Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Pain & Gain

Movie Review #734


Directed by Michael Bay. Screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. (Based on the magazine articles by Pete Collins.) Produced by Michael Bay, Ian Bryce, and Donald De Line for De Line Pictures, presented by Paramount Pictures. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Bar Paly, Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong, Michael Rispoli, Keili Lefkovitz, Emily Rutherfurd, Vivi Pineda, Yolanthe Cabau, Brian Stepanek, Persi Caputo, and Bill Kelly. Credited cameos: Nicholas X. Parsons, Trudie Petersen, Mike Tremont, Sabrina Mayfield, Chaz Mena, William Erfurth, Rey Hernandez, and Jerry Lantigua. Premiered in Miami, Florida on April 11, 2013. Distributed by Paramount Pictures in wide release on April 26, 2013. Rated R: bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use. Runs 129 minutes.

Cinemaniac Reviews two stars

I’ll give the story in simplest terms. This movie is about a trio of bodybuilders. Not just any bodybuilders, but the kind that believes bodybuilding is patriotic. And they get involved with kidnapping, murder, and extortion. With its outrageous story and characters, “Pain & Gain” could have been colossally entertaining. With its inspiration from several crime comedies, it could’ve been a hysterical black comedy. Without an actual director, however, the results are only mildly entertaining, and everything feels stupid and derivative. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have made one terrible mistake here, and that was in selling their script to the wrong producers. The wrongest of whom is Michael Bay, the so-called director of this movie.

Bay retains all the substance in “Pain & Gain”, and it’s a huge relief that he does at least that, because he takes a mighty hard dump on the style. It’s pretty sad when the coolest thing we see in the film is slow motion. Especially when a song as awesome as Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” is on the soundtrack…yeah, talk about misusing great rock music. “Pain & Gain” should be an outrageous, daring, and tasteful crime movie. The director himself called it a cross between “Pulp Fiction” and “Fargo”. Those being two of very few films that I have cited as my very favorite film (and I still cite the former). “Pulp Fiction” paid an (almost) humorous homage in “Pain & Gain”, in a specific scene that includes a) an accidental murder, b) the cleanup of that accidental murder, and c) a loony woman in a drug-induced coma.

That’s not all the comparisons to great crime flicks of the ’90s, though. Cited on the Blu-ray jacket is Kyle Smith (critic for New York Post), who refers to the movie as “‘Goodfellas’ on steroids.” Well, yeah, but let’s face it, Martin Scorsese is the only man on this planet who could’ve (and did) make a masterpiece out of “Goodfellas”. It’s no wonder “Pain & Gain” is a copycat bore. See, there’s the script, which is excellent, and then there’s the complete movie, which just isn’t. Wherever the aforementioned masterpieces are wild and audacious, “Pain & Gain” feels like a juvenile, ludicrous bloodbath. The results amount to barely a thing more than a loud, contrived movie, with a cast of characters who bask in the glory of working out, dropping F-bombs, snorting coke, and killing people.

Postscript: Apparently, “Pain & Gain” is based on a true story. I doubt it’s as convoluted as they’ve made it seem.



Movie Review #733


Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Written by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel. Produced by Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Arnon Milchan, and Mary Parent for Protozoa Pictures and Disruption Entertainment, presented by Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises. Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, Nick Nolte, Mark Margolis, Leo McHugh Carroll, Marton Csokas, Finn Wittrock, Gavin Casalegno, Nolan Gross, Skylar Burke, Dakota Goyo, Ariane Rinehart, Adam Marshall Griffith, and the voice of Frank Langella. Uncredited cameos: Joseph Basile, Clem Cote, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, and Joseph Garcia Quinn. Premiered in Mexico City on March 10, 2014; in Berlin on March 13, 2014; in Madrid on March 17, 2014; in New York City, New York on March 26, 2014; in Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Dublin on March 29, 2014; in London on March 31, 2014; and in Paris on April 1, 2014. Distributed by Paramount Pictures in wide release on March 28, 2014. Rated PG-13: violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content. Runs 138 minutes.

Cinemaniac Reviews three stars

Director Darren Aronofsky has always managed to fascinate me with his inventive approach to story. I’ve seen his entire oeuvre (save for “The Fountain”), and he’s always found my gratitude in reusing the same setup. The idea is that, once a character grows obsessed with something, he or she is on a path toward self-destruction.

