When in doubt, just get rid of Marc Forster.
James Bond (Daniel Craig)’s loyalty to M (Judi Dench) is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat (played by Javier Bardem), no matter how personal the cost.
When Mr. Craig first jumped into the role as James Bond, people were severely pissed. They said he didn’t look like the type of Bond-like character, he didn’t was too small, and worst of all, he was blond! Oh dear! Well, all of those fools’ mouths were shut once Casino Royale came around and absolutely kicked-ass, going to show that not only does this franchise show some new promise, but so does Craig as well. However, all was fine and dandy until Marc Forster got his dumb hands on the franchise and decided to release Quantum of Solace. As most of you probably already saw, I didn’t hate that movie, but I didn’t love it much either. It was an okay movie, but something was missing from it to really make it feel like a Bond movie. But now that they’ve kicked Forster out of the director’s chair, and placed Sam Mendes in it, all is well for Bond and most of all, all is well for this franchise that will continue on through it’s 50-year history. Woo-hoo!
Having a director that is most known for character-dramas and theater work, definitely made me feel a bit a scared for how Mendes would actually handle all of the material, as well as how much would feel like an actual Bond movie itself. Thankfully, Mendes made me feel less scared right from the opening-sequence where it’s pretty clear that this guy knows how to film an explosive and fun action scene, without having people tilt their heads to see just what the hell is even going on. This is something that really made me feel happy as I knew I was back to seeing a Bond film and not a Jason Bourne one, where I would constantly have to deal with shaky-cam and the constant idea that I may have to leave the theater to puke my guts out sooner or later. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic here but I think you get it: shaky-cam can be pretty damn annoying and it’s a great idea that Mendes decided not to use it and instead, go with the original look, style, and feel that we all know and love from the Bond movies.
Since 2012 does mark the 50th anniversary of Bond, there’s a lot of moments here that Mendes takes advantage of to give little winks and homages towards Bond movies of the past. All of these moments will easily make the die hard’s go ape shit in their seats, as it’s been pretty long since the last time anybody has saw 007 drive an Aston Martin in awhile, as well as do and say a bunch of many other trademarks that I won’t spoil here and it’s just great to see done on the screen once again. However, as much as this is a tribute to all of the Bond films that have come before it, Skyfall, is still it’s own original story that Mendes takes time to build up and up until every single action-sequence is filled to the brim with tension and suspense. Solace had absolutely no tension whatsoever, and was more fun to watch than nerve-wrecking, this one, on the other-hand, had me a bit fearful for Bond’s life and every scene where his life hung in the balance, I was scared as hell for the guy. It doesn’t get any more tense this year with an action movie and it’s really surprising to see that one of the best action movies of the year is done by the same dude who had a whole film revolve around Rose and Jack fighting and yelling at each other every time they’re around one another.
Aside from being the one of the best action flicks of the year, this also may have to go down as the most slickly-produced movie of the year as well. Every single scene just bleeds with cool and style that it’s hard to look away, even when things really seem to get dull, and most of that is thanks to cinematographer Roger Deakins. Most of the action scenes here are filled with color and lavish-looking settings that you can’t help but feast your eyes on what you see beyond all of the violence and action going on with Bond, and it gets even better when hit the latter parts of the movie and we see the outer-lands of Scotland, and see just how muggy and dirty a place can be, yet, with a cinematographer like Deakins, can still ooze style. The whole film, from start-to-finish, oozes style and it’s just great to see that not just in a movie, but a Bond movie none the less.
But before I go on any longer about this movie, I still have to say that it doesn’t rank-up as one of the best Bond movies of all-time, even though it seems like every single person on the face of the earth is hailing it as that. I think my problem with this movie was that some moments just felt dull and a bit uninteresting and even though I was glad that they weren’t just constantly hitting us over the head with action-sequence after action-sequence like Solace did, sometimes I really felt like there was something needed to spice the movie up. These small, quiet moments, really took me out of the film and I think because of Mendes’ theater background, is the reason why there was so many in here and used to break-up the action. Still, when that guy wanted to pump-up the action, he sure as hell did just that. I just wish that he kept it going on throughout the whole movie like I expected him to.
