Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cinema Babble:ba-da daDa, duh daDa! Bond, back.

The Flick: Skyfall

The Peeps: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Albert Finney, Naomie Harris, etc, etc.

The Dealio: Craig's Bond is back, and so are a raft of nods to Bond's 50 years in Her Majesty's Secret Service. From the intro, complete with Adele's soaring song, the pyrotechnics-laden opening shot,  trad touches abound. This time out, Bond is killed before we even get through the credits. No spoiler here, you know that would make a heckuva short movie. Besides, it's in all the trailers. When his country and MI-5 need him the most, there ya go, he is back in the game- not shaken, but definitely stirred to action. In a cat-and-mouse game of terrorism on the home turf, M and Bond are not sure who-if anyone-can be trusted. Public outcry demands M step down and her boss (Fiennes' Mallory) is willing to give in to the demands. Of course, you just know she ain't gonna just go quietly. Reluctant though she is to pin all her hopes on the recently resurrected agent, you know that, in the end, M will call on Bond to take a quiet hand  in sorting this mess out. Into the mix comes the uneasy feeling that the perp (or perps) either have extensive insider knowledge and expertise- or actually are insiders at MI-5. Well? Which is it? The next two-thirds of the flick spool out spinning us back and forth, around the globe, with barely a moment to catch our breath(s). Car chases, bike chases, foot chases and, natch, a plethora of uniquely choreographed devises, plots and plans (No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die...slowly and tortuously, over the next 48 hours) have us alternately rolling our eyes and hitching forward in our seats. And what's up with Bardem's Silva's weird hair. Does Bardem have a fierce attraction to roles requiring  odd-ball rugs?  We also get a glimpse of Bond's back story and finally figure out the meaning of this film's title. Not bad for a single day's viewing.

The Grading Session: 4.87 pengies out of 5. The pic did go on a taddy bit too long. So, again, editing is king. But the casting remains spot-on, the ol' 007 we have come to know and love is back and, even though the spy world is rife with change, as many would say: change is good. Here, it is jolly good, indeed. Already looking forward to more Bond gigs.

Lessons Learned: The bad guys, despite all the advanced weaponry at their disposal, still shoot like Imperial Storm Troopers. When will they ever learn that the firing range is free and open seven days a week? Practice, dudes. Practice.
Also this: Reason #5,004 why I would make a lousy secret agent: I simply can not countenance having a gun battle slash chase across the 2000th floor of a Hong Kong high rise. Or any other 2000th floor highrise, for that matter. Can't these folks ever just duke it out at street level?
Lastly this: it is damned near impossible to keep a great 007 down. There. I've said it. Your mileage may vary.

Notable Quotables: Gareth Mallory to M: Eleanor, be sensible. Retire with dignity...

M: Dignity! To Hell with dignity! I'll retire when my goddamn job is finally done.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cinema Babble: A Unique View of a Familiar Man

The Flick: Lincoln

The Peeps: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook, James Spader, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill, Tim Blake Nelson, Jared Harris, Gloria Reuben, etc, etc.

The Dealio: The year is 1865, and the Civil War has worn and beggared and exhausted both sides. That means that peace overtures will soon be headed to Washington City. But, before he entertains any proposal that would return the South to the flock, Lincoln realises that he's gotta work fast to get an emancipation amendment through and into the constitution. With that urgency on the table, and time running out, Lincoln must do what he can to make this happen: mollify, modify, improvise, charm, hector, invoke the wartime powers he is not entire sure he possesses, and, yep, even buy the votes he needs. This is not the  Lincoln we are used to seeing: aloof and staid, quiet and self-effacing. Almost a saint. What we get here is a Lincoln, though still folksy, humble, quaint and compassionate, is also passionate,  unyielding and, if needed, severe.  And, as time dribbles away, we find ourselves hoping that he does, somehow, prevail (while knowing that, of course, he does) and that, somehow, that he will wind up being far too busy or involved in affairs of state to go to Ford's Theatre. It says a great deal for a movie that moves you along familiar paths, but surprises you by a totally unpredictable detour. This film takes you on exactly such a journey.

The Grading Session: 4.991 pengies out of 5. Spielberg does not disappoint. Marvellously cast- down to the tiniest role, beautifully crafted and written, it is at times unnerving to see what uncanny images Day-Lewis evokes both in looks and speech, as he pulls us along with him in his frustration, grief, humor and empathy. But, Field's Mary also shines, as a woman torn between overwhelming grief and overwhelming love. No one dimensional cut-out, she is a living, breathing, spiteful, cautious, concerned and fully human participant. This is a masterful movie. And not just in the grand, sweeping scenes. Even the smallest, throwaway pieces are precious and attentive to detail, evoking shivers and nods of recognition. One scene has a very tired Lincoln, sitting  in a chair, his arms extended along the chair's arms, his fingers bent and held in the exact pose as the seated Lincoln  of his famous Mall memorial. Now, that's attention to detail. I can see I will have to go see this movie again. Then get the DVD. The Elite Edition...of course.

Lessons Learned: Just when you think you know everything about a famous person, you quickly learn that you have no idea of the demons and challenges that drove and tortured them. Too, if you were expecting to see a beatification of the man, you would be disappointed: Lincoln was a real hero, but hardly a saint. As he would be the first to admit. Lastly, this: if we can not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Let's never repeat this type of war again. Ever.

Noteable Quotables: (Thaddeus Stevens, in response to a knoock on his door): 'It opens!'

(Lincoln to his cabinet, advisors and others in the telegraph office): 'I suppose it's time to go...but I'd rather stay.'