Thus “Noah” is a Biblical epic told from the stance of a psychologist. It’s definitely not the view of a historian, and as a psychological representation of the titular character, it’s truly riveting. The film can be properly separated into three acts: Act I, the Preparation for the End; Act II, the End of Mankind; and Act III, the Creation of the New World. Or, for those who would rather look at it as a flood story than as a biopic, the three acts are the Omens, the Flood, and the Aftermath. Either way, Noah is more likeable than any choice character from Aronofsky’s canon. He’s a good-natured, kindhearted family man. The script and Russell Crowe’s performance intertwine to make this man natural and relatable to us. Additionally, the written effort from Aronofsky and Ari Handel offers an elaborate, convincing vision of the Biblical hero.

For every second of its two hours, eighteen minutes, “Noah” has our undivided attention. The film engages mainly because of its dark, intense, and unconventional look at the antediluvian patriarch. It’s worth mentioning, though, that the third act is rattling and absolutely brilliant. The climactic moments have us at the edge of our seats, even if that’s what we most expect, given the adrenalizing finales Aronofsky conducted in “Requiem for a Dream” (2000) and “Black Swan” (2010).

“Noah” features a distinct array of fantastical elements. Many of these are there to enhance the mystery and miracle that we find in flood story that encompasses four chapters of the Book of Genesis. Sometimes, however, the movie gears toward something of a high fantasy. It has good intentions in that latter area. We’re introduced to the “Watchers”. These are angels that were sent to earth to protect the innocent from evil. It gives them enough credibility that they freely admit to Noah how hopeless they feel, thanks to how corrupt the earth has become. A great idea, but it’s difficult to see how an angel can look like a walking pile of rocks. Whether this was a CGI problem or a script problem, I felt strangely as if I were watching The Lord of the Rings.

In substance, “Noah” is a psychological drama. In style, it’s a Biblical epic. Clint Mansell (“Lux Æterna”) composed the score, which matches up precisely with not only the movie’s demanding and ambitious nature, but also Noah’s demanding and ambitious character. Same for the set decoration and the keen-eye editing. Best of all is the genius Matthew Libatique. Underrated as he may be, Libatique has taken the reins once again with his magnificent cinematography. When Russell Crowe tells his family the story of Creation, every one of these elements comes to a peak and is absolutely breathtaking. I do guarantee that “Noah” is a beautiful, touching piece. For those who enjoy solid, crafty entertainment, “Noah” should be seen, and for all the cinematic beauty it offers, it deserves to be seen at the theater.

OF INTEREST: Darren Aronofsky directed five feature films before he directed Noah. Adjusted separately for inflation, the combined budget of his first five films is less than $67 million. Noah alone cost $125 million to make.


Need for Speed

Movie Review #726


Directed by Scott Waugh. Screenplay by George Gatins. (Story: George Gatins & John Gatins.) Produced by John Gatins, Patrick O’Brien, and Mark Sourian for Electronic Arts and Bandito Brothers, presented by DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment. Starring Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, and Imogen Poots. Uncredited cameo: Mary Ellen Itson. Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and Touchstone Pictures in wide release on March 14, 2014. Rated PG-13: sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language. Runs 130 minutes.

Cinemaniac Reviews one star

Apparently Aaron Paul isn’t quite done breaking bad. He’s done with the hit AMC series, and now he’s broken bad as the starring actor in “Need for Speed”. What I mean by this is “Need for Speed” is bad. It’s downright and outrageously bad. It’s awful. Terrible. Insultingly, childishly written, and I bet you all a million–no, make that a billion dollars that a nine-year-old wrote the screenplay. Even if you discount the eye-roller scenes where a co-racer strips nude in his office building just to ensure he’s lost his job for good, or when Paul and his girlfriend-to-be are pretty much fighting to the death over whose eyes are bluer, the movie is juvenile, formulaic, and excruciating to watch.

“Need for Speed” is one of those movies that has two purposes: to show off those cars and to show off them women. It’s rather jaw-dropping that it actually fails in both these aspects. I mean, come on, failing under that sort of ambition is akin to a couch potato aiming to take a walk halfway down the street and back, and consequentially not being able to get off the couch. The “Are you kidding me?” reaction is pretty much the same here. The cars, first and foremost, are CGI. C. G. I. Computer generated imagery. Yeah, um, okay…see, I kind of thought I was going to the movies and watch some street racing, you know, as in actual, realistic-looking motor vehicles, in competition to see which one can go fastest. It’s even worse that when these guys are going 234 mph, it hardly looks like 117. When they’re going 53, it looks suspiciously like 106. And all this is muddled by dizzying camerawork, which is so bad that I almost doubt it was meant to excite.

