Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Soloist

Based on the book by LA Times reporter Steve Lopez about a true story, The Soloist features Jamie Foxx as Nathaniel Ayers, a schizophrenic musical savant who is now homeless and living in Los Angeles. Robert Downey Jr. plays Lopez, and the role affords him almost as much range and diversity as his charading in Tropic Thunder. The comic relief is well-timed and serves to bring us back to the genuineness of Downey's character, rather than distracting from the dramatic tones.

The film follows Lopez as its protagonist than Ayers, and the audience will identify with Lopez as the everyman as he encounters Ayers. Lopez is a popular columnist for the Los Angeles Times, and as he is coming up a deadline for a new story, he finds Ayers playing a violin under a statue of Beethoven. He tries to approach Ayers, and this is when we see that besides being homeless, there is something that seems to be wrong with Ayers. His speech is rambling, repetitive, and often nonsensical, but with moments of clarity that reveal his talent and intellect. Lopez later finds Ayers playing in a tunnel and speaks with him again. We find out that Ayers had attended Juliard, but dropped out, and flashbacks are presented throughout the film as they are triggered by voices Ayers hears, which tell us more about his past. They develop a friendship, and public interest rises as Lopez writes more columns about Ayers.

Foxx is in peak form to nail the idiosyncrasies of Ayers' condition, which had to have been a difficult role to play consistently and seriously. However, it is Downey's portrayal of the fascination and frustration of their relationship that carries the film. I was expecting a character piece on schizophrenia, but Foxx portrays Ayers in such a way that he is treated almost as a non-character, with Lopez's character arc being central.

There isn't much in the way of plot, which may bore some viewers. As a true story, they had to stick to some degree to the true story. Given this, there isn't much that actually happens. There's basically one note to the story - Ayers is a musical savant, went to Juliard, was overwhelmed by his untreated schizophrenia, and is now homeless. That's it. That's the story. So the only thing that makes this story continue to be compelling for two hours is the relationship with Lopez. However, since Ayers is largely a non-character human plot point, the real story is about Lopez's frustration, his relationship with his ex-wife/editor, and his desire to redeem his failed responsibilities with his family by taking responsibility for Ayers. This journey also introduces Lopez to the greater homeless population of Los Angeles, which is where the larger part of his character arc presents itself. The few scenes where these elements are highlighted are basically what makes this movie worth watching.


The second major element of this film is its presentation of the homeless, and I couldn't help but draw some comparisons with Pursuit of Happyness. Both are based on true stories about homeless men. There are a number of montages in an around the homeless shelters that introduce us to some homeless people in both movies, and each one presents a completely different message.

Pursuit of Happyness gives us Will Smith as an ordinary man who falls on homelessness due to unfortunate circumstances piling up on him, and he is unable to pay his rent. He picks himself up by his own intellectual abilities and perseverance and becomes a successful stock broker. The message here is a classic American dream story line.

The Soloist, on the other hand, shows us homeless people as a category of society, rather than just as people who don't have homes. They are portrayed, as Lopez says in the movie, as "broken, helpless souls." The majority are mentally ill, helplessly addicted to drugs, or otherwise unable, categorically, to function in society. The film tries to show us diamonds in the rough, with Ayers' talents, and a few other bright characters and relationships in the shelter. However, the movie ends by telling us that Ayers' mental state is as precarious now as it was when Lopez met him, though he does now have an apartment to live in.

These are both true stories, about real people, so it is impossible to say which portrayal is more accurate, but I think Pursuit of Happyness will remain the more popular with a wider audience in the long run because of its consistency with our hopefulness and values as a culture.

Final Thoughts:
This film tries to do a lot of things, without a lot of plot or substance to do it around. For each of the things this movie does well, there's another movie that does it better.

If you want Jamie Foxx playing in a dramatic biopic about a talented musician: Watch Ray.
If you want fantastical escapism through a fairy tale about the magic of music: Watch August Rush.
If you want an uplifting based-on-a-true-story about homeless people: Pursuit of Happyness.
And if you want Robert Downey Jr., actually this is probably his best role.

I recommend to check it out, but you don't need to watch it twice.
3.5 Stars.

Hating a well liked movie is an internet crime?

I really have to get this off of my chest. This happens at IMDB,, and pretty much anywhere else there is an internet forum on movies.

