Sunday, December 30, 2012

14 for 13

What a great year this has been for great flicks! Now, as 2012 winds down to it's final hours, we get our chance to share some thoughts on 14 of some of the awesome blockbusters coming at us in 2013. 

G.I Joe: Retaliation: (March 29th) AV: Psych! Almost a year after it's original release date (yes the toys had ALREADY shipped to Target), the not-so anticipated follow-up to the underwhelming G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra from 2009 actually promises to be pretty bad ass. The undeniably awesome additions of Ray "Darth Maul" Park, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Bruce "Yippie ki-Yay, MoFo!" Willis could be just what the doctor ordered to crank up an action franchise that should be synonymous with "Whoa!" If the current trailers are any indicator of this movie's offering, the year will have been well worth the wait. "Yo, Joe–don't screw this one up!"

Oblivion: (April 19th) TP – One of the last drone repairers on a war ravaged Earth begins to make some discoveries that bring into question everything he believes about the recent devastation from the war with the alien Scavs. Doesn’t sound too ominous, until you realize that repairman is Tom Cruise... and a source of many of his questions is Morgan Freeman! This looks to be the sci-fi action thriller that will kick off a packed year of sci-fi special effects blockbuster hits. Tom Cruise is one of the premier action heroes of our day, so when you give him a ray gun and a reason to use it... things can only go <boom>.

Iron Man 3: (May 3rd) AV: Can Marvel Studios strike [crimson and] gold a third time? Hinting at a darker, more distraught Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) suffers from trauma following the 'New York event', and squares-off against Shellhead's arch nemesis, the Mandarin, played by the indomitable Sir Ben Kingsly. Now this will sound like Fan-boy blasphemy, but the trailer doesn't do very much for me. Though in true teaser trailer fashion, it is vague. I'm quite confident this will be another stellar IM film, but for the record, the trailer seems like a bunch of effects shots mashed together with a cryptic voice over. At this juncture, I've come to expect a bit more from Marvel. 

Star Trek Into Darkness: (May 17th) TP - Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban return as the dynamic trio of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Doctor McCoy in what looks to be one of the biggest Star Trek movies ever. The trailer is breathtaking and the anticipation only heightens when the villain, Benedict Cumberbatch, is still only rumored about who his character is, beyond being described as “ an unstoppable force of terror” and “ a one man weapon of mass destruction.” Add to this the hook that “sacrifices must be made” and there’s just no telling what direction J.J. Abrams has in store for the crew... and the fans, of the starship Enterprise!

After Earth – AV: On June 7th, just two months on the heels of Tom Cruise's Oblivion (see above) another Hollywood action juggernaut, Will Smith, makes a similar trek with son Jaden, in this futuristic telling of Earthlings returning home after the Earth has somehow become unfit for humanity. A crash landing on mankind's ancestral home-world pits the Smith boys against the elements, dangerously evolved wildlife and even 'fear itself', as they struggle against all odds and every obstacle to overcome this "class-1 quarantined planet." This new Swiss–uh, Smith–Family Robinson should prove interesting... 

Man of Steel: (June 14th) TP - This film is, without a doubt, the most anticipated movie of the summer for me. I’ve been salivating over this since last year and the drool has only increased after the release of the full trailer. Henry Cavill simply looks awesome as Superman and if Michael Shannon’s performance in the upcoming “The Iceman” is a taste of what I have to look forward to as General Zod, bring it on! Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) looks to be taking this film in a direction that can only be described as epic. When you round out the cast with Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner and Laurence Fishburne, you’ve created a recipe for an excellent film... the superhero stuff is just icing on the cake.

World War Z: (June 21st) TP - Zombies are back! Brad Pitt plays a United Nations employee traveling the world trying to stop a zombie pandemic. Zombies aren’t new and they haven’t been interesting since they became fast and unrelenting engines of terror... so I’m real curious to see what this film will do differently to “bring them back to life” on the silver screen. The trailer looks like they will be keeping with the “unrelenting engines” theme, but on steroids! As exciting and unnerving as that may be, I hope there is more substance to this than what we’ve already seen. Just having Brad Pitt gives me hope that this can be something very big... and not end up a dead flick.

