Day 149: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

t2dec09Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Director: 
James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong
Rated: R
Length: 154 min.
Release: July 3, 1991
Trailer

Synopsis:
Nearly 10 years have passed since Sarah Connor was targeted for termination by a cyborg from the future. Now her son, John, the future leader of the resistance, is the target for a newer, more deadly terminator. Once again, the resistance has managed to send a protector back to attempt to save John and his mother Sarah.

My Thoughts:
Well well well…T2. Still considered one of the best action movies ever created and full of special effects that paved the way for CGI work. It heralds the return of Arnold as “a cybernetic organism” (insert “I’ll be back” joke here) and gives more life to this beloved character.

There is very little in T2 that doesn’t work well in telling this story. The dramatic change in Sarah’s personality from the first film makes total sense and works very well. Though, the biggest character change that made this whole film work so well is the terminator. Cameron’s choice to make the iconic villain into the next films hero was a stroke of genius. This gave opportunity to explore many interesting ideas regarding the nature of humanity as well as allow Arnold to add a more personal touch on this robotic assassin/body guard. This brings great opportunity for not only action, but drama and comedy as well.

The music is more in line with a traditional motion picture score (no more cheese dated 80s synthesizers detracting from the scene). It takes the musical themes created in the first film and makes it work more long term. It adds to the intensity of the action and ages a lot better.

The icing on this action packed cake is the vilain. The T1000 is, hands down, one of my all time favorite villains. The liquid metal concept combined with the ferocious and tenacious attitude of a terminator…brilliant combination. He is more slick, smooth and stealthy when he needs to be with all that power behind him…and that makes him really frightening. In fact, in a lot of ways, he is the opposite of what Arnold’s terminator is. Simply put…he is the perfect villain for this movie.

Add all that up and you get one amazing action movie. Terminator 2: Judgment Day gets 5 stars out of 5.

Day 148: The Terminator

the-terminator-1984The Terminator
Director:
James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn
Rated: R
Length: 107 min.
Release: October 26, 1984
Trailer

Synopsis: A cyborg is sent from the future on a deadly mission. He has to kill Sarah Connor, a young woman whose life will have a great significance in years to come. Sarah has only one protector – Kyle Reese – also sent from the future. The Terminator uses his exceptional intelligence and strength to find Sarah, but is there any way to stop the seemingly indestructible cyborg?

My Thoughts:
What is there to say about this classic 80s action/si-fi movie? It was groundbreaking for its time. No question about it. Phenomenal job by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The whole idea came from James Cameron’s head…and what an idea it was. This film launched one of the most iconic sci-fi action characters of film history. The special effects world would not be the same today without this film.

With all that said, the real question is how does it hold up over time? The first thing you will notice is this movie has the 80s all over it. It’s a real product of its time period and proud of it. The hair, the clothes, the cheesy synthesized soundtrack…everything about it screams the 1980s. If you aren’t a fan of that decade…this film is probably not going to hold up in your mind. The music in particular can become very distracting. I must admit, I even have a hard time with it at some points.

Still, there is something very special about this movie. Arnold’s portrayal of The Terminator is iconic and will remain one of (if not THE best) of his career. He really steals the show in this movie and hits all the right notes to convey a machine that is so cold, calculated, menacing and relentless in its pursuit of its target.

There is also something rather creepy about looking back at a film from the 1980s where they talk about the dangers of computers being interconnected to everything and running everything in our lives…and then turning on us. It would almost be prophetic if it weren’t for the whole artificial intelligence thing. Let’s pray that never happens. 🙂

For better or for worse The Terminator is truly a product of the 80s. Though elements of that decade can become distracting (especially the music) the film still stands as an iconic movie with one of the best characters in action sci-fi history. The Terminator gets 4 stars out of 5.

Day 138: 3:10 To Yuma

3:10 To Yuma
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale & Ben Foster
Rated: R
Length: 122 min.
Release Date: Sept. 7th 2007
Trailer

Synopsis:
Rancher Dan Evans heads into Bisbee to clear up issues concerning the sale of his land when he witnesses the closing events of a stagecoach robbery led by famed outlaw Ben Wade. Shortly thereafter, Wade is captured by the law in Bisbee and Evans finds himself one of the escorts who will take Wade to the 3:10 to Yuma train in Contention for the reward of $200. Evans’s effort to take Wade to the station is in part an effort to save his land but also part of an inner battle to determine whether he can be more than just a naive rancher in the eyes of his impetuous and gunslinging son William Evans. The transport to Contention is hazardous and filled with ambushes by Indians, pursuits by Wade’s vengeful gang and Wade’s own conniving and surreptitious demeanor that makes the ride all the more intense.

