Established May 2010.

Gordie: Do you think I'm weird?
Chris: Definitely.
Gordie: No man, seriously. Am I weird?
Chris: Yeah, but so what? Everybody's weird.

Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

Member of THE LAMB: The Large Association of Movie Blogs LAMB #1588

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Friday, November 30, 2012


I missed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel while it was in theaters, but now that it is on DVD/Blu-Ray I thought it would be the perfect movie for DeeAnn McArdle and Unleash Your Inner Foodie. DeeAnn has graciously posted my review on the blog section of her website. Here is the beginning of it:

It’s Foodie Movie night at the McArdle’s and we can hardly wait to watch tonight’s feature – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel! A big thank you to our favorite movie critic; Paul McGuire for this recommendation and review. I’m off to the grocery store to buy some ingredients to make some Indian spiced nuts, Chutney and Naan to nibble on as we watch the great Judi Dench and Maggie Smith in their adventure! Enjoy!

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Director: John Madden
Starring: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson
Evelyn (Dench) is a recent widow and is going outside her comfort zone. She is traveling to India to spend some time at an exotic hotel specifically designed or the elderly and beautiful. Her son comments on how she has never done anything without his dad in her life. She is joined by a group of others that are
also taking this pilgrimage for their own specific reasons. Graham (Wilkinson) is retiring from being a judge and is moving back to India. Jean (Downton Abbey’s Penelope Wilton) and Doug (Nighy) are looking for a less expensive place to retire. Muriel (Smith) needs to have hip surgery and a surgeon in India happens to be the cheaper solution for her. Madge and Norman are two singles looking for adventure.

To read the rest click: HERE



Have you seen this Judi Dench and Maggie Smith adventure? I would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to leave them below or comment on DeeAnn’s website! I highly recommend checking out her entire website while you are there. There are so many delicious recipes and dining guides for any occasion or holiday!
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Movie Review: FLIGHT

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, Tamara Tunie, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood

I do not think people realize how much faith they are putting in their pilot every time they board a plane. It may become more apparent after seeing Flight, Robert Zemeckis’ first live action movie since 2000's Cast Away. It is another day on the job for William “Whip” Whitaker (Washington), a pilot at the top of his game. It is severely raining outside but that does not seem to be of any alarm for Whip. He does his routine checks and is ready to face the sky like any other flight he has piloted. The plane lifts off and continues until the storm becomes worse and proves to be too powerful for the plane. The plane goes into a steep dive forcing Whip and his co-pilot to maneuver it to avoid crashing and killing every passenger on board. They are able to control it by inverting it and guiding it closer to an open landing field. The crash landing is nowhere near as horrendous as it could have been. Six people total, four passengers and two crew members, perish during the crash. Whip is taken to the hospital and proclaimed a hero. No one could have landed the plane the way he did.

Little does everyone know that previous to boarding the plane, Whip did not sleep, got drunk, and snorted lines of cocaine with one of the flight attendants. He awakens from a concussion in the hospital and is surrounded by Charlie Anderson (Greenwood) a long time friend and representative of the union as well as members for the NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board. An investigation into the accident will occur as six people died in the crash. His friend and drug dealer Harling Mays (Goodman) picks him up when he is released and takes him to his father’s farm to avoid the media circus that is awaiting him at his own apartment. He sees the accident as a calling and promptly dumps any and all traces of liquor and drugs found in his place. While at the hospital, he meets fellow drug addict Nicole (Reilly) and invites her to stay with him at the farm.

Toxicology results come back positive for Whip showing the alcohol and drugs that were in his system while he was flying the plane. Attorney Hugh Lang (Cheadle) is hired as Whip’s lawyer to deal with the new predicament. Whip could face the rest of his life in jail as the deaths of the crash are now being investigated for manslaughter. With these new allegations, Whip returns to bottle as his coping mechanism.

Movies about alcoholics are never easy to watch. Even if you do not have any personal experience with knowing an alcoholic, the concept still manages to punch you in the gut. Denzel Washington is so good at these types of damaged characters that it makes it so much harder for the audience. I mean that in a good way. Whip is such an unapologetic and bullheaded character that every time he reaches for that bottle, you cringe in your seat. You just wish that for once he would hold himself accountable and make the better choice. I wish the costume and make-up designers would have roughened up Whip and Nicole a bit more. They both seem too pretty and put together for two characters that are that deep into addiction.

