film, James Bond, must see

Movie Review: Skyfall

Now we are getting into the Bonds I began to like once I caught up with the rest of the series. This 2012 Bond film has also been seen on many top 10 Best Bond films of all time (admittedly not high probably 7 or 6 tops). Skyfall is in my opinion the best performances of not just Daniel Craig, but of Dame Judi Dench and without question one of the best villains in the Bond franchise in a long time. Because it is unavoidable, spoiler alert. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and field agent he later learns is named Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) are after a mercenary, Patrice (Ola Rapace) who has stolen files of the real names of undercover agents. Bond and Patrice fight on top of a train and M (Judi Dench) orders Moneypenny to take a shot. She hits Bond instead and Patrice escapes; Bond is assumed to be dead. A few months later M is being pressured into retiring by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fines) the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, but then MI6 gets hacked and the headquarters blows up, not before M receives a message taunting her. Bond returns to help M and despite his failing physical and psychological tests, M clears him for duty. After receiving gadgets from the new Q (Ben Whishaw) Bond sets out to discover who is after M. With a little help from a woman named Severine (Berenice Lim Marlohe) Bond soon meets the man responsible: Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a man from M’s past she disavowed after he hacked the Chinese government without her permission and was taken prisoner. Bond takes him prisoner, but soon realizes that was what he wanted; however he escaped before Bond catches on. Bond takes M to Skyfall, his parents’s house in the Scottish Highlands, but tells Q to leave a trail for Silva to follow, ready to end this. Bond, M and the Skyfall keeper Kincade (Albert Finney) fight off Silva and his men, Bond eventually killing Silva, but M is wounded in the fight and dies in Bond’s arms. At the end of the film Bond returns to the field, Moneypenny becomes a secretary and Mallory becomes the new M.

As far as Bond films go this is one of my favorites. Everything from the writing, acting, action and some very incredible cinematography was just perfect. Daniel Craig really shined as 007 in this movie, I’m glad we got Moneypenny and Q in here after a lengthy absence, and while Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw are good they do not hold a candle to the likes of Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewellyn respectively. For me at least two performances really stand out from the movie and that is Javier Bardem as Silva and Judi Dench as M. While Le Chiffre was a fantastic villain in Casino Royale he wasn’t the main bad guy which is why Silva for me is the best Bond villain in the Daniel Craig Bond franchise. He is not only scary, bu is wicked smart and is willing to do whatever it takes to kill M, no matter who is in his way. While Judi Dench has been M for many years it was her final turn as the character where I thought she did her best work; while M was always a big player in the franchise we hadn’t really know much about the character or had a movie focus on someone other than Bond until Skyfall. I was a little sad when she died, but I think Mallory will do a good job with the role of M but that is a story for another day. On a final note while I haven’t mentioned the songs in the other films I did like them however I LOVE “Skyfall” by Adele; it also won the Oscar for Best Original Song. I think if you like the Bond franchise or are just starting out then put Skyfall on your must watch list right now.

classic, film, must see

Movie Review: Sunset Boulevard

While not quite a horror movie it is pretty scary and has gone down as a classic. Released in 1950 Sunset Boulevard is regarded as one of the best films of all time, as well as a very successful Broadway musical (well at least successful after Andrew Lloyd Webber got his hands on it). Spoilers ahead as always. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Joe Gillis (William Holden, nominated for an Oscar) is a screenwriter that is having strings of bad lucks after trying to sell his script to Paramount producer Sheldrake (Fred Clark) only to get rejected and criticized by script reader Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson, nominated for an Oscar). While avoiding guys trying to reposes his car Joe drives into what he thinks is an abandoned mansion. Joe hears a woman calling for him to come in to the house, mistaking him for someone else. He meets the woman and recognizes her: Nora Desmond (Gloria Swanson, nominated for an Oscar) a silent movie star who is basically forgotten about, although she doesn’t know it. Learning Joe is a writer Nora asks him to look at a script she has written for her return to film about Salome. Joe finds it horrible, but seeing an opportunity convinces Nora to hire him as a script doctor. Nora has Joe move in so she can keep an eye on him while her butler Max (Erich von Stroheim nominated for an Oscar) explains to Joe that Nora has basically refused the fact that her spotlight has faded, and any attempts to tell her has forced her to attempt suicide. Joe works with Norma on her script, but soon becomes uncomfortable with her constant need for attention; however any attempts he makes to get away she pulls him back in. About as far as I can go without spoiling the rest of the movie, but I will say this ends about as well as you think it is going to.

