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Spectre

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If Skyfall rebooted the franchise with a fresh set of faces and a modern tone, there’s an expectation that Spectre might seem like Bond simply going through the motions. Sure, the 24th film in the long running franchise hits all the hallmarks we’ve come to know and cherish, but Spectre goes the extra mile and has more than a few tricks up its sleeve. Here is an uncompromisingly confident action film, that works not only as an engrossing spy thriller, but as another grand entry in Daniel Craig’s string of hits as the British agent.

Spectre reunites director Sam Mendes with screenwriter John Logan and team Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, and this winning formula has made another homerun. After the attack on MI6, the agency finds themselves at a crossroads. M (Ralph Fiennes) is under pressure from a new security agency headed by Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), who wants to shut down the 00 program. We find our favorite 00 agent following a trail of clues that leads him from Mexico City to Rome to Austria, where, after revisiting his past, Bond must protect Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux). She leads him to the elusive group known as SPECTRE, headed by villain Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).

While the script might not be as tight as Skyfall’s, the characters are what keep the momentum going. Daniel Craig has fit the character like a glove, and it’s hard to imagine the series going on without him. His physicality and charisma bring charm and wit to the dialogue, and he shines in his scenes with Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Miss Swann. Speaking of, Lea Seydoux is simply remarkable, as she matches Bond in more ways than one. The most memorable Bond girl since Vesper, Madeleine gets under Bond’s skin and sees how he functions, giving us some excellent chemistry and steamy scenes.

Spectre recalls previous Bond films even moreso than Skyfall did, and this might be the film’s biggest strength and weakness. All of Craig’s films have been connected quite loosely – every film seems to have a scene in which a villain says “you really don’t know anything, do you?” as if to imply something bigger at stake. This keeps the audience wondering if the top villainous organization of the week will ever be toppled, and it gets a bit rote at times. The villain this time around, Franz Oberhauser, portrayed by the brilliant Christoph Waltz, is a bit of a mixed bag. He certainly brings the charisma and poise and meets all the requirements in the job description, yet his character falls flat. His evil plan is a bit hazy, and bottom line there simply aren’t many scenes with him that make an impact, apart from a merciless torture scene. The same can be said of Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci), a widow who leads Bond to Spectre. Bellucci received high billing, only to have a total of four minutes on-screen – it’s quite disappointing considering the talent on display here.

But when Spectre works, it fires on all cylinders. The globe-trotting environments lend themselves well to remarkable sequences, and I think there are a few here that will be all-timers. The opening sequence, while not as lengthly as Casino Royale‘s, is a doozy, as Bond grapples with a helicopter above Mexico City on the Day of the Dead. The tight camera work from Hoyte van Hoytema coupled with the brilliant sound mixing make it an unforgettable sequence. Another one aboard a train in North Africa finds Bond putting up fisticuffs with the brute henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista). You can feel the weight of their punches as the uneven match escalates, and you’ll be on edge throughout.

Mendes knows when to pull back from the action and give emphasis on the quieter moments as well, and they’re no less thrilling. A great scene in the mountains of Austria features Bond and Q (Ben Whishaw) visiting Madeleine at her clinic, all while being pursued by Oberhauser’s men. These scenes aren’t as showy as the outlandish production of a Day of the Dead parade (rumor has it the budget ballooned past $250 million), but they serve a greater purpose and have the signature Bond flair. Additionally, the side plot with M and C launching a new global security initiative works well and has ties to the main plot, all while feeling increasingly relevant to today. In a year overflowing with espionage films, from Kingsman to Spy, it can be tough to stand out, yet Spectre manages with grace.

If Spectre will only be remembered as Bond by the numbers, it might seem like it belongs in a rank of middle ground Bond films, ones that serve only to push the series to its next installment rather than stand on its own. Yet Spectre isn’t that film. The smart script keeps you invested throughout the entire 150-minute run time, and Mendes and team ensure that you’ll never get bored. Daniel Craig has kept the series breathing with his trademark quips and pulse-pounding thrills, and the supporting cast has definitely staked their claim in the franchise’s future. Whatever happens to the Bond franchise after Craig, Spectre is a reminder that not every entry must reinvent the wheel, at its core it must simply be a good film.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

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Joey’s Top 10 Movies of 2012

2012 is behind us now, and I’ve finally had a chance to see all the films that I’ve wanted to from last year. We’ve had quite a few gems and many big blockbusters last year, ranging from The Avengers to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and now I’m going to compile them into what I think were the top 10 movies from 2012.

