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Pierce Brosnan delivers solid performance in otherwise forgettable action film
30 August 2014
Ever wonder what would have happened if Pierce Brosnan had been handed a more gritty Bond script from, say, the Timmothy Dalton or Daniel Craig tenure? That's what we're given in The November Man, a serviceable spy thriller from Relativity Media starring the former 007 himself.

Here Pierce Brosnan plays ex-CIA operative Peter Devereaux, a cold, hard drinking killer who hardly thinks twice about killing. Brought back into the field he winds up in a plot concerning the future of international politics. Naturally the entire operation goes to hell and Devereaux finds himself alone and on the run from the CIA and Russian assassins as he tries to find the mysterious woman at the center of it all.

The real standout in The November Man is Pierce Brosnan himself who really does go above and beyond in his portrayal of Devereaux. Many modern viewers criticize Brosnan's Bond for being on the lighter side, but clearly that had more to do with the series direction and scripts than Brosnan himself. He totally sells the role of a cold blood, professional killer in The November Man and leaves you wondering how things might have been if his tenure as Bond had taken a darker direction. Watching him here I found myself thinking: "Man, give Pierce Brosnan one last Bond film as an aging 007 and he'd be FANTASTIC." Scenes where he confronts his former protégé are especially well executed. As it stands this will be the closest we get to seeing Brosnan play a dark Bond and it is the best element of the film. If you're a fan of Brosnan -as I am- this is reason enough to see The November Man.

Unfortunately, as great as Brosnan is, the movie's plot doesn't live up to his performance. The November Man is needlessly complicated, constantly introducing new plot threads, conflicts, and twists that only serve to muddle the narrative flow. There is nothing wrong with a complex spy thriller, but it needs to be original and The November Man just doesn't bring anything new to the table. There is nothing awful about it, there's just very few memorable moments (and all those hinge on Brosnan's performance).

The November Man could have really benefited from a more focused plot. If the filmmakers had narrowed it down to one or two primary plots and simplified the narrative it would have really been a solid action thriller along the lines of Taken. As it is there are just too many predictable twists and clichés and they pull the film down.

That all being said The November Man is definitely worth a matinée screening in cinemas or rental once it's available at home. At 61 Pierce Brosnan successfully proves he can still carry an action film and shows he can tackle far darker roles than many gave him credit. Even if I don't think The November Man is a knockout it has whet my appetite for future Brosnan action films which hopefully can deliver a script worthy of his talent and on screen charisma.
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Perhaps the best Marvel Studios film to date
6 April 2014
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not only a great sequel but perhaps the best standalone Marvel Studios film to date. I wasn't overly fond of the Captain's first feature, so my expectations weren't too high going into this one, but coming out I have to say The Winter Soldier isn't only a great superhero movie, but I'd even venture to say it may even be superior to The Avengers.

At the start of the film Steve Rogers (AKA Captain America) is still accumulating to modern life after having been frozen since WWII, and is working under the orders of Nick Fury and SHIELD. Already having doubts about SHIELD's motives and methods Rogers suddenly finds himself at the center of a conflict festering at the heart of SHIELD and must fight alongside other agents to stop a villainous plot to establish a new world order. Along the way he'll have to face a dark figure which may be connected to his past and decide what freedom truly stands for.

As a standalone feature The Winter Soldier is arguably the smartest Marvel Studios film to date. While still providing the fantastical set-pieces, humor, and over the top action spectacles one would expect from a Marvel film The Winter Soldier's antagonist is grounded in real-world fears, and possibilities. For this reason I felt more invested in the film's action than any other Marvel film to date. While movies like The Avengers and the first Iron Man were fun superhero romps The Winter Soldier actually feels like it is addressing real-world concerns regarding government secrecy and drone warfare in a way which made me feel invested in the characters, and the stakes they were up against.

The decision to make it an internal, spy-movie type struggle subdued the annoying question of: "Where the hell are rest of the Avengers?!" which constantly itched at me during Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World.

Then there's Rogers himself who truly defines himself as a superhero in this film. In his first outing and The Avengers Captain America always seemed like a wet blanket, coming across as a giant flag draped Boy Scout. While he was likable enough he never warranted in-depth analysis. That all changes in The Winter Soldier. Here Rogers' reflects on his past, question his own values and whether or not he can uphold them in this cloak and dagger modern world. His character-arc is well-told, and by the film's end credits the Captain had risen to become one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Winter Soldier is the first standalone Marvel movie since the original Iron Man I've felt actually stood proud on its own two feet. While Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World had me saying "Can't wait to see the next Avengers" The Winter Soldier had me leaving the theater saying: "I can't wait to see the next Captain America movie!" For this reason I am giving my full recommendation for Captain America: The Winter Soldier!
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Of Fathers and Sons
21 August 2010
Road to Perdition is a movie that brings you in with the strong performances of its acting cast and keeps your interest with cinematography that is some of the finest ever seen in Hollywood. It is a tale of fathers, their sons, and the gangster era of Al Capone. It pits hit man Michael Sulivan (Hanks) against a bounty hunter (Jude Law) who has been hired by his boss, and father figure John Rooney (Paul Newman) as Sulivan attempts to kill Rooney's trigger happy son (Daniel Craig). At the same time Sulivan must teach and protect his son (Tyler Hoechlin).

Without spoiling anymore plot points of the film I can say that the center of this film is the bonds forged by fatherhood. Sulivan seeing John Rooney as a father figure gives this movie an entirely new depth that wasn't seen in Max Allan Collins' graphic novel. Don't get me wrong, the movie also loses several aspects of its source material; I would have liked them to use the ending from the graphic novel that shows what type of man Michael Sulivan Jr. grows up to be. Road to Perdition is a stylish movie adaption of a great graphic novel that knows what to change without ruining the store. In many ways this makes it similar to 1994's The Crow, where the story is drastically changed, but through visuals and music the film not only feels like the graphic novel, but manages to reach greatness all its own.

Acting from Hanks and Newman is absolutely phenomenal. Both actors really give it their best and give off a strong sense of emotional attachment and care. Hanks turns in a great performance as an anti-hero proving that he is one of the greatest actors currently living and Paul Newman makes sure his final performance is a great one. The rest of the cast is good too, but this pair is absolutely dynamite! Sam Mendes and cinematographer Conrad L. Hall (who would win the Academy award for his work in this film) create an awesome visual experience. Sam Mendes said that after the Best Picture winning American Beauty he wanted to make a film that focused more on telling its story through visuals instead of dialogue and he succeeds. This is a well crafted drama that lets its images do all the talking that is needed to tell the story.

The somber score by Thomas Newman captures the mood of this period piece. It doesn't have much excitement in it, but it has a quiet, eerie tune that helps the mood. A song entitled 'Ghosts' which appears in one of the climatic scenes is one of the most beautiful, haunting pieces of music I've ever heard.

Road to Perdition's father and son element is probably the main hook for me as a viewer, and there are imperfections in the film, but for the emotional response it received from me I can't help but give it high-marks. It is stylish, taught, emotional, and a blast to watch as Tom Hanks finds his inner-gangster!
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Get taken away with a two-step viewing
21 August 2010
'Shutter Island' is a suspenseful thriller that holds up to films such as 'The Sixth Sense'. Of course, that should be the very least you get when you put a legendary director like Martin Scorsese on the job. This is a film that will have you thinking and guessing even after you've left the theater. An amazing mind trip that takes the viewer into the surreal labyrinthine hell that is Shutter Island in the eyes of Edward "Teddy" Daniels, a U.S. Marshall investigating the strange disappearance of a patient at the Ashecliff Hospital for the criminally insane.

Leonardo DiCaprio is brilliant in the lead role of this film. It is easily his best performance since 'The Aviator' in 2004. His performance is one of the most down to earth, believable ones in recent memory. When he emotes he doesn't downplay or exaggerate for the sake of the film. He reacts in ways I could easily imagine a real person. DiCaprio may not have starred in a movie nearly as successful as 'Titanic', but as far as acting is concerned he is 10x the actor he was in 1997.