This was a movie I had heard about for many years prior to watching it, mostly the two famous lines by Nora Desmond. If you know movie quotes these two lines may seem familiar: “I am big, it’s the pictures that got small” when Joe tells Nora she used to be a big star (and to be fair a clue of how nuts this woman is) and finally the last scene and final line by Nora “All right Mr. DeMille I’m ready for my close-up” when Nora’s sense of reality is gone. The writing and acting are some of the best I have seen in any movie, hence why it has so many accolades. Sunset Boulevard was nominated for 11 Oscars, winning three for its writing, art/set direction and music. It is also one of very few films to have nominations for all four acting categories but not to win (and I would say it is a shame but I can’t argue with who won that year). If you have not watched Sunset Boulevard I would highly recommend it, but be prepared for crazy.

based on a book, classic, film, must see

Movie Review: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

One of the most classic films of the 1960’s, and still stands the test of time today. Released in 1961 and based on Truman Capote’s novel, while the film is not perfect, and does have some controversy to it, Breakfast at Tiffany’s will probably go down as the most iconic role for Audrey Hepburn. Spoilers ahead as always. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn nominated for an Oscar for this part) is a bit of a socialite in New York; going on dates, having parties and wearing the most elegant clothes including a little black dress in the opening shot where the audience sees her eating a bun and drinking coffee looking into the windows at Tiffany’s. She tries to make a habit of not letting anyone get close to her, not even her cat whom she just calls cat. One day after evading a man she met on a bad date she meets her neighbor Paul Varjak (George Peppard) a writer. The two develop a bond over time (Holly even calls him Fred due the resemblance of her brother in the army) as Holly observes his relationship with one of their neighbors he calls 2E, Mrs. Emily Eustace Failenson (Patricia Neal) and Paul sees Holly’s relationship with men over money, as well as her agent O.J. Berman (Martin Balsam). However it is obvious Holly and Paul’s bond has become more than friendship. About as far as I can go without giving away the rest of the movie.

As I said before the film is not without controversy. Holly and Paul’s landlord is Mr. Yunioshi, who is supposed to be Japanese, but was played by Mickey Rooney with a prosthetic mouth piece and make-up. Back then and now this was a bad move and Rooney as well as producer Richard Shepherd have apologized repeatedly for it saying if they could have changed it they would, but director Blake Edward wanted to keep Rooney. Still a very bad decision.

Other that that I still enjoyed the movie. Hepburn was already a huge star prior to this film but I think Breakfast at Tiffany’s will forever go down as her best and most iconic role, I know Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe for the part based on how Holly was described in the book and felt double crossed when Monroe turned the part down and Hepburn was cast, but I wonder what he thought of the results later. Hepburn and Peppard have great chemistry together and seeing them fall in love is very adorable. There are two things from the movie about Hepburn that stand out besides her performance; of course I am talking about her style and her song. The costumes in this movie are some of the finest I’ve seen, nearly every woman I know has that little black dress in their closet inspired in a way by Hepburn’s dress in the beginning. My final point is Hepburn’s song, and the song that won the Oscar for Best Original Song as well as the Grammy, “Moon River”. Hepburn performs the singing herself and when an executive wanted the song cut from the film she said, among other words “Over my dead body!” Thankfully the song was kept in and it became a humongous hit. There have been many covers of the song including Barbara Streisand, Aretha Franklin and Melissa Benoist on the Flash/Supergirl cross-over among many other great covers. I know there was a short lived Broadway musical as well as play, but neither lasted very long or were critically successful. If you have not watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s I would highly recommend watching this movie as soon as humanly possible.

classic, film, high school films, musical, must see

Movie Review: Grease

To call this one of the most successful musicals of all time would be a HUGE understatement. Released in 1978, Grease was a big Broadway musical for many years before it hit the big screen. After countless revivals, high school productions, a live TV special and so much more Grease proves after 40 years it is still the word. Spoilers ahead as usual. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