Then there’s the women. Or, woman. There’s only one woman in the whole movie that had a speaking role, anyway, which is entirely sexist. She’s the leading woman, thank god, but she can’t act at all. Clearly, though, it’s more about beauty than talent for director Scott Waugh. Which makes me wonder, why didn’t he just cast a model?

Speaking of the dying female race that exists in the movie, how is it that this woman has absolutely no idea what the hell Paul could mean by “900 horsepower,” but she can identify the engine in automobile jargon that I completely fail to understand? That’s pretty sad character development, but you know, there isn’t a single character in “Need for Speed” who is remotely compelling. Therefore it’s a pretty boring more-than-two hours, and dear mother of god, do I feel sorry for Aaron Paul, who gives the one half-decent performance in sight.

I’d say that only the feat of a genius could explain why I didn’t totally tune this movie out, but then again, writer George Gatins and Scott Waugh are not geniuses. As their abominable execution of “Need for Speed” has made clear, they’re idiots. (And I intend no offense unto them.) The best of what this schlock offers is questions for the viewer to answer, and I do have several questions about the movie. First of all, how can a movie with such awesome sound mixing be awful, to the point at which we don’t really care how good the sound mixing is? Why does this screenwriter feel the need…the need for stupid, stupid, stupid claps of dialogue (i.e. “I’m here to make peace…and money”)? Why do they think they can remake “Bullitt” and take a video game as source material? Have they even seen “Bullitt”, let alone heard of it? I mean, they are making a car movie. The least they could do is watch a great movie with the greatest car chase ever produced. And who performed those covers of “Back in the Saddle” and “All Along the Watchtower”? ‘Cause whoever they are, they suck. Do we really need product placement in a movie this loathsome? Does a bear [BLEEP] in the woods? Why do movies insist on wasting valuable 3-D technology on showing us trash bags flying way the hell up in the air toward the camera, rather than giving us some impressive shots of, I don’t know, that Ford Mustang? Why was this aspect so obvious when I watched “Need for Speed” in 2-D?

And why did I watch it in 2-D? Why did I put myself through “Need for Speed” at all? The movie has very little to offer in terms of, well, a movie. It’s a video game, except the controller, much alike our interest, is disconnected.

Tomorrow’s Review





You may or may not have noticed, but I have been doing a Reverse Bondathon. I’ve done this before, yes, but what can I say? It brings the family together. And the first Bondathon ended a matter of days before the creation of my beautiful blog, plus it wasn’t in reverse order, just randomized. Anyway, my goal is to watch and review every single Bond movie (EON-produced, though I’ll probably watch the two unofficial releases, “Never Say Never Again” and 1967’s “Casino Royale” just for the halibut). I started with “Skyfall”, and although I’d considered it, I didn’t bother reviewing it again, since I’d already reviewed its theatrical release. I’ve also skipped over “Tomorrow Never Dies”, unfortunately. I underestimated how tired I was the night I watched that one, and I ultimately fell asleep about forty-five minutes through. I did fill about half a page of notes, but I never thought to save them. If you were looking forward to my review of that film, as I assume you do for my reviews on any film, all I can say is that my notes were mixed-to-positive, so I might’ve recommended it, had I finished the movie.

Movie Review No. 719


Made by Eon Productions

United Artists

Distributor: MGM/UA Distribution Company – United Artists – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Country: UK – USA
Spoken Languages: English – Russian – Spanish

Directed by Martin Campbell. Produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Characters by Ian Fleming. Story by Michael France. Screenplay by Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein.

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – frequent violence; infrequent sexual material. Runs 2 hours, 10 minutes. Premiered in New York City, New York on November 13, 1995. Wide release in the USA on November 17, 1995; and in the UK on November 24, 1995.

Featuring Pierce Brosnan as James Bond (007), Sean Bean as Alec Trevelyan (Bond villain), and Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp (Bond girl). Starring Izabella Scorupco, Joe Don Baker, Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane, Gottfried John, Alan Cumming, Tcheky Karyo, Desmond Llewelyn, and Samantha Bond. Also starring Michael Kitchen, Serena Gordon, Billy J. Mitchell, Minnie Driver, and Michelle Arthur. Featuring credited cameo appearances by Simon Kunz, Pavel Douglas, Cmdt. Olivier Lajous, Constantine Gregory, Ravil Isyanov, Vladimir Milanovich, Trevor Byfield, and Peter Majer; and uncredited cameo appearances by Martin Campbell, Bhasker Patel, Michael G. Wilson, Simon Crane, Derek Lyons, Paul Bannon, Terrance Denville, Max Faulkner, Juliet Forester, Jo Anna Lee, Wayne Michaels, and Paul Sacks.