Aside from that problem, Daniel Craig, for me at least, still ranks up there as one of best Bond’s because the guy just has it all going for him, especially here in this movie. Because the story is about Bond getting his skills back, showing a more vulnerable side to him, and letting us know that he’s not fully ready for combat just yet, Craig shows a more human-side to this character and allows for us to relate to him and connect with him on a human-level, rather than just a super, secret-spy that we look up to because he kills the baddies and bones the ladies. Yes, he still does commit both of those actions here in this movie, but that’s not what it’s all about with Craig’s Bond. This guy has got some issues, but at the end of the day, we still feel like he’s got what it takes to take down the evil-force that stands in his way, and be able to do it by getting down and dirty, but also still being able to stay in style.
And holy shit! What an evil-force that stands in his freakin’ way, man! I must admit, I thought the casting of Javier Bardem was a bit unoriginal since the guy is most known to American audiences as the bad guy from No Country for Old Men and to go from villain to villain seemed like a dumb-way to type-cast, especially for a talented actor like Bardem. However, once again like I was proven wrong with Mendes as director, I was proved wrong with Bardem as the our bad guy for the next 2-and-a-half hours, Raoul Silva. In No Country, Bardem played Ant0n as a total bad-ass that went about his evil ways in a sadistic, but subtle way, allowing Bardem to show the real evil inside of a character, without ever really saying or being up-front about anything. Here, as Silva, the guy is so over-the-top, so obvious, and so talky that I couldn’t stop but love the guy every time he showed up on-screen. Bardem owns the screen every chance he gets and he’s one of those rare villains that actually makes you fear him not because of the technology he has to hack into the super-secret system, but because the guy’s smart and malicious, but only in the right ways for a Bond villain. If Bardem was in this movie more, I would definitely be calling for some Oscar buzz, but he’s in it for around 20 minutes and that was good enough for me because the guy takes care of business every chance he gets and if I have to see him play another villain in another movie, then hey, I have no problem with that considering the guy is a welcomed-presence to everything he does.
I think it should come as to little or no surprise that Judi Dench is great here as M, and once again gives us a performance that shows how sassy and witty one gal can be, but also still be able to show some heart and humanity when need be. As with all of the Bond movies, every one needs a Bond girl, or two and that’s exactly what Craig has here in both Naomie Harris and the smokin’ hot Bérénice Marlohe. Harris, as usual, is good and shows a lot of strength to her character, but Marlohe, as hot and sexy as she is, isn’t really given much to do at all and is barely in the film as much as the advertisements may have you think. It’s a real shame too, because I could have literally stared at the gal the whole movie and not have had a single problem one-bit. I kid you not, people, this chick is hot! Then again, so was Denise Richards and we all know how that turned out.
Consensus: Skyfall is not the best Bond movie out of it’s 50-plus year series, but is one of the best action movies of the year and is a return-to-form for Bond, but also a way to show that this franchise has nothing to fear as long as they are under the guidance of Mendes and Craig.
Hey, I don’t blame Bond. I’d be pretty pissed if Eva Green was taken away from me.
Returning once again, James Bond (Daniel Craig) battles wealthy businessman Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a member of the Quantum organisation, posing as an environmentalist who intends to stage a coup d’état in Bolivia to seize control of the nation’s water supply. Bond seeks revenge for the death of his lover, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), and is assisted by Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), who is seeking revenge for the murder of her family.
After falling in love with Casino Royale right from the first-shot on, I realized that the only way to keep this “new” Bond series going-strong, would be to up the ante a bit and give us some more action, more intensity, and most of all, more of Bond just being cool. That last one isn’t really hard to do, but the first two can sometimes be pulled-off well and other times, cannot. Sadly, I think director Marc Forster took this idea of “more, more, more”, and decided to just go to town with it and that’s where I think the film/”new” series takes it’s sudden-dip.