I was at, which is a fantastic site, and looking at their message boards. It's something I like to do on sites, browsing message board subjects to get various takes on a subject. It's also a damned annoying activity because there's always someone in a thread that wants to stick the proverbial internet bayonet in you repeatedly.

I was reading this subject by this guy who just doesn't like Blade Runner. He bought it, watched the final cut and the theatrical cut, and didn't like either. I am also one of the few sci-fi fans that doesn't really care for Blade Runner. I find it pretentious, slightly boring, and I just never got what all the fuss was about. Well, this person who said he didn't like the movie over there is now being accused of having no taste in film, that he's spoiled by modern effects, and how pretty much he's a lesser person for not liking this movie.

I know the internet lets out peoples' real selves because of the anonymity of it all, but this is the equivilant of putting people in the internet stocks and taunting them. It's really stupid. If these people like all the movies ever made that are considered classics, can't I call them sheep, narrow-minded idiots, and without a shred of originality in their lives? I dislike quite a lot of classics... Requiem For A Dream, Pulp Fiction, Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now, even Rashomon. If I, like this guy, have no taste, why do I like Memento, Jackie Brown, Alien, The Deer Hunter, or Sanjuro? Those are all classics or cult classics...

To say such things like, "you have no taste" without knowing what other movies a person likes or dislikes is one of the dumbest, damn fool things you can do. All people are different, and if everyone all liked the same movies, life would be really, really boring. I know this argumentative style will not die, but in fact will fester and grow, as it has since the beginning days of the web, and that saddens me. People talk all about intelligent discourse, but it's never done.

Sorry, I just had to rant people.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Regular posts are on the way

Hi, folks. Just wanted to check in and let you know that I've been extremely busy with exams and paper writing lately. After next Wednesday, I'll be done with finals, and able to concentrate on regular posting around here.

I'm cooking up a DVD series, so don't think I've just been ignoring you. Once I get everything in order, I'll be embarking on a DVD retrospective on Batman. It'll include the old movie serials, the animated features and, of course, the 90s Batman films.

So stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bond Review #4: The World Is Not Enough

Ah yes, The World Is Not Enough... This one was the first Bond movie I saw in theaters. Of course, by that time I had seen every Bond movie that came before it. I can remember being so excited to see the movie, as at the time I was even more obsessed with the series than I am now. I also remember being slightly disappointed in the movie after seeing it. It had not lived up to the two previous Brosnan Bond films, Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies. Even to this day it seems to drag to me. I now realise that I was not alone in that sentiment. It seems that most had, and still do, consider this movie to be a drop in quality from the other 1990s Bond movies.

Don't get me wrong. It's not horrible. It's just a very "meh" movie. "Meh" is a step above "ugh". It has its bad points, (Denise Richards, bland locations, a stupid plot), and it has its good ones, (Sophie Marceau, the action sequences, the theme song).

Let's start with the less than stellar, shall we? First, let's try to comprehend the plot. James Bond, (Pierce Brosnan) is sent to protect a girl, (Sophie Marceau) from a man named Renard, (Robert Carlyle) who once kidnapped her and held her for ransom. He's apparently interested in killing her and sabotaging her oil pipeline so that he can control the world's oil supply. By the end of the movie there's helicopters with buzzsaws, snowjets with parachutes, a hijacked submarine, and Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist. Yes, you heard me right, nuclear physicist. I don't know who decided that would be a good casting decision, but that person should never do casting again. We're talking about a girl most consider to be a ditz in real life, and you want us to believe she's a nuclear physicist? Ooooookkaaayyyy... Not happening here. Also not happening are the locations. My God, the director here, Michael Apted is a noted documetarian. He should be able to pick locations well, but the best we get is... an exterior shot of the Guggenheim and a small island fortress about the size of a lighthouse. It's really THE most drab looking Bond film ever made. Sure, we go skiing in the film once, but that's the most we get.

Now, before I start making it sound like this is the worst Bond film ever, (it's not), or that I absolutely hate it, it does have its good points. The action here is your standard James Bond action. Ski chases, gunfights, remarkable escapes... But with additional directoral flair that the previous two films didn't have. It is not really better than the rest of the films in terms of amount of the sequences or the type, but it's staged better. Also I should mention that Judi Dench gets more screentime in this movie, and Dame Dench is always a delight, so that's a great plus. Michael Apted wanted to bring to the forefront more character interaction, which he didn't really succeed in except with Dench. Finally she's in the action for a film! Sophie Marceau is also a pretty good Bond girl, even if she isn't all that she seems. She's stunning to look at and isn't too annoying, two positives that few Bond girls have both of. She also gives us the first unintentional nipple shot in the Bond series. (Either unintentional or the censors didn't catch it!) She also has a past, and issues coming from that past that are important to the story, which I believe is a first for the Bond series.