Cinemaniac Reviews three stars

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. The sounds of “GoldenEye” setting up, progressing, peaking, and signing off. And there’s so much energy exerted in doing so that it can’t spare a moment to reload at the very end. Everything is a step further into excitement. Aerial shots bookmark the opening scenes. Loud, fun action throughout the rest. It’s almost incredible, but then again, it’s not.

This addition into the Bondology is directed by Martin Campbell. Obviously the director that should be doing all the directing in this series, after “GoldenEye” and “Casino Royale”. But this isn’t “Casino Royale”. That was a good movie made even better by his command. “GoldenEye” is a movie that could have greatly suffered without the right director. Yes, it’s fun, but that’s Mr. Campbell’s invisible appearance. Where it falters heavily is in the script, especially after the midway point. We could really do without Alan Cumming cheering, “I am invincible!”, especially when it loses any comic relief it might’ve had initially. And are we supposed to use this line to explain the fact that he survived a catastrophic event, at one point in the movie, that everybody thought he died in? That’s not irony. That’s cheating.

By the time we reach the last fifteen minutes of utter repetition, the only thing to give this movie solidity is the action. Yes, Mr. Chris Corbould, Mr. Derek Meddings, and Mr. Brian Smithies, you may stand and take a bow for your work on the special effects. And you too, Mr. Campbell, though I guess it’s too late to suggest cutting out and adding in for the sake of living up to potential.

Tomorrow’s Review



The Bourne Identity

Movie Review #711


Universal Pictures presents…

Kalima Productions GmbH & Co. KG
Stillking Films

Distributor: Universal Pictures
Country: USA – Germany – Czech Republic
Spoken Languages: English – French – German – Dutch – Italian

Directed by Doug Liman. Produced by Patrick Crowley, Richard N. Gladstein, and Doug Liman. Screenplay by Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron.  Novel by Robert Ludlum.

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – violence; infrequent profanity. Runs 1 hour, 59 minutes. Premiered in the USA on June 6, 2002. Wide release in the USA on June 14, 2002; in Germany on September 26, 2002; and in the Czech Republic on October 17, 2002.

Cinemaniac Reviews three stars

Doug Liman has had a history of not just action movies but action movies with creative plots. Results have varied from taut and entertaining (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith”) to dull and self-indulgent (“Jumper”). It’s rather satisfying to be able to say that “The Bourne Identity” places in the former. The excitement in action sequences goes sky-high, but it doesn’t try and boast that with any savvy camerawork or overwhelming special effects. In fact, it seems to humble these sequences in order to make sense of its plot. For good reason, things start out confusing. Before long, they’re interesting.

“The Bourne Identity” details the life of a man who has lost his memory. There’s a sort of inner science to this. He can speak several foreign languages, including but not limited to French and German. He can tell by pure instinct when he’s in danger. He knows how to react to danger, too. But he doesn’t know why he can do all this. He no longer has a clue of his employment status, his marital status, his criminal history. He can’t remember where he lives, his telephone number, his date of birth.

He doesn’t even know his real name.

Perhaps that makes this just as much an action movie as a character drama. Matt Damon isn’t fittest actor for this role, but he doesn’t have to go the distance to make it work. His portrayal of this character is ultimately as enticing as the plot itself. The entire cast is solid, with Chris Cooper seeming to stand on the balcony and look over any other actor. His character was given thoroughly cheesy dialogue, but his delivery of even that is superb. Save for the aforementioned cheese, the movie is well done by writers Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron. A rather loose adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s classic thriller novel, but if you want a different spin on the premise, here it is.

Tomorrow’s Review

Introducing…Short Film Smorgasbord


Sucker Punch

Movie Review #695

This review is dedicated to Casey, who pointed out to me that when German was spoken in Sucker Punch, only the infinitive verbs were used.


Warner Bros. presents…

…in association with Legendary Pictures…

Cruel and Unusual
Lennox House Films

Distributor: Warner Bros.
Country: USA – Canada
Spoken Languages: English – German

Directed by Zack Snyder. Produced by Deborah Snyder and Zack Snyder. Screenplay by Zack Snyder & Steve Shibuya. Story by Zack Snyder.