Scorsese is a genius. That goes without saying it. Martin Scorsese ranks up with the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, and Orson Welles as far as influence of cinematic techniques is concerned. Some were disappointed by Shutter Island, saying that it doesn't live up to Scorsese's reputation. I don't think there is anything wrong with the directing in this film.

The decision of composer and Scorsese-collaborator Robbie Robertson and Scorsese to use only classical music for the film is very Stanley Kubrick, but it also works very well in Shutter Island. Every piece of music manages to capture the scenes. It is a marvel how they make these pieces almost seem as if they were written for the film.

Make sure to give 'Shutter Island' two viewings, and don't let the first viewing define your view of the film. You will learn most from the film after two viewings spread out over a period of time. After seeing this movie for the second time, having thought over the first viewing for a period of six months, the film took on a new dimension of greatness. Somethings become more clear, while others remain a mystery.

Don't write this film off after one viewing. If you do, you're missing out on the power of Scorsese's fresh masterpiece.
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Okay, but was it needed?
21 August 2010
George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead is a classic horror movie that really didn't need to be retold...but that's exactly what director Zack Snyder has done so I guess I should review it after having seen it twice. I admit there have been far worse remakes, but I can't help but sense how unnecessary this was especially since these two films are worlds apart in many ways. They don't really remake Dawn of the Dead so much as they re-use some elements from the original script and slap the title "Dawn of the Dead" on it to get attention.

In the original film George A. Romero had used the setting of a mall to make satire of human nature. In the Snyder film everything has been refit for zombie action. George A. Romero used the stumbling zombies from his 'Night of the Living Dead'. Zach Snyder uses the Olympic Sprinter Zombies from '28 Days Later'. Romero knew how to spread his movie out with a casual pace. Snyder in the vain of all modern action movies uses quick cuts and generally seems to have everything moving as fast as it can giving no time for character development other that easily recognizable stereotypes.

I think its clear that I prefer the original...

But I don't think this is remake is bad. Its just another zombie movie is all. Nothing really special, nothing really bad about it. It doesn't stand up to films like those of George A. Romero or 28 Days Later, but it is better than things like Resident Evil.

So, this new Dawn of the Dead is quite a bit of gore-filled fun, but as a whole is flat and uninteresting compared to the 1978 original.
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Splice (2009)
A great movie ruined by a tacked on "marketable" ending
26 June 2010
hope there is a director's cut of Splice. I really, really, REALLY hope with the DVD it will be like 2007's I Am Legend and have on a bonus disc the film's original ending. Why do I say this? Well, I haven't researched much, but Warner Brothers once again - just as in I Am Legend - has a decent sci-fi movie that ends on a low-note. I'll put it this way: up until the final 15 minutes I thought Splice was one of the best science-fiction films I'd ever seen.

Just about everything in Splice works up until it reaches a generic, action climax. Great acting from the cast and a sympathetic creature make the film a compelling sci-fi drama. One of the best I've ever seen. An easy 5/5 movie....until suddenly some executive seems to have decided the film needed to transform into a horror creature-feature in the last fifteen minutes. It becomes so generic and predictable in these last 15 minutes and....terrible. I can't see any explanation for this other than Warner Brothers repeating I Am Legend.

Dren (the creature) was NOT a monster. She was a fascinating individual creature that I could feel sympathy for. The way Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) interact with Dren is very powerful. You can tell that the characters come to love Dren and that Dren cares about them, making for a tragic, yet powerful ending to the film...until the before mentioned last 15 minutes appears which almost completely ruins this drama.

Now, seeing as the film will be released on DVD/Blu-Ray I'm hoping to see an addition with "Controversial Original Ending!" (by controversial they of course mean the GOOD ENDING). I will re-evaluate the film at such a time as an alternate cut is released. I refuse to believe that Guillermo del Toro, the writer of Pan's Labyrinth (who is the executive producer of Splice and someone who praised the script) could have supported a script that shoots itself in the foot in the ways that Splice manages to in its final 15 minutes.

When Splice is released on DVD/Blu-Ray please, please, PLEASE hold out for a cut with the "original ending". It may save you some money to buy a single-disc theatrical cut but please do NOT support WB's altering movies to make them "more marketable". Splice is a great sci-fi movie that is destroyed by a lackluster ending that is entirely inappropriate given the dramatic nature of the rest of the film. Tell Warner Brothers, and other companies that we want movies to have the endings that work FOR that particular movie. Splice was NOT intended to be a horror movie and as such WB/producers shouldn't have attempted to transform it into one with 15 minutes of sub-par creature-feature footage that destroys the poignant beauty of the rest of the film.
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Death Proof (2007)
Where's the Tarantino we know and love?
11 February 2010
The frames are damaged, full of grain, becoming dead on imitations of junk films both visually and thematically. Both Tarantino's Death Proof and Robert Rodriquez's Planet Terror (the other feature from Grindhouse) use this style…One key difference. Planet Terror is so over the top that it becomes a BLAST; not a perfect or even a good film, but certainly deserving of a 7/10 star rating simply for its entertainment value. Death Proof on the other hand is very down to earth in its premise and without many exaggerated stylistic choices just becomes what it set out to be: a trashy, boring film.

As a story it is generic (as it should be) following a group of girls stalked by a man named "Stuntman Mike" (Kurt Russell)who drives a "death proof" retired stunt car. He stalks them, kills them with his car, then skips state to repeat the process elsewhere. He is a fun character speaking in a pleasant Southern drawl, passing himself off as a nice guy. Too bad he has little screen time compared to our three female protagonists who are boring as can be. I kept checking the clock wondering how long it would take these bimbos to become street pizza! After a bar sequence that seems to go on forever (where I have to admit, Tarantino's cameo as the manager is the second most entertaining aspect of this film right after Kurt Russell) I have to admit the stunts in this film really are remarkable. Stuntman Mike isn't joking about his set of wheels given that all the chases in this film are for real. When he talks about what a shame it is to have lost the old time values of using real cars and stuntmen over CGI crashes it really shows. Nothing can top the thrill of seeing real vehicles getting, smashed, slammed, and creating mayhem. No computer program can compare to live action.

After a thrilling stunt where Stuntman Mike kills a group of girls through a straight on collision (while Tarantino delivers the promised Grindhouse style gore) we are greeted to a cameo from by the cops from Kill Bill before moving on to the second act. This is where things really begin to fall apart. For the most part the second half seems a poor excuse to show off Tarantino's lead Kill Bill stuntwoman Zoë Bell's skill as she hangs for dear life on the hood of a car during a chase.

Like Kill Bill, Vol.2 the second half of this film is so different than the first that it seems to be something entirely different. Stuntman Mike who is an intimidating, soft-spoken stalker in the first half suddenly becomes an obnoxious over actor. Now I have no problem, because Kurt Russell hamming it up certainly was amusing for awhile, but it was very out of place given how calm his character was during the first half of the film. Over the top or serious Tarantino, you have to choose one or the other and stick with it! Speaking of the acting it really is a wonder as Tarantino, to preserve the concept of this being a junk film intentionally baits the cast to do stupid, amateur stunts such as looking directly into the camera for entire scenes at a time, breaking the fourth wall, and just being general hams. Nothing can be much funnier than a truly awful movie, but the film actually had to be completely unaware of how bad it is. Death Proof it is clearly intentional, and though this might be amusing when a viewer first notices these quirks, the gag soon loses charm and just becomes annoying. When you see bad films you want to see a bad film. You don't want to see an obviously smart director and actors being led to intentionally look bad. They aren't over the top (until the final ten minutes or so of the movie) so they're just boring.

Another problem is the script. Tarantino is not a great director on a visual level seeing as most of the time he replicates the styles of great directors. What has always set Tarantino apart as an artist is his engaging dialogue. That's where Grindhouse is a disappointment of colossal proportions. There is very little action in Death Proof, which is good seeing as Tarantino isn't that good with action scenes, but the dialogue in the film is just…boring. It's as real as it gets. No, seriously: the dialogue in this film is as entertaining as stalking an actual troop of girls. Only good dialogue comes from Kurt Russell during the first half, but then Tarantino butchers the appeal of that character in the second act. If you're not enjoying the dialogue of a Tarantino film it means something is going horribly wrong.