In 1958 Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Olson (Olivia Newton-John) have had the ultimate sweet summer romance and both are sad when it ends, believing Sandy is going back to Australia. Fast forward to the first day of school at Rydell High Danny reunites with his friends, a greaser group called the T-Birds: Doody (Barry Pearl) the eccentric one, Sonny (Michael Tucci) the trouble maker and wannabe womanizer, “Putzie” (Kelly Ward) the one who doesn’t really know about girls and Kenickie (Jeff Conway) Danny’s best friend. Danny, after they persist him about it, tells them about the girl he “hooked up” with in the summer with some very juicy details. Meanwhile Sandy, whose parents decided to stay, transfers to Rydell and soon becomes friends with the girl group at the school, The Pink Ladies. The group consists of “Frenchy” (Didi Cohen) an aspiring beautician and the first one to be nice to Sandy, Marty (Dinah Manoff) who has many “boyfriends” and constantly draws attention, Jan (Jamie Donnelly) the very quirky member and finally Rizzo (Stockard Channing) who doesn’t like Sandy’s good girl persona. Sandy’s story about her summer romance is full of pureness and love. When Rizzo finds out it was Danny (who she has a history with) Sandy fell in love with, she makes sure they meet as soon as possible, and Danny is forced to act like a jerk to Sandy in front of his friends. Danny and Sandy must decide whether they are meant to be with Danny’s bad boy attitude and Sandy’s good girl ideals. Meanwhile other romances begin within the group: Rizzo and Kenickie have a very rocky relationship (both not willing to admit their relationship is more than just physical), Sonny tries to woo Marty, who is most definitely not interested, Putzie and Jan begin to bond as do Sonny and Frenchy. Outside of the love stories the T-Birds have to suit up Kenickie’s car “Greased Lightning” for a big race at Thunder road against their rivals the Scorpions.

If you have yet to experience Grease then you do not know what you are missing. Sandy and Danny’s love story is one of the most romantic brought on screen as well as stage. Both are willing to change who they are to be with the other, while not completely giving in to the society around them. They know who they are and even if they change a little along the way it is their choice. I know many say Sandy completely changed who she was at the end, but if you listen to the lyrics in the song she also demands Danny change as well. The other love stories are also cute to watch, it almost makes me wonder if these relationship did work out in the end (the nostalgia part of me hopes so but the realistic part of me says probably not). The story, characters and writing are some of the finest on screen, although you can clearly tell these actors are nowhere close to being in or fresh out of high school. John Travolta is amazing as Danny, his singing is way better than I give him credit for. Olivia Newton-John is so perfect as Sandy and her voice is angelic. While Stockard Channing was most definitely not close enough to be a high school student, her performance as Rizzo is solid, as is her singing. Jeff Conway is incredible as Kenickie, and is a very fine dancer. The rest of the T-Birds and Pink Ladies are amazing as well, not to mention the teachers and fellow students at Rydell. Of course I can’t forget about Frankie Avalon as the Teen Angel Frenchy needed.

The soundtrack of Grease is among the best not just on screen but on stage. Several songs from the musical made its way to the movie, but there were some written just for the movie; regardless most of the songs have gone down as some fantastic and fabulous numbers. The opening number “Grease” is the animated opening sequence introducing many of the characters and the crew. “Summer Nights” is sung by Danny and Sandy about their summer love, but both are telling completely different stories. “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” is Rizzo’s song making fun of Sandy’s good girl attitude which makes Rizzo annoyed at her. “Hopelessly Devoted To You” is Sandy’s song as she laments over finding out who Danny is among his friends and if she should still care (this song was nominated for an Oscar). “Greased Lightning” is the big dance number with the T-Birds (can we get a round of applause for the choreography in this number?) “Sandy” is Danny lamenting about how miserable he is without Sandy. “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” is Rizzo’s song about how what she does could be worse, while also lamenting on what she feels for Kenickie. “You’re The One That I Want” is sung by Danny and Sandy as both declare their love for each other and how they have made each other for the better. The final number “We Go Together” is the T-Birds and Pink Ladies vowing to remain friends or more once they graduate high school.

