Saturday, September 14, 2019

In Defense of 'Quantum of Solace'

2008's Quantum of Solace is often referred to as one of the lesser Bond films and, while it isn't my favorite, I think that it's better than a lot of people give it credit for. I love the Bond film franchise but it isn't without it's flaws; Bond once diffused a nuclear device while dressed as a clown in Octopussy. Bond parasurfs on a horrible looking CGI wave in Die Another Day. He snowboards down a mountain on a water ski while California Girls plays in A View to a Kill. In You Only Live Twice Bond to disguises himself (poorly) as a Japanese man despite being played by Sean Connery who is 6' 2" and makes no attempt to hide his accent. Moonraker… just all of Moonraker.

With regards to Quantum of Solace, I think the film gets a bit of a bad rap. It came out just two years after, what is considered by many, to be one of the best Bond pictures, Casino Royale. I remember as a fan having high, and maybe unrealistic, expectations for the follow-up to that film. There are some things I don't like about this entry in the series but I think there are plenty of positives too. I like Daniel Craig as James Bond and I like that this film builds off of the events of Casino Royale rather than being another one-off Bond adventure. Also, Judi Dench is always great as 'M' and the song "Another Way to Die" by Jack White and Alicia Keys is one of my favorites of all the Bond opening credits songs.

A criticism I hear a lot is that this movie is boring. Boring? The movie contains a car chase, a chase on foot across rooftops, and a boat chase all within the first 25 minutes. Later there is also an aerial action scene, and a shootout in an exploding hotel... I think the plot is a little underdeveloped and the villain's plan isn't incredibly interesting but, I personally haven't ever considered it a boring film. My only critique of these action scenes is that I feel the editing is a bit frantic. 

Overall, I don't think Quantum of Solace should be considered one of the great Bond films but, it's not one of the worst in my book either. I think more people should give this one another chance. 
It gets a solid 3 out of 5 from me.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Beneath the Darkness

2011's Beneath the Darkness was one of my recent bargain bin finds and I picked it up because it sounded like it had potential.
The film is about a small town mortician named Vaughn Ely (played by Dennis Quaid) who's wife died a couple years back. One night, some high school kids decide to sneak onto Ely's property because there is a rumor his house is haunted. When the kids see the silhouette of people dancing through the window and notice Ely's van isn't there they decide to break in a search for answers. While inside the find the dead body of Ely's wife, and are soon confronted by Ely himself. While three of the kids escape, one of them is thrown down the stairs and killed by the mortician. Of course the police don't believe the kids story that this pillar of the community is a murderer and, after all, they did break into his house. Two of the teens Travis and Abby (played by Tony Oller and Amiee Teegarden respectively) refuse to let Ely get away his terrible deeds. So, set out to get proof that he's an insane murderer, nearly getting themselves killed in the process.

This isn't a good movie. The acting is dodgy and the film struggles to fill it's hour and a half runtime. The premise may sound intriguing but, its not executed well. If you happen upon this one on a streaming service or in a bargain bin, don't waste your time.

1 out of 5.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A Look Back At Men in Black

Released in 1997, Men in Black was a huge hit at the box-office. It was the #3 highest grossing film of that year, earning around $589 million worldwide and coming in just behind The Lost World: Jurassic Park. This success led to a franchise consisting of three sequels (you can check out my review of the most recent one, Men in Black: International HERE) and an animated T.V. show. So, how does the original hold up after 20+ years?

The film has a relatively simple and accessible premise; There are aliens living amongst us, and there is a secret organization known as the Men in Black in charge of monitoring and policing these aliens while they're on Earth. One of these senior MIB agents, Agent K (played by Tommy Lee Jones) needs to select and train a new agent. His choice is a NYPD officer named James Edwards (played by Will Smith) and, upon accepting, Edwards becomes Agent J. Of course this is a movie, and it's only about a hour and a half long, so Agents J and K soon find themselves in pursuit of a vicious alien with the fate of the entire planet at stake.

Overall, as a sci-fi version of a buddy-cop movie I think it works well. Most of the dialogue between Smith and Jones is fun and I think both actors turn in solid performances. The visual effects are a bit of a mixed-bag. While a lot of the make-up effects look great, some of the CGI hasn't held up as well but, none of it is distractingly bad. I think it's a pretty well-paced film, the Danny Elfman musical score is solid, and the whole movie is full of memorable moments and quotable lines.
I give this one a 3.5 out of 5

Monday, September 9, 2019

A Look Back At The Avengers

It's been a number of years now since The Avengers hit theaters and I think it's about time that I take a look back at the film. 

Of course, I am referring to the 1998 film The Avengers which is based on a British television series from the 60's, and not the film based on characters from Marvel Comics. Despite starring a strong core cast of Uma Thurman, Ralph Fiennes, and Sean Connery the film was a critical and commercial flop and often appears on 'Worst Films Ever Made" lists. However, over time it has become one of my favorite bad movies.