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA — mature themes, sexual content, violence, profanity (extended cut rated R). Runs 1 hour, 50 minutes (extended cut runs 17 minutes longer). Wide release in the USA and Canada on March 25, 2011.

Starring Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone Vanessa Hudgens, and Jamie Chung. Also starring Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn, Richard Cetrone, and Gerard Plunkett. Featuring a credited cameo appearance by Eli Snyder; and uncredited cameo appearances by Cara Hrdlitschka and Teya Wild as brothel girls.

Cinemaniac Reviews three stars

“Sucker Punch” is neither a rock-solid movie nor a classifiably bad movie. It’s less than enough to say that at the core, this is an über-fun movie. Zack Snyder is here to make nothing more than a guilty pleasure. (You might say that he always is, but that’s a dispute we’ll save for later.) His movie should be an artifact of plagiarism, with its obvious cross between Tarantino’s revengelore (“Kill Bill”, “Inglourious Basterds”) and every commercial video game from Call of Duty to Mortal Kombat. But it’s not an artifact of plagiarism at all, because Snyder has something to add.

Following his successful compilation that was “Watchmen”, Zack Snyder has brought back great music, recreated specifically for the form of his picture. Actress Emily Browning’s cover of the Eurythmics’s “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” opens the movie like a five-minute prologue, or an establishing music video. A cover of the Pixies’s “Where Is My Mind?” (widely associated with “Fight Club”) marks the excitement, leading up to a cover of the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Dies” in the climax. I’m positive there would be no movie if no soundtrack. Every song fits, is perfectly timed, and makes the movie that much more fun.

But with all the precise music cues and CGI in this film, and with all the extensive action sequences, you’d never guess there’s a story. It’s a pretty interesting story if I’m to be honest. Seconds before being lobotomized, a young woman relives her recent memory one last time: a impossible nightmare in which she fights a few powerful, sexist pigs in an effort to free both her and a handful of other female mental patients. What makes the approach work is it has our attention the whole time. I was so engrossed, I didn’t notice some of the most ridiculous “what” factors of the film. Thanks to an anonymous friend, having revisited “Sucker Punch” for his fourth time, who pointed out to me that these characters were temporarily in a medieval setting with machine guns.

Outside of action sequences, or that terrific opening, the movie’s power tends to lack. I’m fine with the logiclessness of the movie. I love the logiclessness of the movie. But things are only good to a point. Here and there, things went unexplained and I was left confused. Why are these girls in a mental asylum when they seem perfectly sane? Is this to say that the men who sent them there were just sexists, and that it wasn’t just the boss they worked for, a more brooding reimagination of Dr. Frank-N-Furter? This whole movie was made on the grounds that these are beautiful women; you can’t have just anybody in these roles for a reason, and it certainly isn’t acting ability. But what sexist could resist them, particularly to the idea of a mental asylum? Did they get there the R. P. McMurphy way, and expect it to be all fun and games?

I’ve gotta say, for a movie with zero character development, “Sucker Punch” has a mighty nice fist to gaze at. Let me slightly overanalyze the title. It doesn’t suck, but it does deliver an exuberant, well-rounded punch.

Tomorrow’s Review

Doctor Zhivago


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The World Is Not Enough

Movie Review #690


Albert R. Broccoli’s Eon Productions Limited presents…

Studio: Danjaq LLC – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) – United Artists
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corporation (MGM)
Country: UK – USA
Spoken Languages: English – Russian

Directed by Michael Apted. Produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Story by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade. Screenplay by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Bruce Feirstein. Characters by Ian Fleming (uncredited).

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – violence, infrequent sexual content. Runs 2 hours, 8 minutes. Premiered in the USA on November 8, 1999; in Singapore on November 12, 1999; in Malaysia on November 16, 1999; in Iceland on November 19, 1999; and in the UK on November 22, 1999. Wide release in the USA on November 19, 1999; and in the UK on November 26, 1999.

Cinemaniac Reviews two stars

I’ve mentioned it now and then, but I’ve never exactly clarified that my reviews do indeed come from my taking notes on movies. Sometimes I’ll end up taking two whole pages of notes, front and back. Others, I’ll finish with six or seven notes in total. It appears that my notes on “The World Is Not Enough” filled the whole front side of legal paper. I suddenly feel like I’ve killed trees, because I could have narrowed all but one or two of my comments on the film down to one word: silly.