Despite Zemeckis' twelve year hiatus from live action movies, Flight proves that he still can deliver a top notch, well-executed movie. Once the storm is brewing, you are put in the co-pilot's chair until the very end of the crash. It is one nail biting, gut wrenching scene. Washington and the rest of the cast all deliver outstanding performances never trying to play the "drunk" or "victim" card. Tamara Tunie has a touching scene with Washington during the funeral as she stands up for her morals over her long friendship with Whip. John Goodman excels at his usual sidekick character as the Hawaiian shirt wearing dealer of Whip’s. He is a good comedic break that the movie needs so it doesn’t feel too bogged down in heavy topic of addiction. The story provides such interesting moral dilemmas. The plane malfunction was proven to be the fault of the accident, but do you still hold Whip accountable due to his poor choices? Can you still consider Whip a hero?

RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Movie Review: LIFE OF PI

Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall, Gérard Depardieu

Pi Patel (Khan) has an extraordinary tale of survival and faith to tell. Some may even find it too hard to believe. He sits down with a writer (Spall) and goes back to his to childhood and how he received the nickname Pi. He was named "Piscine" after a French swimming pool his parents attended and loved. He was horribly teased in school and called "Pissin' Patel". He promptly shorted it to Pi, like the math symbol, after he had enough of the taunting. He grew up in a strict Hindi home, but learned Christianity and Islam out of personal intrigue. His father was not impressed by the idea of him following three different religions. Pi and his family lived on a zoo and botanical gardens. He found a curiosity in the animals, especially a bengal tiger named Richard Parker

Pi's father breaks the news to the family that they must give up their life in India and move to Canada. They board a Japanese freight ship to bring all of the animals with them to Canada in order to sell them. A heavy storm approaches with fatal results. Pi (Sharma) is the only one that gets to a lifeboat in time and miraculously escapes just in time. The other members of the ship, the animals, and Pi's family all perish as the ship sinks. After the storm subsides, Pi comes to and realizes he is not alone on the small lifeboat. A zebra, hyena, orangutan, and Richard Parker the bengal tiger have all survived and are present on small boat with Pi in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Pi's belief in God is severely tested after losing his whole family and not knowing if he will survive against the tiger and the effects of Mother Nature.

Many people thought that the film adaption of Yann Martel's book was simply impossible. Many movies where you have one actor alone in the middle of nowhere trying to survive can be tricky. How do you keep the story going and moving forward? How do you keep the audience interested? Add in the fact that you have a tiger and are in the middle of the ocean, and you have a recipe for disaster. The movie could look all too CGI and fake and you would lose half the audience.

Ang Lee is the only director I can think of that could capture this story. When you watch any of Lee's previous movies, you will notice his great attention to capturing nature and how it affects his characters. Among the themes of Life of Pi are nature and survival. Lee and cinematographer Claudio Miranda use 3D and digital effects so realistically that you forget you are watching a 3D movie. It is not jarring or jokey. The 3D enhances the storm and ocean by adding a depth and dimension without feeling like things are flying in your face. I have read that the Richard Parker is mainly CGI, but a couple of shots are of a real tiger. This may be one of the best uses of a CGI animal. The effects team seamlessly goes between the CGI and real tiger with no interruption. It was only until the ending that I felt like I was watching a CGI effect, and I normally grow tired of CGI within the first twenty minutes of a movie.

Life of Pi is bar none one of the most beautiful movies of the year. I encourage people to pay the few dollars extra to see it in 3D as it enhances the experience without it feeling gimmicky. When movies are specifically made for 3D and not converted post-production, the 3D feels far more effective and part of the director's vision. I do not feel like it is part of some studio ploy to get more money. Suraj Sharma is remarkable as the younger Pi. Knowing that this is his first movie and that it was shot in sequence is all the more fascinating. Ang Lee has created another visual feast that stands out as one of his best movies.

RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)

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Director/Writer: David O. Russell
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker

You know those movies that you go in not knowing much about it, but you come out blown away? For me, that movie is Silver Linings Playbook, the latest from David O. Russell. Pat Solitano (Cooper) has been released from a psychiatry facility. His mother Dolores (Weaver) picks him and his friend Danny (Tucker) up and brings him back to their house. Pat comes back to realize his life is not the same as it was before the incident happened. He no longer has his job as a teacher and is determined to get his wife back. His traditional Philadelphia Eagles loving OCD dad Pat Sr. (DeNiro) is not even aware that he was released early.

