November 17th, 2012

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Skyfall

The movie's been out a week, and I feel so far behind. But I'm getting around now after the surgery. Yay me.

I very much love James Bond. I have seen them all, but they're sorta blurred together since I marathoned 'em when the box sets came out a few years back. The Daniel Craig ones, however, do stand out a bit more for me since those are the ones I've actually seen in the theater. I think at this point, I do consider him my Bond of choice. I grew up always picturing Brosnan as Bond, but I will not argue with anyone who claims Connery. But I really like the darker edge that Craig gives, and he seems to put a lot more behind the character than ass kicking and woman laying.

After the misstep that was Quantum of Solace (yet another victim of the writers strike, filming off a draft script) Bond is back, baby. It was all there. The story, the cast, the action. How often I do or do not look at my watch is usually a good indictation of how engaging the film is. Once every half hour with a "yeah I can keep going for that long" instead of a "ugh that much" is a very good thing.

What really stood out to me about this one compared to the others is the extent of M's involvement. EW's Bullseye referred to Judi Dench as the ultimate Bond girl. I love that idea. She is one classy dame and brings so much weight to the franchise. Seeing her in such a big role instead of just a sidelined superviser was a treat.

That's something else I love about Craig's Bond. The girls aren't just toys to him. They're valuable assets. He had a real relationship with his girl in Casino Royale. Quantum featured the first Bond girl he didn't sleep with. I loved the way he got along with Naomie Harris's Eve. She was a useful partner, well except for one incident but it was kinda important, and their rapport was great. I was happy for every minute of her screentime. Our other Bond girl, Bérénice Marlohe, was more of your traditional bed and *spoiler* but her role wasn't as big as some of the promos would lead you to believe. I'll go with the argument that Dench's M was the primary Bond girl and Harris the secondary. Cause it's just better that way.

But what is Bond without a villain? Enter Javier Bardem. Kind of a testament to how awesome he is that he doesn't make his entrance until halfway thru the movie, and yet that amount of screentime is enough for some to declare him one of the bestest ever Bond baddies. I'm starting to think that when it comes to Bardem, the worse his hair, the better the performance. His blond hair was just below his No Country hair, and the performance was around the same. That is to say it was phenomenal. There's all this talk about whether or not his character is supposed to be gay. Even if it's never expressly stated, the play around the idea was awesome and very different. His first scene with Bond was just breathtaking, and Craig played along brilliantly.

My favorite new (or is it old?) addition to the mix is Ben Whishaw as Q. After catching my attention in Cloud Atlas he became the quirky side character I live for in films. Instead of being a genius inventor, Q is now more of a genuius hacker, with the appropriate nerdy and sarcastic personality. Love! For me, his few interspersed scenes weren't nearly enough, and this is something that makes me excited for Bond to continue.

You know what else makes me excited for Bond to continue? The last three minutes of the film. All I'm gonna say is that things got set up really well, and they continued to tie in more and more references for the longtime Bond fans. Yet another thing that's fantastic about this flavor in the franchise. Lots of throwbacks. From a Shirley Bassey sounding theme from Adele (mixed feelings on the credits sequence, btw) to the return of the Astin Martin to the vigorously shaken martini, so many little things that made a big impact if you knew where to look. And that was the ultimate fun.

Skyfall - \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/
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Lincoln

Long day at the movies. Well if I was gonna hobble over, I was gonna make it count goddammit. Doubled up on two hour plus films. Starting with Lincoln. No vampires this time, unless you count the sparkly ones he was fighting at the box office.

This movie was just destined to be a success. Steven Spielberg behind the camera pretty much guarantees that, because even if he's not on his game (highly unlikely), he'll inspire plenty of kick ass people to join. So many familiar faces kept popping up on screen. Sure everyone is talking about Daniel Day-Lewis. There's some love being passed around for Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones as well. Talk about that trio (Day-Lewis in particular) is so extreme, I kept on forgetting that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in this as well. There were more surprise appearances, some of whom I didn't even recognize until IMDB informed me: David Strathairn, James Spader, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Tim Blake Nelson, Jared Harris, Lee Pace. Each of whom delivered a top notch performance.

But none ranked higher than Day-Lewis' performance as the man himself. No surprise there. Mr two time Academy Award winner is one of the greatest actors of our time. He loses himself in each character he plays and becomes completely unrecognizable. Each is so different from the others. Watching him here, I could not fathom that this was the same man from There Will Be Blood. Just mind boggling. Given Lincoln's stature and status, you'd expect him to be this overpowering and commanding figure, but Day-Lewis played him as softspoken and careful. But he was still strong and commanding without being forceful. So nuanced and subtle. I loved whenever he went off on a tangent telling his stories. I found myself as absorbed in them as his audience must have been. He's known as a method actor who never breaks character on set. This time around that meant that he was even texting his leading lady love notes signed as Abe Lincoln.

Speaking of that leading lady, I had mixed feelings about Sally Field. Yes, she played the part beautifully, but something seemed off to me. Her accent was too reminiscent of Mama Gump for me, and I felt she was maybe a wee bit old for the part. Apparently Spielberg had originally thought so as well, and she had to fight tooth and nail to get cast. But when she was on, damn was she on. She had this brilliant verbal smackdown delievered to Tommy Lee Jones that left me stunned.

Not all of the talent was on screen. Spielberg also managed to wrangle in Tony Kushner as the screenwriter. If that name doesn't ring a bell for you, he wrote Angels in America, which is one of the greatest modern plays ever written. I had the privilege of seeing an off-Broadway production two years ago and it was truly truly amazing. Lincoln actually had a very theater-ish feel to it. The entire thing was dialog driven, with hardly any screen time that didn't involve talking or interaction. Characters, mostly our leading man of course, would go on long uninterrupted monologues. I could honestly see this played out on stage.

All of the bits and pieces were impressive, but as it was, the film clocked in over two hours. Yeah it had my rapt attention, but it was still rather long. God only knows what Kushner's original screenplay looked like. I'd heard that while most screenplays are 200 pages, his first draft was closer to 1000. Yeesh. I did like that it was focused on one major event in an isolated period of time during Lincoln's life. Otherwise trying to fit everything in would have been more insane than Mary Todd Lincoln was rumored to have been.

Lincoln - \m/ \m/ \m/