So congratulations to Mister Tarantino for successfully making the junk film he set out to make. No doubt this was an entertaining thing for him as a director, but as an audience member I was often bored with this film. The action is fun, but the final car chase goes on for far too long, but worse is that Tarantino's dialogue in Death Proof is just bland. There is nothing really working for this film. It could have been far better if Tarantino had made this a more exaggerated homage because as it is it's no different than the bad films it tries to poke fun at. Planet Terror managed to give that bad movie feel while taking its premise to such absurdity that it was hard not to be entertained by it. Death Proof on the other hand is so serious about being "bad" that it becomes just that.
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Best comedy of 2009!
16 December 2009
When I first heard word of Wes Anderson adapting one of Roald Dahl's books I of course instantly was both interested and concerned. Being a Houstonian I have always felt inclined to support the work of Houston-born writer/director Wes Anderson.

Thus far I've enjoyed his dry sense of humor; kind of like an Americanized version of British humor...but it is also very adult, sophisticated humor, so I couldn't imagine him doing a family movie.

After seeing the movie I have one thing to say...Fantastic Mr. Fox certainly is FANTASTIC! Wes Anderson has made one of the best films of 2009; one that is just as good as his other movies, if not being his best yet! Everything, from voice-actors, to the use of stop animation: this film is perfectly balanced in what is certainly the best comedy of the year.

How did Wes Anderson pull it off? Well, he honestly didn't make this so much as a kid's movie as he did make another entry in his series of odd-ball comedies- only this time cutting back mature subjects to a PG-rating. What results is a very mature comedy that doesn't resort to cheap gimmicks or slapstick for laughs (though there is a bit of slapstick for those kids who won't understand the humor in Anderson's dialog).

The story centers on Mr. Fox (voiced by the always entertaining George Clooney), who is the foxiest fox who ever foxed. An expert chicken thief he likes living dangerously...that is until his lover (voiced by Meryl Streep) becomes pregnant and demands that they settle down. After getting caught in a fox trap he agrees to her terms that if they survive he shall never steal again.

Two years later (which is far more in fox years) the couple is living in a hole with their son, Ash (Jason Schwartzmen). Mr. Fox is a newspaper columnist, who is fairly certain no one actual reads his column and is now upset that he won't amount to anything (like his father) so he decides they must move out. His choice is a tree, but this tree happens to be located next door to the three meanest farmers the animals have ever seen. His lawyer, Badger (voiced by Anderson regular Bill Murray) tries to talk Fox out of his choice home, but he won't hear it.

After moving to the tree they are joined by their nephew Kristofferson (voiced by Eric Chase Anderson) who quickly becomes Ash's center of jealousy. Kristofferson is perfect in just about every way, spending his time meditating while practicing yoga, being naturally gifted in sports - everything Ash wishes he was.

But while those trivial matters go on Mr. Fox can't resist the call of the wild, and with his opossum building superintendent, Kylie (voiced by Wallace Wolodarsky) plans a return to his dangerous life of "cussing with" the farmers' heads. At first this starts as simple crimes, but soon the farmers declare war against Mr. Fox and the entire animal populace! It becomes the job of Fox save everyone from the farmers' wrath...which he caused!

There's also a great (not to mention HILARIOUS) bit involving Willem Dafoe as an insane, finger snapping rat-henchman under the employ of the farmers, but I wouldn't spoil that for the you! You'll have to see the movie to get what I'm talking bout.

Fantastic Mr. Fox of course differs from its source material, but for what it is Fantastic Mr. Fox is a great comedy. I say "comedy" instead of "animation" or "Family" movie because its values really are more comedy oriented than they are trying to entertain an entire group of people. In fact, the theater I saw this movie in was full of kids under the age of 10 and very seldom did any of them laugh: the humor was just way over their heads, and I won't hold that against them.

For adults and mat kids over the age of 10 or so Fantastic Mr. Fox is a fantasy comedy full of whimsical characters that will leave them chuckling, and quoting its ingenious script long after they've left the theater. Parents can also approve of the film's message of "everyone has their own individual talents," be it thief, landscape artist, or demolitions expert.

It won't stand up against a movie like Pixar's Up in a 'Best Animated Feature' contest, but then again I doubt it was even trying to. What the movie does is set out to be a sophisticated comedy - something that is rated PG, but is just as good as any comedy directly aimed at older audiences. Fantastic Mr. Fox is rated PG but is more adult and sophisticated than this year's smash hit The Hangover.

Fantastic Mr. Fox truly is the most fantastic movie of the year.
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Overview of a criminal mastermind
6 July 2009
Public Enemies is an alright docu-crime-thriller that, thought well-made, ends up coming out dry. Many of the scenes are well paced, but in its running time the film feels like a very rushed overview of the final years of John Dillinger. What I mean to say is that this is a good movie, but you probably won't leave the theater feeling like you've learned anything about John Dillinger, other than trivial facts. The movie never really gives Johnny Depp a chance to shape the character into a believable icon because as I previously stated this film feels more like a dramatized overview of Dillinger's career instead of focusing on the man himself.

Now, Johnny Depp is a fine actor, and he reminds us in this movie that he isn't only a go-to man for quirky, weird, whimsical, and bizarre characters. In Public Enemies Depp reminds us that he is talented as a traditional actor and that he is still one of the best in Hollywood today. The problem is the script he is given for Public Enemies never lets him expand on anything regarding John Dellinger as a person. In Ridley Scott's 'American Gangster' Denzel Washington was given a chance to really emphasize the qualities he felt reflected his view of Frank Lucas. Public enemies, Johnny Depp never truly gets to define what he feels are the most important aspects of his portrayal of Dellinger because often the film gets too caught up in the action and events instead of its characters.

Christian Bale bounces back after a sub-par performance in 'Terminator: Salvation' and it's good to see him working his voice manipulation ability again, because I for one was beginning to think he'd gotten stuck on his Batman-style growl. Playing the FBI agent pursuing Dillinger he is an interesting character due to his dedication and could have been a really interesting character, but like Depp, Bale never really gets a chance to try and expand on his character.

The music isn't anything you haven't heard before in previous crime films of this sort, but for the most part it works. I wouldn't buy the soundtrack to this film, but it certainly didn't take away from the experience. Also, songs from the 30s are played throughout, and most of the time they manage to fit into the story's many montage scenes very well.

Director Michael Mann seems a tad bit off when compared to some of his previous films. He often goes for a look that makes the audience feel that they're in the middle of everything, and that's good in small stretches, but I felt he used this technique too often and I found myself growing a tad bit dizzy at times, and had a desire to see what was going on in the shootouts. I found it strange, that with his recent films such as 'Collateral', where the characters had been the center-focus of the entire film, he could then make a movie about one of the most infamous criminal minds and have it be more about the history than the characters who lived it.

The thing that is most fascinating about this film is the costumes and sets. The men and women behind these really outdid themselves and created a very authentic view of 1930s Chicago. This aspect of the film alone makes it worth seeing! Every costume and set seems to have been made with the utmost attention to detail, and the final result is very pleasing to the eye.

The final product in an okay docu-drama on the life of one of America's most infamous criminals, but in the end you really don't discover anything about John Dillinger that you couldn't have found out by looking him up on Wikipedia. So this is a pretty film to look at, and with Depp and Bale it's a good way to introduce those unfamiliar with Dillinger to the criminal, but if you were looking for a character study on the bank robber you may find yourself a tad-bit disappointed.

