Sunday, November 18, 2012

Skyfall (2012)

Directed By: Sam Mendes

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 143 minutes

"So Mr. Bond, we meet again..."

Back on the big screen is our favorite 007 agent, played once again by Daniel Craig, whom we've seen as James Bond in "Quantum of Solace" (2008) and "Casino Royale" (2006). As we've come to learn from previous films, James Bond is not complete without his supporting team at MI6, including M (Judy Dench) and Q (Ben Whishaw). And let's not forget the leading ladies, Eve (Naomi Harris) and Severine (Berenice Marlohe). Lastly, add a dash of villainy in Silva, played by Javier Bardem, and you're ready to go!

James Bond has been around the block for quite some time. He's well practiced in his trade and appears to make all the right moves - at least that's what we perceive when we watch him in action. But even super agents can be vulnerable, can be damaged, and possibly even repaired. This is our introduction to "Skyfall," where our beloved 007 is thrown from atop a speeding train and plunges into the river, complete with a bullet lodged in his chest. A decision had to be acted upon and M ordered that the shot be taken - and so it was. Shortly thereafter, we find Bond alive and taking shots, alcoholic ones that is, at some island getaway, drowning his woes with the local townspeople. Some time later, upon learning that MI6 had been bombed, he suddenly gets a moment of clarity and rushes back to London. 

A list of agents has been stolen from MI6 and the terrorist group that has it is revealing the identities, resulting in a massive amount of agent deaths around the globe. M is held responsible for the mishap and enlists Bond to help track down the one responsible. Introduce Silva, one of the creepier Bond villains I can remember. No, this man doesn't have steel jaws, doesn't paint women gold, and doesn't have an eye that randomly leaks blood. This man is a psychopath with some very obvious mother issues. His suicidal tendencies make him an even greater risk to the organization, where he is hell bent on seeking revenge on M for being ousted from MI6 some time ago. And let's not forget the scene where he pulls his teeth out and half his face droops down - some kind of chemical exposure thing, but very very creepy. As we've seen Bardem before in "No Country For Old Men," it didn't take much convincing that he would make a fine villain, and that he did. 

"Skyfall" was a surprise due to the fact that it didn't follow the standard James Bond plot formula. This was not a film where Bond is whisked from one end of the globe to the other in order to deactivate a satellite that's going to set off a nuclear reactor in an ocean rift and create the next world war. Instead, the plot was much simpler than that, much more "real" according to Bond standards. As James Bond has taken the toll of what it means to be a veteran agent, so begins a new 007 story. 

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Tall Man (2012)

Directed By: Pascal Laugier

Rating: R

Runtime: 106 minutes

So, it's been entirely way too long since my last review. Nevertheless, I'm here, back in action - pardon my absence. And now to "The Tall Man," the 2012 suspense thriller thrown in with a little bit of terror and real-life drama. This film surprised me, simply for the fact that it turned out to be everything I thought it wasn't, and I mean this in a positive way.

The film stars Jessica Biel, who plays Julia Denning, a compassionate young woman who appears to be a figure apart from the down and out circumstance of those living in Cold Rock. Most of screenshots that showcase this community include shanteys, trailers, and houses in severe disrepair, complete with yards littered by stray garbage and various other unused outdoor fixtures, presumed to be a permanent exhibit on decoration for all to see. Cold Rock is not a warm, cozy place where tourists gather. And I'm sure the random passerby would probably not give this town a second glance. Unfortunately, these people and their hardships have been left behind long ago. Lucky for this little sore spot, Julia Denning and her husband, Dr. Denning, had made Cold Rock their own kind of humanitarian mission. Although her husband has been dead for some years, Julia never managed to leave the town, and works as the local nurse.

But just when you think Cold Rock couldn't possibly be any more misfortunate than it already is, we learn of the legendary curse that plagues the town. It is said that the Tall Man kidnaps young children and steals them away in the night, their parents never seeing them again. Some are believers, while others simply dismiss the tale as absurd, at least that's Julia Denning's opinion. Her eyes didn't open to the truth of the matter until the night her son was kidnapped by a dark figure, presumably a man, wearing a hooded cloak. In the events that follow, Denning does everything a mother would do to get her child back; she falls off a truck, attacks a dog, breaks through a window, wreaks a truck, and walks injured and half-concious through a creepy dark forest in the middle of the night in pursuit of this madman kidnapper, who we have no idea is human, alien, or some kind of supernatural being.

At this point, the story begins to unravel and take some very pointed turns in an entirely different direction, under the pretense of a motive that I had not seen coming. For the sake of spoilers, I'm not going to say anymore on the subject. What I liked about this film is Laugier's ability to create a tense horrific thrill and then spin it into a series of events that leaves us questioning who's side are we really on? "The Tall Man" was not predictable. It's a film that evolves and transforms itself from one theme into another, and it does so quite effectively. The freedom of choice and the way you choose to live your life is something that we often take for granted. But at what age are we able to make such a choice?

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