Locations: 2/10 Ugh... A submarine, Bilbao, a little fortress on an island off Istanbul, and Kazakhstan. Not really the most photogenic of places. This is THE most drab Bond film. I have no idea what Apted was thinking. According to the commentary he wanted to put in actual exotic places... as in buildings. Um, yeah, not a great idea Mr. Apted.

Villain: 4/10 I love Robert Carlyle, but he's just not that great here. I dunno if it's because he's just a pawn and that diminishes his charm or if it's that he's given nothing to do but look evil and be bald like all the other bad guys in the movie... He doesn't even respect Bond as most villains do He doesn't wine and dine James Bond. It's something new for the series but it doesn't quite work.

Bond Girls: 5/10 Denise Richards is not the worst Bond girl. I'm sorry to those that hate her, but there are worse. At least she's good looking in a slutty way. She's smart in the movie as well. The ONLY problem is that she's so horribly miscast. Sophie Marceau, as I mentioned earlier is a great Bond girl being mysterious, stunningly beautiful, and smart. Good casting on that one.

Direction/Design: 7/10 The movie is overall drab looking, but the direction is spot on. Michael Apted is a documentary filmmaker most of the time, and the look of the film shows that. Natural lighting whenever possible, cloudy days, and a lot of copter shots. It's a bit odd to watch really, and Apted was an interesting choice to direct.

Theme Song: 10/10 This is one of my five favorite Bond songs. It's performed by Garbage and it is astounding. The music video, which is on the Blu-Ray is also a very good music video. I think it harkens back to the Bond themes of the 60s, which was a welcome departure from the 80s rock songs. I mean those are great, but a change is good sometimes.

Overall: 5/10 It's not a bad movie, but the plot is hard to follow, it's not pretty to look at, and it seems to drag so much, especially in the middle. In all, quite a forgettable film, and the only forgettable Brosnan Bond. (Though one is memorable for how bad it is.)
The blu-ray for this one is sadly just like the film. Pretty meh. It's filled with fluff pieces and the commentaries don't really tell you much. The reason it's like this is that all the special features were ported over from the first DVD releases which were right after the movie was released. It's not newer original stuff, which is usually more truthful. The picture and audio also are a bit disappointing. You think a newer movie like this wouldn't be as subdued.

James Bond will return in a week in... Goldfinger.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Grand Theft Auto: Crank

With Crank: High Voltage dropping tomorrow, I thought I'd take a look back at the first film. Now, I'll be the first to admit that Crank is not for every action fan. It's the kind of movie that appeals to people who like their action wild, wacky, and completely, utterly ridiculous. Crank has that in spades. Some might criticize it for simply being a video game on film. And guess what? They're right. Even the two directors admit that it's a video game movie. But it really stuck me this week that that might really be the film's point.

What got me was a message board discussion of the upcoming sequel, and the posters arguing over the justification for it. Isn't Chev dead? How can he survive falling from a helicopter? WTF? One poster laid it out by saying something along the lines of "When he beat the final boss, he got the high score and earned an extra life." Now, despite the fact that he was probably being facetious, I think that's a fairly apt way to look at the film.

I mean, when your opening credits look like this...

...It's pretty clear what you're going to get. But going further, the movie is more or less an 87 minute riff on everything that the Grand Theft Auto series has been cultivating since GTA2. First of all you've got your basic components. The film's overworld map is represented here by Google Earth, complete with logo, compass, coordinates, and location names.

Powerups? Crank's got 'em. Red Bull, energy pills, electricity (which the sequel will inevitably expand upon), hard drugs, medical remedies. Anything that might possibly get someone wired is in this film (short of coffee, strangely).

Then you've got that strange scene about two-thirds of the way through where Chev drinks the "Haitian plant shit". It's unclear whether he goes on some kind of drug trip, or what, but what is clear is that this wasn't just another 'powerup'.