Kick Ass 2: (June 28th) AV: The first film was stellar; funny, fast-paced and wrought with edgy–decidedly adult–humor. Thus the first kick Ass movie was truly that. So it suffices to say that this next movie has a lot to live up to. In this latest installment, our hero bands together with a group of concerned everyday folks who were inspired by his previous anti-crime antics. But wait, could the Red Mist be plotting a devious and dangerous revenge, whose actions could effect everyone Kick Ass knows? Clench your fists for Kick Ass 2 this summer and of course, we'll be on hand to help bust some heads... and some blocks!

The Lone Ranger: AV: Hard to figure this one out, Pontificator. I mean, if you you grew up in America in the past 70 years–as we surely did, then the ongoing exploits of the crime-(and nose) busting lawman of the un-tammed west, The Lone Ranger is legendary. Starring Armie Hammer as the the man behind the mask, and Johnny Depp as Tonto (who knew?), we will be treated to some re-imagined Hollywood-flavored high-action hi-jinks, old west style. I just can't help shake a "so what?" response to this one but the trailer is compelling, I won't lie. I look to be amazed. The Lone Ranger rides into a theater near you, July 3rd.

Pacific Rim: AV: On July 12th, one of the most eagerly anticipated movies in the sci-fi/fantasy/hero genre comes to the big screen as Earth prepares a counter-attack against giant, other-dimensional monsters. Our secret weapon? Why, giant killer robots of course! With one of the most stunning and action-packed trailers to hit the trailer-sphere, Pacific Rim looks to bring to the big screen behemoth-sized monstrosities from beneath the waves that go to war with giant, mechanical super-warriors. This alien monster butt-kicking already has a sequel in production. In the word's of one of my favorite actors, Idris Alba, from this trailer "... today, we are canceling the apocalypse!" Hells to-the-yeah, we are!

The Wolverine: (July 26th) TP - As excited as I am about this film Vader, I have some reservations if what I’m hearing is true. I’m good with Hugh Jackman, he has made Wolverine his own and look forward to his continuing growth. I’m good with Will Yun Lee (Red Dawn) as Silver Samurai, I think he’s a good enough actor and physical enough for the role. I’m worried though, about where they will go with this film (besides Japan). In the DVD alternate ending of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” he heads to Japan as a sequel to that film. Now the word is this film will be a sequel to X-Men: Last Stand...complete with a cameo by Jean Grey (Famke Janssen)... <shudder/yawn>. When idea and script changes are abound and plentiful, I get worried...but remain hopeful.

300: Rise of an Empire: (August 2nd) TP - Set as a prequel to “300”, this film will tell the story of a Greek general named Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) and his army’s battle against the insane (and delusional) Xerxes (played once again by Rodrigo Santoro). I’m not sure about historical accuracy, but if it’s anything like the first (now second?) film, then it should be a great summer ride. The key to any type of success is to keep the same formula that made it great. The only problem I see with this reasoning is that the Spartans were a big part of that formula... and no disrespect to the other Greeks, but Spartans are the best, of the best. I’m just crossing my fingers and hoping that “of the best” is good enough for some big summer busted blocks!

Thor: The Dark World: (November 8th) TP - The Odinson returns, and this time he must save the world from being plunged into eternal darkness by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and the Dark Elves. I’m excited to see Chris Hemsworth wield Mjolnir once again. With returning cast members Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleson, Idris Elba, and Anthony looks as though there is a winning combination of talent. As if two major villains weren’t enough, Thor has to contend with the likes of Kurse, played by the very talented Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. I can only hope that with this much stacked against our hero, we can get a glimpse of that berserker rage, to take the action off the screen...and into our laps!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug AV: Got a little more room for a little more middle Earth? Then make way for what is sure to be the 2013 holiday season's biggest blockbuster, with Peter Jackson's follow-up film, The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug. Can Frodo and his merry band of homeless dwarfs endure the savagery of the 300-foot long, fire breathing dragon, named Smaug? And what of the mysterious Necromancer, rumored to be able–and willing!–to raise the dead? Answers will be revealed and "... shields will be shattered" when The Smaug-busting begins on December 13th.  
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Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Bloody Bounty of Bullets