I wouldn't come close to calling Public Enemies one of the best movies of the summer, or of the year, but when compared to several other films that are currently being screened I would still highly recommend it. With movies like 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' out there your money is best spent on Michael Mann's Public Enemies.
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One of the best sci-fi films of all time
6 July 2009
Minority Report, I would say, is one of the best science fiction films to be released over the past twenty-five years, and that is certainly no small feat given some of the competing films released over that time-span. Minority Report obviously had a lot of effort put into it by both the filmmakers and its actors and the result is a brilliant thriller. In the past decade I would call it Spielberg's best, ranking among his other great thrillers, 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', and 'Jaws'.

The movies is based on a short story by the late sci-fi master Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly) and it ranks up with Blade Runner as the greatest adaptations of his work. John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is the Chief of the Pre-Crime division in the District of Columbia. What exactly is his job? To use the unusual psychic abilities of three beings – known as "Pre-Cogs"- it is his job to analyze future crime scenes and prevent murder from happening. For ten years this system works without a flaw and they are close to taking the program national, only there's one problem…John's name has been called for the future-murder of Leo Crow –a man he has never once before met. On the run Anderton must evade the highly controlled security of the future United States capital all while trying to prove his innocence, and in so doing unraveling the secrets of the system- secrets that would destroy everything the organization has worked so hard to achieve.

What really makes this movie stand out is not the visual effects (though, they certainly are amazing), but it is the human aspect of this film that makes it a memorable experience for the audience. The film manages to cater to all human emotions contained within the plot, from the fear of loss, obsession, greed, fear, insecurity, and many more. All the characters are found to be believable, as none of them come across as being cardboard, as so many other action films do.

Tom Cruise pulls a very believable performance and I consider this one of the best of his "Average Joe" performances. By this I mean like in 'War of the Worlds' he doesn't come across as being a superhero, as he was in the 'Mission Impossible' franchise. He is perfectly believable as a sad soul who only wishes to make up for his past mistakes and punish the criminals of the world. Haunted by tragedy of the past we can't help but sympathize for his loss, because we can believe him. This isn't a straight-forward "tragic" character, such as Kurt Russell's Colonel O'Neil in 'Stargate' (1994). John Anderton is suffering, but he hides it well, going on with his job. In fact his loss is his drive in his work, so naturally he can't believe it when the system turns against him. It's the compelling characters and performances from the actors that make the difference between a good movie and a great movie. Special effects have nothing to do with the quality of the human element of the story (sorry, Michael Bay).

The special effects of this film are amazing, providing a believable, yet still fascinating view of the future. Unlike visions presented in Blade Runner, and to a certain degree Total Recall, this is a very clean, well kept design for the future. All the buildings shine and all vehicles appear to be in tip-top condition, but like those other Dick based films the underlying structure of society is as corrupt as ever. How the effect crew for this film was skipped over by the Academy I will never understand, because even two years after I first saw the film many of the visuals remain stuck in my mind.

You should not miss Minority Report, because in my opinion it is one of the best films ever made, let alone one of the best science fiction films ever made. For a thrilling, emotional, and mentally stimulating movie experience I can't recommend Minority Report strongly enough to give the film credit, for it goes above and beyond what so many other films have done. So, if you want excitement and brain stimulating ideas forget the garbage of the current theater's films, such as "Transformers," and do yourself a favor: forget that an action movie is not supposed to be dominated by pure special effects and action, go out, buy a copy of Minority Report, put it in your DVD player, sit down, and enjoy a non-stop thrill ride of a movie.
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Hilarious parody of 1960s comic-book censorship
6 July 2009
Batman: The Movie is a tie-in to the camp classic Batman TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. The long running problem with this series is how easy it for people to insult it and say how it tarnished Batman's name. These people obviously did not get the joke, or they have honestly never picked up an actual Batman comic from the 60s (Look up "Bat-Baby" and then tell me this series wasn't tame in comparison to the actual comics back in the day). This movie is the only film on DVD that shows true parody of the censorship act that comics had undergone during the late 50s and throughout the 1960s. This show, whether you like it or not, saved Batman from extinction so that he could move into the more serious medium we have today.

Enough about the history of the show! Batman: The Movie takes the manic energy of the infamous TV show and takes it up a notch (something that seemed impossible). The film is just downright funny, plain and simple- especially if you fully understand what it is that they are making fun of (bad, campy, propaganda filled comics of the 1960s). Sure, with films like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight it's hard to take Adam West seriously, but then again you aren't supposed to take him seriously in the first place! The plot is ridiculous, yet consistently entertaining as the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin are pitted against the fiendish supervillian team which consists of the wisecracking Joker (Cesar Romero), the sneering Penguin (Burgess Meredith), the scheming Riddler (Frank Gorshin), and the seductive Catwoman (Lee Meriwether). What is the villains' dastardly plan? To dehydrate the world's leaders into dust and hold the world at ransom! Batman and Robin will have to pass through a multitude of fiendish gizmos and traps in order to prevent universal chaos, but on the way they will undoubtedly bring laughter to the audience.

From an exploding shark, questions with an answer involving a machine gun toting sparrow, and cheesy romantic interludes this movie is a riot! Adam West's and Burt Ward's deadpan delivery of their lines is always perfect given the absurd nature of the situations they constantly find themselves in.

Anyone who doesn't get this series' humor and thinks it's a stain on the Batman franchise seriously needs to lighten up and go back to the older comics and find out how great their beloved Caped Crusader was during the censorship laws. Doing that, you'll probably have a greater appreciation for the humor of the Adam West era of the character's development.

So if you like comics or just like manic paced comedies with straight-faced acting (See: The Naked Gun, Get Smart) Batman: The Movie is definitely worth looking into! I recommend buying the 'Holy Special Edition' version of the film most because it has the best packaging and sets you up for comedy; the new DVD case is obviously modeled off of the Tim Burton Batman film's cases and just looks too serious considering the subject material contained within. I don't know about you but I like my DVD cases and art to tell me what I'm in store for. Putting the case aside both DVDs come with the same special features- features that are sure to make any Bat-Fan smile! If you haven't already done it: Do yourself a favor and purchase 'Batman - The Movie'
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Best submarine thriller since 'Das Boot'
6 July 2009
The Hunt for Red October is a very good adaptation of its source material - the #1 bestseller by infamous author Tom Clancy - and manages to successfully compress the 460+ page novel into a good, solid two-hour running time. The movie moves with great flow, and energy. The actors all do their best, though no one really shines in the film- they all just hold their own beside each other and manage not to bore the audience with their techno babble, which is always a good thing when you try to market a movie adaptation of Clancy, who emphasizes so much on technology.

When Soviet Submarine Captain Marco Ramius (Sean Connery, sporting his always fashionable beard) decides to defect from the Soviet Union he decides to gather his prize officers and run off with the Kremlin's latest, a greatest naval experiment: a silent running nuclear submarine by the name of 'Red October.' A CIA analysis by the name of Jack Ryan (played by a young, still in prime shape Alec Baldwin)realizes the intentions of the Russian Captain's advance towards U.S. shores and convinces his superiors that they must rescue the defectors and acquire the technology of the Red October, and to do it right under the Kremlin's nose (not an easy feat, by the way). It soon become a race against time as American and Soviet forces The best performances by far are provided by Alex Baldwin, Sean Connery, and a brief, yet wonderful performance from Sam Neill. James Earle Jones also comes on briefly as Ryan's boss in a very amusing character who provides some of the film's best lines. None of them really stand out as being "Landmark performances" but they are definitely good performances from some of the best actors of our time.

The movie is fun and should keep most people entertained with its action, and entertaining characters. It is very much like a believable James Bond type movie and makes for fun ride. There are no annoying characters present anywhere in the film and everyone involved in the production of this film seems to have tried their best in making it as visually pleasing as possible. Though the cinematography is not as good as 'Das Boot' (the best submarine film to date) it still does a fine job of emphasizing the claustrophobic environment of the submarines. All these things allow the film to be the best Tom Clancy adaptation to date.