In fact, that one word is so prominent throughout this nineteenth episode of the James Bond saga that I’d have to watermark the sheet with a giant, boldly lettered “SILLY.”

But for the sake of not sounding like a total imbecile, I’ll avoid using the word “silly” to excess.

The prologue was a mess. Everything from the gun barrel opener–in which Pierce Brosnan could have posed much better–up to the moment James Bond drops off a hot air balloon to save his head from catching on fire with the rest of the hot air balloon, it’s all just a cluster of unexplained, unexplainable, and completely random bits of action. They seem to flow into each other as if they were one action sequence, but truth be told, if it weren’t for those fancy, über-cool gadgets of Bond’s, his villains would have already a) outsmarted him beyond any possibility of a plot, or b) killed him. Lucky for him, he not only has all the right gadgets, he has them with him at the opportune times. Which means he’s either a lot smarter than he seems to be, or Q (his quartermaster in charge of the high-tech stuff) has him prepared for absolutely anything that might occur.

That’s the first fifteen minutes of the movie. What follows, thankfully, is a lot more enjoyable. The title sequence is a lot of fun, with the mesh of psychedelic imagery and a song (as you might guess, called “The World Is Not Enough”) from the Wisconsin grunge band Garbage. Contrast with the remixed Bond theme, which actually is garbage.

Nothing is really as much fun as the title sequences after this. The plot is highly unusual for a Bond movie, so it puzzles as much as it excites. Why would MI6 assigning Bond this mission to keep Elektra King (Sophie Marceau) safe, when clearly, Bond would’ve taken this up as a personal vendetta anyway? Am I wrong to say that basically, they’re promoting a personal vendetta, all of a sudden? Why is M (Judi Dench) only concerned that Bond will end up sharing a bed with Elektra? How does nobody at MI6 have the slightest clue that Elektra’s dangerous? Why is M behind bars?

The movie seems to rush its action sequences in without even thinking. Moments of this movie are exciting, especially when Sophie Marceau and Denise Richards take the stage, but many action scenes can really hurt the film. Things blow up when Bond goes skiing with Elektra. I mean, they come from the sky, pummel to the ground, and blow up if they don’t land safely, if that makes more sense. Still, skiing? I mean, I don’t have a problem with skiing, but come on, we need an explanation, especially when things just suddenly start exploding. This was the first collaborative “Bond” screenplay from Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. They’re still working on writing the hero’s adventures, as of “Skyfall”. I’d have to guess that there’s one reason they weren’t immediately fired after writing a completely goofy debacle like “The World Is Not Enough”: the innuendoes. Conversation is solid here, but innuendoes are really the icing on the cake. If you’ve been wondering why this doesn’t garner any lower a grade, there you have it.

Tomorrow’s Review

The Hangover


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Die Another Day

Movie Review #687


Albert R. Brocolli’s Eon Productions Limited presents…

Studio: Danjaq — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) — United Artists
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distribution Corporation (MGM)
Country: UK — USA
Spoken Languages: English — Korean — Cantonese — Spanish — German — Icelandic — Italian

Directed by Lee Tamahori. Produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Characters by Ian Fleming. Written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade.

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA — violence, sexual content. Runs 2 hours, 13 minutes. Premiered in the UK on November 18, 2002. Wide release in the UK on November 20, 2002; and in the USA on November 22, 2002.

Featuring Pierce Brosnan as James Bond (007), Halle Berry as Jinx Johnson (Bond girl), and Toby Stephens as Gustav Graves (Bond villain). Starring Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, and John Cleese. Also starring Michael Madsen, Will Yun Lee, Kenneth Tsang, Lawrence Makoare, Colin Salmon, Samantha Bond, Rachel Grant, Ian Pirie, Mark Dymond, and Michael G. Wilson. Featuring an uncredited cameo appearance by Madonna.

Cinemaniac Reviews two and a half stars

“I thought it just went too far–and that’s from me, the first Bond in space! Invisible cars and dodgy CGI footage? Please!”
- Roger Moore

Love explosions? Well, here ya go. “Die Another Day” is really, really dumb, and since it makes the difference between terrible and decent, it’s also really, really fun. No one in cast or crew really seems to be paying much attention to the story’s logic. In fact, if something fails to make sense, expect deus ex machina to solve that problem. But the movie works, if for one purpose only: to entertain. Okay, if we consider that “Die Another Day” also wants to show us how über-sexy Pierce Brosnan is, then I guess that’s two succeeding purposes.

