The Movie Buffer

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Casino Royale


Small spoilers, shaken not stirred


This is the latest in a slowly declining franchise, which hopes to “reboot” the series and re-invent Bond as more uncontrollable, rough around the edges secret agent rather than the sly Bond of the past. Bond flicks do well at the box office but the leaps and bounds in production costs have hurt the series(When they began there were eight movies in ten years and if you add the budgets of those eight you get a third of what Casino Royale cost [est. 150 mil]).

Martin Campbell, who directed GoldenEye, takes the reigns as director of this film and his experience with the characters really shows. The story moves along at a good pace and even at two hours the movie never gets bogged down. The story is rather straight forward, a criminal organization has something that MI6 needs, they send 007 to retrieve it, things get complicated by the female lead and Bond a saves the day. There are a few hiccups along the way: Instead of having a car chase sequence, the director opted for a footrace, which just drags on an on, the only spy gadget bond has in this film is his car which only gets used once, and by the end of the movie, the stone faced reaction shots of Bond do get very repetitive, nearly to the point of laughter.

If you have problems with aggressive product placement in films, then avoid this movie. The main benefactors in this film, Ford and Sony, are all over the place. Bond drives a Ford Mondeo during the opening sequence, he hacks around MI6 database with the new Sony Vaio, and Sony Handy-cams, digi-cams and cell phones are in everyone’s pockets.

Most of the film is set in Montenegro, but being an international man of mystery, Bond bounces from Madagascar to the Bahamas, from Miami to Venice. The locations are as gorgeous and opulent as expected, with only the most lavish environments and toys for Bond to play with.

Though there has been much controversy around the selection of Daniel Crag (as seen in Munich and Road to Perdition), he does embody the classic stern gaze and womanizing attitude that bond requires. So what was the big deal? I don’t know. I guess it’s because he’s blonde. As Bond’s Nemesis, Mads Mikkelsen plays, Le Chiffre, who launders money for crime syndicates by playing the stock market and entering poker tournaments. Le Chiffre is a target of MI6 because of his intimate knowledge of the most notorious criminals around the globe, so Bond is called in to recover him for questioning.

The “Bond Girls” in this film are Eva Green, who plays tragically named Vesper Lynd, and Caterina Murino, who plays Solange, the wife of a terrorist who is part of Le Chiffre’s money laundering crew. Both women carry on the tradition very well, though Green plays a slightly more sophisticated and intelligent character than was expected.

I’m giving this move a 6/10 or 2.5 our of 5 stars because the acting was pretty good all around, the brash impulsive new Bond was interesting to watch, and the story with the few twists it had was rather good. On the downside, some of the reaction shots were laughable, the chase scenes were on foot and far too long and where are the all the delightful toys?

Like the other movies in the series, the viewer needs to accept a few dubious flubs and outrageous situations, the crowd I saw it with was rather pleased by the film and I heard many people say that this movie should have a sequel made (which is on the way, opening in 2008).

Sunday, November 19, 2006

DVD Review - LoudQuietLoud: a film about the Pixies


No Spoilers! Hooray!


Being a fan of the band and having attended the tour that this film documents might have biased me to this film but it did not focus on the music, it was about the band’s chemistry on stage and their apparent lack of chemistry off stage.

When this film was screened at the South by SouthWest (SXSW) film festival, they sold out immediately. Even though the band had abruptly dissolved in 1992, the fans were still clamoring for more and this film delivers a great snapshot of the people, the places and the relationships in the band.

The directors of the film, Steven Cantor and Matthew Galkin, have created a film that is not only appealing to the Pixies uber-fan but also for a general audience. The pacing is quick, the cuts are clean and there isn’t much fat on this film (It clocks in at 85 minutes or 90 minutes if you watch the video that plays along the credits). During the audio commentary, the directors say they wanted the film to be cinema verité, which means candid camera with shaky angles, and they succeed in giving us some quality moments with the band. They also had Kim’s twin sister, Kelley, as a backup camera operator so she did some of the behind the scenes camera work.

The documentary follows the band as they go on their “Pixies Sellout” tour in 2004 (it was named this way because they sold out at practically every date but we all know what it really means). Before the film dives into the tour, the directors catch the viewers up with the lives of the band members: Charles “Black Francis” Thompson has been writing albums ever since the Pixies broke up, Kim Deal formed the Breeders with her sister, got addicted to drugs and spent some time in rehab, Joey Santiago went on to composing scores for films and television shows and David Lovering became a magician.