My Thoughts:
Hollywood remakes…sometimes we love them…often we just end up hating them. Depending on how big the original was and how long it has been since its original release can have a big impact on how the public takes the update. Often, if it’s been decades since the film was out and it didn’t have a monumental impact on the industry then it’s likely many people have forgotten the original film all together or they didn’t even know the film was a remake in the first place. At times they might re-title the film to make it look like a fresh idea (like 1961s The Absent Minded Professor remade in 1997 and simply titled Flubber) but often they will keep the same title. Great examples of such films are Scarface staring Al Pacino, Fun With Dick and Jane staring Jim Carrey, Gone in 60 Seconds starring Nicholas Cage and The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser.

Love them or hate them one thing you can be sure of is when Hollywood gets bored they look to the past to revive long dead cash cows. You can be the judge of whether or not each of these updates are handled with the care they deserve (let alone if they deserved the update in the first place) but one older film I’m glad was re-addressed is 3:10 to Yuma.

The original 3:10 to Yuma was made back in 1957. It is a classic western flick from the hay day of Hollywood westerns. However, being 50 years old it had become a bit dated and lost much of its appeal and attention that it once had. I was very open to a remake, if done right…which they did. Perhaps the most ironic part of this re-make is that the two leads aren’t Americans…they are Australian. As ironic as that is, Bale and Crowe do a great job taking these classic American characters and making them their own while staying true to the spirit of the original.

Over all this movie has kept the story and the core themes explored in the original very much the same, which I greatly appreciated. I am finding that, because of movies like this the western movie genera has been making a come back. I don’t know that it will ever be as hot as it was in the 1940s and 1950s when it seemed as if a new western movie was coming out every weekend (not unlike action movies in the 80s and early 90s or like the comic book super hero/graphic novel movie craze today) but I have seen an increase in good modern westerns that touch on great themes like courage, respect, and doing the right thing even if you have to do it alone, which is what 3:10 to Yuma is all about. If this trend continues I can’t wait to see what else Hollywood will come out with next. 4 stars out of 5.

Day 136: Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace
Director: Martin Campbell

Starring:  Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric and Judi Dench
Rated: PG-13
Length: 106 min.
Released: Nov. 14th 2008
Trailer

Synopsis:
Is there solace in revenge? Bond and “M” sniff a shadowy international network of power and corruption reaping billions. As Bond pursues the agents of an assassination attempt on “M,” all roads lead to Dominic Greene, a world-renowned developer of green technology. Greene, a nasty piece of work, is intent on securing a barren area of Bolivia in exchange for assisting a strongman stage a coup there. The CIA looks the other way, and only Bond, with help from a retired spy and from a mysterious beauty, stands in Greene’s way. “M” wonders if she can trust Bond, or if vengeance possesses him. Beyond that, can anyone drawn to Bond live to tell the tale?

My Thoughts:
Finally…the Bond movie era of the Goulson Movie Marathon comes to a close. Now I can finally write about something else…like…Finding Nemo or something. Not sure what yet, but is not going to be the start of another collection and it will not be about explosions and car chases.

Anyway, what a journey the James Bond franchise has taken. Quantum of Solace didn’t get as many rave reviews as Casino Royale did, but I feel much of that is because the film is not intended to be a stand alone movie. The Bond films through the 80s and 90s where all about wrapping it up by the end of the movie. They stood on their own, but to understand the new direction the franchise is taking with Daniel Craig you need to view each film more as a chapter in the larger story that is unfolding. Quantom of Solace is a chapter…a very chritical one that sets up all the other films to come. It doesn’t stand much on its own, but when we connect it with Casino Royale and the movies to come I can only imagine we will come to see how it plays a more important role in setting up the story for an epic battle between MI6 and a new villainous organization…Quantum.

The film ties in a lot with Casino Royale, picking up right after the previous film’s end. Great chase scenes, fights and explosions…but still very grounded like Casino Royale. Though the villain isn’t as memorable in this one, you need to keep in mind that this film is setting up the larger picture. This villain is just a small fry. He’s big enough for the story at hand, but he has others he is reporting to and it’s good to keep that in mind.

It also raises some interesting questions about the nature of revenge, the consequences of living a life of violence as well as governments and businesses working with unsavory people for political or financial gain. One of my favorite lines is “Yeah, right…we should only deal with nice people.” It’s a funny line, but actually speaks to a very sad truth.

Really the only irritation I have with Quantum of Solace is that it raises far more questions than answers. We see Bond snap pictures of all these major players in this new secret organization…and have no clue who they are or what they want exactly. We don’t know why it exists in the first place…just that they “have people everywhere.” Watching it makes me want to see the next chapter that much more, because this organization looks far larger and more devious than anything Bond has faced yet.

