Fifty years. It’s a pivotal point in any one person’s life, without doubt. Yet, to be a fictional character breathed back to life, time and time again by various actors, directors and writers shows more than just a greed for the obvious. It is an appreciation for a world, much like our own, where the villains are villainous, their cohorts, beautiful and exotic and the hero, exquisitely dressed while donning a pistol of the latest weaponry. If you have never been a Bond fan, you will be if you see this film.
Daniel Craig once again reprises his role as the secret agent, but this time things feel different, Craig is clearly comfortable in his own skin; a man in our eyes, that has grown to epitomize what we feel James Bond represents. And let’s face it, he’s easy on the eyes.
The film opens right out of the gate with a chase scene in Istanbul that is nothing short of fantastic. With Bond and another female agent deep in pursuit of a man who has in his possession, the names of all British agents working under cover, the action is knee deep and quite seriously so. But eventually the chase ends with the accidental death of Bond. Oh, come on. Do you really think he died? Cut to the opening credits, Adele’s hauntingly beautiful song ‘Skyfall’ playing, a revised Bond intro that is sexy yet ominous and foreboding. Yes, Sam Mendes. You have lured us in to your den. Now let’s play.
At the heart of the film are many convoluted issues. On the surface, there is a terrorist named Silva (Javier Bardem) who now has the list of agent identities, and exposes the first set of names as a testament to his threat; his demands lie somewhere along the lines of a Vendetta. And taking a cue from his previous role in ‘No Country For Old Men’, Bardem is able to convey just how depraved and off kilter his character really is, with his sight set on the handover of M.
But back at MI6, M (Judi Dench) is still reeling from her personal decision that nearly cost Bond his life. With her actions called in to question by her superior, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), M feels the overwhelming weight of the many years of service she has dedicated to her country and now her own life is at stake. Aging, but unrelenting, M becomes a pivotal player among the chaos in this film, and Dench is simply superb. There is a complexity in the nature of her character and only Dench with her acting skills could truly deliver such quiet emotion. With eminent danger ahead, the relationship between Bond and M must strengthen and remain intact, if they are to stop Silva from his mad plots of destruction.
In the end, Academy Award winning Director Sam Mendes delivers a Bond film that plays homage to its predecessors with a movie that is solid from start to finish. Panoramic scenic shots of foreign locations, wicked stunts and beautiful women. There’s even back story to Bond’s originations (Skyfall being the name of the home in which he grew up in), to make Bond enthusiasts applaud and newbies, satisfied, yet still leaving our enigmatic character elusive and aloof. As we said initially, if you’ve been hesitant about seeing a Bond film in the past, this would be the perfect time to start.
Somewhere out there, our friend Nate is saying to himself, “Wu-Tang forever,” his hands held high, thumbs intertwined. And with all due respect, he’s absolutely right. Wu-Tang forever, indeed.
RZA, a member of the iconic rap group wrote, directed and starred in, “The Man with the Iron Fists”. It is a blend of eccentric martial arts pop culture with urban influences, masterfully pieced together to bring a colorfully entertaining film that left me muttering the words upon the roll of credits, “that was f&*@ing awesome!”
The movie begins with the betrayal and death of the leader of the Lion Clan by his close confidant, Silver Lion (Byron Mann). With a hidden agenda, the newly appointed leader greedily wants more than just authority over his clan; Silver Lion sets his sights on the Governor’s gold, which is to be escorted by what I would like to call my-favorite-all-time-kick-ass warriors, The Gemini Killers.
Connecting swords of the Gemini Killers
Yet, in the interim, the only blacksmith (RZA) in the village is busying making weapons. To whom, he shows no loyalty toward, as long as you are a paying patron. Yet, the quiet blacksmith very well knows, he is in the midst of many, many wars. Not to mention, the son of Golden Lion, Zen Yi (Rick Yune), the rightful heir to the throne of the Clan, making his way to the village at the same time as all the impending chaos and thievery. But, once again, he is not alone in this massive calamity that is about to ensue. An Englishman (Russell Crowe) also happens upon the village, his true identity unknown. The many characters and their conflicting agendas all cumulate over women and alcohol at the local brothel, run by the very clever, Madame Blossom (Lucy Liu). And in the end there is massive fighting and war; some for gold, some for vengeance. In addition, the blacksmith has to answer to the fighting he has helped perpetuate with his weaponry, though his only concern is that of his lover, Lady Silk (Jamie Chung) and essentially becomes a pivotal player in the havoc. But let’s face it, If I were writing a martial arts film, I’d make myself one bad mo fo for sure, ya feel me?
To break it down, the action sequences were super fun to watch and some of the stunts were just too cool. One of the earlier fight scenes with the Lion Clan and the Gemini Killers was hands down, my favorite of the entire film. I was in awe of their capabilities.
Also, I thought RZA did a great job of storytelling. He gives enough, to keep you interested in the characters and I’d say they were developed enough for the purposes of all that carnage. The costumes were perfect; The Lion Clan donning my favorite with their wild hair styles.