Pat seems a little clueless about his mental state of being diagnosed as bipolar. He thinks he has it all together and it will be no time before he gets his wife back. I have no idea why he would want her back. She is a fellow teacher, and he goes about reading the books on her syllabus as a way to win her back. He is also running to get in shape again. He cannot seem to shake his short temper and anger management. Even the ending of "A Farewell to Arms" sets him over the edge.

During a dinner with his wife's sister (Julia Stiles), he meets Tiffany (Lawrence). She is a firecracker along the same lines as Pat. She has a history of baggage having previously been married and a reputation of being crazy and a slut. Their friendship blooms the more they interact and challenge each other. Pat helps Tiffany enter a dance competition in exchange for her helping him reach out to his wife.

I always thought Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were good actors, but even I did not expect them to be so fantastic and sharp in this movie. Cooper has finally found a movie that can show off his skills as a serious actor. I think we all came to acknowledge that he was just the good looking sexy guy that can either play the "bro" type character in The Hangover or Wedding Crashers or star in action movies like The A-Team or Limitless. Pat Solitano is an adventurous departure for him. Cooper knows how to play him with truth and conviction without playing just bipolar stereotypes. Along with Cooper, you can expect Jennifer Lawrence to anticipate another early morning call on Oscar nomination day. At the ripe age of 22 she can hold her own against likes of Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver. She shows off the multitude of dimensions to Tiffany to prove that she is more than the flawed crazy slut she is scapegoated to be. She should have no troubles proving that she is capable of playing more characters than Katniss Everdeen and Mystique.

Silver Linings Playbook is the perfect example of a movie that seems pretty simple and full of standard rom-com fair on the outside, but in the inside it packs a wallop of a punch and takes you by surprise. The relationship between Pat and Pat Sr. is just as important to the story as the one between Pat and Tiffany. David O. Russell directed and wrote the movie based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick. He has cast a superb ensemble of actors that play outside their comfort zones, but are perfect at playing these characters. Even though I do not know anyone in my life quite like any of them, they were all believable and relatable. I always enjoy watching a movie that is a great character study, especially when you have two actors at the top of their game. I would expect multiple Oscar nominations especially in the acting categories. It will definitely have a spot on my Top 10 of 2012 list.

RATING: ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Movie Review: LINCOLN

Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jared Harris, David Strathairn, James Spader, John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson

If you go into Lincoln expecting to see Steven Spielberg's take on his assassination, you are going into the wrong movie. You will also not see a movie focused on his whole presidency making you feel like you are back in history class seeing a badly narrated movie. Even though the assassination is included, Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner focus their film on Lincoln's (Day-Lewis) battle to pass the 13th amendment to abolish slavery.

Lincoln was opposed to slavery and needed to get enough votes in the house to have the amendment pass. At the time, there was a sharp divide between the people regarding the equality of the races. Lincoln must also deal with the timing and outcome of the Civil War as the results of each have a drastic impact on the other one. On the side of the president we have his Secretary of State William Seward (Strathairn) and staunch abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens (Jones) among others. Opposing them and opposing the amendment are Democratic Congressman Fernando Wood (Pace) and Ohio representative George H. Pendleton (Peter McRobbie) to name a few.

Lincoln did not have it easy dealing with his family life back inside the walls of the White House. His wife Mary Todd Lincoln (Field) is having a hard time dealing with the death of their middle son William. She was a strong supporter of her husband's politics and was always a presence at the house hearings. Their oldest son Robert (Gordon-Levitt) has left school and returned home to fight in the war against his parents’ wishes. They are far too fearful of him perishing in combat. He joins the Union Army and is an attendant under Ulysses S. Grant (Harris).

The brilliant Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner and Spielberg previously collaborated together on Munich back in 2005. He has based his screenplay on a small portion of the epic book "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Many political movies tend to feel stuffy and slow. Sometimes those movies are so full of themselves that they expect you to be a history major in order to understand what is going on. His screenplay is smart, intelligent, and funny without feeling too high brow or too smart for your standard movie going audience. He knows how to make his characters three dimensional and real without them feeling like the stiff caricatures we may have in our heads of who these people might be. Kushner has never been known to write a simple and short script. I applaud him for finding a way the keep the courtroom scenes quick and snappy. I found myself on the edge of my seat as if I did not already know how it was going to end.

