Friday, November 14, 2008

Quantum of Solace

Movie: Quantum of Solace
Director(s): Marc Forster

I went into this preparing not to like it, which is unusual for me for a James Bond film. But I'd heard disturbing things: critics were disappointed, it omits the usual Bond gimmicks of Q and flashy tech gadgets, and the running time is well short of two hours (most Bond films are longer). But I actually did like this. It's not the greatest Bond film ever, and it's certainly missing humor -- the entire picture is grim, grim, grim -- but I still liked it. It basically picks up where the previous film ended with Bond looking for revenge on those who killed his girlfriend. This leads him to discover that the secret group behind her death is much larger and better connected than anyone believed, and he follows clues that lead him to Bolivia where a dictator is being put into power by the organization. It's convoluted and doesn't make much sense, but who cares: we're just along for the ride, which is interesting, as Bond meets beautiful mysterious women, gets fired from Mi-6, and gets framed for the murder of his friend. There's some good gritty action, but everything's at a lower key, less over-the-top and ostentacious, and more realistic. I liked that. At the same time, like the previous one, this didn't necessary feel like a James Bond film. Even the opening credits -- normally my favorite part of a Bond film -- were ho-hum. I'm happy they keep reinventing the series as I want it to go on forever, and it's good to change things up and try different things, but I think for the next one I want some more traditional Bond elements back. Maybe not the entire movie, but at least a few scenes. I want to see Bond cool and triumphant, doing ridiculous things like skydiving without a parachute and landing in a pool at a party and coming up out of the water dressed in a tuxedo and taking a glass of champagne from the waiter as though he's an invited guest. This new Bond, while cool, is slightly too gritty and realistic. I want a taste or hint of the fantastic.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Movie: Quarantine

This started of really well: a cute female TV reporter is shooting footage at a fire station. It's really well done with realistic dialogue, scenes, etc. My hopes went up. But then they go on a call where mysterious things are happening in a building, end up locked inside by men with guns outside, and it turns out there's a virus contaminating the place and the building is now under quarantine. The virus turns people into blood-hungry cannibals, and from that point on the movie deteriorates into non-stop screaming, darkness, shaky "real" camera movements, and gore. Depressing, annoying as anything, and pointless. Just watch the first 20 minutes and forget the rest.


Friday, March 2, 2007

The Queen

Movie: The Queen

Despite the terrific reviews I wasn't that interested in this; who wants to watch a 90-year-old queen for two hours? But it turns out the story is a fascinating look at Britain after Princess Diana's death, and is much more about the politics and purpose of the monarchy and the Queen's role. At the time Britain had just elected a new prime minister, Tony Blair, who was a young kid, essentially, and he's really at the core of the film, the buffer between the people and the Queen. Really interesting and excellently done.


Saturday, December 7, 2002

The Queen of the Damned

Movie: The Queen of the Damned

I hadn't realized this was based on the Anne Rice book when it was in the theatres: all I knew was that the star, some singer I'd never heard of, died in a plane crash before the movie opened. I guess it was just as well. While this had some interesting moments and I can see that it would have been a good book in Rice's capable hands, as a film it became a meaningless action flick. Well done, but routine.


Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Quiet

Movie: The Quiet

I wanted to like this: it's directed and photographed with flare and it's got some powerful, dramatic material to work with, but in the end it's a little clumsily handled. The story is about a girl named Dot who's deaf and doesn't speak either. Her mother died when she was seven and her father just passed away, so she's moved in with relatives. Her new "sister" (her cousin) is a popular cheerleader and is unusually cruel to the deaf girl. It was these scenes that bothered me the most: they just felt off, false, almost surreally exaggerated. Yes kids can be mean, but this was meanness of a baser kind, picking on a girl with a disability for no reason other than cruelty.

For instance, in one scene the cruel sister, Nina, encounters Dot in the bathroom. They are alone. Nina's putting on makeup and she tells Dot that she ought to use some makeup to make her prettier. She then says some sweet things that seem genuine: stuff about how she was sorry they hadn't kept in touch since they were kids, etc. What she says as real depth and insight, quite shocking come from the airhead cheerleader. We start to wonder if maybe Nina isn't as bad as we thought. She puts some lipstick on Dot and leaves. Then Dot looks in the mirror and we see her whole mouth is covered in red lipstick like a clown in a nightmare. The reason that scene didn't work for me is that if Nina was smart enough to come up with such insightful thoughts, she could not have been so cruel with her lipstick joke. The two actions contradicted each other and could not come from the same person. If Nina had been less insightful and more cloyingly fake, the scene would have worked. But the writers made her seem too genuine -- more genuine than she could possibly be even for pretend.

The story continues as secrets are revealed: Dot discovers that Nina's perfect life isn't so perfect. She's hiding a terrible secret: her father has been having sex with her. This part of the film I thought was extremely well done. Nina's reactions here were flawless. She's torn between loving her father and hating him. She seeks out his approval with a desperation that's pathetic to see, yet she's filled with rage and frustration at her lack of power in their relationship. The father is horrifying and disgusting yet we understand him: we watch his manipulation of his daughter with a sick dread. All of the characters have secrets: Nina's mother, Nina's best friend, Dot, and Dot's new boyfriend. Interestingly, they all find an outlet with Dot. She can't hear so they talk to her, confess their secrets, and she doesn't say anything. She's like the ultimate priest.

Everything culminates in the planned murder of Nina's father, and the ending worked. Unfortunately, the film as a whole strikes a few wrong chords that make it feel awkward. Much is extremely well done, but there are occasional scenes that don't work or leave a bad taste. Some just seem out of place, like the pig dissection scene in biology class. These are minor but they add up, and in the end you aren't sure if the drama is artificial or real. If the whole film had been done right, with a realistic feel, this could have been a powerful film. As it is it has power, but the power is muted, and it just doesn't quite work. It's an interesting piece, fascinating in many ways, but as a whole it misses the mark. That's unfortunate because it had great potential.


Saturday, December 23, 2000


Movie: Quills
Director(s): Philip Kaufman

Amazing, impressive, and shocking story about the infamous Marquis de Sade. The story has it's ups and downs and occasionally tries too hard to be shocking, but its a fascinating and unique look at de Sade while he lived in an insane asylum. I really liked the aspect of the story that showed de Sade as an almost compulsive writer, unable to resist the lure of the quill. However, when the film attempts to explore the religious and moral aspects of de Sade's writing, it is somewhat shallow and trite (and predictable). Terrific (and brave) performances, but this film isn't for all tastes.