The movie has an alternate title in the critics’ world. Commenting on the excessive product placement, BBC and a few other sources began calling it “Buy Another Day”. I didn’t notice too much product placement, but to be fair, the marketing tie-ins were countless. If there’s anything just as distracting, it’s the self-referential humor. Bond picks up a pair of binoculars and tells Jinx (Halle Berry’s Bond girl) that he’s just an ornithologist, so he’s at the beach for nothing more than to watch birds. If you’re a relatively serious fan of James Bond, you’d probably know that the real-life person who inspired the name is an ornithologist named James Bond. Clever in some contexts, but in this one, I just couldn’t help my eyes from rolling. Another one is with John Cleese, whose portrayal of Q I have absolutely nothing against. He’s traditional, funny, and, you know, perfect. It’s just that when he appears, he has to bring back the Python days with a “flesh wound” joke. Maybe if he’d killed the Black Knight earlier in the film, I’d have smiled.

James Bond’s 20th outing is really cheesy. In the same ways, it’s also exciting. Brosnan isn’t as good as the better Bonds, but his delivery does top much of the rest of this cast, to whom he, Cleese, and Berry are a collective saving grace. He has enough charisma, to be sure. “Die Another Day” plays our as half fashion show, half video game. It’s long and soaked with innuendo and PG-13 sex. But even at 2 hours, 13 minutes, it seems worth its while.

Tomorrow’s Review


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Casino Royale

Movie Review #684


Albert R. Broccoli’s Eon Productions Limited presents…

Studio: Casino Royale Productions — Stillking Films — Casino Royale — Babelsberg Film
Copyright Holder: Columbia Pictures — Danjaq — United Artists
Produced with the Support of: Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas
Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) — Columbia Pictures — Sony Pictures Releasing
Country: UK — Czech Republic — USA — Germany — Bahamas
Spoken Languages: English — French

Directed by Martin Campbell. Produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Screenplay by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Paul Haggis. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming.

Cut version rated PG-13 by the MPAA — violence, sexual content, nudity. Uncut version not released in the USA. Runs 2 hours, 24 minutes. London premiere on November 14, 2006. Wide release in the Czech Republic and the UK on November 16, 2006; in the USA on November 17, 2006; and in Germany on November 23, 2006.

Featuring Daniel Craig as James Bond (007), Eva Green as Vesper Lynd (Bond girl), and Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre (Bond villain). Starring Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaach De Bankole, and Jesper Christensen. Also starring Ivana Milicevic, Tobias Menzies, Claudio Santamaria, Sébastien Foucan, Malcolm Sinclair, Richard Sammel, Ludger Pistor, Joseph Milson, Daud Shah, Clemens Schick, Emmanuel Avena, Ade, Urbano Barberini, Tsai Chin, Charlie Levi Leroy, Lazar Ristovsky, Tom So, and Veruschka. Featuring uncredited cameo appearances from Richard Branson and Ben Cooke.

Cinemaniac Reviews four stars

The first twenty James Bond movies spanned five namesake actors, four decades. The precision and plots seem to suggest a TV crime procedural in this way. We’ve seen different stories in this time, and they have to be different. Elsewise there’s nothing to cover up for the series’ repetition.

Enter episode twenty-one, “Casino Royale”, stage left. This is the Next Generation of Bond, where his character will actually develop into an interesting personality, not just a persona who gives his name and asks for that specific vodka martini every single outing. Whether “Casino Royale” as that specific story was chosen because it was the first “Bond” book, because it had yet to be adapted Eon Productions, or because 21 is both the ordinal number and a card game, I can’t exactly say. But the screenplay was more than a simple modernization. Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale was no more than another outing. Remove about five words and it fits anywhere in the series.

That’s where the screenwriters are making an impressive choice here. They’re not rewriting it, just expanding it. And it fits: no Bond movie has ever acknowledged its predecessor, so why acknowledge any of the first twenty Bond films? In fact, why not start from scratch, and reintroduce Bond to everyone?

It’s a tremendously dynamic move, but it doesn’t end there at all. “Casino Royale” leaves the door open for a sequel, and it does this only by introducing Bond with three dimensions. (Two is preferred, I get it, I get it.) Bond’s story is written with a much more internal locus. It’s not motivated by, “What happens is set in stone, and Bond’s just some guy along for the ride that leads in.” The framework is, “Bond’s psyche, emotion, and instinct are what drives this film and its sequels.” Sequels, not following appearances of the same character.

