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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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Recent and new on DVD

1 Apr

HUGO:

REVIEW: What do you get when a film produced by Martin Scorsese and Johnny Depp, directed by Scorsese with a world class cast of character actors in the backdrop of 1930’s Paris?  You get HUGO what is in my estimation the finest film I’ve seen this year.

Hugo played by young actor Asa Butterfield, is the story about a young boy as the film title suggest is named Hugo. He lives inside the walls of a train station in Paris in the 1930’s. His father dies, leaving behind a mysterious automaton that, when fixed, can write. Hugo makes it his mission to fix it, believing that it will reveal a message from his father. With the help of an eccentric girl named Isabelle,played beautifully by Chloë Grace Moretz, he tries to uncover a magical mystery about the old man at the toy booth (Isabelle’s godfather) and enchanting early films.

Hugo is pursued by the station inspector played to the hilt by Sasha Baron Cohen, Christopher Lee plays a wise, kindly seller of books who inadvertently helps Hugo and Isabelle uncover their mystery. Ben Kingsley plays Isabelle’s godfather George Méliès the once famous film director (think  “A Trip To The Moon” with rocket in the moon’s eye) who the mystery is centered around.

Other cameo stars you will recognize include

Richard Griffiths as Monsieur Frick (better known for his portrayals as Uncle Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films)

Helen McCrory as Mamma Jeanne (better known as Narcissa Malfoy of the Harry Potter Films)

Emily Mortimer as Lisette ( better known as Holley Shiftwell from Cars 2)

Just to name a few Martin Scorsese himself does a cameo as a photographer.

At the heart of the story is the message of finding who you are in the world and the importance of love and family.  I can’t imagine that this film will at the very least not be nominated for best picture it is a masterwork and Scorsese’s love-letter to the art and magic of the movies.

Recommended:

The Essential laurel & Hardy:

Stanley: You can lead a horse too water but a pencil’s made of lead!

This ten disc set is the one L&H fans have been waiting for a long time. Included are all the classic Hal Roach Laurel and Hardy Sound shorts and features from the 20’s and 30’s.

“Eternal pals and eternal antagonists, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are the great partnership of movie slapstick. They finally get their DVD due with Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection, a 10-disc orgy of pratfalls, slow burns, and slap fights–in short, a collection that truly qualifies as a must-have for connoisseurs of comedy. The collection contains the sound films that Laurel and Hardy made for producer Hal Roach, the man who teamed the simpering English vaudeville player and the rotund American actor in the first place (although their laughs are evenly divided, Laurel was the creative force and chief gag-inventor of the duo). Their track record is proof that it isn’t merely the jokes that make for comic success; it’s the personalities of the comedians. Thus, Stan’s dimwitted innocence and Ollie’s perpetually exasperated reactions (raised to an exquisite art by Hardy’s comprehensive glances at the camera, assuring the audience’s complicity in his misery) are the essence of their success. Some films are great, some merely passable, but all stick blissfully to character. This is on glorious display through these Roach pictures, whether it’s the boys sharing one small train berth in Berth Marks, executing their famous synchronized dance in Way Out West, or laboring to get that piano up a very steep flight of stairs in the Oscar-winning The Music Box.

The films look as good as movies from 1929 to 1940 can reasonably be expected to look. Included in the boxed set are seven foreign-language films (six in Spanish, one in French), shot in order to keep the duo popular in overseas markets, before dubbing made that goal easier. Fascinatingly, these films often extend the English-language films they are ostensibly adapted from, with different gags and plot turns–and it’s fun to hear Stan and Ollie speaking in another language. Special features include a ho-hum 40-minute tribute with testimonials from fellow comedians (especially talkative are Dick Van Dyke and Jerry Lewis); an “”Interactive Map”” with Los Angeles location sites from their movies; three Roach shorts in which L&H pop up in cameos; and a 1942 short produced for the Department of Agriculture (another L&H cameo). A few (not many) films have commentaries that include the informed Laurel and Hardy buff Richard W. Bann; Sons of the Desert has a track with Tim Conway and Chuck McCann, who don’t seem to know how a commentary track works but have a nice time watching the movie. –Robert Horton

When you think of all films that pass as comedies to a modern audience you must look upon Laurel and Hardy as the giants whose shoulders today’s comedians stand upon. Although the quality varies from film to film L&H are masters of mirth. This must have set is available at Amazon/Barnes and Noble etc.

Recommended:

Johnny English Reborn:

Synopsis

Rowan Atkinson returns to the role of the improbable secret agent who doesn’t know fear or danger in the comedy spy-thriller Johnny English Reborn. In his latest adventure, the most unlikely intelligence officer in Her Majesty’s Secret Service must stop a group of international assassins before they eliminate a world leader and cause global chaos.

In the years since MI7’s top spy vanished off the grid, he has been honing his unique skills in a remote region of Asia. But when his agency superiors learn of an attempt against the Chinese premier’s life, they must hunt down the highly unorthodox agent. Now that the world needs him once again, Johnny English is back in action.

With one shot at redemption, he must employ the latest in hi-tech gadgets to unravel a web of conspiracy that runs throughout the KGB, CIA and even MI7. With mere days until a heads of state conference, one man must use every trick in his playbook to protect us all. For Johnny English, disaster may be an option, but failure never is.

Review:   by Randy Bucknoff

Rowan Atkinson aka Johnny English in this brilliant James Bond send-up proves once and for all a ” little intelligence goes a long away”. (Double – entendre’ intended). Rowan Atkinson star of Mr. Bean and of course the Black Adder series is a bumbling MI7 agent reminiscent of Clouseau in The Pink Panther films. Like Clouseau the fun takes place in the details, touching a button on a chair in a meeting with the head of MI7 played by Gillian Anderson and the British prime minister, causing the chair to rise and descend at inappropriate moments.

Many gadgets abound including a voice activated Rolls Royce, voice changing throat lozenges, an agent in distress signaling device and a rocket launching umbrella all misused at one time or another by English.

The Rolls-Royce (updated from “Goldfinger”)  responds to the name Royce by speaking in a sultry woman’s voice . When instructed to “come” (double-entendre intended), the miraculous vehicle obeys by unleashing laser beams and cutting a hole in the wall.

Johnny, a snob and a racist, is teamed up with Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya), a smart, black junior agent who good-humoredly endures Johnny’s outrageous condescension as they pursue three assassins known as Vortex. Think Clouseau and Kato.

English manages to burst the bubble of pomposity of many people including The British Prime Minister, The Chinese Premier and The Queen of England.  The sad fact is that Mr. Atkinson’s brand of British lunacy, in which the humor breaks through a pose of stiff-upper-lip propriety, is too contained to excite the jaded American audience for gross-out pranks. Mr. Atkinson is never ferocious or lewd. He is however laugh out loud hilarious and reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy with a little Chaplin thrown in. Go see this movie, watching Atkinson is worth the price of the ticket. Also check out the killer cleaning lady. 😉

Johnny English Reborn

Directed by Oliver Parker; written by Hamish McColl, based on a story by William Davies

Cast

Rowan Atkinson (Johnny English), Gillian Anderson (Pamela Thornton), Dominic West (Simon Ambrose), Rosamund Pike (Kate Sumner), Daniel Kaluuya (Agent Tucker), Richard Schiff (Fisher) and Pik-Sen Lim (Killer Cleaner).

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