See, what makes Bond so cool is that the guy is able to do all of this crazy, violent crap that definitely makes you go “Ouch!”, but is also able to pull off some sly and witty stuff like faking people out, getting in between buildings without being seen, and just being the ultra-sneaky spy we all know and love him to be. However, all of that violent crap starts to take over the film and as fun as it may be to watch, you can’t have a Bond flick with over 15 minutes of non-stop action, already happening in the first 30 minutes of the actual-movie. That makes it seem more like an action-thriller that is more about being thrilling, rather than being a Bond flick and as weird as that may sound, yes, they are both two different types of films in their own right and I think it comes off more as Bourne movie.
A lot of people complained that the last one felt a bit too much like a Bourne movie with all of the non-stop shaky-cam work, crazy stunt-work used, and high-flying, action set-pieces, and sort of getting rid of the old-school, classy-way that Bond usually does his line of business. However, as much as I agree with that statement, I can definitely say that some of that is true because it is a very gritty, actiony thrill-ride that delivers more action than it deserves class, but at least it had the classic, Bond class. This film, somehow, doesn’t even seem to really have that. It goes on and on and on with Bond killing almost every single person that walks into his way, without him ever getting a chance to ask question them or interrogate them in any way possible, and to top that off, the story makes no sense despite picking right up 5 minutes after the first-one ended.
In a case like this, I think it’s easy to blame the writers, the producers, and the companies who were behind this movie, but I think the one to really blame is Foster of all people. For people who don’t know who the hell Marc Forster is, well, let’s just say that he’s a guy that’s most known for directing character-based dramas like Stranger than Fiction, Monster’s Ball, and the Kite Runner, among others. To be honest, the only type of action that happens in any of those movies is when Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton decide to get down and dirty, late one night, so why the hell would they decide to give this guy a Bond movie that’s all about guns, cars, violence, girls, and Bond? Seriously, it’s not like the guy does a terrible job or anything, it’s just that it’s pretty obvious that the guy brings nothing new to the table in terms of action or story-development, and instead, has this movie come off like a failed-attempt at trying to create a Bond spin-off for a far, far away future. It’s no surprise that this guy’s screwing up World War Z now, because he sure as hell came close to screwing this one up, big-time.
But as much as I may get on Forster’s case, and this movie’s case, I can’t lie anymore because I really did have a fun time with this flick and all of it’s action. Some of the set-pieces are a bit unbelievable and ridiculous, but you know what? So were some of the ones in Casino Royale and that’s what sort of made me love that movie even more, so I can’t really get on this film for all of that crap either. At the end of the day, it’s still a James Bond movie that definitely features plenty of thrills worthy of seeing and worthy of being in a Bond movie, and even though they sure as hell aren’t as memorable as Bond playing poker, they sure as hell keep your attention on the screen for as long as it can.
And come to think of it, as much as this film may not be worthy of his skills, Daniel Craig still kicks plenty of ass as Bond and shows us exactly why he was chosen for this role in the first-place. Craig, no matter what all the haters may say, just has this dirty and tough look to him that makes you scared for the baddies that go up against him in brawls, but also has this charming and swift look that makes you feel like he is the coolest guy in the room, and definitely the type of guy you would go up to and try to conversate with, but no words would come out because he is simply that cool and intimidating. Maybe I put too much thought into this guy’s look and role, but I don’t care, because Craig is awesome.
Olga Kurylenko plays his “Bond girl” and is alright for the most part, even though she really has nothing to work with here other than a forced, sympathetic-route her character takes. I just want to know why the hell Craig doesn’t bone her, instead, goes off to bone Gemma Arterton as some red-headed, secret-spy that shows up for 5 minutes, gets laid, and is practically gone from the rest of the movie after that. I mean you put them side-by-side, Olga definitely takes the cake and it’s a shock to me that Bond would make a silly-mistake like this. Once again, gotta blame it on Forster. That guy should know Bond, and Bond’s taste in women. Damn you!
Matthieu Amalric plays Greene, the typical Bond-villain that we need in these movies to make it work and although he does what he can, the character is too thinly-written. It’s a good thing that Greene isn’t your typical Bond-villain, where all he does is twirl his mustache and hat and make huge, unbelievable promises of destroying the world around him, however, I felt like we sort of needed that in order to hate this guy even more and actually feel scared for Bond. Yeah, Greene does do some bad things, but never to the point of where I felt like Bond needed him to kill him right-away, or else all hope was lost. Also, the guy was a bit of a softy and I even think M could have kicked his ass, just as much as Bond could have.