The Special Edition DVD has good picture quality and some nice special features. It is a vast improvement over the bare bones DVD previously released by if only they could improve releases of more of their 80s action-thrillers.
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A slap in the face to O'Barr, and all involved with the original film
6 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
As a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and the general practice of mocking bad films I can honestly say that there was no redeeming value in 'The Crow: City of Angels.' The film is just downright sloppy, and very unnecessary given the plot of the first film and how it didn't warrant a sequel in ANY way, but you know Hollywood: if one film makes a profit they need to try and repeat that film's formula and cash in again.

This movie was a low-budget film, roughly $18 million in total cost, which doesn't say anything about the quality, because Alex Proyas, with a simple $15 million managed to make the first film- one of the most visually captivating comic-based films of all time. But what the disadvantage this film does have is that director Tim Pope has nowhere near the talent of Proyas. In fact, 95% of this film's visual style is a carbon copy of the original film, only now most of the city is lit by bright, YELLOW lights, and it happens to be situated beside the ocean. Other than this the style of this film is a rip-off and being a rip-off fails to captivate the mind of the audience in the same way as the first film.

Not to rip on Vincent Perez, but his performance as the new Crow was downright despicable- a pale, heartless imitation of Brandon Lee's critically acclaimed character in the first film. This is probably more the fault of the director and scriptwriters, but regardless, this comes across more as a perversion of Brandon Lee than of a new character picking up the mantle of the Gothic anti-hero.

The script is one of the cheesiest you'll ever see. There is literally a point where the villain kills and drinks the blood of the crow and then gets the strength of the Crow. This makes absolutely no sense and in no way reflects ANY of the mythos in either the first film or the comic series.

The Crow is just too simple of a story to be made into an effective franchise because the formula runs like so: guy and loved one are brutally murdered, guy kills dudes who murdered him and said loved one, leaving a crow emblem at the crime scene, then when he's done he dies and joins loved one in afterlife. This is all The Crow is. It was good for one movie, but it just cannot be turned into a franchise.

Keep in mind, I was half asleep when this movie was on TV, and even then -the time of day when I'm most acceptable of bad movies- I still managed to hate this movie with a passion, and not because I was a fan of the original, or because I had read bad buzz surrounding the movie (I hadn't even HEARD of it before that fateful night- and for good reason!) , but because I honestly, and truly could not stand ANY aspect of this film.

If you enjoyed the first film and the James O'Barr comic book, don't do as I did: do the smart thing. Avoid 'The Crow: City of Angels' with every ounce of your being.
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Total Recall (1990)
Fun sci-fi
2 July 2009
There are certain films that aim to entertain and try their very hardest to keep the audience entertained, if not on the edge of their seat, but rarely are they also capable of making the audience think. This movie is fun from start to finish, but it also manages to keep you thinking about reality and the implications of the ideas presented in the movie.

Total Recall is certainly one of the better films to come from director Paul Verhoeven whose career I must say has its ups and down. He's has RoboCop, which I also thought was a fun action/satire, but then films such as Starship Troopers had me far less impressed. He is certainly better when adapting short stories in a satirical fashion than he is adapting professionally written stories and trying to satirize them like he did with Starship Troopers- Verhoeven's resulting film seeming more like an insult to its source material instead of an adaptation.

Total Recall movie is based on a short story by the late Philip K. Dick, who also wrote the stories behind Blade Runner, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly. Unlike Blade Runner and Minority Report this is one of the more satirical approaches on sci-fi and it does have some good laughs among its fun sets and action, but like those two films it provides some of the best science-fiction imagery to date.

Of course, being released in 1990, what better male lead in an action film than Arnold Schwarzenegger? Now, the future California Governor has never been the best actor, but he manages to find one of his stand-out roles in Douglass Quaid, a man who is under constant danger and isn't even capable of knowing whether the dangers he faces are real or not! Tired with his life as a construction worker Douglass Quaid is set on having a vacation to Mars. Only problem is he's a tad bit low on cash and his wife isn't very keen on taking a trip to the Martian surface- which is currently under a state of civil unrest and urban warfare between the mutants and the evil business leader, Vilos Cohaagon, who quite literally has an airtight grip over the citizens of Mars. Since going to Mars is out of the question Quaid goes for the next best thing: fake memories.

After a visit to Rekall he has it arranged for him to be given a vacation to Mars from the perspective of a secret agent on a crucial mission. This dream comes a bit too true as he is thrust into a fight for his life, never knowing whether or not what he is seeing is real or not. The audience can't tell for that matter for there is enough evidence to support either option.

Total Recall is good escapist entertainment and is often quite funny in a black sort of way. Arnold Schwarzenegger is charismatic in the lead and manages to deliver several good one-liners (other than the cheesy "Screw you!"). The art direction, special effects, costumes, make-up, and sets are all quite convincing and fun to look at and overall it is a film that always keeps your attention in some form or another. I give a strong recommendation to Total Recall, but the film does seem to stay in check and never take to initiative to go above and beyond like Blade Runner and Minority Report have.
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Just painful to watch
30 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen is one of the most desperate attempts I have ever seen made by a movie. Coming only two years after the release of the original Transformers I knew this movie was not going to be anything special, because a sequel that is pushed into completion within two years is never a good sign.

The movie begins with what we find to be an alliance between the military and the Autobots from the first film as they work together in an attempt to destroy all remaining Deceptacons on the planet Earth. I suppose this was a better idea than simply repeating the exact formula of the first film, but it's just handled very childishly. This entire idea leads up to a huge, explosion filled fight with some sort of giant wheel-bot, that after a few minutes seems to be giving the Autobots the slip (of course in a Michael Bay film a giant robot destroying much of a highway is easy to cover up by the government. Durr-hurr). But what's this? A military cargo plane is flying overhead and heroic music has kicked in! Can it be? My God, it is! Here comes the toy world's most beloved robot character, Optimus Prime! Only problem is that Optimus seems to think he's in a 1980s cop film, because I wouldn't be joking if I say the first thing he tells the tinker-toy from hell after parachuting onto it was "Pull over!" Great! Optimus Prime has now become RoboCop! By the way, get used to one-liners like this- they make up most of the movie's dialogue.

The military involvement is vague and they are, as is sci-fi tradition, failing to help in any way! Have you ever once seen a sci-fi/action movie where World domination seeking robots are brought down by machine gun fire? Makes you wonder what the humans are doing here in the first place! They're probably cushions for the robots whenever they fall- don't want those bright paint jobs ruined.

Cut through the opening credits and go to our loving family from the first film. These segments between Sam, his parents, Bumblebee, and Sam's mechanic girlfriend (played by more curves than brains actress Megan Fox) are something that totally turns to movie upside down whenever they occur. No longer are you watching a mindless Rock 'Em Sock 'Em movie, but you've gone into a sitcom I like to call "That Robot Show." Whether it be Sam's dogs humping each other or his mother randomly getting off on pot-brownies these segments will stoop to anything in vain attempts to make you laugh (as if the absurd action sequences aren't funny enough of a joke).

Speaking of vain attempts at humor let me move right along to perhaps the worst aspect of this entire mess of a film: The Twins. Where to even begin with these unpleasant characters…Throw Jar Jar Binks into a ghetto, blend him up and split him into two and that would sum up how incredibly annoying these characters are, and if their presence wasn't enough to bother you they've made sure to provide you one of the most offensive portrayals of African Americans you will ever see in today's big-budget films. These robots…even their design screams of racist stereotype. One of them has big lips, another has big ears, and one even has a gold tooth (!!). I don't know who approved these characters or this portion of the script during development but surely no rational being could have thought these characters to be a good idea.

We also have some shameless rip-off of what appears to be The Terminator as a Deceptacon has taken to form of an attractive girl who seems to have her eyes set on Sam. You know something tells me that if I had the ability to take the form of humans I would use myself in a lot more productive manner than being a tease for college boys at Princeton (which seems to be a party university according to this film).

None of the plot really makes sense other than to come up with as many cheesy one-liners and explosions as physically possible. When the bad guys chase Sam they don't pursue, or stalk him- they just choose to blow everything up at random. There is something called tension that even a bad film can pull off, and it does not involve constant wall-to-wall explosions. Go back to the first two Terminator films. Remember how intense it was to have our human characters in a factory where a deadly machine could be anywhere? This didn't involve any explosions, or gunshots, but it sure as hell managed to create tension and edge of your seat moments.