Previously, the driving force in the plot was boobs, bombs, and bad guys, or maybe the audience’s insistence that they be there. There is a different engine installed in “Casino Royale”, but these facets offer the best select moments in the movie.

Boobs: Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) isn’t just a Bond girl for Daniel Craig; she’s a femme fatale. She does design one of the most tragic endings I can recall in a Bond movie, but her relationship with Bond is so believable. Banter is top-notch here, among other possible mentions.

Bombs: they’re there’s but they’re not even necessary to make a great action sequence. That opening chase (almost) compares with “Bullitt”! Hell, we don’t need action for excitement. Just watching Bond and his arch nemesis Le Chiffre stare each other down is a heart-pounder. There’s at least two other scenes I could spoil, but shan’t.

Bad guys: Mads Mikkelsen is outstanding as Le Chiffre. His performance as a Bond villain is a good chunk of what beings out the dramatic entries in this reboot.

The movie spotlights jaw-dropping editing. We open in black and white to learn a little about Bond’s first two kills. The first kill being juxtaposed with the second, to create a well made prologue. And I’m dying to spoil how this opening becomes the gun barrel interlude. What follows, of course, is the opening credits montage, which is computer-animated this time around. That much is incredible. With the additional music cue–Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name”–the movie has already promised a good 50% of what it later delivers. The rest, of course, is pleasantly surprising…but remember, all two and a half hours of “Casino Royale”, it’s just the very first chapter, waiting to be developed into the full novel.

Tomorrow’s Review



Movie Review #683


Hemdale Film presents…

Distributor: Orion Pictures Corporation
Country: UK — USA
Spoken Languages: English — Vietnamese

Directed by Oliver Stone. Produced by Arnold Kopelson. Written by Oliver Stone.

Rated R by the MPAA — war violence, frequent profanity. Runs 2 hours. Limited release in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York on December 19, 1986. Wide release in the USA on February 6, 1987; and in the UK on April 24, 1987.

Narrated by Charlie Sheen. Starring Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Charlie Sheen. Also starring Keith David, Forest Whitaker, Francesco Quinn, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley, Reggie Johnson, Mark Moses, Corey Glover, Johnny Depp, Chris Pedersen, Bob Orwig, Corkey Ford, and David Neidorf.

Cinemaniac Reviews four stars

“Rejoice O young man in thy youth…”
- Ecclesiastes

“Platoon” is Oliver Stone’s retelling of war. I don’t mean retelling as in what Francis Coppola and Stanley Kubrick offered in their renditions. This is a movie concerned so much about its story that the style is a mere sub-operation to substance. Stone was an actual veteran of the Vietnam War. He was also the first of several filmmaking veterans to make a movie about the horrors he encountered. I have to say that, while I do respect “Apocalypse Now” and “Full Metal Jacket” for their perfect dehumanizations of the Vietnam War, “Platoon” comes out on top. It’s not a movie about what happened in the Vietnam War. It’s about how one man’s reality was changed (maybe even rectified) by war.

And the movie is effective. It takes full ownership of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”. The piece is played seemingly throughout the film in multiple variations. It builds poignancy in the story. Maybe this is a good 5% of why “Platoon” functions strictly as a drama and a reality-centric horror movie. It’s not an action movie, and it anything but desires to bloat the struggles into a triumphant epic. It doesn’t even wish to entertain, I don’t believe. It’s one focus is to explicate a perilous vision of what being in the war is like.

The narration comes in letters written home from the protagonist. That’s what brings out the film’s terrific (and terrifying) authenticity. Rarely will the movie convince us that it’s indeed a movie. It’s presentation is visceral. Beautiful contrast is suggested between this storytelling method and the actual imagery. What we are told is visceral. What we see is extremely mild for a war movie.

Charlie Sheen both portrays the protagonist and narrates the film. His delivery crafts the movie for war what “The Shawshank Redemption” was for prison life. Sheen has never played such a character since. Even his performance in Oliver Stone’s followup “Wall Street” doesn’t ask for our sympathy at all costs. This is a man who dropped out of college to voluntarily serve in the infantry. Not one soldier seems to befriend him, or each other, and enemies could be anywhere and everywhere. Just knowing that much, and how seriously it’s taken, makes did quite a horrifying movie–maybe the most horrifying I’ve ever seen. Though by the end, it’s more than just one level of emotion that’s getting whipped.

Tomorrow’s Review

Casino Royale

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