The film is about British secret agent John Steed (played by Fiennes) who needs to team up with a doctor named Emma Peel (Uma Thurman). Dr. Peel had previously worked on a weather controlling system called the Prospero project, which has been recently sabotaged by someone who looks exactly like her. This doppelganger happens to be a clone who is working for the evil August de Wynter (Sean Connery). August de Wynter's plan is to use his weather controlling machine to force the world's leaders to buy good weather from him for a hefty price. So, it's up to Steed and Peel to foil August de Wynter's diabolical plan.

Overall, yes it is a bad movie. It's campy, a good chuck of the effects haven't  held up, the ending feels rushed, and it's not particularly well written or acted. I rewatch this one every so often and, while I have fun with it, I still can't really recommend it.

1.5 out of 5

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Space Cowboys

Released in 2000, Space Cowboys stars Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner. Like many of his films, this one was also directed by Eastwood. 

The film is about four former (and now elderly) test pilots who get the unlikely opportunity to fly a mission into space. The reason NASA is sending a group of senior citizens on a shuttle mission involves an old satelitte with an outdated guidance system created by one of those pilots, Frank Corvin (played by Eastwood). Frank is the only man in the world who knows how to repaire the guidance system and he is determined to get himself and his old test pilot buddies into space. The four were stripped of the chance to become astronauts some 40+ years ago by the very same man who is now incharge of this mission, Bob Gerson (played by James Cromwell). So, even though much of the characters motivation comes from the desire to go into space, it's also partially fueled by revenge. Of course, they do end up in space, the mission doesn't go quite according to plan, and one of them has to sacrifice himself to avoid a major disaster (spoilers: it's Tommy Lee Jones' character). 

Overall, I don't think Space Cowboys is a great movie... it's just ok. The acting is pretty good and the special effects mostly hold up. However, the plot is a little thin, at 130mins it feels too long and drags a bit, and a decent chunk of the dialogue is just referencing how old these guys are. If you never seen this one, and always wanted a version of Grumpy Old Men but in space, then this is right up your alley. Otherwise, I don't think it's a must-see.
2.5 out of 5

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Dirty Work

1998's Dirty Work wasn't a hit with critics and it didn't perform well at the box-office. However, if you're like me and a fan of Norm Macdonald's brand of comedy then it's a pretty enjoyable movie. 

Directed by Bob Saget, and starring Norm Macdonald and Artie Lange, the movie is about two long-time friends, Mitch and Sam (who later find out that they're actually brothers) that need to come up with $50,000 to pay for their father's heart transplant. So, they start a revenge-for-hire business called "Dirty Work". There doesn't seem to be a shortage of people willing to hire the two, but not for a substantial enough amount of money to save their father's life. That is until they are offered $50,000 by land developer Travis Cole (played by Christopher McDonald) to wreck an apartment building so that all the tenets will move out and he can bulldoze it. Of course, this is a trick and Cole has no intention of paying them. After being stiffed for the money, Mitch and Sam plot their elaborate revenge which will not only net them the cash Cole owes them but, will also land him in jail.

It's a pretty straight forward plot and it's just barely enough to keep the string of gags held together but, I think it works. In addition to Macdonald and Lange, the film also features Chevy Chase as a gambling-addicted heart surgeon, cameos by Don Rickles, John Goodman, Rebecca Romijn, and Adam Sandler, as well as Chris Farley in his last film role. This obviously isn't going to be a comedy that resonates with everyone but I really do think it has quite a few funny moments throughout. 
3 out of 5.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Bone Tomahawk

Although advertised as a "Horror-Western", 2015's Bone Tomahawk doesn't hit with wall-to-wall scares or even much gore, relative to it's 132 minute runtime. While some seeking out a straight horror film may find this a bit disappointing I think it's a very engaging film. 

Shortly after a drifter comes to the small frontier town of Bright Hope he is shot in the leg by the town Sheriff (played by Kurt Russell) and taken to jail under suspicion of murder. The town's doctor Samantha O'Dwyer called upon to treat the prisoner's wound. However, in the middle of the night the drifter, the doctor, and the deputy who was at the jail, all go missing. Upon finding an arrow in the building and consulting with a local Native American, who identifies the arrow as belonging to a savage troglodyte clan, the Sheriff quickly gathers together a small group of men to assist him in searching for the missing persons. This group consists of the doctor's husband Arthur O'Dwyer (played by Patrick Wilson) who despite having a broken leg insists on going, the 'backup deputy' Chicory (played by Richard Jenkins) and John Brooder (played by Matthew Fox) who has some experience with this type of matter. 

This movie is only a couple of years old and it had a very limited theatrical release, so I won't give anymore of the plot away because I do recommend seeing it. The film is a slow-burn, yet very suspenseful because you never know what may be waiting for this ragtag group just over the next ridge. This movie doesn't have a ton of action and relies heavily on good performances from the main cast to carry the heavy lifting. Luckily, I think all of the acting is solid throughout.

If you're a fan of Westerns and you haven't seen Bone Tomahawk, then I definitely recommend checking his one out.
 4.5 out of 5