This is one amazing musical that I strongly believe will last for very long time; it is one of my personal favorite films of all time. There was a sequel for Grease, but it doesn’t star most of the original cast and from what I’ve heard it is a do not watch. A LIVE TV special was aired a few years ago, but that might be a story for another day. As stated previously if you have not seen Grease mark it down as a must watch immediately.

classic, film, high school films, must see

Movie Review: 10 Things I Hate About You

If there was one movie I wished I watched when I was actually in high school it is this one. Released in 1999, this movie is actually based on the Shakespeare play The Taming of the Shrew, only set in modern high school times. Even if you are not in high school this movie is still pretty awesome to watch. Spoiler alert as always. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

The Stratford sisters could not be any more different. Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) is popular, self absorbed and ready to date, while her older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) is anti-social, shrewish and doesn’t really care what people think of her. Their overprotective obstetrician father Walter (Larry Miller) only has one rule: Bianca may date only if Kat is. This infuriates Bianca who has her eyes set on popular student and senior Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan) a model, very self absorbed and only wants to sleep with Bianca. Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a new student at Pauda High School falls for Bianca as soon as he sees her, much to the objections of his new friend Michael Eckman (David Krumholtz) and after Bianca tells him of her fathers rule asks him to find someone for Kat to date (he doesn’t know Bianca has sights on Joey). Cameron and Michael find the perfect person: bad boy Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) a guy who has many stories about him (whether or not they are true irrelevant). Unable to approach Patrick immediately, Cameron and Michael reluctantly approach Joey asking him to pay Patrick to go out with Kat under the pretense of getting Bianca. Patrick does agree, but Kat rebuffs him at first. When Cameron and Michael give him some information Kat’s shield slowly start to go down. Along the way Patrick starts to fall for Kat as well, Bianca must decide whether Cameron or Joey is right for her and Michael tries to woo Kat’s friend and Shakespeare lover Mandella (Susan May Pratt). Also featured in this film is Bianca’s selfish friend Chasity (Gabrielle Union), Mr. Morgan (Daryl “Chill” Mitchell before his motorcycle accident) an English teacher who does not put up with a lot from his students, and Ms. Perky (Allison Janney) a guidance counselor who enjoys writing let’s call it very adult novels in her spare time.

I love this movie so much, and thankfully when it came out I was not the only one. This proved to be break-out roles for many of its stars, including Ledger, Stiles and Gordon-Levitt. Julia Stiles has become an actress I admired for a long time and this for me is one of her best roles, there are times in this move when I really identify with Kat. Larisa Oleynik is pretty good as Bianca as she slowly grows out of become a selfish person and realizes who actually cares for her. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an incredible actor and his role as Cameron is perfect. Larry Miller is hilarious as the over-protective dad, David Krumholtz is very funny as Michael, Andrew Keegan is such a horrible person as Joey (which is a good thing), Janney and Mitchell are fantastic as the teachers; however the break-out star for me is Heath Ledger as Patrick Verona, the bad boy all the good girls want to tame (let’s not forget his performance of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You, one of the most talked about moments in the movie even if you haven’t watched it). Everyone is amazing in this movie, the writing is incredible and has some pretty memorable scenes. A television series was released in 2009 but did not last too long (almost a shame). I would highly recommend 10 Things I Hate About You as a must watch as soon as possible. I hope you guys enjoy it if you have yet to watch it.

classic, film, high school films, must see

Movie Review: Mean Girls

One of the first PG-13 movies I watched in theaters, I went with some of my girlfriends and my dad (who was sacrificially thrilled to take us). However i do not think anyone was prepared for just how big this 2004 movie was going to become, something tells me this will be just as big when I am very old. In case you haven’t seen it, spoiler alert. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) moves from Africa to the United States, specifically Evanston, Illinois. Cady attends high school for the first time and soon learns about cliques from two outcasts, Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) who is goth and Damian Leigh (Daniel Franzese) who is gay. They tell Cady about to avoid the most popular group at school” The Plastics, a trio of girls who are as popular as they are mean. Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried) the sweet but stupid member, Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert) the spoiled member who just wants acceptance, and finally the leader and what Janis calls evil human form, Regina George (Rachel McAdams). The Plastics invite Cady into their clique which makes Cady popular, although they discourage her from joining the math team despite her exceptional skills according to her teacher Ms. Norby (Tina Fey who also wrote the screenplay). Janis wants to use Cady to gain revenge on Regina for their horrible past, but Cady refuses to go along with the plan at first. Cady falls madly in love with fellow classmate Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett) who happens to be Regina’s ex boyfriend. When Regina, knowing that Cady is interested, steals Aaron back Cady goes all in on Janis’s plan to destroy Regina by having Cady take over The Plastics, but inadvertently along the way Cady turns out to be much worse than Regina. About as far as I can go without giving away the rest of the movie.