Then, of course, you've got the little gameplay elements. To anybody who's ever played a Grand Theft Auto game, how often have you gotten bored of the story mode, only to find yourself steering a car into oncoming traffic, or walking up to a stranger and punching out a guy in a suit, just for the hell of it? If you're like me, the answer is "A lot.". You get those sequences here.

Particularly in Vice City, if you've ever found yourself in the mall, you know how tempting it is to just cut loose and wreak some havoc. Of course, you can't really crash a car sideways onto an escalator, but that's just about the ONLY thing you can't do.

Which brings us to that final scene. It all comes down to Chev and the 'final boss'. They're both hanging from a helicopter high above Los Angeles. At this point, he's lasted longer than anyone expected. He's probably earned a six-star wanted level, made a whole lot of GTA money, points out the wazoo. The boss is defeated, Chev crashes back down to reality, and he's dead.

But then that extra life kicks in, and here we are. Of course, High Voltage could negate all of this and just go the dumb-action-and-that's-it route. Though, I certainly hope not. So, if these movies do find a substantial audience, I'm pretty sure it'll be anyone who's ever played and enjoyed the Grand Theft Auto franchise. If anything could be said to be Crank's Ur-text, GTA would probably be it.

Just food for thought, I guess.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bond review #3: Live and Let Die

This was the first pre-Brosnan Bond film I ever saw. It's still one of my favorites just because it's probably one of the funniest of the series, and also one of the weirdest. It's also the first time Roger Moore played James Bond.

I realize that many people dislike Roger Moore, or more accurately dislike the films he was in and his interpretation of Bond. For a while though, he was my favorite, as I'm sure he is to most 12 year olds. Why? He's got cool gadgets, lots of sexual puns, and he never loses his cool. Now that I'm older, I find Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton to be more to my liking.

1973 was the height of the blaxploitation craze. Some also thought it was the end to the James Bond era as Sean Connery had now just quit the role for a second time and said he'd never play Bond again. (Never say never, Mr. Connery!) The studio had already tried once to fill Connery's shoes, and the results were a great movie, but a very poor Bond. When it comes to Live and Let Die and Roger Moore, what we get is an okay Bond film and an okay Bond. Yet it's not a forgettable one. After all, what other Bond movie has all of the bad guys being black? It was a daring decision at the time, and quite a few people today consider the movie to be racist. It may be a bit, but it's nowhere near the racist sludge that the original book was. Besides, all of the black actors who worked on the film has fond memories.

The plot of the movie has to do with Bond investigating the deaths of three MI6 field agents in various places. He finds out the places have one thing in common... Each has a Fillet of Soul restaurant. He gets trapped by Mr. Big and rescued by the CIA. Bond uses a tarot card girl (Jane Seymour) owned by Mr. Big's friend Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto) as leverage. Then there's a bunch of chases and heroin and voodoo rituals.... It's all very convoluted really.

The best parts of the movie to me are the incredible speedboat chase through the Louisiana bayous, the character of the cracker cop Sheriff J. W. Pepper (Clifton James, who played Carr in Cool Hand Luke), and the escape from an island in the middle of a pond full of alligators. Also of note is the character of Quarrel Jr. I'm guessing, since this boatman character pops up in the same area as Dr. No, and shares the same last name as the boatman in Dr. No, that it's supposed to be his son.

When it comes to how good the movie is, it's really rather average when it comes to the Bond films. Sure, it's different in that Q doesn't appear, it's a new actor playing the leading role, the first rock song opening, and all the villains were black, but other than that, it's not much different in feel than the last film, Diamonds Are Forever was. I'm not sure all of the supernatural stuff they put into the movie was a good idea, but it was in the source material after all. (I should know, as I've read Live and Let Die, Golfinger, and Man With The Golden Gun.)

Locations: 6/10 Bond travels a lot in this one, but all the locations are in the same general area of the world really. We start out in England of course, but we only see the inside of Bond's house. Then we have three other locations... The fictional Caribbean country of San Monique which, let's face it, is really just the Dominican Repulic or Haiti... There's Harlem, and then Louisiana. It's very America based, as Diamonds Are Forever was. These may not be the most picturesque places Bond visits, but they give the film a gritty quality which fits it's blaxploitation roots.

