Archive | November, 2012

Lincoln

17 Nov

Synopsis: Steven Spielberg directs a story of Abraham Lincoln.  As the Civil War continues to rage, America’s president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield and as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.

CAST

Daniel Day Lewis…………………………………………………………..Lincoln

Sally Field……………………………………………………Mary Todd Lincoln

David Strathairn…………………………………………………William Seward

Joseph Gordon-Levitt………………………………………….Robert Lincoln

James Spader……………………………………………………………W.N. Bilbo

Hal Holbrook…………………………………………………………Preston Blair

Tommy Lee Jones……………………………………………Thaddeus Stevens

John Hawkes………………………………………………………Robert Latham

Jackie Earle-Haley………………………………………..Alexander Stephens

Bruce McGill…………………………………………………………Edwin Stanton

Jared Harris……………………………………………………….Ulysses S. Grant

Review: It’s hard to imagine that an American icon like Abraham Lincoln was soft spoken and human, we all think of him as a giant among men. It took an extraordinary actor, Daniel Day Lewis under the direction of another American icon, Steven Spielberg to bring this human story to life.

There is are so many subtleties to Lewis’ performance, he nailed Lincoln’s plain folk speech, Lincoln’s war weary hunch and slow walk, and of course his resemblance to Lincoln is remarkable. The story unfolding before us, tells us of Lincoln’s final few weeks of life as he struggles to pass the 13th Amendment and abolish slavery. The civil war has been going on for four years and he has been elected to a second term in office. We see how Lincoln navigates between his duty as public servant, the leader of his country and liberal Republican party, to balancing the tensions of a war almost over, and his love for his two sons and wife.

Sally Field plays his wife Mary Todd Lincoln as both strong-willed and as someone who will defend her husband publicly. She also suffers internally and has not gotten over the death of her first born son who died serving his country in the civil war. She fights her husband and is stubborn and feisty about her political opinions.

The film is similar to the play and film 1776.  1776 tells the story of John Adams fighting for the signing of the Declaration of Independence during the Revolutionary War, Lincoln on the other hand is fighting to get the 13th Amendment passed. Through his Secretary of State, William Seward, played by David Strathairn, Lincoln arranges some backdoor politics to secure the 20 votes he needs to pass the amendment.

Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens, a cantankerous congressmen and abolitionist. It is not beyond him to cut his opposing Democratic Party congressman down to size and interrupt their speech making even though they may hold the floor. He has a compassionate side and we see it as we find out his personal reason for wanting the amendment to pass.

There are many fine moments and performances in the film, Hal Holbrook plays Preston Blair, and he gives a solid performance, Jared Harris plays a convincing General Grant and David Strathairn plays William Seward with ease.

The costume and set design are accurate and enhance the story in a believable way. Like any good story you are drawn into the time and place. The movie’s running time is 149 minutes but the time goes by quickly. Spielberg is a master at historical drama, this is one of his best. Like 1776 you are sitting at the edge of your seat even though history has showed us the outcome.

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SKYFALL

9 Nov

Synopsis:   Bond: Everyone should have a hobby. Silva: What’s yours?  Bond: Mine is resurrection.

Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

CAST

Daniel Craig………………………………….Bond, James Bond

Judy Dench…………………………………………………………M

Javier Bardem………………………………………………….Silva

Ralph Fiennes…………………………………..Gareth Mallory

Naomie Harris……………………………………………………Eve

Bernice Marlohe………………………………………….Severine

Albert Finney………………………………………………Kincaide

Ben Whishaw…………………………………………………………Q

Helen McCrorey……………………………………….Clair Dowar

Nicholas Woodson…………………………………………..Dr. Hall

Review: Bond is back in his 23rd outing and better than ever. Sam Mendes has directed what is possibly the best Bond film in the franchise. This tightly knit thriller, starring Daniel Craig in his third Bond film, tells the story of a vendetta against M, played by a brilliant Judy Dench. The story opens not with the typical camera iris but instead right in the middle of the action. The screen is unfocused and suddenly the shadow of Bond appears walking forward and into focus. Bond is chasing after his enemy, in Budapest, who has stolen a hard drive from MI6 agents. The hard drive contains all the names and covers for all the MI6 agents world wide. M is following Bond from headquarters through the use of satellite and we see Bond with an ear gadget listening to M as she gives orders as to what to do.  Helping Bond is agent Eve, played by Naomie Harris . After a thrilling chase through a marketplace, many fruit stands turned upside down, Bond finds himself atop a train fighting with the guy who has the hard drive on a chain around his neck. Eve, in a jeep, catches up with the train before it enters a tunnel and has one chance to shoot the guy. She tells M that she may shoot Bond, Bond is literally holding the guy by his neck. She only has a second before the train enters a tunnel, M tells her to shoot the bloody gun, she does, Bond, shot, falls from the train.  Cut to M writing Bond’s obituary.

The title sequence that follows is a feast for the eyes and as with any Bond film outdoes the previous versions. The cornucopia of images of Bond and naked “Bond Girls” tells a chilling story of Bond’s death and resurrection.

The Prime Minister of England is unhappy with M and wants her replaced. Ralph Fiennes plays Gareth Mallory, the man  sent by the Prime Minister to oversee M’s retirement and transition. She will have nothing to do with it until she finds out who stole the hard drive and she gets it back. Who ever stole it, hacks into MI6’s computer network, sends M encrypted messages and blows up M’s office at MI6 Headquarters. M standing in front of the flag draped coffins of her colleagues swear she will find out who did this.

Bond, who is not dead, a has been cavorting on some Caribbean Island. When he hears the news of MI6 headquarters being hit, he returns to England and hides in M’s apartment. She finds him there and asks: “James what took you so long?”  Bond finds his world turned upside down as he comes back to MI6 and must compete with younger agents, Q is a 20 something geek, gadgets like exploding pens are considered dinosaurs, and a Prime Minister who feels the old school spy game needs to be eliminated.

Javier Bardem plays the villain Silva, he is not over the top but creepy from the inside out. His character is demented and psychologically damaged, and wants M dead. He is one of the most convincingly real villains in the Bond franchise.

So who is Silva and why does he want to kill M?  What is SKYFALL and how does it relate to Bond?  Will there be a transition of power at MI6?  What about the hard-drive?

There are plenty tips of the hat to the entire Bond series, musical cues, Q’s new take on old gadgets, the old gun in the headlights, Aston Martin makes a cameo much to the pleasure of the audience, we find there is a new Moneypenny in a very clever way and finally the camera iris dripping blood at the end credits.  The film takes us full circle.  Daniel Craig has finally made the Bond character his own, and it is exciting to watch him go from gruff and unshaven to suave and witty.  I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that is among the best films of the year. Look for the Martini being shaken……

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