Jamie Foxx teams up with the legendary Quentin Tarantino to deliver a bullet-riddled tale of lost love redeemed in Django Unchained


ARTH VADER (AV): Following in the footsteps of the spaghetti western of the same name, the 1966 Django was known as one of the most violent movies ever made. The wildly successful movie inspired a wave of copycat movies in the 1970's to the mid 80's. Christmas Day of 2012 saw yet another variant make it's on-screen debut. Django Unchained propels almost as many stars as bullets at the viewer and is a real homage to the violently graphic original and is in complete step with Tarantino's style of violent storytelling. This makes for a great way to introduce Tarantino's re-imagined Django, the freed-slave-turned bounty hunter on a quest to find his true love. 
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Slavery was not one of the finest moments for our country, but it happened and is a part of our shared history. I’m not an expert of every detail of every incident and situation during slavery, but this film surely has accuracy in some parts... and embellishment in others. This film pays homage to the original by having a cameo of Franco Nero... the original Django.


AV: The villains, oh Pontificator, the villains are this movie's DNA. The casting of the list of antagonists in this film was better than that of any movie in recent memory. From Don "Miami Vice" Johnson (yes I went there!) as the pompous "Big Daddy", the convert evil of house slave Steven in Samuel "Nick Fury" Jackson, the sadistically sinister Walton Goggins as Billy Crash and let's give a hearty Boxed Office standing ovation to Leonardo DiCaprio in his role as the stunningly sadistic Calvin Candie. Even Tarantino himself holds down a hilariously twisted cameo of an Aussie gun-for-hire that has a rather explosive demise. And lest we forget the riveting beauty and seasoned portrayal of Django's captured wife by the stunning Kerry Washington. This movie had more vile villains and twisted characters as spent bullet casings. Pontificator, I was delighted at the intricate twists and turns of this array of villains and anti-heroes. Would you think old friend?

TP: Excellent casting and acting kept me glued to the screen. The directing of Quentin Tarantino is a singular talent, and always keeps you just off center and always on edge. Jamie Foxx submerges himself in the role of Django and sells every bit of his hatred and urgency. Christoph Waltz was just as integral as Foxx, but really carried the screen whenever he was on it. The combination, when working in tandem, was truly magnetic. Leonardo DiCaprio remains one of the greats and along with Samuel L. Jackson, really nails home the vileness of villainy...and as you pointed out Vader, there was plenty of that to go around.

AV: You know, Ponty, we don't get to talk much about good old-fashioned stage sets and make-up anymore and Django Unchained is a rich outpouring of clothing, attitudes and styles from pre-civil war America in the 1950's. Lot's of cowboys and Southern Belles, slaves and slave traders, Sheriffs, Marshals and Saloon keeps, all ere abundantly represented in this bullet-zipping tale. Lest we forget, the over-the-top blood-letting gives us plenty of brains and blood spattering as the movie shows no effort to restrain itself from the violence of the story. 

TP: This isn’t a big budget science-fiction movie, but the special effects are still outstanding. They come in the form of gore and the occasional explosion... but everything looks real, and in the final analysis, that is what every filmmaker wants to achieve. The costumes and props certainly propelled me into another era, Vader.


AV: I am a huge fan of the Quentin Tarantino brand of shoot first and shoot-often-style of movie making. Django is a fitting addition to Tarantino's heavy-handed violence and deplorable people doing heroic things, despite themselves a world that couldn't possibly allow any of us to go through unscathed. Django shows us how a single-minded focus on even a seemingly unattainable goal makes almost anything worth pursuing–even true love. Redemption, even for the most horrible deeds, is often found in the achieving of one's final goal. The ends may not always justify the means, but we sure do applaud when the bad guy gets a face full of buckshot. Gritty, gruesome and grounding. Ponty? 