In the end, the movie was graphic, bloody and over the top and, I’m a sucker for clans named after animals... Lion Clan, Rodent Clan, Hyena Clan, Wolf Clan (are there wolves and hyenas in China?) but the movie is a must see for anyone who loves martial arts films.
Tai Chi Zero Director: Stephen Fung Genres: Action, Comedy Rated PG-13 for violence and action throughout Running Time: 94 minutes In English and Mandarin with subtitles
Tai Chi Zero is a martial arts film that takes a tremendous amount of elements from Edgar Wright’s ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’ and utilizes the mad skills of Jackie Chan’s longtime collaborator, Sammo Hung to deliver a film that is so unique in its delivery, we struggle to even find the words to explain it. With an unusual musical score, brief interludes of comic like cartoon snippets, and a distinct video game overtone, the film is by far, quirky, funny, odd, and I suppose in the end, entertaining.
Set in the early 1900’s, the movie is about a man named Lu Chan (Jayden Yuan) who is born with a horn on his head. When that horn is pushed, it unleashes a fury of energy and masterful power that allows the recipient to conquer his enemies, but not without draining his life force. A doctor advises Lu Chan to go to Chen village to learn a more specialized style of fighting in hopes of directing the energy within him, properly.
But upon entering the remote village, he quickly learns that collectively, the inhabitants are not so sympathetic to his predicament and unwilling to teach him their ways. And yet, at the same time, war is imminent as British forces, with the help of their steam punk-like creation, a huge chunk of metal machinery, able to lay down railroad tracks in minutes, approaches their town. It is here that things get a little convoluted, but in a nutshell, we’ll spell it out for you. The daughter of the Master of the Chen martial arts, Yuniang (Angelbaby) is in love with Fang Zijing (Eddie Peng), a Chinese co-conspirator helping spearhead the British plans of colonialism. But, she learns that Zijing is in love with his British accomplice (Mandy Lieu), who mind you speaks horrible English. There is a bitter love triangle that perpetuates the village to stop the massive machine from tearing through their village, which eventually requires the help of Lu Chan and more or less, fighting. And more fighting. And some unusual fighting with fruit and vegetables. And possibly a marriage, somewhere in there. To say that we didn't laugh out loud towards the end is an understatement.
Though I fought the stylistic ways of this storytelling tooth and nail, I eventually succumbed and enjoyed it. Not to mention, the not-so-subtle inclusion of future scenes from Tai Chi Hero. This film isn't so much about dialogue and acting, as it is about presenting its tale visually.
Sinister Rated R
With Halloween around the corner, I was more than giddy to expose myself to the film, many critics were saying, was one of the best horror films released thus far. Yet, after succumbing to two hours of disturbing graphic images and a main character that I feel is nothing short of an ignorant idiot-a huge douchebag-I beg to differ.
“Sinister” follows true-crime novelist, Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) as he moves his family into a home, where the previous family had been hung; an unsolved crime that will become the basis for his next book. As he begins to unpack and sort through the home, he discovers a box of super 8 film up in the attic. Upon viewing the footage, he soon realizes they are reels of previous murders, coincidentally much like the fate of the family he is focusing on. But even more disturbing, is the ungodly presence of an entity that seems to have been awoken the minute the projector came alive. And in keeping spoiler free, let's stop there on the plot analysis...
What I will say positively about this film is Hawke’s performance. He's actually very good and definitely carries the movie, encompassing a ‘writer gone mad’, brilliantly; there is a desire to write a best selling novel, even at the expense of his own family. Let's just say the minute he moved into the home, he made his deal with the devil.
However, the problem lives in who he portrays, as his character is so unlikable for his actions, that it’s hard to muster any sympathy for his mishaps. How about moving down the street from the crime scene, rather than in the actual home, you *&@#?!! These are the distressing thoughts that plagued me through the film, and I couldn't help but want to kick his ass myself, for the sake of his children. But think 'fame'. He is more enthralled at the thought of having stumbled onto something, with the discovery of the box of films, than actually doing the right thing by calling the police. He in a nutshell, is an asshat.
And then there is the evil unleashed, by the playback of the super 8 films. Did this evil not know that we have now moved on to HD cameras that would more than capture these disturbing images vividly? Ok, I know. There would not be a film without it. I'm just saying... Actually, don't get me started.
But, without a doubt, what tipped the scale unfavorably were the reels themselves. If you are squeamish and do not like seeing extremely violent graphic images, played out. This film is not for you. It’s not that the film is not scary, but it’s that many of the scenes in the film are too explicit for my liking-maybe a wee bit too morbid? In the end, knowing we were never fans of “Insidious”, and considering we are dealing with the same producers, have come to the conclusion that I am not really a fan of “Sinister” as well. Well acted, but a bit graphic.
“On November 4, 1979, as the Iranian revolution reaches its boiling point, militants storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage. But, in the midst of the chaos, six Americans manage to slip away and find refuge in the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor.”