I'll admit to liking some movies that involve turning your brain down a notch, the first Transformers film being an example of this, but this movie just went too far. At two hours and twenty minutes I thought the first film was forty minutes too long and this sequel is only longer and much less comprehensible. Some people say these films are the exact same thing and I have to strongly disagree. In the first film you could find the characters enjoyable and sometimes even whimsical. This one everyone is a cardboard cutout. First film the special effects were enough to dazzle you. This one they are so elaborate and over developed that you often had trouble understanding what was going on! This movie is an attack on your senses, plain and simple, though it's bound to make plenty of money and a third film will undoubtedly be spawned I can only say that no one will be talking about this series five years from now. It is just a passing fancy, something pretty to look at, like the cars showcased in this movie. Only good part of the film is seeing the new Corvette Stingray.
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Moonraker (1979)
Really? Has to be the only Bond I haven't liked
30 April 2009
I thought for the longest time that I would be incapable *not* liking a James Bond film. From 'Diamonds Are Forever' to 'Die Another Day', there had not been a "Bad" Bond film that I didn't find some redeeming value in. I guess in an over twenty movie-long franchises I was bound to come across one that I wouldn't enjoy, and the day finally came. Moonraker is without a doubt the worst James Bond film I have ever seen. Everything about the film just comes across as wrong. From the random references to popular science-fiction films, to Moore using the same gadget to solve just about all his problems, this film feels like an exercise in camp, and pointlessness. These were present in other Moore films, but never were they as poorly used as in Moonraker.

The plot is pathetic, and when Bond finally gets into space it really is worthless, as it only lasts about twenty minutes. The plot is almost non-existent, and the villain is one of the most forgettable ones in the franchise's history. Jaws also returns from 'The Spy Who Loves Me,' which does lead to one of my favorite Bond lines: "All I know is his name is Jaws. He kills people." Funny bit of dialogue, and often Moore does give good one-liners in this film, but they can't compare to the many bad bits of comic relief thrown in throughout.

Only die-hard Bond fans should own this film. Yes, I purchased it, because I am a fan of the series, and like re-watching all the films on a fairly frequent basis, but I can say that Moonraker will be the one I return to most seldom, and will do so only with friends so that we can point fingers, laugh, and engage in conversation.

It isn't a BAD action movie, I will give it that. But it IS a bad Bond film.
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Walken saves an otherwise forgettable Bond tale
30 April 2009
I can say I am a Bond fan, seeing as I own twenty of the twenty-two movies currently on DVD (as of writing this review). So far the only film I haven't enjoyed in the series has been Roger Moore's Moonraker, just because of the over the top silliness and the obvious sell-out to appeal to moviegoers who had just seen Star Wars.

Upon seeing 'A View to a Kill' I instantly was prepared for the worst, and let me tell you this certainly is a bad Bond film. Moore is showing his obvious age, making the relations with his leading ladies undeniably awkward, to say the least. The plot is as simple as they come, and none of the actors are really given any chance with the dialogue they have been given. Moore has very few witty comments in this movie, and most of the other characters are cardboard cut outs.

One thing however manages to make this film better than Moonraker. This is the under-appreciated role of Max Zorin, played by the always wonderful Christopher Walken. I can say without a doubt in my mind that Walken is the single saving grace in this film, exhibiting everything any good Bond villain needs.

Exotic locations: Check! Unique henchmen/henchwoman: Check! Surrounded by beautiful girls: Check Cold and ruthless attitude: Double check! Heartless and chilling disregard for henchmen life: CHECK Walken, with a horrid script (every character in this movie is poorly written) is able to create one of the best Bond villains I've ever seen! The way he talks, the way he acts, everything he does showcases his undeniable talent. So for a movie like 'A View to a Kill' Walken's performance is like shifting through sewage and finding a large diamond ring.

It is because of Walken that I recommend this movie and give it a relatively good rating. Everything else about this film is really forgettable. You'd think a super-strong female henchwoman would make for a memorable moment in the franchise, but this is so poorly handled that she winds up as one of the most forgettable characters in the series, as opposed to one of the best.

Roger Moore, unfortunately, ends his career on Bond in perhaps his own worst performance, which is undeniably sad. It seems that all Bond actors seem to end their careers on the lowest of their films (Connery with 'Diamonds are Forever', Brosnan with 'Die Another Day', and though Dalton was a great Bond, I have to say 'License to Kill' was a weak film) but with those films it has always been more the scripts fault, as opposed to the actor's talent (all three tried their best with the material). Moore is just plain stiff in his last entry! The man seems to have totally lost interest in playing the character by this point.

I consider 1979's 'Moonraker' Moore's worst, but like 'Diamonds are Forever', and 'Die Another Day', Moonraker was more the fault of the script writers; not the Bond actor. In 'A View to a Kill' Moore really shows that he is no longer capable of playing the part, and that is the saddest part of the film (especially seeing Moore seducing girls much younger than himself, with his developing turkey neck becoming quite obvious). Walken makes the movie an enjoyable, B-grade action movie, but as for Bond, this is where it becomes an undeniable fact that Moore has overstayed his welcome as Agent 007.

Moore deserved a better ending, and the fact is that he just shouldn't have come back for this film. Octopussy may have actually been a decent departure, but Moore decided to try one last time and it really is the straw that breaks the Moore Bond's back. Enough was enough, and Moore failed to recognize when he should have cried "when!" I give this film a decent rating for the performance of Christopher Walken, but everything else is very low, and forgettable. Go and see it for Walken, but it is sad to see Moore's finally desperate breaths as he tries to keep the character going one last time.
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The most awe inspiring, thought provoking film I've ever seen
2 April 2009
What is the defining aspect of P.W. Anderson's There Will Be Blood that kept me so captivated throughout its running time that fell just under three hours? I think it's probably a good many things. There's the beautiful, Oscar winning cinematography, there's the driving message of greed and corruption in society, there's the Kubrickian styled direction, and of course there's some of the best acting performances of the year, but only one stands out to draw me into this film. The character of Daniel Plainview (Oscar winning performance by Daniel Day-Lewis) is perhaps the most complex character ever captured on film and is one with whom I found myself strangely attracted to, for I saw something about his character worth pitying.

Daniel Plainview is a cut throat business man during the industrial revolution (an "Oil man," he calls himself) who uses a persuasive speaking voice and enticing promises, but at the end of the day he only is wishing to fulfill his everlasting greed. Eventually he is lead by the tip of one Paul Sunday who tells him of oil in a far off location known as Little Boston. Plainview takes the bait and moves in and realizes that this could be his big haul that makes his fortune, but in the process he meets his greatest adversary. Eli Sunday (a very underrated performance by Paul Dano) owns and operates his own church (The Church of the Third Revelation) where he claims to act as a prophet and the embodiment of the Holy Spirit. Naturally the two of them clash as the audience realizes they are both driven by mostly selfish desires.

As Daniel's fortune increases his hatred towards himself and mankind expands, and he realizes that all he wishes is to be far from it, but it is apparent he has become incapable of being happy. His son, H.W. Plainview seemed to be his only way to happiness, but Daniel in his denial just push H.W. and everyone around him far to the side, preferring to suffer miserably by himself until he completes his long drawn out self-destruction.

This is why I pity Daniel Plainview when others say he is a character that deserves our loathing. What they are failing to grasp is the inner struggle taking place in this man and how very confused he must be, because they only seem to note the negative things he does in the film. Daniel Plainview is a man who has let the natural desire to compete absorbs him and he has given up the fight to suppress it.

Is Daniel Plainview a man, or is he the representation of a spirit that is found throughout mankind? Each time I see this movie the impact increases. Every single time I watch this two-hour forty-minute film I find more reasons to be in love with it. Each time I find more ways that Daniel Plainview can be related to the human race as a whole.

