Skyfall (Now in theaters…)
My first exposure to James Bond came in 1979 when I saw ‘Moonraker’, I was six going on seven and thought that it had something to do with Star Wars considering it had space shuttles and lasers. I had no idea that ‘Moonraker’ was the 11th Bond film, until my mother brought home ‘From Russian with love’ and I couldn’t figure out who this other guy (Sean Connery…) was. I spent one summer in the 1980’s renting the rest of the movies from Lowell’s book and video store on Slappey Boulevard. I thought Roger Moore had neat gadgets, that Connery was Sauvé, but brutal and that George Lazenby (Who played Bond only in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’…) got a bum rap. I can remember when Pierce Brosnan got and lost the part because of his Remington Steele television obligations, the series had been canceled and when word that he was going to be Bond got out, the network revived ‘Steele’ and the role went to Timothy Dalton of ‘Flash Gordon’ and ‘The Rocketeer’ fame.
It’s almost funny how that all worked out, because when Timothy Dalton declined to return as Bond after a six year hiatus Pierce Brosnan was once more offered the part and finally became James Bond. Brosnan would have a four movie span before turning the role over to Daniel Craig. Daniel Craig was something of a controversy when he was cast, the poor man didn’t fit the image that the fans had in their minds and in terms of an acting resume as the only projects that you might have heard of was ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’, ‘Road to Perdition’ and ‘Layer Cake’. Beyond those three movies the majority of his work had been independent movies, television related activities and stage related plays. Craig, as it turned out, was the best thing to happen to the Bond movies since Sean Connery uttered the famous phrase ‘Bond, James Bond…’.
Skyfall starts off with Bond on assignment in Turkey chasing down a list of undercover NATO agents stolen from a fellow MI-6 agent. The assignment goes bad and Bond is believed dead and the list now lost to the opposing side. What unfolds from there to bring Bond back from his retirement, is a complicated revenge plot concocted by a former agent to destroy MI-6, discredit the head of MI-6, M (played by Dame Judi Dench…) and murder her for an imagined betrayal years before. This results in a game of cat and mouse between Bond and Raoul Silva (played to perfection by Javier Bardem of ‘No Country for Old Men’ fame…) that takes them all over London and into Scotland to the Bond ancestral home where it all finally comes to an end.
This is, by far, the best James Bond movie to come along in years. We get the return of the classic characters ‘Moneypenny’ and ‘Q’ updated for modern times, there is a tip of the hat to the former James Bond movies with the classic Aston Martin from the Sean Connery years being used during the last bit of the film. Director Sam Mendes and the writers of this movie did a fantastic job of giving Bond a lot to deal with and they didn’t skimp on the action. Daniel Craig, like Bruce Willis in the Diehard movies, is at his best as Bond in the thick of the action and when he is getting the hell beat out of him. Dame Judi Dench gives her final performance as ‘M’, Bond’s boss and the head of MI-6, a role she took when Brosnan took the part back in 1995.
Even if you believe that James Bond is just a code name that is given out to different agents (explaining the different actors…) or that this has all been the work of one agent for all those years, he’s been with us now for 50 years keeping the world safe for all those people who would never even know his name in his adventures. 50 years of Bond and the thought that occurs to me is that I can’t wait to see what happens next.
5 stars out of 5 (women want him; men want to be him…)
The Amazing Spider-Man (out on DVD now…)
Ten years ago Sam Raimi unleashed the first of three Spider-Man movies on the world, these movies to say the least were huge, monumental box office hits grossing more than a billion dollars worldwide. That’s right; I typed ‘billion’ with a B. Despite changes made to the characters from their comic book origins, powers and characterizations Sony made huge, huge buckets of money. So when Sam Raimi decided that he couldn’t do a forth movie in the time frame given to him; Sony rather than saying, ‘Hey a tested billion dollar trilogy is worth the wait…’, they got a new director, cast and crew and went right on making Spider-Man movies.
The story is pretty much the same any sort of Spider-Man comic you’ve read. Peter Parker is bitten by a spider and develops spider-like powers, in short order he inadvertently causes the death of his beloved Uncle Ben and swears to catch the killer using his new found powers and web-shooters (a gadget he invented in the comics and now in this movie…) to scour the streets of Manhattan looking for the killer. Throw in Gwen Stacy, a perennial love interest from the comics, in the form of a science geek girlfriend and Doctor Curt Connors (a wounded war vet, looking to use Reptile DNA to regenerate his amputated arm…) as the Lizard and we’re off to the races.
Is this a better movie than the Sam Raimi ‘Spider-Man’ movies, in some ways yes and in others no. First we got a whole new cast to replace the old cast of actors playing characters that we’re sort of familiar with. Andrew Garfield does a wonderful job with the role of Peter Parker and Spider-Man by finally turning Spider-Man into the outlet for all of Peter’s pent up feelings and commentary about the world. Martin Sheen (of ‘West Wing’ amongst many other things fame…) brings a new side the role of ‘Uncle Ben’ and Sally Fields (who I had a crush on after seeing her as a teenager in ‘Smokey and the Bandit’…) plays the beleaguered ‘Aunt May’, a women who suffers the loss of both her in-laws and husband in the span of decade’s time.
Those three characters stay fairly close to their comic book origins (other than the drastic changes to the general Spider-Man costume design and where he got the webbing for his web shooters…) Dennis Leary as police Captain George Stacy does well enough with the roll, somehow not managing to turn it into a typical Leary comedy routine; he’s a wonderful actor when directors can get him to act and not let him inject bits from whatever comedy routine he’s authored in the past. Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy is a mixed bag to me, I like her as an actress (she was in ‘Zombieland’…) but in this part she somehow doesn’t fit what I envisioned for the character. I understand that Director Marc Webb took liberties with the character by changing her to a science-intern, but left her clothing style interests the same; but what I felt was that the role needed someone less intense to counter Peter. Gwen, in a couple of places, comes off cold and gruff especially when dealing with Peter while they’re at the ‘Oscorp’ labs. Rhys Ifans as Doctor Curt Connors (and the Lizard!) manages to embody the roll with a sense of loss. He is a man clinging to his beliefs controlled by an addiction to his newfound power and trying regain what he has lost.
So is the movie worth watching? Sure it is, it’s Spider-man for a whole new generation…I just wish they hadn’t waited only 5 years to reboot the movie series…
3 Stars out of 5 (Spins a web, any size…)
Keith Kilburn and his wife, Dawn, live in Leesburg with two cats and dog named Godzilla. He’s written for Herorealm.com before they were bought out by corporate interests and has written a novel that he’s working on publishing. It’s rumored that he’s seen more movies than Blockbuster rents in a year and knows more about comic books than Stan Lee himself!