10. 21 Jump Street

I’m not one for raunchy comedies like this, but something about 21 Jump Street caught me off guard. It had a lot of charm for an R-rated comedy, similar to Bridesmaids in 2011, and the leads (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) were great choices for a buddy comedy. It’s consistently funny, and, unlike Ted, doesn’t rely on stupid visual gags to work. It’s the best comedy of 2012, and a sequel is do out in a few years.

9. The Dark Knight Rises

I didn’t like The Dark Knight. Now that that is out of the way, Nolan’s finale to the epic Batman trilogy that spanned 7 years is a fitting and exciting conclusion. The new characters are excellent, especially Catwoman and Lieutenant Blake, and Christian Bale is back in top form. Bane didn’t have the same effect that The Joker did, mainly because hardly anything can top Heath Ledger, but he still was an exciting villain nonetheless. I never got confused, and the plot wasn’t contrived, unlike in The Dark Knight, where I had no idea what the hell was going on.

8. Wreck It Ralph

I love animated films, and Disney has had a few missteps after the great 90s Disney Renaissance. Thankfully, Wreck-It Ralph was not one of them. It’s a very funny, very smart animated film, with a lot of easter eggs for retro gamers who grew up with characters like these in arcades. The lesson in Wreck-It Ralph is great, and families will love it.

7. Lincoln

Lincoln was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Steven Spielberg has done an excellent job bringing our 16th president to life on the big screen. Lincoln teleports you back to the 1860s, when a crucial decision about slavery fell into the hands of our congressmen, and Spielberg brings this era to life. Great set pieces and beautiful costumes make you feel like you are there, and you get swept up in all of it. Daniel Day-Lewis gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Abraham Lincoln himself, and the supporting characters are also stellar.

6. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

This one is a bit lesser-known, but everyone should see this film. Steve Carell and Kiera Knightley star as two offbeat pals who try to reunite Carell with the girl of his dreams, all while the apocalypse is among them. The end of the world backdrop provides an interesting narrative push, and there is a great sense of urgency, as you begin to know and love the two lead characters. It is funny in one scene and heart-wrenching in the next, and though the finale of the film is not unexpected, the ride was definitely worth it.

5. Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino’s bloody, violent action film about a slave-turned bounty hunter is one of the reasons I love cinema. No where else can a story this well-told be presented, and Tarantino does it best. Jamie Foxx stars as Django and Christoph Waltz as his mentor in this salute to spaghetti westerns. It’s bloody, it’s funny, and it’s one hell of a good time. Leonardo DiCaprio provides us with one of the best and most interesting villains this year, and Django should definitely be seen by cinephiles and action movie lovers alike.

4. Moonrise Kingdom

I had not been exposed to any of Wes Anderson’s works prior to seeing Moonrise Kingdom. Initially, I didn’t know what to think. Anderson’s cinematography and presentation style is very different, and this one may seem a bit too offbeat for even the regular moviegoer. Two young lovers try to reunite in this fun adventure tale that is subtly funny and never lets up. It’s highly original, and should definitely win for Best Original Screenplay.

3. Silver Linings Playbook

If you’ve read my review, you know I’m crazy over Silver Linings Playbook. Bradley Cooper’s character is fresh out of a mental institution, and as he tries to re-connect with both his family and his ex-wife, he falls in love with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), and together they have a spark of their own. Playbook is a crowd-pleaser, thanks to excellent performances by both Cooper and Lawrence, and also by Robert DeNiro as his father. The film is both wickedly funny and highly emotional, and it is one of the year’s best.

2. Skyfall

James Bond’s 23rd outing is a resurrection of sorts of the franchise. It introduces many new characters, such as the new Q, played by Ben Whishaw, and the new Moneypenny, played by Naomie Harris. It is a love letter to even the oldest Bond fans, and includes many callbacks to past movies in the series, that will please old and new fans alike. The villain this time around is Silva, played with wit and vigor by Javier Bardem, and he is one of the most unique and memorable villains in years. The plot has many twist and turns, and the action scenes are some of the best in the genre.

1. Argo

Ben Affleck’s political thriller about the Iranian Hostage Crisis easily tops my list. It’s a tense, heart-pounding ride that surprisingly mixes humor with political drama. Affleck directs and stars as Tony Mendez, who is tasked with smuggling six diplomats back to the U.S, all while under the cover of a movie crew. Like last year’s The Artist, Argo makes a movie about movies work. All politics aside, it is one of the best thrillers ever made, and Affleck should be commended for his work.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Other

 

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