Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quantum Of Solace

Went last night to see the new 007 movie, and i have to say it does not disappoint. Like most people, I was hesitant when they cast Daniel Craig as the new James Bond. He was a relatively unknown actor, blond hair blue eyes, not at all how we expect Bond to look. But over the years, I came to realize that you cannot truly judge how an actor will play a part until you see them do it. With the release of "Casino Royale" all my fears were put to rest. Craig is easily the best Bond since the great Sean Connery. I have personally liked every actor who has played Bond, I feel they all gave their own touch to the character, all of them played it a bit differently than the others did. "Die Another Day" was a good Bond film, but the cheese factor was really getting amped up, invisible cars, chases through ice hotels, it was just getting too over the top, even for 007. "Casino Royale" took Bond and started over again, it was his first mission as a full fledged agent, and we were able to see his flaws, he was not the smooth talking debonair ladies man we all came to know, but a blunt instrument, almost a loose cannon.

Well, that continues in "Quantum Of Solace", which picks up shortly after the end of "Casino Royale". The film opens with a balls to the wall car chase, a great pre-credit opening. You can tell that 007 is out for revenge for the death of Vesper Lynd, the woman he fell in love with in the last film. Even though she betrayed him, he clearly loved the woman, and wants to know why everything went the way it did. He tries to convince his superiors that he is motivated by his sense of duty, but we know better. Some people complained that the last film contained none of the humor that was always present in past films. Well, not much changes here, although there are quite a few good funny moments, definitely more than last time. The action in this movie is frantic, and edited in that way. That has been one of the complaints I have heard about this movie. I will admit that it is a bit crazy at times, yet I found myself not caring, the action was so good that it didn't really bother me as much as I thought it would. The opening car chase, a boat chase and a plane chase are all great action sequences. The villain, Dominic Greene, is not exactly your typical Bond bad guy, he is effective though, although I would have liked him to be a bit more menacing, but for what he was in this movie, he was effective. It was also nice to see Jeffery Wright back as Felix Leiter, although I wanted to see him a bit more involved, hopefully the next movie will do that. The climax of the film is great and leaves things wide open to continue with the mystery of what the Quantum organization is.

There is no Q, no Moneypenny, no gadgets, and I don't know if there are any immediate plans to bring them into this new Bond series, but you know what? That's fine, this is a new version of 007 and so far what we have been given has been awesome. If they do decide to bring back some of the traditional characters and the gadgets, I am confident that they will do so with the same grit that they have used in the two films we have been given. This is a new 007, it is not the 007 that our parents knew, or even one we know, but it is a great interpretation of the character, and truer to what author Ian Fleming had wanted the character to be, and I for one, welcome the continued adventures of Bond, James Bond.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Commentary: Know It Alls

I go on many movie sites, always looking for information on current and upcoming movies. Most of the sites I go to have some sort of forum or message board for members to post opinions and comments. Naturally, there are many types of people at these sites. Smart, stupid, funny, annoying, clever, nasty, among others. The ones that annoy me the most, are the "know it alls". These people put forth an image of a person who knows all there is to know about movies, they are never wrong and if you disagree with them, you are just a fool who doesn't know as much as they do. The reason I am writing about this is because of a thread of comments over at regarding the trailer for the 2009 release of JJ Abram's "Star Trek". There has been much secrecy surrounding the movie, but we were finally given a full blown trailer this past week, and the reaction has been mostly positive. The trailer itself is only about two minutes long, and doesn't really reveal much as far as plot, but gives us a lot of cool images. I would have liked to have seen a bit more, and the trailer was edited at a very fast pace. But it is the most footage we have seen thus far, and although it was not much it looked pretty promising. Any fan of movies knows that trailers are not always a true representation of a movie's overall quality. They tend to show what the studios feel are the films best qualities, what they feel can lure audiences in. We have seen many movies that had great trailers and what was shown in the trailer turned out to be the best parts of the film, the rest being mediocre, or even bad. But regardless, it is almost impossible to judge if a movie will be good or bad based on two or three minutes of footage. I, like many others, have formed an opinion of a movie based on the contents of its trailer. But I always reserve final judgement after I have seen the finished product.

This brings me to the subject of my commentary. In the thread of commentary over at, there are many members who have already decided from two minutes of footage that "Star Trek" will be a worthless, steaming pile of crap. There are others who are saying that it doesn't look good, or what they have seen is crap, and that is fine, opinions are just that opinions. But it is the group of individuals that have already decided that the movie is going to suck that really bother me. I don't know what their reasons are, maybe they hate Star Trek, maybe they are Trek fans and hate what has happened to Trek in the past 20 years or so, perhaps they hate JJ Abrams and feel he isn't the right man for this project. The only thing I can understand is Trek haters, and their opinions really don't mean all that much to me anyways, although there were a few admitted non Trek fans who did say the trailer looked pretty good. But it's the ones who like Trek in some form that have already decided this movie will suck that bother me. When you try to have an intelligent discussion with these fools, all they do is tell you over and over how you are wrong and that the movie will suck and that's it. Sometimes they give reasons as to why they think what they do, and even so, things change from trailer to final cut. The funny thing is when they do give reasons, they come across as so arrogant and all knowing it is hard to take what they say seriously at all. They just come across as thinking they know everything there is to know about movies, and that their opinion is the only one that matters. If you argue with them you are wrong, you don't know as much as they do as far as they are concerned, and you will never be able to change their mind or even consider a different view no matter how good or convincing your argument may be. They are so convinced of their superiority that they will most likely go to see the movie they claim will suck, and no matter how they actually feel about it, they will return to the website they ranted on and say things like "It sucked just like I said it would" just to prevent themselves from looking like a total fool. They insult you, going so far as to telling you what kind of movie fan you are, or even the kind of person you are. Obviously these are incredibly insecure people who find some sense of self worth by doing and saying what they do, because what kind of person has a need to make themselves feel superior to a bunch of strangers, people they don't know but need to feel superior too. Regardless of their reasons, this group of people are annoying and their opinions are worthless, because all film is subjective, no one opinion is the right or wrong one, unless of course you talk to one of these self proclaimed geniuses.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Blast From The Past #4