When you have a rich story to tell full of historical personalities, you need a top-notch ensemble of actors. Spielberg has gathered another fine company of actors. You can scroll down the cast list and notice the plethora of heavy hitters that are known for being fantastic character actors. It seems as if anyone was willing to be a part of this movie no matter how big or small the role happened to be. You most likely will not even notice that Kevin Kline plays "Wounded Soldier". Kushner has given them all such brilliant material that each character has their moments to shine. Tim Blake Nelson, John Hawkes, and James Spader are hysterical as the three negotiators that Lincoln hires to go out and get the vote from some of the strongest house members who oppose the amendment. Gloria Reuben is quite moving and touching as Elizabeth Keckley who is always at the side of Mary during the hearings. Tommy Lee Jones is one of those actors that always seems perfect for his part. You know he is still Tommy Lee Jones and his gruff voice and attitude is there, but it always seems to work for each of his characters. There is plenty of humor with his character as well. His subtle facial expressions speak volumes. Sally Field could easily walk away with her third Oscar for his performance as Mary Todd Lincoln. The movie does not focus necessarily on how disturbed many people thought Mary was, nor does it just paint her as a grieving mother. Field knows when and where to play each emotional side of her character whether she is yelling at Abraham or putting her foot down toward Thaddeus Stevens.

The core of this ensemble belongs to Daniel Day-Lewis. The Academy should just print his name on the envelope at this point. I do not believe any other actor will be stiff competition for him. His approach to playing our sixteenth president is a master-class in acting. Never once did I think I was watching Daniel Day-Lewis. I never thought about Daniel Plainview, Bill the Butcher, Christy Brown, or any of his other characters. I was watching Lincoln fight for his beliefs, struggle to keep Robert out of the war, and deal with the death of his middle son. Like many of his followers, I was enthralled by his speeches and metaphors. Day-Lewis found the perfect voice for Lincoln that will make you forget about any notion of him being a deep-voiced man. He knew how to carry a room and the actor knows how to command the screen.

Many people think Spielberg has been hit or miss lately, but even his toughest critics will come way applauding this movie. Sure, it still has some flaws and you may agree or disagree with how he and Kushner end the movie. Lincoln is his best film since Saving Private Ryan. It is one of the most important films to see in theaters right now not only to see how one of the greatest presidents shaped history, but to see how it resonates with the politics we face in today’s society. Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field could easily walk away with their third Oscars. Tommy Lee Jones should expect a nomination and possibly a win. The whole ensemble of actors do strong work making their characters stand out no matter who small or minor they are to the story. I hope the movie encourages people to care about history. Hopefully, you may find yourself picking up “Team of Rivals” or stopping on the History Channel the next time there is a story about the Lincolns.

RATING: ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

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Sunday, November 18, 2012


Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Mackenzie Foy, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene)

When we last left off at the end of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, Bella (Stewart) has turned into a vampire in order to save her life after give birth to her daughter Renesmee. Now that she is a vampire, her senses are heightened and she must learn how to control her hunger. In one of the more exciting moments in the movie, Bella and Edward (Pattinson) go off to learn how to hunt. Bella is all too thirsty when she sees a mountain climber barely hanging on. Back at the Cullen home, Renesmee is growing at an alarming rate as she is part vampire and part human. That will be a tough one to explain to Bella's dad (Burke). Renesmee has also been imprinted by werewolf Jacob (Lautner) to protect her against the werewolf clan.

One day when Bella and Renesmee are out playing around, Irina (Maggie Grace) who is part of another coven sees them and believes Renesmee is an immortal child that must have been born as a human and turned into a vampire. She knows this is against the laws and covenants of vampires and reports against them to Aro (Sheen) and the rest of the Volturi clan. The Volturi are one of the oldest covens and are based in Tuscany, Italy. They are thought of as royalty with Aro being the ultimate one in charge. They have strict rules regarding the relationships between humans and vampires.

Alice Cullen (Greene) has a vision that the Volturi are coming and alarms the rest of the Cullen crew. Parental units Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) and Esme (Elizabeth Reaser) gather up vampires from various covens throughout the world to gather and stand up for them against the Volturi. They can bear witness that Renesmee is non-threatening and is part human. In addition to the multitude of vampires, Jacob gathers the rest of the Quileute wolf clan to defend the Cullens.

