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From the moment he exploded onto screens in 1962’s “Dr. No,” James Bond – 007 – has cast a suave and swaggering shadow across the cinematic landscape.

It doesn’t matter that multiple actors have played the role. It doesn’t matter that there’s little to no consistency or constancy to the timeline – some events carry forward, others are forgotten. Over the course of decades, we’ve watched assorted Bonds ply their craft. They thwart elaborate plots with even more elaborate gadget-driven schemes, saving the world and inevitably falling into bed with one or more beautiful women.

That’s it. That’s the job. Or at least, it was.

Things changed when Daniel Craig assumed the mantle. For the first time, Bond was more than an unstoppable heavily-armed lothario in a tuxedo. Craig lent a heretofore unseen gravitas to the character, creating someone who actually dealt with the consequences of his actions, both bad and good. There was no more wiping clean of the slate – Bond’s deeds had lasting impact.

“No Time to Die” is Craig’s fifth – and final – outing as James Bond, and as far as sendoffs go, well … he certainly could have done a lot worse. It is very much a Bond movie, with all of the globetrotting intrigue and wild action set pieces that label entails, but it is also a surprisingly engaging character study of a man forced to confront the inexorable passage of time. Craig’s Bond is a flawed Bond – and arguably, the best of the lot.

Cary Joji Fukunaga helms this latest installment, taking the reins from Sam Mendes, who directed the previous two Bond films; Fukunaga also shares screenplay credit with three other writers. It is jam-packed with the sorts of extended action and convoluted plotting that marks most of the franchise’s offerings. One could argue that it is overstuffed – the runtime is a gargantuan 163 minutes – but considering that it doubles as a farewell to its lead actor, I’d say that it deserves to take as much time as it likes.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 20 February 2019 13:53

‘Alita: Battle Angel’ fights the good fight

Considering the popularity of sci-fi/fantasy fare, you’d think that Hollywood would be better at adapting Japanese anime and manga for American audiences. However, whether it’s a cultural divide or an aesthetic difference or what have you, the undeniable appeal of those properties usually winds up getting lost in translation.

So when I started seeing ads for “Alita: Battle Angel,” I was skeptical. Based on Yukito Kushiro’s popular “Gunnm” manga from the early 1990s, it’s the sort of complex, thematically dense work that Hollywood has traditionally screwed up. Why would this time be any different?

But then I looked closer. It’s a marvelous collection of talent. You’ve got Robert Rodriguez, one of the best “genre” filmmakers of his generation, directing. Rodriguez also co-wrote the screenplay alongside Laeta Kalogridis and James Cameron – yes, that James Cameron – who also served as producer and has been moving this project forward for the better part of two decades. Oh, and there’s also an incredibly talented cast featuring far more Oscar winners and nominees than you might have anticipated for a seemingly straightforward sci-fi shoot-‘em-up.

Does it live up to that pedigree? Maybe not quite; there are some clarity issues regarding the storytelling and a few uncanny valley concerns regarding the CGI. However, there’s no disputing the vivid visual nature of the film; there are dynamic set pieces scattered throughout. And the performers all treat the material with due respect, resulting in nuanced and complex performances beyond the standard genre fare.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 03 January 2018 13:49

‘Downsizing’ comes up short

Sometimes, a film is simply less than the sum of its parts.

Take “Downsizing.” This movie has everything you could want in terms of quality entertainment. You’ve got a talented writer-director auteur-type at the helm in Alexander Payne. You’ve got a top-tier movie star playing the lead in Matt Damon. You’ve got a dynamite high-concept premise that offers fertile ground for satire with room for both humor and hubris.

All the pieces are here. Unfortunately, “Downsizing” can’t figure out just how to put it all together, leading to a film filled with tonal inconsistencies resulting in a haphazard narrative. Instead of assembling one puzzle, this film tries for three or four different pictures; what we end up with is something muddled and more than a little frustrating.

Published in Movies
Sunday, 03 September 2017 11:15

Dim bulb - ‘Tulip Fever’

Historical drama tonally jarring, nonsensically plotted

Published in Movies

Blockbuster treatment of beloved character a flat, generic bore

Few fictional characters are as ingrained in the collective consciousness quite like Tarzan. From his first appearance in Edgar Rice Burroughs's 'Tarzan of the Apes' back in 1912, the story of a man born and raised in the African jungle a man who learned to live among the animals by becoming one with the animals has resonated.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 16:19

Revenge served red-hot Django Unchained'

Tarantino's latest also one of his greatest

In a lot of ways, Quentin Tarantino is the quintessential filmmaker of his generation - he really gives his myriad pop culture influences free range to shape his films. If nothing else, no one out there manages to let his film freak flag fly quite like Tarantino does. He might not be the most technically gifted filmmaker out there, but he might just be the one who is most passionate about movies in general.

That passion is what elevates his films films which could easily have become rehashed exploitative dreck into something so much more. His gift is the ability to put a handful of disparate concepts into a sort of cinematic blender and spit out a silver screen smoothie that not only works, but somehow bears his undeniably unique stamp.

Published in Movies

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