Time for another blast from the past, where I talk about my favorite movies from years back.

This time I will talk about a little movie called "The Hidden" an action/buddy/sci-fi movie. Released in 1987 and starring Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Nouri, it is the story of 2 aliens, one a violent, murderous criminal, and the "cop" pursuing him. When the villain's body becomes useless, it transfers itself to another body making it extremely difficult to track. Kyle MacLachlan plays the alien cop, and Michael Nouri is the human cop who gets involved in this crazy hunt. This film went relatively unnoticed when it was released, grossing a meager $9.7 million. I saw this in the theaters and to this day it is a very enjoyable movie, but kind of got lost in a shuffle of 80's schlock sci-fi action flicks. It is not going to challenge your intellect by any means, but it is a fun, exciting ride with plenty of action, thrills and even a it of sentiment. The opening chase scene is one of the coolest to come out of the 80's, and both lead actors give convincing performances. Nouri is of course skeptical about the whole thing at first, but eventually realizes what is really going on. MacLachlan is subtle but convincing in his portrayal of a determined lawman, alien or not, he wants to get this criminal and will stop at nothing to achieve his goal. There are a bunch of 80's cliches in the film, but it doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the movie. The characters actually have some depth and aren't typical cookie cutter characters. I cannot understand why this movie didn't do better, maybe the studio just didn't promote it as much as they should have. It really has a bit of everything, action, thrills, humor, sentiment, and none of it feels forced. It is a bit hyper violent at times, but it never feels like the violence or action was put in there just for the heck of it. It's never boring, always entertaining. If you have not seen it, put it in your Nexflix queue, get it from Blockbuster, but check it out. It's one of my favorite films from the 80's, and it's definitely worth seeing.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Commentary: Digital EFX

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sorry it has been a while since I posted anything here, life has been topsy turvy lately, and I am hoping to get back on track with posting here.

The world of visual effects has been steadily advancing since they started being used. Digital effects came along and so much changed, and for the most part, the change has been good. I have been seeing a lot said about this topic on other websites, but something that one person said really made me mad, it was something to the effect of "If you complain about digital effects, YOU ARE OLD and can't get past blue screen and obvious stuntmen". I am guessing that statement was meant to say that older visual effects techniques are outdated and useless, and that digital effects are the new thing and should be fully embraced and accepted.

I do applaud the advancement of digital visual effects and their use in film. My problem with them is that they are used way too much in film. It seems like the lazy way out, instead of building something that looks like whatever it is you want it to look like, just make a digital image of it and it will look just as good. WRONG. I was watching a few older sci-fi movies recently, circa 1979-1981, and I noticed something. Spaceships that were made from models and NOT digital images, look way more real, because they were real, the detail, the lighting, was all real, not computer generated. Shadows and lighting just don't look as good when produced digitally. The T-Rex from "Jurassic Park" was real, it looked real, someone took the time to make it look as genuine as possible. Look, I am not opposed to technology improving the way movies are made. There are a lot of things you can do with digital effects that you could never do with bluescreen or stuntmen or models. But just because you can use digital effects for everything, doesn't mean you should. In this years "Iron Man", director Jon Favreau used a nice balance of digital and practical effects, a good example of a director taking the best of both kinds of visual effects and using them where they were best suited, not for everything. Unfortunately, not all film makers take that direction. Even in the new "Star Wars" movies, which I loved, digital effects were overused. I absolutely loved "I Am Legend" with Will Smith, but even in that movie the biggest gripe with a lot of people was that the creatures were very obviously CGI. While that is true, I felt the movie was powerful enough that I was able to overlook that. But that is just another reason why digital effects are overused, for some people it can take away from the overall movie experience if the effects are not convincing. In many movies, explosions and fire are digitally produced, and it is usually pretty obvious. For me, that creates no illusion of danger, and therefore I feel no excitement. Yes when the fire and explosions are real it makes you feel the danger, because it IS REAL, doesn't matter if it is stuntmen or staged sequences, it still looks real.

I don't want to get rid of digital effects, I just want film makers to look at what works best and use it, not just decide that digital is the only way to go. I want to look at a movie and believe what is going on around me, not sit there and say "Oh that is so obviously CGI", which is what I find myself doing now more than ever.