To say that this movie has become a pop culture phenomenon would be an understatement. Everything from the writing to the acting could not have been done better. While Lindsay Lohan was already well known before this movie Mean Girls helped break her out of the Disney mold. McAdams and Seyfried’s careers as well have gone sky high because of this movie. Tina Fey has had success before and after this movie, but this for me is her best film work, not just as an actress but as a writer (notice the key word being film she is still fantastic in television) Other actors such as Bennett, Franzese, Chabert and Caplan haven’t as as much success after Mean Girls, but they have said they are thankful for the movie. The film had a spin off called Mean Girls 2, but it is not really worth watching having only one member from the original film and basically is a poor copy. There is a stage musical coming soon to Broadway with Tina Fey doing the script, so you know it is gonna be good. There have been talks about the official sequel, but until I see an actual trailer I do not believe it. Mean Girls continues to have a huge impact in film and I do not see it going away anytime soon.

film, Marvel Films, must see

Movie Review: Iron Man

While this was not the first Marvel film released it was the first in what we now call the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Released in 2008 and directed by Jon Favreau, Iron Man help launch not only a very successful franchise (I know understatement of the century), but it also help revitalize an actors career. In case you haven’t seen this movie, spoiler alert. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is many things (in his own words from another movie: genius, billionaire, playboy and philanthropist) heads to Afghanistan along with his best friend Lieutenant Colonial James Rhodes aka Rhodey (Terrence Howard) to showcase the latest weapon by Stark Industries, which Tony inherited from his father, called the Jericho missile. Shortly after the demonstration Tony’s car is ambushed, troops killed and he is captured as well as wounded by a terrorist group known as The Ten Rings led by Raza (Faran Tahir). Much to Tony’s horror he saw the group using his own weapons involved in the capture. He would have died if not for fellow captive Yinsen (Shaun Toub) implanting an electromagnet inside Tony’s chest preventing the shards from going into his heart. Raza wants both of them to build a Jericho missile promising to let them go, however Tony and Yinsen know he will not keep his word and plot to escape. They build a electric generator calling it arch reactor to power a suit, but are discovered. Yinsen sacrifices himself to save Tony to complete the suit and he avenges his friends death by blowing up the compound of weapons. Tony finds his way to Rhodey and they get back home where Tony makes a public announcement that Stark industries will no longer sell weapons despite his father’s partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) protests that it will ruin the company. Tony makes a new sleek suit with a more powerful reactor in his chest, along with the help of his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), but insists on keeping the work for himself. Tony soon discovers Stane has been selling weapons behind his back for years and wants to replace him as the CEO of Stark industries. Tony, along with Rhodey, Pepper, his personal AI system J.A.R.V.I.S (Paul Bettany) and an agent from S.H.I.E.L.D Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) are not gonna let him get away with that plan. While I probably should not say anymore in case of spoilers the last scene with Tony stating “I am Iron Man” is one of my favorite moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as the special after credit scene with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

Just like that one of the biggest franchises kicked off and I could not think of a better movie to do it. While Robert Downy Jr. had many successful films after he become sober, he hadn’t really achieved blockbuster status until Iron Man. I had heard of others up for the part of Tony Stark, but watching the movie it is hard to picture anyone other than Downey Jr. playing that character. I enjoyed Terrence Howard as Rhodey and was somewhat disappointed he had a falling out with Marvel (however I have no problem with Don Cheadle for the rest of the franchise). I love Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts the woman who basically ran Tony’s life, the chemistry between Paltrow and Downey awesome. Bridges is not the most memorable villain in the Marvel universe, but I thought he did a great job as the psychotic Stane. I also became a fan of Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson, although if you had told me just how big this character would become I may not have believed you. The writing and action were fantastic, and I know there were special effects but it was almost hard to tell where the effects were. I am so thankful the movie did well otherwise we would not have so many of the hottest stars and movies out there today. If you are interested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe you have to start with Iron Man.