It reminds me a bit of the earlier Bond films where Bond faced off against the evil Soviet organization “SPECTRE.” Now, it isn’t fair to compare the two exactly, but it is fun to see the big bad antagonists of each film slowly reveal more about the larger enemy much like in the olden days. I can’t wait for the head of this organization to finally show us their face and see Bond take him/her on directly.

For a while it seemed as though the franchise was over with Quantum of Solace to be it’s last film. Luckily that will not be the case.  There will be another Danial Craig Bond film called Skyfall coming out in 2013 and I can’t wait. For being a good set up story for the films to come and making me excited to see Bond take on this new villain…Quantum of Solace gets 4 stars out of 5.

Day 135: Casino Royale

Casino Royale
Director: Martin Campbell

Starring:  Daniel Craig, Eva Green and Judi Dench
Rated: PG-13
Length: 144 min.
Released: Nov. 17th 2006
Trailer

Synopsis:
Actor Daniel Craig assumes the role formerly occupied by such screen greats as Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan to set out on the character’s very first 007 mission. James Bond has earned his “00” status by masterfully executing a pair of death-defying professional assassinations. Now assigned the task of traveling to Madagascar to spy on notorious terrorist Mollaka (Sebastien Foucan) for his maiden voyage as a 007 agent, Bond boldly goes against MI6 policy to launch an independent investigation that finds him traversing the Bahamas in search of Mollaka’s notoriously elusive terror cell. Subsequently led into the company of the mysterious Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian) and his exotic girlfriend, Solange (Caterina Murino), Bond soon realizes that he is closer than ever to locating well-guarded terrorist financier Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), the man who has personally bankrolled some of the most prevalent terrorist organizations on the planet. When Bond learns that Le Chiffre is planning to partake in an upcoming high-stakes poker game to be played at Montenegro’s Le Casino Royale and use the winnings to establish his financial grip on the globe, M (Judi Dench) assigns beguiling agent Vesper (Eva Green) the task of watching over the fledgling agent as he plays against Le Chiffre in a covert attempt to destroy the nefarious gambler’s well-established monetary stronghold in the underworld once and for all. Bond will need more than his legendary gambling skills in order to win this dangerous game, though, and after allying himself with local MI6 field agent Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) and CIA operative Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), the endlessly suave super-spy puts on his poker face for a high-stakes game of cards in which the stakes are not measured in dollars, but human lives.

My Thoughts:
So we finally come to Casino Royale and the new James Bond…Danial Craig. At first thought I wasn’t sure how to take this movie since it is such a departure from the rest of the Bond films. Though Martin Campbell returns to the directors chair and since I am a huge fan of Goldeneye I had my hopes up. In Casino Royale the franchise finally tackles Bond’s first mission as a 00 and Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. In all honestly this was the perfect time to reboot the series.

And that is the real heart of this film. Casino Royale  is not a “prequel” or “sequel” it’s a total re-envisioning of the Bond Franchise. United Artist took the liberty to start the series over from scratch and they hit the ball out of the park. If you ever get the chance to watch the special features there is a really cool documentary following the odd journey this Bond book/film has taken to get to this point. Ironically, the last official Ian Fleming novel to be made into a movie…was the first Bond book he wrote. Talk about taking the long way around, but it was well worth the wait.

Casino Royale is not the typical over the top carnival action the franchise had been known for. There’s no Q branch, there aren’t explosions every five minutes, no odd villains with absurd characteristics like a guy that can’t feel pain or a giant with metal teeth. Honestly it’s closer to the Jason Bourne movies than the previous films of the series.

I thought I would really miss the lack of gadgets…but to my surprise, I didn’t miss them at all. It’s so raw and honest in it’s portrayal of Bond. It’s a much more serious portrayal of the character making him easier to connect with. There is more emotion in this film, and it makes the twists and turns feel that much more personal. That’s what makes this film so much different. As a result it makes me totally forget that there are no “gadgets” in this movie. In fact if it did have gadgets they could easily become distracting and detract from the more serious and emotional tone that makes the film one of the best in the series. Casino Royale  gets 5 stars out of 5.

So, agree…disagree? What was your reaction to Casino Royale and the new direction of the Bond franchise?