After five movies, we have come to the end of the film adaptations of Stephenie Meyer's four part teen vampire/werewolf saga. Anyone that is a fan of the books will continue their love with this final movie. They will look passed the cheese ball dialogue or the emotionless Kristen Stewart. To her credit, she actually gives her best performance as Bella in this final movie. The audience I sat with applauded once again when Taylor Lautner took his shirt off as well as during other times that were vital to the story or were key elements of the series. One of my biggest beefs with the series of movies is that they tried so hard to please fans of the book that I do not think they did much to open it up to a newer audience or fan base. Dialogue is ripped right from the book instead of making it better. The tone of the movies stay pretty innocent and simple without ever feeling gritty or nail-biting.

Not only does the movie boast Stewart's best performance, but it also has the best fight sequence. The epic battle at the end will keep you engaged as limbs and heads are ripped off with no mercy. There is even a little twist that could divide the audience to either saying "That's it?" or "That was clever!" The end credits pay tribute to every actor that has appeared in the series even if they weren't in this final movie like Bryce Dallas Howard or Anna Kendrick. Is it bad to say that one of the best parts of the movie is the final credits?

RATING: *** (3 out of 5 stars)

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Movie Review: CLOUD ATLAS

Director: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weavig, Jim Sturgess, Hugh Grant, James D'Arcy, Doona Bae

"Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime; and every kindness we birth our future."

Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer are the powerhouses behind The Matrix Trilogy and Run Lola Run. They have teamed up to bring us the big screen adaption of the novel of the same name by David Mitchell. They each wrote and directed various segments of the movie. The movie is one hell of an ambitious undertaking. It asks the audience to go through a visionary tale of six vastly different stories spanning 472 years from the South Pacific Ocean in 1849 to a post-apocalyptic world in the Hawaiian Islands in 2321.

The stories are all different, but are interwoven and connected. There are little touches here and there that help the audience connect them. Many of them are very minor and subtle, so I wouldn't spend a lot of time trying to mentally connect them. The most notable is a shooting star birthmark that many of the characters possess. The idea behind the movie will still resonate if you just sit back and watch without thinking too much throughout the movie. The basic concept behind the film as a whole is that our individual actions whether they be violent acts or acts of kindness are shaped and impacted by the past, present, and the future. All of the choices we make in our present life have an impact on a future life.

In order to address this, the company of actors including: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Hugo Weaving and Doona Bae all play various roles of various genders and races throughout each of the stories. The make-up is absolutely stunning as you try to play "Name that Actor" during each of the segments. Luckily, during the end credits they show each of the characters names next to the actor that played them. I found it intriguing and smart to have Hugo Weaving always play the antagonist, villain, or devil on your shoulder type character.

With a running time of nearly three hours, the movie asks the audience to follow each of the stories and care about each one of them in hopes you do not get bored and twitchy. I belong in the later category. I felt fully intrigued during the first hour or so as you settle into the stories and see where they are going. As the movie went on, I found myself latching on to the more realistic worlds and story lines, mainly the ones set in 1936, 1973, and 2012. The characters and emotions seemed more authentic and real. I am not sure what to attribute that to. Is it the fact the make-up and special effects are more minimal? Is the acting better? The best relationship between two characters belongs to Jim Broadbent and Ben Whishaw in the 1936 segment. They play so well off each other that I wanted far more of that storyline as well as the continuation of it in the 1973 segment.

I find the movie very polarizing. I cannot fully love it nor do I hate it or dislike it. I really wanted to love it, so there is a bit of disappointment to it. The special effects and make-up design are top notch. I expect it to win Best Make-Up Design at the Oscars. After giving Tom Hanks and Halle Berry six very different looks, I do not see how it could lose. Even though those design elements make the movie a stunning artistic achievement, I was the least interested by the segments that utilized those effects heavily. It was as if the emotion and story was stripped thin in order to focus on the artistry and design. There will be people coming out of the theater loving everything about it. They will be the ones enraptured for the three hours. You will have others that will feel bored and that the concept is too preachy and the movie is far too long. I am somewhere in the middle. I love the concept and idea behind the movie. I love the fact that the same actors played multiple characters throughout especially when they were of a different genre or race. I just wish I would have connected to all of the stories.

RATING: *** (3 out of 5 stars)

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Reflections on Bond. James Bond.