TP: Oh where to begin, since there was so much to look at. Controversy... I’ll start there. Racism, slavery, the use of the “N-Word”...all controversial. To tell this story with the impact of a crashing plane, all these elements had to be represented in the truest way possible. I sat in a mixed audience, and everyone found the same uncomfortable scenes... uncomfortable. Yet within all of this was a base story as old as stories... that of the noble hero. It wasn’t told with glitz, but with a finger on the hot button of our humanity. It was a journey that led a former slave to question gunning down a man in front of his child, to having no question at all about where he is going, and how he is getting there. Indeed, it was gritty and gruesome... but I dare say many left the theater very grounded.


AV: Whilst the original spurred and inspired scores of offspring, also-rans and sequels, this latest version may be a bit hard to follow. And while Tarantino's movies don't exactly fit the Hollywood mold of trilogy franchises (the From Dusk till Dawn series notwithstanding) – the viability of a Django follow-up could be cool, just don't call it "Django 2". 

TP: I can see where a sequel could go, given that this film took place a few years before the Civil War. Honestly though, this film does more than enough to twist some screws loose and provoke profound thought and a second part that encompasses the Civil War won’t break any new ground... just provoke a comparison to the first, at the risk of some degradation to what is shaping up to be a masterpiece.


ARTH VADER rates Django Unchained: High hopes, high impact and high body count make Django a blistering tale of redemption, love and innocence lost. Smart and gritty with more action and violence than you could handle in a 2 hour and 20 minute tale, this is a must-see movie for the western, the action hero lover and those of us drawn to stories of righting all wrongs, no matter how many bullets it takes genres. I load up 9 busted blocks into the barrel for Django Unchained. 

THE PONTIFICATOR Rates Django Unchained: There is a lot going on in this film, and it hits every point a great film needs to, in order to be great. The action is intense, the humor alleviating, and the drama provoking. There isn’t a safe moment to take your eyes off the screen, and every bit of dialogue is meaningful. Django unchains 8 blocks, and busts them in a hail of bullets. 

Django Unchained: 8.5/10 Busted Blocks
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Great Expectations

Peter Jackson's highly anticipated prequel opens up a deeper view of Middle-Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.


ARTH VADER (AV): I happen to be a lover of (almost) all things Tolkien, Pontificator. The Hobbit is one of the most beloved stories from my childhood. Filled with tragic characters, loss and a never-ending quest for righting generational wrongs. Thus The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is riveting return to Peter Jackson's vision of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth. The Hobbit is a near-flawless–if not somewhat heavy-handed–portrayl of Middle-Earth. Jackson has a woven a seamlessly rich story of with a complex cast of characters who weave together in a fantastic tapestry that delights and helps bring Tolkien middle-Earth alive once again.I was giddy in the theater for this one, Pontificator!

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): I have a feeling that we are going to agree on almost everything about this movie Vader. I remember reading the book in my younger years and being enthralled by Tolkien’s imagery and the wonder that was Middle-Earth. This movie has brought all that to life... and then some. I’m extremely excited at how closely the movie(s) will be to the book as they are making three movies off one book, unlike the previous trilogy where they made just one movie per book.


AV: Some familiar faces grace the screen in The Hobbit. The familiar faces of Gandalf, (old) Bilbo, Lady Galadriel, Elrond, the bitter and sinister Gollum and even Frodo–all characters from The massively successful and popular The Lord of The Rings (LoTR) trilogy–reprise their roles in a story that takes place 60+ years before the final war of the One Ring. Peter Jackson certainly has a knack for casting what seems near flawless characterizations of the movie's characters. The new characters, and the depiction of Thorin Oakenshield is better than the image I had conjured in my head as a teenager when I first read this novel.

Direction? Gold. The scenes of the shire, the images of the Dwarfen kingdom in the misty mountains and the especially the idyllic paradise of Rivendale, all are breathtaking to behold. If you don't go as a fan, go to for the visually stunning landscapes, too numerous to mention here. 

