, as an actress, wanted to retire, that decision is completely ludicrous. Only she can pull off an Alfred Tennyson poem in the middle of a government hearing in an action movie. Ralph Fiennes is introduced as a bureaucrat monitoring M and by the end of Skyfall, he has taken her place behind the desk handing Bond confidential files. And the problem is, his character is nowhere near as compelling as Dench’s.

On the road to retirement.

In fact, there’s a lot of the sense that they are bringing in the new and tossing out the old in Skyfall. Much is made that 007 has “missed a step” and needs to be put out to pasture and M must retire. Didn’t they just reboot the bloody series a few years ago? If that’s the case, why not just hire Henry Cavill and start the whole thing over again. Again.

Director Sam Mendes (The Road to Perdition, American Beauty) finally dumps The Bourne Identity mimicking tone and while refreshing with some just plain jaw-dropping, sumptuous cinematography by Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption), somehow it doesn’t work. Even though the most exciting action sequences: the opening train destruction in Turkey, the train destruction in London, a fistfight outlined in blue neon, the shootout in a courtroom, a helicopter crashing into an old manor at the climax… Everything seems to fall flat. There’s no punctuation to the violence. And when Bond and Silva finally have their final confrontation, it isn’t the competitive match we expect. At times, the pacing seems more like the recent Alex Cross, not a Bond movie.

“Pull my finger.” “What makes you think this is my first time?”

The soundtrack by director Sam Mendes’s frequent composer Thomas Newman is particularly disappointing, especially after the great strides made by David Arnold. The music is a tad too non-intrusive and we miss the eponymous Bond theme more than ever. Sometimes during the action scenes, even we find ourselves humming it on our own.

Adele’s theme song, listened to on its own seems subdued and derivative, but in the context of the film itself, it turns out to be absolutely perfect. Daniel Kleinmen returns for the opening credits and it’s the most visually compelling since Casino Royale. It’s a surreal, swooping, unnerving murky underwater nightmare of moving feminine curves and bleeding target range body-sheets that will look terrific on Blu-ray.

I giggle a lot because this isn’t really a tobacco cigarette.

Also beautiful is French actress Berenice Marlohe as the mysterious bad guy’s girl Severine. Slinking around in black dress and equally black goth make-up, she just looks gorgeously intriguing right up until the moment she is called upon by the screenplay to portray fear. Then, inexplicably, she has a case of the giggles. Without hesitation, Connery’s Bond would’ve slapped her back into reality.

Albert Finney has a wasted small part towards the conclusion as the gameskeeper of Bond’s old family estate and his presence is a bit unnecessary. Usually Bond doesn’t need amateur assistance, especially from a crotchety character straight out of a Dickens novel. Usually the job goes to the Bond girl to assist 007 during the final conflict. This makes Finney Craig’s Bond girl. Eww… Either that or the bisexuality theory just took an extremely fascinating turn.

Moneypenny is finally introduced in the form of Naomi Harris. It’s a subterfuge; the press releases and advance media portrays her as a Bond girl but by film’s end we learn her last name and find her behind a desk in front of M’s inner sanctum. Frankly, it all feels like a gimmick. And as we infer by the famous shaving scene, her and Bond did it. I know we’re re-inventing the series but Bond and Moneypenny should never oof—that’s just wrong. Their whole relationship is based on unrequited flirting. Prior to Skyfall, I always felt that Moneypenny should be gay; someone for Bond to mercilessly toy with. Oh well… These fill-ins just feel like gimmicks as opposed to organic elements added to the Craig canon.

The interrogation is gonna be THIS big.

But leading from homoeroticism, here’s what does make Skyfall work: at the top of the list is Javier Bardem as the evil, unhinged Silva. Arguably the best villain since Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill, he steps it up from his sociopath in No Country for Old Men and goes full-on into psychopath territory. Bardem is given so many great moments, more than Craig himself: his intro with the rat monologue, a deadly game of William Tell with old fashioned pistols, his revealing of a deformity due to a cyanide capsule gone wrong, and best of all, his sketchy, pervy “interrogation” of Bond… It’s the kind of classic jolts that we missed from the villains of the past. (And depending how you interpret Craig’s blech face once Bardem turns his back, could Bond be bisexual?!)

Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas) is introduced as Q and he’s completely dorky and watchable even though, as an afterthought, he adds completely nothing to the story. He seems busy pushing a lot of keys on a computer but we really have no idea why. Hopefully he’ll have more to do in the sequels because his presence is refreshing.

Last but not least though is Daniel Craig, Bond himself. His portrayal continues to be sincere and appropriate, no small feat in this era of short-term reboots. While he doesn’t go Roger Moore on us, his subtle injection of humor is just what the series needs for the long term. From adjusting his cuff links after dropping into a train car via construction lift to his confident reply to Silva’s leg-rubbing pass at him: “What makes you think this is my first time?”, Craig proves that the part is his for as long as his muscular fingers want it; regardless if other characters in the movie deem him too old.

I’m actually a trust fund baby. You don’t think I can afford all this on a government salary, do you?

Every moment Craig is onscreen, it’s riveting. You can’t help but think that this is the coolest man on the planet, exactly what James Bond is supposed to embody. He does a tequila shot with a scorpion crawling on his wrist and even though the movie isn’t perfect, you feel you are witnessing the best portrayal of the Ian Fleming creation since…well…Casino Royale. There’s a great moment during a fight with a henchmen in a komodo dragon pit. (Yes, komodo dragons are involved.) Craig has the perfect look of MMA focus and surprised confusion as the slow lizard moves into the frame. And he’s wearing a tux in the scene as well. If he ain’t Bond, who is?




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