Being years removed from playing their old songs, when they first meet up to rehearse Kim had forgotten how to play her parts and Charles had forgotten some lyrics. The viewer sees how human the band members actually are. They note that being in the band was their job, they were regular people just doing their job, and they were giddy to see all the fans being so receptive to their music.

The film-makers stress that the film is formatted like one of the Pixies’ songs: The anticipation and the anxiety of the first shows is loud, the re-visiting of past tensions is quiet and the fabulous success of the tour is loud. Through triumph and tragedy, the Pixies roll through their tour and the viewer gets a rare backstage pass.

The only complaint about the film is at the end of the director’s commentary when they went on to say that this would probably become the definitive Pixies documentary because the band would probably never tour again. I thought that was a little presumptuous seeing as how the film didn’t deal with the music.

If you’re looking for an interview heavy documentary about the pixies check out “Pixies” (released 2004) but if you want a portrait of the people behind the music that would go on to influence bands like Nirvana and Radiohead get a hold of a copy of LoudQuietLoud.

Monday, November 13, 2006

News tidbits, enjoy!

Sorry for the long delay on the updates. I haven’t been to a movie worth writing about in a while. I do have a few tidbits that may interest you:

Simpsons movie trailer (Found here):

It aired last night during the Simpsons broadcast and I have to admit that I laughed - something that the show hadn’t accomplished in years. The screenplay was developed by all the big names from the television show. As far as the trailer goes, it looks like a good movie with some great laughs.

I was apprehensive of this concept to begin with because the show has such a strong formula that adding length could end in disaster, like the Family Guy movie. A notable addition to the animation is hypno-vision as seen in Futurama. You’ll notice it right away in the scene with the wrecking ball. I also like that they have continued to use hilarious signs during pans and sight gags.

Transfomers: The Movie – 20th Anniversary Edition!

Well, one of my favourite childhood movies has come to DVD in a special commemorative package. And if you have some extra cash, some places like Future Shop or Best Buy have a special Optimus Prime figurine that you can buy. The DVD includes digitally re-mastered sound and touched up graphics as well as a few interviews with the production crew of the new Transformers film (release date 07/04/07). The new packaging is fine but I prefer watching the movie as it was when I was a kid, so I put away the new copy away and put on my BetaMAX tape.

LoudQuietloud: a film about the Pixies

This is a documentary about the Pixies reunion tour (casually known as the “pixies sellout” tour). The viewer gets a glimpse into the strangely normal lives of these alt-rock icons. With old tensions resurfacing and the pitfalls of instant success, the band tries to keep it together to complete one of the most successful reunions of all time. The film focuses on the band members rather than the music so it doesn’t give you a complete picture of the Pixies.

For more info: Click here.
(As soon as I make some time a full review will be written.)

Bobby – couldn’t have come at a better time.

The uber-cast of Laurence Fishburne, Anthony Hopkins, William H Macy, Harry Belafonte, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Christian Slater, Helen Hunt and many others, under the watchful eye of Emilio “Mighty Ducks” Estevez is primed to make a splash at the box office. A good story and a great cast can help a movie succeed but in the case of Bobby, perfect timing and a perfect political climate assure that this film is going to be huge. The press has been very kind to this film and it has been accepted well at festivals such as the Toronto International Film Festival.

For more info: Click here.

National Lampoon’s Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj

National Lampoon has been making great comedies for decades, but how the mighty have fallen. They started with Animal House and moved on to the Vacation series, both classic comedies, but then Loaded Weapon, Last Resort and Pledge This (A movie so bad Paris Hilton, who starred in the film, won’t watch it!). In this sequel the student has become the master and goes out into the world to spread the word. ‘Nuff said.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

"Shaun of the Dead" Team Back in Action

The men behind the outrageously funny Shaun of the Dead (SotD), Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, are teaming up again to bring us a police comedy called Hot Fuzz. The general plot line is that Pegg plays a super-keen cop who gets transferred from the big city to a small town precinct.

Familiar faces dot the screen: Nick Frost, Rafe Spall, and Bill Nighy (all from Shaun of the Dead), Timothy Dalton (of James Bond fame), Jim Broadbent (Gangs of New York and Art School Confidential) and Martin Freeman (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).

From what I can see the humour is very much like SotD. In the trailers, found here, they make some references that fans will recognize. It looks like another interesting take on an American movie staple, the buddy-cop comedy. I’m looking forward to seeing this one when it’s released in March of next year.

There isn’t an official movie poster out yet, but the pic above was taken at The Comic-Con.

For more info, downloads (they made video journals during the filming which are pretty good) and pictures check out the Hot Fuzz Webpage, found here.