TP: The casting was half done already with so many returning characters, but the other half was just as brilliant! Martin Freeman was an excellent choice for Bilbo and delivers the goods. He’s funny, grounded and fearful...all at the same time. Richard Armitage brings Thorin Oakenshield to life and makes him even more heroic and commanding than in the book. Graham McTavish has made Dwalin a character to remember...right from the beginning and has asserted his skill. I’m anxious to see the growth of Peter Hambleton’s character, Gloin...being the father of the beloved Gimli from Lord of the Rings. If I really have to comment on the directing...then you, dear reader, haven’t been paying attention to the LoTR phenomenon...or Vader.


AV: Weta Workshop (WW) rivals it's industry rival, the Lucasfilm special effects juggernaut known to the world as Industrial Light an Magic (ILM). Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks and ILM had single-handidly corner the special and visual effects markets forever. Since the release of LoTR, King Kong, Avatar and a host of other effects-rich movies, WW has established itself as a dominant player in the visual effects arena. The Hobbit and it's incredible creatures, characters and landscapes, has brought to life a world that before could only be imagined or animated. The stunning camera-work keeps the audience immersed as the SF/X is a continuous reminder that "we ain't in Kansas anymore". How say you P-Man?

TP: How can this movie be anything but a special effects juggernaut? Quite simply, it can’t. Very few movies simply blow your mind away with the visuals, but this film does just that... from the very beginning! I sat in awe, absolutely stunned at the Dwarvin Kingdom. My jaw didn’t leave the floor until the first knock on Bilbo’s door... but it quickly dropped again soon after. The Hobbit has learned from the previous films and delivered a perfect visual and effects display that is on par with the best that has ever been on the silver screen.


AV: While I am hard pressed to find ANY significant flaw in The Hobbit, I feel it prudent to discuss something that has caught the fan-boy universe of speculative rumor by storm. As we know, Jackson made each book in the LoTR trilogy into a single film. Arguably, one of the greatest feats in modern film making as each of those books could easily spawn a couple of movies unto themselves. So why is it that The Hobbit is on its own a three movie effort? Personally, I don't care. Anything furthers creative and imaginative efforts like this; I say make them–make a hundred of them, heck, make ten thousand! The story is re-told with some embellishment but good God they are beautiful and filled with such fantastic imagery, I would be along for a lot longer ride than three films.

It's well-known that Hollywood selfishly creates trilogies so audiences return for familiar brand name entertainment franchises. The more they can keep great movies in front of us the more money they can make. So what. Because, in the words of my dear friend, The Pontificator, I will always 'be an ardent fan of the cinematic arts.'

TP: I have just been quoted by one of the greats... another testament to how awesome this film is!

I also couldn’t find any flaws Vader, but honestly, I was so swept away I doubt they would have registered anyway. It was a question for me as well the fact that this book sparked three films while the other three only translated into three. Logically, we should have gotten nine films out of the LoTR... but oh well. This movie had it all. The humor was vibrant, injected perfectly in the pace of the film. The action was plentiful and riveting... and the drama was poignant enough to make us care about what happens to these characters.


AV: This one's a shoe-in. Next holiday season, the follow-up film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will be in theaters to delight and bewilder us once again. And for anyone who has read The Hobbit, the fearsome and terrible fire-breathing dragon, Smaug is headed for epic showdown with Bilbo and his merry band of Dwarfs as they try to win back their ancestral home under the Lonely Mountain. The Hobbit: There and Back Again, part three, is slated for release for the 2014 holiday season. I await the next installment with baited (dragon's) breath!

TP: What Vader said. No really... my thoughts about the sequels has already been written above. Ok... I’ll add that I’m looking forward to the Smaug confrontation... but I’m really looking forward to the multi-army battle galore that will take place in 2014!


ARTH VADER rates The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: I can't say enough how delightful and beautiful this movie is. If you are a passive fan or don't really enjoy movies with deep, rich meaning and content, you may want to avoid this one. At close to three hours, Jackson pulls no punches delving us deeper in to the history of Middle-Earth and assumes you are paying attention through every scene. A fantastic, fun-filled fantasy perfect for the whole family, I give The Hobbit an unexpected (but well deserved) nine busted blocks. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: I can’t see how anyone isn’t a fan of these films, but understand that such people exist. Fortunately, I’m not one of them and the joy I get from watching these visual masterpieces highlights why life is so great. This film comes roaring out the gate and runs away with your imagination, taking it on an “unexpected” journey (I actually expected it). I also expected to bust the nine blocks it did... although I’m not sure they weren’t Trolls instead.