Day 134: Die Another Day

Die Another Day
Director: Lee Tamahori
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry and Rosamund Pike
Rated: PG-13
Length: 133 min
Released: November 22, 2002
Trailer

Synopsis:
Pierce Brosnan makes his fourth appearance as suave super-spy James Bond in this espionage thriller, the 20th film in the official Bond series. While on assignment in North Korea, Bond is captured by government agents, where he’s imprisoned and tortured for over a year. When Bond finally wins his freedom, not everyone is certain 007 is still capable of doing the job, but after Zao (Rick Yune), the North Korean operative who snared Bond, is discovered to be in cahoots with unscrupulous entrepreneur Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), Bond is back on the case, and he finds the two men have sinister plans which could decide the fate of the world. As Bond hops from England to Cuba to Korea to Iceland in pursuit of his quarry, he (as usual) makes the acquaintance of two beautiful and mysterious women, Jinx (Halle Berry) and Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike). Judi Dench and John Cleese return in Die Another Day as, respectively, Bond’s superior M and gadget-master Q; Madonna contributes the film’s theme song and makes a cameo appearance as a fencing instructor.

My Thoughts:
So had I written this review in 2002 I probably would have given this 2.5 stars. Watching it again, this Bond film has really surprised me! It seems to be a really under rated Brosnan Bond film. After the disaster of the last film I can imagine many people thought the series was loosing its mojo. I know I did, thus I didn’t really give this film much of a fare shake when it originally released. However, it aged much better than many other Bond films and is now tied with Tomorrow Never Dies for my second favorite Brosnan Bond film.

The villain is done in the spirit of classic bond bad guys and the car is absolutely amazing! It’s not exactly the most realistic…but amazing none the less. John Cleese makes a nice addition as the new Q bringing the right amount of wit and humorous banter that is required when shooting the breeze with James Bond. It also takes a wink at several of the classic gadgets in prior Bond films.

Halle Berry brings a nice addition to the role…some of the time. She is a far better actress than other Bond Girls, but she isn’t the most dynamic character in the movie, but that isn’t exactly her fault. Several lines come off as corny and I don’t know how anyone could deliver them without it sounding bad. In particular I’m thinking of a “your momma” line. That just made me shake my head.

Great villain, great car, great action, but the best part of this film has to be primary plot point of Bond working as a disavowed agent. Conversations between M and Bond almost hint at similar conversations during Licence to Kill but are far better and far more serious with better actors and better dialogue.

When thinking of Brosnan Bond films Die Another Day rarely seems to come to mind but it is well worth the watch. It’s a hidden jem in the Bond films that often gets overlooked. I’m giving it 4 stars.

Day 133: The World Is Not Enough

The World Is Not Enough
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle & Denise Richards
Rated: PG-13
Length: 128 min
Released: November 19, 1999
Trailer

IMDB.com Synopsis:
James Bond is back. An oil tycoon is murdered in MI6 and Bond is sent to protect his daughter. Renard, who has a bullet lodged in his brain from a previous agent, is secretly planning the destruction of a pipeline. Bond gains a hand from a research scientist, Dr. Christmas Jones who witnesses the action which happens when Bond meets up with Renard, but Bond becomes suspicious about Elektra King, especially when Bond’s boss, M goes missing. Bond must work quickly to prevent Renard from destroying Europe.

My Thoughts:
Well…I’m getting back into the blogging world. Done with school…no full time job…what else am I doing. LOL.

So on with the review!

This is not my favorite Brosnan Bond Film. In fact I’d say it’s probably my least favorite. Equally, it’s probably in my top ten list of worst Bond films of all times. Maybe even the top five.

Why is it so bad? Well it starts with the acting. Above all Denise Richards is horrible in this movie. She can’t say a single line without it sounding forced. The only reason she is in the movie is to run around in a white wet t-shirt as a ditsy bond girl. Easily the worst performance in the whole film and quite possibly the worst in the entire James Bond franchise.

Also, the villain is just stupid! Some guy who has a bullet in his head?…can’t feel pain?…so what. He should have less of a role and been reduced to a mindless muscle guy like Od Job or Jaws. There is another villain in the movie that adds a little bit more credibility…and could be considered the “brains” behind the plot, but it isn’t enough to redeem the whole movie. Combining the two together still make for a week villain.

Lastly…they barely used the car!!! The only reason it was in the movie at all is because BMW signed a deal with United Artist to have a new BMW featured in 3 consecutive Bond films starting with Goldeneye. As I understand it there was a bit of a falling out between the two companies by the time this movie came along and UA used this movie to stay in the legal parameters of their agreement while simultaneously sending a message.  As it turns out this was number 3 and in the next film Die Another Day the car an Aston Martin Vanquish is used a lot more and is a whole lot sweeter.

Perhaps the saddest thing about this movie is that it is the last time we see Desmond Llewelyn as the legendary Q as he will pass away before the film is released. I only wish the movie better. It wasn’t exactly the best Bond film to say good by. Though I have to admit, his moments on screen are among the best in the whole movie. He has fitting last moments on screen and a fine farewell.

I’m giving this one 2 stars.