Consensus: Quantum of Solace is definitely fun, entertaining, and a relatively mediocre addition to the Bond series, but still feels like it should have been so much more, instead of just settling for typical, action-thriller conventions, two-dimensional characters, and choices that seem to come from a place that isn’t all about Bond, and more about making a lot of money and making it quick. Hey Hollywood, news flash for ‘ya: It’s a James Bond movie, therefore, it’s already going to make a shit-load of moolah at the box-office. Now shut up, and let James get back to work!
The story is about Hank (Billy Bob Thornton) who is an embittered prison guard working on Death Row who begins an unlikely but emotionally charged affair with Leticia (Halle Berry), the wife of a man under his watch on The Row.
For the first hour or so, nothing was going right for me with this flick. I knew that it was going to be a slow-ass flick right from the start but the film barely felt like it was moving at all. It has this very dark and depressing feeling to it right from the start, which will kind of throw you back a bit but somehow, somewhere there was happiness and hope in this story, and then it suddenly started to grow on me. Damn Billy Bob!
I think the main reason why this flick got better in the way that it did was because of its script. This a very character-based flick that focuses on these gritty, dirty, and sad people that all need something in their life, whether it be love, family, or just a nice little bang here and there. The script just feels very human in the way how everybody deals with their problems and it’s also one of the rare cases where the the screenplay decides to take a step back from actually having non-stop talking but focus more on the quiet side of this story which spoke louder to me than any of the racist crap Frank Barone was saying here.
The problem with this flick is that I don’t think the direction here from Marc Forster does the script justice. Take it for granted, there isn’t anything really flashy here done by Forster to get in the way of the material at-hand but he feels very unfocused. There will be moments where it focuses on this nice romance between Billy Bob and Halle, then will go towards the racism she faces, then towards the fact that she has little or no money, and then it will go right to Billy Bob being sad about something. There were too many times where I feel like the film constantly brought up all of these other things that these characters were feeling, which in all honesty, were definitely not as interesting as the romance between Berry and Billy Bob, especially when they start boning in everybody’s favorite sexy time scene.
Where the flick did work was at the center of it all: the romance. The romance between these two feels subtle and something that would happen between two 8th-graders almost but then it really turns into something serious, heart-breaking, and very very real. I liked this romance that these two had going on because it showed just how much they needed each other at a certain time in their lives and even though they both may not be the same person, they still feel hurt and need someone or something to take their pain and anguish away. However, whenever they are on-screen together, you can feel the romance and deep-down inside, was this sweet little love they had going on which really worked for me.
Halle Berry won the Oscar here for Best Actress and even though I can’t recall seeing any of the other performances from that year, I have to say that I think the Academy made the right decision. Berry lets it all hang loose as Leticia. She’s sad, vulnerable, full of pain, anger, remorse, but also very optimistic for the future and feels like a very real person when it comes to how she wants to be treated. Berry is a very stunning chicky but she lets the grit take over here and she dives into this character without any fake steps. Her emotions are almost all-over-the-place but Berry makes us sympathize with this character and actually feel something for her no matter what. Amazing performance from Berry and one that truly did deserve the Oscar.
Billy Bob Thornton was pretty good here as Hank, even though when he is being compared to Berry, his character is definitely the one you least remember. It’s not that this is a bad performance by any means, it’s just that Billy Bob isn’t really doing anything other than playing sort of a dick that somehow changes half-way through, even though we don’t really realize it until his own daddy brings it up. Speaking of his daddy, Peter Boyle is quite good as the totally racist dad, even though it was kind of funny watching him spout out the N-word left and right; Heath Ledger is also good in this flick as Hank’s son, Sonny, and is very chilling every time he is on-screen; and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs does a nice job as Lawrence, Leticia’s husband, and doesn’t really over-play any of the lines like rappers-turned-actors usually do.
Consensus: Despite a slow beginning and feel to the film, Monster’s Ball starts to pick up with a very sweet romance in the middle of the story, great performances from the cast, especially Berry, and a script that doesn’t try too hard but still is able to make us feel something for these characters.