The Hobbit–An Unexpected Journey: 9/10 Busted Blocks

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Building A Deeper Bond

James Bond turns a corner and a new leaf in Skyfall–arguably one of the best Bond films ever!


ARTH VADER (AV): I wonder what the prolific Ian Flemming would think of Skyfall, the latest installment in the ongoing saga of the world's most famous super spy, James Bond. Skyfall (Paramount Pictures) is a bold re-imagining of the James Bond continuum. Daniel Craig's flawless characterization of the infamous assassin/spy/agent 007 is quite a detraction from previous characterizations. He is his stoically smug, witty and confident self but Skyfall delivers a different caliber of Bond than even the first two Daniel Craig 007 journeys. Darker, more insidious and even more vulnerable. For me, this makes the new Bond light years more believable and more awesome. Thoughts, Pontificator? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Well Vader, this film was something of a departure, even a bit from the last two films, but still fits snuggly into the new continuity the recent Bond films have created. Bond has been updated and made more real...and although the rewrite isn’t exactly what Bond has always been, the mythos hasn't suffered a bit.


AV: Casting Craig was a masterstroke of movie-making genius. Daniel's two earlier Bond films, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were both solid but for me at least, Skyfall goes somewhere much greater, beyond the scope of mere "next installment". Skyfall is a crowning jewel in a long list of great–and not-so-great–bond stories. The action is paced in such a way that the films tempo is actually a part of the storytelling, Ponty. What's more, the direction was a winning array of close, medium and wide-angle shots, even in the non-action sequences, the films keeps the viewer engaged in the larger tapestry of events. And I just have to say, casting Javier Bardem as the sniveling and uncomfortably sinister Silva makes this one of the more believable Bond experiences to date. 

TP: Daniel Craig is quickly winning the title of the best Bond for me. He’s gritty and takes a serious approach to the role. This difference from the usual suave, cool as ice-water, modus operandi of the past actors is what sets Craig apart from all the rest. Craig makes Bond more human by making him vulnerable while still delivering everything else that audiences have come to associate with Bond. Javier Bardem seems to be born to play Silva, the latest Bond villain. Very few people are destined to be the perfect fit for a Bond villain... so bless Bardem for answering his calling. Naomie Harris may not be as glamorous as Bond women have been in the past, but she is perfect for her role and was a nice surprise for longtime fans of the old films.


AV: You know, pontificator, I really enjoy movies where the experience so completely rolls the visual effects into the DNA of the movie that I don't even notice them. Such is the case in Skyfall. Iconic scenes like the train crashing through a London street, the Bond estate blown to bits or even a hapless duel in a pit of Komodo dragons are all SF/X shots that the viewer just absorbs as part of the film's experience. Even a harrowing fight sequence on the top of a fast-moving bullet-train is a believable event in a movie that goes to great lengths NOT to make me go "Whoa!" at the visuals and focus on the event at hand. Could this mean our little Hollywood is finally growing up, Ponty? 

TP: You are spot-on here Vader. The special effects were a seamless part of the visual experience and nothing was so over-the-top as to take away from the tone of the film. Even the opening chase scene was pretty straight forward and although thinking back on it, in reality it could probably never happen like that, at the time I was watching... it was real enough that I wasn’t even questioning the crane scene. 


AV: As always, there is a tantalizing array of Bond-girl beauties here Ponty but I have to address another more pressing observation for Skyfall. This movie goes to great lengths to distance itself from the campiness of earlier James Bond flicks. The movie's dialogue even goes so far as to have the new "Q" talk smack about exploding pens and silly devices. I see this as a step toward farming a more believable, more relatable and more sophisticated Bond for future films. Look, no one loves exploding pens, jetpacks and cars that 'become' submarines more than I do, but… well… been there, done that. Often those things become fillers or 'eye candy' meant to distract me from a weak script or completely implausible villains. DNA-recognition sensors in Bond's Walther PPK? Now you're talking! This is a new, re-invented bad-ass bond–just what the doctor ordered. 