Over the past few months I challenged myself to watch and review every Bond film leading up to the release of Skyfall. You can find reviews of the first 22 Bond films here. You can find the review of Skyfall here. I had watched quite of few of them in the past, but I had never taken the time to watch them all in order. I fell in love with Bond when I was in high school. I would randomly pop them in and watch them at the video store where I used to work. My friend Jenny gave me a DVD box set that had six of the movies in there for my birthday one year. Naturally, the studio did not put them in order so you were forced to buy all three sets.

It has been a pleasure watching the movies in order. It is fascinating to watch them and and see how the films change depending on the decade, the budget, and what is popular at the time. The movies are an interesting reflection on film culture at the time they were made. They usual seem to be inspired by whatever the latest trend at the time happened to be. You cannot help to watch Live and Let Die and not think about all of the other blaxploitation movies of the time period. Moonraker was not scheduled to be the next Bond film when it was released, but the studio rushed to make that story to capitalize on the sci-fi trend of the late '70s.

If you are a Bond enthusiast, you know what you like out of your Bond movies. Do you like sultry theme songs like the Shirley Bassey numbers? Do you like your Bond girls tough and smart like Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore? Do you like the gadgets gimmicky or more realistic? Do you like the plot lines to be more realistic or far fetched? Are you a purist that thinks Connery will be always be the best Bond or do you prefer Daniel Craig or Pierce Brosnan? My ideal Bond movie has a realistic plot and villain, a henchman that won't seem to die, tough kick-ass Bond girl, sexual tension between Bond and the Bond girl, gadgets (but not too many), a dry sense of humor, and a sultry theme song. Do not get me started on the absurdly silly final Roger Moore movies. I feel like the series seem to revitalize itself whenever a new actor came in to play Bond. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is one of the better movies and that was the first one to not feature Sean Connery. The Timothy Dalton movies felt fresh and action packed compared to the final Moore movies. The movies tend to feel stale and boring the longer an actor stayed in the role. A View to a Kill is the worst of the Moore movies. Die Another Day is the worst of the Brosnan movies.

Here are my picks for the best and worst regarding some of the classic elements of a Bond movie

The Movies (from Best to Worst)

1. Skyfall (2012)
2. GoldenEye (1995)
3. Casino Royale (2006)
4. Goldfinger (1964)
5. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
6. From Russia With Love (1963)
7. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
8. Live and Let Die (1973)
9. The Living Daylights (1987)
10. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
11. The World Is Not Enough (1999)
12. Licence to Kill (1989)
13. You Only Live Twice (1967)
14. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
15. Dr. No (1962)
16. Octopussy (1983)
17. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
18. Die Another Day (2002)
19. Quantum of Solace (2008)
20. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
21. Thunderball (1965)
22. A View to a Kill (1985)
23. Moonraker (1979)

Best Bond: Daniel Craig
Worst Bond: Sean Connery.
Close second goes to Moore because he played the role for far too long

Best Bond Girl: Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger
Worst Bond Girl: Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough

Best Villain: Gert Forbe as Auric Goldfinger in Goldfinger.
Close second goes to Lotte Lenye as Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love.
Worst Villain: Charles Gray as Blofeld in Diamonds are Forever

Best Henchman: Richard Kiel as Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.
Close second goes to Harold Sakata as Oddjob in Goldfinger
Worst Henchman: Grace Jones as May Day in A View to a Kill

Best Gadget: the infamous Aston Martin D85 in Goldfinger
Worst Gadget: the crocodile submarine in Octopussy

Best Theme Song: "Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey
Close second goes to "GoldenEye" by Tina Turner
Worst Thee Song: "All Time High" by Rita Coolidge from Octopussy
Close second goes to "Another Way to Die" by Jack White and Alicia Keys from Quantum of Solace

Feel free to leave your comments below regarding all things Bond. I'd love to hear you thoughts some of your favorite Bond movies! What are some of your favorite gadgets or theme songs? Who is your top villain?