Villain: 4/10 Yes, Yaphet Kotto is a great actor, and he's a charming villain. However, he's not attempting to take over the world or blackmail governments... He's a big drug kingpin. I'm not really sure that we needed the best double O agent to bring him down. Also his death is the worst in the Bond series. James makes him swallow an air pellet and he blows up like a balloon, flies to the ceiling (complete with balloon noises), and pops on the roof. It's REALLY stupid. The henchmen are a bit better. They all have their little quirks. There's Whisper who.... whispers. Then there's TeeHee who has a claw for a hand and laughs. Lastly there's Baron Samedi, who doesn't die and has the last laugh in the movie... literally.

Bond Girl: 4/10 Jane Seymour as Solitaire, while pretty to look at, is simply a mediocre Bond girl. She's soft-spoken and was sort of like the captive princess who just needed saving. She does hit people with her handbag though.

Direction/Design: 5/10 The series, after using the 2.35:1 aspect ratio since Thunderball, went to using 1.85:1 for this one. It means the film loses its epic scope a bit, but that fits in with this movie. It IS smaller scale than all the films since Dr. No. Ultimately, the direction and design are fine, but that's all. No bells and whistles here.

Theme: 10/10 This is the main reason the movie is known to people. The Paul McCartney and Wings theme song. It's the first rock song to be used as a Bond theme, and it's one of the best. The song would later become even more popular after Guns 'N Roses redid it in the early 90s. The song fits the mood of the film very well and is well deserving of it's classic rock status.

Overall: 5/10 It's not forgettable, but it's certainly nowhere near the best or worst in the series. It's got a lot of humor and is different from the early Connery films. However, it's very similar in style to the film that preceded it. Roger Moore was a more suave James Bond than Connery, but audiences at the time didn't mind. Worth watching at least once.

The blu-ray for this Bond title is a dramatic improvement over the pretty murky and drab VHS that I owned. The movie uses mainly browns and dark greens, so there isn't much to see, but the blu-ray still made it look beautiful. It was again put through the Lowry restoration process. The extras are plentiful. There are 3 commentary tracks, including one by Sir Roger Moore himself. Also included are a fantastic in-depth making of, trailers, a travelogue, Moore doing a spoof of Bond in 1963, and some small featurettes on various subjects.

James Bond will return soon in... The World Is Not Enough

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ugh: Bones

Just look at that poster for a moment. I shouldn't have to tell you why this film makes me go, "Ugh." This Halloween, unleash the Dogg? Ugh. But you know what? No. I'm not going to just sit here and harp on this being a bad movie. That's too easy. There is, in fact, a small glimmer of hope within Bones. The hope that, against all odds, this might eventually turn into something resembling a quality horror film.

As the poster might suggest, Snoop Dogg is the main draw here. Nobody's going to see this film because of the story, or because they're expecting a quality horror flick, or because Pam Grier is in it (OK, a few might). Most everyone who willingly sits down to watch Bones does so out of some desire to watch the vengeful ghost of Snoop Dogg murder people.

And, for the most part, that's what they get. But only barely.

Bones tells the story of four urban twenty-somethings looking to reinvigorate their father's old neighborhood by opening a dance club. The building they purchase was once owned by 70s pseudo-pimp Jimmy Bones (Snoop Dogg), who was murdered under especially dubious circumstances some twenty-five years prior. Those that remember the murder (including Pam Grier) hang around the area, making sure that nobody uncovers what truly happened that day.

As the kids uncover Bones' bones and continue to disrespect his pad, Bones begins his ghastly killing spree. With every kill, more of Bones' body reconstitutes itself, a la The Mummy, which ultimately leads him to rising from the dead to seek out those who had wronged him all those years ago. Along the way, the film reveals its mystery to us through increasingly longer flashbacks, despite the fact that we've already guessed what's going on twenty minutes ago. By film's end, what started as an odd, backwards murder mystery ends in what can best be described as one big ripoff of Nightmare on Elm Street.

Which is disappointing, because every time the film actually hits a decent groove, it derails itself with either a terrible joke or too much plot at once. Now, believe it or not, Snoop Dogg is one of the few things that this film actually has going for it. He's not in the film all that much, but he works as the imposing, vengeful demon. The gore isn't too bad either. The blood is that deep red, waxy looking goop that tends to only be found in Italian giallo films.