TP: I think the most significant aspect of this film is Bond’s vulnerability. He is shot in the line of duty, fails to qualify for active duty later on, and can’t quite compensate for his injuries. I don’t remember the character being this vulnerable since the beginning of Die Another Day. Gone are the gadgets, replaced by an updated Q with superior hacking ability. I thought this was very significant as this was a hefty statement that Bond is now in the 21st century. The Bond of today isn’t the can-do-anything slickster and this is what really makes it work. I thought this film might have gone a little too much in this direction though since certain expectations are now associated with Bond. I think this will change as the new direction is embraced by a new audience.  


AV: What, are you kidding me? Of course–bring 'em on! We ain't stopping here kids, we have ole Jimmy B right where we want him, cool, hip and delivering a world of hurt to those who would hurt our world. Ten more please! Yes, yes I'll wait… 

TP: I thought I heard somewhere that this was Craig's last film, but fortunately I also read that he has signed on for two more! So rest assured, we will have ample opportunity to discuss the direction of Craig’s ever-evolving Bond. 

ARTH VADER rates Skyfall: This movie is, without a doubt, the VERY BEST Bond movie I have ever seen. And that says a lot since I have seen a TON of good Bond films. Deliciously intelligent, riddled with scorching hot–and ethnically diverse–"Bond girls" and a deeper, darker premise with a glimpse into the more sinister machinations in the world of 007 and MI6, Skyfall is a delightful action epic that delights and dazzles and well-worth seeing. And this is one fan-boy who can't wait for the Blu-Ray release. 

That said, I gladly encourage no fewer than 9.5 busted blocks to fall from the sky for Skyfall. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Skyfall: There have been about 25 Bond films, and Craig’s have been some of the most enjoyable for me. Although this was a great film, it wasn’t the best ever. It was probably the most realistic, but certainly not the most entertaining... and in the end, that’s what it’s really all about. As I look skyward, I only see 7.5 busted blocks falling for this film. 

Skyfall: 8.5 Busted Blocks
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Friday, December 14, 2012

A Cloudy Picture

A riveting, cinematic masterpiece and stunningly complex screenplay, the mesmerizing Cloud Atlas may leave audiences dazed, bewildered and somewhat confused. 


ARTH VADER (AV): Directed by The Wachowskis (of The Matrix Trilogy fame) delivering the writing/directing along with collaborator Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) Cloud Atlas attempts to translate best selling author David Mitchell’s multi-layered, multi-faceted novel into an ambitious (if not ambiguous) big-budget blockbuster that engages the mind and (attempts to) solicit an emotional reaction. The end results is a movie that is as awe-inspiring as it is bewildering. How say you old friend? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Cloud Atlas is an original film that can best be summed up in one word...reincarnation. Following this film was challenging at the beginning, but the further along it went, the more cohesive it became... giving it a continuity all it’s own.

AV: A stunning all-star cast is called up to breathe life over a story arc that spans hundreds of years and dozens of lifetimes. The story is–in fact–six stories spread across various epochs of time (the mid-19th century, the early 1930s, the mid-1970s, 2012, the future, and a more distant future). In each of these stories, we meet various characters (played by the same ensemble of actors) whose lives, experiences and legacies ripple throughout past and future via artistic connective threads like music, writing or film footage, shaping life, destiny – and even the fate of the world, in some cases. As each story progresses along its arc, a web of cosmic significance slowly but surely comes into view, reminding us that our lives are not just our own, and our connections to others – whether comprehended or not – are far more precious than we may know. 

TP: The casting was superb as you really can’t go wrong with the all-star cast that was put together for this film. Tom Hanks is one of the all-time greats at this point and Halle Berry certainly made this film one of her highlights. Hugo Weaving was riveting and with talent like Keith David, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant rounding out the cast, there was no way to not be engaged heavily with the characters. The beauty of all of this is that each cast member played several roles throughout the film, all of them different in terms of what each character brought to the story. The directing kept this film moving along at a pace that was fast enough to keep interest, but slow enough to facilitate comprehension (just barely).