Academy Award winner Ben Affleck both directs and stars in this real-life drama based on actual events during the late ‘70s under the Carter administration. What proceeds is a film that is raw and gritty, balanced delicately with the dry comedy of bringing the best ‘worst idea’ the CIA could invent to rescue six Americans from capture.
“Argo” is the declassified story of how one CIA agent specializing in ‘exfiltrating’ people from dangerous areas was able to conceptualize a plan to save six Americans who evaded terrorists, by fleeing and taking cover at a Canadian Ambassador’s home. The CIA’s rescue plan on the surface seemed incredibly ludicrous and preposterous; but with little time to spare and harsh weather on the horizon, it was the only viable solution. The project deemed “Argo” was a essentially to create a film studio company that would be scouting locations in order to shoot a sci-fi fantasy movie, much like “Star Wars,” in a country that had a suitable environment with Iran being ideal. With the assistant ‘producer,’ CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) flying in, seven would fly out with the assistance of the Canadian government providing new identities and passports for the Americans, taking on the role of a Canadian film crew. With Iran under severe duress, unmentionable civil unrest and chaos, and a deep hatred for the American government, the farfetched plan would either succeed or subsequently, end in terrible tragedy.
Both producing and stepping into the director’s chair, Affleck does an amazing job of capturing the overwhelming sense of urgency in this film. He juxtaposes the stress of the six Americans and how close they come to being captured, and the hilarity and absurdity of the pseudo film studio, which is headed by Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and makeup artist, John Chambers (John Goodwin). Mendez’s and Siegel’s pitch faked film to Hollywood, a task seemingly quite easy, is essentially the dry humor needed to not detract from the nail-biting drama in Iran.
What Affleck also seems to do is bring enlightenment to this declassified story by opening with a brief backdrop of Iranian political history and the 1953 coup d'état, with British and US support, placing power back into the Shah of Iran’s hands. With years of suffrage under his rule, the people finally overthrow him a year before the hostage crisis, placing the film in a historical context and making it interesting enough for viewers; this is notably felt as we flash forward to the hours before the hostage crisis. But certainly, for those who lived through this era, remembering the 444 days the hostages were held as prisoners and the ‘Canadian Caper,’ the nickname for the rescue plan of the six Americans in hiding, is a hard walk in the park to relive. But as a viewer, we admit, we did so with pride, even though we were uncomfortably stressed to the max until the very last minutes of the film. Again, this is a testament to Affleck’s brilliant vision. Without a doubt, this movie will garner Affleck an academy award for his directing, but even more so, bring back to life a prolific story that seems to envelope the American spirit during a time of hostility. We sing nothing but praise for this film and highly recommend that if you see one movie this month, then make it “Argo.”
Credits: Produced, directed and starring Ben Affleck-Tony Mendez Bryan Cranston-CIA Jack O’Donnell Alan Arkin-Hollywood legend, Lester Siegel John Goodman-Make-up artist, John Chambers Victor Garber-Canadian Ambassador, Ken Taylor Tate Donovan-Bob Anders Clea DuVall-Cora Lijek Christopher Denham-Mark Lijek Scoot McNairy-Joe Stafford Kerry Bishé-Kathy Stafford Rory Cochrane-Lee Schatz
Pitch Perfect Rated PG-13 Running Time 112
With earlier audiences who had the opportunity to see advanced screenings of Pitch Perfect calling the film hysterically funny and awesome, you can bet that I was eager to see it opening weekend. And I admit, am a huge fan of Bridemaids, Rebel Wilson. She can literally do no wrong in my eyes.
Pitch Perfect in a nutshell is about little ole freshman, Beca (Anna Kendrick) starting college with a grudge against her father, who happens to be a professor at the university and a hidden agenda to ditch this who-needs-college gig and head off to L.A. where she can pursue her true passion of producing music. She is snarky, quick-witted and way too combative against the throes of higher education for our liking... But we rolled with it.
In making a deal with her father, she agrees to give college a year before deciding which path she will take. When one of the leads from all female A Capella group discovers she can sing, a star is born. Ok, well, actually she is suckered into joining and with all singing groups, there is a much coveted competition on the horizon. And Beca, brings the grit to the squeaky clean group, who dress like Airline attendants.
What I liked about the film is it's lighted hearted and filled with a few laughs, enough to keep you entertained. And seriously, some of the best scenes involve Hana Mae Lee who plays Lily, an unusually quiet... let's just say it, weird asian girl. And of course, Rebel Wilson had some great one-liners.
But then there is the ying to the yang, the Treble Makers, an all male A Capella male group fronted by Bumper (Adam DeVine), who honestly held their own. They were hilarious.
In the end, the film had great mash-ups, uniquely odd characters and just a whole mess of pure fun. Was it the best movie of the year? No. Is it as funny as Bridemaids or Hangover? Heck no. Geez, come on now. But, it did it's thang... and I thought it was very cute film.