Sunday, December 10, 2017

Krampus (2015)

Tonally a little odd, but ultimately enjoyable, Krampus starts out as a vaguely National Lampoon style tale of family dysfunction at Christmas time, but after a young lad loses the holiday spirit, he inadvertently invites the vengeful Germanic spirit Krampus to wreak vengeance on his kin. Paired down some I can totally see this plot being an episode the 80's anthology series Amazing Stories. **1/2

The Children's Hour (1961)

The Children's Hour is a story about the destructive power of gossip and innuendo. A bored young girl overhears a conversation related to two teachers at the private school she attends, she passes this information onto her grandmother, who misinterprets it and spreads it. Before long the two teachers, played by Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine are roundly believed to be lesbian lovers, endangering the formers engagement to a doctor (James Garner) and threating to shut down their school. While such allegations would in no way have been helpful to teachers in 1961, the scale of the reaction seems perhaps more appropriate to 1934, the year the Lillian Hellman play on which this is based was first staged. None the less this is a powerful film with strong performances, particularly Ms. MacLaine's, and far darker and less life affirming then is typical of the work of its director William Wyler. Tonally reminiscent of Tennessee Williams. ****
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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Quantum of Solace (2008)

The most direct sequel in the history of its movie franchise, Bond #22 Quantum of Solace picks up just after the events of Bond #21 Casino Royal, by perhaps as little as a few weeks. The story tries to recapture the On Her Majesties Secret Service / Diamonds are Forever revenge arc, while the plot concerns the intelligence communities gradual awaking to the existence of Specter. Mathieu Amalric is an evil energy company executive, Stranger Things David Harbour a CIA Station Chief. Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton are the Bond girls, the latter with the Bondian name of Strawberry Fields. Exotic locations are Italy, the UK, Haiti, Austria, Italy again, Bolivia, and Russia. Highlight sequences include the opera meeting and the stuff that happens at that weird hotel in the desert. Jack White and Alicia Keys perform the theme song. ***

Justice League (2017)

A poor mans Avengers. Despite what I thought was a strong build up with Wonder Woman and Zack Snyder's two Superman films (the lesser Suicide Squad being more of a side story) Justice League was a disappointment. For one thing I'm tired of that 'alien conquerors want to turn our world into their world' plot (Man of Steel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), come up with another plot please. Like the Marvel movies Thanos, the villain here is a giant CGI alien, only instead of searching for six magic stones he's searching for three magic boxes. Also the bad guys name is Steppenwolf, yet at no time does he express the desire to take anyone on a magic carpet ride. That's a let down.

Superman of course is brought back to life in this movie, though it never really gets into the after effects of his rebirth like this and previous films had dealt with the aftermath of his death. Also a lot of the heroes in this film a very lose with their own, as well as others, secret identities. Ezra Miller's Flash got the most laugh lines, he's a different take on the character from what I remember of previous versions, here he is presented as a neurotic Jew, and this is certainly an odd cultural moment to introduce a superhero who is reminiscent of Woody Allen. **1/2

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale, Bond # 21, is a hard reboot of the franchise and features Daniel Craig as a Bond early in his career, earning his double-O status in the pre-credit sequence. The plot focuses on international money laundering for war lords and the like, and gives us our first hints of the existence of Spector since the Sean Connery era. We also learn, I think for the first time, that Bond is an orphan. The films high stakes Texas hold'em card playing sequences are surprisingly gripping. Mads Mikkelsen is one of the more believable Bond villains as Le Chiffre, Eva Green is a nicely matched love interest for Craig. An unusual amount of exotic locations this time, Prague, Uganda, Madagascar, The Bahamas, Miami, Montenegro, Venice, and I think Switzerland. This film really breaths new life into the franchise like no film since The Living Daylights and takes its self mostly seriously. W. Bush era cell phones sure seem quaint now. Jeffrey Wright makes his first appearance as Felix Leiter. ***1/2

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

End of Days (1999)

Millennium exploitation flick in which atheist cop Arnold Schwarzenegger must prevent 'The Devil' (Gabriel Byrne) from impregnating Robin Tunney with the anti-Christ, which for some reason can only be done between 11pm and midnight on the eve of the millennium. Recycled and derivate Omen and Rosemary's Baby fair, this film manages to not only waste the talents of Rod Steiger, but even of Kevin Pollak. Udo Kier on the other hand, is used appropriately. *1/2

Die Another Day (2002)

Die Another Day, Bond #20, is Pierce Brosnan's final appearance in the role and the only one of his four Bond films I had not previously seen. In the pre credit sequence Bond is captured while on assignment in North Korea, interspersed in the opening title sequence he is tortured there, and shortly after that he is released. This is all said to occurred over a 14 month period, but after his release Bond is almost instantly on his A game, and other then one brief sequence, (where James is ending a year plus of forced celibacy and accordingly enjoying it much more then usual) his time in the North Korean prison camp seems to have had no effect on him. Brosnan is completely unconvincing playing a man just out of a long, tortious prison experience, however I suspect the next Bond Daniel Craig could have played that arc convincingly. This film features an invisible car, a space based heat ray, and a "DNA therapy" that can change a persons race, so basically this movie out Roger Moore's Roger Moore. The films two Bond girls are (now) either Oscar nominated (Rosamund Pike) or Oscar winners (Halle Berry). Madonna performs the title song and has an uncredited cameo. Exotic locations include North Korea, Hong Kong, Cuba, and Iceland. **1/2