AV: There is no way to accurately convey what an incredible special effects journey this movie is. The environments, the make-up, the CGI, the visual effects, the sound design, entire worlds re-created. Cloud Atlas is as flawlessly beautiful as any effects movie could be. Honestly, on the level of Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings Trilogy or the Matrix films (Wachowskis) or the even later Star Wars movies. And as good as the high-end, computer-generated visual effects are, they are seamless compared to the mix of make-up and good old-fashioned in-camera effects of the different characters onscreen. I was literally blown away. 

TP: The special effects were simply awesome. I have a weakness for grand landscape shots and being taken to new and fantastic worlds. This film delivered in that area and then some. It was interesting to see how the use of special effects increased as the story moved forward through time. From the simple make-up job to the astounding CGI, this movie delivered on a scale worthy of mention with all those we associate as the greats. Although it’s in every movie, there hasn’t been a film that comes to mind recently that has taken the craft of make-up to another level. I honestly didn’t recognize many of the actors in some of their roles until revealed at the end of the film... a testament to such excellent work.

AV: As one of the most ambitious Hollywood story-telling undertakings I have ever seen, Cloud Atlas does fall short in a few areas. First, the lack of an easily digested concept and storyline leaves audiences dazed and confused. American culture tends to be less refined and considerably less tolerant that other audiences. This movie qualifies as a film noir or 'artsy' film treatment, leaving the effect and the experience to be at the discretion of the viewer. While one could argue that should be the intent of EVERY movie, most American cinema releases hold our hands so much, we are almost told when and how to respond. Not so with Cloud Atlas, and that is also it's Achilles heel. Next, the continuity and pacing is also at a tempo followed only by the sharp-witted. With a concept coming out of left field and a story-telling treatment not often experienced in America, Cloud Atlas has made wide-scale acceptance almost unattainable in regards to movie-going audiences. Pontificator, what were your thoughts? 

TP: I completely agree with you Vader. Count me among the lost for the first twenty minutes of the film. As I was dazzled by the superb acting, I was also trying to find my way on the road of significance to what I was seeing. Not only that, but the first few jumps to different eras had me frazzled as the connections were not readily revealed. Just the very nature of the film makes it the type of movie you want to see again, just to make sure you “get it.” As the film progressed and I found myself understanding the concept, I was miffed at what I’m sure I missed during my tenure among the lost. This became even more evident, but the euphoria of revelation was just awesome, when the film was over and the end credits began to roll...visually revealing every character each actor had played. This was the biggest lightbulb moment for me as more dots were connected that just weren’t evident the first go round.

AV: I don't have a lot of knowledge about the story's intended follow-up, however, as I have shared many times in past posts, movies like this are okay NOT to have sequels, prequels and follow-ups. Sadly, the audience exposure and viewing of this movie will probably cement there is no follow-up. And honestly, Ponty, that's is fine by me. 

TP: Agreed Vader... this film was a handful by itself, an exercise in comprehension and cognitive thinking. There is certainly no reason to sequel that experience when there is still so much that can yet be gained by simply watching the first... again.


ARTH VADER rates Cloud Atlas: A beautiful movie, engaging–if not complicated script and an all-star cast reads like a who's who of Hollywood Elite, the visually breath-taking Cloud Atlas will delight, confuse and inspire, given half a chance. While I am still sorting out what I saw, I loved it and I encourage everyone to see it but I will also say, it's NOT for everyone. So with that, I give Cloud Atlas the "true, true" rating of 8.25 busted blocks. 

THE PONTIFICATOR Rates Cloud Atlas: A visual delight with superb acting from an all-star cast. I am the type of person this film was made for, but not everyone is as inquisitive or patient to take the journey this film embarks on. Any viewer is encouraged to have an open mind while paying close attention to detail...and this film will reveal itself to have busted 8 solid blocks. 

CLOUD ATLAS: 8 Busted Blocks

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