"I don't want to talk about those things. I see the worst in people, Henry. I don't need to look past seeing them to get all I need. I've built up my hatreds over the years, little by little. Having you here gives me a second breath… I can't keep doing this on my own with these... people. {Daniel laughs as if his final comment were a joke}" "I look at people and I see nothing worth liking." I think everyone occasionally has thoughts such as those stated in the above quotes. We just don't act on them in the manner in which Plainview does. The problem with Daniel is that he never lets go of the feelings and lets them push him forward rather than think to the back of his mind.

This movie deserved Best Picture and Director for 2007 because of the fact that I have never seen a more stunning, magnificent illustration of human greed and corruption. There Will Be Blood is a movie that will be seen twenty-years from now and like Apocalypse Now people will believe that the Academy made the wrong choice in regards to choosing their Best Picture winner (like anyone REALLY cares what the Academy has to say now of days). I think everyone will need to see this film at some point or another or they will have missed one of the most important films of the 21st century, and that is just a fact, plain and simple.

Just you watch. Ten years from now this film will be taught in film classes and Daniel Day-Lewis' performance shall undoubtedly be used as a subject of study in drama classes for aspiring actors and actresses.
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Dr. No (1962)
Starting a legend the Sean Connery way
1 April 2009
The legend begins here as British super-agent James Bond (007) emerges for the first time. This film also introduces audiences to the smooth talking charm of Sean Connery who is able to turn the character into icon in his first quote: "Bond, James Bond." Who could have guessed back in the day that this character would become the star of the longest running film series of all time? Now, Dr. No is a good Bond film, but it isn't the best, as it is soon surpassed by films such as From Russia with Love and Goldfinger, but Dr. No does remain a great film as Sean Connery is a demanding screen presence through and through. He hasn't gotten the character to its full-potential just yet, but he certainly is close to that point (he'd perfect it in Goldfinger).

In the film we are introduced to the Bond charm and the essentials such as pretty girls, exotic locations, eccentric villains, and elaborate traps. So Bond enters in a grand fashion bringing in action that is well-ahead of its time which. Some of the action and ideas presented in this movie are things you wouldn't see much of until later in the 60s.

The final verdict is that while Dr. No is the BEST Bond film it is the first in the series and as such deserves great respect for all the things it introduces. It introduces Sean Connery and all the elements of a GOOD Bond film. This is why Dr. No is certainly the Bond film for beginner fans to the series. It is probably the BEST way to introduce someone to the Sean Connery Bond because…It's how the entire world was introduced to him in 1963! Also, the new DVDs have great picture quality and are well worth buying if you do not own the previous Special Edition of Dr. No. The picture is crisp and the sound is good and it comes highly recommended.
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Campy and dumb, but oh so much fun
1 April 2009
The Seventh entry in the Bond franchise, Diamonds Are Forever follows up On Her Majesty's Secret Service with Sean Connery being pushed back into the role as Agent 007. This would be the last official James Bond film to star Sean Connery, and would be the sixth time the film featured Connery as the title character. It is somewhat a bittersweet ending to Connery's legacy since the film's campy elements seem like they would be more at home in Roger Moore's series of Bond films and not the semi-serious realm of the Connery film. I wouldn't have suspected the director of the classic Goldfinger to come back with such a campy entry in the series.

The film is very fun to watch and probably has some of Connery's best comic one-liners ("It seems you've caught me with more than my hands up") and is amusing to watch, but it suffers in so many other aspects. It really does usher in the 70s Bond before Moore even enters the picture and whether that's good or bad is up to the viewer to decide. If you are a fan of the Roger Moore Bond films you will probably like Diamonds Are Forever, but if you're expecting a more serious, Connery Bond film on the level of Thunderball or Goldfinger you'll most certainly be disappointed. Even though Connery stars this really is essentially the first "Moore" Bond film.

That being said I found this movie very entertaining, if not up to the standards of Connery's other five films. Diamonds Are Forever may be a dopey film in premise, but it's an incredibly amusing film that you should just go along with.

If you don't want campy Bond just avoid this movie, but if you're like me and enjoy most of the Bond films you will probably enjoy the lunacy that is Diamonds Are Forever.
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Thunderball (1965)
Was my father's favorite Bond film
1 April 2009
The fourth film in this infamous series of espionage features Sean Connery returning to the role that brought him international fame. Of course it would be insane to imagine anyone else in this role at this point in time for the fledgling series that would go on to be the longest running series in the history of cinema.

The film begins with Bond still stuck in the ongoing war between himself and the conning SPECTRE organization and has acquired special attention from their mysterious faceless, cat-stroking mastermind who has now decided that James Bond, Agent 007, must be taken out of the picture before he further meddles with the affairs of SPECTRE. But who in their right mind would want to take on the British super-agent? SPECTRE's Number 2, Emilio Largo seems up to the task shortly after the death of Number 6 at the hands of 007 in the beginning of the film.

Largo's plan centers on the hijacking of two nuclear warheads which would cause enough fuss to attract any super-spy to the area, and he intends on it. Of course, why bother with a fully equipped agent if you can take Bond out when he's still recovering after his previous mission? Well, it turns out that even in relaxation James Bond isn't entirely defenseless and manages to leave the Spa unharmed...of course he doesn't leave without some invaluable information regarding Largo's plan.

Off to the Bahamas goes Bond, where he finally lets his womanizing go too far, nearly leading to his death, but once again he sweet talks, and dances his way out of danger (Literally!). Of course an Agent's job doesn't only center on sex and alcohol. It's actually serious business, as he discovers Largo's fortified estate (complete with a pool of sharks) and yacht are the center of this nuclear weapon plot. So you'd think this sounds easy enough for our dear agent 007, right? Wrong. You forget that Number between one and five in the SPECTRE organization is going to have a countless number of faceless henchmen ripe for the killing (So many hired hands...What do they pay all these scuba troopers?).

The entire thing leads up to one of the most interesting, violent fight sequences in the entire Bond franchise as a giant underwater battle erupts between SPECTRE and a group of Scuba commandos (joined of course by Bond) as they attempt to prevent Largo from detonating the bombs off the coast of Miami. Excitement and bloodshed erupts and the title of "Most Violent Connery Bond Film" is one by the end.

Sean Connery as usual proves that he IS James Bond and delivers his lines perfectly. At this point Connery obviously has the character down to near perfection. He can fight, shoot, smoke, gamble, drive nice cars, and seduce women and make it come across as convincing. This is definitive proof that he was born for this role and that the series wouldn't have gone very far without his leaving such a great impact upon his initial run as the character.

Adolfo Auger also makes for a good villain. Cold, heartless, and delivers his lines with the vicious nature of a shark. He is a driven villain, seeming to only desire to further impress his superior in SPECTRE, yet he never stoops to the rank of simple henchmen. So he works for himself, but also to impress his leader, but at the same time it feels he tries to detach himself as far away from the central SPECTRE organization as possible. Maybe he intends to prove himself and break away and form his own organization? He obviously has the money and resources to do so (unless ALL of that comes from SPECTRE).

This was my father's favorite Bond film growing up and I agree that it is a classic that is a worthwhile movie, though the one complaint I have is that it has several slow parts that seem to drag endlessly, but these are rare.

Also, the remastered picture quality on the latest DVDs is great, and if you don't already own the 007 editions from earlier this decade I'd highly recommend the Ultimate Edition of Thunderball, because it has quite a few extra features for you Bond fans (but not so many that it entirely outweighs the 007 edition; so if you have that release there is no need to buy again).
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GoldenEye (1995)
Best Bond film of 1980-2000
1 April 2009
GoldenEye is one of the best runs in the infamous James Bond franchise for many reasons. To start off, this is one of the few 007 adventures combining camp, humor, and gritty realism all in one while still providing the amazing set-pieces you would have come to expect from the original Bond films. This is a new flavor for James Bond, yet has enough home touches that it feels right at home in the series.