Other than that, the film is racist without being particularly funny, gory without being really scary, and just the worst kind of derivative. Bones plays like a perverted blend of Candyman and A Nightmare on Elm Street, with shades of "Hamlet" tossed in for (not so) good measure.

I guess I'd give this film two stars out of five (**). Ugh.

Films That Make You Go "Ugh"

If you've listened to any episode of our podcast, you've probably heard us mention one of these films before.

Sometimes there's a film whose intentions are admirable, but for one reason or another, the thing never connects like they should. You admire the filmmakers for trying, but the final product just doesn't work. These films aren't necessarily bad, but they certainly aren't any good. They're just films that make you go, "Ugh."

"Ugh" at their sheer ineptitude, bad taste, poor production value, or a myriad of other issues.

This is a series devoted to exposing those films in the hope that you, the reader, will be all the wiser the next time you visit Blockbuster, sign on to NetFlix, or even if you're just watching TV. I encourage everyone (including Trent and Watson) to join me in bringing these films to light so that we may mock them communally. So if you've got a film that makes you go "Ugh", let us know, and we'll feature it in a later post.

These are films that make you go "Ugh".

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bond review #2 - Quantum of Solace

Friends, there comes a time when a franchise wears itself out, or at least a time when the bigwig studio heads think it has. A new direction is needed. Believe me, after Die Another Day they were right. We got Casino Royale out of the deal, which is fine by me. It was different, it was exciting, it was fun. Then, a few years afterwards, we got this one. Quantum of Solace.

It's not based on an Ian Fleming story, even though it takes the title of one of his short stories. Surprisingly enough, it plays a lot like a Timothy Dalton era Bond film. Bond beds only one woman, he's lost some of his humor that was in Casino Royale, and the villain sucks. If those were the only issues, I'd love it as much as I do the Dalton bonds, because truthfully, both of those were pretty well done movies. No, no, no... We have a few problems here.

Problem number one is the editting. Holy crap, was the editor on speed?! I timed one of the fight scenes and ther was a cut every 1.2 seconds! It's outrageous, it serves no purpose, it's headache inducing, it needs to go away. Used in moderation, as in Chronicles of Riddick, (not a great movie), it's fine. Bond can order his martinis shaken all he wants, but I don't think the audience wants to be literally shaken to headache. Shaky cam + fast cuts = bad idea.

The movie isn't all bad. It's short, I believe the shortest Bond movie yet at 106 minutes. It has more Judi Dench, which is always a blessing. We get to see the effects of Vesper on Bond. But what about the things important to a Bond movie, even one that is in a series decidedly different than the one that preceded it? What about the megalomaniac villain? Bond as a sex symbol? The gadgets? Not important here. This one was supposed to be a about story, about people. It failed, sorry to say.

I can't see this as a Bond movie. It's a regular action movie that just happens to have someone named James Bond in it. Now before everyone starts saying it's supposed to be different, and to watch Casino Royale again, chill... I loved that movie both as a Bond film and a regular piece of cinema. I'm down with the reboot. It was needed for today's audience. Yet Casino Royale had more to please me. It was well written, I didn't feel like I was being rushed, and Bond wasn't an action hero.

Here in Quantum of Solace, Bond is Jason Bourne. He's mopey, he's a cold blooded killer, and he's going against the system. The first and third points are part of the reason the series was rebooted in the first place! Let's remember Die Another Day even if I'm sure we don't want to. Bond was tortured for months and came back a mopey beaten man. He went against the system in many of the recent Bonds, and it was becoming lame. Sure he had done it many times of the series, but with Brosnan he did it twice in a row. He got too close to the rest of MI6, and it brought the series down. What with M getting kidnapped in The World Is Not Enough, to Bond being part of a prisoner exchange brought about by M in Die Another Day. They fixed the distance part, but my god, let's not focus on MI6 so much, okay?

The story for this one was hard to follow. All I know is that Bond is trying to avenge Vesper's death whilst MI6 is trying to find out who's putting moles with them, and who they are. Of course, both are related, but honestly I don't remember how. Bond meets up with some South American lady who is trying to avenge her parents' death, and together they end up finding out about a group called Quantum. Then they end up in a desert with a hotel run on fuel cells in the middle of it, and all hell breaks loose. That's about it... Honestly I still don't know what it's about. Bolivian droughts or something. I'm not gonna count off for this though, because stories in Bond films are usually McGuffins.