Here are some other Bond related posts I have written recently
The "Bond. James Bond." Challenge
My Review of SKYFALL
The Top 5 Worst Bond Girls

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Movie Review: SKYFALL

Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe

Every great Bond movie starts with an action packed opening before the credits start. If it is exquisitely executed, it should give you a taste of what the rest of the movie is going to be like. Sometimes it involves the rest of the plot, and sometimes it stands on its own. Skyfall may have the best opening sequence to date. Bond (Craig) discovers a coveted hard drive has been stolen and a fellow MI6 agent has been shot. He informs M (Dench) over headset and she orders him to go after the killer, Patrice. Bond joins Eve (Harris), another MI6 agent, as they chase after him. After taking a bullet in the shoulder and numerous food stands and train cars are destroyed, Bond and our thief are in combat on top of a moving train. Eve is off in the distance reporting the action to M. She is close enough to take a shot at Patrice, but the risk of hitting Bond is too great for her to go along with the shot. M orders her to "take the bloody shot". Bond is hit and falls down into the river. He is presumed missing in action and possibly dead.

M is devastated after making a call that ended in the possible death of coveted MI6 Agent 007 James Bond. Gareth Mallory (Fiennes) is the new head of Intelligence and Security Committee. He calls a meeting with M informing her that she is being forced into early retirement. She learns that her computer has been hacked into on the way back to MI6 headquarters. As they pull up to headquarters, an explosion goes off in the offices and six employees are killed.

Bond used his supposed death to retire himself. He learns of the attacks at MI6 and heads back to London. He shows up at M's flat and informs her that 007 is reporting back to duty. M agrees, but informs him that he must go through numerous evaluations to make sure he is fit for duty. The time off has made Bond weak and unsteady. Even though he fails his evaluations, M officially hires him back on. Bond uses the shrapnel from his shoulder to trace the bullet back to Patrice to find out who he is employed by. The stolen hard drive contains the names and identities to various undercover MI6 agents. M discovers that the identities are being leaked. Bond heads to Shanghai to find Patrice. Further investigation leads Bond to Silva (Bardem), a sadistic terrorist. Silva is a former MI6 agent who worked with M and blames her for his capture and torture by the Chinese.

In various articles I have read, Sam Mendes has mentioned that he was very inspired by Christopher Nolan and The Dark Knight when shaping his approach to directing a Bond film. The inspiration is very evident when watching the film. The story involving a terrorist and revenge is a very realistic approach that you don't see in a lot of the older Bond films. Mendes and screenwriters John Logan, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade flesh out these characters we've come to love by giving them a back story this time around. The movie is not really an origins story, but you learn more about the relationship between Bond and M as well as about Bond's childhood. Daniel Craig and Judi Dench are masters at both of these characters. They bring a depth to the characters that we never saw in earlier Bond movies. The audience really understands that Bond is a flawed character. He is a lot more than some strapping hunk of a hero that will come rescue you and defeat the bad guys.

The film is beautifully shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins. The nine time Oscar nominee has previously worked on previous films by Sam Mendes and consistently shoots all of the Coen Brothers movies. His way of shooting the action sequences, especially the opening train scene, keep you on the edge of your seat. The mix of close ups and wide shots make you feel like you are on top of the train with Bond and Patrice, and the wide shots give you the scope of how crazy the stunt work is. The other fight between Patrice and Bond in Shanghai is very intricately shot and lit with them in darkness against the neon blue background lights.

This is Daniel Craig's third time playing Bond after starting his run off with a bang in Casino Royale which then was followed up by the dismal Quantum of Solace. I know there may be some Connery purists out there, but Daniel Craig is James Bond. He is sexy and suave whether he's in a suit or a tiny swimsuit. He brings the dry wit that other Bond actors failed to do. He can tackle any action scene and stunt work thrown at him. He has a natural chemistry with many of his leading ladies. Judi Dench commands the screen as M like nobody else could. She brings out the maternal side of M and gives her a sense of humor that works well with Craig's Bond. I have loved watching her work as M over the years, especially as the story in Skyfall centers around her. Javier Bardem won an Oscar for playing bad guy Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. He sure knows how to play sinister men. Silva is one of the best Bond villains. He is completely sadistic and psychotic without feeling too campy or over-the-top.

Mendes' love of the Bond franchise shows as he incorporates all of those elements we love about the series into Skyfall while making them feel fresh and current in today's society. You have your Bond girls, an evil villain, gadgets, a sultry theme song written and performed by Adele, and intense action sequences without any of it feeling hokey and gimmicky. If you know your history, you will pick up on little nods to the past. These homages are done subtly without feeling too "wink wink-nudge nudge". If you are a die-hard Bond fan, you will love the 23rd outing. If you are new to the series, hopefully you will become a new fan. Is this the best Bond movie to date? Yes, as a matter of fact, I think I would rank it that way.

RATING: ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

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