Being the 17th entry in the never-ending series revolving around the British super agent this film had a lot of history to live up to, but under the direction of Martin Campbell (who would later comeback to direct the superb Bond film Casino Royale) this is one of the most fun and thrilling entries in the entire series. There is homage to the original Bond films, but this film also takes full liberties to make itself an entirely new, refreshing entry in the franchise.

Tina Turner provides the vocals for a very classy opening song (with lyrics and music written by Bono and The Edge). As far as "Classic Bond Songs" go I can say that over the last fifteen years this is by far the most classic Bond song ('You Know My Name' from Casino Royale is my favorite, but it lacks the characteristics of a "classic Bond" song). The opening montage that goes to the song is also on of the most intricate, visually fascinating ones I have seen in ANY Bond film and really gets the audience pulled in.

Okay, now that the little aspects of this film are out of the way Let's take a look at the things that really make this a special entry in the 007 Franchise. This is the film also brought in a new Bond in the form of Pierce Brosnan, who plays the part exceptionally well. Brosnan brings wit and charm to the role like a mixture of Connery and Moore with his own twist added in. This Bond is cool-headed, but when confronted with the thoughts his own actions it becomes apparent that Brosnan's Bond is a man who hides lots of feelings under his cool façade.

The villain of this film is something you'd think the Bond franchise would have done before and that is the concept of a MI6 agent who is a friend of Bond going rogue. Alec Trevelyan (006) is played by actor Sean Bean and makes for a particularly cold, and coolheaded villain who being someone who knows Bond close gives dialogue that you have never heard before in any other Bond film.

"I might as well ask if all those vodka martinis silence the screams of all the men you've killed...or if you've found forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women, for all the dead ones you failed to protect." That is what Trevelyan says in this film that you have probably have never thought of before when watching James Bond. This is one of the defining aspects of GoldenEye because it is one of the few Bond films that effectively asks the question "Who is James Bond, and why does he do what he does? How does he live with himself? Of course the villains aren't the only ones confronting Bond with this question. Even Bond's girl of the movie turns against his charm to question his attitude and his actions. Natalya (Izabella Scorupco) goes so far as to ask Bond why he's so cold, to which Bond replies with an emotionless stare: "It's what keeps me alive." In the days of Connery he'd never be asked that, and he would never reply in such a manner, which shows a more human aspect of Bond's humanity. It is modern and somewhat shocking to see Bond, one of the greatest icons on cinema be asked these questions and it allows the audience to actually sympathize with the lovable character who has always manages to spend time in casinos, shoot bad guys, escape from exotic traps, and make it out safe and with the girl.

GoldenEye is one of the best entries in the James Bond franchise, and Peirce Brosnan makes for one of the best Bonds I have ever seen and it is really a shame that in his later films he wasn't provided the proper scripts that would have allowed him to truly leave his mark on the franchise. It is a shame that Campbell didn't do any more of the entries with Brosnan, but he did bring us the brilliant Casino Royale.
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GoldenEye 007 (1997 Video Game)
One of the best, most influential shooters of all time!
1 April 2009
GoldenEye 007 is not only the best movie tie-in game of all time, but it is perhaps the most influential first-person shooter ever to hit the gaming-console market. If you aren't aware of the plot of this game that's not a problem, because essential it is the same as the popular James Bond movie, GoldenEye, which was released in 1995- two years prior to this game's release.

This is a game that is filled with techniques and styles that would be mimicked in many future games to come, and it gives the player a wide variety of objectives, and difficult challenges. The A.I. is smart (especially on higher difficulty settings) and the environments are complex enough to provide entertainment, as well as difficulty to any gamer.

The introduction of logical hit-points on your enemies is a great feature. Even bosses in this game can be taken down with a well-aimed shot to the head. It is this type of realism that really makes you feel like your James Bond and that you can sneak in, sneak out, covertly taking out henchmen as you go, or springing alarms and having to go through massive shootouts. Because of this there are many ways to beat the game, and limitless possibilities for how you accomplish your tasks. AKA: You can take easy ways or hard ways of beating levels...and if you don't have a strategy guide you'll have to find out those paths by yourself (which, I might add, is incredibly fun if you want to waste a day away).

This is one of those games that the more you play it the more you're able to value its contributions to the gaming industry. Each time I play it I notice aspects that have been replicated in many following FPS games. So if you have a Nintendo 64 go ahead and dust that sucker and order a used copy of GoldenEye 007, because trust me, as a Bond fan, and a casual gamer I can say that this game is highly recommended for all those who want to step into the shoes of James Bond, or just have an awesome, intense gaming experience.

(Also make sure to look out for its sister game, Perfect Dark, which is also on the N64, following the same controls, and very similar weapon uses.)
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By far Moore's best film!
1 April 2009
The Spy Who Loved Me was a film that I had always wanted to see and upon finally seeing it I can safely say that it is the best film in Roger Moore's run as James Bond. It is full of humor, wit, and charm, as well as action that was true to the Connery films of the 1960s (something that was lacking in Moore's previous films, Live And Let die, and The Man with the Golden Gun). It involves a plot to hijack nuclear submarines by shipping tycoon Karl Stromberg, who lives in a underwater lair...But who cares about him! The only villain you people really want to see here is iconic henchmen, Jaws. Yes, that towering man with a metal teeth who fits his job description well. "This is jaws. He kills people." Of course they should have said: "And cars, gates, sharks, chains, wires...pretty much anything he gets his hands or teeth on."

Of course James Bond has to stop this from happening, so after teaming up with the very attractive Russian agent known as Triple X Moore jumps into action (I wonder what Bond and "XXX" will be up to by the end of the film...). Together they face against the best that our dear friend, Stromberg, can throw at them, ranging from Jaws to random assassins. By the end, in true Bond fashion, our hero and a team of soldiers take on an army of henchmen in a giant supertanker while (of course) fighting against the clock to the facility's self-destruct timer. Like any Moore film The Spy Who Loved Me is just plain fun and you can sit down and enjoy watching every second of it. It isn't as good as the Connery films, but at the same time it isn't at all a bad Bond film. Personally, I think if you're someone who generally dislikes Moore this is the Bond film for you. It is the closest of Moore's outings to the original Sean Connery adventures and several moments are even able to bring out the charm of those earlier films.

So if you're not a fan of Moore you don't have to see *all* his outings as James Bond, but if you have to choose a single Moore Bond film to own The Spy Who Loved Me takes the cake as his most professionally done 007 film.

Trust me; you don't want to miss out on this one.
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Perfect Dark (2000 Video Game)
Exciting science fiction adventure!
1 April 2009
Perfect Dark is hard to review because in many ways it is the same as Rare's previous shooter, GoldenEye 007, but in other ways it is so much better. In short, Perfect Dark is the perfect, non-official, sequel to GoldenEye 007. Sure, the settings are different, and there are some different weapons (after all this IS a science fiction based game), but overall you can still see the loving touches the developers brought back from GoldenEye.

The game is set in a well developed science fiction environment and many of the levels provide difficulties that are handled by the new features added to the character's options. The wide range of weapons is one of the major improvements over its predecessor, GoldenEye, as well as the unique plot (after all, this one isn't based on a movie). So the plot is an interesting one involving alien invasions and government conspiracy and does keep the gamer interested throughout its run, but without a doubt my favorite feature of this game that I found lacking in GoldenEye 007 is the actual use of voice actors. Joanna Dark and all the other characters in this film have a voice we can link to their image, while with GoldenEye we'd have to go back to the film to recall the voices of our characters.

Of course, the major improvement over GoldenEye 007 is the multiplayer feature which is fun, and do to a wider range of weapons the gamer is allowed to execute new strategies, so overall Perfect Dark really is an expansion of GoldenEye 007 as well as being a great gaming experience by itself.

This is a game that is great to play back-to-back with GoldenEye 007, because you should probably learn the controls from GoldenEye before you play this game because it makes it a lot simpler (but I suppose you could play this before you play GoldenEye, but I'm someone who likes to play/view in chronological order).

So if you enjoyed GoldenEye 007 (as so many other people have over the years) you should certainly dust off the Nintendo 64 and come back to this perfectly worthy successor.
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