Location: 5/10 Nothing really here to write home about. We have Haiti, Austria, Bolivia, and Italy pretty much. We spend the most time in Haiti and Bolivia, but these new Bond movies I don't think are going for pretty locations. It felt like I was watching the Bourne Supremacy actually with the brief country hopping.

Villain: 2/10 Man, this was a weak villain. He's a weasley little guy and he's essentially a rehash of Robert Davi's character from Licence To Kill, but more of a weenie. Some would say the real enemy here is Quantum, but since we never really find out exactly what Quantum does, it doesn't count. It's a set-up for the next movie. The evil businessman idea is present in Blofeld, but here the villain is a joke. I don't feel like he'd kill any one of his henchmen just for fun like I did with Blofeld.

Bond Girl: 4/10 She's pretty forgettable. Heck, now I don't even remember her name. Let's just say she's a lesser version of the Bond girl from For Your Eyes Only.

Direction/Design: 5/10 Sure it's done okay, but the action sequences suck. Who decided they needed the director of Kite Runner and Finding Neverland for this action film anyhow? Most of Bond is second unit work, and this second unit director here needs to stop using shaky cam during fight scenes. If I want a documentary, I'll buy one.

Theme: 4/10 This is done by Alicia Keyes and Jack White. It would have been better if it was a simple White Stripes song. I'm glad Amy Winehouse was sacked or whatever though. I personally like the song fine, but it's not a good Bond song, sorry to say.

Overall: 4/10 This is a bit hard to do. It's not good as a Bond film, but it's a great action movie. Since I'm rating these as Bond films, I have to give this one a low score, sorry to say. Hopefully we get an actual James Bond film next time, eh?

As for the Blu-Ray, the sound and video quality is reference grade. I have heard people say it's one of the best on the market to show off your home theater. However, the bonus features are pure fluff pieces and boring for the most part. The music video to the theme is included, as well as some back-patting pieces that say they are featurettes, but are in truth about 3 minutes long. That's about it. No commentary, no BD-Live features, nothing else really.

James Bond will return next week in... Live and Let Die

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

X-Men Origins: Leaked

As some of you may or may not already know, just about every other movie news site reported today that a workprint of X-Men Origins: Wolverine has leaked onto the web a full month before its intended release date. After looking into it, the news is 100% true, not an April Fools prank. Now, I personally haven't watched it. I've got better things to do with my time and, frankly, I'm not that interested in watching an unfinished $100 milion action film anyway. I did, however, look into it enough to see whether or not it was a prank to begin with. And it's not. It's real.

So this begs the question: Who leaked it, and why? Some possible theories:

1) Some professional movie pirate got his hands on a copy of the workprint and ripped it for all the world to see. Well, OK, but I'm not so sure that a movie THIS big would be so loosely handled that anyone could get their hands on it so soon. I mean, sure, this isn't the first movie to ever be leaked early, but you'd think movies would be more secure than they used to be.

2) Someone on the project didn't like the way things were going, or didn't like the way they were treated during filming, and leaked the film as a middle finger to Fox. Maybe, but anyone who wanted to work in Hollywood ever again would never pull a stunt like that. Of course, maybe they DON'T want to work in Hollywood again?

3) Speaking of which, there have been reports of considerable strife between director Gavin Hood and Fox exec Tom "F*** the Fans" Rothman over the film, and the reshoots required a few months ago. Maybe Hood himself leaked the film as a middle finger to Rothman? He'd be one of the few people able to even see the film at this point (outside of producers, editors, and focus groups). I'd like to think this is Gavin Hood's doing, but he, too, is not that stupid.

4) Fox executives, in an attempt to not only curb piracy, but also generate interest in the final product, released the film as a sort of viral campaign. This is another likely scenario. Not only does it give fans a quick first look at the film, the bigger result is the publicity that such a stunt generates. I mean, every movie news site on the web is reporting this. Hell, even I'M writing about it. It's also possibly a sign that Fox realizes that they've got a turd on their hands, and they're trying to spit-polish it for all it's worth before May 1st? To me, this feels like the most reasonable explanation.

Or maybe it really is a simple case of movie piracy and I'm just playing conspiracy theorist. At any rate, I sincerely doubt that the movie leaking a whole month before release is really going to damage its potential box office take. The ones who would watch the film online probably weren't going to see it in theaters in the first place.

But I don't know. What do you think?